How Fire and Ice Shaped Woodstock

On Sunday afternoon, July 8th, nature enthusiasts will have a rare opportunity to walk the Comeau Property in Woodstock with two of the Catskills’ foremost outdoor interpreters, geologist Robert Titus and forest historian Michael Kudish. One will explain how the Ice Age glaciers left the Comeau at the bottom of Glacial Lake Woodstock, a water body deeper than today’s Ashokan Reservoir. The other will describe how Native Americans burned the original hardwood forests still found farther west in the Catskills to introduce oaks, hickories, and other nut-bearing trees that they preferred and even planted in orchards. If you’re unfamiliar with Catskills natural history, be prepared to have your assumptions about mountains and wilderness overturned. It turns out that the Catskills are neither true mountains nor much of a wilderness.

Both men are veteran college teachers, which explains why they’re so damned entertaining in the field. They know how to engage the imagination of the curious but dimly-informed 19-year-old in all of us. Bob Titus continues to teach at Hartwick College in Onteora, while Mike Kudish retired several years ago from Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks to return to his earlier studies of the Catskills. He’s the author of The Catskill Forest: A History as well as volumes of railroad history. Bob Titus has written The Catskills: A Geological Guide and The Catskills in the Ice Age. Both write for Kaatskill Life. Bob Titus also contributes columns to the Woodstock Times.

On July 8th, they’ll lead back-to-back tours of the Comeau as part of the Woodstock Summer Celebration to launch The Pocket Guide to Woodstock by Michael Perkins and Will Nixon. Bob Titus’s walk will begin on the Great Lawn between the outdoor stage and the town offices at 2 pm and last 1½ hours. Mike Kudish’s walk will depart from the same lawn spot at 3:30 and also last 1½ hours. Both walks are free. People are welcome to join one or both. The Comeau Property is at the top of Comeau Drive off Tinker Street in the village of Woodstock. The Comeau Drive entrance is across the street catty-corner from the library.

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The Mother Grouse Blog is produced by Will Nixon, author of My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse and Love in the City of Grudges available on-line.

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