Catskill Mountains


NFS - Fire and Ice


Phoenicia Diner in Phoenicia, NY

The Catskills are known for many things: farm-fresh food, the great outdoors, and ticket-happy state troopers. But in 2012, the region gained a new icon—Phoenicia Diner. The diner is nestled in the mountains, but for the next few months, the harsh upstate winter will keep you from venturing out to explore. You’ll have to settle for the view from a diner booth.

You greet the familiar staff and the friendly owner, Mike, as he mingles with patrons at the counter. You always feel at home here. Everything on the menu comes from local sources, and the chef has a reputation for spicing things up. You can’t choose, so you order a little bit of everything: French toast doused in local maple syrup and slabs of butter, chicken pot pie baked inside a fresh pastry dough, and Creole-style shrimp and grits complete with a delicate poached egg.

Sometime between your third and fourth cup of coffee, you chat about the weather with a local guy in the booth behind you. It’s the kind of fleeting companionship that’s only possible at a place like this, while you both devour your food.

As you leave, you look up and notice a few snowflakes. “Four more months of this,” you say. “Maybe it ain’t so bad.”

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The Catskills are different. Last weekend was my first time hiking any extended length there. It was also my first time backpacking (I know, took me long enough). It’s just so weird, how two mountain ranges in relatively close parts of the country can be so different. This was fun and beautiful in it’s own right, but at least on the east coast, the White Mountains will always be my favorite.

The Catskills, though. They’re greener. In that respect, I like it. The mountains are more modest. This one, at 4,040 ft is the second highest in the range. At the summit of the mountain, you’re still in heavy forest. The trees and vegetation don’t change much between the base of the mountain and the top. The trails are marked far better here. In the Whites, you can guarantee you’ll be hiking over boulders the entire way. Here there’s a lot of hiking up loose rocks that cover up a bed of pine needles that cover up a million roots. It’s almost exactly the same as anywhere you might hike in Connecticut, the stuff I used to do when I was younger. That said – this was perfect prep for hopefully some overnights in NH and I will never not like being in the woods.

08.09.15 | Hunter, NY