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Catskills Hike : Panther Mountain

Last weekend I went with Kay and a few friends to hike up to Giant Ledge and the summit of Panther.  Panther Mountain, located in the Catskill Mountains of New York, stretches to approximately 3,720 feet high. There are two paths to the top of the mountain, one from the northern side and one from the south. We took the latter route.


After reaching the top of Panther we continued about a half mile past the summit, turned back around, and camped overnight between Panther’s summit and Giant Ledge. It was a beautiful hike being that it was fall in the Catskills. While it was the peak time for the color change at the bottom of the mountain, it was clearly past peak at the top. The good news is that it gave us better views from the scenic overlooks. Early in the morning on our second day, and on our way down the mountain, it even snowed a bit.


Several features of the mountain have led geologists to believe that the mountain formed over an ancient meteorite crater. You can even see the circular shape of where the meteorite hit based on looking at the terrain from above. Check out the circular formation of the mountain in the picture below from Google Maps.

Panther Terrain

You can check out an album of pictures here.


A Visit to Crown Maple and Madava Farms

Last weekend my partner-in-crime and I went over to Madava Farms in Dover Plains, New York with a few friends. Madava, named after the owner’s daughters Maddie and Ava, is a maple syrup manufacturer located on a beautiful 800 acres of farmland. Despite a sprinkling of rain and a few clouds, it was a beautiful time of year to go, probably the best weekend to see the fall foliage had it not been overcast.




After being greeted at the entrance-way, our tour guide took us around the factory teaching us about its history, which is still in its infancy, and describing the maple syrup making process in pretty good detail. The owner purchased a house on the property in 2007, and when he realized, with the help of a friend, that he was surrounded by acres and acres of maple syrup trees, he started purchasing the surrounding land. By 2010 a state-of-the-art factory was up and running and currently as of 2014 the company has over 40,000 trees tapped, 30 employees, and yields over 18,000 gallons of syrup a year.

Our tour, which only cost $10 per person, ended in the Tasting Room where we got to try Medium, Dark, and Extra Dark Amber syrups, one aged in bourbon barrels (which was delicious!), as well as maple syrup sugar. My personal favorites are the Dark Amber and Bourbon ones. They’re absolutely fantastic.



After our tasting we ordered lunch at their cafe, which obviously infused maple syrup into almost everything, followed by enjoying some ice cream (with maple syrup) and coffee (with maple syrup ;) ) while sitting outside on the patio which included a very nice size fire-pit. Overall it was a great trip and one I highly recommend taking if you live in the area or are passing through.

You can view an album of pictures here.


Calico Ghost Town

When I was writing about Doodletown recently I realized I never posted pictures from a Ghost Town in California called Calico.

Calico is a ghost town and former mining town in San Bernardino County, California located in the Calico Mountains of the Mojave Desert. It was founded in 1881 as a silver mining town. By the early 1900′s t was nearly deserted. Walter Knott of Knott’s Berry Farms purchased the land, renovated it and began restoring it to its original condition. He opened it to the public and later donated it to the county. If you’re ever on a road trip and driving by the area it’s worth checking out.

You can find an album of pictures I took here.


The Osage Orange Tree of Bear Mountain

doodletown80When I moved to New York in 2006 I was very interested in finding cool and unique places to go, the kind that I constantly found out west. While living in California I hiked in the San Jacinto Mountains finding new types of vegetation I had never seen before. I found Ghost Towns with remnants from the Gold Rush. I found “seas” that were dying (the Salton Sea) and desert canyons whose multiple colors defied the typical brownish red most people think of. So when I moved back to New York, a place I grew up and typically viewed as boring, my hope to was explore new and fascinating places.

Through some research I discovered a ghost town in Bear Mountain called Doodletown. I’ve written about it here. It was abandoned in the 1960s with only foundations and plaques remaining. There are also a few mines, one of which was Thomas Edison’s. During one of my hikes there I discovered some strange fruit fallen from a tree which really grabbed my interest. Researching online I discovered it is called the Osage Orange. There is a bit of disinformation out there on the fruit, so I went to a few reliable sources and found some interesting facts about it. It’s a rather disgusting looking fruit, which to me looks like worms or brains on the outside, but people loved using the plant as hedges, or fences, back in the day due to its density and thorns. Native Americans cherished the wood from the tree so much they made bows out of it. Meriwether Lewis claims to have traveled hundreds of miles to get ahold of it. When dried the wood has an extremely high BTU content, and it’s used for handles, bows, fences, etc. He supposedly sent Thomas Jefferson some seeds, who in turn gifted some to George Washington. The oldest tree standing on Washington’s River Farm today is an Osage Orange Tree and to this day it is the largest Osage Orange tree in the country. More recently, when President Roosevelt started his Great Plains Shelterbelt WPA project in the 1930s, this was one of the trees used to create weather and soil barriers.

Here’s a snipbit from the Smithsonian’s website:

“In March 1804, while Lewis was in St. Louis attending the Louisiana Territory transfer ceremonies, he sent Jefferson a shipment of botanical specimens, including live Osage apple cuttings. Though they did not survive, some samples Lewis collected in 1807 did, and as Susan H. Munger writes in Common to This Country: Botanical Discoveries of Lewis and Clark, “trees growing in Philadelphia and at the University of Virginia are said to be direct descendants of the cuttings sent back by Lewis.”

The Osage orange, which Lewis obtained from Pierre Chouteau, a former Indian agent, was probably the expedition’s most significant botanical discovery. The plant’s long thorns created a virtually impenetrable hedge, and later in the 19th century, many thousands of miles of these trees would be planted as frontier fencing. The fragrant tree held its popularity as a barrier until it was eclipsed by barbed wire in the 1880s.”


One reason I’m excited to even write about it is how rare it is to see one in this part of the country nowadays.  It’s native to Texas, Oklahoma, and parts of Louisiana today. Apparently it’s so uncommon that when Superstorm Sandy took down the centuries old one in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, one publication wrote a whole article about it.

I did find one government website with locations of the tree here in New York. It does list Rockland County, where Bear Mountain is located in. So while this tree may not be very common in the Northeast, it does still thrive in a few parts, and there is one in a ghost town called Doodletown.


Dutchess County Fair

I recently went with my Partner in Crime to the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, New york. I had never been before and have to say I had a great time. There was a wide range of things to do and see, including visiting farm animals at 4-H, shopping  through arts and crafts vendors, visiting wildlife exhibits, playing games through the arcade section, or munching down on some delicious food. You can view an album of pictures here.


The Rhinebeck Aerodrome

rhinebeckaerodome10I recently went with my father and brother over to the Rhinebeck Aerodrome in, well… Rhinebeck New York. I honestly thought we were just going to take my father up on a biplane ride as part of his birthday present, but in turned out to be an all-afternoon event. We spent about two hours touring the grounds and visiting the museums which display old planes from the WWI era, and then from 2pm to 4pm we watched an airshow. After that we waited our turn for a flight up around Dutchess County. It was a 15 minute ride, which, for someone who gets motion sickness easily, was just the right amount of time! It was incredibly cool though.

Here’s a bit more information from their website for those interested:

“Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum and Airshows were established in 1993 as 501 (c) (3) non-profit organizations in order to continue Cole Palen’s legacy and ensure the long-term protection and survival of his collection. The Aerodrome’s mission is to obtain, restore, maintain and display Pioneer, World War I and Lindbergh era aircraft, vehicles, related equipment, documents, memorabilia and artifacts of historical significance while seeking to educate the public regarding the historical significance of its collection and the scientific and technological advancements that it represents.

Our Saturday “History of Flight” show focuses on aviation from 1909 through 1939 and features performances of our early Pioneer aircraft, a World War I dogfight demonstration and our “Balloon-Bursting-Barnstorming–Biplanes” of the 1920′s and 1930′s. Our Sunday “WWI” show features our WWI aircraft and includes a sampling of Pioneer and 1920’s and 1930’s biplanes. The WWI aircraft flown on Sundays include a rotating selection (depending on maintenance and periodic restoration). We also feature several zany characters such as Trudy Truelove, The Evil Baron of Rhinebeck, and Sir Percy Goodfellow in a melodrama developed to appeal to children of all ages.”

I’ve posted an album of pictures from the day here.


The North Fork, LI


The Private Beach

Kay and I recently went to a Bed and Breakfast over in the North Fork of Long Island. The BnB is called By the Bluff and it is a very beautiful and well done home. The owners, Pat and Maurice were very accommodating, the food was delicious, and they also provided bottled water, towels, and chairs for you to take down to the private beach you gain access to by staying there.

Over the long weekend Kay and I ate at aMano, Noah’s, and our favorite of the trip: The Frisky Oyster. For our appetizers we had the Peconic Gold Oysters with serrano honey mignonette and the Cornell Oysters Friskafella. Both are amazing! I cannot decide which I liked better (for Kay it is the Oysters Friskafella.) I then had the filet of beef and Kay had the garganelli with local lobster, arugula, and a meyer lemon vodka sauce. It was by far the best meal of our trip, and those oysters were the best I’ve ever had!

We also visited several vineyards including: Kontokosta Winery, Pindar Vineyards, Sparkling Pointe, Bedell Cellars, and Macari Vineyards. All were beautifully done, and oddly enough the least elegant of them all, Pindar, had the best tasting wine. It was still a nice vineyard, but not as classy and polished as the others. Our server, Matt, was very polite and incredibly funny. Between him and the great tasting wine, it totally put Pindar at the top of our list for places to recommend for a tasting.


Sparkling Pointe


A tasting at Bedell Cellars

The area also had a lot of cool farm-stands, gift shops, and attractions. We visited Lavender By the Bay and The Village Cheese Shop, the latter which I would definitely recommend if you like or want to explore different kinds of cheese.

It was an amazing and relaxing trip which was even better than I had expected. Between Bar Harbor ME, Stowe VT, and now the North Fork of Long Island, I’m given hope that the East Coast does have some great places to offer on par with its Western counterpart.

You can view an album of photos here.


The Devil’s Path West

Last weekend I went with two buddies to finish The Devil’s Path in the Catskills. We hiked up West Kill, Southwest Hunter, and Hunter Mountains. We starting around 9:30am on Saturday and returned back to the car around 11am on Sunday. It was pretty strenuous, but nowhere near as bad as the eastern portion of it. You can check out an album of pictures here.



Trip to Assateague Island

Last weekend Kay and I went to Assateague Island, a 37 mile barrier island off the coast of Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia). Two thirds of the island is in Maryland while the lower third is in Virginia. It is best known for its pristine beaches and wild horses that roam the island. Legend has it that the feral Chincoteague Ponies are the descendants of survivors of the Spanish ship that sank on its way to Spain in 1750. Per Wikipedia though, “the likelihood is that they are actually descended from domesticated stock, brought to the island by Eastern Shore farmers in the 17th century to avoid fencing requirements and taxation”.

From the research we did, it seems like most people that come for an extended stay grab a hotel in Chincoteague Bay, a small town on the Virginia side, or camp on the island.

Assateague Map

Our Trip
Kay and I drove down from New York and arrived at Assateague Island National Seashore in the early afternoon. We spent a few hours visiting the North Beach and as a few clouds rolled over decided to go for a hike. We started out on the Life of the Dunes trail but quickly veered off path to see some horses. We found several types of birds, deer, two carcasses of rabbits, and unfortunately brought back at least four ticks with us.

After the hike the sun came out again so we visited to South Beach for another couple of hours before heading to our hotel in Chincoteague. The beaches were clean, spacious, and had beautiful sea shells spread throughout it.

The town on Chincoteague is very small. The population during the 2010 census was 2,941. We get the impression that the town is choosing to not expand and open up more for tourists. (Unless it has been doing so recently, and slowly.) Although it is great for a long weekend, we couldn’t picture spending a full week there. Or at least we could, but we would probably pick other places over Chincoteague to spend a full week at. They have a decent, albeit small selection of restaurants, two miniature golf courses, and two ice cream shops. (Possibly three but the third one was closed.) For dinner we visited Bill’s Seafood Restaurant and Village Restaurant, both which were great. Bill’s had an amazing soft shell crab special that weekend. The only downside was that despite having reservations for 8:30pm, we had to wait till 9:10 to be seated.

After dinner we went back to the hotel for a late night dip in the hot-tub. The following day we visited the beach in Chincoteague. We preferred the Assateague Beaches in Maryland better for the sole reason that there is more space which made it seem less crowded. We also didn’t see any horses while on the Virginia side of the island.

On Sunday, our last day there, we visited the North Beach at Assateague one last time and got some really close up shots of the horses. They were actually roaming the parking lot as we tried to park. As our stay went on they continued grazing near the bathrooms and even by the brush between the asphalt and beach.

Overall it was a really nice trip and I would recommend anyone who is looking to spend a few days on the coast of Maryland or Virginia to check this island out. You can check out an album of pictures here.

Here are two videos of the horses roaming the parking lot at Assateague Beach:


Round the World Expedition

I woke up in the middle of the night recently with a very vivid dream. I started a Kickstarter Campaign to fund a Documentary about a Round The World Road Trip. Somewhere around 2003 I had this idea to drive around the world. I researched the Eurotunnel from England to France, and the 50 miles of the Bering Strait which freezes over in the winter between Russia and Alaska. As I embarked on more and more cross country trips, the desire to go on this journey increased and made its way on to my Bucket List.

But the seed that caused that recent dream may have been planted in my head because I recently found out that Zach Braff (who I actually used to be neighbors with) funded his latest movie through Kickstarter. Obviously he has Star Power (and by that I mean celebrity, not the Super Mario kind), but part of me wonders if I could pull funding this trip off similarly.

I created a Spreadsheet to try and itemize and tally the full cost. My goal would be to start in the United Kingdom, drive through Europe and Asia, then ship my car to Indonesia, Australia, and then Alaska. I would then drive down and across North America to the East Coast. (Part of me wanted to drive the full circumference of the Earth by driving  from China into Siberia and crossing the Beiring Strait while it froze over, but I don’t think that’s realistic without an incredibly modified and expensive vehicle).

RTW Visas

RTW Shipments Update


Just calculating the required Visas, Gas, Shipping hard drives of footage back home, and only one of the three major Vehicle Shipments, the cost already comes to $9,156. I still have to factor in things like Vaccines, Tolls and Ferries, Insurance, Lodging, Food, and more. I’ve read about this kind of excursion being done twice. One by a former AP reporter who did it solo and cost him $50,240 (including $6,700 for an old Land Cruiser). The other was a group of people with the goal of driving the whole circumference of the Earth. They even outfit an expensive vehicle (think Tank) for driving over the Bering Strait when it was frozen over if I remember correctly. That or for the Siberian and Alaskan Tundra. They eventually got stuck and had to helicopter the vehicle for a small portion of it.

Diomede Islands

The Diomede Islands between Russia and Alaska

Anyway, some of this information will be useful sooner rather than later as I hope to spend two weeks in Europe relatively soon. Hopefully in 2016.

Okay, back to work…