Summer fun

Explore the areas swimming holes
LINK
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/25/fashion/heading-upstate-in-search-of-a-watery-eden.html?smid=fb-share

http://nyti.ms/145VPRD

Sweet Summer Water: People seek refuge from the summer heat, and a little excitement, among the pools and cliffs of three upstate New York swimming holes.

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By JOSHUA LYON
Published: July 24, 2013

Rene Denis, a college student from Lyndhurst, N.J., was standing with a few friends just inside a guard rail on a remote stretch of Route 23A in the Catskills on a recent summer day when a black car, stereo blasting, sped around the corner. It slowed to a halt, and a young man wearing sunglasses leaned out the window and called, “You know how to get to Fawn’s Leap?”

David B. Torch for The New York Times

A swimming hole under Kaaterskill Falls in Hunter, N.Y., in Greene County.

Zach Ciurczak, a muscular blond 21-year-old covered in tattoos of various Italian phrases, yelled, “It’s right here!” just as Mr. Denis bolted from the road and leapt over the edge of a cliff. Hailing peace signs to the sky, he looked nothing like a fawn as he plummeted.

A third shirtless young man, with a miniature silver barbell poking through his left nipple, turned to the waiting car and said, “Just park up the road a ways.”

He then inched toward the edge of the cliff and peered down. “No way,” he said with a nervous laugh, backing up. A large group of revelers on the other side of the chasm egged him on, their voices nearly indecipherable over the roar of a 24-foot waterfall.

Mr. Ciurczak whooped and hurled himself off the rocks, joining Mr. Denis in the swimming hole below, just one of hundreds of such spots along the nearly 26-mile-long Kaaterskill Creek.

With the faint scent of pot in the air and beer cans glistening in the sun, no one noticed the state trooper who glided into place where the black car had stood idling just moments before.

Swimming holes have always held a sort of mythical quality. Everyone seems to have heard of that one sweet secret location through a friend of a friend: the still pool of crystal water hidden at the end of a winding path, untainted by tourists, inviting a skinny dip. But in the Hudson River Valley, isolated places to shed one’s clothes on hot days are becoming tougher to find as a more urban, unencumbered crowd heads upstate, colonizing this part of rural New York as a kind of Williamsburg North.

“Going to the beach is fun,” Mr. Denis said, “but we have a house in Ortley and Hurricane Sandy wiped it out. It isn’t ready at all, and we needed somewhere else to go.” A quick Google search and a few YouTube videos later, Mr. Denis decided on Fawn’s Leap Falls and rounded up a group of friends for the two-hour drive. “There were over 25 people here earlier,” he said. “Everyone was interacting with each other and celebrating whenever someone jumped. We’re going to check out other spots in the area, too.”

This is much to the dismay of many locals in nearby Palenville, a hamlet with just over 1,000 residents. “We’ve had complaints of parties,” said Lt. Adam Brainard of the Greene County Sheriff’s office. “There’s definitely drinking going on, and garbage gets left behind. We’ve sent undercover guys there and made arrests for under-age drinking and possession of drugs. Plus, people just park on the narrow shoulder of these very windy roads. Sometimes they even take down the ‘No Parking’ signs.”

There are concerns about physical safety as well. “There’s no supervision in these spots, and in our corridor here along 23A there’s a lot of flooding and rain runoff that changes the terrain underneath the water,” Lieutenant Brainard said. “What you’re jumping into today might not be as deep as it was the last time you visited. We get a consistent amount of fatalities and injuries every year.”

Just last month, a man who had been drinking and jumping slipped and fell at Fawn’s Leap, and was airlifted to Albany Medical Center for treatment of head injuries. But the element of danger hardly deters visitors. “It’s really exhilarating,” Mr. Denis said.

There is more-organized thrill-seeking in the area as well. In Phoenicia, a small town 13 miles west of Woodstock, Angelo Nikolopoulos, a 31-year-old poet who lives on the Upper West Side, spent a recent afternoon cruising two miles of white water on the Esopus River in a short pair of black swim trunks and an inner tube rented from Town Tinker — a last hurrah of summer fun before heading to a residency at the MacDowell Colony.

“There was this one particularly rough stretch of rapids, almost like a small waterfall,” he said. “On the shore at the base of it, two locals had set up lawn chairs with a cooler and were watching all the tubers face-plant in the water as they reached the bottom. It was like the D.I.Y. edition of ESPN.”

<nyt_text><nyt_correction_top>(Page 2 of 2)Downstream from Fawn’s Leap, a couple in their 20s were having a more peaceful experience. Kenny Quintano, a construction manager, and Christina Amicucci, a Pace University student, drove up from Westchester County for a picnic. “My mother used to come here as a kid,” Mr. Quintano said from a wide, flat rock overlooking a lovely pool in the stream.

Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

A spot below a sharp drop-off downstream from the Big Deep swimming hole in Woodstock, N.Y.

 

David B. Torch for The New York Times

Cooling off under Kaaterskill Falls in Hunter, N.Y.

Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Patrick Stephenson of Albany in the Millstream  swimming hole in Woodstock, N.Y.

Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Friends from Sayville on Long Island jump from rocks downstream from the Big Deep water hole in Woodstock.

Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Visitors and locals at play in the Millstream swimming hole in Woodstock.

The swimsuit-clad duo had spread out towels; a picnic basket was packed with sandwiches, chips and beer. “The last time I visited, I only saw two others the entire day,” he said. “But there was a whole family here earlier, and just now a group of 10 kids passed by. I feel like there are more people.”

Some locals are embracing the new crowds. Will Lytle, a 26-year-old scruffy-face illustrator, was born and raised in artsy Woodstock, which has popular designated natural-water attractions like Big Deep and the Millstream Swimming Hole. “We’ve seen more visitors and weekenders every year, and a big element of our economy is tourist-related,” he said. “Swimming holes are a part of that. They’re part of the upstate cultural identity. They’re free to play in, but the surrounding businesses benefit. If a visitor wants a genuine experience though, do what we do: get in your car and start searching.”

Just be prepared for the unexpected. Erin Hosier, 38, a literary agent and former Brooklynite who moved to Woodstock last year, took her Cavalier King Charles spaniel to splash around in a secluded stretch of stream on the edge of town earlier this summer when she came across a curious sight on the trail.

“There was a man, maybe in his 30s, bent over digging around in the tree roots,” she said. “He was completely naked, butt in the air. Of course, the dog ran right up to him and licked his ankles, and the trail was so narrow that I had to squeeze by him. He made no attempt to move, so I was just like, ‘What’s up?’ And he said, ‘What’s up.’ At no point did he stand. I carry a knife with me now whenever I go into the woods.”

Surprise nudists aren’t the only potential hazard: It’s easy to wander accidentally onto private property. “When I was growing up we always heard rumors of the most beautiful spot over in Platte Clove,” Mr. Lytle said, referring to a creek north of Woodstock. “Boyhood legend had it that it was owned by an ‘ex-Olympian Russian wrestler.’ A few summers ago, some friends and I were hiking up there when we stumbled upon this gorgeous, natural stone amphitheater, waterfall and a deep pond with a pebble beach. There were even ruins of an old mill. We all got naked and swam for about an hour when suddenly this giant, barrel-chested old man came storming out of the woods, screaming in a thick accent: ‘You’ll all go to jail. You brought beautiful women to a place that is not yours.’ He let us get dressed before escorting us out.”

For Mr. Lytle, that was still a preferable experience to an afternoon at Fawn’s Leap. “You think there’s tension between the people in Palenville and tourists,” he said. “Well, there’s tension between me and the locals there. My friends and I always had to go with the caveat that we might get some rocks or racial slurs thrown at us.”

Aside from complaints about parties and traffic, perhaps some of the locals’ frustration stems from the fact that tiny Palenville doesn’t reap the same economic benefits from out-of-town bathers as Woodstock does, although there is one steady stream of revenue. As the day wound down, many of the exhausted Fawn’s Leap jumpers returned to their cars for the long drive home to discover parting gifts, courtesy of the state trooper: $100 parking tickets.

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This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 1, 2013

An article last Thursday about secluded swimming holes in the Catskills misidentified a road through the area. It is Route 23A, not 28A.

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