Saturday, August 22, 2015

Winding road

From the bridge over the Rondout Creek to the 5 mile-per-hour hairpin turn as you near New Paltz, the ascent and slope of this section of Route 44/55 makes it clear you're not on flat land. Passing through Kerhonkson and Gardiner, this scenic Ulster County route takes motorists, and bicyclists and hikers, past picturesque views from the Shawangunk Ridge, a preserve that rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level and features waterfalls, dwarf pines, and jagged white cliffs. 

The ridge is formed mostly of Shawangunk Conglomerate, a mix of quartz pebbles and sandstone, that’s resistant to weathering. Formed by glacial movement, the area was once a deep ocean but actually contains few fossils.

The region’s soils is thin and spersed with dwarf varieties of the pitch pine tree (Pinus rigida), which are less than 16 feet tall. These trees are unique in that their cones are serotinous, meaning they require fire to open. According to the New York Natural Heritage Program, unlike other pine cones, which open in the fall and distribute seeds, pitch pine cones are covered by a hard resin coating and stay closed until heat from fire opens them and distributes the seeds. The fire creates an excellent bed of nutrient-rich soil for the seeds to germinate.

Pitch pines are adapted to fire in other ways as well. Even though large branches may die in a fire, their thick trunk survives and produces new branches.

Also known as the “Gunks” the area is a popular hiking destination and is of the most famous rock climbing destinations in the U.S. The hiking school at the mountain’s base offers private guided climbs and classes like rock climbing 101, self rescue, and more. 

Minnewaska State Park Preserve:

Eastern Mountain Sports New Paltz Climbing School:

Chocolate vulvas

A thank you letter from the Texas Senate, a sliding scale socialist soup special, made in the USA coffee mugs, the purple-covered book Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and the Sexual Politics of Meat, and vulva-shaped bonbons to round it out. Welcome to New Paltz chocolate shop Lagusta’s Luscious.

Founded in 2003 by vegan chef Lagusta Yearwood, the shop sits on quiet North Front Street and is filled with, just to name a few: strawberries and cream chocolate bark, pistachio praline chocolate bars, coconut-rum and absinthe truffles, raspberries de Pizan, and chocolate coconut cream pyramids. Some, like Selma’s peppermint patties and Vandana Shivas, are named after feminist luminaries.  For the indecisive looking to take something home, there’s a 16-piece assortment box.

What makes Lagusta’s different and engaging is the owner’s commitment to social justice, environmentalism, animal rights, and my favorite: women's issues. We're all aware of the stereotypes of women and our "Guilty pleasure" chocolate, but Lagusta sheds new light with her outlook. "I don't want my joyful little chocolates to make anyone feel bad about themselves, or guilty, or naughty (except in a kinky way.)," she writes in her website's blog. "I want my chocolates to be a celebration of life, of diversity, of happiness and wonder at what the earth can produce." Her online shop offers mail order services, and you can check out her personal blog, Resistance is Fertile, on consumption, politics, femininity, and more.

My boyfriend and I were thinking of taking a trip to Florida later this year and I hope to see my doula friend Erica of Wind & Water Birth Services. What better Hudson Valley gift to bring than vulva-shaped chocolates.

"In this vein, I strive to make eating chocolate—so tied in American popular culture with women’s rituals and private pleasures—a revolutionary act through not only the celebration of the pure pleasure of eating this feminine-identified treat, but through the political decisions made at every stage in the process of its manufacture.” –Lagusta Yearwood

Lagusta’s Lusciouus:
Resistance is Fertile:
Wind & Water Birth Services: