The last official stop on the Thomas Cole leg of my trip was Mohonk Lake. It's on privately owned land and I should have known what to expect when I read the word "resort." They're not lying about what they are...golf course, mini golf, spa, huge hotel, etc. I paid $21 to get in just to hike for the day. JUST TO HIKE! I tried to be sneaky at the gate like the man I met at sunset rock advised me but I must have said something wrong, I think I should have said I was interested in a room at the hotel. So the $21 stung and infuriated me. I grumbled all the way to the top of the mountain, passing signs that said "Slowly and Quietly, Please." What does that even mean to drive "Quietly," like people slam their horns for three miles, winding their way up a steep mountain?!
I had to wear an orange wristband that marked me as "other" and included a long list of places I wasn't allowed as a day hiker, especially in the hotel. Forbidden!!! I walked past gardens and landscaping, a mini golf course, and the gorgeous hotel. It really is a beautiful building. I saw a boat dock with paddle boards and canoes for rent ($13 for 30 minutes...) and staff with crisp matching red polos. I saw women hiking in fashion sandals and wedges. I walked around for a bit looking for the view Thomas Cole had of the lake. At my car I had already decided not to paint the view because I felt like I did at Catskill Creek with the train and traffic behind me - not a place I wanted to set up shop.
There were lush green trees and perfectly manicured grass and all I saw was MONEY. If it was green, I saw dollar signs. To confirm my suspicions, I looked up what a room at the Mohonk Mountain House costs per night and it was a whopping $700!!!!! Per night! If you have that kind of money to spend on a hotel room, more power to you I guess. But wowza. So then I felt surrounded by rich people, like I had paid $21 to watch rich people hike and sit on benches and be "outdoorsy." I decided I didn't even want to draw here because at the end of this trip I didn't want to paint it. I didn't want people to say, "that's beautiful!" when all I would see is the green dollar bills and private exploitation of a landscape.
I was looking for the perfect Thomas Cole quote to describe my experience but after re-reading Essay on American Scenery I realized it wasn't a loss of landscape issue. Yes, the wildness of this landscape had certainly been lost and altered...but the landscape was still beautiful. Some of it in the kind of way a really nice golf course is beautiful. One quote did resonate: "The spirit of our society is to contrive but not to enjoy - toiling to produce more toil - accumulating in order to aggrandize." But the real issue is that this picturesque landscape is the anti-national park, the anti-state park. It is private, it is for the wealthy, it is for a family to reap profits. Not all are invited to behold this landscape with its lake, trails, forest, and wildlife. In stark contrast: "The national parks embody a radical idea, as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence...It is a truly democratic idea, that the magnificent natural wonders of the land should be not to a privileged few, but to everyone." (Quoted from http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/history/ep1/3/). Not to a privileged few, but to everyone. Sitting on a bench at Mohonk Lake, my heart swelled with appreciation for our nation's state and national parks.
|Mohonk Mountain House|
|Beach at Mohonk Lake.|
|Hiking trail. High heels spotted here.|
|View Thomas Cole painted.|
|Thomas Cole's unfinished painting of Mohonk Lake|
|But without all this to the right.|
|Made it to West Point!|