Autumn Drives Along the Delaware

On a misty, storm-wrapped late autumn day, a drive along the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, skirting the edge of New York’s Catskill Mountains, can steal your breath quicker than a cold snap in November. This 70-mile stretch of two-lane road, with its postcard-worthy vistas, snakes through towering granite formations and past landmarks whispering tales of yore, stirring that deep-seated urge to roam.

It’s a drive that takes you away from the clamor of daily life, into a quiet that’s almost otherworldly. Yet, along the way, relics of a more bustling time peek through, like abandoned cottages nestled in forlorn pine groves, whispering stories of days gone by.

Nestled in the village of Sparrow Bush, you’ll stumble upon the forgotten Alexander Motel, a ghost of hospitality past. A trek through the withering ferns up to its doors reveals nothing but padlocked emptiness—a silent sentinel of the road, put up for sale in 2013 and shuttered the following year.

The journey culminates at Skyline Drive’s peak, within the vast expanses of Elk-Charles Brox Memorial Park in Port Jervis. Born in the Gilded Age, when America’s appetite for the great outdoors was just awakening, this park perches on Point Peter and Mount William, offering sweeping views of the upper Delaware River valley and the quaint hamlet below.

In 1942, the cosmetic company Kolmar, founded by Lessing Kole and Dr. Frederick Marsek, repurposed a former lodge in the park into a lab-cum-factory, only to abandon it in 1995 for more compact quarters on King Street.

Now, Kolmar’s former plant looms silently, a hollowed-out husk, marring the natural splendor of the park. There’s talk, now and then, of transforming this eyesore into a recycling center, yet such discussions seem to fade like the fog on the mountainside—leaving one to wonder about the future of this majestic park’s blemished corner.

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