Monthly Archives: September 2015

Evening Catskills: Super Full Blood Moon 09/27/15

© J.N. Urbanski 8.42pm

© J.N. Urbanski 8.42pm

Clouds obscured the entire viewing of the lunar eclipse last night, but it was still stunning to watch. The blood moon was completely immersed in the earth’s shadow causing it to be bathed in a red glow. It was full and at its perigee, meaning it was at its closest point to the Earth at 221,753 miles (356,877 km), making it a so-called supermoon. We had a clear view until the actual eclipse began and then two distinct layers of cloud cover rolled through a high, white ripple and a lower layer of scanty black cotton wool.

© J.N. Urbanski 9.17pm

© J.N. Urbanski 9.17pm

Daily Catskills: Fall Folliage and Sunrise Picks

© J.N. Urbanski 9.15am

© J.N. Urbanski 09/25/15 9.15am

It’s been a glorious week for enigmatic pictures and it seems as if today’s the day that the colors are really popping out more vividly at us. On Friday, both a black cat and mouse scurried across my path on my morning jaunt: an ancient sign of luck. The barn on Breezy Hill Road (below) has featured as an icon of Upstate Dispatch. I’ve photographed in all seasons and in all sorts of weather: covered in snow, sunny, foggy, misty and raining. Herein starts Fall Foliage Watch and we will hiking to the top of mountains to capture some of the best of it in the next few months.

© J.N. Urbanski 8.15am

© J.N. Urbanski 09/26/15 8.15am

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Upstate Dispatch Weekend Links

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Farmer’s almanac has useful tips on pest control and the impending total eclipse of the new harvest supermoon.

Meet the farmers at tomorrow’s Cauliflower Festival in Margaretville.

The wonderful New York New Jersey Trail Conference gives us its Top Ten hikes to view the fall foliage here in the Catskills. Here at Upstate Dispatch we have our own list, coming shortly.

A Saturday afternoon writer’s workshop at Spillian culminating in dinner at the glorious 100-year old, fully restored mansion of the former Fleischmanns’ Yeast and & Gin family. Call 800-811-3351 to reserve your place.

Adult coloring books from The Writers Circle, something to bring with you when you visit the Catskills for some autumnal peace and quiet.

Upstate Dispatch gets a YouTube channel for its shorts on local food, farming, life and work for residents and visitors in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York.

Chasing Honey Farms: Harvest Update

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Last week, I spent a morning on Chasing Honey Farms in Fleischmanns watching Chase Kruppo harvest honeycomb from his three hives. I had to beat a hasty retreat after the bees became agitated and it turns out I was correct to turn on my heel when I did. Shortly after my departure, some of the bees swarmed and stung a fellow observer, but I’m told the chap took it like a champ.

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Writing Myth at Spillian on Saturday

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

There could be some fiction on these pages and there’s a smattering of poetry but none by me. I’m one of those writers with a pile of fiction on hold: a play, a book and a head full of ideas that I call my fictional endeavors, but not for long! I’m attending Writing Myth: A Spillian Writing Imaginarium at Spillian in Fleischmanns, a writing workshop culminating in dinner and some spoken word, in that we will drink, dine and read aloud the works we have written that day. The dinner and reading are open to the public, even if you are not participating in the workshop. The last time I read my fiction to an audience I bombed with aplomb. In fact, it must have been fun to watch me crash and burn like a professional because I was invited to read my works on the radio. So please join us. Give a group of Catskills writers an audience and enjoy a lovely meal in a beautiful setting. Scroll down for pictures of Spillian.

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Daily Catskills: 09/23/15 Autumnal Equinox

A warm and sunny 56F at 8.30am with clear skies rising to 72F by 1.30pm. At this point in the year, the sun crosses the celestial equator from north to south. At 4.21am this morning, the sun’s rays were perpendicular to the earth’s axis, making the sun shine directly at the equator. On other days of the year, the northern or southern hemisphere tilts away or toward the sun. On the Equinox day and night are nearly exactly the same length and in the northern hemisphere this day is the official start of the Autumn. Splodges of red dot the landscape.

© J.N. Urbanski 1.30pm

© J.N. Urbanski 1.30pm

Cauliflower Festival

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Local lore has it that the Catskills was once Cauliflower Central having been first planted here in 1891. From 1900 to 1940, cauliflower became a thriving industry here and it’s one of our healthiest foods. The cauliflower originally came from Cyprus, and was introduced to France from Italy in the middle of the 16th century. Mark Twain called it “cabbage with a college education”. Delicious smothered in cheese and baked, or roasted in oil, it’s high in fiber, calcium and vitamin C; it’s also a good source of magnesium and potassium. The 12th Annual Cauliflower Festival will take place on Saturday, September 26th from 10am until 4pm at the Margaretville Village Park and Pavilion in Margaretville.

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A Catskills Weekend

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

I was honoured to have been invited to a friend’s wedding on Andes’ Willow Drey Farm over the weekend and spent a gorgeous late summer day catching up with neighbors in one of the most beautiful settings in the Catskills. (It’s technically still summer until the Autumnal Equinox on September 23rd.) I already have fearsome village envy over Andes and Willow Drey Farm is not helping. It’s a stunning 65 acres of big sky country farmland with rolling hills, a grain silo, barn, lake and old-style wooden fencing throughout. See my Daily Catskill pictures here.

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The Catskill 35: Eagle Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

When I hiked Eagle Mountain last month, I passed a group of Asian tourists sitting cross-legged in a circle, chatting excitedly while frying the contents of their bento boxes over Bunsen burners. Along with the hissing of hibachi, the clattering of chopsticks is not the sort of sound you would expect on a Catskills trail, but there’s a first time for everything. Much to their annoyance, my puppy took a keen interest in the visitors’ elaborate picnic, but I would rather eat a hiker’s sock than be impolite, so I decided not to take a picture of the lean-to where they were lunching. The picture below is one that I took last year in October, so I hope you an imagine it filled in with lush greens.

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Honey Harvesting at Chasing Honey Farms

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Chase Kruppo of Chasing Honey Farms in Fleischmanns has been harvesting the honey from his pesticide-free apiary recently. Chase operates a honey CSA which is more like a club membership where customers “buy-in” on a hive and reap the benefits come harvest time. They can either keep their share of the produce of the hives, or Chase will sell it for them. This year is Chasing Honey Farm’s first harvest from the bees he installed earlier this year. Many beekeepers I know lost some or all of their hives last year due to extremely cold weather and Chase lost the bees he installed in 2013. This morning I joined him for what he thinks might be his final harvest of the year and will be interviewing him later for an update. By the time he had harvested the first hive and opened the second, the bees were quite agitated and one dive-bombed me in the face, so I beat a hasty retreat. The farm property is dotted with very old apple trees, a thick carpet of blackberries and strawberries and a field of waning golden rod. His product will be raw and unfiltered. You can’t call honey organic because you can’t be sure where your bees have roamed, but you can use chemical-free hives and operate completely without pesticides. The honeycomb (pictured above) melted softly in my mouth: light and delicious. Find Chasing Honey Farms’ website here and check back for a harvest update.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

 

The Catskill 35: Westkill Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski The view from Buck Ridge Lookout

It might have been the delirium caused by hiking two miles up a steep, rocky mountain in less than an hour, but I couldn’t find the summit sign of Westkill after having gone past the two lookout points by about half a mile. If it is indeed there, I could not find it.* Could people stop stealing summit signs please? It’s dangerous for hikers, who go much further than they had planned, looking for something that’s not there, and tire themselves out. After looking for the summit sign for 15 minutes, I turned around on the trail intending to make my descent to my car. I stopped at Buck Ridge Lookout for a few minutes’ rest, but when I went to leave, I could not find the trail back and, as usual, deferred to the dog for guidance. He always trots ahead on every hike, can smell the trail and never goes wrong. This time, however, because this summit is in the middle of a trail that continues onward, he decided that we should just continue back the wrong way on that trail, which was five miles to another parking area on Spruceton Road that was four miles from the car. When I realised that was his plan, I panicked. He froze, staring back at me in anticipation as I traipsed around in the wilderness looking for the red blaze to direct us back the correct way. First time on The Devil’s Path and I was lost, however briefly, despite my good intentions.

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The Catskill 35: Balsam Lake Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

There are five fire towers in the Catskills, three of which I have visited, but I still have not mustered the courage to get to the top of one. Flights one, two and three of Balsam Lake Mountain fire tower were a piece of cake until a slight breeze blew, which rattled me to the core, then I looked down. Huge mistake; I sank to the floor (which looks like flimsy wood paneling when you’re kneeling on it), clinging on to the handrail. Is there a handrail? I can’t remember, but it hardly matters. I managed to execute a nice crawl/shuffle combination down the stairs on my bum, like a socialite spilling out of a nightclub at 3am, knees and elbows first. I spent the descent of Balsam Lake Mountain trying not to collapse in a heap, deeply in thought, musing on vertigo. Modern fire towers are steel structures bolted into solid rock, but older versions were made of wood. The earlier wooden structure on Balsam Lake Mountain was built in 1887, but was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground in 1901.

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Happy Birthday Upstate Dispatch!

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s been another beautiful Catskills summer. In the last few weeks, red leaves have been scattered sparingly on the forest floor like clues to a treasure hunt, leading me to my autumnal prize. A spectacular show, like the forest’s own Mexican wave, a static riot of color will commence later this month. A benevolent Mother Nature now has a cool wind in the works while Old Man Winter waits behind her gleefully rubbing his hands. I hope she flicks an acorn in his eye.

It’s at the waning end of this glorious summer that Upstate Dispatch celebrates its birthday. It turns a year old tomorrow, September 9th. I would, firstly, like to thank you for reading and all your wonderful comments, feedback and admiration. Readership support means such a great deal.

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The Catskill 35: Peekamoose

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Peekamoose is a Catskill 35 that can be combined with Table Mountain, also a Catskill 35, if you arrive at the parking area early enough in the day. Alas, I can never manage to muster myself in time. Work usually gets in the way. Moreover, on the day that I hiked it, the weather was inclement: foggy and raining, which made for a very enigmatic lunch at the summit. On top of a mountain peak, with your soggy sandwich, you are in the weather and this peak has two superb views made more astonishing by layers of fog and rain. Peekamoose is already an unusually lonely and desolate place on a summer weekday because the parking area looks like a spent weekend. Visitors, who bring their barbeque sets, chairs, tables and literally set up camp by streams and swimming holes in the area like the Blue Hole, leave all of their garbage: all of it.

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The Catskill 35: Balsam Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The start of the hike to the summit of Balsam Mountain from Rider Hollow Road is a soft, mossy incline in a slender canyon between two mountains, crossing back and forth five times over (two) bridges and gushing streams, enveloped by the heady, familiar aroma of evergreen trees.

It’s an exquisitely picturesque hike with a narrow trail off which the dog strays, excitedly sprinting down to the gushing stream for a splash around and then back up the mountain to chase chipmunks. After the last bridge, the going begins to get rocky and steep, requiring hands and feet both in places, giving little respite until the next mile marker. Even after the mile marker, it’s a first-rate clamber in parts, second in line to the great rocky Giant Ledge/Panther Mountain hike. However, I’ve only done five of the Catskill 35, so I’ve little to compare it to, but it’s a thigh-busting challenge.

However, as the great lady said, by heck, it’s gorgeous. Not only gorgeous, it’s magical, evoking memories of childhood books in which squirrels and other spritely mammals live in enormous trees, like they’re Brooklyn brownstones, and go to forest school in uniforms. The magic was compounded by the fact that the base of the mountain was shrouded in fog when I hiked, so my ascent was a misty rise into a lushly ethereal world. You are never really alone until you’ve done a steep, perilous mid-week hike into the mountains after the summer season has finished and revelers have retreated to their city habitats. Always sign in for hikes. It could save your life. There is nothing like the doom of having unwittingly wandered off-trail and being lost in the wilderness with darkness looming. I recommend it at least once, because if you have stressful concerns about business, trivial family wrangles or superficial worries, they will dissolve like a desert mirage once you get lost on a hike with no cellphone service.

Hiking the Catskills 35 has taught me that I can start a hike fretting about a demanding client and by the time I’ve gone off-trail, become lost and suddenly relying on the dog to get me back to civilization, that formerly important client is miraculously dead to me.

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The Year of the Apple: Catskills 2015

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

2015 must be The Year of the Apple in the Catskills such is their abundance this year. a neighbour guesses that we have heritage apples on our property. Yesterday, I borrowed a dehydrator in exchange for ten pounds of apples. It’s clear that I’ll be making apple products like apple sauce, fruit leather, dried apples and apple crisp, for days and days to come. The image above is my breakfast for the foreseeable future: plain yoghurt layered with homemade apple sauce.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

 

The Catskill 35: Hunter Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski The view from John Robb lean-to about 2 miles in

© J.N. Urbanski The view from John Robb lean-to about 2 miles into the Spruceton Trail to Hunter Mt.

If the Spruceton Trail to the summit of Hunter Mountain were a movie it would be a Kate Winslett vehicle: remarkably efficient, obvious, solidly reliable with a spectacular finish. An old logging trail, it has a very wide berth, leading the way like any seasonal road flattened with pebbles and flinty rubble. There’s really no chance for an idiot writer to get lost on this trail; even the Black Lab fell in line quickly and took a steady, dependable pace all the way to the top where there is a large fire tower, upon which should read the words: don’t look down. Looking down from the midway of the fire tower invites a severe case of the wobblies.

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