When we moved to Franklin in Delaware County from Ulster County three years ago, most people had the same question.
What a difference 2020 made.
The year of the shutdown saw my real-estate business shift into overdrive. The number of downstaters who sheltered in Delaware County and then decided they wanted to move here full-time spiked upwards, and real-estate prices have done the same.
Lately I’ve been hearing from friends who have decided Kingston is too crowded, the Hudson Valley is too expensive – they want more elbow room. All they require is reliable Internet. The question they’re asking now has changed.
“How,” they ask me, “do you like Delaware County?”
I like it a lot.
This is not completely foreign territory for many of them now. They took long drives just to get out of the house during the shutdown. Countryside they once dismissed as way too remote suddenly felt comforting and peaceful. There are fewer people. No traffic. Long views. The real world seems very far away.
In fact, Delaware County’s northern border is less than two hours from Kingston via Route 28. There are lots of opportunity to wind down and connect with nature. Maybe that sounds good to you, too. Here are a few suggestions along a circular route easily done in a day, and tailored to a world still somewhat pandemic-restricted.
Head west on Route 28. If the Arkville Bread & Breakfast is open, that’s where you should get your breakfast. There are plenty of good options along the way, but they’re far from undiscovered. The converted caboose is my favorite place to get a cup of coffee, and there’s generally plenty of places to sit outside. It’s not undiscovered, either, but it still feels like it is. The whole idea is to get away from the real world, isn’t it?
Hop back onto Route 28 and climb into the mountains. Just before Andes, you’ll see a sign for the Palmer Hill Trail near the crest of the steepest part of your climb. Stop. Pull in. Do not pass it. This is an essential first leg of your tour.
If you want to walk, there’s a couple of lovely, not-too-strenuous hikes you can do. But even if you just park the car, you’re in for a treat. In that parking lot is a long, long view back toward the Hudson River. It’s a view of Ulster County that may well take your breath away, equal to anything offered by far more strenuous hikes, and all you have to do is park and look. Breathe. It’s your reintroduction to nature.
Your next stop should be the Andes rail-trail. The folks who care for the trail are justifiably proud. It’s beautiful, it’s quiet, and it will even make you laugh. The old train station is a beauty. The trail is quiet, and loops through just about every possible kind of Catskills scenery, from meadow to forest to pine barren.
Read the markers along the trail. All of them are interesting, and one of them is just plain funny. Apparently a Hollywood movie that was filmed on a now-demolished bridge by the train tracks. Apparently the extras, two feuding groups of Andes neighbors, delighted the director with the remarkably authentic energy they brought to their fight scene. Sadly, their film of that melee has been lost. But it sounds like people in the mountains haven’t changed much in the past couple of hundred years.
From Andes, get back on Route 28 and go to Delhi. You’ve probably been to Delhi before. If you are hungry and you haven’t been to the Blue Bee Cafe, you haven’t lived. For your sake, I hope it’s open when you go.
Another surprising dining option is Catskill Momo’s, home of the authentic Tibetan dumpling. Also, the Delhi Farmer’s Market is a particularly good one, if you happen to hit it.
If it’s the weekend, definitely continue on 28 to Route 357 and Franklin. Franklin’s village is on the National Historic Register. If you like well-kept old homes and quaint villages, you’re going to be very happy. If you like high-end fashion and home décor, Sean Scherer and Gary Graham at 422 Main Street are must-stops. Blue Farm Antiques and Letterpress Printing is just a few doors down. And if your taste runs more toward country quaint, the Mercantile on Main is across the street.
If you are lucky, Bea’s Market and Cafe will be open, or the Tulip and the Rose will be serving brunch. Weekends are your best bet for all of them, at least until summer arrives. The small weekly farmer’s market will be open on Sundays, and the Franklin Stage hopes to resume performances this year, too.
There is an edible walking trail behind the park in the village, and on the hill above town is the North Star blueberry farm.
Keep that in mind for a future visit. Then get back in your car because the most amazing scenery is yet to come. If you go back toward Delhi, but turn right on County Route 14, you’ll get to Delhi via Treadwell, the quaint little artists’ village with the stream running through its center. The rolling hills beyond Treadwell are something pretty special, and a nice warmup to what you’re heading toward.
In Delhi, make a left on Main Street and continue straight on Route 10. You’re heading toward Kortright and Hobart, the book village. But in between, your eyes are going to be treated to some of the most spectacular scenery the Catskills have to offer. It’s just a road through a river valley, but what a valley! It’s hard to imagine anyone making it all the way to Hobart without stopping to take a picture. There’s a rail trail, too, if you want to get out and see the sights more slowly.
Hobart can be a full day’s visit when the book shops are open. But eventually you should continue on to Stamford, the old Victorian spa town.
At that point, you have some choices to make. There are routes that can take you through Roxbury (a charming little historic village), or even into Hunter and Tannersville. But here’s my suggestion for your first visit: take a right on Route 23 through Grand Gorge and Prattsville.
Prattsville was practically wiped off the map by Hurricane Irene, but it’s a village with heart. You’d hardly know what happened when you visit now. Prattsville feels like a big victory celebration, even when nothing’s particularly happening there. There are some walking trails on the hillside in Prattsville I’ve never explored. But I intend to.
Then bear right on 23A to Lexington. Lexington is home to some massive, Victorian buildings that have always fascinated me. The last time I saw them, the old hotel closest to the river was in dire shape, but the others looked like worthy projects.
A right on 42 will take you to West Kill, a remote little hamlet that has way more charm than I can explain. I’ve driven there just to park on the main road and take a walk through the old cemetery. It’s just a lovely spot. There’s nothing there, really. But somehow when you stop, you want to linger.
Back in the car, continue on and within a few minutes you’ll wind along the mountains back to Route 28 at Shandaken. Turn left, and you’re headed back towards the Hudson. But I suspect you’ll be carrying some memories with you that are likely to linger.
You’ll be back.