Magical Gay Outdoors Gathering in New York's Catskills

By Mike Boisvert.

If you missed it, then you missed the passion, camaraderie and magic of another great GO Gathering in New York's Catskills, held July 28-30, 2006.

We all came from distant points, hurrying along to arrive as soon as possible to enjoy the surroundings of New York’s Catskills and to meet new and familiar faces once more.  The gathering, a reunion and homecoming event for gay outdoor enthusiasts everywhere, is held to celebrate the holistic benefits of gay men being active in the natural world.

Friday afternoon gay outdoor enthusiasts found themselves driving under torrential downpours and severe thunderstorms. The gathering got into full swing with the start of the Beer Blast early evening. At the Beer Blast, we brought a six-pack of our favorite local brew to share with others, campfires at 3 sites were lit, the music was turned on, name tags were placed and everyone began to get acquainted with each other. Out of all the local brews I tasted, Brooklyn Lager was my favorite. We had so much beer that it lasted all weekend! Mother Nature provided a beautiful starry night including the spectacle of a glorious shooting star flashing across the sky.

North-South Lake Campground was our base where campsites were assigned to each participant. The campground was beautifully maintained, bathrooms clean with highly pressurized hot showers, and offered many opportunities for outdoor activities.

Saturday, under a cloudless sky with a cool breeze, Mike Boisvert and Jon Normand, GO Gathering Hosts, introduced the trip leaders who were running trips. John ran a trip to one of the 4,000 footers in the Catskills, Hunter Mountain at 4,050 feet. The fire tower was open so everyone was able to enjoy 360 degree views alongside the handsome rangers attending it. Jonny Rosenfield led a trip to Inspiration Point and the former site of Hotel Kaaterskill. Now if only they could have found it. Rich Dezso led a relaxing kayaking trip on North-South Lake. Mike and Jon ran a trip to North Point that provided a real good perspective of the sheer drop on the other side of the escarpment. Views of both North-South Lake could clearly be seen and the Hudson River Valley.

Following lunch, over half the group took an exhilarating river tubing adventure down Esopus Creek. Most of us chose the advanced section and found ourselves tubing in Class II whitewater. Emotions ranged from sheer fright to shouts of joy as we bopped, flipped and bumped off the rocks on our tubes. Some of us had more scrapes and bruises than others – but the general consensus was that it was awesome. This will certainly become a tradition at future GO Gatherings.

Saturday night’s potluck feast began as a severe thunderstorm arrived but thankfully we were protected under the South Lake Pavilion.

Kev setup his barbecue tools and volunteered to be the grill master. He did a wonderful job grilling pork chops, shish kebabs, hamburgers, veggie burgers and corn on the cob! This was accompanied by delicious pasta dishes, salads, and desserts. Gay men sure know how to cook!

After eating, volunteers were thanked to help make the event a success with special thanks given to Kev for putting together the GO Gathering contact list, Bob for giving everyone a GO Gathering 2006 patch that included the the Gay Outdoors logo, and Mark for donating all of the firewood.

We split the group into two for a firecely competitive round of Outdoor Trivia. I never knew gay men could become so excited over outdoor trivia! ‘Sudden Death’ was forced into play as both groups answered the first 10 questions correctly. The individuals in the winning group then competed against each other and this year, Cecil Maxfield from Brattleboro, Vermont, was crowned this year’s champion winning a $50 gift certificate to REI.

We then raffled off door prizes that included a couple Brokeback Mountain DVDs, a Brokeback Mountain book, two water bottles, a buff, a $25 gift certificate to REI and a coupon for free admission at next year’s GO Gathering.

Afterwards, at a record breaking pace, the entire group cleaned up the pavilion and headed back to our campsites for our final campfire together. Under the beat of some dance music, the drizzling rain did not prevent the group from getting together. A few retired early, exhausted from the day’s activities.

Sunday we focused on packing and heading home but a few of us spent the day taking a short hike to the former site of the Catskill Mountain House, swimming in the lakes and exploring the rest of the campground.  

Great ideas were exchanged during the weekend to improve the Gay Outdoors network. The GO Gathering certainly lived up to the GayOutdoors slogan, "Making New Gay Friends In A Safe and Comfortable Atmosphere!" It provided a fun and safe venue for a group of strangers to bond together, share their passion for the outdoors, and meet others to plan/run future outdoor activities for the gay community in their local area. From the feedback I received, it appears that almost everyone will be returning at next year’s GO Gathering.

The 7 year-old Gay Outdoors network at www.gayoutdoors.org has been dedicated to helping gay, bisexual and straight male outdoor enthusiasts meet each other online participate in outdoor activities run by volunteers who post them in its activities calendar find the latest news of interest to the gay outdoors community  learn about where to go, what gear to buy and how to get started in the outdoors increase the number of gay outdoor clubs, scouting organizations, campgrounds and beaches worldwide get involved with conservation causes take part in a safe, healthy and positive lifestyle.

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