Stop # 15: High Point

Hey Ma, I’m standing on top of the world….

Well, maybe not exactly Mt. Everest, but you are standing at the highest point in camp at 2,465 feet. Just for comparison, the lake is at 2,060 feet. But one thing you do come to realize at Onteora is that once you leave the Long House area, you’re either going uphill or downhill.

While there is no place in camp above the tree line, you may want to consider a hike to one of the fire towers not too far from camp, either the tower at Red Hill or the one at Balsam Mountain. The views of the Catskill mountain range from those fire towers are spectacular.

But as long as we’re standing at the “mountain top,” we might as well deal with one of the more vexing problems in researching the history of this region. We often refer to Onteora as the "Land in the Sky." But the origin of this is less than clear, in part because very few reference materials include sources.

There are several writings that attribute the meaning of Onteora to the Lenape and/or the Esopus tribes, indicating that is how they referred to the Catskill Mountains--as the Land in the Sky. But there are also references stating that the phrase was made up by a resort owner to boost his business.

That said, there is this: In 1845, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft compiled the "Philological and Historical on the Aboriginal Names and Geographical Terminology of the State of New York." He writes that the word “Ontiora” is from the Iroquois, who came through the region on war parties, and that Ontiora meant “mountains of the sky.” The description, he wrote, stems from the “states of the atmosphere when this group appears like a heavy cumulus cloud above the horizon and this is clearly the feature denoted.”

Unfortunately, Schoolcraft does not indicate where his information came from, although it is the earliest documented discussion. So, there you have it. Whatever the truth is, once Onteora becomes part of you, it never leaves.

DIRECTIONS: Continue heading south on the White Trail