By Martin Naparsteck
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
BELMONT – It sounds like it shouldn’t be easy to find, one of those you-can’t-get-there-from-here places. And indeed, Pollywogg Holler is out of the way. Being out of the way is one of the reasons you go there. To get away. From civilization.
If you’re lucky, your cellphone won’t work when you get there, and there’s no television. After you park, there is still a walk through woods before you get to the place. Smart visitors will make that walk last up to half an hour, so they can look at the hundred or so sculptures scattered throughout the woods leading to the lodges.
Lodges? Well, yes, some of them are lodges. Others are lean-tos, with one side exposed. Most of the lodges, in fact, are small cabins.
Pollywogg Holler is an eco-minded getaway, where guests can spend a few days, or come just for a few hours.
But if you are someone who needs modern toilet facilities, be aware the choice of most visitors is any out-of-the-way tree or an outdoor urinal attached to a post. If you’re staying in the sauna lodge and it’s late at night, you just go out on the narrow back porch and ... Well, you can figure out the rest.
And if you’re female, and also in the sauna lodge, you lift up this board on the porch and ... Well, again.
There is also music, some of it recorded, some of it live. Much of it sounds like it’s left over from the 1960s.
And there are four cats (America, Margaret, Liberty and Battle Racket). They may expect you to share the pizza with them. After all, they live there and you’re just a visitor.
The pizza is what draws many visitors. It starts at $7, and goes up a few dollars for some offerings, and when you see it and realize it’s only about 11 inches in diameter, you may think the price a bit high. But this is pizza made in a wood-fired oven, with a thin, flaky crust, and one bite will convince almost anyone that they might have actually underpaid. The book “Weird New York” calls it “the best place ... to eat in New York State.” The book is almost right.
But you can’t get pizza just any day. It’s available from 5 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays.
The sculpture garden is open from 1 to 4 p.m. seven days a week. Visitors can walk around for free. Mostly the sculptures are modernistic, some made from recycled objects. You’ll see a big yellow disc with something red and something blue sticking out of it. And a big truck tire perched atop a tall yellow pole.
And there are lots of pieces of rusted metal that, if you came across them while hiking in an ordinary woods, you might think were parts of some abandoned machinery.
But collected together, you start to appreciate the sculptures, start to see that the shapes are interesting and the cumulative impact pleasing. Most of the works were created by people at New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, about six miles away.
If you’re traditionally minded when it comes to art, you will probably most like a white statue of an angel, affectionately called, by folks around here, Our Lady of Pollywogg Forest.
Pollywogg Holler is the creation of Bill and Barb Castle, who first visited the site in 1976. Eleven years later they opened the eco-resort. They built just about everything themselves, and they sell their handmade rustic furniture and other items at fairly ritzy prices.
To appreciate the artistry that went into it, just take a long look at the wooden door at the entrance to the Sauna Lodge. The carvings at first just look like leaves or flourishes. But after a few moments you realize you can read it: “Bathe Often Never Hurry.”
If you don’t want to hurry – and of course the whole place exists for the non-hurrying kind – you can stay for a few days or longer, starting at $110 per person per night, for lodging and two meals. For more details, visit their website at www.pollywoggholler.com.
For overnight guests, the menu will offer things like stuffed portabella mushrooms, vegetarian lasagna, Cornish hen, a buffet-style breakfast and a bunch of other delectable edibles.
If you go in the winter, there are many state forests around for cross-country skiing. You’ll pass Palmer’s Pond State Forest as you drive down South Road. If you wait for warmer weather, the same trails can be used for hiking.
If you go
Take any convenient route south to Interstate 86 (Southern Tier Expressway, formerly Route 17). Go east to exit 32 (West Almond). At the end of the ramp you come to a T; turn left. Go to the bottom of the hill and there will be a blue metal building (West Almond Highway Department) on your left. Turn left after the building, and you will quickly come to a fork in the road. Go right on South Road. It’s gravel. In about 2½ miles you’ll come to the Pollywogg Holler office on your right. Go about 100 yards more and there will be a small parking lot on your right. It holds about three cars. Park there or along the road. You’ll see a geodesic dome. Walk through it and follow the trail through the woods. In about 10 minutes you’ll come to the main lodge. The address, if you use a GPS, is 6240 South Road, Belmont.