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Tapping at Kripplebush
New Englanders have been taking advantage of the special sweetness of maple sap for hundreds of years. Their annual ritual of tapping maple trees and collecting sap is an enjoyable outing that fortunate visitors are sometimes able to share.

Early spring, when the sap starts to flow, is a magical time to be in the woods. And you will never taste maple syrup so sweet or flavorful as when you get it fresh from the sugar house.

In the Catskills, many maple sugar farms let visitors participate in the tapping and "sugaring off" process of syrup making. But timing visits to correspond with these activities can be tricky.

"Weather is a key factor," cautions Francine Silverman, author of the regional guidebook The Catskills Alive! "Generally speaking, the sap begins to flow in early March, and runs through mid-April."

Maple sap starts flowing as the days grow longer.
It flows best on warm days after below-freezing nights. Balmy weather slows it down.

Sap flow can continue for several weeks, or it can end abruptly with an extended warm spell. As the maple's leaves begin to unfold, its sap takes on a bad taste. 

Lyonsville Sugarhouse and Farm near Kripplebush, New York is profiled in Silverman's guide as one of the outfits taking visitors on tours during the tapping. The operators, John and Kevin, start tapping their trees on Valentine's Day.

"Kevin says the best sap is the earliest, so be there in February if you can," Silverman advises. 

The Lyonsville Sugarhouse is at 591 County Road 2 (Krumville Road) off of Route 209. Look for a ramshackle barn after passing Lyonsville Lake.  Call ahead to arrange for tours at 914-687-2518.

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Catskills Alive
by Francine Silverman
Hunter, 2000

Combining personal observations with detailed information on area accommodations, eateries, shopping and recreation, this guidebook covers the popular Catskills vacation area less than a day's drive from most northeast metropolitan areas.

The author explains that she wrote this guidebook "not only to share my affection for these mountains, but also to correct some of the misconceptions I've heard, such as 'Monticello is the Catskills' or 'Woodstock isn't in the Catskills' and 'There's nothng to do in the Catskills anymore.'" 

Organized by county, the guide offers overviews on the history and environment and suggests the best places to stay, eat, shop and play.

Along with a directory of Catskills maple sugar farms, Francine Silverman has compiled directories of the region's farm markets, Christmas tree farms, honey farms, herb farms, campgrounds, organized tours and best shopping buys.

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