Posted on November 27, 2015
A communal dinner with family and friends in western New York, now that’s how I like to spend turkey day. Angus plucked the bird, Meg whipped up the squash, Tina brought the Finger Lakes wine and Chrissy cooked all the trimmings.
Thanks to a generation of farmers in the rural countryside of Wayne County our plates were paired with fresh, organic, grass-fed, homegrown staples. Any bon vivant would have been jealous. A special thank you to the Bond pedigree for relieving me of my stove and sink duties!
Posted on November 24, 2015
Last Tuesday was National “Take A Hike Day” but who hikes on weekdays? asks my friend Elizabeth. Well, like the website says, you can either go for an exhilarating walk, or tell somebody to get lost – or both if you don’t mind losing your job.
Wisely, we waited until Sunday to climb a 9-mile roundtrip to the summits of Peekamoose and Table in the Catskill mountains. Elizabeth earned her 3500 patch last month and promptly sewed it to her backpack, but, due to hunting season, it was regrettably hidden under a bright multi-colored pink cape.
At the trailhead on Ulster County Route 42, we parked alongside four off-road Hemi trucks souped up with rock rails and gun racks. Many state lands, including wildlife management areas, preserves and parks are open for hunting and trapping this time of year. Peekamoose is part of the Sundown Wild Forest and Slide Mountain Wilderness area that allow turkey hunting in the spring and deer hunting in autumn.
I dug out my blaze-orange reflective vest for safe measure. I’m even reluctant to drop my drawers in the woods should my backside might be mistaken for a white-tailed deer!
Leaving the parking lot, we ascended steeply up an old carriage road to the register box. Only two others had signed into the registry. Remember – your John Hancock is important! Rangers need to know how many hikers enjoy these trails to secure funding for maintenance.
On our way here, we passed six stunning but unnamed waterfalls on either side of the narrow route 42. With Rondout Creek so close, I was hopeful of finding a few more cascades during the climb but the sound of splashing dissipated the higher we got.
After the hike, I learned that the trail off the other access point from Dennings Road passes a waterfall.
As soon as the carriage road turned into a foot path, a lone hunter appeared returning to his vehicle.
“Any sign of deer?” I asked him. “Nope, not a one,” he lamented. I smiled for the sake of the deer.
I’ve seen long-haired rabbits, turkeys and other smaller mammals but not once have I ever spotted a a deer during a Catskill climb.
But, if there’s ever a time to spot wildlife, fall is when you will.
When flora and fauna go all naked and skeletal you can see for miles through tree branches. We enjoy extended glimpses of the secluded valleys and mountain profiles during our hike.
The ledge trail alternates between mossy rock scrambles, a few level stretches, one tight crevice and a unique boulder named “Reconnoiter Rock” precariously balancing on a rock outcropping. I was duped into thinking that Reconnoiter Rock might be the summit but we still hadn’t passed the 3500 sign.
A few minutes later we inhale hints of a perennial perfume that indicates you’re close – the fragrant wafts of spruce and pine. And, alas, south and east bound views from a cleared space at the 3.4 mile mark. Beautiful!
The winds were blowing a bit on the outcropping so we snack on soup and sandwiches standing among scrubby hardwoods around a small fire pit. It’s curious to see lingering coals since only during emergencies are camp fires permitted above 3500 feet.
The last 1 mile saddle to Table Mountain was rather uneventful. At the marked cairn there was little to see but the so we turned around and headed back. Little did we know that only a few feet further was another viewpoint purposely cleared for photos of Slide and others to the north.
This is just a hunch but hunting for views in the Catskills might be just as vexing as hunting wildlife.
Posted on November 16, 2015
Before the pixie dust starts falling, I dragged my reluctant sweetheart to the Palace theater this weekend. He’s not a skier but, frankly, he owed me a favor.
Warren Miller’s latest snow sports film, Chasing Shadows played to a raucous party of off-piste enthusiasts.
I was quick to jab him in the tummy when I saw sections filmed in the French Alps and Wasatch Mountains of Utah.
“I’ve skied there, I’ve skied there!” I said, reminiscing fondly for another press invite.
Which leads me to this blog entry. If you want to visit one of the most iconic places in the world this winter, pack your bags for the Chamonix Valley in south-eastern France.
Straddling the border with Switzerland and Italy, ‘Cham (for short) is a collection of little villages huddled near the base of Mont Blanc.
In 2008, I overnighted at a luxury dwelling called Chalet Valhalla. Among a collection of eight journalists, not one of us argued over who would get what bedroom. The entire floorplan was (and remains) beautiful and accessible.
Browse the Collineige website for other 7-day rental options that cater to smaller parties like couples and singles. Currently, there are several discounted in time for Christmas.
Let the owner Colleen Oilanti know that I sent you.
Posted on November 13, 2015
Just when I thought I discovered every cool waterfall within a 30-mile radius of my house I stumble upon this best kept secret. Based on my research, I think it used to be on private property and only recently opened to the public.
The whopping 150-foot plunge resides in Columbia County, almost smack dap in the middle of the town of Philmont, NY. By all measures, it’s the highest in the county.
The sign reads High Falls Conservation Area (not to be confused with the one in Ulster County) and is no more than ten minutes off the Taconic State Parkway. Add another 10 minutes to hike to the waterfalls from the parking lot.
Wanting to get a closer view after seeing it from above (green trail), I did a little rock hopping at the base. That proved to be a rather sketchy decision. (Blame it on the siren song of that thunderous roar getting louder as I got closer.)
For the record, when the blue trail ends DO NOT follow the white paint marks on the rocks. Stay to the right side of the creek and be careful.
Once there, the natural pool looked mighty refreshing even on a brisk day in early November. I have to wonder if swimming is allowed in the summer though given the lack of trail, I highly doubt it.
For more information, visit their website: http://clctrust.org/public-conservation-areas/high-falls/
Posted on November 6, 2015
Adirondack 46er, Catskill 35er and Northeast 111 completer, Alan Via ‘wowed’ a full house of mountain enthusiasts at the Bethlehem Library Tuesday evening with his slide show presentation titled “The Mountains Are Beautiful – Everywhere.” I was quick to get a copy of “The Catskill 67 – A Hiker’s Guide to the Catskill 100 Highest Peaks under 3500′” (published in 2012) autographed by the Slingerlands native.
The outdoorsman paired his stories and observations with the reflective photography of Chris Lang while his loyal Black Lab Toby lay patiently under the screen. Lang is equally talented at climbing the backcountry having summited the highest peak in North America; Denali, two trips up Mt. Rainier in the Washington Cascades and Mt. Hood in Oregon. His indomitable spirit shines through on his Olympus prints of the Mt Marcy, Giant, Big Slide, Whiteface, Cascade and dozens more.
Also inspired by the surreal images of upstate is the recent work of world-renown photographer, Ryan McGinley. I was quick to dog ear the latest NY Times travel section that mentions his Winter exhibit collection on display in NYC.
The prodigy photographer (also accompanied by his dog) shoots his naked subjects against a motley of lakes, waterfalls, fields and streams in the snowy wilderness of the Hudson Valley, and further north, for his most recent photo book Way Far.
While his genre may only appeal to a small subculture of admirers in the Capital Region, there’s no denying his use of light, color and work ethic. Composition is one thing but award-winning images require getting up at the crack of dawn for an organic intensity that only the sun provides.
Google search both photographers, famous and not-so, if you’re interested in the craft.
Posted on November 1, 2015
Ahhh, stretching and sipping a pint – two disparate routines that have, surprisingly, similar health advantages or so suggests medical journals. Personally, I think it’s the perfect excuse to get men to do yoga. How else would you get one to do a downward dog on a pink mat, if not for the stainless steel deities next to him?
Despite what you think, yoga and making great beer have a lot in common, case in point – the Webers. Co-founder, Bert Weber of Common Roots Brewing Company (CRBC for short) shares his secrets for balancing work and play with equal doses of science and energy. His son Christian is the other co-founder, as well as head brewer and Bert’s wife Robin, is the general manager and yoga instructor.
After a day of Halloween hiking in the ‘daks, we stop for a pint of our favorite flavor, Coffee Cup, the smoothest stout you’ll ever taste! We’re a bit too early for the monthly Yoga-at-the-Brewery series that helps to raise donations for a good cause, Amanada’s House, so we get the tour instead.
“Unlike some microbreweries, we happily refill growlers regardless if the label is from a competitor,” says Bert.
Not all breweries share Bert’s zen-like philosophy, not only his open-door growler policy but his entire candid nature. We spend a full half hour with him as he talked about warehouse operations, successes and future goals.
CRBC further nurtures relationships with dozens of local businesses including buying beans from Spektor Coffee Roasters, thermal energy production from Apex Solar, fermenters from Fronhofer Design company (based in Salem, NY), and serving up hearty pizzas (delivered to their taproom every Wednesday) from 9 Miles East Farm in Schuylerville, NY. Other collaborations (the entrepreneurial spirit always takes a village) include buying local honey for their Belgian Honey Ale from two different apiaries.
Recycling is also important to the Webers so instead of taking the malted grain mash (organic byproduct of brewing) to the dump they feed happy cattle at a local dairy farm.
“I’m told that the cows will eat nothing else when the spent grain is served,” says Bert.