Monthly Archives: December 2015

Catskills Cocktails: Prosecco & St. Germain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If you eaten too much stuffing, overloaded on turkey or you’re seeking need a tonic to dissolve the Christmas pudding, try these refreshing cocktails as an antidote to all the stodge. According to their website, St. Germain is made in France from freshly picked elderflower blossoms in a “slow, charmingly inefficient way”. Medicinal benefits of extract of elderflower include influenza, coughs, colds, sinusitis, constipation, inflammation and rheumatism.

The taste is “neither passion fruit nor pear, neither grapefruit nor lemon; the sublime taste of St. Germain is a flavor as subtle and delicate as it is captivating”.

Lemon St. Germain & Prosecco

2 ounce of St. Germain
12 ounces of Prosecco
1 ounce of Fleischmanns gin
2 ounces of fresh, still lemonade
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
2 ounce of soda or sparkling mineral water
1 lemon

Combine ingredients in a mason jar. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze into the mixture and throw in. Stir slowly and gently and pour into glasses. Serves two.

Classic Prosecco & St Germain

16 ounces of Prosecco
12 ounces of sparkling water
8 ounces of St. Germain
2 ounces of fresh, still lemonade

Pour ingredients into a jug. Mix slowly for a minute and serve. Serves four.

The Catskills 35 (W): Balsam Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Winter hiking can get dangerous pretty quickly. One minute you could be trotting along atop a magical winter wonderland and then the next minute, you might take your gloves off to take a picture and be left wondering if you’ll ever feel your hands again. Your water might freeze in your backpack at the summit of a mountain and if you’ve layered with cotton and start sweating on your ascent, you’ll stay wet for the duration of the hike. Winter hiking in the Catskills is only for the experienced or very prepared. At the very least, take spare socks, t-shirt, food and don’t wear cotton under- or base garments. Drink a liter of water before you set out and eat a hearty breakfast. Take a lighter, some pocket hand warmers and a gadget that turns snow into water. Or wait until Spring. Just stay at home and read, catch up on correspondence or binge watch quaint BBC period dramas because if I haven’t mentioned it, winter hiking in the Catskills can get serious suddenly and without warning.

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Daily Catskills: 12/28/15

30F at 10am and for most of the day, dropping to 28F by 3pm with some cloud and hazy sunshine. A dusting of snow on the peaks that melted slowly throughout the day.

© J.N. Urbanski 12.30pm

© J.N. Urbanski 12.30pm

© J.N. Urbanski 12.30pm

© J.N. Urbanski 12.30pm

Catskills Cocktails: Mulled Spiced Citrus Port

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

You can still enjoy a warming port or wine cocktail even if it’s 70F on Christmas Day. Port has an illustrious history: both sweet and warming. Sherry and Port were a staple in the households of British Christmas drinkers when I was growing up and here is a tangy variation on the theme that employs sweet cherry juice. Merry Christmas!

Mulled Spiced Citrus Port

750ml Tawny Port
100ml cherry juice
1 orange
1 lemon
10 whole cloves
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks
1 drop of vanilla essence

Slice off the peel (including pith) of both the orange and lemon until you have the raw fruit and about eight slices of fruit peel. Put the peel to one side and muddle the raw orange and lemon fruit together with the port and cherry juice. Add the remaining ingredients, including the fruit peel, into the muddled mixture. Steep the mixture for a few hours. Add a cup of water to dilute to taste. Pour into a saucepan and heat gently until warm. Remove the fruit waste – but not the peel – once the port has warmed sufficiently to serve.

Serves four to eight.

Daily Catskills: 12/22/15 Yuletide & The Winter Solstice

47˚F at 9am, overcast and raining. This morning the evergreens twinkled in the rain while a new winter sun rose behind a thick veil of cloud cover to mark the  Winter Solstice and the ancient tradition of Yuletide.

© J.N. Urbanski 11.15am

© J.N. Urbanski 11.15am

© J.N. Urbanski 9am

© J.N. Urbanski 9am

Daily Catskills: 12/21/15

35˚F at 8am with a shimmering cloud cover this morning that had dulled by the afternoon. Today is the last day of Autumn and the eve of the Winter Solstice, which is officially the first day of winter (tomorrow). Tomorrow morning we will have a new winter sun. The northern hemisphere of the earth will be pointed the farthest away from the sun at 23.5˚ tonight and tomorrow will begin its slow return towards it until the June Solstice of 2015. The ancient tradition of Yule will begin tomorrow with the Solstice and will end on January 1st, 2016.

© J.N. Urbanski 8am

© J.N. Urbanski 8am

Daily Catskills: 12/19/15

26F at noon with an overnight snow flurry having dusted the landscape. More gentle flurries beginning in the afternoon. 30F by 3pm.

© J.N. Urbanski 2.20pm

© J.N. Urbanski 2.20pm

The Catskill 35: Indian Head Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s difficult to decide what was more remarkable about a hike up Indian Head Mountain during hunting season. Would it be the periodic burst of gunfire from the local sportsman’s club every few hundred yards of my 13th peak over 3500 feet, like distant, anonymous cheerleaders? Perhaps it was the burly, camouflaged hunters strolling nonchalantly around the parking area, with loaded weapons over their shoulders, incongruously set against our hippy neighbors in their tie-dye. Possibly it was the roadside pile of dead deer we passed on the journey, but I think it was actually the unseasonal weather: t-shirt warm and humid at 55F by 10am on December 13th. I had no mobile phone service at lunchtime, so I could not tell what exactly the temperature was, but it felt like at least 60F. We’ve had a smattering of snow this year, but thus far that has been all. Last year was a strikingly different story as you can see here from our Daily Catskills picture of the same day. The lower parts of the trail to the summit and back down were wet and there were frequent stream crossings, but they were very low.

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The Catskill 35: Plateau Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The trouble with hiking the Catskills in the autumn is that thick layers of fallen leaves completely cover the path. It’s easy to lose your footing and stumble, as your boot disappears up to the ankle into the crunchy leaves, especially when the ground underneath is rocky or slippery. The hike to Plateau Mountain from Mink Hollow Road on the Route 212 end, is rocky, pebbly and everything in between. It’s also wet, wet, wet; with several knee-deep river crossings on the first 2.6 miles, and frequent muddy pools, so if you feel like hiking it now, take your waterproof boots. One river crossing necessitated the aid of two large trees that were downed halfway across the water. All the clumsy, ankle-turning stumbling that’s met with enthusiasm on the way up becomes quite tiresome – and downright dangerous – on the way back to the car when you’re exhausted.

If it sounds like a big pain in the backside, this would be the point to mention that it’s utterly gorgeous: a smorgasbord of beautiful Catskills landscapes in a 7.3 mile round trip, featuring thick, white birch trees mixed with soft evergreens, falling waters, mossy boulders, a spring and a lean-to complete with outdoor privvy.

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Catskills Art At The Commons Gallery

5833f6f2-db36-4521-b679-381721ded33eLocal Catskills’ artist Alix Travis invites everyone to pop into her new winter studio in Margaretville for a cup of tea and to watch her work. In the gallery you can view her latest exhibition entitled “Family Friends Celebration and Holiday Colors”, which consists of gorgeous works of oil on canvas, watercolor and collage on the subject of relationships, warmth, brilliant color and the shared values of the holiday season and all year round

the Commons Gallery, the Commons, 785 Main Street, Margaretville, NY; December 3, 2015 through March 31, 2016. Open Saturdays from noon – 4pm, and any day when you see the lights on.

For the Love of Dog: Fred Levy’s Black Dog Project

© Fred Levy

© Fred Levy

I will have the privilege of interviewing photographer Fred Levy on my radio show on December 14th at 9am on WIOX because there is such a thing as Black Dog Syndrome. Fred’s new book The Black Dog Project (pictured above), published by Race Point Publishing, is a photographic tribute to black dogs who, it’s reported, are the last to get petted by strangers or adopted from shelters. On the radio show, we’ll discuss the mythology surrounding black dogs and Fred’s gorgeous photography. Plus, Fred’s coffee table book is a superb stocking stuffer for dog lovers. Buy it from the publisher here, or visit your local bookshop and order it. And, just because, here’s picture of my own black dog Alfie, who I have written about here.

© J.N. Urbanski 2pm

© J.N. Urbanski

Cold Catskills: Dressing for Winter Adventures

by: Jeff Vincent of Catskill Mountain Wild

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

With winter approaching, we’ll start to see more and more ill-prepared hikers in the Catskills. It’s important to know the right clothing to wear and special gear you may need on a cold weather trip.

Your clothing should be broken down into three basic layers: a base layer, an insulating layer and a top layer that will protect you from the elements.

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