New York 66er

In June, Leighanne and I took a trip to the Albany area where I was to present an evening of poetry for the folks at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, New York. The event wasn’t as boring as you might think.

at Christman Sanctuary

at Christman Sanctuary

En route, we stopped at the Christman Nature Sanctuary near Delanson for another walk along the Bozenkill on property that once belonged to the upstate farmer poet W. W. Christman (1865-1937). The creek with its lovely waterfall was flowing minimally, but a highlight for me was a singing prairie warbler that I had an excellent view of near the parking lot.

Before my reading in residential Slingerlands, we enjoyed good food and craft beer at a restaurant near the arboretum, so I was pumped up for my presentation to the trees and flowering shrubs and to the brave fans of literature who came out to hear my poetry and prose on a Friday night.

Christman memorial

Christman memorial

God bless these souls, especially our friends Tim and Laurie who drove out from Nassau for us (Laurie had to work but left her duties to provide an extra key for her husband who had locked his in a truck at the arboretum when Triple A was just too busy to help).

We were planning to stay the night at their house, so we drove Tim in our vehicle to a rendezvous site in downtown Albany where he and Laurie could exchange a spare key. Leighanne and Tim and I returned to the stranded truck and then separated for the drive toward Nassau where we stopped for drinks at a local bar.

The place was crowded with a blend of young and working class patrons. Tim said, “If anyone asks, tell ’em you just came from an NRA meeting, not a poetry reading!”

even the dogwood listened...

even the dogwood listened…

The headwaters of Kinderhook Creek, the stream where I cut my teeth as a fly-fisher at an early age, a stream that I seldom have the chance to visit anymore, are situated near Nassau, and Tim advised me of some new water I could try near Route 66, a place called Kinderhook Creek Nature Preserve. I’m glad I had an opportunity to make a first visit there.

we missed it the first time thru...

we missed it the first time thru…

New York’s Route 66 was vaguely familiar to me, and I got to know it even better. I began making a connection to the popular rhythm and blues number, “(Get Your Kicks) On Route 66,” written in 1946 by Bobby Troup and first recorded by Nat King Cole and then covered by a thousand other artists through the years.

rinsing her muddy clothes...

rinsing her muddy clothes…

I improvised on the lyrics, with deep apology to original creators…

If you ever plan to motor East/ Travel a road that’s not the least/ Get your kicks on New York 66.// Forget about the suburbs/ This is rural all the way–/ Winding south from Troy, New York/ Almost 50 miles they say/ To Hudson by the docks…NYS Route 66 marker

For there it was, my highway to Kinderhook Creek near Malden Bridge where I first raised a fly rod to a trout stream as a kid. And there it was in present time, a roadway with a turn-off onto gravel and remoteness in the Berkshire Hills, a trout water flowing like a small Adirondack river upstream from my boyhood haunts, slow pools and rapids coursing through a newly formed Kinderhook Creek Nature Preserve.

the Kinderhook...

the Kinderhook…

This sanctuary is a 121 acre “working forest” with a half mile shoreline on the creek. Its four miles of public trails criss-cross each other and can be confusing to the newcomer, but a good map provided at the parking lot is helpful, even necessary.

Serving Chatham town and Nassau, too/ Along the banks of Kinderhook–/ The creek where I fished as a kid/ Saw him catch a first trout long ago/ Getting his kicks on New York 66.// That’s right, he got it there by Malden Bridge/ And the pool with its graffiti/ Not far from the Berkshire Hills/ And other hamlets pretty/ When you swing beneath I-90/ Get your kicks on 66.

"can't you get yr kicks somewhere else?"

“can’t you get yr kicks somewhere else?”

In the woods we missed the little sign saying “To Kinderhook Creek” so we took the Says Trail up a ridge and then back down along a steep slope that had ropes beside it for the physically infirm. We could’ve taken the easier trail if we had been awake, but this way we got to see the sanctuary’s back country en route to fishing in the creek.

I say get hip to this kindly tip/ Take that Capital District trip–/ Get shook by Shaker history/ Drink some craft beer at the Brewery/ And feel the mystery of New York 66.

Holy crap I just turned 66!/ Don’t know how I got here, really/ Didn’t mean to get so old–/ I’m feeling pretty young now/ Heading up to Garfield Road/ Into Tsatsawassa Woods…

evening river time

evening river time

I fished the pocket water for an hour. Not much going on, but I caught a nice brown on a Prince nymph as Leighanne, having tumbled awkwardly down a bank and into the mud, washed up in the warming waters of the creek.

Thinking, if you ever plan to motor East/ Check out the Kinderhook Creek Preserve/ Rensselaer Land Trust doing its best/ To keep a trout stream wild and free/ To keep it clean and cold/ Getting its licks on New York 66.

after dark...

after dark…

In addition to the half mile public fishing rights along the creek, this nature preserve features trails for hiking, cross-country skiing and exploring, riverside sand and gravel bars, steep cliffs, a hemlock-hardwood swamp, and six forest types with good habitat for wildlife and rare plants.

I’ll make a shameless plug here for my book River’s Edge which includes a chapter called “Kinderhook Kid,” a detailed account of my connection to this trout stream. As for the preserve on the upper Kinderhook, I’d say it’s a good place for a nature boy or girl, no matter the age, to get some healthy kicks and bonding with the earth.

L.F.'s blue iris #66

L.F.’s blue iris #66

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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25 Responses to New York 66er

  1. Thank you 1 world 2 feet!

  2. Bobby Troup, one of the “stars” of Emergency and I believe married to co-star Julie London.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Another wonderful post, Walt. Got many kicks from this – the new and improved lyrics, the beautiful Christman memorial, all the photographs – great stuff. So it’s never exactly the same, but you can go back and smile at it all, and share it with those that choose to listen.
    And if you ever do a reading for the NRA, give me a heads up, ‘cos it would be unmissable…

    • Mr. PlaidCamper, what an idea you have! Wonderful, and you’ll be the first to know if the NRA gives me a date! How much does it have in its coffers for poetry readings, and I’d better wear a bullet-proof fishing vest. But thank you much anyway, and I’m glad you got a kick out of the post!

  4. Don says:

    Walt, your blog reminded me of the chapter in Rivers Edge describing your early experiences fly fishing the Kinderhook. I then thought about my first trout taken on a fly thirty years ago while fishing the Davidson River near Asheville, North Carolina. I guess we should have realized at the time that we were hooked for life – and what a life it’s been. Oh, and that brown looked like more than just a “nice” one when I visually aligned it to your rod!

    • Don, it pleases me to hear that you made the connection with the content here to my chapter on the Kinderhook in River’s Edge. Thank you very much. And that you also took a memory slide back to a first trout on the Davidson… I know that river’s reputation but I haven’t yet fished for trout in NC. Nonetheless, we know how that first trout stays in the memory vault forever, an influence that somehow guides our time on all the rivers to come. And yeah, that brown trout gave me quite a tussle, took a Potamanthus imitation on the surface after nightfall.

  5. Brent says:

    I liked the juxtaposition here of traveling–heading out on the road to get yr kicks–while also returning to one’s roots. Cool post, and it’s nice to see the pictures that go along with the stories you told me after the trip.

    • Brent says:

      Also, the Kinderhook looks rockier and faster in that one picture than I would’ve imagined it. Was it pretty far up in the headwaters?

      • Thanks Brent. Yeah I’d say that this stretch qualifies as Kinderhook headwaters, being upstream of 66 and the places where most of the trout fishing occurs. It’s fairly close to the Berkshires here so the gradient is more than what I’m used to seeing, but there’s still a ways to go upstream before the main stem branches out to its sources, probably another 5 or 10 miles.

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    The G.F. and I are heading to the White Mountains at the beginning of August, I’d like to sneak in a trip to the Christman sanctuary as we’ll be heading out Albany way. I’ve been a fan of his poetry since being introduced to him by you. The Kinderhook looks like a beautiful little stream and your essay “Kinderhook Kid” has left an indelible impression since reading River’s Edge.

    • Bob,
      Heading to those mountains with a stop at the sanctuary en route sounds like a great idea. The sanctuary is an easy visit off the interstate and would make a nice break in the driving action as well as giving you a real sense of place when it comes to understanding Christman’s work. Thanks for the kind words, and I hope all goes smoothly for you guys.

  7. Bob says:

    Small world! I grew up in Albany and religiously fished the Kinderhook. I even had a big hand in T.U.’s stream restoration on East Creek – the Kinderhook’s headwaters on the Mass – N.Y. state line!

    • Bob M.,
      Amazing, small world indeed! If I had known of your very real connection to the creek, I would have picked your brain to help me solidify this report. For future questions about this watershed that is special to me, I’ll have to contact you, if that’s alright. I have no interest in exposing the area or promoting it publicly but some day I would like to check out the real headwaters and, as a TU chapter leader with some stream remediation projects under my belt, would love to see the East Creek restoration stretch.
      Are you still living in the Albany area? I’m pleased to have you met you here on the blog and thank you for your responses to it!

  8. Doug says:

    It has been quite a few years since I’ve ventured into the Berkshire Mountains. But, one never forgets the beauty, or bounty of nature. Would have loved to hear you read. Your photos and stories of this trip make me dream of something similar. I’ve never fished the Kinderhook but it did send me back to The River’s Edge and the essay. And Christman. Loved the post and glad your kicks were successful ones. Reading for the NRA? Now that would be something to put on a resume’.

    • Doug,
      The Berkshire Mountains are a cool location aren’t they? From my back yard in the place where I grew up, I could see the Catskills to the south and west of me, and the Berkshires toward the east. I loved the place, but that was before the area took on the wealthy NYC influence that it has today, more or less.
      The reading was an interesting gig, in part for the wonderful arboretum location there and comfortable surroundings and part for the interesting poets, writers, and lit fans that I’ve met there now on two occasions, not to mention the connections to the natural world that still remains intact in some places, as well.
      And speaking of kicks… Can you imagine reading for the NRA, and surviving? Surreal? I don’t wanna go there, Doug, but I thank you and Plaid for the humor of it all!

  9. Kevin Frank says:

    There’s still a lot of treasure a long route 66.

  10. rommel says:

    I can definitely see why so much love for the creek. I had some day drive on Route 66 in California. It’s a great way to go back to the good ol’ days which is something that is hard to do in California.

    • Thanks rommel. The original U.S. 66 is difficult to trace in most places today,especially in California, but it’s there in history, as is the creek’s 66 here in New York. And it’s good to keep the highways of our youth, the trails we took on pavement or through the woods, in mind.

  11. Mike says:

    Something new, something old. Well done, Walt. Happy trails for sure! Nice brown, too!

  12. Welcome, and thank you very much! I’ll take a look…and stop by again….

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