The Shawagunks

October 8, 2003: Are you looking to rock climb to the top of a cliff that's not a real peak in a less-than-wilderness setting about as populated as Griffith Park?

Well, look no further than the Shawagunks, or the "gunks" for short. It's not that they're bad from a climbing perspective; most of the routes are probably beyond even the capabilities of the mighty Lonewacko. Yet, there is such a thing as esthetics. In Joshua Tree, you're in the middle of a beautiful desert, and there aren't that too many people around. Or, at least there's room to move.

On the other hand, the Shawagunks are a several-miles-long cliff, and a carriage road runs below the cliff and provides easy access. Walking less than a mile along the carriage road, Lonewacko saw several bikers and walkers and over a dozen climbing parties, and that was on a weekday. One only imagines what it's like on a weekend.

Once again, the climbing there is probably great, and it does look like fun. However, and, bearing in mind that Lonewacko only saw part of it, it doesn't appear to be the wilderness experience or the chance to bag a named peak that some - such as Lonewacko - might prefer. Despite that, Lonewacko might try to find someone here who could give him a toprope belay up something easy.

Lonewacko would rather not pay a guide service to provide the belay, as they're rather expensive. I briefly stopped in at the EMS climbing school in Gardiner, and, while Lonewacko hasn't climbed under their tutelage, they seemed OK.

Lonewacko also stopped in at Rock and Snow in New Paltz. Lonewacko usually stops in at outdoors stores to get local information, as the people there are usually well-informed as well as being, er, laid-back. Unfortunately, the guy at Rock and Snow wasn't that helpful, and seemed not to have any information about, for instance, cheap motels outside of New Paltz. He was also a bit huffy. So, Lonewacko won't be shopping at their store any time soon. Note that EMS sells climbing gear as well, even if they don't have as large a selection as the other store.

The ladies at the New Paltz Chamber of Commerce were similar. Attracted by the highway sign promising tourist information, Lonewacko stopped by. Don't you make the same mistake. They had no information on businesses that were outside of New Paltz and/or not members of The Chamber, and they seemed to regard Lonewacko like the po' hiker that he is. Next time I'll wear my Dockers and my Topsiders and inquire about moving there, that'll get their attention.

Through asking enough people, Lonewacko has finally determined some of the answers the New Paltz Chamber of Commerce was unable to answer. Namely, there are no cheap-but-clean motels in the area. The cheapest was the Balmville north of Newburgh at $45. But, bear in mind that Lonewacko didn't even bother looking at the proferred room. The 30-something lady working there was from an Americanized East Indian, and she seemed like it might not be a complete dump. But, Lonewacko only had a two minute visit there and cannot vouch for it in any way. Note also that that's only a few miles north of the northern edge of Newburgh, and one should see the previous post for more information about that fine metropolis.

Even the campgrounds here are expensive: $30 for a frigging tent site. Apparently, I can "enter Kentucky" (in the words of one of Lonewacko's sources) by going to the other side of the Shawagunks, where things get a bit cheaper because hordes of tourons and NYCers don't go there. I might do that tomorrow, or I might move on.