Above: The view from Cross Mountain on a brand-new section of the Long Path Trail, which opens to the public on Saturday, June 7. Photo courtesy of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
For 21 years, the first Saturday in June has been reserved for appreciating the nation’s mountain trails and greenery. This Saturday, June 7, Catskill area parks will observe the 22nd annual National Trails Day by hosting outdoor celebrations — welcoming residents and visitors to participate in hikes, runs and restoration projects, as well as the opening of several brand-new trails.
Below: Volunteers install a sign on the new Palmer Hill Trail in Andes. Photo by Ann Roberti.
Above: Phoenicia’s Mama’s Boy Market serves homemade baked goods and a selection of snacks from local purveyors.
Residents of the Catskills are often people who thrive on privacy and peace, but it’s also important that the commons contain ample opportunities to get off of the farm and out of the woods to socialize. Happily, we’re blessed with a fine selection of coffee shops and casual cafés that showcase coffee curation and offer sweet and savory snacks.
Bread Alone Bakery (breadalone.com, multiple locations) has been doing the bakery-café thing for decades, and has two Catskills shops: the main headquarters on Route 28 in Boiceville, and a satellite café in Woodstock. Flour milled to spec, locally sourced fresh dairy and wood-fired ovens are some of the ingredients in its well-loved recipes. Read more
This summer, channel your inner Eagle Scout in the Catskills: Earn one of our outdoor badges by hiking a fire tower or paddling a reservoir. (That’s right, “earn”: Our Catskills badges can’t be bought.)
The 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide is proud to present our 2014 Catskills Badge Program, which features two limited-edition embroidered badges: the brand-new Catskill Reservoir Paddler Badge and the popular Catskill Fire Towers Badge. They’re perfect for sewing onto a sash, a backpack or your favorite pair of Carhartts.
The badge program is simple: Boat a New York City reservoir or hike a fire tower in the Catskills, send us proof of your adventure (see details below), and you get your very own real-deal badge. You can’t buy these beauties in a store; you’ll have to earn them the old-fashioned way. So get out there and show us what you can do. Read more
The 25-foot-long Giant Brook Trout, a creation of local artist Bud Wertheim, is a regular at Livingston Manor’s annual Trout Parade. Photo by Tyler Young; courtesy of Manor Ink (manorink.com).
The Catskills region is renowned as the cradle of American dry fly-fishing. It’s the place where, in the 1800s, local anglers first began to alter English flies into shapes and patterns that mimic our own native insects.
Today, the fly-tier’s art thrives in the Catskills. Roscoe, known as “Trout Town, USA,” boasts several excellent fly-fishing shops and many local fishing guides. Phoenicia, where an important angling history collection was gutted by a 2011 fire at the local library, is now home to a digital trove of local fly-fishing lore, with a detailed hatch chart that tracks the dates of local hatches and the flies used to mimic them (catskillanglingcollection.org).
But in the Catskills, it’s not just fly-fishers who revere the trout. The native brook trout and stocked browns and rainbows that run through the cold, clear waters of the Catskills’ many creeks are part of the soul of the community — and when fishing season rolls around, everyone celebrates. Read more
Above: "Eagle Landing," taken in Narrowsburg by Harry Rampe, the grand prize winner of the 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest.
Each year, we ask readers of the Watershed Post and our Catskills Outdoor Guide to send us their best photos of the Catskills great outdoors. This year, 68 talented photographers entered our 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest.
Thanks to our contest sponsor, Peekamoose Restaurant & Tap Room in Big Indian, who generously offered a dinner for two to our grand prize winner.
Grand Prize Winner
"Eagle Landing," taken in Narrowsburg by Harry Rampe (shown above).
"Kids and Kids," taken at the West Branch Creamery in Delaware County by Dave Turan.
Above: The largest of New York City’s reservoirs, the 15-mile-long Pepacton Reservoir in Delaware County supplies almost a quarter of the city’s drinking water. Photo by John Kocijanski of Catskills Photography.
Four of New York City’s six reservoirs in the Catskills — Pepacton, Schoharie, Cannonsville and Neversink — are open to canoes, kayaks, rowboats and small sailboats from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. The reservoirs hold drinking water for roughly 9.4 million people, and New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is pretty vigilant about keeping them clean. So before you get out on the water, you’ll have to jump through a few hoops.
To boat the reservoirs, you must have a free DEP access permit; if you’re planning on boating more than one reservoir, you’ll need a separate access permit for each. You’ll also need a boat that has been steam cleaned by an authorized steam-cleaning vendor. (Steam cleaning helps stop the spread of invasive plants, animals and other organisms that could harm water quality or the ecology of the reservoirs.) And you must use a DEP-designated launch area for putting in and taking out your boat, which can be only a kayak, canoe, rowboat, scull or small sailboat: No gas-powered boats allowed. Read more
Hunter Mountain Fire Tower. Photo by Gordon Hoekstra, chairman of Friends of the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower.
Once upon a time, 23 steel fire towers dotted the high peaks of the Catskills. They were staffed by fire tower observers, who scanned the horizon for smoke and filled their downtime with shimmying up the steep steel struts, taming bears and sharing space with pet snakes. (Those stories and other fire tower tales are collected in the book Fire Towers of the Catskills by Martin Podskoch, published by Purple Mountain Press.)
The job of the fire spotter vanished decades ago, and the towers fell into disrepair. But between 1997 and 2000, thanks to the efforts of Catskill Fire Tower Project volunteers, five of the original fire towers of the Catskill Park were renovated and opened to the public.
Everybody knows when summer really starts: this weekend. Monday will be marked by official Memorial Day observances in many towns, but all weekend long, there’s plenty of unofficial fun to be had, from music fests to boat races to town-wide yard sales. Here’s our five-county guide to the good times.
AROUND THE CATSKILLS
The five restored fire towers of the Catskill Park open for the season this weekend: Balsam Lake Mountain in Hardenburgh, Red Hill in Denning, Tremper Mountain in Shandaken, Overlook Mountain in Woodstock and Hunter Mountain in Hunter. Volunteer staffers will be at the towers every weekend from now through Columbus Day, to help fill you in on fire tower history, mountain know-how and more. Lace up your hiking boots and dust off the binoculars for those 100-mile views. Read more