The Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail congratulate New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on moving forward with plans to support the construction of a publicly accessible multiuse trail along the northern border of the Ashokan Reservoir. This action was endorsed unanimously (with one abstention) last week by the members of the Ulster County Trails Advisory Committee, who prepared the following statement to be sent to Ulster County’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee: "Based on last week's offer by the Commissioner of New York City's Department of Environmental Protection of considerable financial and other support for converting 11.5 miles of rail corridor along the Ashokan Reservoir to a multi-use rail trail, with parking and other amenities designed to create a world-class tourism attraction, with year-round free access to the rail trail without permit, the Ulster County Trails Advisory Committee strongly urges the Ulster County Legislature to authorize the Ulster County Executive to execute an agreement to further this plan." Read more
Chocolate melting at Lucky Chocolates. Photo by Julia Reischel.
Bryan Graham, the owner of Fruition Chocolate (3091 Route 28, Shokan, 845-657-6717, tastefruition.com) grinds his own cocoa beans, then turns them into simple, small-batch craft chocolate bars in flavors like brown butter milk chocolate and rustic crunch (cocoa nibs, cinnamon and vanilla).
Fruition's chocolate has won national awards—a gold from the Good Food Awards and two silvers from the International Chocolate Awards in 2013 alone. You can visit Fruition's storefront and chocolate factory in the Ulster County hamlet of Shokan, just off Route 28 in an unassuming strip mall.
In a long, narrow storefront in Saugerties, Lucky Chocolates (115 Partition St., Saugerties, 845-246-7337, luckychocolates.com) produces 45 flavors of truffles and other chocolate treats in back, in a Willy Wonka-like chocolate factory filled with delicious smells and busily churning mixers. On every wall, racks of chocolate cooling in pans wait to be sliced by the confectionary guitar. Read more
The record harvest is likely due to a new early bear hunting season that ran from Sept. 6 to Sept. 21 in portions of the Catskills and the western Hudson Valley, DEC officials say.
Catskills hunters in in Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties killed 893 bears in 2014, according to an analysis of the DEC's hunt data by the Watershed Post. In the Catskills, hunters killed 294 bears during the new early season and 599 during the bow hunting, muzzleloading and regular seasons, which occur later in the fall.
The Catskills towns with the highest bear harvests are Hancock, with 34 bears killed; Wawarsing, with 32; Tusten, with 31; Rochester, with 27; and Mamakating, with 24. Read more
The Ashokan Reservoir, the oldest of New York City's reservoirs in the Catskills, was mostly built by hand, with picks and shovels. That's one of the tidbits you'll learn at the Ashokan Watershed Conference, held this weekend at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge.
History is the theme of this year's conference, which is called "Back to the Future." (The organizers riff on the movie of the same name in their promo materials. Who says that watershed managers don't have senses of humor?)
The keynote speaker is Bob Steuding, a historian who wrote about the mammoth project of building the dam in his book, "The Last of the Handmade Dams." George Fowler, an engineer, will talk about the history of stream management.
Other sessions will focus on the invasive species that are destroying the hemlock and ash trees around the Catskills and the perennially urgent topic of flooding. Read more
April Fool’s day is the first day of fishing season in New York state, and it's playing a freezing cold joke on hopeful anglers vying to catch the first trout of the year.
It's a cold and icy beginning to trout season, with a high of only 38 degrees and snow falling over Cairns Pool on the Beaverkill, according to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum’s Facebook page. Nevertheless, trout were reportedly caught there today, the center reports.
Above: An image from Catskill Made, a new digital publication. Photo of milkweed by Tom Smith.
Along with maple syrup and the first red blush of buds on the mountainsides, spring is bringing a bloom of new publications devoted to covering the culture, arts and lifestyle of the Catskills — through the eyes of flatlanders.
These days, urbanites are fleeing to the Catskills from New York City in droves. If you ask them why, they say that they're searching for something -- a kind of authenticity absent from more citifed environs.
“We yearned for a place with a slower pace of life, fewer pretensions, friendlier people, and more authenticity — something we had always experienced on our trips here," said Alecia Eberhardt, a new arrival to the Catskills who is the editor of Catskill Made, a new digital quarterly journal that launched on March 21. "So in the summer of 2013 we made the leap, and almost two years later, here we are.” Read more
Above: Fresh-made donuts at Twin Peaks Coffee & Donuts. Photo by Julia Reischel.
New eateries serving fresh doughnuts, Vietnamese banh mi, baklava and cheesy grits have all opened in the mountains this past year or so. From the 2015 Catskills Food Guide, here are some of our favorites.
The doughnuts at Twin Peaks Coffee & Donuts (5950 Main St., Tannersville, 518-589-6262), which opened in late 2013, are made to order by the Doughnut Robot, a countertop machine that deploys circles of batter into bubbling hot oil while you wait. After frying, they’re dipped in flavored glazes like Key lime, pumpkin, apple cider, and caramel and sea salt. For a quarter, you can add a bacon glaze. For $4.50, you can add eggs, cheese and meat to make a true caloric heavyweight: a doughnut-based breakfast sandwich “slider.”
Above: Doughnut sliders at Twin Peaks Coffee & Doughnuts. Photo by Julia Reischel.
Tara and Nathan Jamieson, the owners of Feather & Stone (38 West St., Walton, 607-510-4027, featherandstonerestaurant.com), which opened in September 2014, express their love of travel in their menu. One week, they’re celebrating the Midwest with fried cheese curds, and the next it’s the American southwest with Texas smoked brisket. They have a special affection for New York state dishes — the Rochester Garbage Plate is a mix of meats, chili, fries and salad — and the humble burger, seven versions of which appear on the menu. Read more
Above: The SUNY New Paltz campus on March 13. Photo by Keady Sullivan.
After a brutal winter in the Catskills, college students are holding their breath, hoping for no more snow days.
College classes at SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Delhi, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Sullivan and SUNY Ulster have all experienced weather-related cancellations with more frequency than usual in 2015.
For SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Sullivan students, Monday classes have been hit particularly hard. Three consecutive Monday snow days on Jan. 26, Feb. 2, and Feb. 9 prevented classes from meeting and have significantly set back course curriculums.
SUNY Sullivan had the most official, university-declared cancellations of colleges in the Catskills region. Four whole days of classes were cancelled, and classes were either delayed or closed early on three additional days. In Ulster County, SUNY New Paltz cancelled classes six times and SUNY Ulster cancelled classes four times.
In Schoharie County, SUNY Cobleskill cancelled classes three times. In Delaware County, SUNY Delhi cancelled classes twice. And in Otsego County, SUNY Oneonta cancelled classed on one day and partially cancelled classes on another day. Read more
Above: Maple syrup from the Catskill Mountain Sugar House in Grahamsville. Photo by Richard A. Smith
New York state produces almost a fifth of the nation’s maple syrup, and much of that comes from the Catskills. The mountains are home to many sugarhouses, from large operations with state-of-the-art evaporators that use reverse osmosis to little shacks that still use the old-fashioned boiling method.
Maple syrup is available all year long, but the tapping season lasts for just a few weeks in March, when frosty nights and sunny days get the sap moving.
The best way to watch a sugarhouse in action is to visit one. The sights, sounds and smells of sap boiling in the sugarhouse mean that sweetness, like springtime, is just around the corner. Shake off the late-winter blahs and come celebrateMaple Weekend -- actually two weekends of open houses -- in the sugar shacks of the Catskills. Listed below are events that are within the Watershed Post's coverage area; a statewide list of all 160 locations can be found at mapleweekend.com. Read more
Today, Wednesday, March 18, is Election Day for most New York villages. Village elections in many Catskills villages are sleepy, uncontested affairs, but a few are real contests with full slates of candidates from multiple parties. Read more