Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve

Ridgelines #185

Winter 2017  #185

Winter is "snow" much fun at Mohonk Preserve!

When the flakes fly, enjoy cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on our carriage road network, or explore the Preserve Visitor Center, with its video orientation theater, interactive exhibits, and Kids Corner. And don’t forget about the Preserve’s great Thursday Tales at Ten story time for children 2-5.
In this issue of Ridgelines, we share how a Preserve supporter’s love of the land translated into a lasting donation, exciting news about a state-of-the-art weather station at Spring Farm, and an inspiring story about a team of Rock The Ridge participants who are really going the extra mile.
Thanks to all of our members and donors for your continued support, and we wish you a happy and healthy 2017.

Legacy Climber Advances Conservation and Connectivity

Longtime Mohonk Preserve supporter Peter Vlachos made a significant holiday gift to the Preserve by donating an 11.8-acre property on Lower Knolls Road near the Spring Farm Trailhead in December 2016.
This donation protects a significant beech-maple mesic forest from future development, provides connectivity to other Preserve lands, and buffers Spring Farm carriage roads and trails.
In addition to the beech-maple forest, the Vlachos property also includes a chestnut oak-dominant forest on the east side of the property. Rock fern and ebony spleenwort grow on a small cliff face. Archeological features include fossils embedded in limestone rock along the stone wall boundary. 
An interesting cultural history attribute is a test bore into Shawangunk conglomerate that was ostensibly part of the Catskill Aqueduct construction, as the adjacent land was once owned by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
In addition, the recently installed Mesonet weather station (see article below) is 300 feet from the southern boundary of the Vlachos parcel, which will provide an important buffer to the weather station in an area where development would have negatively affected site conditions. 
"This property meets many of the Preserve’s Land Protection acquisition criteria for contiguous parcels," said Mohonk Preserve Director of Land Protection and Stewardship Emily Hague. "It is comprised entirely of unimproved forest land; it helps protect the Coxing Kill, a significant watershed; its development would diminish scenic views from and across protected open space; and the property borders high-functioning wildlife habitat."
Donor Peter Vlachos is a legacy Gunks climber and member of the storied Vulgarians, a new breed of climbers with unorthodox styles. He first visited the Gunks at the invitation of his Colby College alumnus Burt Angrist in the early 1960s. Fondly known by fellow climbers as Pete "The Greek," among his many accomplishments were first ascents of the 5.8 route "Diana" and 5.9 route "Wisecrack" in the West Trapps with fellow Vulgarian Art Gran, and the 5.6-5.8 route "Greyer Face" and the eponymous 5.7 route "Pete’s Meat" at Skytop.
As Burt recalls, in addition to being a dedicated climber, Peter was a committed champion of civil rights and the environment. Even after an accident ended his climbing career, it didn’t diminish his devotion to the Gunks and the outdoors, as he continued to actively support organizations including Mohonk Preserve, Scenic Hudson and Outward Bound. 
Peter has had a long and successful career as an investment advisor and manager. He is also a veteran of the Air Force Strategic Air Command. His wife, Dr. Susan Deakins, is a psychiatrist and former associate director and core faculty member of the Public Psychiatry Fellowship of New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center, which trains leaders for the public mental health sector.
When asked why they donated the Lower Knolls Road property, Peter explained he was originally approached about it in the 1970s by Thom Scheuer, the Preserve’s first head ranger. "I kept it in mind and as far as preserving the land, there could be no better caretaker than Mohonk Preserve. The Preserve’s research and land protection programs make a healthy contribution to the local ecology and the local economy. On many levels, the donation made a lot of sense."
The Preserve’s land protection work is multi-faceted and involves keeping relationships with landowners and local communities strong, monitoring land protection agreements, and conducting scientific research and applied management techniques to ensure the sustained quality of natural habitats. Land donations are an important part of this program and provide an opportunity for individuals to ensure that the lands they love will remain preserved and protected in perpetuity while also contributing to the Preserve’s mission of saving the land for life. 
For more information on donating land or establishing conservation easements, contact Mohonk Preserve Director of Land Protection and Stewardship Emily Hague at 845-255-0919, ext. 1251, or

Keeping a Weather Eye

As winter continues, the weather becomes a major topic of discussion. At Mohonk Preserve, we’ve been focusing on the weather for the past 120 years, collecting daily data on the temperature, precipitation, fog, and even rainbows.

Now including more than 43,000 days of weather observations, these records comprise the collection of the Preserve’s Mohonk Lake Cooperative Weather Station, established in 1896 by the U.S. Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service).

These weather readings began in the mid-1880s, taken by Dan and Keith Smiley of Mohonk Mountain House, and are now continued by Mohonk Preserve Conservation Science staff and volunteers. Beginning in the late 1970s, data collection expanded to include regular monitoring of the pH of precipitation, lakes, and streams. The Mohonk Lake dataset is one of the most consistent, continuous climate records available in North America.

One of Mohonk Preserve’s popular Citizen Science programs is Climate Trackers, a dynamic group of volunteers who assist our Conservation Science team by taking weather readings and honing their skills in data collection and weather science. For more information on the Climate Trackers program, click here.

The latest addition to the Preserve’s weather monitoring efforts is the installation of a Mesonet automated weather station at the Preserve’s Spring Farm Trailhead in High Falls in partnership with SUNY Albany. Part of the New York State Early Warning Weather Detection System, New York State Mesonet is a network of 125 weather stations across the state measuring temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, pressure, radiation, and soil information.

A mesonet is a particular type of observing network, with weather stations spaced close enough together to adequately sample "mesoscale" weather. The prefix "meso" refers to weather phenomena that range in size from less than a mile to hundreds of miles long and last a few minutes to hours.

"The fact that this program is coordinated by SUNY Albany and New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services made this process quite straightforward for us, and we were very happy to have the chance to work with them," said Mohonk Preserve Director of Conservation Science Dr. Elizabeth Long. "The equipment used in this project is top-notch and provides very high-quality data, and being part of the network makes the data much more powerful than an isolated station would be." 

"The Mesonet site requirements are pretty specific, so when I heard that they were looking for a site in our area, I immediately contacted our Director of Land Stewardship Emily Hague to see if she thought we might have anything that would work," Elizabeth noted. "She was able to work with the Mesonet team to identify the best options among our open fields, choosing a site that not only fits the requirements for collecting high-quality weather data, but also has limited impact on Preserve lands and our visitors’ experiences. We used a "balloon test" (flying a balloon at the same location and height as the proposed weather station, and then monitoring from different vantage points to see whether or not it is visible) at several points around Spring Farm and found a great field that’s out of the way for almost all Preserve activities."  

Paul Huth, Mohonk Preserve’s Director of Research Emeritus, has been involved in weather recording since 1974. He sees the addition of the Mesonet station as a tremendous step forward for our area. "For the first time, we are able to look at real-time weather as it develops locally on the Shawangunk Ridge."

To view real-time weather reporting from the High Falls Mesonet station, click here.


First Time Fifty Milers

Ridge Rockers Terri Fortuna and Carol Brandmaier-Monahan are no strangers to Rock The Ridge at Mohonk Preserve. For the last three years they have completed the course three times over as a relay team. This year, they’re taking on the full 50 miles.

"Since we've done the course three times now as relays, I figured it was time for a new challenge," Terri said. "I also want to see the entire course. I've only done Leg 2 and Leg 4 of the relay and my friends have raved about their parts of the course."

Terri and Carol come from different running backgrounds. Before training for her first Rock The Ridge relay, Terri hadn’t run more than a 5K. Since then, she’s completed two more relays, a half-marathon, and now enjoys running 7-10 miles. "This race has meant so much to me over the past few years," she said. "I've gained the confidence to run longer distances than I ever thought I would."

Carol has participated in sprint triathlons, but had stopped due to injury until participating in the Rock The Ridge relay with Terri. "I have had my best run/walks ever during Rock The Ridge," she said.

Their running backgrounds exemplify a unique aspect of Rock The Ridge. "It draws in all kinds of people, no matter their fitness or training level," Terri said. "You have serious ultra marathoners and people who walk it with a three-foot Subway sandwich stuffed in their backpacks – and everything in between. We're all just people who want to enjoy the outdoors and challenge ourselves on an adventure. It's truly a great experience."

"I love this race because it doesn't feel like a traditional race. I've created new friends and built on friendships with older friends while getting to enjoy this great preserve," Carol added.

When asked why they’ve decided to come back year after year, the team cited the course and venue as a huge draw. "I just love Mohonk Preserve," said Carol. "It is gorgeous!" "Something speaks to me about Rock The Ridge," Terri added. "I love the venue. The course is just beautiful – spectacular views and trails."

Both agreed that they would like to finish within 12 hours, hoping to complete their 50 miles without needing headlamps.

Join Carol and Terri and accept the challenge. Take on all 50-miles or enlist some friends and tackle the course as part a relay team. Either way, sign up today to Rock The Ridge and support Mohonk Preserve's Conservation Science, Outdoor Education and Land Protection and Stewardship programs!


Seasonal Updates

PHOTO GALLERYView seasonal photographs by our volunteer photographers. See more photos by the Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers on their Facebook page.

GET INTO NATURE. See a full list of upcoming programs including Thursday Tales at Ten: Story Time at Mohonk Preserve and The Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership (SRBP) Lecture Series.

IN APPRECIATIONGo to our listing of Memorial and Honorary Gifts, Premium Members, and Business Members received October 1 through December 31, 2016.

CHECK THIS OUT. Legacy Society member Meme Hanley explains why Mohonk Preserve is special to her in this short videoLegacy Society members help us with our mission of protecting the Shawangunk Mountains region for future generations to enjoy. To learn more, contact the Development Department at 845-255-0919 or

MOHONK PRESERVE MEMBER REWARDS PROGRAM. Show your valid Mohonk Preserve annual or life membership card at nearly 40 local businesses listed here, and receive a discount or special offer. We welcome our new business members who joined between October 1 and December 31, 2016: