October 24, 2005
Onteora Lake

As many of you know, October 1-10 marked the second annual Catskill "Lark in the Park", ten days and one hundred ways to enjoy the beauty of our region. As we have done in the past, we led a few of the events and outings for the Lark. We led seven people on a hike from Big Pond to Little Pond and another seven from Alder Lake to Mill Brook Ridge again this year. Other events we hosted included a fly-fishing workshop, a hike to the Red Hill Fire Tower, and an after-work jaunt around Onteora Lake.

Onteora Lake is located off of Route 28 between West Hurley and Kingston (near the Hobo Deli) and is part of the Bluestone Wild Forest. A trailhead sign and yellow gate along a dirt road mark the entrance to this Catskill Park treasure. Nine people had registered for this short, Tuesday evening (5pm) hike, but only seven showed up.

We sat by the lake as we introduced ourselves, discussing how lucky we were to have beautiful weather and going over some rules of the trail. As always, there was an interesting mix of people including folks from Tilson, Pine Hill, an innkeeper from Greenville who dropped in after work, and a fellow from Long Island who had completed another Lark hike to Vernooy Kill Falls earlier in the day and wanted to get another in before returning home.

We began heading north along the west side of the lake on the yellow-blazed trail. As it skirts the water's edge, we had stopped a few times to take pictures of the fall foliage reflecting in the placid waters. After the trail passed by sites of former quarries, it descended a bit, and began circling to the east. Here, we entered a dense hemlock stand on an old road. After a half-mile, another trail headed off to the east, which allows for access to other portions of the Bluestone Wild Forest. After passing by an old junked car, the trail abruptly leaves the old road and becomes a foot path as it enters the dense forest.

Eventually - about one mile in, we reached a smaller lake due east of Onteora Lake. It was evident that beavers had done extensive work here over many years. There were dead snags in the standing water at the northern end where the area was obviously more recently flooded, and none at the southern end, where the outflow had been dammed much earlier. A massive beaver lodge also existed on the far side of the water. As we were snapping pictures, an osprey flew low overhead, which everyone enjoyed seeing.

The trail continued its loop by approaching the southeastern corner of Onteora Lake were it was a bit muddy and marshy, but nonetheless beautiful. The blazing red maple leaves on the damp and dark forest floor provided great contrast. It was here where we could begin to hear the cars on Route 28.

As we moved toward the highway, we crossed a small wooden bridge over the marshy outflow of Onteora Lake. Unfortunately the trail runs right along Route 28, making for an uncomfortable 200-300 yards before returning to the forest. Isn't the speed limit 45mph here? Also adding to the unpleasantness was the sight of two large snapping turtles that had been run over and moved off of the road. Wetlands such as this one not only provide a permanent home for animals, but also attract many different animals that move around at different times of day and different seasons of the year. Be sure to keep your eyes open when driving along this stretch.

As we returned to the parking area, it was clear that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the 2-mile (and 2-hour) after work hike. Like many, they had never been to Onteora Lake before, but vowed to come back. We think we convinced them that when something so beautiful, diverse, and ever changing is so close why would you want to spend time inside at a gym after a hard days' work?

- Aaron and Chris



Catskill Mountain Club

PO Box 558, Pine Hill, NY 12465