Paradise Island

Location, location, location. In real estate, it’s what everybody wants. When it comes to coveted property, Great Egg Harbor Bay has it all. Centrally located and convenient, with a wealth of nearby dining options, the bay is dotted with islands large and small. Most are sandy salt-marsh, nice enough for shorebirds. The discriminating wading bird will be searching for a little bit more. Something with trees, thickets of vines and shrubs, security, and privacy. Perfect condos in which to raise one’s young.

Hi, folks, I’m Harry Night-Heron, real estate reporter for KRTR 99.9 FM, Critter Radio. Welcome to A Home in the Wild where we take a look at the best properties available in the area! What do we look for in a rookery? Location counts, sure, as do the little amenities. But I’ve always said that the mark of a high-end property is the company it keeps, and this neighborhood keeps plenty of it.

Today we offer you a little community that I like to call… Paradise Island. Let’s meet the neighbors, shall we?   Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: Beyond the Catskills

My friends and I came to the Catskill Mountains with preconceived beliefs, only to find our admittedly low expectations far exceeded by the beauty of the region.

Although the Catskill Mountains were the center of attention during our week-long vacation, they aren’t the only attraction in southeastern New York state. We’d visited the Hudson River Valley, but smaller ranges like the Taconics, the Shawangunks and the Helderbergs tempted with their own unique charms. Still, with our trip at its end, Robb, Don and I were out of time to explore any of the rugged places beyond the Catskills.

Or were we?   Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: In the Hall of the Mountain King

The Summer Queen looked dubiously at the knights-apprentice kneeling before her. “You want to take them where?” she inquired of the wood elf beside them.

“To Dibble’s Quarry, Your Majesty.”

“You would take them to the Hall of the Mountain King? Why?”

“Because it’s time, Your Majesty. They have served you well, and deserve the chance to prove their mettle on this quest. Besides, I think they’d enjoy it.”

“ENJOY IT?!” the Queen convulsed in gales of laughter. “Oh, child, you do amuse me! Very well, for your pluck alone, I shall grant them this quest. Perhaps the Mountain King will find them amusing as well. Please bear my greetings to His Highness. But be sure you do not return without his token! Though I will be surprised if you succeed in this quest. It’s a rare visitor to his Hall that has the fortitude to win such a boon.”

“You… you don’t think the King will be there, surely?” the elf asked in a quavering voice.

“I know not. The Mountain King is no consort of mine, he does not answer to me. I bear no responsibility for what may come to pass should you find him at home.”

For the first time, the respectfully lowered eyes of one knight-apprentice looked up from the ground. “We are prepared, My Queen, and ready for all challenges. What could go wrong?”

As the travelers turned to leave, the Summer Queen wiped tears of mirth from her eyes. “What could go wrong, indeed!”   Continue reading

Life Interrupted

The change was so drastic and unexpected, my head still spins. One day I was happily reliving last summer’s Catskills adventures, while dreaming of the approaching spring and all the places I’d go. Jenkins Arboretum and the preserves along the Susquehanna for the spring wildflowers. National wildlife refuges for warblers and nesting shorebirds. The Pine Barrens for – well, just because it’s the Pine Barrens. The White Mountains in May. Texas in June to see Mexican free-tailed bats.

Just as quick as turning out a light, it all went away. Wiped out by a microscopic virus. One day, the world is my oyster; the next, that world has shrunk to a grain of sand. My life, interrupted.

What’s a nature girl to do?   Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: Living on the Edge (Part Two)

Recap: In the previous episode, our intrepid Expeditionary Team had scaled enormous boulders, braved overhanging cliffs, and fought off voracious wild beasts (inchworms) to reach Artists Rock in the Catskill Mountains. When we last saw them, they were perched precariously at the edge of the world.

What’s next for our wandering, wondering heroes? Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: In the Hudson Valley

As captivating as the Catskill Mountains are, a visit to the area would not be complete without a day spent exploring the lowlands of the Hudson River Valley. After a couple of days on rocky trails – and a couple of blisters – my friends and I were ready for a change of pace. A relaxed, easy pace. What would we find along the Hudson River? We weren’t quite sure. Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: Vampires, Monks and the Devil

A vampire, a monk and the Devil walk into a bar…

The requirements for a fun hike are many: parking and rest rooms, a path that is neither too steep nor too long. With a payoff – waterfalls, a great view, fantastic rock outcroppings, weird plants… Before my friends and I came to the Catskill Mountains, I read through two trail guides, and found a few hikes that fit the bill.

Then Don announced that we were doing a hike that I hadn’t even considered because of its difficulty rating – the 4.6-mile strenuous hike up Overlook Mountain. 1380’ of elevation gain in 2.3 miles, via an old carriage road lined with power lines; no views or payoffs until the top where there’s the ruins of Overlook Mountain House, a view, and a fire tower.

I was critical (which I regret; sorry, Don!) Too critical, I guess, because he refused to tell me what got him interested in this hike in the first place. I should have known there was a reason, there’s a reason for everything Don does. But what could it be? Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: Falling for the Catskills

The sun rose brightly on our second day in the Catskill Mountains. Already we were finding the Catskills exceeding our admittedly modest expectations. We were ready for adventure, and certain that we would find it on the hike to Kaaterskill Falls. I packed my tripod in hopes of coming away with stunning waterfall images…

We know what high expectations bring, don’t we? Continue reading

Catskill Reveries: Great Expectations

Expectations are a funny thing. Go into an experience expecting great things, and you’re frequently disappointed. A location sure to yield amazing birds instead gives you Mallards at point-blank range, while the flock of Avocets feeds three football fields away. The stunning 360° views from the highest point east of the Mississippi are completely obscured by thick fog and driving rain.

On the other hand, it’s when you expect nothing that you are often pleasantly surprised. A fussy old mansion turns out to be surrounded by acres of stunning landscapes. The search for a humble lunch spot surprises with an amazing cavern hitherto unheard of.

When my friends and I left for a week in the Catskill Mountains of New York, we took with us our many expectations. Don thought “the Catskills would be touristy with lots of gift shops, restaurants and taverns.” I felt the same, expecting development, hotels and kitsch. Robb thought “the Catskills were going to be like the Adirondacks, very mountainous and ferny.” I, on the other hand, was sure the Catskills would seem like gentle hills, compared to the rugged heights of the Great Smokies and the Adirondacks.

Who was right, and who was wrong? Continue reading