Meet Erik Phillips: Minnewaska Lodge’s Director of Programming & Outdoor Adventure

Minnewaska Lodge prides itself on being a haven for those adventurous at heart and intrepid in practice. From a host of nearby adventures in Hudson Valley  to the breathtaking lodge itself, the establishment — and its staff — work to harness the beauty of the local environment and the thrill of exploring it.  

My name is Erik Phillips, and I’m the Director of Programming & Outdoor Adventure at Minnewaska Lodge. I’m here to share my story — and aim to inspire you to share yours with us.

"We shall not cease from exploration.

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And to know that place for the first time." 

- T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Erik climbing at the Minnewaska Lodge’s Main Cliff at the Near Trapps. 

Back to the Gunks! 

I first visited the Shawangunk Mountain’s five miles of quartzite cliff, with thousands of astonishing climbs, back in 2000. This trip was my first step on an amazing adventure around the world. I was captivated by the intensity of the mental and physical challenge it took to move across this vertical landscape. It was an introduction to life’s greatest adventure — the exploration of the unknown. 

The Gunks has everything you need; sky lakes, waterfalls, enormous cliffs with unlimited rock climbing, secret climbi nng areas and caving, hundreds of miles of trails, mountain biking, an amazing culinary scene, dozens of wineries and breweries, and awesome yoga and spiritual communities – all within a half-hour bike ride. I may leave for a while, but I always come back to the Gunks.  

I’ve done some extreme things: I’ve lived outside in a cave in negative 60°F (15°C) temperatures without any source of heat; I’ve had a few near-death experiences while falling to almost certain death (with the white-light phenomena of pure consciousness); I’ve dry fasted for six days with no food or water to enhance the experience of meditation; I’ve done marathons and climbed at elite levels, continually enhancing and tuning my biochemistry of serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, and endorphins that create a natural high that empowers peak performance of mind and body. The Gunks are a place to challenge yourself and to experience the Infinite.

First Ascent, Near Life Experience, 5.9R (2020).

I’ve been to some amazing places — 48 states, 25 National Parks, El Cap in Yosemite, Machu Picchu, Mount Everest — but I always want to come back to the Gunks!  

As an avid extremist, my all-time favorite adventure in the Gunks is to run up the boulder field to the cliff, speed-climb up and over, ridge-run up to Millbrook Mountain, keep running out to the incredible views on Gertrude’s Nose, go all the way out to Sam’s Point, loop around the sky lake, head back to Lake Awosting, cruise up to Lake Minnewaska, let gravity take you down to Awosting Falls, and then bike out to Mohonk Mountain to scramble through the Labyrinth and inside the mountain up to Skytop Tower, and finally head back to the Minnewaska Lodge. It’s a phenomenal 41-mile ultra-marathon to all of the highlights of the Gunks’ most dramatic landscapes — a one-, two- or three-day challenge!

Highlights of the Gunks: The 41 Mile Ultramarathon

While running trails can be hard, it is nowhere near as hard as the bigger challenges that connect the Gunks to our global community. While running, I can see the effects of increasing forest fires, floods, invasive species, beetles killing our forests, agricultural shifts, and the community trying to build its resilience and sustainability. After about 10 years of research, I published a book on the global climate crisis as a springboard for workshops at the Lodge. It’s about how everyone can be part of the revitalization of the biosphere and civilization, based on the ancient knowledge, passed down for over 6,000 years from people who called themselves “Guardians of the Seasons” (RigVeda, 10.99.10). These are very specific and focused practices that can have transformational effects on both the practitioner and the surrounding environment. It is beyond exciting to share this wisdom tradition with the guests at the Lodge and the world. This is, by far, the greatest experience and adventure that I have come across in all my travels.

Minnewaska Lodge: a Holistic Homebase

At Minnewaska Lodge, I’ll share my expertise with people for all types of adventures — from hiking to rock climbing and rappelling; from the ancient tradition of yoga to the transcendence of meditation; from workshops on connecting with nature to aligning with your highest purpose. Sharing my enthusiasm for adventure is my purpose at the Lodge and in life. I am grateful for the amazing team at the Lodge, all of our partners, and this incredible environment. I am looking forward to sharing this journey with and co-creating memorable and extraordinary experiences.  

There is always more to explore. The Gunks is a special place with infinite possibility. After 20 years of climbing and adventuring, I always come back to the Gunks. Join me!

The Minnewaska Lodge and the Near Trapps of the Gunks.

Book Your Room at the Minnewaska Lodge Today!

For more information about the Lodge’s rooms and nearby adventure destinations, contact our team today!