City folk in search of a much-needed reset may be surprised to find solace just a short drive away
Rain really sets the mood. In New York state’s bucolic Catskills, a fast-moving thunderstorm registers like a symphony for the senses. There’s something downright rejuvenating about the pitter-patter of droplets, splashing upon rooftops and against windowpanes. Paired with the fresh scent of crisp air and the rumble of thunder over verdant hills… why, it’s enough to make a city slicker cry.
At Urban Cowboy Lodge in Big Indian, NY, a deluge like this is an event to behold. And speaking from experience, it’s perhaps best enjoyed inside a hot, clawfoot bathtub, with a Paloma in hand and the drapes on the forest-facing window drawn wide open.
Boasting all the comforts of a boutique hotel with inspired designs that scream “gilded age Americana,” Urban Cowboy Lodge is among the newest offerings from self-proclaimed “accidental hoteliers” Lyon Porter and his partner, Jersey Banks. “I always tell people our greatest amenity is the fact that we don’t have cell service,” Porter says enthusiastically. “When I come to the Catskills, it’s because I don’t want to be in a city. I want to be able to see The Milky Way.” And guests can, on a clear night, from almost any point on Urban Cowboy Lodge’s vast 68-acre lot.
The mountain getaway opened in February, mere weeks before the state imposed strict lockdown measures. Now, as New Yorkers begin to reemerge from their apartments, the adventurous ones are flocking north to explore parts of their breathtaking state that frankly may have gone undiscovered under other circumstances.
The Catskills are a prime destination for anyone who feels at home in the great outdoors. Hiking paths are plentiful in Phoenicia and nearby West Kill, where a short hike through Diamond Notch leads to a clearing with a picturesque waterfall. Fly fishing is a popular pastime; men in waders pepper the winding creeks and streams that split the land. During winter months, skiers conquer sought after slopes. And any time of year, the Catskills are a suds lover’s paradise, with haunts like Woodstock Brewery, Hunter Mountain Brewery, West Kill Brewing and Kingston Standard Brewing Co. slinging chilled mugs of craft beer in even chiller settings.
But indulging in a fresh Roberta’s pizza from the wood-fired oven on Urban Cowboy’s sprawling deck or sipping a glass of pinot noir in one of their cedar soaking tubs rivals any of the aforementioned activities. With a reservoir for swimming on-site, and so many other nooks to explore, one doesn’t even have to leave the premises to get a true taste of the scenic region.
“The entire concept of the lodge is based on elemental experiences,” Porter explains. Whether sitting in the tree-lined field or lounging on the expertly crafted wooden porches (a perk of every room!), the sound of water from the nearby river can be heard rushing in the distance. At night, a bonfire brings people from different walks of life together under the starry sky. In those moments, Urban Cowboy’s slogan, “Come as strangers, leave as friends” is metaphorically illuminated in the flames that cast dancing shadows across happy faces.
“I was in love at first sight,” Porter shares of his initial visit to the property. “It had these amazing bones and had been run by the same family for years. Well, we kept all the bones, because we always learn from the past. And design wise, we’ve given it a full upgrade.”
The interiors of each room tell a little bit about the designer’s former years. In this case, the man behind the rustic, earthy scheme is Porter himself. While playing professional hockey, the charming athlete lived for a stint in the Adirondack Mountains. Entranced by the look of “wild, bending branches” and the same beauty that brought loggers to the region in droves for decades upon decades before him, Porter began to infuse those aesthetics into his projects, starting with the original, which opened in 2014 and sits at 111 Powers Street in Williamsburg. “I built an Adirondack-style cabin in the backroom of the first Urban Cowboy in Brooklyn, and it’s come full circle with the Catskills,” Porter says with a satisfied smile.
With 28 rooms located in five stand-alone buildings, Urban Cowboy Lodge is social distance-friendly by nature. Though that wasn’t the original intention, it certainly fits the vibe for 2020. And boy does it manage to scratch the itches so many of us feel after months hulled up in comparatively cramped spaces.
“I love New York… it is my heart. But the most nature-deprived people in the Western Hemisphere might just be New Yorkers,” Porter says before letting out a laugh. “We wanted to create a natural retreat without being dogmatic about it. We tell our guests, if you want to go on an epic hike, go for it. If you want to take a swim in the river, please do. If you’d rather lay in bed all day with a bottle of wine, great!” Completely ensconced in the wilderness, Porter and Banks have birthed their dream of a hideaway that’s void of light pollution and the soundtrack that so often accommodates metropolitan life.
It’s as refreshing as the freshly drawn bath itself. And after a weekend away in this whimsical refuge, we feel it’s safe to say the rhythm of a mountainside rainstorm is like therapy, even to ears who love the honking horns and wailing sirens that define a life of city dwelling.
Visit Urban Cowboy:
Urban Cowboy Lodge | Catskills
Open Thursday – Sunday
37 Alpine Rd., Big Indian, NY 12410
Urban Cowboy | Brooklyn
Reopening date TBD
111 Powers St., Brooklyn, NY 11211
Urban Cowboy | Nashville
1603 Woodland St.
Nashville, TN 37206
photo credit Ben Fitchett
Last modified: August 12, 2020