“Winter camping poses its own set of unique challenges. At 3000 plus feet Slide Mountain, [the] Catskills’ highest peak, will satisfy all the criteria for a great winter experience. Hike in set up camp and experience firsthand an adventure of your own,” reads the pitch on Thomas Meecham’s Woodstock Upstate Adventure website, which ran one of its regular regional camping trips on the January 14 weekend. “All supplies will be packed in and we will absorb the pain and beauty of winter together. All inclusive withstanding supply list. Gear up and get into the bush!”
Many in the western half of Woodstock had been hearing about Meecham’s enterprise over the past year. Some had seen roadside signs, or people hiking along Tinker Street to and from WUA’s base at Meecham’s AirBnB establishment at 202 Tinker Street, occasionally with backpacks. Others had heard parties on weekends and at night.
“We’ve been in town not even a full year yet,” Meecham said before last week’s four campers were to gather, starting their hike into the Catskills’ “forever wild” forest at sunset. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, though. It’s just the business end that’s somewhat new.”
Meecham, a carpenter by trade, moved to town from Detroit 12 years ago.
“After the ‘08 market crash I started looking for alternatives,” he added. “This was something my son and I have done together for a long time. It was a natural progression.”
Woodstock Upstate Adventure puts together group hiking, camping and kayaking trips. They tend to focus on state lands in the Catskills Park, with an equal focus on the Adirondacks, where most of their kayaking trips take place (“They have more group-friendly camping up there; it’s hard to get a site here.”) Groups are usually eight to ten people, with a fee of $450 for single campers and $675 for couples.
Winter weekend camping trips start in Oliverea and end up in Woodland Valley, outside Phoenicia, with Meecham’s company providing tents, firewood, cooking supplies and three meals a day consisting of fish, beef, poultry or venison, potatoes, pasta, or rice, fresh vegetables, soup and sandwiches for lunch and eggs, sausage and tortillas for breakfast. The group finds a “little clearing,” builds a fire pit.
“I started loving the outdoors as a kid when we’d go ‘up north’ in Michigan,” Meecham went on. “I have a 15 year old son who goes to Onteora and am a single parent. I didn’t want him growing up in Detroit.”
In addition to having built up a business serving as a guide over the years, Meecham said he’s also started working on getting a masters degree in mental health counseling. He said his goal is to eventually combine his various pursuits, and has already been working with fellow students on his trips. He sees the symbiosis between outdoor activities and therapy “a natural.”
We ask him about reports of occasionally noisy campers at his AirBnB, located near Sunfrost.
“We have allowed some to come up and camp,” he allowed. “There’s a not a lot of good campgrounds around the area and there are a lot of people who just want to come up and try camping in the woods.”
Did the term “glamping,” or glamour camping, fit his business profile?
“I hate that term,” Meecham replied. “Although we do somewhat cater to that same audience, in a way. Our emphasis, though, is on teaching skills, from learning how to put up a tent to finding kindling and starting a fire.”
The reason for his prices, and large crew, is to allow participants “to not spend all their time working, but have the time to enjoy the woods.”
As for how Woodstock Upstate Adventure markets itself, Meecham noted the signs he’s put up around town, his website (www.upstateadventure.com), and Facebook blasts.
“We hold meetings with people about what we do,” he added. “We also do personalized trips.”
Along that latter line, Meecham noted how he was planning two large trips for the summer months. One would be a two week road trip out west through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas to Utah and then back on a more southerly route. People would travel in a recreational vehicle, followed by van filled with supplies. Nights would be spent camping.
“All we ask is for people to come with a backpack and a tent,” he said.
The other summer trip would be a “castle room” tour of Scotland and Ireland, something he and his son have done before.
“The idea is to have fun,” Meecham concluded. “Care to join me for a paddle down the Wallkill later this week?”
The thermometer reads 25 degrees outside. I beg off, citing deadlines.
Meecham adds that Upstate Adventure’s next event will be a Valentine’s weekend hike up Overlook, complete with a brunch to be shared by all. When asked about that hike’s price, Meecham said it would be $575 including dinner at the Red Onion and an overnight stay at his Tinker Street b&b. The specific wed address for the hike is www.getintothebush.com.
For further information visit www.upstateadventure.com.