Is there anything better than leaving the world behind for the great outdoors? Well, I’m sure some of you can come up with something better, but for my boyfriend and me last weekend, it was perfect! For our eight-year anniversary he finally did what he’s been threatening to do our whole relationship — he took me camping. Mind you, it was under the guise of “glamping,” but even though it was a little more rough and tumble than I expected, it was an amazing trip.
Friday afternoon we packed the truck and set out northbound, driving through the beautiful mountains of New Jersey and downstate New York until we reached the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. I couldn’t believe how jaw-droppingly gorgeous the shadowing and colors of the range were. We made it to our campsite just before dark fell, guided by our camp keeper, Bill. He is a semiretired volunteer fireman who works alongside his wife, Paula, to host two campsites on his family’s 160 acres located near Red Hook, New York. The couple works together with Tentrr to keep the sites up and running for happy campers like us — and, boy, do they do an amazing job!
My boyfriend chose our site based upon its co-sponsorship with Coleman. The entire place was outfitted with all the gear you could need to make your stay an experience you won’t forget (and pretty hassle-free to boot). From a solid and warm tent that’s already set up and awaiting you to a propane grill, Bluetooth speaker, lantern, rain-fly with lighting, as many flashlights as you can ask for and the best cooler either of us have ever used, Coleman did a great job picking the gadgets to make life easier outdoors. It didn’t hurt every item besides the tent and the propane grill was capable of charging our equipment! The company’s new proprietary rechargeable battery system allows you to switch batteries between all the gear, so finding a fresh charge was never a problem.
Once we settled into camp and got the lay of the land (ours was quite hilly, but with a babbling creekbed directly below and a good amount of privacy, hills were okay), we got a big fire going in the pit and barbecued some delicious brats alongside corn on the cob and had a salad we brought with us from home. By the time we had dinner made and finished washing up, we only had enough energy to put the fire out and crawl into bed. Everything takes a lot longer outside!
If only we had fallen straight asleep. Alas, we decided to camp in April when the weather can be a bit iffy in the mountains. And oh, did it get cold that night! Our tent had a wood-burning stove with a chimney piped out, but it was our first time using the stove, and it took us quite a while to get the hang of it (read: all night).
Awake and running on little sleep, we opted to skip starting another fire to cook breakfast and wandered into town around noon to start our adventures in the area. Red Hook is located right off the Hudson about 1.5 hours north of New York City, and it’s a charming little town with plenty of old-fashioned diners. We chose the aptly named Red Hook Diner and enjoyed splitting some great pancakes and home fries with a Western omelet and some coffee to wash it all down.
Happily satiated, we set off across the Hudson via the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge to visit the famous town of Woodstock, New York. But, of course, before we could hit the town we had to get into the proper headspace. What better way to start than to visit an active Buddhist monastery nestled high on a mountainside in the Catskills? Although many of the buildings were open to residents only due to COVID, we were able to walk through the main temple where visitors and monks alike were practicing meditation. The air in the temple was almost heavy it was so tranquil and still — like a weighted blanket — and so deeply comforting.
Thoroughly relaxed, we headed down the mountain and into the easy living of Woodstock. Funnily enough, the concert of the same name wasn’t actually held in town. It was meant to be, but a last-minute change landed the concert in the town of Bethel, about two hours away. The spirit of Woodstock still thrives here, though, and tie-dye is the fashion. After some shopping and wandering around Tinker Street, we happened upon a little pop-up named Que lo Que presented by Shindig. Now, Que lo Que is a Dominican phrase, and I just HAD to check it out. Sure enough, the chef, Sam Fernandez, was half Dominican and half Puerto Rican, and her cooking skills were 100 percent fire. We started off with a decadent picadillo empanada packed with Impossible beef, raisins and a rich cilantro-mojo sauce. Following that, we split the chicharrones de pollo and the yuca fries with a mouthwatering mojo verde. Washing it all down with the staple Dominican beer — Presidente — was the icing on top. We could not have asked for a better meal and a more comforting slice of home.
Back at camp that night, we rang in our eight years together with a bottle of La Marca Prosecco and a spread of steak, portobellos, asparagus and more corn on the cob. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to cook all that outside, but between our grilling experience and the helpful tools around camp, it wasn’t bad at all! Time consuming, but not bad. And the food was amazing. There’s just something about grilling over a wood fire that makes everything taste better … except the dessert my boyfriend tried to make — that one did NOT taste better!
After another slightly sleepless and frigid-at-times night, we woke up Sunday morning and enjoyed a relaxed awakening with some bottled coffee and sun on our camp chairs before tidying up and packing the site. Luckily, we only had to clean up our things, and the rest of camp didn’t need to be broken down. Once we checked out with Bill and Paula, we headed once more across the Hudson, this time to the town of New Paltz, where my boyfriend lived for a bit. We drove down the town’s main street, lined with restaurants, shops and bars catering to the local college students of SUNY New Paltz and to the many outdoor adventurers who stay there to access the Shawangunk mountain range and its myriad activities.
Before grabbing some amazing burritos from Mexicali Blue (a spot favorited by Anthony Bourdain) and heading home, we drove through the ‘gunks, as they are locally known. Through sheer luck, my boyfriend navigated us to his favorite swimming hole, Split Rock at Coxing Kill Park. Run by Mohonk Mountain Preserve, for $15 each you can enter to use the swimming hole or the many well-kept trails that lead off into the ‘gunks. As my boyfriend is still recovering from foot surgery, we went light on the hiking and just enjoyed dipping our feet in the frigid mountain spring water.
The drive back home was sad as we left behind all that natural beauty but full of excitement for more trips to come.
What’s a trip you never thought you’d enjoy but you did?
— Yasser Ogando, advertising & production manager
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