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December 07, 2016
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Buried treasure/hidden gems

Dharma the Wonder Dog was pleased to find the ice had finally receded at Crystal Lake, one of many hidden gems in the Catskills.
TRR photos by Jonathan Charles Fox

OK, I’m just gonna ‘fess up right off the bat. With Passover in full swing and Easter springing up everywhere I looked, I wasn’t really in the mood to do much last weekend, other than play hooky, soak up some much needed rays and kick back. It seemed like the perfect time to rest up and conserve energy for the good times are about to seriously roll through come “high season” in the Upper Delaware River Valley, so I called the office claiming to be “sick” and begged off making an appearance. Oh, I was “sick” all right—sick of working, sick of driving, sick of typing… even (believe it or not) sick of talking.

“You can run, but you can’t hide” I muttered to the dog. Now, normally I’d try to get to the bottom of a phrase like that—who coined it or where it originated, etc., but (being sick of looking things up) I shrugged the impulse off and went for a walk.

Only a week or two ago, clear passage to my beloved Crystal Lake was impossible, what with leftover snow, icy patches and potholes the size of my truck that kept all but the diehards at bay, either coercing them to park off-road and hike their way in, or giving them no choice but to be patient (which as some of you may know, is not my strong suit.) But undeterred, I decided to drive on in, the perfect illustration of “You can’t fix stupid.” I plowed through the brambles and ravines, understanding that once committed, I had to see it through. And when I did make it down to the lake, I found it still almost frozen over and the beavers busily damming up what little running water there was.

With 10 days of warmer temps behind us, I headed out once again prepared for the worst, hoping for the best. Glorious doesn’t even begin to describe this hidden gem, a 28 acre preserve tucked away in the mountains overlooking Roscoe, NY, and truth be told, I’m not all that anxious to give away much more than that. If folks want to find this gorgeous lake badly enough, they can do some research on their own. As for the locals, we know where it is—when berry season peaks and what days are best to camp out, if you want the place to yourself. Is there buried treasure at the lake? I did find ramps springing up out of the earth and understand that these leek-like greens are considered a treasure by foodies in these parts. They’re often hard to find and from what I’ve learned, have a brief window of harvest opportunity. Want in on the secret cache? Give me a call.

Enjoying being irresponsible, I blew off yet another engagement and decided to wander aimlessly through the countryside, hugging the banks of the Willowemoc, camera at the ready, pup at my side. Pulling off the road to snap a pic, the Wonder Dog leaped out of the truck, raced into the woods, barking and wagging, zigging and zagging her way up a steep hill, disappearing from view. Calling her name had zero effect, so with camera in hand I huffed and puffed my way behind her, reaching a crest and gasped at what lay before me. A castle. An honest-to-god stone-and-mortar, turrets-and-arches, straight-out-of-a-fairy-tale castle. Rubbing my eyes in disbelief did nothing to dispel the image, and I caught Dharma’s tail zipping behind a wall, so I followed, noting the “No Trespassing” signs, but needing to retrieve my dog. Thankful that my camera was around my neck, I snapped some images of the ghostly ramparts, careful to not disturb, but fascinated beyond words. “Where did it come from? Who built it?” I wondered “Why here?” I walked the perimeter, whistling for the pooch, and took a few more photos, before finding her rolling in the grass, being a dog. The place was amazing and so (IMHO) out of context that my curiosity was out of control. Once home, I flew to “The Google” (as my mother endearingly called the search engine), and typed in key words like “castle” and “Roscoe” only to find that my discovery is kinda well known. With more than 2,000 links about the place, I started with Wikipedia and learned that “Dundas Castle” (also known as Craig-E-Claire) was built in 1924 as a private residence, sits on more than 900 acres and was added to the National Register of Historic Places back in 2001. Delving a bit further ( I read that the place is a “rambling, medievalized castle with Gothic and Elizabethan features, including a house, a bailey, a curtain wall and a folly resembling a barbican.” Since I don’t know what half of those words mean, I’ve got some research to do. Buried treasure? Hidden gems? I’m going back to work.