A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

Bill Birns presents a weekly essay on history, geography, day-trips, arts and culture in the Catskill Mountain region.

A Catskill Catalog: August 20, 2008

What’s the highest mountain in the Catskills? How many Catskill peaks exceed 3,500 feet? How many people have climbed them all?
The answers to these questions are tied up with the Catskill 3,500 Club, the leading hiking organization devoted specifically to climbing our mountains. Founded in 1962, the Catskill 3,500 Club is open to anyone who meets the club’s strenuous requirements of outdoor accomplishment.


A Catskill Catalog: August 13, 2008

The Catskills were once an experiment in American feudalism. The experiment failed, thankfully, but it is useful to remember that many of our homes, fields, woods and farms were once the property of fabulously wealthy men who rented out parts of their great estates to tenants, who owed them yearly payment in both goods and service.


A Catskill Catalog: August 6, 2008

My father was in the leather trade. His narrow wooden warehouse and office was on Gold Street, downtown by the Brooklyn Bridge, in an area of Manhattan known as the Swamp. As a small boy exploring piles of soles and heels and leather strapping, I never imagined the connection between that place in the city and my future home here in the Catskills.


A Catskill Catalog: July 30, 2008

Donald W. Bouton of Greene County’s Halcott Center has written and published a wonderful memoir chronicling the changes in Catskill Mountain life over the 150 years of the family farm. Don’s great-grandfather settled in the Halcott Valley in the 1850s. His grandfather, father, children and grandchildren have all made a home – and a life - in what Don lovingly calls “this special place in the Catskills.”


A Catskill Catalog: July 23, 2008

For years, my brother in Philadelphia and I have talked – it’s always been just talk – about taking a raft down the Delaware from my house to his house. While the rain that falls on my roof soon swells the river that runs by his, those who patrol the New York City reservoirs would certainly not welcome our raft. It’s merely a fantasy.