It’s Snow Time

Whether or not we get snow, ‘tis the season for it. And that means hiking, snowshoeing, ice climbing, snowmobiling, ice skating, plowing and shoveling…or a warm toasty fire and a good book. After checking the forecast and the wind-chill chart below, decide your day’s itinerary from the possible alternatives listed. See Fireside Reads, and Out You Go below. Enjoy the rest of the year and let us all hope for 2021 to be a considerable change from its predecessor. 



Postcard: The Rock Cliff House, High Falls


Consulting my two favorite long-term weather prognosticators–the Woolly Bear and the Farmers’ Almanac (Extended Forecast for Winter 2020-2021)–I learned the Woolly Bear population was divided on the forecast, while the Almanac expected it to be on “THE COLD AND SNOWY SIDE.”

Legend breaker: Thanks to  Jackie Woodcock’s article in the Adirondack Almanack online, here’s the scoop on a Woolly Bear. The only thing you can tell by looking at one is how well it fed the season before. Reluctantly putting aside my pet caterpillar theory, I turned to the Farmers’ Almanac.

That trusted publication states,  “If you love the cold of winter, you’re going to love our forecast if you live in the northern half of the country.” They explain normal to below-normal temperatures are probably in store in our neck of the woods. With that in mind, we are listing some of our favorite hikes and books, but first some cool facts about our area’s weather history starting with some old news beginning in Rosendale.


Postcard: Main Street, Stone Ridge


A Rosendale News headline, February 16, 1940, reported, “Blizzard Hits Rosendale. The storm started on Wednesday morning and continued for 24 hours with wind kicking up drifts of five feet. As soon as the plows cleared a road, the wind obliterated their progress.”

How early does snow usually begin? The earliest storm of note that winter may have been on November 29, 1940, when a Rosendale News headline declared, “Came The Blizzard.” We learn that “last Friday it was so warm and sunny we were out in shirtsleeves.” The article does not say how much snow was dropped on them the following Tuesday, but it was enough and early enough that it was worth a page one article.

Rosendale’s writer continued with this ray of hope: “If winter comes, can spring be far behind? That’s what the poet asked. But poets are impractical.”

And added not so hopefully, “No, spring is not very far away. Not more than a dozen blizzards.”


Sutton’s Store and PO, Highland, courtesy of Town of Lloyd Historian’s office.


There were blizzards and then there were BLIZZARDS. Judd Caplovich paints some chilling images in his book, Blizzard! The Great Storm of ‘88. The book begins with this:                  

“ ‘Washington City, Sunday, March 11, 1888–7A.M.’ It was the War Department Signal Services official forecast for the US. It noted “expected brisk winds, some rain, even some high temperatures” in the mid-west. It did have a warning about some weather cautions on the Atlantic coast and that,   ‘The rivers will rise slightly.’ ”

Whoops. The storm is a reminder that although April is “the cruelest month,” March can be worse. The early March storm of 1888 tried the populations’ ingenuity. According to Caplovich’s book, men tried piling wood under or near high snow piles and using “kerosene-soaked rages,” set the wood ablaze. Not a solution as the melted snow-water simply oozed into the areas cleared of snow and froze, creating a new danger.

Farmers’ distribution systems for milk and eggs were buried under the snow, but the weather could not interrupt the productive schedules of cows and chickens.

In Poughkeepsie, farmer George Deuell’s son wrote in his diary, “Pa doesn’t know what to do with his milk as he cannot take it off and it shows no sign of clearing off and even if it does clear off there is no knowing how soon we can get through the drifts.”

Got milk? According to Caplovich, the Deuell family churned butter. A lot of butter. “Not until March 31, three weeks after the storm, did Deuell find a firm market for his farm’s products,” Caplovich wrote.


Postcard. Date unknown. Ice Jam on Esopus Creek, Saugerties NY.


In an article by Joseph A. Flemming, again from the Rosendale News,  June 23, 1939, the readers are asked, “Who remembers the yoke of oxen owned by Jacob Krum, which opened up our local roads after the blizzard of eighty-eight?”

An article that appeared in About Town ten years ago,  titled “A Conversation with the Quimby Brothers of Marlboro,” Howard, Sam, and Paul gave this account.

“On March 11, 1888, no one knew the falling flakes were anything more than a late-season snow. But by March 14th, everyone knew it was destined for the record books. It was the “Blizzard of ’88.”

The Quimby brothers’ grandmother, “Phoebe Baxter Quimby of Marlboro was concluding a visit to nearby Plattekill. To make it home, Phoebe’s brothers ended up shoveling a path for her horse and sleigh. They made their way home before the full force of the snow closed down the Northeast. That blizzard killed more than 400 people and cost over 25 million dollars (1.2 billion in current dollars). The losses were mainly from fires no one could reach. Snow totals hit 58” in the Northeast with wind gusts up to 80mph. Drifts were huge. Phoebe and her brothers were very lucky.”

New York City’s The Evening World queried people one year later as to their memory of the storm.  “Lawyer W. C. Percy said, ‘Remember it? Why Iwas on an L train that was stalled midway between two stations during four mortal hours. I don’t anticipate such bad luck again for some time to come.’”

Weather patterns can be tricky, and apparently, the northeastern U.S. was in a cold one as the Poughkeepsie Evening Enterprise of February 19, 1899, featured this huge headline: “This Blizzard A Ghost of ‘88.”

A Thousand-Mile Storm Sweeps Over  the Atlantic Coast, –Threatening to Rival the Great Blizzard of Eleven Years Ago.”

“The blizzard that visited Poughkeepsie today is part of a thousand-mile wide snowstorm which is sweeping along the Atlantic coastline, according to a bulletin issued by the Washington weather bureau today.

No such widespread cold wave ever visited American territory. The blizzard of today is the worst since the great storm of 1888, and it bids fair to equal that one in severity before it ceases.

In Poughkeepsie, all businesses and streetcars ceased operation, and trains “were greatly delayed.”

The storm was the result of two storms coming together, “… one from the Gulf of Mexico, the other from the Northwest.” The article mentions the wind-chill as an important factor in the storm’s danger and speaks of how it is “..the culmination of climatic rigors as far as the poor and distressed of the (New York) city are concerned.”


Postcard image: Highland Presbyterian Church, Washington’s Birthday storm. Storm year unknown. Post marked 1910. Possibly same storm shown on card below.



Postcard image: Highland Methodist Church showing a storm on Washington’s Birthday, year unknown. Postmarked November 20, 1910.


Personal diaries provide useful records of weather events. The Poughkeepsie Evening Enterprise of January 25, 1906, took a look back one year and provided the weather recordings of George F. Kiersted, the janitor at the Kingston Academy, Kingston, NY. Kiersted wrote “Saturday, January 22.– Lowest temperature 23 degrees; highest 28 degrees. Snow fell until noon.”

(According to a 1905 calendar, the 22nd was actually a Sunday– must have been a brain freeze.)

Monday, January 23, Lowest Temperature 10 degrees; highest 28 degrees. Fair.

Tuesday, Jan. 24–Lowest temperature, 9 degrees; highest 22 degrees. Fair until 11 a.m. when snow began falling. At 10:30 p.m. snowstorm turned into a regular blizzard.

Wednesday, Jan. 25– Lowest temperature 12 degrees; highest 22 degrees. Blizzard raged all day until 9 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 26–Lowest temperature 12 degrees; highest 22 degrees. Clear. Streets filled with drifts, the worst since the blizzard of 1888.”

The next day temperatures ranged from 9 degrees below zero to 24 degrees above zero.

Makes you kind of grateful for global warming and fleece.



We know nature can throw curve (snow) balls at us. But what to do?  You may want to curl up with one of these books of local interest. Following here are some venues for brisk hikes and other sporting pastimes. Of course, you could always do your housework, homework, or … never mind.


Out You Go!
Into the Snow…

We suggest venues here where you might have a chance to commune with nature or snuggle up with a snow angel.

Ashokan Rail Trail is 11 1/2 miles along the old Ulster and Delaware Rail line and skirts the Ashokan Reservoir. Spectacular views, great for hiking and biking. For details and parking locations:

D&H Canal Five Locks Walk. Follow the Delaware and Hudson canal towpath and take in the locks built in the 1820s to bring coal from Honesdale, PA, to the Rondout section of today’s Kingston. 1315 Route 213, High Falls, NY. Open year-round, daylight hours. Just one-half mile but loaded with history.  Free. Please follow the rules posted on the website.

John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary. Woodsy, 4 1/2 miles, varied terrain, small lake with rocky and beautiful peninsula. In West Park, NY, off Route 9W on Floyd Ackert Road.

Black Creek Preserve is another Esopus wonder. Starts with a suspension bridge, then a steep climb, and on to the Hudson  River through 130 wooded acres. Off 9W in Esopus.

High Banks Preserve, Ulster Park, 287 acres of hardwood forests, the lovely Esopus Lake, and great trails. Mountain bike, hike, fish, x-country ski, snowshoe. Open year-round sunrise to sunset. Site was considered for the home of the United Nations. Whew, missed that bullet. 132 River Rd, Ulster Park, NY.

• Walkway Over The Hudson is an 1889 rail road bridge that was damaged by a fire in 1974 and closed. In 2009, it opened as a spectacular pedestrian walkway connecting Highland with Poughkeepsie, and their wonderful rail trails. On the Poughkeepsie side is the William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail, 13 miles through many Dutchess County towns and ending in Hopewell Junction. Many access parking lots, see map online at

• Esopus Meadows Preserve with 96 acres, has plenty of Hudson River shore to explore and chances to watch wildlife. Trails for hiking, x-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Pavilion is a great picnic site. any time of year.

Shaupeneak Ridge is another Esopus hike that is sure to please. Great views toward the Catskills and the Hudson River depending on season. Some challenging sections. Explore 936 acres of woods and rock formations. Hiking, mountain biking, fishing, x-country skiing and snowshoeing.

• Franny Reese  State Park in Highland, is 238 acres of trails and views of the Hudson River high above the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Beautiful stone ruins of the Ganse Estate. Old carriage road and trails. Hiking, mountain biking, wildlife watching, X-country skiing & snowshoeing. Managed by Scenic Hudson. Macks Lane off Route 9W (by Walgreens). See more on this site and many other great parks on Scenic Hudson’s website.

• Wallkill Valley Rail Trail runs 23 miles from Wallkill, NY through Gardiner, New Paltz, Rosendale. Hiking, biking, cross country skiing. Many access points and places of historic interest, such as the cement kilns in Rosendale.


Postcard image: One of Rosendale’s ski jumps. Card is from the 1930s. There were two sites, one at Williams Lake and the other on Jopphenburg Mtn. In 1937 Rosendale competed to be the site of the World Championship. Many world-famous jumpers competed in Rosendale.


• Overlook Mountain in Woodstock is crowded during fine Summer and Fall weather. Winter may be the best time to try this 4+ mile climb, in addition to fewer people, the rattle snakes are not around. Reward is great views,  ruins, and the Overlook fire tower, in case you have not climbed enough. Directions and parking.

• Hudson Valley Rail Trail in Highland was recently extended to all the way to New Paltz. The trail’s older section was recently repaved making it a biking  dream. From Highland, if you head east, you will cross the Walkway Over The Hudson and have 13 more miles of rail trail in Dutchess County all the way  to Hopewell Junction. This trail passes through many small villages and varied terrain. Interesting trip.  East or West on the HVRT is delightful.



Looking toward Illinois Mountain from the Hudson Valley Rail trail, not far from the Tony Williams Field entrance in the Town of Lloyd, off South Riverside Road. The abutments on either side of the stream are relics from the original rail line. All along this rail trail you will encounter objects that were saved from the trail’s life as a rail line.

The Hudson Valley Rail Trail’s original section has been repaved and is now rollerblader’s and biker’s dream. With snow, the non-paved areas are great for x-country skiing. Views such as the one to the right are only part of its charm. The newer section, starting at Tony Williams Field winds along 299 (but not too close!) providing beautiful views of wetlands and streams. At the eastern end is the Walkway Over The Hudson, a destination for almost 11 years. On the western end is New Paltz with connections to the new River to Ridge trail and the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. Congratulations to the trustees of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and the River To Ridge for the fabulous job those volunteers have done all these years.