Monday, February 21, 2011

Mohonk Mountain House

I don't know what you know about this place, but allow me to share some of what I've heard and experienced about this amazing place. I first saw the Mohonk Mountain House (MMH) on a perfect October afternoon. I was taking a little hike walk through the woods one gorgeous Columbus Day weekend with some girlfriends and I think, a Lilly boy on my back. We had parked in a lower lot and followed a lovely path through the woods pausing to observe the rock climbers and to surreptitiously  catch our breath. We were all a bit out of shape as we ignored our own physical selves to devote our attention to the little beings we had produced and whose demands exceeded our own supply of hours in a day. The trail took us past fields and under evergreen trees as we continued to gaze up at the tower made of rocks, the tower which didn't seem to get any closer despite our continued efforts. As we rounded a curve in the path all of a sudden it was there - the Mountain House. And we were no longer in the Hudson Valley but had somehow been transported to Europe, perhaps Austria or maybe the Schwarzwald. Or, maybe it was Camelot. Built on, or perhaps birthed by, the grey rocks was an edifice that defied symmetry yet still appeared perfectly balanced. The building was a conglomeration of materials and colors and architectural styles, yet was perfect in it's disharmony. Unforgettable.

I've been back to the locale over the years and seem to always walk away with a new piece of information or legend about the MMH. Although none of this has been confirmed (maybe I should check wikipedia?), I recall hearing that Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining after a stay here, and that he also wrote some of the Mystery Weekends that have been hosted here over the years. Apparently the actual movie was filmed at an Inn in Estes Park, Colorado Oregon, but the inspiration came from Mohonk. My oldest son, the one I hauled on my back, tells me he has seen an episode of some program about haunted buildings which featured Mohonk. I'd like to think the spirit was benevolent and just couldn't bear to leave such a beautiful spot.

Just this weekend I finally got myself inside the Mountain House via an organized x-country ski trip with the Out of Control ski club. Who says I'm not a joiner? The timing of the trip worked out perfectly since I needed to be in New Paltz for an event anyway and I was able to stretch my day of skiing into a 2 night kitchen pass, an ideal beginning to my winter break. I met my ski buddies (bunnies?) a little after 9:00 a.m. at the gate and followed their bus up the winding road.  We quickly got ourselves organized and hit the trail to Skytop. The conditions were less than ideal with lots of ice and even more wind, but I always say a bad day skiing is better than not skiing at all. The views were panoramic and even more breathtaking than the 50 mph wind gusts. The ski up required removing our skis a few times to traverse the worst of the ice patches, not a problem just something of which to remain careful. At the top of the trail we took our skis off and tucked them into a corner of the tower for safekeeping - concerned far more about the wind than theft. The view was magnificent and had the wind not threatened to blow us away, we might have enjoyed relaxing a bit longer, but lunch was calling and I couldn't wait to enjoy the inside of the property.

The buffet began at noon and we were changed and at our table by about 12:30. Although we're not buffet regulars, we didn't make any amateurish mistakes. First we polled our table mates for their favorite items and then we did a reconnaissance lap around the entire display area prior to picking up plates and getting started. I began with a salad of Arugula (surprise, surprise!) with pickled beets, feta, garbanzos, some crunchy seeds and a balsamic vinaigrette. On the side I had a piece of pita with some yummy yogurt-cucumber sauce, pickled red onions and chunks of chicken turned yellow with turmeric. Delicious. My next lap brought sliced duck, Israeli couscous, red curry chicken and grilled vegetables. I wrapped things up with a taste of Oreo mousse pie, a slice of excellent traditional cheesecake and a small pile of fresh pineapple with toasted coconut. All of this, washed down with a half bottle of Alsatian Pinot Blanc. Bliss.  You should go - really.

1 comment:

  1. What an apropos post...I saw Anthony Bourdain's visit to MMH this weekend.