A Visit to the Holler: Pollywogg Holler, a NY State Ecolodge
Pollywogg Holler is a NY State Ecolodge That’s Wonderful in Winter
By Sue Freeman
The Holler beckoned us one wintry day. Pollywogg Holler is an Ecolodge that sits amid the extensive trails of Phillips Creek and Palmers Pond State Forests in Allegany County, New York. It began in the early 1980s as a family project. Owners, Bill and Barbara Castle and their kids spent three summers living in the woods, building the main cabin.
They added to the complex, year by year, conscious of their impact on the environment. Their first paying guests were cross-country skiers in 1986. Today they host guests year-round.
It’s obvious that you’re headed for a special place the moment you step out of your car. A trail winds through the woods, past sculptures, and across a stream that feeds into an active beaver pond.
The trail is dotted with abstract sculptures made from a variety of materials. They are works of art and creativity by local Alfred State College students. If you’re staying overnight you can carry your luggage for 0.2 mile or borrow the wheelbarrow to tote your gear.
“The Love Shack”
Pollywogg Holler is a conglomerate of eclectic buildings and lodges. The main lodge is a log cabin that sleeps 5-6 people. It houses the kitchen and a dining table and serves as the community center, especially in winter.
Nearby is the wood loft, which as the name implies stores firewood and sleeps 5-6 people in a loft with large windows overlooking the complex. An Indian Teepee and a small building called the “Love Shack” off in the woods, offer additional lodging. Recently Bill added two large ponds for swimming and ice-skating. He plans to build additional lodges near the ponds.
We slept in the sauna loft. Before retiring we basked in the sauna, heated by a woodstove. Then we climbed the small planks jutting from the foyer walls
to the loft. As starlight lit the stained glass windows, we crawled into an immense pile of quilts and comforters on a mattress. Throughout the night snow dusted our capped heads – blown in through a crack below a stained glass window. But we slept long and warm in our loft cocoon.
Lots of Snow
Around The Holler the snow was plentiful and we spent our days playing on the winter trails with our snowshoes and skis. Food was a highlight of Pollywogg Holler. Seth and Mike prepared and cooked pizza-to-die-for in an outdoor wood-fired kiln. We huddled around a Purple People Heater, a custom wood stove for keeping people warm outdoors.
Bill, his family and his helpers have hand built everything at Polywogg Holler including the Purple People Heaters, often using recycled materials.
The complex derives its power from burning wood, candles, oil lamps, kerosene heaters, skylights, and solar power.
Even on a blustery winter day, the main lodge was cozy warm and we enjoyed hot showers. Because of the cold weather we opted to use the heated rest room with a compost toilet rather than the nature observatory (a.k.a. outhouse). This is luxurious camping after all.
We felt at ease in the Holler. It exists in concert with nature, building upon the natural beauty of the land rather than masking it. The people we met were folks who love and respect the outdoors and simple pleasures – our kind of folk. In the evening a group gathered in the main lodge and picked up a variety of instruments for an impromptu jam session. A sense of peace and kinship permeated the place.
North of Almond is Letchworth State Park where the Genesee River has cut a deep gorge into the Allegany Plateau creating the Grand Canyon of the East. The park is open year-round, offering camping, views of spectacular waterfalls and miles of trails for hiking, bicycling, and cross-country skiing.
For details visit website or call (585) 493-3600. The waterfalls of Letchworth – all 23 of them – are detailed in “200 Waterfalls in Central & Western New York – A Finders’ Guide.” For information on the biking trails see “Take Your Bike – Family Rides in the Finger Lakes & Genesee Valley Region” (www.footprintpress.com).
More to See
WANT TO GO?
When you’re ready for a treat, book a visit to Pollywogg Holler. Overnight accommodations with a brick oven baked dinner and breakfast cost $110 per person per night. Plan some days of hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing on the extensive trails of Phillips Creek and Palmers Pond State Forests and enjoy the camaraderie and ambiance of a stay at Pollywogg Holler.
Before You Visit…
Pollywogg Holler is in the southern tier of New York State, west of Hornell. From Interstate 86 take exit 32 at Almond and head south. In West Almond, turn south onto South Road. You’ll see signs for Pollywogg Holler in about 3 miles. For more information, see website or call 1-800-291-9668.
Maps of the trail systems at Phillips Creek and Palmers Pond State Forests can be found in the guidebook “Snow Trails – Cross-country Ski and Snowshoe in Central & Western New York”.
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