I'd committed some grave error, like begging out of one of her friend's birthday dinners, and it was time to make amends. So we headed for the Catskills. There are flashier destinations within a few hours of New York City, but we were too broke for the Berkshires and too impatient to watch shining Volvos do slow battle on the LIE. That's the thing about these odd little mountains: They're a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Midtown, but they feel like central Vermont. The nights sound like vacuum chambers. Pull off the interstate on Route 28 and drift. When the weather's clear, head to the Devil's Tombstone campground, on Route 214 outside of Hunter, for a six-mile out-and-back ridgeline hike to 3,845-foot Plateau Mountain. When it rains, walk 15 minutes off Route 23A to 230-foot Kaaterskill Falls. And when it's dark out, head 20 minutes north, to the town of Purling, where the Tumblin' Falls House bed-and-breakfast comes complete with a hot tub and, out back, a waterfall-fed swimming hole that will make her forget your lapses in judgment (doubles, $100; tumblinfalls.com).