Tag Archives: Liberty NY

Frost Valley #16: Final Days

Frost Valley #16 – Final Days

Bud was back in school, summer work was wrapping up on the Frost Valley estate, and I knew it was time to move on before winter made hitchhiking miserable. But there wasn’t a rush, so one day when there were no chores to do I decided to visit the Autumn-colored trail to Slide Mountain one more time. I went alone, so Bud was probably in school.

This time I encountered other climbers on the ledges overlooking the Catskills. They were young guys, mid- to late-teens. Long haired and dressed in jeans and t-shirts, they presented the perfect youthful hippie look of 1969. And they were interesting—talking of things from the planet to the stars, from books to road trips.

It was the middle of the week and well into September so I was curious about their not being in school. AHA! they assured me, but they WERE in school!.

It was a school based on Summerhillian principles named Buck Brook Farm. The school taught by doing, not lecturing. And camping in the Catskill forest was certainly something being done!

The more we talked the more they encouraged me to come and join the staff at Buck Brook Farm. The more I listened the more I came to think the Travel Gods were lining me up with a place to spend the coming winter.

One comes to trust the Travel Gods. I made sure to get directions.


Within a week Stan and Bud drove me the fifty miles from Frost Valley to Roscoe, New York, and seemed to know the maze of backroads to Buck Brook Road and the unmarked drive at Buck Brook Farm. After fond fare-wells to Stan and Bud I hopped out with my pack and walked up to the old farmhouse across a small brook.

The headmaster happened to be in. Yes, the boys had told him about me. We chatted a bit. I was assured we were not there to be friends with the kids but to be the adults in the circus. And with that I was shown back across the small brook to the largest building in the compound. There I was casually introduced to staff and kids on my way to the second floor and a room overlooking the front drive.

I would stay for a winter and a summer.

Frost Valley #6: A Local Concert

One daily highlight of maintaining the estate in Frost Valley was grabbing a bag of fish food and walking upstream some half-mile to feed the fish in the ponds behind the little meadow where I had met a baby skunk and had first been introduced to fireflies.

One afternoon in mid-August I saw a car parked on the road beside the meadow and discovered two guys sitting on the edge of the road, enjoying the view while they ate a simple picnic. The guys were both studs so I wasted no time introducing myself and sitting beside them to compare notes. I told my story of finding obscure roads to hitchhike on and they said they had found Frost Valley because they lived in Boston and were headed to a concert and figured this tiny line on a map would be a nice, wooded drive. Then we made out for a while there beside the road, all three of us thankful for the absence of traffic and confident we could hear any vehicle approaching in the small valley.

Once the meadow had been splendored beside, the two guys suggested I join them at the concert. I was sure Stan could spare the help since the estate’s chores were all caught up. But I did have the fish to feed and it was kind of cold and drizzly, I didn’t have a ticket and it would be a couple days before I was back and I had no food or bedroll packed. The guys assured me it would be OK but I declined and they went on down the road while I headed to the ponds to feed fish.

Two days later Stan needed something from a shop that was in Monticello, some thirteen miles south of the town of Liberty, where I had spent a night under a freeway bridge on my way to the middle of the Catskills. We took highway 42, a back-road short cut from Frost Valley to Monticello, and picked up what Stan needed. On the way back Stan wanted to take the long way, up Highway 17, the freeway-style road I had slept under in Liberty. He wanted to check out the big commotion that was going on up that way.

We soon discovered a very long parking lot.

The freeway was divided, with a grassy median between the north- and south-bound roads. On both sides of the road north to Liberty cars had pulled onto the gentle slopes away from the pavement and parked.

There was nothing disorderly about this parking. The cars were diagonally parked as precisely as could be, as if an attendant had directed each placement.

On the other side of the freeway, headed south, both sides of that road were just as precisely filled with parked cars. This went on for miles.

At Liberty we got off Highway 17 and headed east back to Frost Valley and a rather wet and chilly August weekend.

There was a lot of talk in Frost Valley that week about those orderly cars parked on the freeway. And the fact there was no litter. And the fact no one had heard even one horn honk. “Well. I guess when folks have no where to go they have no reason to honk horns,” seemed to explain it all.

Eventually I figured out there was a well-attended concert just fifty miles from where I spent the summer of 1969 in the Catskill Mountains.

The concert’s name was Woodstock.

On The Road #13, Liberty Overpass Sleep

A freeway overpass has its advantages when looking for a place to sleep on a rainy spring night in the hills of New York state. First, it is dry under there. And there is a nice flat space just under the bridge, comfortable to lay on and safely out of sight from the road.

It turns out the overpass just out of Liberty, New York, was the first and last such accommodation I have enjoyed the comforts of. All in all I was set for the night just as the night gathered and my tired body was welcoming sleep. I snuggled as best I could in my inadequate war surplus cotton sleeping bag covered with my wool coat for an extra layer against the chilly evening, my head supported by my wooden box of paints. I felt lovely sleep gathering and gave myself up to drifting …

Drifting …

Well, dear reader. A freeway overpass has its advantages when looking for a place to sleep. And it has one little drawback that picked this moment to introduce itself. It started as a distant whine.

An ambitious whine as it turned out. Eager to gain as much momentum as it could on the slight downhill approach to the heavy concrete bridge. The whine grew louder, pulled on by a rumble and roar, ever louder and more eager and frantic.

Then a thump. And another.

And then — WHAM ! — all the demons of discourse were set free. The bridge jumped and rattled. The ground shook. The noise was overwhelming and gained urgency as the shaking and rattling and cacophony of it reached into my bones with the unsettled reality of motion.

And then—thump. Thump. Thump thump. Immediately the rattling and shaking and urgency stopped, replaced by the BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR of a big diesel engine pulling eighteen rubber tires screaming on concrete, receding up the grade headed north.

Well. It was getting dark and the trucks got fewer and fewer. I was dry and tucked in. The sound of approaching trucks working to gain momentum and then smacking onto the bridge and rocking my world before leaving with the rumble of working pistons came to be something of a lullaby, reassuring my sleep that all was as it should be.

On The Road #13, Liberty New York

After my harrowing experience sharing the finer points of oil painting with a big bad cop on a narrow country road’s dangerous decent of a cliff face, I finished walking to the top of the steep grade and continued toward Liberty, New York.

State Highway 52 brought me in on the east side of downtown Liberty, a fairly large spot on the map and more of a community than I really wanted to deal with. I was heading east anyway, toward a very little line going through the Catskill Mountains, so I turned to the right, picked up State Highway 55, and started walking toward less dense housing.

At the same time I was considering how soon it would be dark. It was too close to a town to sleep beside the road, where late night fun-seekers might notice a vulnerable individual. And there was the rain that had been dogging me all day. With no tent, I needed a dry place to unroll my sleeping bag.

The map did show a freeway overpass just east of Liberty and I had spent the day vaguely aiming for that structure, thinking there are bridges where freeways cross roads and it is dryer under a bridge than under the clouds.

overpassThis substantial structure of modern transportation treated me better than I had hoped. The freeway passed over Highway 55 and concrete slopes ran from the road up to the underside of the freeway bridge. I was glad see that at the top of these slopes were open spaces, about three feet high and some four feet deep, before the bridge abutments made walls supporting the freeway.

Nice little flat shelves with roofs.

They were ideal. Close enough under the bridge so the wind would not whip in rain. Deep enough so I’d be out of sight. And, while the cemented slopes were plenty steep, they were not impossible to scale.

I checked to see that no vehicles were going to witness a bum climbing around under the bridge and scurried up the left slope, under the north side of the bridge.

While the slope was covered with concrete the little shelf was not. After an initial disappointment that this ideal accommodation did not include nice soft padding and 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets (it’s a joke — I was a hippie. How was I to know you can count threads in sheets?), I quickly settled onto the loose gravel and dirt.

Gravel and dirt that was softer than concrete and dry as moon dust.

It was going to be a great night for sleep.

Cops while hitchhiking #3

This is the third of four stories about my dealing with police while hitchhiking from 1968 to 1971. For the story of my second encounter with the police, which happened in Las Vegas, see Cops while hitchhiking #2 

One hundred miles north of New York City, State Highway 52 spent twenty-five miles winding its way from the Delaware River to the town of Liberty, New York. They were beautiful miles, neat farms tucked into hardwood forests on a casual, small, two-lane country road. Just what my hitchhiking soul was looking to travel.

Even though avoiding freeways was an aim of my travels, on this particular day I was trying to make it to Liberty just because it had a freeway passing by. Freeways mean substantial bridges. It was early spring and we can thank rain for the lush green of eastern forests. I was looking forward to a dry spot to sleep.

I walked beside the narrow road without sticking out my thumb, thankful if rides were offered but not soliciting the attention of authorities. Besides, were I was going was exactly where I already was—hitchhiking America’s byways. One is not in a rush when one is already there.

The countryside passed at the pace of a mosey.

A couple of miles before Liberty there was a bluff I’d have to climb. The road bent to the left and became a steep grade, cresting the bluff with a sharp right turn some hundred feet above the valley I was walking. My fear was the grade was probably cut as shallow into the hill as possible to save costs, and my fear was right. As I approached I saw the road narrowed even more.

The steep grade had no room on either side of the road. I could balance on top of the guardrail to the left, stumble over the steep loose dirt on the right, or walk on the road.

A dangerous situation, indeed. The road up the grade was narrow enough so cars had barely enough room to pass one another even without a pedestrian to get around. The grade was long enough so no one would want to stay behind me for the length of it. The grade was short enough so oncoming traffic could appear at the top of the hill with precious little time to stop for a car passing me. And, most dangerous of all, if there was anywhere a cop would stop me for walking on the road, this would be it!

But there was nothing to do. I quickened my pace, stepped into the road, and started scooting to the top.

I hadn’t seen a car in miles and I hadn’t seen a patrol car in three days. So, of course, when I was half way up the hill and in the narrowest part of the road, what should appear at the top of the hill?

You, dear reader, are an excellent guesser.

The officer was alone, rather young, and began slowing as soon as he saw me. He stopped next to me, no room to pull over, set his brake, and started to get out. Even while he was opening the door he began expressing his concern about my walking on the road and especially in this very dangerous spot. I told him I agreed completely, was doing my best to get to past this very dangerous spot, but I had no choice since there were no rides. Along with my words of agreement there was a sincere laugh of admitting he and I could not agree more.

As I remember he asked what I was up to, to which I replied I was out adventuring and a little road through the Catskills was the perfect place to be. By his fourth sentence he asked a question I remember well: “What’s in the box?”paint box

It was a wooden box, exactly the kind painters carry their paints in, and that’s exactly what I told him was in there.

“Oh. Those are my paints.”

He jumped in, “Do  you work in oils or acrylics?”


He gushed, “How do you get the paints thinned? I’ve just started painting and the paints are too thick when they come out of the tube!”

(This hippie instantly stopped worrying about a big, bad cop hassling hitch hikers!)

I told him about linseed oil and volunteered to show him, waving my box around looking for a place to set it. He motioned to the trunk of his car and I said I didn’t want to scratch it but he indicated that was the last of his worries. So I gently put the box on his car, popped open the lid, and showed him what to look for. cop saw

We both knew we were blocking the road, so he soon thanked me and told me he was sorry—he wished he could give me a ride to Liberty but unfortunately he was heading the other way and had somewhere to get to.

I scooted to the top of the grade, the curious cop being the only vehicle I encountered on the climb.