“TRAVEL IN LOCAL SPACES”
“Oquaga Creek State Park”
by Jessica Kuzmier
Going to a park I haven't been to before is like a kid waiting for presents at Christmas- I don't know for sure what it will be when I get there. Like the famous Santa Claus list, I have a set of expectations based on the state atlas' list of attractions. But usually, when I get to the place, it looks much different than the picture I held in my head. It's always an adventure waiting to happen
Oquaga Creek Park is one of those places that is asleep most of the year, but wakes up to a torrent of out-of-town visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The place is set up for that, with tons of campsites waiting for the RV's that will settle on them for the better part of the summer. The campsites surround a lake for family swimming and other summer fun. I didn't picture the lake being as big as it was, seeing that the park was named, "Oquaga Creek." But it looked like it would be fun to swim in if it were warmer.
I went there with my spouse in the spring, before the whole rush began. Oquaga is nestled in the Arctic State Forest; trees surround the entire perimeter of the lake and campsites. Spring leaves were just beginning to pop out when I was there. Being that was late April, I wasn't much into swimming. I looked for some hiking trails, and for this enigmatic Oquaga Creek. Considering that the name of the park is named after the creek, it isn't all that much featured as an attraction. You kind of have to look for the creek. When you park your vehicle, you follow this one trail out of the beach, which takes you to the open area where the campsites are. Once there, you can begin to see the creek. The first part, which leads into the lake, is in an open area, where you can take the kids for a picnic. It meanders out into another set of woods. To follow it, you can either squeeze past on the narrow shore that separates it from the trees, or navigate your way on the rocks. I chose the latter, because I didn't feel like low-hanging branches plucking my eyes out. It was difficult maintaining my balance between holding camera equipment in one hand, and a dog that wanted to explore everything in the other. But by being occasionally pulled across the way by my trusting spouse, I made it all right.
We went back to the beach to have lunch at the picnic site, but changed our minds when a whole load of daycare kids with little yellow bibs for identification purposes showed up with their guardians. The whole peaceful day at the park atmosphere was significantly altered by their presence, so we decided to take our lunch elsewhere, but there didn't seem to be anywhere else in the park to settle ourselves. So we drove out looking for a different site. Except when we drove out of the park, we wound up on a different road than the one we came on, so we were eventually lost. And we had forgotten the hot water for our instant soups.
We drove around trying to find food and our way back home. In doing so, we drove past the rest of the state forest, and wound up a lot further south than we originally intended. We eventually landed on a state road that we were familiar with. It cut through southern Delaware county. This took us past the reservoirs that are used to supplement New York City's water supply. It was a giant man-made river that cut through the peaks and valleys of the Northern Catskills. We stopped at a parking area that related the history of the reservoir, saying that the Catskills had been providing water for New York since 1915. We were there for about twenty minutes walking around, when a DEC truck showed up and parked right behind us. No one got out of the truck, which was strange. It gave me the eerie feeling that Big Brother had been watching and sent the truck to investigate. In reality, the guy was probably was just doing his rounds, and didn't really want to bother with two white people in their thirties driving a van with New York license plates. Nevertheless, when the truck left, so did we, feeling a little strange now that the place was completely deserted. Such as it is on road trips post-9/11.
The reservoir yawned its way, peeking back at forth at us past the road, until we got to the town of Walton. There it seemed to end, blending into the small towns scattered amongst farmland, which most of Delaware County is. We knew where we were now, and with hot water for our instant soups, we made our way back home, another part of New York State explored.
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