Catskills back on the radar scope   Robert Leverett
  Sep 20, 2004 08:06 PDT 


     I spent this past weekend in the New York's Shawangunks and
Catskills - the first part of the weekend wondering if I was going to
get swept away as the remnants of Ivan went storming through. The
eastern Catskills got 5 to 7 inches of rain, some places maybe more. The
streams were all swollen and minor flooding was widespread, but of
course nothing close to what happened in the Southeast. So, all in all,
I'd say the region was lucky.

   On Saturday afternoon, I had the privilege to visit a private site
owned by a 90-year old gent name Rashkin. He has an 80-foot water fall
on his property that has been the subject of numerous photo
opportunities. Rashkins property covers 228 acres and is located in the
Shawangunks. I went there to look for old growth and big trees on his
property, by his invitation through a third party.

    Despite what Mr. Rashkin had been told, I saw no old growth nor was
I able to find any conspicuously large trees. I saw a world of red maple
and yellow birch, which has grown back from prior cutting. Rashkin's
woods are attractive and moderately species rich, but nothing out of the
ordinary. However, the property has been written up numerous times in
nature magazines and has been the filming site for at least 3 movies.
Mr. Rashkin gave us a standing invitation to return. However, I want to
wait until the leaves fall so I can see the terrain better. The property
is certainly aesthetic. The falls are partially visible from the main
road and the lack of seclusion takes away from them. An old railroad bed
runs close to the falls. In the era of steam, the accesibility of water
via the waterfall was made use of by steam engines. However, Mr. Rashkin
has a second waterfall that isn't visible from the road. I didn't get to
see it.

   On the return trip, we passed through the valley bottoms and there I
saw tall tuliptrees, sycamores, and cottonwoods. I got excited. There is
plenty of potential in the southeastern corner of New York's mountain
region. For tree searching, it is literally virgin territory. Lots of
private woodlands that could have big trees and perhaps a little old

    On Sunday, I saw a world of old growth in Platt Clove and around
Kaaterskill falls in the Catskill Preserve. Nothing I hadn't seen
before, but it was good to re-acquaint myself with that extraordinary
area. The Catskills rise dramatically above West Saugarties, NY to the
summits of High Peak, Twin Peaks, and Indian Head. The elevation change
is 2,500 to 3,000 feet and it occurs abruptly. The cloves on the eastern
escarpment are extremely rugged and swaths of old growth are common. I
saw eastern hemlock; black, yellow, and white birch; white pine;
basswood, red, sugar maple, and striped, red and chestnut oak,
sassafras, hop hornbeam, black cherry, beech, slippery elm, and white
ash in the clove. Higher elevations pick up red spruce and balsam fir.
There are a few other species. In the lower elevations, cottonwoods
appear and a few tuliptrees. The cottonwoods are impressive. There is no
shortage of big tree-tall tree possibilities.

   The rock is all sedimentary - mostly slates and sandstones. Ledges
with overhangs are common. Spectacular views overlooking the Hudson
River Valley are everywhere to be found. In some ways, the Catskills are
forgotten mountains. Rip Van Winkle has not been the only one asleep.
All of us have.

   Like the Berkshires of western MA, the forests of the Catskills have
grown back and in spots with favorable growing condition, there probably
lurks a few sites with Rucker Indices of 120 or more. It's time to find

RE: Catskills back on the radar scope   Robert Leverett
  Sep 20, 2004 13:11 PDT 


   To add to the previous e-mail on the Catskills, as a consequence of
the superb work of Dr. Michael Kudish, we know that the Catskills have
at least 64,000 acres of first growth forest. I suspect the OG acreage
will eventually reach 70,000 acres. But most of the OG is located in the
upper elevations and is gnarled, stunted forest.

   What is unclear is how much regrowth there is in the 100-year age
range located in areas with favorable growing conditions. I suspect that
there are several thousands of acres of forest that needs to be seen by
ENTS. We really need an ENTS representative in eastern New York, willing
to search the hollows and coves for trees that rival what grows in
western Massachusetts. Based on what I saw this past weekend, they
definitely grow there.