Kaatscast is a biweekly podcast delivering history, travel guides, arts & culture, outdoor adventures, sustainability news and local interviews from New York's Catskill mountains and Hudson Valley. Celebrate the Catskills with Kaatscast!
At one time, New York state had more than 100 active fire towers, the purpose of which was to help lookouts –– you guessed it –– spot fires. These days, some of the remaining towers have been repurposed for recreational use. At Bramley Mountain, in the western Catskills, the fire tower was dismantled in the 1970s, but a local family has been keeping it safe in a nearby barn. Now that Bramley has an official hiking trail, that tower is destined, once again, for the summit. Laurie Rankin tells us more, on our Bramley Mountain hike.
Thanks to WIOX and the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway for their support.
To learn more about the Bramley fire tower project, head on over to bramleymountainfiretower.org.
Hanford Mills Museum operates an authentic water- and steam-powered historic site, which includes a sawmill, gristmill, and woodworking shop. The mission of Hanford Mills Museum is to inspire audiences of all ages to explore connections among energy, technology, natural resources, and entrepreneurship in rural communities with a focus on sustainable choices. The museum is listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places.
We took a tour, and you can too! For scheduling and information, visit hanfordmills.org. Thanks to our sponsors, WIOX and the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce.
This Memorial Day week, we visited two area cemeteries where historians are taking steps to memorialize former Catskills residents in the towns of Delhi and Roxbury. At the Roxbury Methodist Church cemetery, gravestones obscured by years of algae and lichen growth are being restored with a special cleaning agent and some good ol' historian elbow grease. And in Delhi, a poorhouse cemetery lost in time is finally getting the recognition and care that it deserves.
County historian Gabrielle Pierce is working with Christa Schafer's Delaware County Office, to restore stones to hundreds of graves in Delhi, NY. And in Roxbury, historians Diane Galusha and Anthony Liberatore scrub 80 years of grime to renew a marble headstone.
Kaatscast is supported by WIOX Community Radio, live and local in the Catskills; and by the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
Hankering for some baseball circa 1895? Teams like Mountain Athletic Club and the Bovina Dairymen are playing vintage "base ball" right here in the Catskills. Spectators and players welcome! We spoke with the M.A.C.'s Collin Miller during spring practice on Creamery Field in Bovina, NY. Collin's team is "fashioned after the original team established in Griffin Corners, New York in 1895 by yeast magnates Julius and Max Fleischmann. Thanks to M.A.C., the Bovina Dairymen, and the Delhi Base Ball Club for inviting us to practice.
Thanks also to our sponsors: Roxbury's WIOX and the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
This week, I met with Brian Flynn for a no-holds-barred interview on his run for Congress, his business ventures, a family tragedy, a life of activism, civic engagement, and the donation of not one, but two living organs. All that, and more, from Brian's home in Elka Park, NY.
This episode was edited by our production intern, Skye Ruse. Please support our supporters: the Phoenicia Playhouse and the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce.
Honey bees aren't the only species facing serious population declines. Wild bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and other insects, plus birds, bats, and amphibians are losing natural habitat and being forced out by invasive species, pesticides and herbicides. Pollinator pathways are a series of pollinator friendly areas that are spaced closely enough to create a habitat corridor. And for Catskills landowners, the Woodstock NY Pollinator Pathway offers simple ways to affect positive change for our pollinator pals. Committee Chair Georgia Asher tells us more.
Supported by WIOX and the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
Oliverea schoolhouse maple is a 4,000 tap maple farm owned and operated by Herb Van Baren. We tagged along for the day as he tapped trees and pumped sap to be boiled down to 1,000 gallons of Catskill Mountain syrup!
This episode was sponsored by WIOX and the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
With snow and ice still reluctant to make way for long-awaited signs of spring, bird species know that warm weather is indeed on its way, and many are already en route back to their Catskills breeding grounds. For many of us, robins are a telltale sign that spring has sprung. If you're hiking in the high country, though, you might be lucky enough to hear a Bicknell's thrush, back from its winter home in Hispaniola. Although its range is not limited to the Catskills, the bird was discovered here in the 19th century, by Eugene P. Bicknell. To tell us more about the man behind the bird, I spoke with Jeremy Kirchman, Curator of Birds at the New York State Museum.
This episode originally aired as part of Catskill Historical Views, an audio companion to Catskill Tri-County Historical Views, published by the Gilboa Museum & Juried History Center, with support from the Zadock Pratt Museum. Thanks to Humanities New York for their support.
This week, we're joined by 4 Catskills writers, teachers, and board members of Writers in the Mountains, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide a nurturing environment for the practice, appreciation and sharing of creative writing.
Simona David is a media consultant, author of How Art Is Made: In the Catskills (published in 2017), and former president of Writers In The Mountains (from 2012 – 2019). She's currently working as an advisor to the Board.
Sharon Israel hosts the radio show, Planet Poet-Words in Space, on Roxbury's WIOX, and she hosts a podcast by the same name. Her debut chapbook, Voice Lesson, was published in 2017 by Post Traumatic Press. And she's been on the Writers in the Mountains Board of Directors for over a decade.
Anique Sara Taylor is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in Rattle, Common Ground Review, Stillwater Review, Earth’s Daughters and several anthologies. She’s co-authored works for HBO, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and a three-act play that was performed by Playwrights Horizons and Williamstown Theatre Festival. She's also an award-winning artist, and she teaches Creative Writing for Benedictine Hospital’s Oncology Support Program, Bard Lifetime Learning Institute, and Writers in the Mountains.
Leslie T. Sharpe is a lifelong naturalist living in the Great Western Catskills. Her book, The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills, is an Independent Book Publisher "Gold Medal Award winner for Excellence". And I had the pleasure of producing the audiobook edition, beautifully narrated by Leslie, and available wherever audiobooks are found. In 2019, Leslie was named one of Fifty Stewards of the Catskills. She's taught writing and editing at Columbia University, New York University, the City College of New York, and currently, at Writers in the Mountains.
Supported by WIOX and the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce.
Join us for part two of our behind-the-scenes tour of "Sustainable Catskills," with stops at the nation's first "passive house" library, an eco-conscious resort on the banks of the Esopus, and an Arkville solar array that implements local art and bluestone into its design. Thanks to Ulster Tourism and The 52-mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, following New York State Route 28 through the heart of the Central Catskills.
Come along for a behind-the-scenes tour of "Sustainable Catskills," with a stop at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, a walk on the Ashokan Rail Trail, and a swim at the Catskill Recreation Center! Thanks to Ulster Tourism and The 52-mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, following New York State Route 28 through the heart of the Central Catskills.
This week, an insightful interview with Dean Cycon, founder of Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Company. Hear how coffee is creating meaningful change through ethical business practices rooted in respect for the earth, the farmer, the employee, and the consumer.
Some highlights from our conversation:
fair trade? or "fairer" trade?
conventional coffee is more expensive
direct links between the border crisis and underpaid farmers
detrimental impacts of climate change
unexpected pandemic impacts
combatting hunger in western Massachusetts
Dean's favorite bean!
Thanks to Dixon Roadside and the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce for their support!
Happy New Year! This week's podcast is a celebration of our annual spin around the sun, and a book by local author Nina Shengold on her 365-day walk along the Ashokan Reservoir. On the eve of her 60th birthday, she decided to walk the reservoir every day for one year and to chronicle the journey. We produced an audiobook in collaboration with Syracuse University Press, and in this podcast, you'll hear excerpts from the book, along with reflections by some of the creative Catskillians -- narrator, musician, writer -- involved in the process.
Thanks to the Catskills Visitor Center and the 52-mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway for their support.
For more on Nina's book:
For the audio edition:
And for the locally orchestrated soundtrack:
Each year, the Catskill Mountain Foundation's Orpheum Dance Program puts on a performance of The Nutcracker, directed by ballet pro Victoria Rinaldi. This year's pandemic brings this annual tradition online, using clips from the past five years of performances, plus new material featuring students like Lada Svechnikova, pictured here. Join us for an interview with Victoria and Lada in Hunter, NY.
Thanks to Cyndi and Paul LaPierre, and to the the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce for their support of this episode.
We spoke with Delaware County historian Bill Birns about the legacy of “Hobart’s greatest” (albeit largely forgotten) son, John Davenport Clarke: farmer, forester, and congressman.
Catskill Historical Views is a collaboration between Catskill Tri-County Historical Views, the Zadock Pratt Museum, and Silver Hollow Audio. Thanks to Humanities New York for their support of this series.
This week, we highlight four segments from our original "Experience the Central Catskills" audio driving guide, for a westward drive from Olive to Andes on NYS Route 28.
DEC Natural Resources Supervisor Bill Rudge and an overview of the Catskill Park past and present
Historian Diane Galusha on the Ashokan Reservoir and the New York City water supply
Fly fishing the Esopus creek with Mark Loete
Reminiscences of John Burroughs, with Bill Birns, Steve Koester, and Rolland Smith
Thanks to our sponsors, the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, the Emerson Resort & Spa, and listener support!
Photo courtesy of Tim Luby.
American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, a literary, philosophical and spiritual movement with a belief in humanity's fundamental goodness; and a reverence for self-reliance, non-conformity, and a deep, personal connection to the natural world. And while the title of his essay, "Uses of great Men," may come off as misogynistic, or at least "dated," transcendentalists like Emerson were outspoken advocates of civil rights and social justice.
This week, a reading of Emerson's "Uses of Great Men," by Rolland G. Smith.
If Rolland Smith was born a century earlier, he would likely seek fellowship in the Transcendental Club, to converse with the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau. A child of the 20th century, however, Rolland gravitated toward broadcast media, where he reported for outlets like WCBS, NBC, and WWOR. He's interviewed U.S. presidents, reported live from the front lines in Vietnam, and served as anchor of the historic "Live Aid" concert to an international audience of 2 billion. His journalistic integrity, contemplative storytelling, and abiding faith in humankind lie in stark contrast to today's media punditry, social media scrolling, and click bait. If Ralph Waldo Emerson was born a century later, he'd probably get his news from Rolland Smith.
Here's Rolland to introduce "Uses of Great Men," followed by his narration of the essay, recorded right here in the Catskills.
This week's show was made possible by the Emerson Resort & Spa and the 52-mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
The Delaware County Diggers is a group of metal detecting enthusiasts with a passion for history and preservation. We joined them at the John Burroughs' Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury, NY, where they beeped and dug their way to an eclectic assortment of 19th- and 20th-century treasures. Come along with us for an archaeological treasure hunt just beneath the surface of John Burroughs' property at the historic Woodchuck Lodge!
Thanks to the Delaware County Diggers, the John Burroughs' Woodchuck Lodge, and to our sponsors: the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, and the Catskill Center.
It’s fall in the Catskills, with that too-brief splash of color that draws leaf peepers near and far. In 1862, as famed naturalist Henry David Thoreau lay dying from tuberculosis, he wrote an essay entitled "Autumnal Tints," an ode to autumn in New England. In 2008, we published an audio edition of that work, and this week … a selection from that essay, titled "Fallen Leaves."
Thank you to our sponsors: the 52-mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, and the historic Phoenicia Playhouse.
This week: bees! wasps! hornets! yellowjackets! (and other things that sting) with special guest Justin O. Schmidt, research biologist at Southwestern Biological Institute, adjunct faculty at University of Arizona’s department of entymology, author of The Sting of the Wild, and creator of the famous Schmidt Sting Pain Index. Scientific American called Schmidt the "King of Sting." The New York Times dubbed him a “Connoisseur of Pain.” Here’s your college class on stings, with ... if we may ... the "sommelier of sting."
Thanks to our sponsors, the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, and the Catskill Center.
John Lyons is a transportation professional, sustainability leader, solar entrepreneur, and business developer with a passion for addressing the climate crisis and creating a clean energy future. He's been incorporating remote work into his career for decades, and he shares his insights on working remotely from both employee and employer perspectives. Plus, suggestions for translating what we've learned this year into a post-pandemic strategy for workplace adaptability moving forward.
Thanks to John Lyons, and to our sponsors:
Sustainable Hudson Valley and the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce
Dave Conover is Program Coordinator at Sustainable Hudson Valley. He grew up in the Catskills and has spent much of his career working on environmental issues as an educator and program developer.
Climate change is resulting in obvious changes to our very own ecosystem. Dave connects the dots and offers us a hopeful path for the future. But the time to act is now.
This episode was produced in collaboration with Sustainable Hudson Valley. Thanks also to our sponsor, the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
“People, Places, Possibilities” – A Conversation with Cynthia Nikitin
Sustainable Hudson Valley is working to accelerate progress against climate change through programs to scale up the clean energy marketplace and by helping communities plan for more resource-efficient patterns of living and working. Like everyone in the Hudson Valley, we are confronting four major crises: Covid-19, social injustice, economic recession, and climate change. SHV is spearheading a large-scale public conversation on responding to the urgency of each crisis, while understanding how they are connected and using that understanding to generate more sophisticated solutions. It’s an ambitious idea that we are developing with our network of experts, including six Senior Fellows.
One of them is Boiceville resident Cynthia Nikitin, a 28-year veteran of the Project for Public Spaces. She’s managed hundreds of “placemaking” projects around the world, helping people to design downtowns, waterfronts, campuses and more, in ways that enhance sociability, connectivity and usefulness – for example, by developing residences and workplaces near transit and each other. Right now, Cynthia is excited about the way that communities and businesses are being forced to re-think how space is used, even expanding restaurant space into parking lots and surrounding neighborhoods for safety. She thinks this small shift can drive bigger changes in reclaiming excess streetscape, parking lots and under-utilized land for community revitalization and resilience.
Thanks to our sponsors: Sustainable Hudson Valley, and the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
Photo by Brian Paccione
There are a many conversations these days about the future, and understandably so. We are in the midst of four distinct crises: accelerating climate change, a pandemic, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and a wakeup to systemic racism.
Kaatscast is collaborating with Sustainable Hudson Valley on a series called “People, Places, Possibilities," to explore aspects of this new reality, and––without minimizing the downsides––to consider the opportunities that arise simply from the pace and scale of change.
In this episode, we speak with Sustainable Hudson Valley's Executive Director, Melissa Everett, about the organization's goals, and where we stand as a region. Stay tuned for future interviews in this special series, right here on Kaatscast!
For more information, visit https://sustainhv.org.
Thanks also to the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce for their continued support of this podcast.
First published in 1903, The Land of Little Rain is Mary Austin’s classic homage to the American Southwest. Her collection of short stories and essays takes listeners on an enchanted journey through Death Valley, the High Sierras, and the Mojave Desert.
Aridity and heat lie counterpoint to our Catskills’ seemingly limitless water and endless winters. Like other nature writers of her time — John Burroughs and John Muir among them — Mary Austin deftly describes the natural world in which she is immersed, including its creatures and its characters.
This week, hear Ellen Parker's award-winning narration of the first two chapters.
Sponsored by The Mountain Eagle and the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce.
We recorded 85-year-old Nick Lyons at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection in Phoenicia, NY, as part of its "Sporting Legends of The Catskills" series.
From that event: "Nick began to fish as a child during summers at the Laurel House in Haines Falls, when the hotel was owned by his grandfather. He went on to wet a line just about everywhere he could find water — from Steeplechase Pier in Brooklyn to the Catskill Mountains, and beyond.
Nick is widely known for his popular “Seasonable Angler” column in Fly Fisherman Magazine, which he wrote for decades. In articles for Fly Fisherman and other publications, and in more than a dozen books, he chonicled his fishing adventures all over the world. Meanwhile, he pursued a busy life as an English professor at Hunter College and as a book publisher.
Nick’s late wife Mari was an accomplished artist who accompanied Nick on many of his journeys. Her watercolors and sketches appear in all of his later books."
Painting courtesy Mari Lyons, from Nick's well-known book “Spring Creek.”
Thanks to Beth Waterman and the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection; and to our sponsor, the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
In The Quarry Fox, Leslie T. Sharpe chronicles the seasons and the vibrant wildlife of a landscape she cherishes, offering her keen insights in an engaging narrative that celebrates the splendor of the natural world. From crafty foxes and hibernating bears to vulnerable monarch butterflies, The Quarry Fox explores the creatures of the Great Western Catskills in loving, lyrical detail.
Heir to John Burroughs, who tramped through these mountains more than a hundred years before her, Sharpe revisits the meadows, creeks, and bobcat dens, and invites us to come along for the trek.
The Quarry Fox is now an audiobook, published by Silver Hollow Audio and available wherever audiobooks are found. In this episode, we present chapter 4: "Natural Beauties." Enjoy!
Thanks to the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce for their support of this podcast.
Platte Clove is a steep and narrow valley, accessed by Platte Clove Road between Tannersville and West Saugerties, NY. Part of the road is seasonal use only, offering a gorgeous (and hair-raising) drive April through October. John Farrell and Paul Dibbell are no strangers to this valley, and they talk to us about Elka Park, a 19th-century Victorian community; hiking and driving through the valley; and reminiscences of days past.
Produced with support from the Mountain Cloves Scenic Byway, Mama's Boy Burgers, and the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce.
Christie Scheele is an artist living in the Catskills, whose art is collected nationally and internationally by hundreds of private and public collectors. She says, "The single most distinctive aspect to what I do as a landscape painter lies in my ability to reduce a scene to its essentials. This gives the viewer what is important, without the distraction, or visual clutter, of too much detail. Both by providing this overview and by using soft, scumbled edges, these paintings can quiet a viewer's mind and evoke a more direct response."
In this episode, we catch up with Christie by phone to see how she's been handling art-life in quarantine, and then rewind 5 months to a conversation we recorded with a live audience at Albert Shahinian Fine Art Gallery, in Rhinebeck, NY.
Thanks to our sponsors: Albert Shahinian Fine Art, and the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
On October 27, 2018, at the Phoenicia Library's Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection, “First Lady” Joan Wulff and her associate Jen Grossman took the floor to tell the story of Joan's remarkable life and career in the angling world. Hooked on fishing at a very early age, she rose to prominence as a National Casting Champion, winning competitions for both distance (161 feet!) and accuracy from 1943-1960. In the late 1970s, she and her husband, Lee Wulff, opened the Wulff School of Fly Fishing in Lew Beach on the Upper Beaverkill.
Sponsored by the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, with original program support from the Catskill Watershed Corporation.
Photo credit: Mark Loete
Forest historian Michael Kudish talks trees and forest composition in the Stony Clove, bridging Ulster and Greene Counties. Then, a conversation with forest entomologist Mark Whitmore, on an invasive threat to our Catskill hemlocks.
Thanks to our sponsors, Greene County Soil & Water; and the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway.
Full audio edition of John Burroughs’ classic essay, "The Heart of the Southern Catskills."
In 1886, Princeton geology professor Arnold Henry Guyot determined by survey that Slide Mountain, far to the southwest of the Hudson-hugging mountaintops, was the highest peak in the region, reaching over 4,000 feet. The opening of resorts like the Catskill Mountain House and the Grand Hotel at Highmount drew tourists upstate, and John Burroughs’ account of his 1885 ascent of Slide Mountain offered vacationers an enticing challenge.
Hiking Slide Mountain became then, as it is now, a key attraction. Enjoy the climb with him.
Original 2-disc set, produced in partnership with the John Burroughs' Woodchuck Lodge, is available at Silver Hollow Audio.
This audio edition of John Burroughs’ classic essay, "Pepacton: A Summer Voyage," is the story of Burroughs’ journey down the meandering river he called Pepacton, the name native people gave the stream. Burroughs was in his 40s when he made the trip, on a raft-type craft he fashioned himself, a grown man playing Huck Finn, traveling his personal Mississippi.
This 19th-century Catskills tale is pure Burroughs, filled with the values and ideas that are at his core: simplicity of life, joy in small things, harmony with the natural world, connection with people, and outdoor adventure.
Original 2-disc set, produced in partnership with the John Burroughs' Woodchuck Lodge, is available at Silver Hollow Audio.
Thousands infected, businesses shuttered, social distancing, and closed schools. In this special, unscheduled episode, listen in on 5 interviews on the pandemic, and how the Catskills are responding.
• Lissa Harris, reporter for The River Hudson Valley Newsroom
• "Rachel," a recent college grad who's battling COVID-19 head-on
• Ulster County Economic Development director, Lisa Berger
• Local restaurateur Mike Cioffi
• Onteora school superintendent Victoria McLaren
Thanks to our interviewees; stay healthy, everyone.
Produced by Silver Hollow Audio
The Catskills, with its beautiful scenery and quirky towns, offers ready-made backdrops for movies and TV. Add talented local crews and substantial tax credits, and it's no wonder increasing numbers of film and television productions are setting up here. In this episode, we speak with the Hudson Valley Film Commission's Laurent Rejto, and with a local innkeeper whose B&B was a key location for an upcoming film about werewolves.
Thanks to our sponsors, the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway and the Phoenicia Playhouse.
We tour "the loop," of Routes 25 and 23c, that connects Haines Falls to Tannersville, via the mountaintop. Hear from Cyndi LaPierre and Dede Thorpe on historic homes and the origins of Onteora Park; famed residents like Maude Adams (Peter Pan); visiting the Mountain Top Arboretum; and a church that served as a quarantine during the 1914 influenza epidemic (history certainly does repeat itself).
In 1976, renowned artist Jan Sawka fled communist Poland with his wife Hanna, and baby daughter, also named Hanna. They eventually settled in High Falls, NY, and Jan would draw inspiration for his paintings from the Ashokan Reservoir and Catskills Mountains. We spoke with Jan’s family at an exhibition of his work at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, at SUNY New Paltz.
In this episode, hear from Jon Ham and Bob Gildersleeve about the grand hotels that attracted visitors at the turn of the century, and the trains that got them there. Also... "mutton?!" How one hotel's refusal to serve chicken led to the construction of a famous competitor.
In this episode, you’ll hear from historian Cyndi LaPierre on the history of the word "Catskills," and if you’re wondering why Kaatscast starts with a “K,” instead of a “C,” this segment should help clear things up. In the second half of the show, we’ll travel to Kaaterskill falls with geologist Bob Titus, who takes us back even further, to when the Catskills felt more like … the Bahamas!
Welcome to Kaatscast –– a biweekly podcast delivering interviews, arts, culture, and history, from New York's Catskill mountains. Please subscribe, and be the first to hear all the great content, from quick interviews with Catskills locals, to full-length audio driving tours and fully-produced audiobooks.
In this first episode, we take you on a tour of the Northern Catskills’ Mountain Cloves Scenic Byway. You can listen anywhere, but for the best experience, it’s designed for a westward drive from Palenville, NY, to Hunter, NY, on Route 23a. This is the main stretch. In future episodes, we’ll post side excursions, so please don’t forget to hit that subscribe button.
In this episode … learn about painter Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School, then we’ll delve into the cottage communities of the late 1800s, with a current Twilight Park resident. From there, we speak with a New York State forester on the history of the Catskill Park. Then we’re off to Tannersville, to meet the mayor, followed by a chat with Hunter Mountain’s Gary Slutzky.