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I am continuing my series on America’s cool and off-beat spots.

I live in a beautiful part of New York State, the Catskill Mountains. Renowned for its skiing in the winter and hiking in the warmer seasons, it is also home to various colleges, artist and New Age communities, as well as monasteries and spiritual retreats.

If you are ever in the Catskills, don’t miss the famous Woodstock, seat of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. Check out my post with great pics: Woodstock, NY

Definitely visit the Woodstock Buddhist Monastery. Read my post + lots of pics: Woodstock Tibetan Buddhist Monastery

There are many other fascinating places to visit in the Catskills, including the New Age town of New Paltz, Russian Orthodox Monastery and the Peace Village. I am planning some posts about those in the near future.

But today’s post is all about the nature of the Catskills.

Many New Yorkers buy secondary homes in the Catskills because of its gorgeous mountains and unspoiled nature. Overpopulation, overconstruction and incessant traffic are a problem in most of the USA.

But the Catskills remain one of the few relatively pristine corners of the country, still preserving the beauty and charm of a long by-gone era.

Stamford, New York, known as the Queen of the Catskills, is located in the heart of the area.

In the olden days, when a railroad ran through town, well-to-do New Yorkers would vacation at the local summer and winter resorts. Some built grand summer homes. However, with the advent of automobiles, the rail road became defunct, and as fewer people came to Stamford, the town lost its luster, falling on hard times. But in the past twenty years, as buying of secondary homes became popular again, New Yorkers flocked here once more to destress and be with nature.

The defunct railroad has been turned into a nature trail, presently running for miles and miles to the neighboring towns. Dubbed the rail trail, it is my favorite place to hike, do photography and meditate.

I hear that the long-term plan is to revive the defunct rail road and bring big city traffic and commerce back to town. It would be a pity. The rail trail is a way for humans to interact with nature in a peaceful and unobtrusive way, and without creating unnecessary disruption of wild life habitats.

My hope is that the unique natural ecological system that so many people, animals, birds and other creatures can enjoy now won’t be destroyed, as humans attempt to re-assert their dominion over the area.

In Stamford, beautiful nature starts right at my doorstep.

Wild flowers on the rail trail.

Colors of the rail trail.

As I walk, scents of various blooms are intoxicating.

The mighty Delaware River starts right here, in Stamford, as a tiny trickle. It runs through the entire town and along the rail trail.

A cute pink frog from the river, whom I met on the rail trail and who graciously agreed to a photo op.

My favorite pond and its inhabitants.

I was lucky enough to capture him in flight!

My friends, Mr. and Mrs. Goose.

The Catskill Mountains are lovely any time of the year.

Horses on the rail trail.

And more beautiful horses.