Once Himalayas-high and populated by Paleoindians some 13,000 years ago, the Catskills (three hours or less from New York City) are truly ancient. Other than Father Time, no sage befriended this four-county collection of farms, forests, lakes, valleys, and mountains more than influential American literary naturalist John Burroughs (1873-1921). Growing up on a farm outside Roxbury in rural Delaware County, “Boyhood Rock” was his favorite perch. Summering at the farm in his later years, he gathered with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and others around the boulder, which today marks his gravesite.
“The peace of the hills is about me and upon me…The dissonance and the turbulence and the stench of cities—how far off they seem!” wrote Burroughs in “Summit of the Hills” (1913), penned here at the farm.
That is why I call upon the Catskills whenever I can, for a century later, these elixirous hills remain instant tonic for the harried urban soul. Lying in the grass of Burroughs Memorial Field by his national historic landmark Woodchuck Lodge, the summer breeze is alive with his spirit, which helps guide my pen.