American author Henry David Thoreau moved to the woods in 1848 for two years, two months, and two days to answer the call of what he referred to as “living deliberately.” He explained his quest for self-reliance, seclusion and simplicity in his most famous piece of literature, Walden, where he moves into a tiny cabin in the woods to reduce life to the nitty gritty. In this seclusion, Thoreau was able to immerse himself in nature and also to focus on his own personal and spiritual growth. In his own words:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
The book’s namesake, Walden, is derived from the name of the pond, at the shore of which Thoreau built a tiny log cabin by hand. It measured 10′ x 15′ and was simply furnished with a bed, nightstand and lamp, fireplace, table, and three chairs: “one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society.” Though his cabin was compact, Thoreau had 14 acres of land, including fields of beans, peas, potatoes, corn and turnips. It was through the farming of these fields, which his neighbors had deemed useless, that he lived almost entirely off the land.
Though not an exact replica, our tiny cabin was something we think Thoreau would approve of. Its name, “On Walden Pond,” is of course a reference to Thoreau’s quest for simple living, and is indeed at the shore of a pond. At about 100 square feet, the Airbnb rental is actually smaller than Thoreau’s cabin–but what it lacks in Thoreau’s extra space, it makes up in for in modern amenities–like a single electrical outlet and an outdoor hot tub. In winter, there is a heater, though the wood stove warmed up the tiny cabin quickly and thoroughly. (See what we did there?!) The room is simply furnished with three chairs, a writing table, a shelf, a wood stove, and a bed. Though we loved the bare bones attitude here, we’re not exactly minimalists, so we brought some of our own stuff along–including our super-warm Woolrich bedding, the giant flag and some other accessories to give it our unique touch for the weekend.
Just steps outside the door, a trail circles around the pond, offering different glimpses of the cabin in its natural setting–something Thoreau talks about in length in Walden about his pond, which would completely change appearances depending on the time of day, the weather, or the angle. The short trail also passes over a bridge overlooking a small waterfall, whose foot has a small clearing for guests to sit and reflect. Kayaks are also available for guest use, stacked right outside the cabin’s front door. A fire pit, grill, and picnic table encourages guests to cook their own meals in the great outdoors. This cabin and its outdoor space is designed to keep you there, totally immersed in your surroundings, just like Henry David Thoreau did at Walden–even if for just a weekend.
What to Do Around Forestburgh:
Forestburg is very close to Monticello, best known for its racetrack and casino… but chances are you aren’t here to gamble. Instead, staying in this tiny cabin is all about soaking in the great outdoors and immersing yourself in nature–even if it is from a hot tub under the stars. During warm weather, guests can make use of the pond which is totally swimmable, or explore it via kayak. During winter, bring a book and curl up by the wood stove or fire pit and enjoy the silence. (If you forget your own book, the cabin has a couple books on hand, including Walden!) Speaking of the fire, you’ll be responsible for supplying your own wood–you’ll be able to forage some, but buying in bulk at the gas stations around town (read: Stewart’s) is much easier.
Though it’s easy to get sucked into the property, we understand the itch to get out and explore. The closest town with lots of cool stuff going on is Livingston Manor, where you can spend an afternoon touring Apple Pond Farm to hold some adorable baby animals and learn about renewable energy and off-grid living; then stop in for lunch at Main Street Farm or The Arnold House. Speaking of animals, sign up for horseback riding at Rolling Stone Ranch, just outside Bethel, where Woodstock famously took place. (Stop at the museum while you’re at it, open from April to January.) Afterward, stop into Catskill Distilling or the Dancing Cat Saloon.
For a great four-seasons hike, check out the Neversink Unique Area, which really lives up to its name. In the dead of winter, the rhododendron trees and bushes had big green leaves that were very much alive and seemed wildly out of place–creating the ambiance of what you’d expect in a rainforest instead of the Catskills. After about 40 minutes on the trails crossing streams and through the forests of the rhododendron trees, the path opened into a clearing at the foot of the Neversink River, one of the best trout fishing streams east of the Mississippi. (Note to self: come back when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. This trail must be incredible during springtime!)
Where to Eat and Drink Around Forestburgh:
Your best bet is bringing your own food to the house and taking advantage of the grill or wood stove to cook. (For those scared of cooking over fire, there’s also a hot plate.) The house also has an outdoor mini-fridge that isn’t plugged in, but will keep your food cooled, and protected, during colder weather. In summer, we’d recommend a cooler.
If you find yourself hard up for food, or you want to explore the area, the further you’re willing to drive, the better the options. In Monticello proper, about ten minutes away, Soy Asian Cusine is the best option in town with a large lunch menu and tons of sushi options. Fat Boiz is another local favorite, serving up authentic Latin American fare. The most promising looking food in town was at Salt & Pepper the Kitchen, but they aren’t open on weekends.
A bit further away, your options get better, and the restaurants are consistently open on weekends. Your closest, best option for food is a 20 minute drive to Livingston Manor, with multiple options for food including The Arnold House and Main Street Farm. While in town, stop into Catskill Brewery to sample the regions best beer and fill up a growler. (See our whole post on Livingston Manor for more details.) Slightly further, about 30 minutes away, Henning’s Local just opened up their new location–above a gas station–at this James Beard awarded chef’s farm-to-table restaurant. By description, you’d think it was small–but the space is open and quite loft-like. Reservations are recommended, but vegetarians should look elsewhere for more options. Still further than that, clocking in about 40 minutes away, The Heron in Narrowsburg is probably our favorite restaurant in Sullivan County. They serve up a fantastic brunch, and dinner; if it’s summer, check out their patio overlooking the Delaware River. Before or after your meal, explore the great shopping in town including Nest, a beautiful home and lifestyle boutique; Maison Bergogne, an antique shop in an old car garage; and One Grand Books, where the stacks are determined by “desert island” picks from celebrities, authors and artists.