Nestled in the foothills of the Catskills’ Hunter-West Kill Mountain Wilderness, almost at the end of a dead-end road leading to some the region’s most popular trails, is West Kill Brewing, with its small tap room, that’s been open for about a year. The standout beer is the fruitiest IPA for miles around, Moon Farmer IPA, but most of the beers here have some sort of unique berry, fruit, herb, pine or citrus combination in them and some of them are brewed with honey from West Kill Brewing’s hives. There’s even a basil IPA and a Belgian made with spruce tips. The beers here are not your regular run-of-the-mill offerings, they are mindfully made. Much thought has clearly gone into the recipes that incorporate a variety of the local flora. Maybe it was the strenuous hike to Rusk Mountain that influenced my tastebuds, but I was so surprised when I took a first gulp of Moon Farmer that I went straight to the counter to order a four-pack to take out. I don’t even like IPA.Continue reading
Yesterday’s attempt to climb Rusk Mountain – our second – was a success, probably because the conditions were ideal. The first few miles of the ascent was a soft, bouncy carpet of fallen leaves, as most of the snow had melted, but we were followed by passing clouds that sprinkled dry, granular snow. As we climbed, we were still able to discern the trail of previous hikers – a dark trail of wet, disturbed leaves that snaked up the mountain. The summit of Rusk is a tangle of aging, gnarled spruces, some darkened by lightning, presiding over its younger generation of fern-like trees. The sign-in canister, painted a vivid, hunting orange, was attached to what looked like a lone cherry tree amidst this mess of pines that looks like a spiky hairdo.
Rusk is a popular hike because it’s short, but very steep – an elevation gain of 1600 ft – so if you’re fit enough you can be up and down in a few hours, so it’s often hiked with its sister mountains, East Rusk, Hunter and Southwest Hunter. When you get to the summit, it’s possible to see down the equally steep north side of the mountain and Jewett below.Continue reading
Overcast with snow on the peaks and a brief flash of lunchtime sun through the shimmering clouds. A high of 31F.
Moody clouds with a bitter chill in the air and a high of 31F.
After a stormy night with house-battering rain, an overcast morning. Gusty and dull with a high of 32F. More evening snow.
A warmer 42F at 9am rising to a high of 49F with the habitual pall of thick foggy cloud, through which the sun strains to shine. The fiery ball at the center of our solar system barely registers over the stubbornly, chronically overcast Catskills. Opening Saturday at Bearpen Mountain.
If you’re having a Catskills Christmas this year, there are a few places in the Catskills where you can source a freshly-grown fir for your house and one of those places is family-owned Robson’s Tree Farm in Bovina Center, NY. They maintain a couple of acres of thick, gorgeous trees – that won’t quickly lose their needles – that have been specially grown for Christmas: a sustainable option for the eco-conscious.
Very friendly, helpful and engaging staff give you a saw and send you into lines of trees to pick your own fir in the thick snow. Only pick the trees with the red price tag on. All the other trees without tags have not finished growing. The tree below was $35 but prices range from $25 to $75 for trees of different sizes. Most trees are 6′ to 8′ and are $30 to $55. Freshly-made wreathes were also available for $23. There is a fire to warm you up after you’ve finished sawing and hauling. Continue reading
This is a popular mulled wine recipe for port or sherry lovers that has been featured on this website in previous years. Port and lemon is a common combination. When it’s warm, sweetened with cherry juice and spiced it makes a harsh winter worth enduring. Port has a storied history; a staple in British households over Christmas Eve. Santa always got a glass of sherry with his Christmas pudding. And of course, the obsession with marinated cherries continues.
Mulled Spiced Citrus Port
750ml Tawny Port
100ml cherry juice
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.
Gloomy and dark, with a bitter chill. Enigmatic fog on the peaks with the odd flurry, a shimmering sky and a high of 36F.
It’s going to be a Catskills Christmas this year, so there’ll be hot toddies, Irish coffee and spiced, citrus port.
Mulled wine is a seasonal, holiday indulgence, so it may as well be rich and sweet with some luxury ingredients. There were three lonely pomegranates remaining in the fruit isle at the grocery store, so one of them is now simmering gently with maraschino cherries, cherry juice, orange, lemon, cinnamon and whole cloves. As soon as the pomegranates were cut open, they exuded a thick, fragrant juice that was added to the saucepan. The cherries work well because they’ve been soaked in sugar, so there’s not really a need for a great deal of sugar in this recipe. If you inadvertently add too much lemon, use more of the maraschino cherry juice to dilute it. If your wine gets super-fruity, add more cinnamon. It might even take continual adjustment, but that’s half the fun and, of course, as the night goes on, your mulled wine will transform, perhaps being a completely different taste and smell by the end of the evening if it lasts that long… Continue reading
Like Giant Ledge, Huckleberry Point is a reliable hike that’s a comparatively shorter distance than other Catskills hikes, but offers equally stunning views and a beautiful summit. You can also find people doing this hike in sandals and a tiny handbag on a Friday afternoon, so it’s that kind of go-to hike – the kind people decide to do regularly and on a whim. Unlike Giant Ledge, there’s no climbing involved, this trail is easy to moderate with one or two rock piles to climb over, but nothing anywhere near to the rock climbing you’ll endure on Giant Ledge. The Huckleberry Point trail is also different in that you’re climbing up and over the summit of a mountain and down the other side to the lookout, so you’ll be getting some aerobic exercise in both directions instead of only getting it on the ascent. Continue reading
Already 72F mid-morning with the sun spilling through gaps in the clouds and gilding the forest. Another overcast afternoon with a high of 79F and a slow breeze. Feels like a late summer.
A balmy high of 78F, but overcast still with thick cloud like a plumped up duvet that rolled back to reveal some sun (sun!) for a brief period in the early afternoon.
88F, humid and breezeless, with brilliant sunshine. A sultry day.
An overcast morning at 60F with a chilly breeze and hazy horizon, rising to a 65F high with brief interludes of afternoon sun and intermittent light rain showers.
A warm sunny morning with a gentle breeze and a high of 83F. Feels hotter. Hop bines reach towards the sky.
Humid and soggy with yesterday’s all-day rain. Another foggy morning. A high of 77F with clouds becoming sparse by afternoon.
A high of 65F, bright with hazy cloud and warm in the sun. The forest fills in with chartreuse.
The last remnants of snow linger in the shadows on the lower peaks, but the honey bees are out and busy. Bright sunshine, a high of 70F with a cooling breeze. The warmest day of spring so far.
A high of 45F with a chill in the air and bright despite being overcast with a rippled blanket of grey.
Local eggs from Two Stones Farm in Halcott Center including one from a copper marans. The yolks were large, fat and bright. Local eggs are really meaty, rich and filling, the perfect substitute for meat if you’re trying to reduce or eliminate your intake.
I recently got back in touch with an old guest on my radio show, writer Linda Leaming, an American who moved to Bhutan twenty years ago. Linda and I are beginning a podcast series of interviews that we will conduct between here in the Catskills and her home, Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, because we have found that there are many similarities between our lives. We are both living in stunningly gorgeous, mountainous, rural regions in countries in which we were not born, with different cultures, and in doing so, we’ve learned so much about ourselves, the world and have much to share about this experience. Continue reading
Sun! A high of 37F with brilliant sunshine through ribbons of passing cloud. The nor’easter has moved on.
A nor-easter all week: another whiteout. A high of 31F and relentless snow since Monday 12th. Shovel, shovel, shovel. Snow banks getting higher and higher. Icicles get longer and longer.
A high of 32F with fluffy snow continuing to accumulate, chest high in some areas. Snowshoes sink a foot into the drifts. Feet of snow turn a hemlock forest into a magical glade.
There’s so much content in Upstate Dispatch, literally thousands of posts and hundreds of photographs over three years of writing. The temptation for writers is to keep chugging along at a pace, churning out better work, but sometimes it’s a good idea to pause and reflect on the past, take a break, regroup, do some reading. Here are some links to past work in the Catskills Conversations series that we have just resurrected with a podcast featuring Mike Cioffi of the Phoenicia Diner.
Other past, popular Catskills Conversations:
Jeanette Bronée, wellness coach and author of Path for Life and Eat to Feel Full has been on my radio show a couple of times talking about mindfulness and new year’s resolutions.
Laura Silverman of Glutton for Life just last year started The Outside Institute.
A really lovely interview with Jeff Vincent, of Catskill Mountain Wild, a licensed guide company based in the Catskills.
Talented chef, Rob Handel, former chef of Heather Ridge Farm and now based at Fin Restaurant talks about his life in food.
Bill Birns, local write and historian.
Farmers Kristi and Steve Burnett based in Bovina.
A high of 40F with continual flurries of snow and overcast with a shimmering cloud.
It’s been an interesting week, in terms of weather. We’ve had high temperatures that have dried laundry in hours, rain, freezing low temperatures, snow and then more soaking rain. It’s still a bit squidgy out there today as the snow melts. Upstate Dispatch has been transformed into an editing suite most of the week, with the highly addictive ProTools, preparing a podcast series.
Here are some of the week’s links and happenings, locally and internationally.
Fly fishing clinic at Westkill Brewery Sunday February 25th. Beer and fishing? The two go together like cheese and biscuits.
Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint 101 Class at Hudson Valley Vintage in Rhinebeck, NY. Milk Paint has been around for over a thousand years and contains only five 100% natural ingredients. Leave the class with a painted project.
Yoga in the Catskills: near Phoenicia, NY.
Progress made in sustainable agriculture in Holland from National Geographic. “How The Netherlands Feeds The World”. And hydroponic greens grown by AeroFarms in Newark.
The Greenhorns and their farmer’s almanac.
“A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well.” Frederick Douglas
A high of 41F and overcast with late afternoon rain giving the mountains a thorough soaking.
15F at 9am with a snow flurry glittering in the sun. 21F by mid-afternoon and partially cloudy with a bitter wind.
Bright sun poking through hazy cloud with a high of 20F and a continual flurry of glittering snow. Large puddles of mud with frozen crusts crack underfoot and trees creaking in the cold.
A high of 84F with clear skies of hazy blue. Sunday scorcher.
Most of the trail to Slide, almost to the top from the Slide Parking Area, is like rubble, as if an ancient giant smashed the top with Thor’s hammer and a plethora of rocks tumbled down the side and piled up in the dirt below. You might appreciate the step aerobics-type exercise on the way up, but the descent can be precarious. Hiking poles are a great help on this type of trail. The hiker needs to be as nimble as a mountain goat in order to make good time, or take some extra time to make frequent stops on the way down to sit and ruminate amidst the ancient geography. The Catskills were once – millions of years ago – on the seabed in the Bahamas. You can find marine fossils, pebbles and small pieces of harder stone embedded in the rock. This is a good hike for dogs, because there are plenty of small, running streams to provide refreshment. There are some stone steps built into the rubble at various points to ease passage.
Slide is easier to navigate on foot in the winter when it’s covered in a thick layer of ice or snow and you can glide over the top in spikes or snowshoes, but the summer reveals its fascinating character. This is no ordinary hike and Slide Mountain Wilderness was a favorite of local legend, essayist and naturalist John Burroughs, a protégé of Walt Whitman. There is a plaque dedicated to Burroughs at the summit, on a rock under which the author frequently slept. He wrote: “Here the works of man dwindle, in the heart of the southern Catskills”. Be careful not to miss the plaque if you’re finishing your hike at the summit of Slide Mountain. Continue reading
The Outsider’s Kitchen & Cafe opened last week on Route 30 between Margaretville and Halcottsville at the old station by the railroad tracks opposite the golf course. Chocoholics can go right to the funny cake based on a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe: a delicious blend of crunchy cake topping, with a rich, sticky, gooey filling, all in a pie crust. The more health conscious can get house made orange, coconut, almond granola, with yoghurt parfait, or you can buy it packed dry to go. It’s granola with a citrus zing that’s complemented by the earthy coconut. There are also scones and muffins available too. For lunch: large, thick, square portions of breakfast pizza look like they can cure all sizes of hangover; thick sandwiches on ciabatta, salads and soups are offered along with the usual beverages like coffee and tea. There’s ample parking and a nice view of the golf course. A very welcome addition to the Saturday errands route: take the garbage to the transfer station and stock up on produce at the Pakatakan Farmer’s Market.
60F by mid-afternoon, overcast, dreary and continual rain with occasional sunny breaks in the cloud.
After a day of intermittent snow flurries: an evening whiteout.
Torrential overnight rains continued into morning and throughout the day with a high of 50F. Mist hanging over a drenched, humid landscape: large puddles, rushing rivers, streams, gullies. New green shoots point upwards like the beaks of little hungry chicks.
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.
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.