A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 4, 2009

We had just had lunch at the Roscoe Diner and were heading home. The Jeep loves the back roads (as do we) so we left state Route 206, Cat Hollow, taking a right onto the Beaverkill Road into the Middle Mountain Wild Forest.


A Catskill Catalog: Oct. 28, 2009

The baskets are slightly more oblong than round, an eight-inch basket seven inches wide at the handle. The handle itself is two or three willow shoots wrapped around each other arching over the basket at a height about equal to the basket’s width. The willow-shoot handle circles to the bottom of the basket forming its lower spine.


A Catskill Catalog: Oct. 21, 2009

Alf Evers famously subtitled his 1972 history of the Catskills From Wilderness to Woodstock, thus forever cementing the bond between the 1969 concert and our mountains. Sure, the Bethel site of “Three Days of Peace and Music” was 50 miles southwest of the mountain village that gave the Aquarian Exposition its name. And, certainly, the rolling hills and brushy fields of western Sullivan County don’t seem very Catskill Mountain-y. But who’s going to argue with Alf?


A Catskill Catalog: Oct. 14, 2009

The oldest known forest, fossil remains of tree-sized plants, today form a roadside attraction on Route 990V, just off Route 30 in Gilboa. The Gilboa Forest was discovered in 1850 when floodwaters turned up large fossilized tree trunks 380 million years old. That placed the fossils in the Middle Devonian Period of the Paleozoic Era, a time 150 million years, or so, before the Triassic Period, the era of the earliest dinosaurs.


A Catskill Catalog: Oct. 7, 2009

I always get a little catch in my throat when, driving up the thruway, I glimpse the first dramatic rise of the Catskills. Perhaps, it’s a distant yet distinct glimpse of home, but, I don’t think so. I remember the same little well of excitement seeing the mountains when I was a kid, long before the Catskills became home.


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 30, 2009

A clever fund-raiser was held recently by the MARK Project, the regional planning and economic development agency. A few civic leaders were “arrested” at the August Margaretville Street Fair, with MARK supporters asked to “bail” them out with donations. One of the cuffed and booked was the Mayor of Fleischmanns.


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 23, 2009

First-growth forest is forest that has never been cleared, cut, bark-peeled, burnt, or quarried by people. We still have some in the Catskills. This old-growth forest can give us a glimpse of what our mountains must have been like before human habitation made its impact on the Catskills.


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 16, 2009

A quiz. Where in the Catskills will you find an astronomical observatory, equipped with a high-powered, computer-controlled telescope? Where in our mountains is a fully-equipped pediatric dialysis unit, able to provide kidney dialysis to eight children at a time? Where in the Catskills will you find demonstration forests, the wood harvested in a variety of methods to test which method leads to the most successful forest regeneration?


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 9, 2009

I am just about the last guy to try to explain the geology of the Catskills. I failed high school physics. Never took earth science.
Fortunately, our mountains have our own geologist, Bob Titus, professor of geology at Oneonta’s Hartwick College, who lectures regularly on Catskill Mountain geology. Unfortunately, I’ve never heard him lecture. And even a bit of scientific reading somehow makes my eyes glaze over.


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 2, 2009

It must be that vacations became a part of the American scene in the prosperous years after the Civil War, or at least the idea of grand vacations seems to have been invented then. The American economy was growing in great leaps of railroad building, and the railroad corporations saw both market opportunity and investment security in the construction of grand hotels conveniently located at the end of their rail lines.


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