Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Catskill 35: Rusk Mountain, a first attempt

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s good to know when to give up and turn around and yesterday was one of those days. Rusk Mountain, a bushwhack that seemed easy on paper, was an almost vertical ascent the way we went, covered in a layer of thick snow, making it difficult to maintain traction even in snow shoes. After an hour of climbing, slipping, sliding and clinging to tree branches, the final straw was the formiddable rock ledge (pictured above) that greeted me about 20 minutes from the top. There were tracks up the side of this ledge from hikers that were ahead of us, but the snow was crumbly and there were no tree roots or rocks for support. Plus, I was cold, fatigued and we had started too late, so we were in a bit of a rush. Last time I ignored the conditions, I slid 30 feet down a mountain and slammed into a tree. I learned my lesson back then.

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Weekend Links: Another January Closes

© J.N. Urbanski

Leave it to the inestimable Park Rangers to impress us with their louche cool and a rogue Twitter account – and those fantastic outfits. Get all the other hilarious rogue Twitter accounts here at CNN from NASA and other regional Park Service employees.

Tonight, a Scottish Weekend begins at the historical Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz.

Catskill Park Coalition Information Session at the Catskill Center tomorrow, Saturday January 28th.

Next Friday, February 3rd, The Annual Winter Hoot at the Ashokan Center.

For writers, a Museum of Linguistics is arriving in Washinton DC called “Planet Word”.

Upstate Dispatch Retro Links

© J.N. Urbanski

A local cocktail, Vly Creek Vodka Lemonade with local maple syrup and vodka.

My description of the most breathtakingly beautiful climb on the Catskills 35, Balsam Mountain. My first peak on my mission to hike the Catskills 35, Panther Mountain. By the way, don’t steal signs! Hikers rely on them.

My thoughts on being introduced to camping.

A spring day out to plan: a swim in Big Pond, then a visit to buy some local trout.

 

The Catskill 35: Halcott Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

Seven of the final nine peaks left on my list to be climbed to qualify for full membership in the Catskill 3500 Club are all bushwhacks and Halcott Mountain, which I climbed last week is the second lowest bushwhack in the Catskill 3500, but somehow felt like the steepest.  From now until I finish my 39th climb, it’ll be mostly compass, map reading, being slapped in the eyeballs by saplings and tree branches, falling face first into slush, sliding backwards over ice into a tree, hauling oneself over giant ledges, and watching the summit move upwards as you climb towards it. (“That’s it! Wait…”) In fact, it’s all uphill from here.

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Daily Catskills: 01/24/17

34F by 2pm, overcast, gloomy, with mild overnight ice storm having left few inches of gravelly ice that were topped by six inches of afternoon snow on the peaks. Slushy, muddy valleys.

© J.N. Urbanski 2pm

A Village Idiom: This Writer’s Life

© J.N. Urbanski

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for reading Upstate Dispatch. This week, we were thrilled to receive some high praise, kind attention and a surprise donation: it’s enlivening to know that all the hard work is appreciated. All the analytics and visitor metrics in the world won’t tell us if you actually enjoyed reading it or not! UD has thousands of readers every month, from near and far, but hardly any comments. I also received some other feedback: you want to read more about me in particular, my life. My writing and consulting work takes me far and wide, introduces me to some incredibly interesting people and places. While I’m formulating a plan on how to deliver more of these stories on this website, here are some back links to some popular posts (at the bottom of the page). UD was started in September 2014, so there’s a lot of history here. Feel free to dig around and comment. I’ll be publishing back links from this site every couple of weeks.

This year, as a writer, I decided to get back into fiction and vowed to read more. I also vowed to attend at least one writer’s group, or start one, because my romance with the blank page can’t beat a night out with actual people. I will also be going down to the local library more: Skene Memorial Library in Fleischmanns to write my fiction. Country life can be isolating, especially if you work from home like so many local writers, farmers and producers. If you buy books, like I do, donate them to the local library when you’ve finished. It’s a great way to share some of your collection, while still having access to it.

Finally, I have been neglecting the high peaks, having ten more hikes to complete the Catskill 35. Tomorrow: North Dome and Sherrill – that’s if I haven’t signed up too late.

Popular Links from Upstate Dispatch:

Alfie, my black lab/shepherd rescued from the Kingston ASPCA, has his own fans and this post, entitled For The Love of Dog, about him was picked up by Mrs Sizzle in New York City. He was photographed by Shannon Greer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

My thoughts on work, now that I’m closer to the real work of country life and also my thoughts on food and the food system.

Our instagram feed and my own: jnurbanski.

My local: go drink some vodka, drink local. A recipe for a winter warmer: mulled, spiced port.

Last year, I became a trustee on the board of Woodchuck Lodge, John Burrough’s ancestral home. I’ll be writing a post on community service at a later date.

Thanks again for reading,

J.N. Urbanski

The Ice Storm Cameth

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s not often that you step out the door and go sliding off your front deck like a drunken iceskater, knees bent, crouched like a snowboarder with no board, arms conducting an invisible orchestra. Last night was one of those times. The dog leapt through the open door ahead of me and comically slid around but quickly regained his grip. I went back inside, found some paper bags and laid them out in front of me one after the other as I shuffled along in the dark with my flashlight to the woodpile, then I remembered: my crampons. Hillsound send me some crampons to try a few years ago and I dug them out and put them over my rubber boots, because it was raining after all. I mean, icy rain, but still rain. Last night’s events were cancelled and every time the plough truck went by I watched carefully in case the truck careened off the mountain. Wind thrashed hail at the sides of the house and frosted the car.

Houses and sheds this morning were laced with long icy fingers that are now melting. They slide off the roof and clatter on the floor as the morning warms up. Cars are stuck fast in slick driveways. Every tiny blade of grass, every leaf, branch and needle was bathed in an icy mantle like the landscape is now a frozen museum under glass, curated by Mother Nature: a natural wonder, a gift to the photographer. This is Catskills life in winter. As Annie Proulx wrote in The Shipping News, “by January it had always been this cold”. You need your winter tools, like the miraculous crampons: bags of salt or sand; extra bottles of anti-freeze; rubber mats; huge shovels like ploughs; thick, sturdy gloves; a huge wood pile; lip balm.

The temperature’s not too bad this morning: a balmy 34F at 9am. No driving wind, no creaking forest, but a calm arctic landscape, mountains shrouded in fog like ghosts in the rising sun.

© J.N. Urbanski

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Weekend Links: 01/14/17

© J.N. Urbanski

A Call For Entry at the Center for Photography in Woodstock: CPW’s WOODSTOCK AIR is a residency program for US-based artists and critics/scholars/curators of color, working in photography. Deadline is Monday January 16th.

A Writer’s Evening at the Stamford Library, 117 Main Street, Stamford, NY on Monday January 16th at 7pm. Sign up to present your latest work.

Governor Cuomo announced plans to develop a hiking trail across New York State by 2020. The plan include “filling in” gaps between already existing trails in NYS. This amazing trail, once laid, will be the longest in the nation and connect Lake Erie in Buffalo to the Capital Region and New York City to Canada (connecting with the Capital Region).

If you’re interested in hiking the Catskills 35, join the Catskills 3500 Club. Sign up for scheduled hikes. Next week Saturday January 21st, there is a schedule bushwhack (no marked or maintained trail) to North Dome and Sherrill Mountains. Peaks that have no trail are easiest to navigate in winter when there is no foliage blocking your view.

Buy or sell your produce through Lucky Dog Farm Hub.

The first of two workshops on Lambing and Kidding at Heather Ridge Farm, 989 Broome Center Road, Preston Hollow, NY on Saturday January 21st at 11am.

Young at Art at the Roxbury Arts Group: an art exhibit for children. Opening reception at 11am on Saturday January 21st.

The Phoenicia Library hosts Invasive Plants and How To Deal With Them next week Saturday January 21st at 10.30am – a must if your land is being taken over by invasive species.

A Beginning Farmers and Ranchers training program in Oneonta, NY beginning next month.

 

Arts Update: Ted Sheridan

© J.N. Urbanski

Ted Sheridan is more architect that artist, having designed the cozy studio attached to the house that he and Amy Masters share. He went into architecture because of his love of drawing which he has done since he was young: technical drawing and line drawing in pencil. “Even though computers have taken over the traditional drawing and drafting, I still hand draw a lot of my projects,” he says. As far as his artwork is concerned: “architecture is so controlled and precise, I was looking for ways to work in a medium that would work against that and be unpredictable, not be in control all the time.”

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Daily Catskills: 01/06/17

18F at 10am with a dusting of crunchy overnight snow and a very brief, early morning theatrical sky that looked like a rippling New England stormy sea when I went to the local farmer for a gallon of milk, and cleared up by the time I got home.

© J.N. Urbanski 9am

Farm Update: Burnett Farms

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If you thought farm work ceased over the winter, think again. Before Christmas, Kristi Burnett of Burnett Farms in Bovina Center was figuring out the water system for the pigs: they have a boar, two sows and a couple of piglets to “winterize”. At the beginning of December, the pond had frozen and when they ran the hose, it froze. They put a heater in one of their big cow troughs, so they can pull water out of it. December and January are months during which the Burnetts work out ideas for the forthcoming season. Farmers swap notes and share ideas at community dinners. “You definitely need a bit of rest time, but if you have animals you have to take care of them. The fence goes, water freezes, you carry buckets of grain and you’re slipping. It’s hard.”

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