easy maze in which to go hyperspace
Tuesday, August 1 2006
setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York
The thing about guests, particularly those of a parental nature, is that they necessitate a steady diet of regular activities. Today's was a visit to Mountain House atop Mohonk Mountain along the Shawangunk ridge. This massive edifice is only a 16 mile drive from our house and yet we've never gone. In terms of size and styling, there is no equal in the entire region. The style is a sort of hybrid between Swiss chalet and crude Appalachian lodge, with one style predominating over the other depending on the situation. In some semi-outdoor sections, for example, enormous crude pieces of the Shawangunk conglomerate have been stacked into elaborate parabolic arches, but with extraneous parts of the rocks sticking out at crazy angles from the structure. In other places, the regularly-spaced and stacked Victorian windows have a timelessly-conservative old world quality. The structures and grounds reflect a lot creativity and experimentation on the part of the people who have own and operated it over the years. One also sees a tendency to ride any winning design to extremes. For example, there are over a hundred small gazebos (made mostly of Red Cedar) scattered throughout the property. And in the gardens there is extensive use of Red Cedar poles nailed together in elaborate designs.
From a distance, the single visible feature of the Mountain House is stone tower along the ridgeline. From New Paltz it gives the ridge the appearance of an outstretched arm giving a thumbs-up sign (the kind customarily made in the proximity of a bound Arab during the War on Tair). Of this, only a puny little gazebo-shaped crowning tower is visible from the Mountain House itself. The bulk of the tower's base is only visible from the other end of Lake Mohonk.
It costs money just to walk the grounds of Mountain House, and, given what I just described, it's clear why this would be the case. In their own small scale way, the gardens were nearly as spectacular as the grand buildings, though (unlike the others) I thought the organization of flowers by color was a trifle unimaginative. I was, however, somewhat excited by a maze made of arborvitæ even though it was an easy maze in which to go hyperspace.
Part of the reason we'd come to the Mountain House was so Gretchen could meet up with her friend Susan and get her notes and syllabus for the teaching of English at the local community college, something Gretchen will be doing in the upcoming semester. First, though, we all had brunch in the Mountain House dining hall, which Susan thinks resembles such a hall on a big old ship such as the Titanic. From our table we would have had a spectacular view back towards our house on Hurley Mountain had the air not been lousy with haze. Everybody at my table was raving about the lavish spread of the brunch buffet, but it was nothing special for me. I subsisted on bagels and vegetarian link sausages (the latter being a delightful surprise for Gretchen).
While Susan and Gretchen did their English syllabus stuff on the broad porch overlooking the 17 acre Lake Mohonk, I walked with Gretchen's parents around its perimeter. On the far end of the lake is a jumble of large boulders sheltering leftover cold from the winter. Walking past it provided a welcome relief from the heat. Further on, as we once more approached the Mountain House, was a beach where only overnight guests are permitted to swim.
In the afternoon Gretchen and I took her parents and the dogs to the Secret Spot on the Esopus. B, the woman who owns the property showed up while we were there and she was telling us how she doesn't actually own it but instead administers it for someone else who is now considering selling it. It's only four acres and can never be developed because it's all floodplain. Still, it could theoretically fall into the ownership of a hostile entity. After B talked about the renewed need to have someone fix the secret spot's parking area (which was cut off from Tongore Road by flooding back in June, the second time in two years), Gretchen's father made a $20 donation to the driveway repair fund, which hadn't actually existed until that moment.
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