Before abandoning the child for our mid-week getaway in the New Paltz wilderness, we had a birthday to celebrate. Here, the man of the hour makes sure that Buzz is fitted with a suitable hat.

Otis removed only a tiny bit of icing (see finger) before reverting to accepted birthday protocols.

Aftermath. (Not bad!)

We met up with Pops in Manhattan and, after a second birthday celebration (this time with mas Mexican food), headed back north sans kid to the Mohonk Mountain House.

The place is awesome. Kinda spendy, but awesome. It's a behemoth of a building, with lots of floors, wings, and varoius other addenda added at various times over the past hundred years or so.

We thought it was the bee's knees! Lots of little nooks to explore and crannies to hide in. And it just kept going!

We opted for the mid-winter, all-inclusive, mid-week special. That meant breakfast and dinner in the dining room along with the rest of the guests. No problem!

Well, one small problem... We'd neglected to pack according to the dress code. No black tie or nothing, but "jacket and dress shoes strongly recommended."

Shit.

We'd arrived kinda late (on account of driving from the Berkshires down to The City and back in one day) and there wasn't nothing in New Paltz open where we could acquire said garments.

And so it was back in the car for a half-hour drive to the nearest Walmart which, despite the typical stock at the Potsdam branch, did not sell men's sport coats. We thought for a moment about dressing Andre up in a women's blazer, but the $50 tag gave us second thoughts.

(It turned out to not be a problem.)

I did a lot of peering over balconies at the Mohonk Mountain House.

Given the indulgent price of our room, we decided to chock our day full of every kind of activity on tap. Here was our final itinerary:

1. delicious breakfast buffet in the dining room (sausages, french toast, yogurt, fruit, etc.) with itinerary debate

2. ice skating at the newly-completed skating Pavilion (it's like riding a bike!)

3. tagging along on an organized tour of the house (we're not really tour people, but we figured what the hell)

4. Turkish cafe for lunch in town ("It's always fun to get away from camp, even for an hour!")

5. buying bathing suits for bathing (see #8 below)

6. death-defying renegade hike on icy closed trails

7. afternoon tea and cookies in the Lake Lounge with giant checkers and giant Jenga

8. bathing in pool

9. three-course fancy dinner with dress shoes (no jacket)

10. ping pong and air hockey

11. gin and tonics at the late-night bar

Like riding a bicycle!

Lights on a spider-y chandelier.

The dining room (as viewed from a well-meaning but ultimately uninformative tour of the house).

It's curtains!

Sarah ascends to our fourth-floor room.

One of many colorful carpets (here rushing past as Andre runs to get his sunglasses).

This place was gargantuan! (And you can really see in this picture how new bits of the place were added on over the years. Like the Winchester Mystery House, but with more purposeful vision.)

One of the main draws in taking Sarah to Mohonk was to show her the cave trails I'd prevoiusly explored with Devo and Doug. To our dismay, however, we soon found out that all but the boringest of trails were already closed for the season. But... Seeing as how we weren't seeing anybody else on the trail...

We hopped the chain and got to scrambling and spelunking!

Then we realized why all the cliff-y trails had been roped off.

Ice! And lots of it.

As it turned out, the trails weren't super dangerous. Just a little slippery. If you kept your eyes on where you were stepping, it turned out to be no problem.

Behold Sarah's expert wintergoat-stepping.

Bubbles.

...and baubles!

Goat girl makes her way around a craggy switchback.

But then, as if the ice weren't challenge enough, it started to snow. Just a few flakes here, but it would turn blizzardy just moments later.

Ice, prepare to meet your maker. (But first your destroyer!!)

Hopping yet another chain, we climbed our way through the Giant's Workshop. A welcome, if foreboding, respite from the strengthening snowstorm.

The same wedge that Doug was previously photographed traversing!

Looking up and out from one of the caves.

The ice proved no match for our intrepid renegade hikers. The snow, however, provided an unanticipated challenge. As the trail made its way up and over boulders and through caves, the path was marked with red painted blazes. These were easy to follow when appearing in the shelter of a cave or on the vertical surface of a live tree, but quickly bacame covered up by snow on flat, exposed surfaces. Like Indiana Jones grabbing his hat from under a falling rock door, we made it to the end of the trail just as the last markers became completely obscured by snow.

(Can you spot the red blaze in this picture? It's right in the middle on that jutting slab.)

Photographic evidence of Sarah's criminal activity.

Skytop observation tower, looming ominously in the snow.

Closed for season.

A slightly different angle.

Swimming at the beach is for guests only. We thought about it, then decided against it.

Snowtopped Sarah.

The green wing.

After an action-packed day and a well-earned sleep, Sarah and Andre decided to hop one more rope and hike up to the observation tower the morning of their departure.

Kendan wasn't around, so we made ourselves at home.

But not for long! It was cold and blustery hiking up the dark side of the mountain.

But the views were worth the cold!

Looking east toward New Paltz and the rising sun.

Sarah looks south along the Shawangunk Ridge. (previously )

Even with such small windows, it was far too windy in this tower. We decided to hike down to breakfast.

...and got back down to the Mountain House just as the sun started to hit it.

("What's in that little room up there...," I wondered aloud.)

We finally nailed the timing on our fourth meal in the dining room. Every other time we'd been, the seats along the panoramic windows were all taken. This time, however, we had THE spot. (Click and drag the picture from left to right for the full panoramic experience!)

All in all, a wonderful trip! Highly recommended. (Just make sure you get your money's worth!)