Cold weather cures for cabin fever

Kids that play outside in the winter? Does that still happen? It does if you take your munchkins to the Hanford Mills Museum Ice Festival.

I watched as dozens of tiny rosy cheeks found fun in pulling heavy blocks of ice out of a cold pond and dragging them 200 feet to an ice closet. Not one complaint, whine or grumble. And even when the older kids caught on that it was actually work-in-disguise they still kept to the task. That’s the secret to a successful history museum.

But the Hanford Mills Museum Ice Festival in East Meredith, NY had something for everyone: blacksmith demonstrations, horse-drawn wagon rides, historic cooking shows and, of course, ice sculpting demonstrations. The queue for a small sample of one of 25 hot soup varieties stretched all the way back to the post office building.

For more information, visit:

Check out my short 360-degree video of a SUNY student from the Delhi Hospitality Program working her magic.

Canisters are the rock stars of my world

I never met a canister I didn’t like.  They are the gold at the end of my rainbow.  The apple of my eye.   The dark chocolate to my raisonettes.  The hot sauce to my burrito.    Yup, I like ’em lots!

What a bittersweet moment for me last month.  After ten years of climbing High Peaks, I finished my last on December 28.  The victory lap culminated on Fir Mountain in a raging blizzard with cold hands and tired legs.  My friend Rick Shortt lead the hike, post-holing the whole way.

If you’d like to know what post-holing is, here now is my summary of the good, bad and uglier moments it took to achieve my 3500 goal:  Peak-bagging inside the Blue Line.

A plug for the Catskill 3500 Club, an organization with the world’s best stewards of preservation, conservation, leadership and resources. Their hikes are pretty amazing too.

The Manchester Gateway trail in Western New York

Manchester Gateway Trail

Manchester Trail

Manchester NY RailTrail

Manchester Rail Trail nY

Manchester, NY is a very small town. Really tiny. Only a population of 1500 or less. But somehow the tax base still found a way to invest in a 1.5 mile long bike/foot path along a tributary called the Canandaigua Outlet.

The water was flowing strong enough for whitewater rafting the day I visited. This is, after all, the Seneca Watershed, the largest in the state.

I found the Manchester Gateway Trail using a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website called TrailLink.

Six years in the making, the trail was completed in 2012 but discovery tell a much older story. The village boomed over a century ago when the Lehigh Valley Railroad transported primarily coal from Athens, Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario.

Lehigh Valley was also well-known for its passenger service with a premier passenger train known as the Black Diamond Express. It ran between NYC and Buffalo and because of its appeal to newlyweds on their way to Niagara Falls, the train was nicknamed the “Honeymoon Express.”

Today, that thriving railroad monopoly is a stone dust walking trail. A dozen history-rich interpretive signs, year-round exercise stations and modern benches invite visitors to reflect on the tranquility of the place. Bird feeders mounted to Sugar Maples attract feathered friends like flitting warblers.

It’s such a pity that the hillside that runs adjacent to the trail is littered with debris like old tires and bags of garbage – presumably from private land owners. In the summer the eye soar is obscured by leaves but in the winter it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Wear it proudly; the Pink Pussyhat

Feeling left out?  Don't worry, the Pink Pussy Hat looks just as sexy on liberal-minded men. Right, George?

Feeling left out? Don’t worry, the Pink Pussy Hat looks just as sexy on liberal-minded men. Right, George?

The Pussy Hat. The ultimate feline symbol of feminine protest.

A friend of a friend in NYC knitted me this proud pink fashion statement for Saturday’s sister march in Albany. It came in the mail yesterday. It took her a skein of yarn, costing about $3 and nearly six hours of knitting time. She’s made about 20 in total.

“If I just make the right sign or knit enough hats, this whole horror story will go away,” said Marina Sgroi.

The hats symbolize a response to Donald Trump’s foul comments about grabbing women by their… you know what.

Marina is one of thousands of advocates sewing, knitting and crocheting their hearts out this week for the Women’s March on Washington. The PussyHat Project is actually the brainchild of two imaginative millennials in L.A. whose hats have mushroomed into a powerful movement since the election.

Over 200,000 marchers are forecasted for D.C. – a number that far exceeds the 1972 inauguration anti-war protest against Richard Nixon. And, while a sea of pink handicrafts may sound silly or absurd to some, for Marina it helped satisfy “a compulsion to DO SOMETHING.”

There’s not much time left. Knit yourself this powerful fashion statement using one of the patterns found on Project website.

In the words of Elvis Costello, “And you can all die laughing because I’ll wear it proudly, I’ll wear proudly, I’ll wear it proudly.”

Marina knitted 20 hats for her friends who will be attending the NYC march with her this Saturday.

Marina knitted 20 hats for her friends who will be attending the NYC march with her this Saturday.

Where I went in 2016


Happy New Year my travel readers! First and foremost, as always, I want to thank you for reading my blog entries and travel articles published at

As most of you know, travel is not my job but rather a passion so, by no means, do I profess to know as much about this wonderful industry as a professional. Still, you trust my words, photos, videos and judgement and for that I can’t thank you enough.

Here now is a little summary of assignments and press junkets that kept PilotGirl Productions busy in 2016. Should you need a DP shooter or editor (my traditional forté) for your next project, God knows I have nearly enough frequent flyer miles to get me to the moon and back.

Also, check out my newly redesigned PilotGirl Productions wordpress website – finally viewable on smart phones too. My 2017 resolution is to somehow keep my many social media pages at Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook updated far more often than I currently do. Comments and shares are always welcome.

Admiring the topography in our own backyard

Bennett Hill Preserve

Local author Alan Via has written about these hiker gems for the Spotlight News but they bare repeating. Especially now, with what feels like an inordinate amount of overpriced housing development spreading through the Capital Region, it’s vital to visit what’s left of free space. And being that no week is truly complete unless Mutti and her pup are along for a journey, we explore another Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy preserve today.

8 miles west of Albany, on Delaware Avenue, is Bennett Hill, a 3 mile loop with views of Meadow Brook Farms Dairy and the small town of Clarksville. Bearing our bright red microspikes we safely take to the ice and plow to the top of the 155 acre sweet spot.

Deer carcasses, rusted car parts, old railroad ties; I’ve come across some pretty strange things in the woods but a bath tub? A little further along, not far from the top, is one of friendliest of tree shapes. This old thick sentinel, perhaps a chestnut oak, invites us to catch our breath on outstretched arm branches.

Bennett Hill Preserve

At the 1120 foot summit is a flat plateau with a trail that runs along the perimeter. The aroma of pine needles wafts past. Without leaves to obscure the openings, the loop offers striking views of the iconic Helderberg Escarpment to the north and west, and Albany to the east.

Bennett Hill Preserve

Bennett Hill Preserve

Bennett Hill Preserve