We recently returned from a delightful long weekend in the Catskills. One of our days there was one of those perfect days where everything just fell into place. The best part is that day could easily be a day trip for anyone in the New York metropolitan area.
The day began at the Kingston, NY farmers’ market where we filled our coolers with goodies to make for dinner, and waited patiently as Efrain “Chef Ef” Martinez whipped up a giant batch of paella. We took our paella, along with some blackberries and cookies, up some beautiful country roads to a remarkable place called Opus 40.
Opus 40 is a stone earth work that was made by hand by a single man, sculptor Harvey Fite. It took him 37 years to make this installation on his property, an abandoned bluestone quarry. Fite envisioned an outdoor gallery, and started making pathways and staircases to individual work. Eventually the setting for the sculptures became a sculpture itself.
We picnicked while taking in the marvelous sculpture, and then began to walk around on and inside Opus 40. The rocks are held together by nothing but their own weight – no mortar cementing them together – and it’s a testament to the craftsmanship that the site is in such perfect condition.
After spending a lovely afternoon soaking in art and sun, we headed back to our cabin at the Phoenicia Lodge. I highly recommend their delightful cabins, though if you’re traveling without kids you can stay down the road in an airstream trailer at Kate’s Lazy Meadow, owned by Kate Pierson on the B-52s.
From our cabin, we walked over to Esopus Creek. The word “creek” doesn’t do this river justice, as we watched hippies and hipsters go tubing down the rapids. We played in the creek, and it became clear that the art made an impression on the kids. Soon a lovely rock installation emerged from the water, and two 6-year-olds were occupied for an hour. (Of course, their hard work was undone in 2 seconds by our 15-month-old.)
There’s tons of wonderful family activities in the Catskills, but this day made a particularly lasting impression on us.
UPDATE: I wrote this post about the tranquility of the Catskills last week prior to hurricane Irene, which has caused flooding throughout the region. Esopus Creek is flooded in several areas, and I’m wishing everyone in the region well. Opus 40 is typically closed Monday through Thursday, so I haven’t yet been able to find out how well it weathered the storm. I send my love to the Catskills, my beloved Vermont, and all others affected by Irene.
UPDATE 8/31/11: ABC News filed this report from Phoenicia, where we were staying less than two weeks ago. I can’t tell you how choked up I am watching this. I did, however, find some good news on Phoenicia Lodge’s Facebook page: “we are without power but otherwise undamaged by the storm…we’re fine and feeling very lucky.” And on Opus 40’s Facebook Page, the news is that there is some terrible tree damage but that all of the artwork has survived unharmed, making the craftsmanship all the more amazing.