Life moves fast - summer turns to fall, fall to winter, and a once-hip station wagon becomes a family wagon, packed with two kids, three dogs, a pair of hamsters and a cranky, semi-smelly cat named Gardfeld. Most weekends, we pile in and explore the vast landscape surrounding the tiny hamlet of High Falls in Ulster County. We come home with healthy appetites, satisfied yawns and enjoy supreme cuddling before drifting off to a restful night’s sleep. Now that we’re upstate full time, we wanted to share our favorite winter activities that keep us - and our pups - happy and healthy.
BELL’S CHRISTMAS TREE FARM
The kickoff to the winter season begins shortly after Thanksgiving when we select one weekend morning to drive to Bell’s Christmas Tree Farm in Accord, NY to retrieve our annual Christmas tree. Bell’s is one of those old school tree farms that hands you a bow saw and a sled - fifty dollars gets you just about any tree in sight. People from across the region make a day of it, tailgating with family and friends, with plenty of dogs in tow. Every year, the same food truck parks in the same spot, serving delicious hand cut fries that make for a greasy, but ideal snack after a lumberjack-like attempt to fell a tree, your “sled” dog not far behind.
THE ASHOKAN RESERVOIR
We’re not frequent hikers, but when the air is crisp, we drive to the Ashokan Reservoir Promenade with our dogs and kids to walk on the paved path that surrounds the lake. The reservoir and
mountains provide a stunning backdrop, and if you park on the east end of the trail after passing through the small town of Olivebridge, you can take a gentle, but refreshing 2.5 mile stroll.
Just remember to bring a leash!
Awosting Falls is a breathtaking natural spectacle semi-hidden in Minnewaska State Park. It’s an easy walk to the falls, with even our smallest pooch happily skipping ahead. If you climb up the natural stone staircase, you’ll be at eye-level with the falls, after which you can climb all the way to the top. In winter, the falls freeze, creating a cascade of ice that looks as if it’s suspended in time.
STAATSBURGH STATE HISTORIC SITE
A quick drive across the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge brings you into Dutchess County and to one of our favorite sledding spots. When there’s a fresh layer of snow, we’ll pack the dogs in the car, pile on the snow clothes, grab anything resembling a sled, and head to the Staatsburgh State Historic Site. The Beaux-Arts mansion is almost fully preserved even down to the table linens, offering 200 acres of sprawling landscape that slope down from the house to meet the Hudson River. I love to wander through the vast rooms while everyone else is sledding. While I doubt they’ll want dogs inside the house, they don’t seem to mind our furry friends chasing our sleds up and down the hill for hours.
Bethany Obrecht is the owner of Found My Animal, an accessories brand for adopted animals
and their people. Found My Animal offers beautifully crafted natural leashes and collars and encourages people to donate to multiple rescue organizations.