Thursday, August 27, 2020

Callicoon NY is a beautiful place to visit

Delaware River near Narrowsburg NY

When I take a road trip, I love to travel on small roads, avoiding the major highways. It helps that I am retired, and rarely on a tight schedule. One of the things I look forward to is discovering the small towns that the interstate passes by. I am often surprised by what I find. A recent trip through the Catskill Mountains of New York brought me just such a find. 

In the northwest corner of Sullivan county, where the Delaware river serves as the border between New York and Pennsylvania, is the town of Callicoon. The town sits in a valley along the river. It was founded in 1842, when the Erie Railroad came through this part of the state. This part of the Catskills was already a center of the timber industry. In 1849 a tannery was built, taking advantage of the local hemlock trees, whose bark played a key role in preparing leather for boots and industrial belts. The railroad allowed for an influx of farmers, offering them a reliable way to ship their goods to the population centers both north and south of the county. 

Callicoon Depot   


Today, Callicoon serves as a base for visitors who want to explore the Delaware River Valley. Driving into the center of town is like driving back in time. Most of the buildings date back to 1888, when there was a major fire, requiring the rebuilding of the commercial center. Except for all of the modern cars, it felt as if I walked onto the set of movie. The buildings have been wonderfully maintained, and the town businesses were in full bloom, even during the this summer of COVID-affected travel. The jewel in the center of town is the Western Hotel. Built in 1852, it is a national landmark that serves as both a hotel, restaurant and tap room. All of its rooms have been modernized and renovated, and it continues its 170 year tradition.

The Western Hotel

Main Street
Callicoon Brewing Company

From Callicoon, head fourteen miles south along NY-97, which follows the Delaware River, to the hamlet of Narrowsburg. It is named for narrow abutments along the river. As with many towns along the Delaware, it started as a place for shipping of lumber, with large groups of trees tied together and floated down river. Today, Narrowsburg is home to the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, and has several galleries and boutiques. On my visit, I had lunch from The Laundrette. They specialize in salads and pizzas, all made with very fresh ingredients. The arugula and prosciutto pizza was delicious.





The western edge of Sullivan County, along the Delaware River, is a beautiful place to visit. Whether you enjoy hiking, rafting or just visiting unique small towns, there is plenty to do and enjoy.

Nuts and Bolts:
Callicoon is 114 miles northwest of New York City. Take the NYS Thruway to route 17W (exit 16). Take route NY-17 to exit 104. Follow signs onto route NY-17B for approximately 21 miles to Callicoon.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Artists support BLM in SOHO


The summer of 2020 has been one of both static lives and major changes. COVID-19 has kept us at home while the struggle against racism and police brutality has gotten many of us out of the house and in the streets. In June, New York City was filled with daily protests involving tens of thousands of people. 

Many of the stores in the SOHO neighborhood, stores that were already closed due to COVID, boarded up their windows. Artists saw the blocks and blocks of blank plywood as an opportunity. They showed up with their paint, and their stencils, and their posters. They created works that were both beautiful and gave voice to a growing movement.

When New York entered “Phase 2” of reopening, I decided to head to SOHO to record some of this artwork before the stores took them down and hid them away. Here is some of what I found. 



Thursday, August 13, 2020

Empire State Plaza - Albany NY


The term urban renewal is very charged. To some people it is the replacement of “urban blight” with new, clean, and useful centers. To others it is the destruction of the working class neighborhoods, replacing them with places that do not serve or welcome them. In either case, it involves displacing thousands of, usually poor, people and the neighborhood they live in.

Nelson Rockefeller

In the early 1960’s, then-governor Nelson Rockefeller decided that the area surrounding the New York State capitol building, built in 1898, was unsuitable for showing visiting dignitaries. He took control of one hundred acres of buildings, that housed around seven thousand people, by eminent domain.  In 1965, he began construction on his grand scheme, The Empire State Plaza, to build a governmental mega-complex. Architect Wallace Harrison designed the seven buildings, using the brutalist style was popular at the time. These include the New York Legislative Office Building, the Cultural Education Center and New York State Museum, and The Egg, a performing arts center.

New York State Capital

The Egg


The buildings surround an open plaza that has several reflecting pools. The plaza is home to many activities, and markets. Under the plaza is a concourse that connects the buildings to each other, the parking garages and State Capital Building. The concourse provides weather safe travel between the offices, along with stores and restaurants. During normal times this area is packed, especially on “Lobby Tuesdays” the traditional day for groups to come to Albany to meet with their elected representatives.


the plaza concourse

Some people hate the architectural style of brutalism. It is raw and can be over-powering. Personally, I find the whole complex fascinating, if not powerful. What no one can argue with is that Gov. Rockefeller viewed this as a lasting legacy to himself and his family, much in the way that his father had built Rockefeller Center forty years earlier.

To me, Empire State Plaza represents the best and worst of governmental building projects. In my opinion, its origin is disgraceful, but it carries out its job through thoughtful design. It is worth a visit.

Nuts and Bolts:

You can get to the parking garage at Empire State Plaza from I-787. Take exit 3to US-9/US-20 E and follow the signs to the garage. Parking is available for $10/day before 11 AM, $5/day after 11 AM

The NYS Museum is open Tues-Sun 9:30 - 5:00 Admission is $5/person $10/family. The Museum is currently closed due to the COVID crisis.    

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Saratoga Spa State Park is a great place for a nature hike.

Geyser Creek

Usually, if you was to take a long hike in nature, you have to out of town. That is even true when you are in a smaller town or city. However, in Saratoga Springs there is a place to go for just such a an experience that is still in town, Saratoga Spa State Park.

Roosevelt Baths

Saratoga Spa State Park is located at the southern end of the city and sits in between two major roads, routes NY-9 and NY-50. It is home to a golf course, The Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the National Museum of Dance and the Saratoga Automobile Museum. But I went there to take advantage of its miles of trails. There are also six of Saratoga’s mineral springs in the park. Back in the 19th century, the area was a center of manufacturing, bottling to naturally carbonated water to be shipped and sold. In 1907, evidence in a court case showed that all of the springs in the area were interconnected, and many of the plants were forced to close. In 1909, a law was signed that made the springs and surrounding area a state reservation and all commercial bottling halted. In 1935 the Roosevelt Bath and Spa opened in the park, offering a full range of mineral soaks using the spring water, massages and a steam room. In 1962 the area was named a state park, and the trails and facilities were developed.

Admistration Building

I came to Saratoga Spa SP for a hike. The southern part of the park offer several trails, all of which are easy walks, with few hills. One option is to follow the 5-Mile Trail, which ties together parts of those trails into one long hike. The 5-Mile Trail offers a mix a wooded dirt trails and paved park paths. Because it is really an urban park, the trail has many facilities along it, including picnic pavilions and bathrooms. The trail starts near the Administration Building, an area that provides plenty of free parking. It weaves its way among the woods, and down to Geyser Creek, where you will find four of the park’s springs. Then it climbs back up to an area that paved, near the Peerless Pool complex. It also passes along the park’s “disc golf” course. From here it heads to the isolated part of the walk, in the southwest corner of the park. It passes through both woods and along a marshy pond, before heading toward the SPAC area. It then returns to Geyser Creek and back to the its start.

Saratoga Stryders - Monday Trail Fun Run #11 – 5 Mile Trail at ...

Karista Spring

Geyser Creek

Playing Disc Golf

Geyser Brook Geyser tap

The walk is easy. The park is beautiful. It is a great place to spend an afternoon.

Nuts And Bolts:

Saratoga Spa State Park has entrances along both Route 9 (Broadway) and Route 50 (Ballston Spa Road). The Avenue of the Pines will take you to the parking area near the Administration Building.