Mutti and I discovered the Catskill Forest Preserve and the scenic North-South Lakes almost by accident.
After hiking Kaaterskill, we followed County Route 18 to the dead end and asked a patrolling Park Ranger for a map. The free State Campground lay empty but was still open for use. Several walking loops and historical sites like Alligator Rock and the former site of the Catskill Mountain House were ours to explore and take photos of.
Created during the WPA days, in the summer you can rent a kayak or paddle boat, comb the beaches and score one of the 200-plus sites the campground offers for tenting. Each site has working charcoal grills, easy access to hot showers, picnic tables and affordable rates ($22/night).
Visitors claim bear sightings all the time so be sure to bring a rope and bucket for hoisting food into the air at night. Or, better yet, leave it in your car trunk in a sealed cooler.
Regarding the top photo – Mutti owns a frenetic French poodle named Renee who can’t function unless she is able to see her Master at all times.
While traversing Kaaterskill I held the dog leash so Mutti wouldn’t get pulled off her feet. Little Renee, all 6-pounds of her, has the might of a locomotive, enough to mush like a sled dog if this were Alaska. While holding onto her I nearly took a tumble a few times myself.