While some residents will disagree, I feel that one of the best ways to enjoy our mountains is to take a scenic Catskills drive. Sometimes for no other reason than just… to drive.
As I said, this is a little controversial. Any speed demons and late-to-workers reading this are already prepping their middle fingers. They’ll argue that scenic drivers needlessly fill up the roads, slowing everything down and potentially causing accidents when they stop in the middle of the road to gawk at deer (an understandable complaint – the only reason to watch a deer is to make sure it doesn’t hit your car). On top of that, drivers waste money and natural resources by using more gas.
Those for it, however, appreciate how enjoyable it can be. If you’re someone who doesn’t always want to get sweaty and bitten up hiking in the woods or biking (like me), driving around can be a great way to get in touch with our beautiful mountains while not interacting with other people.
#1: Seeing the Sights
If you’re on a country road and there’s no one around, you can go whatever speed you want and check out all the interesting trees, waterways, wildlife, and whatever else you find. Of course, if someone’s behind you and you’re going under the speed limit, you should find a clear, straight spot and let them pass.
You don’t have to find new places, either. You can still have fun even if you go the same way every day! An elderly neighbor couple drove by our house every day for a slow, scenic jaunt, just to see what was new in the valley. When they passed away, their son took over. Unfortunately, he passed away this past winter, so now there’s no one to keep an eye on our road.
#2: A Chance to Explore
One of the best things about taking a leisurely drive is that you get to explore these wonderful mountains. There’s nothing like leaving the house without a set plan, just your keys, some music, and a sense of adventure.
With so many country roads, you can easily find new and interesting spots by taking a different road and going with your instinct. Sometimes you’ll find a new way of getting somewhere – maybe you come across a town you’ve heard of but never visited, or the road leads you to another way of getting somewhere. It’s all fun!
Sometimes you’ll find an interesting pulloff or shop, and you can get out of your car and do a little exploring on foot. Of course, when you get tired, you can hop back in your car and drive somewhere else!
#3: It Relieves Stress
If you stick to country roads, you’re often the only person around. Being alone on the open road is a great feeling! It’s usually just you and your car, and maybe a friend or family member if one came along, and you can relax.
When driving, you can choose to focus entirely on the road and your surroundings. Being present and enjoying the sights and sounds with the wind in your hair is one of the best feelings in the world. I always find problems a little more manageable after I go out for a drive.
#4: Fun in Any Season
Obviously, you should postpone if it’s snowing or otherwise dangerous out. But any day the roads are decent can be good for driving! And no matter what season you go, there’s something interesting to see. Even now, while everything is still brown, the mountains are beautiful. There’s an advantage this time of year, too: you can see through trees more clearly without leaves or snow everywhere.
If you’ve already been by a spot in the summer or fall, it can be fun to try it again in wintertime. The seasons can completely change how things look.
You also never know what wildlife you might see. For example, bald eagles can often be seen in quiet streams during wintertime. In summer, you can find them around lakes and reservoirs. You can see all the creatures out of hibernation in the summertime, too, like woodchucks, turtles, and frogs. And of course, in spring, there are lots of young animals to see.
#5: It Generates New Ideas
I’ll admit, I took a drive today to come up with ideas for this. All I wanted was to come up with one post idea, since I’d been sitting at the computer all day and nothing was coming. I figured I could get some good ideas by looking around. At the very least, I’d get some fresh air and listen to music.
I found myself on the reservoir road and decided to make a trip all around the Pepacton. Since I have no directional instinct whatsoever, I accidentally ended up in Delhi. Now that I look at the map, I see I could have turned off on a road before Downsville and actually made the trip I wanted to. But that’s saved for another day. In the meantime, I was able to treat myself to some McDonald’s before coming home. And now I know yet another of the thousand ways to get to Delhi, since all roads apparently lead there.
While exploring, I found some interesting places to write about for future blog posts. Plus, I ended up with a blog post idea for today, since I was able to write about driving around, which I wouldn’t have thought of if I didn’t go driving around. See how that works?
Stay Safe and Have Fun
Remember to always practice safe driving, no matter what you’re driving for! We have beautiful scenic roads, but they’re only good if people drive carefully, consider other drivers, and obey all speed limits and warnings. For you and your car’s sake, you should always stay observant and watch the road for tree limbs, potholes, and critters. There’s plenty of all three around here. And don’t litter – that’s just nasty.
If you’re looking for places to drive, I recommend the roads around any of our local reservoirs, particularly the Pepacton and Ashokan. They are both lovely year-round, but they’re absolutely mesmerizing on sunny days when the leaves are out.
There are also nice routes on 30 heading to and from Stamford, all around Lexington and Hunter, and in the western part of Sullivan County. I haven’t gone into Greene or Sullivan in a while, but I’ll try to add more roads as I think of them.
What are your favorite scenic places to drive in the Catskills?