East on Route 23
Heading back east along Route 23, you’ll pass a wide and wonderful waterfall on the right known as Red Falls. At its base is a deep, dark swimming hole. From the waterfall, Route 23 winds through the hamlet of Ashland. The area is popular with anglers who try their luck in Batavia Kill.
On a woodsy back road several miles off Route 23 is the secluded 1870 Ashland Farmhouse (W. Settlement Rd., 518/734-3358, $75–90 d). The B&B boasts its own stocked trout pond, grassy fields, hot tub, wood-burning stove, and four comfortable guest rooms.
Route 23 continues past Ashland to the bustling ski-resort village of Windham. More upscale than Hunter, Windham is filled with Greek Revival buildings, ski lodges, and restaurants.
Ski Windham (off South St., one mile from Rte. 23, 518/734-4300 or 800/754-9463, www.windhammountain.com) is considerably smaller than Hunter Mountain, but it’s also less hectic. The resort offers 33 trails, a 3,050-foot summit, and 97 percent snowmaking capability.
Windham Fine Arts (5380 Main St., 518/734-6850, noon–5 p.m. Fri.–Mon.), housed in a historical Federal-style building, showcases local and regional artists. Exhibits change every five or six weeks.
There are a number of dining options in Windham. For a hearty breakfast or lunch, or a glass of Guinness, try Jimmy O’Connor’s Windham Mountain Inn (South St., 518/734-4270), a lively Irish pub. The homey Michael’s (Main St., 518/734-9862) serves breakfast all day, along with sandwiches, homemade soups, and Greek specialties. German-Swiss cuisine is served at the cozy Chalet Fondue Restaurant (Rte. 296, 518/734-4650), decorated in traditional German style with fireplaces, giant wine casks, and carved woodwork.
In a rural setting on the outskirts of town is the Albergo Allegria B&B (43 Rte. 296, off Rte. 23, a half mile east of Windham, 518/734-5560, www.AlbergoUSA.com, $99–329 d), a charming Victorian manor house that feels more like an inn than a B&B. Upstairs are 16 guest rooms all nicely done up in period antiques, while downstairs is a comfortable lounge with overstuffed couches and a fireplace. All of the rooms have cable TV and phones.
Campers can pitch their tents at White Birches (Nauvoo Rd., off Rte. 23, 518/734-3266), a well-kept campground offering 100 campsites and hiking, swimming, and fishing in a spring-fed lake year-round.
East to Cairo
Between East Windham and Cairo (KAY-ro), Route 23 turns from scenic to spectacular as it traverses the big wide slopes of Windham High Peak, Burnt Knob, and Acra Point. The expansive Helderberg Valley opens up below, while in the distance are the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
A scenic overlook is located midway, or you can stop for a meal or a drink at the Point Lookout Inn and Victorian Rose Restaurant (Rte. 23, East Windham, 518/734-3381, www.pointlookoutinn.com), about two miles east of the overlook. The modern, casual hostelry overlooking five states serves everything from salads and sandwiches to pasta and steaks (average dinner entrée $16). Fourteen simple, nicely appointed lodge rooms ($99–185 d) are available, while on the grounds are hot tubs and nature trails.
At Acra, you can continue east directly into Cairo, or loop south through the community of Round Top, once known for its German resorts—one or two of which are still in operation. The hamlet’s foremost accommodation, however, is the wonderful old Winter Clove Inn (2965 Winter Clove Rd., off Rte. 32, 518/622-3267, www.winterclove.com, $85–108 per person including all meals, weekly rates available), a big white colonial sitting on a hillside. Owned by the same family since 1830, the Winter Clove has its own swimming pools, tennis courts, nine-hole golf course, hiking trails, and bowling alley. Outside is a big, wide porch lined with wicker rocking chairs; inside are 50 spacious rooms filled with flowered wallpaper and antiques.
Just beyond the town of Cairo, off Route 23B, is Ira Vail Road and signs that will lead you to the Mahayana Buddhist Temple and Monastery (518/622-3619, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. daily). The retreat of the Eastern States Buddhist Temple of America, based in New York City, the red-and-gold enclave sits in a peaceful woodsy area at the end of a dirt road. Not far from the red-gated entrance are the serene Lake of Fortune and Longevity and the Pagoda of Jade Buddha. To one side are the Grand Buddha Hall and several smaller temples.
A plaque at the Grand Hall tells the story of the Yings, who immigrated to the United States from China in 1955, only to find no organized Buddhist temple in New York. Seven years later they founded the first, at 64 Mott Street in New York City’s Chinatown, and soon thereafter built the Mahayana retreat.
Inside the Grand Hall is an altar laden with three golden Buddhas, fruit, and flowers. Two monks in orange robes sit against one wall. The retreat actively welcomes visitors, as the many unobtrusive donation boxes attest.
Don’t leave the Mahayana retreat without visiting the fascinating Five Hundred Arhats Hall. Here, 500 golden Buddhas, each one different from the next, sit in a darkened room lit only with small spotlights.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition