Thursday June 19, 2008
We started out the day deciding to check out the Catskills and get some New York maple syrup. We studied the local brochures and decided to see a maple syrup bottling operation. It was listed in the Catskills Travel Guide as open all year. It sounded like a nice place up in the Catskills called High Point Mountain Maple Syrup. I loaded the address into our trusty GPS and off we went.
The scenery was just breathtaking, driving the windy hilly back roads through the Catskills. However, the real the adventure part was about to start.
This was the only sign we saw other than no trespassing signs on this lonely narrow road.
Upon arrival I wasn’t sure Kathy was going to get out of the car. We expected a building and store.
I walked up to the door of what looked like a habitable place and introduced myself to Bud Eckert and asked if he had any maple syrup for sale. He said yep, sure do.
Bud and I waiting on Kathy to emerge from the safety of the car after making sure her cell phone would work just in case she needed to call for help.
I learned that Bud, age 73, has been making maple syrup since he was 11. I asked if we could take pictures and he said sure.
This is the processing plant with the main piece of equipment, an evaporator. It runs on oil, but Bud says it is getting too expensive and he may go back to firing it on wood.
The upper galvanized tank is where Bud pumps the raw sap into for feed into the evaporator.
Bud explaining to me how the syrup comes into the evaporator from the outside tank and goes through the evaporator. He then draws off the finished product from the brass valve in the foreground on the left one day and from the one on the right the next day to reverse the flow and make sure everything gets mixed well.
Well, Bud makes about 150 to 200 gallons a year of finished bottled syrup.
He stated that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup from the sap at the beginning of the season February 1. Near the end of the season in late March or early April, it could take as much as 45 to 47 gallons to make one gallon. The later syrup is also darker.
Bud and I leaving the processing plant.
We ended up buying a quart from Bud. He claims to have the cheapest prices around. He sells a gallon for $56 while stores sell it for $67 a gallon. He sells every weekend at the flea market in Woodstock.
To say the least this was a very interesting side trip, but a great down home tour of a maple processing facility.
On the way back to the RV we decided to visit another open house that was built during the Gilded Age. We stopped at Wilderstein. All of the folks named their estates. It sounded better to say lets visit Wilderstein rather than lets visit the Suckley’s.
Sign noting this is a preservation.
View from the parking lot.
View of tower which faces the Hudson River.
The history of Wilderstein begins in 1852 with Thomas Holy Suckley's purchase of the river front site, then a sheep meadow of the adjacent late 18th-century estate, Wildercliff. Suckley's fortune had been secured through the family export trade and real estate investments. He was a descendant of the Beekman and Livingston families whose estate houses were prominent landmarks in this region of the Hudson River Valley from the 17th through the late 19th centuries.
Thomas Suckley and his wife Catherine Murray Bowne wanted a building site endowed with striking natural features. The landscape setting for Wilderstein fulfilled this criteria by virtue of its varied terrain and the scenic views it afforded of the river and distant mountains - the vistas framed by tall cedars and evergreens.
This is a view of the Hudson from the porch of the house.
This is the covered carriage entrance to the house.
Suckley named the property "Wilderstein" (wild man's stone) in reference to a nearby Indian petroglyph, an allusive reminder of a cultural heritage that preceded European settlements in the region.
There are 36 stained glass windows in the house The above is one of them. The fashionably appointed interiors were designed by the New York City decorator, Joseph Burr Tiffany.
Through 1991 three generations of Suckleys occupied Wilderstein, amassing personal and ancestral effects that attest to the lively social history of the estate, its family and their relationship to the Hudson Valley. The books, letters, photographs, furniture, paintings, art objects and china - some ordinary and some exquisite - are intriguing to the scholar and the casual visitor alike.
The last resident of Wilderstein was Margaret (Daisy) Suckley. A cousin and confidante of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Miss Suckley traveled extensively with FDR during his presidency, gave him his famous black Scottish terrier Fala, and helped to establish his library in Hyde Park. THE TRUE STORY OF FALA, written by Miss Suckley, describes Fala’s life as the presidential dog. Miss Suckley was with FDR when he was fatally stricken at Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945. She died at Wilderstein in 1991, in her 100th year. The letters they exchanged during their friendship, discovered in a black battered suitcase at Wilderstein, provide one of the best resources for understanding the private side of Roosevelt’s life during his presidency. They have been edited by Geoffrey C. Ward in his book CLOSEST COMPANION.
If you ever get to this area I would highly recommend visiting Wilderstein as well as FDR’s Springwood and Vanderbilt’s Hyde Park. There are about a dozen estates that have been preserved. We didn’t get to visit them all but may return someday.
These estates includes some of the finest examples of several historic styles of architecture, landscaping, and interiors, from the early Federal period to the numerous revival styles of the late 19th and early 20th century. It is our great fortune that many of these estates have been meticulously restored and lovingly maintained to recreate each home's historical and cultural significance, as well as personal character. The estates along the river recreate a history not only of the Hudson Valley, but of the United States.
That was our last day here, it turned out to be a very interesting one.
Tomorrow we drive south about 50 miles to Newburg just outside West Point.