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The New YorkerThe world's first milk line, the Midland Railroad, ran from New York to the Catskill foothills in 1870. According to In the Catskills, a collection of writings about the region edited by Phil Brown, the train was largely responsible for the influx of middleclass Jewish families into the area's dairy farms. Brown's anthology examines the area's religious and ethnic dynamics, from an "anti-Hebrew crusade" in 1889 to the emergence in the nineteen-forties of a bungalow community that became known as the Borscht Belt. A history of another favorite family destination, Lawrence Squeri's Better in the Poconos , also focuses on resort spots made accessible by public transportation -- "gravity" railroads gave New Yorkers a chance to visit the Pennsylvania mountains and resorts with names like Paradise Stream, Vacation Valley, and Pocono Hay-Ven.
During the fifties, three young writers beat lonely retreats to Washington's North Cascades; the photographer John Suiter's Poets on the Peaks chronicles the "rucksack revolution" summers of Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Jack Kerouac, each of whom worked as fire lookouts among the mountain hemlock and western red cedar. To get there, they needed more than a station wagon: Snyder travelled to his cabin outpost by way of funicular, tugboat, skyhook crane (which hoisted him to the top of the Ross Dam), and then a day's walk through the woods. Kerouac spent weeks reading the Diamond Sutra and writing poems. He remarked on the calm of the Japanese haiku poets, who "live in what they call 'Do-Nothing-Huts' and are sad, then gay, then sad, then gay, like sparrows and burros and nervous American writers." (Lauren Porcaro)