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Woodstock Times

by Will Nixon

Woodstock, NY March 28, 2004

Dear Editor:

Antsy with spring, I decided to try a new route for my afternoon walk from my house in the village of Woodstock, something more ambitious than my usual stroll to Bread Alone for a peanut butter cookie. It was route I'd studied all winter from town, but never tried despite all my local hiking: the 35 Catskill 3500 foot peaks several times each, plus Overlook Mountain in all seasons.

This route wasn't on trail maps, but it promised gorgeous views. And as I climbed, panting, sweating, and regretting my winter of peanut butter cookies, I wasn't disappointed. Many times on the curves and switchbacks, I paused to admire the panoramic views of Woodstock, the Ashokan Reservoir, and the Hudson Valley as far south as the Hudson Highlands. Although I knew the views from the top of Overlook, I was rediscovering my home terrain from a fresh angle, an elevating experience. By the top, I knew this route was my new favorite hike, even if the damn thing went relentlessly uphill.

The only oddity was that I never left the road. On my way up, I passed a dog walker coming down who told me that the switchbacks led all the way up to a bulldozer at the end of the road. I imagined a bulldozer frozen for winter like an old explorers' ship caught in the Arctic ice, waiting for spring to forge ahead.

In fact, I didn't find a bulldozer. But I did see survey tape on the trees, telephone poles lying by the roadside ready to be raised, and at the end of a future driveway a groomed flat septic field waiting for a house. It had to have the most spectacular view from any septic field in the Catskills, one that looks up at the Overlook fire tower, down into the wild ravine of Lewis Hollow, and across the Hudson Valley to the eastern horizon of Connecticut hills.

On another Catskill mountain, this site would be an idyllic location for a lean-to or a campsite. But almost anywhere else in the Catskills, a spot this rugged and high on a ridgeline would be far from any road. It would be protected park wilderness.

Not here. Not at the top of California Quarry Road. My idyllic lean-to could become the next mountainside castle.

On my ornery days, I look up from town at the houses climbing the southern slope of Overlook, and think, What a blight! But after hiking past some of these homes I can appreciate their allure. They have fantastic views with red-tailed hawks soaring by on the winds. They offer the magical feeling of being on-top-of-the world. And they're handsome houses.

But I'd hate to see their number double or triple. I'd hate to see Overlook fill up as a semi-vertical subdivision.

Fortunately, we needn't be passive onlookers. In December, the Woodstock Land Conservancy announced a campaign in partnership with the Open Space Institute to raise $1 million to buy land on Overlook from willing sellers. Of this total, the Conservancy has pledged to raise $350,000, admittedly a challenge for our community. But why not? Why not try to protect more of the mountain that Woodstockers see and cherish every day?

Since the campaign launch, the Conservancy has raised more than $60,000 from over 230 people. That's a strong start. But it's only a start. Now that I've finally made a donation, I won't be hypocritical in urging more people to do the same. If we don't join together to save Overlook, who will?

Large donations, little donations-it all helps! You may send a check to the Woodstock Land Conservancy at: Box 864, Woodstock, NY 12498. For more information, call the Conservancy at 845-334-2418, or check the web site at

What the hell, I'll even treat you to a peanut butter cookie. After we hike the road. I've still got a lot of winter to work off.


Will Nixon

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