Westkill is not one of the peaks you are required to ascend in winter, but it is one of the most beautiful during this time. Diamond Notch Falls’ rumbling cascade is a gorgeous place to sit and meditate in the summer. Go here to read our account of Westkill during the summer. It’s a difficult hike, with two miles that are a challenging, thigh-busting uphill battle, but the views from the summit make it all worthwhile. Yesterday’s light was utterly extraordinary. Plus, the drive on Spruceton Road, on which you’ll find a motel, farms and a church with a small graveyard, is just as beautiful as the hike up the mountain itself. At about 3pm, the sun came out, which pleased the horse (pictured bottom) no end.
A few days ago, I wrote about this weekend’s festivities at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge called The Hoot. It’s the 4th Annual Winter Hoot this weekend from January 29 to January 31, 2016. The Hoot “welcomes the community, one and all, for a spirit-raising good time in mid-winter” being three festive days of music, dancing, food, film, art and nature activities for all ages. Here’s tonight’s schedule of events:
It’s about time for the 4th Annual Winter Hoot at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge this weekend from January 29 to January 31, 2016. The Hoot “welcomes the community, one and all, for a spirit-raising good time in mid-winter” being three festive days of music, dancing, food, film, art and nature activities for all ages,
The Winter Hoot is always a “pay what you can” event. The suggested donation is $30 to $60 per adult for the weekend. The Winter Hoot is an indoor event and space is limited. Advance tickets offer guaranteed admission and may be purchased online or at the Woodstock Music Shop.
A return to the stunning Slide Mountain for the second time this year, ascending into the seductive clutches of a dense forest of snow-laden conifers, with a copy of John Burroughs’ In The Catskills. A commemorative plaque to Burroughs is affixed to a large rock at the summit under which the writer frequently camped. Slide is so named because of a landslide that occurred in the early nineteenth century on its north face where the scar is still apparent after having been refreshed by another landslide in 1992 and the entire area was thoroughly traversed by the writer.
Winter hiking in the Catskills is mostly magical, tranquil beauty but uncomfortable if you’re ill prepared and occasionally terrifying. I’ve been conveying my winter hiking experiences here under the Outdoors section on Upstate Dispatch. Or, rather, I’ve been writing about what could possibly go wrong should you decide to attempt a Catskills high peak when it’s 10˚F and weather conditions are a fickle master. True to my British nature, I seem to have created A Pessimist’s Guide to Winter Hiking or a Pessimist’s Guide to Conquering Winter Summits. Last year, I decided to attempt to hike all 35 Catskills peaks over 3500ft in order to join the Catskills 3500 Club and there are four extra peaks required in the winter. What I discovered after having hiked those four is that you can see a lot more of the landscape when it has lost most of its foliage. You literally get the lay of the land. So I’ve been continuing down the list instead of doing the sensible thing and waiting for the spring thaw. However, winter hiking is not for the uncertain.
“[Paul] Revere was a renowned silversmith and a courier for the Massachusetts Assembly carrying messages to the Continental Congress, a man in his forties riding 12 miles of well-traveled country roads near Boston. Sybil was 16 years old, and her path led 40 miles through dense woods that harbored ‘cowboys’ and ‘skinners’. The Cowboys were pro-British marauders who roamed in and around Westchester County plundering farmhouses and stealing cattle they later sold to the British…”
Local grass-fed beef is now available at the Hubbell Family Farm on 46124 Route 30 near Halcottsville, New York. Call in at their machine rental business, Catskill Rentals, where you can also pick up eggs and maple syrup. Grass-fed offerings are porterhouse, sirloin, short ribs, bones, burgers, brisket, and more, that was butchered two weeks ago and available frozen. You can also put your name down for heritage pork coming up in a few weeks. Talk to Andrew, John or Cheryl. Eat locally raised meat and support your community.
There’s a part of the final metres of the ascent to Blackhead Mountain that is a vertical climb and one from which you should not look back down if you suffer the slightest vertigo or you will invite a case of the wobblies. It’s even worse now that it’s entombed in ice. My husband and dog hopped up it like mountain goats and I was left in the metaphorical dust, grappling with uncertainty, stabbing my spikes into the ice and, finally, hoisting myself up over the rocks with the roots of an aging birch tree. As I finally managed to haul myself over the top, I wondered if there was such a thing as hand crampons attached to a set of gloves because they would have made the job much easier.
Purple Mountain Press in Fleischmanns, New York publishes hugely popular books of local New York State literature and history including John Burroughs’ book of essays In The Catskills. The office is a smaller structure adjacent to the building that houses the press on Main Street in Fleischmanns. I sat down with publisher Wray Rominger, who is now semi-retired, about the storied publishing house’s achievements and the life of a printer.
JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?
WR: Since 1973.
What brought you here?
We lived in a school bus and came to Woodstock.
Where did you live in a school bus?
We came from Austin Texas, where I was a graduate student from Austin University. We were on the road for two months and I knew a fella in Woodstock that offered us a cabin. He didn’t tell me that the former tenant had had a fire and that there was a hole in the roof. So we had to live in the school bus for another four months until the roof was repaired.
Hillsound sent me two pairs of crampons – or “spikes” – to try out and my life hasn’t been so thoroughly changed for the better since I got my juicer. They must have taken pity on me because they read that I’m hiking the Catskills 35 in a pair of fifteen-year-old snowboarding boots that I bought in an emergency, during a torrential downpour on 14th Street in New York City, when I was on my way to meet a client.
Oh, the joy of crampons. It’s nice to muster a decent pace with a good, long stride on the Catskills trails and I’m talking about the sort of stride that confirms the saying “to stretch the legs”, which British people call going for a walk. The only way you can do that in is in the winter on long stretches of iced mud, wearing crampons or “spikes”. Most Catskills trails are rocky, and I understand when I hear about hikers who go barefoot in good weather, because it’s easy to lose your footing if it’s wet or mossy. In the autumn, when the trail is covered with leaves, it’s too easy to slip between rocks and turn an ankle, especially when you’re on your descent and tired. Crampons are inadvisable other than when it’s icy or snowing because otherwise you’ll punch up the trail. They and snowshoes both make winter hiking rather special. Hillsound make a fabulous set for a reasonable price and I wore a pair yesterday for the very first time. Hillsound had sent us two pairs to try out for free and I love them.
Funny story, actually. I went to Union college in Schenectady New York and became fast friends with a fella who grew up and lived in Margaretville. He used to get the Catskill Mountain News and in those days, much of it was a local and personal column where local correspondents would call people in the community and find out just the social notes. So we sophisticated suburban kids, as I was, we would all be chuckling and having fun, “oh look, Mabel Smith had chicken dinner with so and so”, etc. So he’s telling me a story one day. We’re sophomores in college and I knew that his father was a physician, a doctor. He was telling me about an automobile accident. He said his father is best friends with a truck driver and I said, “what? Stop. What? Your father’s a doctor and his best friend is a truck driver? I’ve got to see this place”.
That was really the beginning of my fascination with the Catskills and the Margaretville area. I grew up in the suburbs of Westchester County in post-World War II prosperity years – the Eisenhower years – really before the world kind of changed in the 1960s. I grew up in the high suburbs in New Rochelle, New York. My father died when I was seven years old. My brothers were ten and eleven and my mother was a widow who had paid off the house. So we grew up in this prosperous, upscale kind of thing. She went back to work as a secretary in a school district, making $7,000 a year, raising three kids on her own, in a world where everything is kind of rarified. It was a big suburban Tudor house. It kind of gives you an outsider’s observational point of view because you’re in the middle of a whole way of life, but you don’t feel like you’re really part of it. For one thing – and this wouldn’t be true for younger people today – but I was the only kid in the class who didn’t have a father. There was no divorce. So I had that outsider perspective.