Gather 'round for a tale of magic and mystery in the Great Northern Catskills
One day, a man, harried by the nagging of his wife, wandered into the Catskills near his home. The adventure that follows is one of America's most cherished folktales – Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle. For nearly two centuries, the myth of Henry Hudson's ghost and Rip's lengthy slumber have endured, adding to the delightful enchantment the Great Northern Catskills hold for many contemporary visitors.
Rip is one of the Great Northern Catskills best-loved figureheads – a link to the past, as well as a present reminder of the region's unique place in American history. His tale goes something like this:
Set in pre-Revolutionary New York, Rip Van Winkle lives a life of ease – much to the chagrin of his wife, Dame Van Winkle. Rip's passions include wandering through the Catskill Mountains and old-growth forests, being idle and enjoying life. He doesn't work for long however, and though itinerant, he is well loved by all in town. The children especially love the fanciful stories he tells.
One day, Rip wanders off into the woods to escape his nagging wife. Hearing thunder, he unwittingly follows the ghosts of Henry Hudson's men deep into the wilderness. As the men play nine-pins, Rip imbibes a "magic potion" - quietly falling into a deep sleep. He wakens 20 years later, his beard grown long and his beloved dog, Wolf, nowhere to be found. Rip makes his way back into the village and discovers that the American Revolution has taken place. He is no longer recognizable, nor does he know any of the townspeople who greet him.
Rip's luck holds out and it isn't long before he finds his place among his grown children – though much of his family has passed on – and resumes his habitual idleness. His tale is repeated and solemnly taken to heart by hen-pecked husbands who wish they could have shared in Rip's good fortune and slept through the atrocities of war.
From the pages of Irving's cautionary tale, the sense of adventure and intrigue have taken on a life of their own. Even now, the lush mountains, verdant valleys, rivers and streams of the Great Northern Catskills have the enduring power to enchant, delight and rejuvenate.
Rip Van Winkle today
In the Great Northern Catskills of New York – Rip is everywhere. His legend is almost as big as Hudson's. From celebratory events and commemorative statues, to numerous business names and wonderful paintings at many of the historic lodges and resorts – Rip lives.
The Rip Van Winkle Wine and Cheese Festival kicks off each year in May – celebrating the bounty of regional cheese-makers, wineries and much more. Play the "Catskill Nine," a series of golf courses along the Rip Van Winkle Golf Trail offering incredible views of the mountains and valleys.
Explore the attractions such as the legendary "cloves" where Rip took his marathon nap. View the colorfully painted statues placed around the mountain-top region or hike to the top of Hunter Mountain and discover a larger-than-life sculpture of Rip Van Winkle. Envisioned by David Slutzky and carved by sculptor Kevin Van Hentenryck, the blue sandstone carving is meant to depict Rip as he awakens to discover his curious predicament.
Discover the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County – a land steeped in lore, mythologized by history and loved by visitors and literary legends alike.