A Sunday Drive in the Country

by Sandra Foyt on March 27, 2011

in Food Adventures, Road Trips

Leisurely Sunday drives may be a thing of the past with skyrocketing fuel costs, but on one of the first sunny days of spring it would be a crime not to explore our rural roads.

With my family away for yet another weekend of skiing, I headed out with my trusty canine companion to visit a couple of the hidden gems in Rensselaer County.

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Kent’s Sugar House

The first stop on this short road trip was at Kent’s Sugar House where Albany Jane of Albany Eats! had organized a Maple Syrup Fieldtrip for local bloggers.  Only open on spring weekends during the short lived maple syrup season, Kent’s Sugar House draws small crowds eager to learn the trade while sampling the goods.

In business for nearly as long as it takes to raise a maple tree seedling to tapping age (about 40 years,) the sugar shack processes sap carried in via pipes from 900 taps. Amazingly, until recently, these taps were set by 92-year-old Great Grandpa Kent, who credits his vigor and longevity to the antioxidants in maple syrup.

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Our tour began outside at one of the maple tree taps, where we were given a tasting sample of the sap and the story behind the sweet discovery long ago by Native Americans looking to fill a bucket of water.

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I was fascinated by the merging of old traditions and new technology that we saw on the tour. While the sugar shack looked like it had been there forever, our tour guides pointed out the tiny new plastic taps that replaced predecessors made of metal or wood.

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Inside the shack, we learned about the reverse-osmosis technologies required to evaporate 40 gallons of sap into one gallon of syrup. From the simple use of gravity and steam energy to the sophisticated use of computer probes and hydrometers, there is a lot of science that goes into producing in a good year over 200 gallons of syrup.

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As fascinating as that was, the best part of the tour was tasting the maple syrup and Maple Popcorn (Kent’s Sugar Shack recipe is the easiest one I’ve seen, just heat syrup until thickened before dumping into a pan with the popped popcorn and setting to cool on a cookie sheet.)

The tour ended with a stop to replenish maple syrup supplies and the Maple Syrup Blogger Field Trip group photo. Can you name the bloggers?

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Barberville Falls

On my way back home, I stopped at Barberville Falls to walk the dog. I’ve been passing the trailhead multiple times a day during my son’s Wilderness Class sessions at Dyken Pond, but somehow never got around to stopping.

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The Barverville Falls were impressive at this time of spring thaws, but getting close enough to see them was less so.

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The small parking lot is set 0.3 miles from the trail head, which wouldn’t be a big deal, but you have to walk along a well-traveled 2-lane road to get to it. As nerve-racking as that is with a less than obedient dog, the trail itself is treacherous at this time of year while it’s covered by a sheet of ice.

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I definitely would not recommend this hike to anyone with young children at this time, but in a couple of weeks, when the falls trail melts, it’s well worth the short hike. That’s when I’ll return to explore the longer ridge trail.

Go See It!

  • Kent’s Sugar House 2529 Plank Rd, Berlin, NY. Open annually on spring weekends (In 2011: March 19, 20, 26, 27)
  • Barberville Falls, Plank Road, Poestenkill, NY 12140. Open dawn to dusk.

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| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: sandrafoyt@albanykid.com, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

Linda March 29, 2011 at 9:49 am

I love the photos and stories that tell us spring is here!

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