Scarlett Sumac's Blog

MAY 23, 2012 11:11AM

Unplugged and On The Road to Woodstock

Rate: 38 Flag

Nothing gets the travel bug jittering more than a fresh spring breeze radiating with a hint of summer around the edges. And it was just that kind of morning when we headed out of town on the Canadian long weekend. While it is meant to officially celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday, not being much of a monarchist, the holiday was the perfect excuse for a road trip.

Last few years instead of taking one vacation throughout the year, my partner Jack Pine and I, have taken to extending the long weekends whenever we can. Cell phones are locked away in the glove box for emergencies only and we travel unplugged ... the internet is out of bounds.

Last spring we took a whirlwind adventure to Nashville, this year our journey took us to another musical place: Woodstock, New York. 

Give or take it’s a 8-hour drive, so we broke it up dipping through a section of the Finger Lakes before stopping over in Watkin’s Glen on the southern tip of Seneca Lake. After the long drive Mother Nature herself offered a welcome respite from the heat. It was sizzling hot out and the cool rock walkways of Watkin’s Glen State Park made for a fabulous hike. The air of the glen was moist and fresh. 

beauty shot 

watkin's glen

horizontal rocks 

 walkway 2

The closest we got to celebrating Queen Victoria was staying at a Victorian Bed & Breakfast near the center of town. It was a very old house with a wrap around front porch across the street from a church. Jack and I sat on the verandah sipping our coffee watching characters of all stripes stroll by. For me waking up in different place in what seemed a different time, stirred that special feeling of Sunday morning I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Since we still had a good stretch of road ahead of us we didn’t linger too long. We headed out and avoided the interstate thruway. At times we were the only travellers on the scenic roads. The landscape was spectacular and much to Jack’s delight we stopped at the confluence of the Delaware and Beaverkill rivers, known to be two of the best fly fishing streams. It was nice to take in the vista before heading out on the last leg of our trip.

Geographically Woodstock is situated in the Catskills. The famous music festival was actually held an hour or so outside of Woodstock at Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, but the memory of it is everywhere. 


The town of Woodstock itself is ripe with history and music and has a beautiful stream running right through the main street. 


I was hoping Woodstock itself would not be an anachronism of what used to be or could’ve been. I was not disappointed, there is still a living breathing authentic grass roots community happening.   

big box sign  

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign (but good ones)!

jane king 

By early afternoon it was bustling and a drum circle kept the beat in the center

of of town

 It wouldn’t be Woodstock without …hippie

blues bros. 


You can just smell the candle shoppe

The fresh air, the food, and the friendly hosts at The Woodstock Inn made our visit. There is so much more to relate of this experience … some of it hard to put in words. But there will be another time. I know this for sure, we’ll be returning to Woodstock.

Bell bottom-not-so-blue ...

breakfast  spot 
Not a bad breakfast spot.


Would it seem too idyllic to say driving home on the highway we looked out the window to see a glorious double rainbow? 


 Well, although it's hard to capture the beauty of it through a speeding car window, we did. 


© Scarlett Sumac May 2012.
     (All personal photos).


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That is a spectacular part of the country.

I remember years ago a garlic pizza in Watkins Glen.

I'm almost inspired to go on a road trip down there. But, sob, I haven't got someone to go with. Not the same alone.
Looks like a great trip.
What a nice trip. Love the photos and I love those signs!
Ah Scarlett!! Love these pictures and the words.
Hope the trip goes by without a hitch...
Lovely photo essay, Scarlett.
i doubt i'll ever get there, so i'm intensely grateful for the pics and narration, scarlett. what a groovy place! the signs are especially wonderful - and belushi on the porch!! i was listening to an iTunes genius playlist yesterday that i got started by clicking on a CSNY song, and one of the suggestions (among many fabulous favorites) was eric clapton's Bell Bottom Blues. your caption made me smile. again.
Sigh.. I miss this part of the world and the photos brought back memories. What I loved best were the signs.. Says it all does it not???
OMG that is just what my eyes and mind needed to see. You made some excellent images of it too. I want to go there now. Thanks so much for sharing. Are you coming back to Montreal?

By the time we got to Woodstock...
Just Spectacular. Believe or not?


I was via` Bear Rive, and Annapolis Royal,
and along the Basin, Port Royal (not Kentucky)
(Mr. Wendell Berry lives in Port Poral, Kentucky.
I had Great Conversation in `Granny Ferry. N.S..
not all downloaded but I save and reread again.
I loved this post and the pictures-wow! Now I want to get on the road and go!
Looks like you're doing it right.
I have some unplugged time coming up too.
It's the best.
ah thank you for letting us walk beside you!

"Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
I dont know who l am
But you know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And weve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden"
I am not sure Queen Victoria would have objected
to your high tailing it out of the country on her b-day.
she said,
"the poor woman is bodily and morally the husband's slave.
That always sticks in my throat.
When I think of a merry, happy, and free young girl --
and look at the ailing aching state a young wife
is generally doomed to -- which you can't deny is the penalty of marriage..."

That was not exactly a Victorian statement.

she maybe got a bad rep.

Like all queens.

Van Morrison stayed in those parts and
wrote "queen of the slipstream";

'You're the Queen of the slipstream
With eyes that shine
You have crossed many waters to be here
You have drank of the fountain of innocence
And experienced the long cold wintry years.
There's a dream where the contents are visible
Where the poetic champions compose
Will you breathe not a word of this secrecy?'

you kinda remind me of that Queen often.
You KNOW this would get my attention. My NY trip of 3 yrs ago took me to Woodtock (Bethel/Yasgur's Farm Woodstock) as I never made it 40 years ago. We made it as close as 15 miles away but couldn't get any closer. So 40 years later, I arrived. Great pictures. Watkins Glen is a beautiful place.
Myriad, It's great when the food is so good you associate it with a place. Come South, you know there's a spot waiting ...

jmac: Yes it was. Thanks.

Jeanette: Certainly was nice to see those signs. The Department of Education done good there. :)

Mission. The trip came and went but thanks to photos we can revisit and relive.

Erica: Thank You.

Candace: Now, whose to say you'll never get there? I think you've been there a few times already in spirit. And yes, we did have a CSNY cd for the trip. :)

Linda: Yes, parts of the Finger Lakes looks very much like Ontario, and other spots, the Ottawa Valley, in some places. You'd be right at home.

sophieh: Nice to see you. I look forward to reading about your trip soon. :)

Algis: "Everywhere was a song and a celebration." I wish I was going to Montreal. If I do, I'll definitely let you know.

AKA: We're trying to do it right here. It's certainly nice to slow down, mentally unclutter and see things with fresh eyes. New sights make that easier ... I'll look forward to your unplugged post too.

James: Ah yes, the perfect song. I had to force myself not to slip it in but thanks for alluding to it here. No small surprise our Bobby settled in this area. Speaking of which, it is his birthday tomorrow.
Actually when we stay home for the Cdn. "May 24 weekend" which is (for some) more about a case of 24 beer than the queen, we celebrate Bob instead of Queen Vicky!
Glad you enjoyed my hometown.

It has, however, changed quite a bit since 9/11. Many New Yorkers who used to have weekend homes in the area moved there full-time after the Twin Towers went down. And they brought their brand of shops/shopping as well. Souvenirs are most likely made elsewhere (even overseas) instead of being created by local artisans and there's a "city" vibe that competes with us old time hippies on the streets.

Still, it's a beautiful area -- hope hydrofrackin' doesn't pass/ruin it.
My Lord! Art James: My comment to you got lost. Annapolis Royal (I've been there) ... they used to grow such great apples in the valley. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. Had a juice called "Scotia Gold". Are you still in Nova Scotia this summer?

Trilogy: Yeah, glad you made it. Only wish I would have run into you on the street there!
JSR: We enjoyed it very much and though I'm sure it has changed over the decades, still was pretty nice. The Inn we stayed at (not very expensive either) had all the towels, soaps etc. Made In The U.S. A. That was impressive.

Yes, the anti-fracking signs were everywhere as well as "Save Our Mountain." (Driving through the Catskills on the other side along Route 20 was an eye-opener, to say the least). I've been hoping to do further research since I got home. Thanks for reminding me.
If you and Jack visit again and want some decent ... um ... herb ... my bro-in-law can hook you up. ; )

The last 20 years has seen a significant decline in the number of live band bars. Joyous Lake (now a store) was the happening place and the photo gallery (or maybe it's a real estate office) one block towards the town green (next to the stream/bridge) from where you stayed used to be another kick-ass place, mostly for bikers.

I'm cool with most of the change. The only downer is that at night, the kids hangin' out are more punks/thugs instead of just getting high and being goofy (like the old days).

Peace (and Love, right?)
I miss the serenity found in the Catskills region. Thanks, Scarlett, for rekindling some of New York's best! How I do miss hiking the fertile mountains during spring...
Scarlett, your pictures are beautiful! And they bring back so many good memories of summers around the Finger Lakes, and romantic days at Watkins Glen State Park.
Alas, I was too young for Woodstock, but I'm sure I would have had great memories there too! :) ~r
Awwwwwww! Such a great post!

It brought back memories of when Suzy and I were crisscrossing the country when she was playing tournaments. Whenever we were around that neck of the woods we always tried to spend some time. Never did make it to Woodstock... But every time Suz saw the turn off sign she'd break into her own version of Canned Heat's 'Woodstock Boogie'. :D
I love hearing that Woodstock still lives. And with a sense of history, humor, and a conscience, no less. Perfect.
Hang on a second. Richie Havens is adjusting his sound. . .OK now I can comment. I LOVE, LOVE,LOVE THIS!

Why do I have this urge to go sliding in the mud???? Or meet a girl named "Sunshine"? Maybe both.
I've been to upstate New York a time or two and it's beautiful there; you've done a great job of capturing it in this post. Looks like it was a great road trip; beautiful scenery, double rainbows, and cultural heritage all rolled into one, and even hippies in their native habitat. (pssst, be careful, some of them have the crabs)
beautiful pix of the glen!
This is a beautiful account of your unplugged journey.

Jack Pine--really? Made me think of an old fake song: ."My heart pines for you, and balsam too."
Back from a couple of appointments and looking for a lost cat [Easter] who is senile and has wandered off. :(

For all the issues here at OS, all you guys really make it worth while spending time here. I really appreciate all the comments and am happy to share this trip with you folks, most of whom are American. There is much beauty in your country ... be good stewards of her. :) xo

I'll get around to responding to each of you after I take a trip around this cyber block.
Excellent travelogue...never been there, would love to go...The signs are great. Thanks.
The air is so very clear over here.

I get hooked every time, SSumac.
Now here I thought you were talking about OUR Woodstock, which is nice enough, but not nearly as scenic.

The Auld Queen would be pleased her birthday was put to good use. Really liked the photos of the gorge.
Funny, Boanerges ... I thought of you when writing the (somewhat) irreverent Queen comments. Keep in mind we do a lot of travelling around here but I would have to agree Woodstock, Ontario while picturesque, doesn't 'rock' the way the glen does. Jack gets credit for those photos ...
thanks for the pictures and decriptions - so this is what the demigods choppered over
I love this -- especially the signs. Since those are all that we humans can take credit for. I hope to head up that-a-ways some day.
JSR: It was explained to us that the 'season' was just getting started up, so it was slower in the evening, but yes, it would have been great to hear some live music somewhere. Next time, I guess. As I said to Jack (regarding the other)... the difference between say 1972 and 2012 was back in the days, you could probably say "Hey, man do you know where I could find ... " Yes, peace, love and understanding.

Amy: Awwwww, right back atcha sister. Glad you and your loved one, Suzy, got to share that experience. Canned Heat and Joan Jett, huh? She had great taste in music. :)

Belinda: Glad you came along the road.

Joan: Now I'm picturing you hanging out in the Finger Lakes and Watkins Glen. You and I both were too young, spring chickens that we are, of course. I was never a 'hippie chick' but I shared some of the same sentiments. Still do.

Trig: Yes, did you notice I even knew about the good fishing grounds... Impressive, huh? ;)

jlsathre: "And with a sense of history, humor, and a conscience, no less." Perfect comment. Thanks jl!

Chicago Guy: Yes, ha, sliding in the mud with a girl named Sunshine. Or even Stardust!

Thanks Nana: I suppose you're right though there is generally less collateral damage in a "make love not war" philosophy. :) And hey, you mentioned our 'double rainbows' which was a kind of play on the meme that was going around. I'd put a hotlink to it if I knew how!

Con: Thanks, there were many beauty shots to choose from.

John: Glad you liked the post. Keeping in the same vein as Sumac, Jack Pine, is a nick name for anonymity purposes. By the way, there is a great Canadian painting by Tom Thomson called Jack Pine.

Marty's Husband: Those signs have spoken to a lot of people today.

Thanks catch-22: I hope it is clear enough to help my sinuses. :)

Damon: I think I missed your installment preparing for our trip. I'm coming over to California now ...
The signs are wonderful! WIsh I had one I could erect saying just the right, pithy statement regarding healthcare in the U.S.
Fun mind trip, Scarlett!
Oh man! Oh man! Oh man! This looks like SUCH a cool trip. And I LOVE the signs! Right on!
Sounds like you had a great time, Scarlett. Excellent photo souvenirs. I was on my way back from Delaware, driving through the Adirondacks. Quebec, you know, doesn't celebrate Queen V, although next week is the big holiday for us, St Jean de Baptist.
Scarlett, I’m a big fan of travelogues and I really enjoyed this one. Delightful commentary and great pics, especially those signs. I missed my chance at Woodstock, first for the festival where I had an invite and some friends heading there, and years later in the 80s when I visited Stockbridge and Lenox for the Tanglewood festival. We dawdled too much to swing over to Woodstock. Thanks very much for the vicarious living.
I suspect the image of you and Mr. Jack Pine Sumac gliding home from Woodstock photographing a double rainbow has put years on my life.

Do you think that the bearded gentleman wearing the skirt is available? My past is showing, eh?

What a long strange trip it's been! Fun too. Loved the candles arranged according to the spectrum.
Oh, had I known...I am only an hour or so south, and long overdue for a trip to Woodstock. Love your powers of observation, both visually and in words. We have a long weekend've so put me in the mood. And the price of has has dropped a bit!
beautiful and intriguing
now on the itinerary
must go
thank you for posting
Hey folks that visited late yesterday, overnight and this morning.
Thanks for coming along for the trip. Off to work, catchya later.
What a great trip you took. And, thanks to your photos and evocative writing, we took it with you. Thanks.
My wife and I traded the mountains, greenery and running waters of NY State, for the blue ocean water, sand and constant breeze of the Jersey shore. Not a bad trade, but your piece with its pictures of trees and small towns stirred recollections of what we once inhabited.
Nice trip to my former neck of the woods!
Wasn’t the weather in this part of the world something else last weekend (and continues to be!). I too am a big fan of road trips so I understand where you're coming from, and it’s clear that you had a great time on the road over the long weekend. Love the pics, too. Bring on the warmth and sunshine, and crack open a Mike's (Canuck reference there for you)!
Good to see the freak flags are flying somewhere.
Great signs, and such beautiful country ; thanks for all this.