We woke up at dawn on our wedding day and took a brisk sunrise walk around the mountain property. We planned this trip around the likelihood of a snowy ceremony, and oddly enough it had been unseasonably warm the past few days, so we were pleased to wake up to frozen ground that day.
The morning was casual with the exception of an unexpected change of plans. Before heading over to the main house for a nordic style breakfast buffet, we received an email from our hired mountain man, Jeff. All along our plan was to hike Panther Mountain to Giant Ledge, a series of overlooks with epic panoramic views of the Catskills. As the professional he is, Jeff checked the forecast for our planned ceremonial hike location early in the morning; considering the cloud cover and low visibility anticipated at Giant Ledge, he offered up an alternative location. With a quick phone call we assured him we weren't worried about the clouds - it was more about the ascent up the mountain for us.
After a cozy breakfast at the inn with Courtney and Laura, our photographer and her bff assistant, we headed back to our private cottage to start getting ready. Laura graciously agreed to help with Lisa's hair and makeup, while Matt assembled sandwich lunches for our hike, greeted our florist, and packed a backpack & basket for the trip up the mountain. All the while, Courtney snapped photos of the goings-on.
Donning our wedding garb, we spent the rest of the morning taking photos around the Foxfire grounds before we potentially got all muddy and sweaty from our hike. It really paid off to scout locations with our photographers the day before; we were able to fit in so many different settings!
Our last photo stop before the hike was just down the road from Foxfire outside of the iconic Phoenicia Diner, which is also where we planned to meet our adventure guide, Jeff. The place was packed for Saturday brunch so we opted for an outside-only shot. Have you ever seen a whole restaurant's worth of people stare at you? That's what we saw when we turned around to look in the windows. Gawked upon like nothing we've ever experienced before.
After locating Jeff in the crowded parking lot, we circled up with Courtney and Laura to finalize our plan. Let's just say it got a little dicey. Once he saw what we were wearing, Jeff very strongly discouraged hiking to Giant Ledge. We were bummed and stubborn about not changing our plan. We kept insisting we could handle it. We were okay getting dirty. Once he posed that it would be a safety concern to hike as we were dressed, we heeded his advice and conceded. The alternative plan was to hike historic Kaaterskill falls, a 30 minute drive through the mountains to Hunter, NY. We just went with it, skeptical but trusting that our guide wouldn't do us wrong.
Turns out, the hike around the falls was more gorgeous and exciting than we could have imagined. The waterfall is a double-decker style, with multiple vantage points to explore via trails. Jeff had already done the legwork and was familiar with the best points to visit, so we followed where he led us -- that's why we brought him along! Now would be a good time to mention too, Jeff is also a registered officiant and was able to legalize the ceremony on the spot in the middle of the woods.
Without a doubt, Jeff added an element of wonder to this occasion that would not have been achieved without his guidance. He'd say, "I'm gonna get you on that rock," before escorting us gracefully over flowing water like a stepping-stone sherpa. Next was, "I'm gonna get you up next to the falls." We didn't even really know what he meant by that. At this point, our only vantage point had been from afar and below. We followed him mid-way up the cliff where we to took a pit stop to assess the location. We were basically standing (safely) on the edge of a cliff where the falls were obstructed from sight by a giant stone formation. While we waited, Jeff strapped a pair of micro-spikes over his boots which allowed him traction to walk over ice. He set off around the bend of the rock formation and left our sight. Within a few moments he returned with a thumbs up and started sizing up our feet for spikes of our own.
Once equipped with the ability to confidently walk on solid ice, all five of us filed one by one along the cliff, making our way towards the falls. Within a few minutes, we turned a corner and BAM! we were right there. Lisa screamed (of course) and cussed, and all our eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. Our proximity to the frozen yet flowing waterfall was unreal, and we weren't even all the way there yet. When Jeff mentioned getting us out by the falls, he literally meant we would walk over the frozen falls to stand mere feet away from where the water was raging -- he did just that. One at a time he walked just the two of us out to a safe point. We had to keep our center of gravity low and stomp confidently into the ice to plant our weight while spectators watched from the viewing deck above. Once we were out there together, Jeff gave us our space, staying close enough to swoop back when we were ready to go. Soaked from the mist, smiling, and shaking with adrenaline, we agreed that this was way better than Giant Ledge.
Since our original plan changed, we didn't know where we would perform the actual ceremony. Truthfully, the whole day felt like a ceremony from start to finish, but we wanted to find a nice quiet place to speak our vows. Near the start of the trail there was a patch of majestic pine trees that felt like the perfect spot. We laid down a blanket in a little cove of trees and sat down to read aloud letters we wrote each other. It was short and sweet and just the two of us - a soft conclusion for a wildly exciting day.
The whole day flowed on the fly - it was on theme that our trusty officiant and two witnesses signed our marriage application on the hood of a car. In the parking lot of the trailhead and by the light of the setting sun, we parted ways with our new friend, Jeff, and made our way back to our home base on the other side of the mountain.
The wonderful folks at Foxfire had a congratulatory bottle of champagne waiting for us in our cottage when we arrived back, as well as a lovely candlelit vegan dinner planned for us in the bar room of the inn. The atmosphere of Foxfire just exudes romance. Twinkling lights, a roaring fireplace, the scent of sage and orange and frankincense permeating the air, snow gentling falling outside the window - it was intoxicating.
We lingered after dinner till all other guests were gone and shared conversation over wedding cake with the inn staff. Over the course of our stay, we actually got to know the people hosting us, which feels like a totally unique and authentic experience in hindsight. It is all thanks to the attentiveness and warmth of the Foxfire family that our stay was impeccable. We both can't wait to visit again.