Almanack Contributor Diane Chase

Diane Chase

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time. She writes about ways to foster imaginative play through fun-filled events and activities in the Adirondack region.

From her home in Saranac Lake, Diane also writes a weekly family-oriented newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and keeps her own blog Adirondack Family Time. Her writing and photography has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, marketing companies and advertising agencies.

She even finds time to assist her husband with Adirondack Expeditions guiding families and young adults in the High Peaks.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities with Diane Chase: Seagle Music Colony

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities
Jack and the Beanstalk may be considered a children’s story but the undertones of the Seagle Music Colony’s operatic rendition leaves anyone with an appreciation for music with his/her own interpretation. The giant does get his in the end, but it is not the end one is expecting. For adults there is the rich performance of the four gifted students and children listen in awe to a magical story. The bonus is being able to meet the fairytale characters, come-to-life, after the show.

Founded in 1915 by world-renowned baritone Oscar Seagle, Seagle Music Colony draws the most talented singers from around the country for its summer training program. Open to only 32 individuals the auditions are rigorous.

Artist Director Darren Woods says,“ I was a child from a small town with no exposure to opera and went on to perform as a professional. When I started managing various companies it was important to me to incorporate some kind of free children’s offering.”

Woods, currently the General Director of Fort Worth Opera as well as Artistic Director of Seagle Music Colony understands that this select group of gifted singers attending the Seagle Music program will at some point in their careers perform operatic educational outreach.

“We have been doing free children’s operas at Seagle Music Colony for the past twelve years,” says Woods. “ The first year we did Little Red Riding Hood at the Boathouse Theatre (Schroon Lake) and couldn’t have squeezed another person in. We have now branched out to 10 performances around the North Country. Part of our mission is to provide quality entertainment to those living in the Adirondacks and that includes children.”

The children’s performance is not the only offering at Seagle. This year the schedule is full with the staged musical comedies of Hello Dolly and Carousel as well as The Marriage of Figaro performed in Italian with performances of Romeo and Juliet in French. There are also a “Salute to the Tony Awards” and “Vespers” concerts.

The next free performance of Jack in the Beanstalk is slated for July 16th in Bolton Landing. The tour continues to Glens Falls, July 17; North Creek, July 20; Ticonderoga, July 21; Chestertown, July 24; and Lake Placid on July 28.

The Children’s Opera is free but reservations are requested. Please call 518- 532-7875 for more information.

Photo of the Seagle Colony performance of Jack in the Beanstalk at the Boathouse Theatre and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Father’s Day Frog Jumping Contest

Forget the pancake breakfast and undercooked bacon. For the 38th year fathers and families will gather in Old Forge at noon on June 20 and find use for those past father’s day gifts and compete in the ugliest tie contest.

A tie picked out by a child is like my closet dedicated to those bride-maid dresses that I was promised could be shortened and worn again. The issue, without insulting too many of my friends, is that some of the dresses shouldn’t have been worn the first time as with a few of the ties my husband (and perhaps yours) has hanging in the back of his closet.

In the same philosophy that spandex is a privilege and should not be considered formal wear, neckties should not be bedazzled with the belief that glitter makes everything better.

If a rhinestone tie won’t win a family trophy then the frog-jumping contest just may. Annually over 30 frogs compete in a series of categories like weight, speed and jump at the Old Forge Lakefront.

According the Cindy Beckley of the Town of Webb Publicity Department in Old Forge no frogs are harmed during this event.

“We have a garden hose available to keep the frogs wet so they are not under any undo stress. All frogs are released back to their natural habitat,” says Beckley.

Though this isn’t the setting of Mark Twain’s 1865 tall tale, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, about life in a “Gold Rush” town, there are ample trophies and opportunities to have your own Daniel Webster perform, unless someone fills the frog up with buckshot.

For those unable to attend but would still like to find ways to celebrate the brilliance of Mark Twain, the Saranac Lake Historical Society has a series of summer events commemorating Mark Twain’s Adirondack connection and the 100th year anniversary of his death. The mantra surrounding schools, libraries and book groups is “rediscover Huckleberry Finn.” There will also be a non-stop reading on July 21 at the Keene Valley Library from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. as well as lectures and boat tours to the Mark Twain camp in August.

For more information about the tie or frog-jumping contest please call 315-369-6983. Happy Father’s Day.

Disclaimer: Nothing is more precious than the look on my children’s faces when they have found the perfect gift and I am honored that so many of my friends have wanted me as part of each special day, even the second time around. Sadly even that second go-around hasn’t been an opportunity to wear those dresses again though the thought did occur to me, more than once.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Lake Placid Film Forum

Celebrating its 10th anniversary the Lake Placid Film Forum is showcasing women in the film industry, new directions in filmmaking and an environmental “green” focus in additional to its annual tribute to silent film.

Opening night on June 10th will be a bargain for families at $10 for two Buster Keaton movies and a foreign short “Salim Baba.” The Keaton films will show his career in reverse starting with the 1965 “Railrodder” with a Q&A with the film’s director Gerry Potterton then segue to the 1924 silent film “Sherlock Jr.”

Organist Jeff Barker will accompany “Sherlock Jr.” on the Palace Theatre’s 3/7 Robert-Morton Theatre Pipe Organ. The fully restored organ was originally installed in 1926 so only seems appropriate this 1926 gem will be in attendance to a 1924 classic.

We have been fortunate to see the Palace Theatre’s classically restored organ put to use. We watched the organist with as much enthusiasm as the film. He played without the benefit of sheet music; he just watched the screen, playing the score. It was magnificent to see the impact the live instrumental had on the film and the audience.

Though the Lake Placid Film Forum has a range of ratings, families can find plenty of reason to attend this cultural treat. All families can be entertained on Sunday, June 12 with the “Summer of Walter Hacks.” An older teen audience will garner insight to hardcore skaters through this Appalachian skate park film, “Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy”.

A last minute addition for children ages 11 to 14 is an on-camera acting workshop conducted by Kevin Craig West. Held at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on June 12 from 9:00 a.m. – noon for a $40.00 fee. Interested parties should contact Lake Placid Film Forum Artistic Director Kathleen Carroll at 523-3456.

This year the Lake Placid Film Forum (July 10-13) will feature actor Parker Posey, well known independent film actor from numerous Christopher Guest films and other projects, as well as veteran actor Hal Holbrook. A range of filmmakers, producers and authors are scheduled through out the weekend for panel discussions and talk-backs.

In addition to the screenings, “Sleepless in Lake Placid” is back for the 4th year. This invitation only, 24-hour student film competition will pit students from RIT, Ithaca College, SUNY Purchase, Syracuse University and Burlington College against each other for the Robin Pell Emerging Filmmaker Award.

The film screenings will be taking place at a variety of Lake Placid venues. Film screening vouchers are $10 per show and available for purchase 45 minutes before show time. The scheduled “conversations” and panel discussions” are free and open to the public on a first come-first serve policy. Please call 518-523-3456 for more information.

photo used with permission from the Lake Placid Film Forum


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: A Hike To Owl’s Head

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™

Trailhead to Summit: 0.6
Ascent: 460 ft

Owl’s Head, located between Lake Placid and Keene, is a perfect hike for the entire family. It takes approximately 45 minutes round trip for an average hiker though we always plan for a bit more than an hour each way. The ascent is 460 ft., and very easy for even the smallest climber. The summit is semi-wooded, and has spectacular views of Cascade, Pitchoff and Giant Mountains.

For most families it is unfair to put a time limit on a hike due to frequent pit stops, wildlife sightings and herding of imaginary friends. Not that I wish to besmirch the herding of imaginary friends but sometimes it is enough just to get the children focused without having to gathering troops of people only visible to those under the age eight. Though it may sound tedious to some, we want to be able to take our time and instill the joy of the outdoors to our children.

This time of year scrubby blueberry bushes are in flower and line the path to the summit. Mark the calendar for a return trip midsummer when wild blueberry bushes will be in peak and ready for picking. Feel free to factor berry eating into the time factor as well unless a previous hiker has picked the trail clean.

The trail is a series of ledges, rock faces and switchbacks. To the west is Pitchoff Mountain and to the southwest, Porter and Cascade. To the east look for Hurricane Mountain’s fire tower as well as other smaller mountains and Giant Mountain to the southeast.

Local rock climbing companies use Owl’s Head for training so an added treat is to catch climbers repelling down the craggy ledges. Snacks or lunch and plenty of water are imperative. This time of year, don’t forget the bug repellent.

From the intersection of Route 9 and 73 in Keene bear north on Route 73, about 3.5 miles, turning onto Owl’s Head Lane. Continue 0.2 miles until you come to a Y. The trailhead is directly in front. Park to the left, off to the side. There isn’t a parking area. Please be considerate. The Owl’s Head trailhead and surrounding land is mostly private property.


all photos and content © Diane Chase, an excerpt from Diane’s guidebook Adirondack Family Time:Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activiities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. The other three books in the Adirondack Family Time guidebook series are: Adirondack Family Time: Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga (2012), Adirondack Family Time: Long Lake to Old Forge (2012), Adirondack Family Time:Schroon Lake to Lake George and just beyond (2013)


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Paddle on Osgood Pond

My husband and I are alone. My daughter is worried as she goes off to a play date that we will be lonely. We are soon in the middle of a pond, completely alone. There are no young voices yelling to see a cobweb, bug, rock, or floating stick. There are never long moments of silence. The dynamic children bring to any activity can fill the air and allow one to see things differently. The enthusiasm for the simplest of things is refreshing.

That said, they also have the ability to vacuum the positive energy right out of a given situation with life altering decisions like they no longer like bread while dramatically claiming starvation at the same time they wave a sandwich overhead. Another way is when they have to go to the bathroom only after being life-jacketed and paddling in the middle of a lake no matter how many times they are asked beforehand to take care of business. It happens and we survive but during all the drama I am not always tuned into the hermit thrush’s call.

One easy place to relax is a leisure paddle on Osgood Pond though be warned if fishing is on your agenda that the pond is still under advisory for mercury. The Department of Environmental Conservation publishes a fish advisory regarding the consumption of fish caught in the Adirondacks.

There are three different advisories: The statewide advisory, advisories for children less than 15 years old and for women that are pregnant or might become pregnant and specific advisories for the Adirondack Park. For children and those expecting mothers please heed the warning and do not consume any fish from the list of lakes and ponds under advisory for mercury. According to a 2005 PBS report one in six children born each year are exposed to mercury which, when exposed in high doses, may cause learning disabilities, short-term memory loss and impaired motor skills. So if the warnings apply to you please practice “catch and release” or just enjoy the quiet.

An easy entry to Osgood Pond is the Osgood Pond Waterway Access on White Pines Rd. on Route 86. This pond does not allow personal watercrafts which only adds to our quest for quiet. We put in the canoe and hit an easy pace that is unmatched with children. We glide through the shallow weedy water startling a mother merganser. She attempts to lure us away from the shore. We are happy to oblige.

I don’t want to get philosophical on the joys of parenting. It is a pleasure and a joy. Still, there is a part of me that wistfully listens to the wanderings of my childfree friends. So for today I enjoy a few hours of quiet while my children are invited elsewhere. Today the only constant stream of chatter is that going on is inside my head.

It is a unique situation for us to be surrounded by still. Even the wind is taking a reprieve. Later we will describe the snapping turtles, calm water and gentle call of the hermit thrush to the kids. It will be some time before my daughter understands the difference between being lonely and being alone.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Free Wild Center Community Day

Personally I like to see my fish on a platter with a slice of lemon but I am out voted every time. My children and husband love to fish though they mostly subscribe to the “catch and release” philosophy. Part of me thinks that it is because my children are not really successful with the catching part making the release a foregone conclusion.

I am always a bit put off by catching fish. If they go to that trouble why torture it with a hook? Just because we can catch it doesn’t mean we have to. But the point comes back to this: if I want a fish on the table someone has to put it there. Fish just don’t swan-dive into a market display case. There is a current disconnect with people and food so I am grateful that my children have an opportunity to know where their food is coming from.

For those people that want to learn more about fishing or just have an opportunity to witness all the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (Wild Center) has to offer, this May 15th will be featuring a FishFest with James Prosek.

James Prosek has made his initial plunge into his passion of fishing with his first book, Trout: an Illustrated History. Published when he was only nineteen and illustrated with 70 of his own watercolors, Prosek is known as a writer, activist, naturalist and artist. He has gone on to document fishing and the natural world in the pages of Audobon magazine, the New York Times, and Orion as well as winning a Peabody Award for following the footsteps of Izaak Walton, author of the 17th century classic, The Complete Angler.

Encountering James Prosek is only a part of what the Wild Center has to offer. It will be a full day of activities planned from wooden boat making to a nature scavenger hunt. There are over 20 organizations that are participating in this event highlighting healthy ways to get families back to nature.

There will also be fishing demonstrations and plenty of opportunity to showcase your own fishing skills. So even if, like me, you prefer your fish lightly seasoned it is a wonderful opportunity to let others share their own passion for the wild.

This Saturday, May 15, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. the museum is free and open to the public. Here are directions to get to the Wild Center.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: Mother’s Day

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™

I have always felt a few holidays were put on the calendar as a means to sell greeting cards or perhaps boost a lull in candy sales after Easter. Though I have a mother and am a mother, Mother’s Day used to fall in that category for me. It would seem that the mother in question either deserves to be treated well every day for being motherly or was the type of person that didn’t live up to the title. It should be up to the discretion of the child. I was pleased to note that the celebration is much more than cards and flowers.

Days dedicated to mothers have been traced back to a variety of sources. The ancient Greeks honored Rhea, the mother of the gods. Christians honor Mary, the mother of Christ. In the late 1500s, servants apprenticed away from home would be given the fourth Sunday of Lent to return to their “mother” church and gather again as a family. The holiday became a day reuniting mothers with their children.

In 1858, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis organized Mother’s Day Work Clubs to help improve sanitation and worker safety in Appalachian West Virginia. During the Civil War the clubs remained neutral to provide medical care for both Union and Confederate soldiers.

In 1872 Julia Ward Howe (author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic) organized a Mother’s Day of Peace. In her Mother’s Day Proclamation she encouraged a holiday where mothers rally for peace. Originally held on June 2, Howe envisioned a day of activism.

The current holiday occurred in 1907 when Anna Jarvis, a Philadelphia schoolteacher started the progress toward a national Mother’s Day, in honor of her mother. Jarvis petitioned influential businessmen and legislators to establish a day to honor mothers. It took Jarvis seven years, but finally in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May, the anniversary of her mother’s death, as a national holiday in celebration of mothers.

With the immediate commercialization of the holiday, Jarvis apparently attempted to lobby businesses to donate a percentage of the Mother’s Day profits back to women and children in need. She was unsuccessful. It is said that she regretted forming the holiday and even petitioned the courts to have it disbanded.

I am not suggesting that Mother’s Day be dissolved. I rather like the idea of breakfast in bed and all the niceties. I look forward to it. I also embrace the original concept to be a day of peace.

If you are looking for ways to celebrate together here are some events around the Adirondacks this weekend. Of course paddles, hikes and walks are always plentiful and readily available.

all content © Diane Chase.  Diane Chase is of Adirondack Family Time:Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activiities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. Diane’s next guidebook Adirondack Family Time: Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga (2012), Adirondack Family Time: Long lake to Old Forge, Adirondack Family Time Schroon Lake to Lake George. (2013)


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Newcomb Get Out & Play! Conference

There is more and more concern that children do not get enough time outside in nature. Richard Louv’s 2005 book “Last Child in the Woods” sparked a fire with parents, health professionals, educators and others. Louv coined the term nature-deficit disorder for our youths’ disconnect from nature while suffering from the lack of unstructured, imaginative play.

On May 15th in Newcomb, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), the Children in Nature New York (CNNY) and Newcomb Central School will present the first annual Get Out and Play! Conference.

According to Erin Vinson, co-event coordinator and educational specialist at SUNY-ESF, the day-long series of workshops will provide training and development for anyone working with children from professionals in a formal setting like organized sports, scouting, youth programs, day and overnight camps to childcare providers as well as nonprofessionals.

“This is the first year for what we feel is an exciting opportunity,” says Vinson. “My colleague Paul Hai was attending a sports conference when the idea started to form for this series of workshops. He is also very involved in the Children in Nature New York.”

Children in Nature Network is a grassroots movement to reconnect children and nature.

“The basic goal is to help guide people that currently work with children about being outside in nature and teaching those instructors how to engage children to stay active in different ways,” continues Vinson. “The idea is for less structure and infusing the idea of age-appropriate competition. There will be different lessons and coach training throughout. This is an opportunity to look at new games, activities and free play for children. It isn’t just about organized sports either. There are workshops on nature-based play that is not as structured. The three different sessions have separate lessons that anyone working with children will benefit from greatly.”

The Get Out and PLAY! Conference will include professional presenters and educators from a variety of different backgrounds.

Elizabeth Lee, as a licensed Adirondack guide, will lead sessions on nature-based play from her experiences teaching recreational and educational programs and actively playing outdoors for over 50 years.

John LaRue is the president and owner of Back2BasicPlay, Inc. His workshops will focus on new games and Futsal, a soccer variation. He has traveled throughout New England and Eastern New York helping communities create unique play spaces as well as advocating the use of games and cooperative-based play to promote character education growth and healthier lifestyles in children.

Bill Sampaio is the National Director of Futsal Coaches – USFF. He has played and coached both soccer and Futsal at high school, college, as well as at the amateur and professional level. Sampaio uses Futsal and soccer to help children develop their self-esteem to a higher level. He will also be leading seminars on new games and Futsal.

Timothy Donavan is the Executive Director of SUNY Youth Sports Institute (YSI). YSI training provides evidence-based methods and tools for adult leaders in organized youth sports. Donavan will lead the Youth Coach Training sessions.

For our family playing out in nature is part of our everyday life. My husband has been taking families and young adults out into the Adirondack backcountry for the past 25 years so our children are fortunate enough to feel that being in the woods is just part of their playground. This weekend they played in the yard and surrounding woods and never once came to ask me to entertain them. They were busy climbing trees, inventing games and creating an imaginary world that I was not part of. The only time I was asked for help was to get the pine pitch off of my daughter’s hands.

The Newcomb Get Out and Play! Conference will take place on May 15. For registration information please call Erin Vinson at (518) 582-4551 Ext 116. The conference fee is $10, which includes lunch and is open to the public.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Earth Day

Earth Day isn’t about weaving a hair shirt, though it would enable me to recycle all my golden retriever fur. It’s not about singing Kumbaya around the campfire and filling the neighborhood with air and noise pollution. To our family it is a day to remember that we are only guests here. Most people, we hope, treat everyday like it’s Earth Day.

My family’s Earth Day tradition is cleaning the trailhead of one our favorite hikes. We have found some crazy things tucked along the edges of the parking lot of Ampersand Mountain. Some have been personal items that I had difficulty explaining to my son, which only reinforced the importance of wearing gloves. The deer carcass would have been easy to justify in nature, except its remains were still wrapped in a plastic bag. Beer cans and cigarette butts are sadly a normal sight.

Making changes in our lifestyle can be daunting. Sometimes all we need to do is make a small step. The Adirondack Green Circle is trying to help people take those steps so that every day can be about the earth. It can be as seemingly insignificant as bringing a canvas bag to the store to limit the production of plastic bags or as simple as learning where food comes from.

Where food comes from? If a product’s label takes a biochemist to decipher then we need to question what we are putting in our mouths.

For the second year, Adirondack Green Circle is holding its Wake Up Film Festival, showcasing documentaries directed at tracing our food and garbage.

Founder Gail Brill says, “We have lined up different movies that explain where our commercial food comes from. The first film will be appropriately shown on Earth Day, Thursday, at Pendragon. Food, Inc. demonstrates how broken our food system is. We will also have copies of Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules as well. Part of our mission is to promote local food so Jen Perry of Farm to Family Food Network will be there to talk about where to get local food.”

Brill explains a few common sense rules from Pollan’s book like, “If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it is made in a plant, don’t.” Some of the movies are not for the very young so check out the website for age recommendations. Brill has screened the films and found them age appropriate for high school and beyond.

Brill and some other members of Adirondack Green Circle are carrying their garbage around with them all this week to start a garbage conversation. w

“People say they throw their garbage away,” Brill continues. “Where is away? Away is in our ground water, away is in our ground, away is in our children.”

This experiment will culminate at the North Country Community College Junk to Funk Show. She encourages others to take the challenge and see what happens when “throwing garbage away” gets close and personal.

So there are some simple ways to help the environment, limit our trash and maybe leave a trailhead a bit cleaner for the next person.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Springtime Bicycle Rides

Learning to ride a bicycle has as many stages as learning to walk, though walking seems to come with less drama. First the scooter stage (quad-cycle,) then on to the tricycle, which leads to training wheels. Finally that two-wheeled sense of freedom is achieved. Each stage brings a different challenge. For my family, each stage was clung to with white-knuckled intensity.

While learning to ride a two-wheeler, my children weaved their way through parked cars and were incredulous that I would ask them to look both ways when crossing the road. Surely, they felt, looking one way was enough.

For anyone living in or visiting a rural community following an inexperienced biker on a busy road can be daunting. While the New York State fine-tunes its budget and decides which campgrounds and historic sites are slated for closure, off-season campgrounds are still a good way for a young or old person to learn how to ride a bike.

Fish Creek Pond Campground in Saranac Inn features a 5-mile paved loop that circles the campground. In the summer it can become a literal parking lot of cars and movement as RVs and day visitors swarm for the perfect waterfront real estate. Spring though finds it pleasantly empty with an added bonus of no parking fee.

If you do not have a bicycle and want to learn to ride try the website Freecycle. This nonprofit network asks people to recycle and reuse. It is free to register, just look for a place near your community. List what you have or see if someone in your area is looking for something that has been collecting dust in your garage.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has a complete list of campgrounds and the amenities. Some campgrounds are slated for closure in 2010. Below is a partial list of NYS Adirondack campgrounds that promote bicycling.

Brown Tract Pond, Raquette Lake
Buck Pond, Onchiota
Eagle Point Campground, Pottersville
Fish Creek Campground, Saranac Inn
Lake Durant, Blue Mountain Lake
Lake Eaton Campground, Long Lake
Lake Harris near Newcomb
Poke-O-Moonshine, Keeseville (was closed for camping in 2009 but a portion remains available for Forest Preserve public access.
Nicks Lake in the Black River Wild Forest
Rogers Rock, Lake George
Rollins Pond Campground
Sharp Bridge, Schroon River


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Mount Baker

We choose a typical spring day to climb Mount Baker in Saranac Lake. We pack the car with all the enthusiasm of a family caught in the thrall of spring fever. I can hardly keep my children in shoes now that the snow has melted, let alone convince them that putting boots back on after a winter’s worth of wear will be a positive experience. Flip-flops are not an option. I am also able to convince my daughter that rhinestone platform slides are best left at home.

Just 2,452′ in elevation, Baker is often referred to as a little mountain. For locals, it’s a quick hike during a lunch break while for others it’s an opportunity to see the High Peaks without investing a lot of time. For children it is a perfect segue to climbing steeper mountains.

Springtime in the Adirondacks presents its own unique set of challenges. Sections of the trail are a frustrating combination of sweet springtime freshness and thick mud and ice. Each step threatens to leave us either barefoot (from the mud sucking the shoes right off our feet) or flat on our backs from a misplaced step on ice. Though some people have cramp-ons, we manage to maneuver the path with ski poles and sticks.

The summit of Baker is only .9 mile from the base. Since we don’t have cramp-ons we opt to skirt the trail, following other footprints along the edge. It becomes a game of search-and-find for my son. The lower section of the main trail has become a frozen waterfall so he must search across and around it for safe places for us to walk. He willingly takes on the challenge.

The path is a gentle incline at first. We then start to see large rocks surrounding us and realize that the summit is near. The path cuts sharply between two boulders but it is too slick for us to approach. We cut back around to the right and climb over the rocks, avoiding the slippery rock chimney. The first vista we find overlooks the town. We identify Lake Flower and the shops surrounding it. The next overlook is behind us, a beautiful view of Scarface and the McIntyre Range.

After our well-deserved snack, we descend, but we do not have to choose our steps as carefully. We glissade down the slippery slope, avoiding the mud when we can. There is enough ice that we are able to avoid any damage to the trail.

To access Mount Baker, on Main Street in Saranac Lake, turn right onto Dugway. Take the first left, Forest Hill Ave, and continue straight to Moody Pond. The trail marker is on the left.

photo: snow seen on the distant McIntyre Range and Mt. Marcy from the summit of Mount Baker
photo credit: www.adkfamilytime.com


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Adirondack Fish Hatchery

After being closed for the coldest months, the Adirondack Fish Hatchery is once again open for tours. Though fishing with children is a wonderful activity, having the ability to see the rearing of landlocked Atlantic salmon is well worth the trip. Most children, and adults, don’t realize that a good portion of the fish they catch in the Adirondacks have been raised in one of New York State’s 12 fish hatcheries. Each hatchery specializes in producing a select few species of fish.

The Adirondack Fish Hatchery facility in Lake Clear, located about 12 miles from Saranac Lake, produces 30,000 pounds of salmon yearly for release into regional lakes and rivers.

“There are two sources for eggs,” say Adirondack Fish Hatchery Manager Ed Grant. “The wild fish we catch from the pond and those we harvest from captive fish. That is about 500,000 eggs from wild fish and another 700,000 eggs from captive fish for 1.2 million eggs a year. That is the goal and we usually make it.”

The facility is open for free guided tours. The indoor visitor center contains a self-guided tour with a pool containing salmon, a monitor showing brood fish in a pond, and other exhibits on fish propagation. There is also a video in the Visitor’s Center showcasing the method necessary to produce all that yearly landlocked salmon. Inside the hatchery are 16 tanks holding approximately 275,000 fish; each tank is about 31’ in diameter and holds 8,000 gallons of water. Three of the tanks house the brood stock, the fish used to produce the eggs and milt for the next year’s stock, while the other 13 tanks hold the fingerlings that will be released into the wild now that it’s spring.

According to Grant tours are given throughout the summer and fall as well as certain times during the spring. He recommends that individuals call first during the spring if a tour of the whole facility is requested. Otherwise drop by the Visitor’s Center and Hatchery starting April 1 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The springtime is a busy time as the staff is preparing to release the yearlings and fry into lakes and rivers.

“We have different ways of stocking fish,” says Grant. “The yearlings smolts go right into Lake Champlain. They are able to find a healthy habitat but they are not able to imprint. We also stock about 300,000 non-feeding fry in the Boquet, Ausable, and Saranac Rivers each year. A fry is a fish that first hatches from the egg and has lived off its yolk sac for a while and then it will start looking for natural food. Fry are placed and will stay in the river’s water stream until reaching the smolt stage. The fry then leave the stream environment for lakes but it has imprinted on a section of the river by its keen sense of smell. By requiring a certain number to imprint, we hope to recreate that natural process.”

For children it may be an opportunity to view a salmon for the first time. The next occasion that child and fish may meet could be in a match of wits over a hook and line.

The Adirondack Fish Hatchery is located off Route 30, approximately one mile south of Lake Clear. Call 891-3358 for more information.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities:Lake George Opera’s Three Little Pigs

This year Lake George Opera’s Opera-To-Go is performing another adaptation by John Davies of Opera Tales. Davies, a bass-baritone has performed with a variety of opera companies such as Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco and Philadelphia as well as many others. Then in the 1990s, as a means to entertain his own children, Davies hit on a combination that worked. He merged classic fairy tales with classic music in a way to engage and entertain children of all ages.

Each Davies children’s opera takes recognizable tunes and pairs them to a story with a lesson, similar to the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon that showcased The Barber of Seville. In this performance one little pig goes to the library as she researches how to build a house. The Three Little Pigs converges with Mozart’s Don Giovanni as the wolf pretends to be a statue and ends up being invited for dinner with a second little pig and trouble commences.

For Liz Giblin, Director of Marketing for the Lake George Opera, Davies’ children’s operas not only take classic operatic ideas and themes but have a strong educational element to them as well. Each year the company performs for schools throughout upstate New York, the Adirondacks and western New England as well as a series of free performances for families.

“The Opera-To-Go program has been going into communities and schools since 1985,” Giblin says. “Children aren’t only exposed to opera but to good lessons within each of the classic fairy tales. The Three Little Pigs shows how everything you need to know is in the library. Last year’s opera was about the danger of talking to strangers. Another opera was about the Golden Rule. Children are not only exposed to opera but also exposed to stories and music. Obviously we are an opera company so want people to know that opera is available to everyone not just an older generation.”

The 45-minute opera of The Three Little Pigs will be held at the Charles R. Wood Theatre in Glens Falls free of charge at 1:00 p.m. on March 27. According to Executive Director Bill Woodward seating for the operatic performance at the Wood Theatre is on a first-come, first-serve basis. The 299-seat theatre will be open a half-hour before show time.

“This a great opportunity for kids to come and see opera where it is reachable. It is a fairy tale and children are mesmerized with the singing. It’s a good way to assimilate them to opera,” says Woodward. “Parents will enjoy it just as much as the kids.”


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: New York Maple Sugar Days!

There are a variety of places that a person can visit to see maple sap collected, especially this weekend as maple producers join together for the first of two New York State Maple Producers Association Maple Weekends, March 20-21 and 27-28.

My husband and I have had our experiences (and disagreements) with attempting to make maple syrup. All in all and only with the ability to look back do we both see it as something that was fun. It was hard work but we can say we did it. And have, ad nauseum, to anyone within hearing, to the point where our friends that actually produce syrup roll their eyes and remind us we made one gallon. Yes, but one gallon of pure liquid gold. Either way for now we are leaving it to the experts.

At Cornell University-Uihlein scientists and maple producers, on their 200+ acre forest research station, are perfecting ways to increase production rates so that the sap is collected and boiled at the same rate. In the Sixties scientists worked to improve sap collection by applying suction to existing networks of tubes that rendered the bucket collection technique inefficient. Now sap buckets are only used for demonstration purposes, school trips or home sugaring operations.

Another way the maple industry continues to evolve is through the New York State Maple Producers Association with its 502 members and 150 associate members. According to Helen Thomas, Executive Director of the New York State Maple Producers Association, the organization has many goals such as keeping its membership informed with legislature in New York and Washington. Members receive the publication Maple Digest and the NYS Association newsletter. Incorporated in 1954, NY Maple Producers Association provides educational training, energy grants, networking opportunities and maple promotion opportunities.

“It is an interesting sugaring season,” says Thomas. “We have two climates in New York, the Adirondacks and downstate. The north didn’t get the heavy snowfall and seems to be having a good year. It is a concern for downstate as well as Ohio and Michigan. That heavy snowfall they received didn’t allow producers to get started until the middle of March, which cuts into the average season. It is also warming up fast.”

“We think it will be a short season for sugaring but there will be plenty of syrup for everyone in the New York State,” she laughs. “So not to worry.”

In order for the sap to flow temperatures must rise above freezing during the day and drop below freezing at night. The recent melts may be bad for the ski industry but it’s good for maple producers.

Last year the snow level was so high that the tubing remained under the snow. In some locations maple production was low because the sap remained frozen in the line. This weekend should not be a problem. It is supposed to be high 40s, low 50s allowing the sap to thaw and flow throughout the day.

“This is a great weekend activity for families. There is a producer in just about every county in upstate New York. There is someone within an hour drive,” assures Thomas.

Each producer may have different activities planned such as samplings, face painting, petting zoos and horse-drawn wagon rides. It is best to check with each location.

An all time favorite for this family is the pancake breakfast. It is a perfect avenue for my ten-year-old to attempt to fill his bottomless pit while I stock up on the maple cream. I am not a maple connoisseur and have no interest in being able to distinguish the various grades of syrup available, but with each pancake I eat, I do appreciate the amount of work each drop took to bring it to my table.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities:Pendragon Theatre Subscription Deals

Pendragon Theatre is once again offering its year-round subscriptions with some bonuses added in celebration of their 30th year anniversary. The line-up is expansive and for anyone who wants more live theatre in his/her life there are discounts available to make that possible.

Between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011, Pendragon will offer 11 productions. Productions that are set are an adaptation of Jungle Book, Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, Constance Cogdon’s adaptation of The Imaginary Invalid, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, a return engagement of Orson’s Welle’s Moby Dick Rehearsed, and a return engagement of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged). The annual holiday show and fall production are still in the process of being finalized.

Another facet of the 30th anniversary, Adirondack only year-round professional theatre, is a “Pendragon Alumni” staged reading for one night only, July 17, 2010 with a reception. There will also be Cabaret Evenings – songs from past Pendragon productions and the New Directions Series – showcasing up-and-coming directors and playwrights.

“We wanted to offer these subscriptions as a celebration of our 30th year and as a thank you to the community, a payback for all the support over the last 30 years,” says Managing Director and Pendragon Co-Founder Bob Pettee. “We hope that people will also be able to come to more performances and understand the variety we have.”

“We feel like you don’t get the full effect of what we do unless you see a range of performances. Some people ask or want to know what the one ‘best’ show is to see. I want people to know that all the shows are well crafted and together offer the audience diversity.”

Pendragon is a repertory theatre, showcasing a range of musical, dramatic and comedic material with a professional resident cast. There will be six different performances happening continuously throughout this upcoming summer season along with various other special events.

“Being a repertory allows us to perform a variety of plays. A full-length play is just that full length [with different acts and usually an intermission] while something like Jungle Book is considered a one-act as New Directions is a series of one-act plays,” says Pettee. “We also have an alumni event and about five different cabarets throughout the season.”

“The 3 for $30 subscription is for three events so you can use it see whatever you want throughout the year. People are only allowed to purchase one of these so if they want to see that fourth play, it would be full price. The year-round subscriptions save people money. If someone wants to see all 11 productions the subscription ticket price is almost half price, about $10 a ticket from the regular $20 adult price. A subscription gives people an inexpensive way to experience all that we have to offer.”

“What we want most of all and the reason why we made the subscription price so reasonable is we really want people to come in and understand the breadth of the stuff that we do at Pendragon.” Pettee says. “Seeing more than one event is critical to that understanding and the cheapest way is to buy a subscription.”

Pettee acknowledges all the Pendragon supporters, “The only reason we are still here is because of our supporters and the community. People have shown us they want live theatre by coming to the theatre for all these years.”

Pendragon Theatre is located at 15 Brandy Brook Lane, Saranac Lake. 518-891-1854. Regular ticket prices are $20.00 for adults, $17.00 for seniors and $10.00 for those under 18 years of age. Other productions: Jungle Book, New Directions, The Holiday Show: ages 15 and up/$10.00, under 15/$8.00. All Full Length Matinees are $12.00 (also Cabarets and Alumni Readings)

Subscription only apply to Pendragon Productions at the Pendragon Theatre location, not tour locations or special events. Subscriptions are prepaid admissions, non-transferable and do not assure you a seat. Reservations are required.
Year Round: All 11 events (including Moby Dick and Shakespeare) $120
Year Round: All 9 events $100
The 5 Show Summer Full-Length: $70
Special 30th year deal: “3 for $30” = 3 events for $30 (restrictions do apply. Only one/person/season) Good for any combination of full length, cabaret, alumni event, etc…but just three events.

*As a matter of full disclosure I am a board member of Pendragon Theatre but also a parent on a budget. If you have never attended Pendragon Theatre before the “3 for $30” would be a good opportunity to save some money and see three shows. If you attend or wish to start attending more frequently, a year-round subscription will benefit your pocketbook.


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