Such a retreat is the dream of all serious thinkers and writers: a place to delve into Nature and the nature of the mind. While still living, Burroughs welcomed hundreds of kindred spirits to Slabsides, including such notables as Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The rustic cabin still stands in West Park, preserved as he left it, and is open twice a year to visitors who can witness the cozy solitude in which Burroughs took refuge to write, study Nature and entertain his friends.
The Slabsides Day autumn open house takes place this Saturday, October 2 from noon until 4 p.m. Visitors can enjoy an interpretive tour of the cabin, designated in 1968 as a National Historic Landmark, and then hike the five miles of trails in the surrounding 196-acre John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary until the sun goes down. The varied terrain offers rock faces, wetlands and beautiful woods.
Last spring, more than 100 guests took advantage of this opportunity, and with good weekend weather the John Burroughs Association hopes to welcome even more. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will served at the nearby Pond House.
Meanwhile, this season’s program will feature a special group of poets who have met at the site for inspiration these past several years. Their monthly visits to the John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary have indeed inspired, and now their work is collected in a book: Universe at Your Door: The Slabsides Poets, edited by Alison Koffler and Will Nixon. Earlier this year, the group read at a John Burroughs conference at SUNY-Oneonta and launched their book at the Woodstock Artists’ Association and Museum.
On Saturday at noon, the Slabsides Poets will read from the cabin’s porch and chat with visitors, sharing their poetry and anecdotes in the spirit of the great man. Come join Koffler and Nixon, plus local poets Bobbi Katz (also a children’s book author), Richard Parisio (former educator for the Department of Environmental Conservation), Frank Boyer, Dave Holden, Kathryn Paulsen, Jo Pitkin, Gretchen Primack, Bertha Rogers, Annajon Russ, Victoria Sullivan and Dayl Wise.
A unique collaboration amongst poets, the book comes out of their direct exposure to Burroughs’ cabin, as if they absorbed his essential being somehow. Nixon says, “We’d sit on the porch and write. You really feel like the guy just walked out the door and will be back in a half-hour. We picked up on that feeling.” Copies of Universe at Your Door: The Slabsides Poets will be available for purchase and signing at this event.
Slabsides is tucked off Route 9W in West Park. Take Floyd Ackert Road, then turn left on Burroughs Drive and proceed uphill to the parking area. Look for signs that will guide you on the short walk through the woods to the cabin.
Maintenance of the Sanctuary is funded partially by New York State, but relies heavily on members and volunteers. The Association is currently remaking some of the trails and will gladly welcome new muscle for the upcoming work days, says second vice president Jeff Walker. For further information, see http://research.amnh.org/burroughs/index.html, or call the Sanctuary at (845) 384-6320 or the John Burroughs Association at (212) 769-5169.