Monthly Archives: March 2016

Daily Catskills Goes to Print

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Upstate Dispatch’s Daily Catskills Project goes to print next week and an edited selection of photographic works by J.N. Urbanski will be shown in a spring exhibition at a location to be determined in the next few weeks. Watch this space for details.

At least 50 images picked from Urbanski’s contributions to Daily Catskills will be available for sale, framed and unframed.

It’s been a long, demanding project. With the help of contributing photographers Chase Kruppo, Erik Johanson, Fernando Delgado, Melissa Zeligman, Margaret Helthaler, Lydia Brunt, Gavin DuBois, Lori Robin, Jeff Vincent, Niva Dorell-Smith and Mountain Girl Photography & Design, Upstate Dispatch posted an image a day, shot on the day it was published, every day for 18 months. Special thanks go to Margaret Helthaler for her help over the past year.

After a short break in April, the project will resume online again. In April, we’ll begin Daily Catskills Lightbox, a selection of photographic work that did not make the cut on the day.

Stay tuned!

Catskill Weekend: Maple on Main Art Exhibition

JennyNeal_6111

The Roxbury Arts Group is partnering with Fleischmanns First on this year’s Fleischmanns First Maple Festival 2016. They have curated an exhibit, Maple on Main, which will be located at 1053 Main Street in Fleischmanns. The Opening Reception for this exhibit is this Saturday, April 2nd from 4-6pm. The exhibit will be open throughout this two-day festival, April 2nd and 3rd.

This multi-media exhibit, celebrating everything Maple, includes work by Sharon Suess, Alix Travis, Jenny Neal, Dan Williams, Nancy McShane, Emilie Rigby, Solveig Comer, Laura Sue King, Miguel Martinez-Riddle, John Virga, Michelle Sidrane, Joseph Muehl, Dora Chambers, Robin  White, and Andes Central School students Emily Andersen, Katie Edelson, Rylee Burton, Hunter Collins, Destiny Weaver, Stephanie Gaydos, Christian Bauer, Rachel Masterson, and Lila Green.

The exhibition will be a short stroll from The Painters Gallery on Main Street, featuring Project Topoi, “an experiment in using images rather than words to discuss ideas” that includes a 26 minute video from contributors. The Gallery will be open from 12pm to 4pm.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Catskill 35: Fir Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

There are a handful of naturally made trails on and near the summit of Fir Mountain, which oddly make you feel like you’re back in civilization once you’ve reached the summit, a feeling that’s short-lived. Fir was our first bushwhack and it’s less of a bushwhack than a sapling-whack and they’re not being whacked, you are. At this time of the year, the saplings are bare but you have to push on through them and continually get whipped in the face. Catskills bushwhacks are climbs to the summit that have no trail at all and no signage. The saplings are a reminder of how much work goes into trail maintenance of all the marked trails by volunteers from wonderful organizations like the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.

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Kelsey Grammar Plans to Open Farm Brewery in Catskills, Reports Say

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Published on New York Upstate out of Syracuse today was the news that Kelsey Grammar is to open a farm brewery in Margaretville, a town here in the Central Catskills. After a long discussion on our Facebook page, however, local sources say it’s actually New Kingston, which is one town over. The brewery is allegedly only in the planning stages, but the news has caused quite a bit of excitement.

The New York State brewery revival started a few years ago with the advent of the new Farm Brewery Law as reported in the Watershed Post by your humble correspondent. Since then breweries have been springing up like wild-fire. Local historians have said that New York State was the largest hop growing state in the country one hundred years ago. Here’s to retrieving that status from the annals of history. Like the hops plant itself, pictured above, the Catskills craft beer industry is reaching for the sky with some of the tastiest beer in the country.

Cheers!

The Catskill 35: Peekamoose/Table

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Peekamoose is a strenuous, uphill struggle, a relentlessly steep trail with two or three large boulder formations to climb over. One formation has a precipitously positioned boulder that would tumble down the mountain should the tree on which its leaning collapse. After hiking over half the Catskills 35, I’ve never witnessed a tumbling boulder. Another notable distinction of this trail is the appearance of large boulders dashed with multicolored pebbles, making the rocks look spongy. There’s also a streak of pinkish, light purple rock and dirt about halfway up the trail.

More delightful are the manmade accents: doorways and steps carved in enormous, downed trees.

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Downstate Dispatch: The City

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s about this time of year that a city makes a special guest appearance on Upstate Dispatch to honour my urban roots. There’s a lot that I miss about the city, but the most prominent difference between country and city life is that, in the country, you have to drive everywhere. In the city, you can walk or take readily available public transportation. Small towns and villages in places like my home country England are mostly very, very old and designed for walking or riding (animal or bicycle). British Towns radiate outwards like a rash instead of sprawling along lengthy American roads. You would never have an English address with more than three numbers in the street address, but yesterday I visited someone whose street number was 53939, which is unheard of in England and quite astonishing to foreigners. Even our longest residential roads, straight thousand-year-old roads that were built by the Romans, were split into sections called “high streets” like the A10, which is 90 miles long. It runs from central London to Norfolk at about a sixth of the entire country’s length.

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Daily Catskills: 03/20/16 Spring Equinox

36F at noon, lightly overcast and chilly. The Spring (Vernal) Equinox is the time when the sun’s rays are perpendicular to the earth, as the earth’s northern hemisphere begins moving towards the sun, making it warmer here throughout the summer.

© J.N. Urbanski 3pm

© J.N. Urbanski 3pm

Hazelnuts

© MAU

© MAU

Hazelnut bushes in the orchard, planted in 2007, get a chance to properly flourish this spring possibly because they now have a sturdy fence around them. In years past, we’ve only harvested a handful of the nuts that grow in a thick, green, furry casing. The bushes, which can grow into large trees, are self-infertile so it’s necessary to plant at least two together for cross-pollination. The male catkins, pictured above, which produce pollen that they release onto the red female flowers, are a food staple of ruffed grouse throughout the winter. The nuts are a preferred by squirrels, deer, turkey, woodpeckers, pheasants, grouse, quail and jays.

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Daily Catskills: 03/17/16

43F at 8.30am with thick fog rolling off the mountains. Update: 54F by the afternoon with a mixture of cotton wool clouds of various colors. Down to 44F with icy snowy rain by 2.30pm. Back up to 53F by 4pm.

© J.N. Urbanski 8.30am

© J.N. Urbanski 8.30am

The Catskill 35 (W): Bearpen

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The trail to the summit of Bearpen is a long, gradual meander around a mountain, mostly on a part of a snowmobile trail that’s much longer than the walk to the summit and privately maintained. Unlike other trails to Catskills peaks over 3500ft, which are rocky, and perhaps because it’s so further afield than the others, the path is soft and grassy. There’s no tripping over boulders or sliding around on gravel. Most of all, there’s no clambering. If you like hauling yourself up over large boulders, this is not the hike for you. There are short lengths of the trail that are steeper, but they don’t last long. Bearpen is bearish, not bullish, if you like market metaphors. Yesterday, the trail was wet and that made the going very muddy with the boots sinking inches into thick banks of mud in some parts. There were long, round puddles that reflected another gorgeous winter day wearing the mantle of spring. On the ascent there are views through the trees during winter and at the summit, there are many breathtaking views. There’s also a large, rusting contraption that looks like an old ski-lift pulley converted from a car or truck, around which small trees have grown.

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Catskills Conversations: Lizzie Douglas

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Lizzie Douglas is the proprietor of Stick in the Mud, a recently-opened cafe and store selling local goods and produce, in the ground floor storefront of the Bussy Building in Margaretville.

JNU: What brought you to the Catskills?

LD: The connection I have with the Catskills was that my daughter originally had a second home here.

Where did you raise your daughter?

My daughter lives in Brooklyn.

Did you live in NYC for a long time?

No, I have never lived in NYC. Before I came here I was living in Colorado, in the Four Corners area. Before that, I was travelling all over as a tour director and before that I was living in London.

What took you to Colorado?

As a tour director I would take my groups on authentic stagecoach rides and we would do Hollywood, Vegas, Grand Canyon Wild West Style. We would do dinner and dancing afterwards. I met a stagecoach driver.

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Hillsound Trail Gear

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

It certainly wasn’t the plan to complete the Catskills Winter 35 (hiking every peak over 3500ft between the dates of December 21st and March 21st). In fact, the plan was to do the four required winter peaks of the regular Catskills 35 and resume in the spring, but like many carefully laid plans, this one failed. Being a city girl, before moving to the Catskills, all my walking was of the pavement persuasion and, truth be told, I only started hiking to wear out my puppy. I am not prepared for spring at all (and never was), but thanks to my friends at Hillsound, I am perfectly winterized with crampons, ultra crampons and gaiters, which are nifty contraptions, like hiker’s leg warmers that don’t wrinkle. Gaitors have stirrups that prevent the gaiter from rising up so that snow does not go up the trouser leg.

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The Catskill 35 (W): Hunter Mountain

© MAU

© MAU

I’ve written about my summer ascent to Hunter Mountain here and it was a memorable hike. Last weekend, it was even more memorable owing to the presence of a team of Asian hikers at the summit, huddled in the cabin porch, chatting effusively in their native tongue, crouched around a hissing hibachi grill. This is the second time I’ve seen such a spectacle and it couldn’t be any more delightful, but I’m not entirely certain its legal above 3500ft.

In the Catskills hiking world, there’s such a thing as “The Grid”: the ascent of every one of the peaks in the Catskills 35 over 3500ft accomplished in every month of the year. If you hike a couple of peaks a day, it’s possible to get The Grid done in a year by hiking the all 35 Catskills peaks every month for a year but, at a whopping 420 hikes, for most hikers who have a job, it’s something to accomplish over a lifetime. In addition to this, there’s the Winter 35 where the hiker must ascend every peak between the December 21st and March 21st. The Upstate Dispatch Grid is filling in at a snail’s pace, but the Winter 35 may be completed by the end of the year.

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