The Stony Clove and Kaaterskill Branch - 1904

In order to reach the Greene county section of the range, so long and justly famous in song and story for its rare scenic attractions, where thousands of summer visitors from every clime have revelled and recuperated year after year, the main line of The Ulster & Delaware system must be left at Phoenicia, and now visitors for that delightful region may reach it without change of cars. The little narrow-gauge track has been replaced with heavy rails of steel and made into standard gauge in conformity with the parent system. Steel bridges, heavier ties, perfected curves and elegant new rolling stock, and every facility has been provided for the increased travel through the famous Stony Clove which is sure to follow.

This means through parlor cars from Philadelphia and New York to Hunter, Tannersville, Haines' Corners, the Laurel House, the Kaaterskill Hotel and the Catskill Mountain House.

This announcement will be hailed with joy by every visitor and entertainer in that charming region, which at last will have all the modern railway facilities heretofore enjoyed in other parts of the Catskills.

Many pages might well be devoted here to the entrancing scenery which unrolls like a panorama as the train proceeds through this wonderful valley and mountain canyon, known far and wide as the Stony Clove Notch. Though familiar with all the graphic descriptions upon paper and canvas, one is sure to be surprised with the charming reality. Geologists differ widely as to the probable cause of this marvelous cleavage of the crags as seen in this Notch, or at what stage of the world's history this mighty upheaval took place. While the tranverse strata or rock on either side, closely corresponding in character and elevation, seem to have been severed and forced asunder a few rods by some cyclopean impulse and then held immovable, we can get no further in our speculative dream than that. Nature closes the door at this point upon human investigation and courts our admiration only. Surely no visitor to the Catskills will care to miss a trip through the Stony Clove.

Leaving Phoenicia the train sweeps over the Esopus and around a broad curve to the right, pursuing a northeasterly course most of the way. Much of the grade is heavy, reaching a maximum of 187 feet per mile near the Notch. The summit there is 2,071 feet above tide, and there is a climb of 1,273 feet in ten miles. But the engines pull up the trains at a lively rate, and you are charmed amid the marvelous beauties of this primeval bit of nature. The first station on this branch is

CHICHESTER. It was named for the Chichester family which came originally from Wales. There are extensive manufacturing plants and a collection of small dwellings down in the valley. Chairs and fine cabinet work are made there, to which the place is devoted. Soon after leaving the station, if at the right season in June, you pass through a perfect flower garden of mountain laurel, which extends for acres upon either side, each shrub a gorgeous mass of pink beauty in a setting of dark green leaves. In fact, this entire route presents a charming variety of wild flowers, ferns, trailing vines and green shrubbery which bloom in succession during the summer, filling the air with wild-wood fragrance. Lovers of plants and wild flowers may revel in the woodland treasures which abound in this region. Among the species found are ciematis, ferns in great variety, sarracenias, honeysuckles, Indian pipe, daisies, eupatorium, lilies, phlox, and a host of others.

LANESVILLE, five miles up the valley, is the next stop, and a favorite section with modest visitors who prefer to avoid the bustle and crowd of a popular resort. There are several houses in this picturesque locality where solid comfort may be enjoyed, and there is good fishing in the surrounding streams. Steeple Mountain and Burnt Knob rise abruptly skyward over across the valley, and there are various other soaring peaks with craggy crests now coming into view, which add rugged grandeur to the scene, Another three miles upward and onward brings the train to a halt at

EDGEWOOD, 1,787 feet above tide. There is a rattling saw-mill, and a chair-stock factory, with a few scattering private boarding-houses. But Nature's setting will engage your attention more profitably. Until this point you have been on the eastern slope of the deep valley, with the Stony Clove creek and the old wagon road far below, and cascades, mills, little churches, schools and cottages at intervals, with a few acres of almost perpendicular meadows have been reclaimed from the relentless grasp of the great crag. The Notch itself is now just ahead, and the valley contracts suddenly as its throat is approached. The valley ends, or rather begins, just here with a broad open pool of water in which the picturesque margin of fallen and upright dead and other green and beautiful spruce trees are reflected. There is now a climb of 280 feet to reach the summit in the Notch, and the grade can no longer be evaded or trifled with. There is not much over a mile in which to make the ascent, and you feel, hear and see that it is up hill. But the engine "gets there" all right. You hear the whistle and bell which waken the echoes in unbending measure, and next you feel the brakes released as the train begins a gradual descent. You are in the Notch, with Hunter Mountain, 4,038 feet, and the second highest in the range, the left, straight toward the sky, and Plateau Mountain on the right, with a narrow strip of sky far above. The track and the old wagon road are battling for space at the bottom of the gorge for a time; but the rocky and rooty road has the right of way by priority of possession, and it must be duly respected. The air is chill, and you reach for the overcoat and wraps which you have prudently brought with you to the mountains.

KAATERSKILL JUNCTION is at length announced. It is in the woods, with the open valley of the Schoharie on the left and this is the point where passengers change for the Hunter branch. Continuing this gradual descent on a sharp curve to the left for about two miles along that stream, the famous old village of

HUNTER is reached. This is one of the most popular summer regions in the Catskills. It is a quaint little mountain village, the town being formerly known as "Greenland.'' The general elevation is about 1,600 feet, and there is a wealth of picturesque attractions. Bits of ancient architecture are yet to be seen in the mile or more of street that stretches along the northerly side of the Schoharie creek: nor is the modern trend of the present century so much in evidence here as in some other mountain villages. But there are several large and attractive hotels, two or three churches, many stores and shops. "Colonel's Chair'' peak, 3,165; feet high, a spur of Hunter Mountain, forms the southern sky-line immediately across the Schoharie, to which the ascent is easy and most interesting, as it is also to the parent crag. In addition to all this, there are miles upon miles of excellent roads, leading out in every direction, upon which the wise and good people of that town have spent over $20,000 during the past four years in sensible and permanent repairs, which is bringing its reward in increased number of city visitors who delight to drive and cycle in this charming locality. With all these advantages there is little wonder that so many thousands return to old Hunter year after year to spend their summer. Previous to the railway it was almost inaccessible however, as were the favorite regions of Lexington. Hensonville, Windham and Jewett Heights, which are now reached by stage from this station.

But resuming the eastward journey at Kaaterskill junction, we have still eight miles of rails to traverse before reaching the northeastern terminus of this mountain system. A run of three lovely miles now brings us to

TANNERSVILLE, the first stop. Col. Edwards, of Northampton, Mass., moved in the town early in the last century, and established an extensive tanning plant there; and it soon became a great tanning center, remaining thus until the hemlock bark was exhausted. This fact led to its name. It has long been a very popular boarding section and has recently grown in favor with cottagers. There are numerous large hotels with combined facilities for entertaining over two thousand summer guests. Various social clubs and other associations have been attracted here since the advent of the railway, purchasing large tracts of mountain land and converting them into parks and line roadways, and erecting many handsome summer dwellings, fine club-houses and other convenient buildings. Among these may be named the Elka Park Association over on Spruce top slope, near the source of the Schoharie, seen on the right. Onteora Park across the valley, north of the station, and Schoharie Manor adjoining Elka Park. The elevation at the station is 1,863 feet, and the train now ascends gradually all the way to the end.

HAINES' CORNERS is at the end of the succeeding two miles, which are sure to challenge the admiration, even at this late stage of the journey. Another lively station is this, nearly 2,000 feet above the sea. You are now at the head of the famous Kaaterskill Clove, of which there is but one, and the like of which there is no other. For entrancing beauty of situation it has no equal. The view down the great canyon to the Hudson and beyond, is grand and beautiful, defying all description of pen or brush, and there is rare native charm on every hand. Nothing which man has done and there is much of his work here has been able to despoil the mighty chiseling of Nature in this great clove, nor even divert the attention for a moment from the sublime and transcendant vastness of this scene. Here at the head of the canyon the water plunges madly over the precipice 160 feet in height, and then descends by a series of cascades and rapids 1,200 feet more in four miles, to Palenville, on its woodland way to the Hudson. Half way down, it is joined by the Kaaterskill stream which tumbles in from the lateral gorge on the left. It is not strange, of course, that people love to linger here, as there are many good hotels, large and small just over the falls, and on the massive slope of Mount Lincoln, which here towers 3,664 feet in the air and forms the great south wall of the clove, several parks have been established. These will be seen most effectively soon after the train leaves the station. The first is Sunset Park, above the falls, then follows Twilight and Santa Cruz Parks with their many attractive cottages, casinos and club houses, which together make a very extensive settlement here in the woods in picturesque contrast to the unrivaled mountain setting. A summer home here, with housekeeping cares and fashion at the minimum, and Mrs. Grundy in abeyance, must be, and is, highly enjoyable.

As the train moves onward through this historic region, with the gorge now on the right, you will need to be alert to catch even a passing glimpse of the many objects of interest that appear in quick succession. Through the trees on the right, just before reaching the next station, two miles above, will be seen the celebrated Kaaterskill Falls, which "Natty Bumpo" called "the best piece of work in the woods.'' The momentary stop is

LAUREL HOUSE STATION. A few rods down to the right stands that familiar and historic old resort at the head of this beautiful gorge into which the silvery sheen of sparkling water tumbles hundreds of feet from a solid amphitheatre of shelving rocks beneath which, and behind the falling foam itself you may walk on other shelves of rock, dry shod, and view the novel scene, which well repays for the labor of the return climb. It is a resort with many hallowed associations extending over three-quarters of a century nearly. But the genial old landlord sleeps and new faces preside over its destiny. The entrancing spot has inspired the pens and brushes of authors and artists for a century, and its beauty can never fade. Sunset rock, less than a mile along the slope of this gorge, and at an elevation of 2,115 feet, is a famous outlook over the yawning canyon, where Haines' Falls makes a charming picture up at the head of the Clove.

The last mile of the railway is now quickly covered through the forest, and you alight at

KAATERSKILL STATION, on the margin of a beautiful sheet of water known as Kaaterskill Lake, which here nestles lovingly in its mountain basin 2,141 feet above the sea. Half a mile up Kaaterskill Mountain is the great Hotel Kaaterskill, the most extensive mountain summer hotel enterprise in the world, standing on the crest of the crag and surrounded by a Mountain Park of over 12,000 acres, in which an excellent system of drives and walks is carefully maintained. The view of river and valley from this altitude of over 2,500 feet is unobstructed and charming beyond compare. Prompt and speedy connection is made from every train at this station by light mountain carriages, and the walk up the hill is short and delightful.

Here, too, within a short half mile by a lovely road that borders and passes between Kaaterskill and its sister lake, known as North Lake, is the famous old Catskill Mountain House, on that grand old table-rock that has hung there in mid-air, commanding that famous "valley view,'' the praises of which have been sounded around the world all these years. This old land mark and pioneer summer mountain hotel now opens for its eighty-second season.

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