Celebrate Summer on a Columbia County Hike

So, you’ve visited CLC’s Public Conservation Areas and are wondering where else you can hike in Columbia County? You’ve come to the right place! On the blog this week we’re rounding up the best hikes/walks in the area, so you can hit the trail for the first official day of Summer.

Taconic State Park/Copake Falls Area (Copake Falls)

After grabbing goodies from the Copake-Hillsdale Farmer’s Market, make the short drive to Copake Falls where you will find a well-developed area to park and set off for the day. From the parking lot you have the choice to stroll down the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, a picturesque paved trail with interpretive signs, hike to Bash Bish Falls via the NY Trailhead, or hop on the South Taconic Trail if you’re in the mood for a more challenging hike.

Lake Taghkanic State Park (Ancram)

With around 10.5 miles of trails extending throughout the Park, you’re sure to stay busy between the swimming, boating, and fishing that’s also available in the summer months. If you’re looking for a short, gentle loop trail hit the Fitness Trail (FT) which takes about 30 minutes and will give you a great view of the lake and the Catskills off to the west. If you’re looking for a longer hike featuring a large variety of flora and fauna check out the Lake View Trail (LT), which loops around the entire lake and takes approximately 2.5 hours.

Beebe Hill & Harvey Mountain State Forests (Austerlitz and Canaan)

Combined, these two State Forests boast over 30 miles of multi-use trails. Hike up Beebe Hill—1.7 miles out and back—and then climb the fire tower and you will be rewarded with expansive views of the surrounding Castkill and Taconic mountain ranges. While Harvey Mountain is the highest peak in Columbia County, the trek up is moderate and family-friendly. Climb the 1.5 miles to the top in late July and you may find the field covered in delicious wild blueberries.

Farmers’ Markets in Full Swing!

A Guide to Columbia County’s Farmers’ Markets

It’s not hard to find fresh, beautiful produce here in the Hudson Valley—there are a countless number of farms in Columbia County alone! So, next time you need to stock up, skip the grocery store and head outside to your nearest farmers’ market to support your local farmers.

Here’s a list of farmers’ markets in Columbia County that are worth a visit:

Copake Hillsdale Farmers’ Market

Saturdays 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. May 26 – October 27, 2018

From baked goods to fresh flowers and live music, this market won’t disappoint. It’s situated right next to the Roeliff Jansen Park so bring along your dog and take a hike after you buy some goodies.

Hudson Farmers’ Market

Saturdays 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.  April 28 to November 17, 2018

Start by hitting up the Destino tent for some delicious breakfast tacos before visiting the different vendors at Columbia County’s largest farmers market.

Chatham Farmers’ Market

Fridays 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. June – October

Before heading home after work, make a quick detour to the Chatham Farmers’ Market located near the gazebo in the center of town and pick up some fresh ingredients for a delicious Friday night dinner!

Kinderhook Farmers’ Market

Saturdays 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. May – October

Join local farmers and food producers at the Village Green in Kinderhook for a wonderful market featuring different specialty vendors—from coffee roasters to creameries—every week.

Valatie Farmers’ Market

Sundays 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. May – September

End your weekend in Valatie picking out handmade soaps and fresh herbs at the market located just outside the Valatie Medical Arts Building. Make sure to stick around for the live music and occasional raffle drawings!

Om at Ooms!

Join us every Tuesday between June 5 and September 4 for all-levels yoga at Ooms. Classes are for practitioners of all levels. They are donation-based, run from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., and your contributions support CLC and Supersoul Yoga.

“We’re excited to partner with Supersoul Yoga to offer these classes as another way to connect people to our Public Conservation Areas,” says Peter Paden, CLC Executive Director. “They’re such special places, and this is just one way to enjoy them.”

“We’re enthusiastic about the opportunity to serve the community and take our practice outdoors – doing yoga at beautiful places like Ooms is inspiring, and we’re so happy that the donations collected will help to further the work of CLC to maintain these areas,” says Studio Manager Mike Andryszewski.

This is the 3rd consecutive year of Om at Ooms, and this effort supports our similar initiatives of connection with and through nature. These classes are offered at  Sutherland Pond at Ooms Conservation Area, with Proceeds support CLC and The Foundation for Inspired Living, a non-profit established by Supersoul Farm to fund education in meditation, yoga, and permaculture farming.

Best Spring Walks at Public Conservation Areas

Spring is finally here and it’s time to hit the trail! Lucky for you, CLC has miles of stunning trails open to the public at our Public Conservation Areas scattered throughout the county. To make it even easier, we have compiled a list of the can’t-miss walks and hikes of the season. What’d we miss? Let us know in the comments!

Blue/Stockport-Greenport Trail (Greenport Conservation Area)
After grabbing lunch in Hudson, take a walk near the Hudson River along the Stockport-Greenport Trail. Once you pass through fields of wildflowers, cross streams, and traverse forested slopes, you will be rewarded with breath-taking views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. To access this trail, follow the Access for All Trail until you reach the Blue Trail. This is a moderate out-and-back route around 2.6 miles.

 

Yellow to Blue Trails (Harris Conservation Area)
A great walk for families—follow the blue trail from the parking lot and find yourself walking upland into a beautiful hemlock forest. After connecting with the yellow trail, which will eventually loop you back around to the parking lot, you will pass a tranquil woodland pond, multiple active vernal pools, and an old stone wall. This site is rich in biodiversity, so while this walk is only one mile, you could spend hours here admiring the cool habitats and even cooler creatures.

Blue Trail to Green Trail (Drowned Lands Swamp)
Start on the relatively flat blue trail and skirt along the edge of the swamp. Your proximity to the wetland will be perfect for wildlife viewing, as well as catching sight of spring ephemeral wildlflowers. On your way back, you can take the Cross Trail to get to the Green Trail, which will lead you to the summit of Old Crocken where you will take in beautiful views of the Taconic and Catskill Mountains. This shorter walk is suited for visitors of all ages.

Green Loop Trail (Ooms Conservation Area)
This trail is beautiful at any time of the year, offering an almost two-mile walk around Sutherland Pond. Be sure to bring your binoculars because the rolling grasslands around the pond provides habitat for grassland birds, including the bobolink and several different sparrows. We’ve also seen eagles at the site, and heard rumors of osprey! If you get tired along the way, take a seat at one of the benches you pass or at the gazebo, which offers Catskill Mountain views to your west.

Foraging at Public Conservation Areas

It’s ramp season, and the allium lovers among us are ecstatic! We’d like to remind everyone that while some of our Public Conservation Areas may play host to the tasty treats, we do not allow foraging for ramps (or other edibles) at any of our sites.

Why not?

  • First and foremost, many ramps are overharvested to the point where their populations are threatened. CLC does not have the organizational capacity to closely monitor foragers and ensure that ramps are harvested sustainably.
  • Many ramps are also located off-trail. Going off the trails at our sites is highly discouraged, as there’s potential for foragers to damage fragile flora and fauna, like ephemeral spring wildflowers that are often growing at the same time ramps are. Pick closer to the trails, of course, and you risk noshing on a ramp that’s been previously doused by our trails’ many dog patrons!
  • And of course, there’s the potential that you could pick something poisonous, and harm yourself. For example, false hellebore looks a lot like ramps, and sends people to the emergency room each year.

Thanks for understanding and complying with this policy! You can also check out these tips to be a sustainable harvester if you find ramps on non-CLC lands that permit foraging.

Painting credit: Frans Ykens – Still Life with Shrimps, Ramps, Flowers and a Glass Vase

Conservation Advisory Council Meeting Coming Up!

Who can help you find information about what’s killing ash trees?  Or whether to believe tales about cougars? If your town is lucky enough to have a Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) they will be able to help. CACs are local advisory boards created by towns to provide information and consultation to the town regarding water, open space, wildlife, and natural resources.  Often, CACs help local residents as well as serving as an information resource for town councils and planning & zoning boards.

We invite you to learn about CACs and what they do at the Columbia County Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) Roundtable Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at the Philmont Public Library. Newcomers are always welcome. The agenda includes time for networking and brief updates about the activities of CACs from around the county. On the 30th, the guest speaker is Bill Schongar, regional forester with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Bill will discuss the “Right to Practice Forestry” law as well as local rules about forestry in our state.

Please contact Christine Vanderlan with any questions, and be sure to sign up if you plan to attend. CLC sponsors the CAC Roundtable meetings several times each year. If you cannot attend this one, we hope to see you at the fall Roundtable. Get on the Roundtable e-mail list to learn about upcoming meeting dates.

Spring has Sprung at Overmountain Conservation Area!

Sunday April 24, volunteers, trustees, and friends gathered at the soon-to-be-open Overmountain Conservation Area in Ancram for a sneak peek at what is to become CLCs newest and biggest Public Conservation Area.

Everyone was able to finish waking up by enjoying hot coffee and breakfast pastries while hearing about some of the historic use of the property and how it came to be donated to CLC. The group then split into two separate guided hikes lead by Trustee Will Yandik and staff member Ian Schillinger-Brokaw. These hikes delved deeper into the natural history of the area highlighting some of the unique features and critical ecosystems found on the property.

We walked out to a deep farm pond that was believed to have been an old schist quarry where they talked about farm ponds contributions to biodiversity. Even though they are man-made farm ponds have the potential to provide habitat for important macroinvertebrates such as Dragonflys!!! From here we moved onto a conversation about grassland bird habitat and what CLCs plans are to support these birds that are struggling in Columbia County and the greater USA. We then proceeded on to talk about some of the great work that has been done by the Greenagers and SCA crews on the property. These groups in addition to working on trails created many natural deer exclosures to protect small saplings from deer browsing. Being entirely constructed from wood and sticks found on site they proved to stand the test of time and remained mostly un-damaged over the past two years. It was quite heartening to see that inside the protective barriers many small saplings were thriving. These exclosures are an astatically pleasing, economical and effective way to help protect small stands of young trees on your property and are pretty easy to make on a sunny Sunday afternoon!!

There were several unexpected finds during the day. One of the boldest Savannah sparrows any of us had ever seen graced us with his song for several minutes atop the gazebo as we were getting ready to leave for our hikes. We then also found many Goldenrod galls created by gallflys and the wasps that try and eat them, woodpeckers that sounded like “drunk monkeys typing on an old type writer” and even the skeleton of a deer that most likely fell prey to some of the many coyotes in the area.

The event served as a perfect sneak peek into the potential of this new Public Conservation Area and CLC cannot wait to officially open its doors to everyone September 21. We hope to see you there!

Dogs & Public Conservation Areas

With spring just around the corner (we hope!) many of us will soon be hitting the trails with our four-legged friends to enjoy the sites and sounds of CLC’s Public Conservation Areas. While we love our furry pals, and many CLC staff have spoiled dogs of their own, we ask that all visitors to our sites keep their dogs on leash, and pick up after them. Why?

  • Public Conservation Areas are for everyone, and not everyone is a fan of dogs. Unleashed dogs can knock over small children, frighten people who have had traumatic past experiences with dogs, or intimidate submissive dogs who are on-leash.
  • Being on leash keeps your pup safe. Public Conservation Areas are home to porcupines, skunks, and other creatures that may not get along with your dog.
  • Many sites are home to fragile wildlife that can be damaged by dogs off-leash. Several CLC sites include grassland habitat where ground-nesting birds make their homes. Dogs bounding through these open fields can destroy nests, stress birds, or injure baby birds.
  • Dog poop is much easier to find when it’s close to the trail. Dogs generate several billion pounds of poop per year that includes E. coli, parasites, and fecal coliform bacteria that can make people sick, contaminate water, and just generally make for an unpleasant hiking experience if you unwittingly step in it. Check out this article for more information.

Thanks so much for being a considerate site user, leashing your dogs, and picking up after them! CLC owns and manages over 4,000 acres of land with only four full-time staff, and we can’t constantly police our sites. If you notice someone habitually breaking the leash rules, please contact our office at 518.392.5252.

Planting for Pollinators

As winter finally starts to subside, our thoughts turn to gardening. But these thoughts can quickly become overwhelming – what should I plant? When? Where? Should I plant for birds? Butterflies? Wildlife? How do I make sure I’m not buying invasive species, and what are those, anyway?  We’ve compiled a few resources to help you make all of those decisions!

Let’s start with the last question first: invasive species are non-native species that have the potential to harm the economy, environment, or human health. Invasive plants, in particular, often have the ability to grow very quickly, taking over areas dominated by native plants that local wildlife may rely on for food. This is important to keep in mind while planting your garden – gardening and home improvement stores may sell invasive plants, like English ivy or mile-a-minute weed. Learn more about common invasive plants at this website.

Luckily, there are lots of great resources online to help you figure out what you should plant!

If you’ve got an affinity for birds, check out Audubon’s Plants for Birds site. All you do is enter in your zipcode, pick which types of plants you want (trees, shrubs, perennials, etc.), and you’ll be presented with a list of native plants that suit your needs. You can even indicate which species of birds you’d like to attract. The Audubon site also has a lot of great resources about why to plant natives, caring for your plants, and making your yard bird-friendly.

The Xerces Society has a great list of native plants for pollinators in our region, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a beautiful database you can search, as well. You can enter in your site’s light and moisture availability to buy plants that are more likely to survive! If you’re especially interested in milkweed for monarchs, the Xerces Society also has a native milkweed finder site.

Happy planting!

Volunteers Remove Invasive Honeysuckle

On a snowy April Saturday, thirteen volunteers gathered at Siegel-Kline Kill Conservation Area to begin year two of our habitat restoration project, led by Master Gardener volunteers Tim Kennelty and Glenda Berman. Our task was to remove as much invasive Japanese honeysuckle along the roadside as we could in two hours.

Why were we working so hard to get rid of this plant? This invasive plant is bad for a number of reasons. Honeysuckle spreads rapidly, crowding out other native species that birds, pollinators, and other wildlife depend on for food. It is also suspected that honeysuckle produces a chemical in its roots that can make it hard for nearby plants to grow. While birds do eat the small berries honeysuckle produces, they are not the fat-nutrient rich food that birds need. A bird’s diet is much better served from native plants!

Volunteers cleared about 100 feet of honeysuckle along the roadside – what a difference! Once the honeysuckle has been removed, we will plant native trees and shrubs in their place, as part of our process of restoring native habitat at Siegel-Kline Kill. Thank you to all of the volunteers who came to help out!

If you want to join our next volunteer outing, please contact John Horton at john.horton@clctrust.org

If you’re interested in volunteering in another capacity (assisting at events, taking photos, maintaining trails), check out our Volunteer page to sign up.