Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beaver Pond Campground (Harriman State Park, NY)

If you're looking for a quiet weekend get-away in the Palisades region of New York, I'd suggest a trip to New York City. NYC should be a relaxing picture of serenity during summer weekends since much of the inhabitants seem to migrate to Harriman State Park. No, but seriously, with cramped camping quarters, loud ethnic music playing well past 10pm, and children crying well past midnight (and somehow waking up around 4am with just as much gusto) all that was missing were a few paved roads, pizza-joints, and maniacal taxi-drivers to complete the experience.

At Beaver Pond Campground, most of the sites are quite bare tree-wise and very close together, making the noise factor even more of a problem. I passed ear-plugs around to my entire family the second night of our stay and we all slept like babies (unlike the infants in the site across from us). A truck delivered firewood to sites for a certain fee each evening, but there was no general store to buy ice at unless you felt like walking across the entire campground and beach to the pond-store. Each night we watched an individual across from us attempt to chop firewood with a motion that slightly resembled an arachnaphobe slapping a giant spider while our other neighbors set up their fire pit with a display similar to Stonehenge in wood form perhaps with the hopes that some ancient energy would spread the spark to each independently standing log. I do recognize that as a family we have grown into quite a group of camping snobs and I'm sure that Harriman makes an excellent get-away for the NYC residents (it is only 30 minutes away from the city), but as a whole our stay was quite disappointing and at times verging on ridiculous.

The college-age employees seemed about as useful and knowledgeable as the cast from "Road Trip: Beer Pong," although slightly more sober due to the park's no alcohol policy. The girl behind the counter in the office was helpful enough, but the remainder of the motley crew seemed to loiter aimlessly about the campground flirting with each other and attempting to drive golfcarts down the hiking trails (which were about two shoulder breadths apart, hence the differentiation between "trail" and "road"). Granted, I may be slightly biased here seeing how after driving lost in NY for an hour (no NY state parks seem to be clearly marked, maybe sign-funding was cut due to the economic downturn) we arrived tired and on the verge of hysteria only to be reprimanded by a hot-shot youth for pulling across several parking spots (we had a 9-passenger van with a pop-up camper in tow). According to the numerically-challenged employee, they were expecting 200 reservations in the next 5 minutes (a daunting aspect for a campground of 140 sites) so we were forced to stick to strict traffic regulations in the then-empty parking lot during our 45 second reservation process.

In retrospect, our bad experience was probably as much our own fault as anyone's. The park's strong point is its many hiking trails (over 200 miles, including part of the AT) which we didn't take advantage of since our stay was more of a halfway camping break on our trek to Cape Cod rather than a backpacking trip. The one hike we did go on was pleasantly quiet, challenging, and picturesque though cut short by our decision to visit the pond in the morning. If given the chance again, I would reserve a camping spot in the A or W section (which seemed much more wooded) for a good couple days and spend most of the time on the hiking trails. Researching the trails beforehand would be useful, especially if there are maps online or in the library since they charge for maps at the campground.

Major Pros: Quiet hiking trails: the Appalachian Trail runs through the park, though not too close to Beaver Creek Campground according to employees (might want to look that one up).
Major Cons: Rather unfriendly employees, NYC influx, and golf carts on hiking trails. The campsites are sparsely wooded and cramped, quiet hours not-so enforced, only one water pump for the entire campground, no sinks to wash dishes in.
Tips: If you do camp here, try to get a site in either the A or W section. Both those seemed moderately wooded with much more personal space. Also, ask the Rangers for help/advice, not the college employees. Watch out for deer ticks (I found three after hiking). Lastly, when walking to the restrooms look at the roofs for the respective labels (mens/womens). The doors themselves are not labeled and my dad found himself in the womens room at one point due to this confusion.
Park Website


Anonymous said...

Do not go to this park. Staff is terrible!

Anonymous said...

I've attended this campsite since I was 2 years old. Im 24 now, me and my family we rented 9 campsites (thats 6 people a site) for the 4th of july weekend. I cant wait. i have so many good memories at this campsite. us kids used to play manhunt throughout the lake and beach at night. climb mountain top to the bird watch tower, heard so many scarey stories from these woods,its perfect i love it. now the people who want a real camping experience go to an area where is in the middle of no where to get a real camping experience in the middle of no where. i love it because this place is filled with alot of spanish people, partying, family, just having fun without a care in the world. although i was bit by a tick and did catch lyme disease as a result i did catch bell's palsy when i was around 12 years old but recovered since...from always being in the woods

Anonymous said...

Great review. Thank you! I was looking for some reviews before I made my reservation at Beaver Pond and based on your feedback, I'm going to venture a little more north for some peace and quiet.

cesar424 said...

I use to go every summer. When I was young. We'd always get the same site on F road. Lots of good memories.

Suzy A. said...

Ah, this review is hysterical, especially when it comes the staff postures while "hangin' out". So very true. Had to quote you for my own blog -- thanks a lot!

J Torres said...

The staff since i was a kid has gotten alot more strict and not only that alot more uneasy, not as nice as they used to be, we used to invite all rangers to campsite to eat my moms meals. They used to have bomb fires and activities, potato sack races and watermelon eating contests, i dont know what happened

Unknown said...

I'm at the camp right now as I type this in the w section. It's far from the noise although last night a whole synagogue of Jewish people showed up and camped out...around 50 people! I awoke to young Jewish girls praying in front of my campsite. To say the least in was awkward and rude .. like pray on it own campsite but whatever. So tonight I'm really creeped out a freaking 30 pound raccoon approached my trash and started ripping apart the bag. I shined my flashlight directly on it and it did not respond when it was done with my trash it went over to the picnic table where I had left a box of international delight tiny creamers. At this point I ventured out of my tent flashlight and hunting knife in hand scared to death. I made some noise and still my new raccoon started to pop and drink the creamers.. while he was busy I walked over and reached into the box and threw a creamer at him which he picked up and drank..I took a sort video of me standing two feet away from Conie.. finally he left when he was done..I said to myself wtf you can even handle a raccoon wtf are you gonna go if a bear shows I'm currently laying in my tent paranoid as hell,havr to pee really bad..but altogether it's a cute little camp and I know this post is old but the college age employees are still going strong!