A great way to survive sweating hot days and to get the most out of summer is a dip in your favorite river, stream, lake or pond.
Why would I reveal the secret cooling spots of the Hudson Valley? Well, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. I carefully screen the recipients of the Catskills’ best secret trails, and if you are a local I hope you will, too!
If you’re not a local, though, don’t fret. There are plenty of places that are public knowledge with easy access and plenty of charm. An intimate stream? A grand river? The vista of a beautiful lake surrounded by forested slops? Take your pick.
Be reminded that these are not the beaches of Long Island or the Jersey Shore. Exercise caution. Heed warnings.
My eleven-year-old daughter loves the social scene at Woodstock’s local swimming holes. We cruise her favorite Sawkill Creek spots along Millstream Road in Woodstock, looking for her friends. They butt-slide over the rocks and dive off underwater ledges into the grand pools.
It’s easy enough to find these very public Woodstock places. But if you’re an outsider, how can you discover more secluded, hidden spots?
You might befriend locals and invite them on picnics. Promise to bring the picnic basket if they’ll take you to their favorite spot. Torturing them with relentless requests, bribery, manipulation and nagging occasionally works, too.
There are stretches of creeks that are in the public domain to be found by looking at Department of Environmental Conservation maps.
You are not allowed to swim in New York City reservoirs. That doesn’t stop a few fools from risking the consequences and going for a midnight swim. It’s not worth it.
Here are some of the open secrets among the more public places to which I like to go.
The Saugerties Beach: A great place for kids, with a playground, a dock to jump off, and a big deep sandy pond-like area on the Esopus Creek. The ice-cream truck comes around.
The Saugerties Lighthouse: A beautiful quarter-mile hike through the woods leads to a place of romantic and ethereal otherwordliness. There is a slow, gradual, sandy beach where you can gradually wade out into the river. Watch out for the slippery sharp rocks that take you quickly into the depths.
You can rent kayaks and canoes nearby at Hudson River Boat and Kayaking Rentals (246-7533). Paddle around the lighthouse and find a private beach.
North Kingston Beach: Beautiful vistas of the Rhinebeck/Kingston bridge, picnic tables, swimming, and a boat launch.
Tubing the Esopus: You can rent an inner tube in Phoenicia. There is a minimum age. It’s for big people only. There are rapids and some risk of bruises, cuts and more serious injuries.
Onteora Lake off Route 28: It has no beach to speak of. You enter the water carefully on large boulders, but then there’s a big warm lake for a long leisurely swim.
North/South Lake near Tannersville: a great place for kids. It has a campground, two sandy beaches, canoes and kayaks to rent, wonderful trails, and a playground. The ice-cream truck visits regularly.