Guest Park II, Foliage Edition: In which, after a 40-minute traffic jam on the Palisades last Saturday, we visit Bear Mountain Park. It was nice scenery for gridlock, all apparently due to the park's "Octoberfest." When we finally got in, we headed to the Overlook Lodge, where they had just finished serving what seems like a popular and lavish local brunch.
It's been decades since I've "done" Bear Mountain, and there were many surprises. The lodge dining room looks like that of a plush nursing home, but the lobby (left) is gorgeous, with a stunning view of Hessian Lake (above) that was drawing Japanese tourists like a magnet. A fireplace sent fragrant woods moke into the fall air. T he decor is a style that might be called High Adirondack Ursine. (Note the bears on the upholstery occupied by some cute guy from Brooklyn.) Even the sconces have bears.
We strolled down to the Octoberfest, which was more like a crappy flea market with buckets of beer; aside from some oompah music in the distance, there was little to fan the flame of German cultural nostalgia. One vendor had taxidermy bugs and critters in frames, including a shadowbox with two little Thailand bats. (As Kenneth Mars might have said in The Producers, "Ze Fuhrer loved a good stuffed Fledermaus!") But at the foot of the lake, we made a glorious discovery: A carousel, built as a loving homage to all things Bear Mountainous.
The building itself is gorgeous, and even the dedication near the fireplace carries out the Arts & Crafts theme in the typeface and lanterns. What a cool way to honor your parents' memory.
In stark contrast, the grand, 1915 Bear Mountain Inn stares out at the carousel across the meadow, shuttered, fenced-off and empty. As the sun set, it looked mighty spooky, perfect for Hallowe'en gatherings. (Someone please tell me: Are those vultures on the chimney, eyeballing the wurst at the Octoberfest?) But it's actually closed for renovation, according to their website, and will reopen at some point as another "luxury" venue.
No renovation could ever make it as cool as it looked back in 1923:
Hey, there should be some sort of woodsy lodge in Prospect Park! No bear motifs...maybe squirrels or raccoons. (Anything but geese.)