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Panoramas: Middle Valley
Kaaterskill Falls

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If you sit quietly and listen, you too can hear the sounds of the balls smashing against the pins that frightened Rip Van Winkle as he explored this quiet and remote cove in the Catskills. Kaaterskill Falls formed the backdrop of Washington Irving's tale about the somnambulant country prevaricator, filled with trolls, gnomes and magical beasts.

As you scramble over gnarled roots and round boulders on the 1.5 mile trail out to the falls, you too may find yourself surrounded by magical beasties and delightful woods. Well, the woods at least. The trail out to the falls, starting at a curve on Route 23 west of Palenville, is a fairly easy scramble, is well maintained and well marked. It is not for the faint of heart or physically challenged, but then again, isn't really strenuous or a major challenge. Just a lot of ups and downs and ankle twisting traps.

But the trek is well worth the little effort. The trail follows the Kaaterskill Creek as it ascends slowly up the cove. You are surrounded by dense and mossy woods, cool breezes and dappled sunlight. Ferns sway beneath the great hemlocks and spruces while the oak and maple leaves flutter and sparkle overhead. If you tire you can dangle your feet in the creek or lay atop one of the many table rocks stretching out over the creek and catch a quick nap.

At the end of your walk is the highest falls in New York State, descending in two steps down into the cove. Bring something to get wet in and relax under the cascade, or clamber up to the middle shelf and swim in the brisk pool. The sun will warm you and the quiet woodland breezes will surround you. Bring a picnic and sit atop the rocks and take it all in. Just be careful you don't fall asleep or you, like friend Rip, may not emerge again for 100 years.

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