to the Holler: Pollywogg Holler is a NY State Ecolodge
That's Wonderful in Winter
by Sue Freeman
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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).
WANT TO GO?
When you're ready for a treat, book a visit to Pollywogg Holler.
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.
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