My Side of the Mountain in the Catskills

When a children’s book fires the imagination, tugs at your heart, and resonates long after you have children of your own; you have to share it with them.

In our family, that book is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

The following is an article, previously posted on The Journey Mom, about exploring the setting of My Side of the Mountain in the Catskills.

My children, much like I did when I was little, have hatched elaborate plans to run away.  And, like my mother before me, I waved them on, encouraging them, knowing that they would be back in minutes.

As children, we wondered what would happen if we kept on going.   And so we can relate to Sam, the young boy at the center of My Side of the Mountain, who does just that when he runs away from his New York City home to survive on his own in the Catskill Mountains.

A Family Love Affair

Dave couldn’t wait to share his all-time favorite book with our son, and started reading it aloud when Alex was barely seven years old.  Alex fell in love with the story, and eager to read more than the nightly chapter, started reading it on his own. Suddenly, the first grader, who was struggling to finish a Magic Treehouse book, was powering through a 4th-6th grade level book.

And because they loved the book so much, we couldn’t resist exploring what we thought was the setting for the story.


Exploring The Catskills

Thinking that we were in  Catskill Park, we stopped in New Palz, NY to look for the setting of My Side of the Mountain.  It turned out that we were actually in Minnewaska State Park, near but not in Catskill Park.  No matter.  We could still easily imagine that we were following Sam’s path from New York City to the Catskills.

Just like our hero, we were embarking on a wilderness expedition with meager provisions:  a couple of water bottles, a Sponge Bob Squarepants first-aid kit, and a camera.  Okay, we were only going for an hour, not far from our car, but still we felt adventurous.

Since this was a spur of the moment decision, we hadn’t planned where we were going to go, or what we were going to do.  We chose the Peter’s Kill Parking Lot because we weren’t required to pay the exorbitant day use fees that are required elsewhere in this park.

By chance, we found a fantastical rock climbing and bouldering area appropriately nicknamed “The Rock Garden.”  It was gorgeous, and oh so tempting.


Doesn’t this look like a magnificent place to spy falcons?

Alas, there was just one drawback to this spur-of-the-moment, unplanned expedition.  Wrong footwear.  Sparkly pink flip flops might be de rigueur in tween circles, but not climbing rocks.

Next time we explore the wilderness, we’ll think of bringing the same items Sam carried: a penknife, a ball of cord, an axe, $40, a flint and steel set, and hiking boots.


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