For months now, Ryan and I have been keen to go camping — and we weren’t going to let a bit of snow stop us. So last weekend, despite predicted freezing temperatures, we stuffed our backpacks with sleeping bags, snacks and plenty of layers, jumped in the car and headed to the Catskills. If we had more time and money, we would have loved to learn more about the other options abroad, but as it stands we didn’t have either. So, we packed and went right away.

Ryan, the trip-planner between us, had picked Alder Lake in Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest because of its reasonable proximity to the city, its not-too-strenuous hikes and because reviews online told us there wouldn’t be too many rattlesnakes or bears (a good idea, we thought).

We hoisted on our backpacks and started on a three-mile hike past the lake, through the snow-dusted woods, alongside streams and up into much cooler elevations.

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It was beautiful and felt so good. The colors, the physical exertion, that gloriously fresh air. I swear, the minute I stepped into the woods, I immediately got the giggles. All my New York anxieties were long forgotten.

But the thing that made me laugh more than anything was Georgia’s backpack.

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After I’d composed myself, we headed back down the mountain to claim a spot by the water.

There were very few other camping groups (probably something to do with those freezing temperatures) so we managed to nab a site with an incredible view over the lake, plenty of coverage from nearby paths and even a table set.

Plus, being on the south side meant that we felt the sun when it rose the next morning (again, Ryan can be thanked for that nugget of wisdom).

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Despite my 400 layers, the second the sun slipped behind the mountains, I was frozen to the spot. The evening was so cold, and I spent most of the night practically standing in the fire. Thankfully we were prepared with various packs of soups, sausages and hot chocolate to keep me sane warm.

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And the next morning, we awoke to more blue skies and a completely undisturbed lake.

Who needs New York eh?

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If you’re looking for a city escape and a pretty straight-forward camping trip, Alder Lake is a winner – although you’ll need a car to get there. It was beautiful and remote, and we got some perks we weren’t expecting, such as the table at our campsite. It leads to some great hikes through the woods, and waking up overlooking that lake is not something I’ll easily forget. Plus, it’s a free holiday!

Alder Lake

Just don’t forget your layers – and one of these.

Alder Lake

For more info about Alder Lake, see this page on the NY Department of Environmental Conservation. It’s free to camp but the challenge will be getting there: it takes between 2.5 and 3 hours by car from the city and there’s a parking lot very close to the lake.

Hardenburgh, NY 12758