Almanack Contributor Phil Brown

Phil Brown

Since 1999, Phil Brown has been Editor of the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bicycling Coalition Happy With Rail-Trail Proposal

Adirondack Tourist Train (Susan Bibeau)The New York Bicycling Coalition has kept a low profile in the debate over the future of the Adirondack rail corridor, but its proposal for the 119-mile corridor is similar to the one set forth by the state.

Last September, the coalition’s executive director, Josh Wilson, wrote the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to call for removing the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to create a trail for biking and other non-motorized activities in spring, summer, and fall.

“NYBC believes that such a trail would be unparalleled in New York State and the Northeast,” Wilson wrote Raymond Hessinger, director of DOT’s Freight and Passenger » Continue Reading.



Monday, July 21, 2014

State Opens Trail To OK Slip Falls

OKSlip-600x719The state has opened a three-mile hiking trail to OK Slip Falls in the recently established Hudson Gorge Wilderness.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the opening of the trail today in news release in which he also touted funding for equestrian trails in the central Adirondacks and for the repair of the Lake Abanakee Dam in Indian Lake.

The state acquired OK Slip Falls—one of the tallest cascades in the Adirondack Park—from the Nature Conservancy in 2013. Since then, people have been hiking to the falls along informal trails or bushwhacking.

The official trail starts on the north side of Route 28, at the same trailhead for a pre-existing trail that leads to Ross, Whortleberry, and Big » Continue Reading.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

2 New Maps From St. Regis Canoe Outfitters

Two mapsSt. Regis Canoe Outfitters has published two new waterproof maps for paddlers, one covering the three Saranac Lakes, the other covering the St. Regis Canoe Area.

The color maps cover some of the same territory as the Adirondack Paddler’s Map, also published by St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, but the new maps are more detailed and, being smaller, easier to handle.

They’re also less expensive: $9.95 versus $19.95 for the Adirondack Paddler’s Map (which is four times as large).

“Many first-time visitors are going to grab a $10 map before they grab a $20 map,” said Dave Cilley, owner of St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, which has stores in Saranac » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DEC Extends Comment Deadline For Essex Chain

Essex ChainThe state Department of Environmental Conservation is giving the public an extra week to submit comments on its draft management plan for the Essex Chain Lakes. The state acquired the Essex Chain last year from the Nature Conservancy, which purchased it in 2007 from Finch, Pruyn & Company.

Following is the entirety of DEC’s news release:

The public will have an additional seven days to comment on the Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex Draft Unit Management Plan (Draft Essex Chain UMP) and Draft Community Connector Multiple Use Trail Plan (Draft Trail Plan UMP) the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. DEC extended the comment period until July 25 in response to » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Earthjustice Obtains Court Order To Block NYCO Drilling

vernal poolEarthjustice has obtained a court order blocking NYCO Minerals from test drilling in the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area until the judge has a chance to hear oral arguments in Earthjustice’s lawsuit against NYCO and two state agencies.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Buchanan on Monday granted Earthjustice’s request for a temporary restraining order–providing the plaintiffs post a $10,000 bond to cover NYCO’s damages if Earthjustice loses the suit. NYCO could have begun work as early as this week and argued in court that delays would hurt the company financially.

Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg said the bond was posted Wednesday afternoon.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is Rails With Trails A Practical Solution?

Adirondack Tourist Train (Susan Bibeau)Supporters of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad continue to push for keeping the tracks at the Lake Placid end of the rail line and for creating a “rails-with-trails” option for bikers, hikers, snowmobilers, and others who want to use the state-owned corridor.

The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, which operates the railroad, said in a news release last week that a multi-use travel corridor best serves the public interest. “Rails and trails can exist and work successfully together,” it declared.

On Monday, a volunteer group called Trails with Rail Action Committee (TRAC) also voiced support for this idea. TRAC says it has been working with state officials “to identify recreational trails within the existing » Continue Reading.



Friday, July 11, 2014

State Expects To Solicit Rail-Trail Ideas This Fall

Adirondack Tourist Train (Susan Bibeau)State officials hope to hold public meetings on the future of the Adirondack rail corridor this fall, the state’s environmental conservation commissioner told Adirondack Almanack.

Known as scoping sessions, the meetings will be held to solicit the public’s ideas for the 90-mile corridor between Old Forge and Lake Placid.

Following the meetings, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Department of Transportation will analyze the public comments and develop a draft management plan for the corridor. The departments will hold public hearings on the draft before issuing a final version of the plan.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said he hopes the final plan will be adopted sometime in the second half » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

State To Consider Removing Tracks East Of Tupper Lake

Adirondack Tourist Train (Susan Bibeau)After several years of public debate, the state has decided to consider tearing up the tracks and establishing a bike trail in at least part of a 90-mile rail corridor that cuts through the heart of the Adirondack wilderness.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation announced today that they would reopen the management plan for the corridor and look at establishing a recreational trail in the 34 miles between the villages of Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. In addition, the state will examine the possibility of expanding rail service on the rest of the line between Tupper Lake and Old Forge.

“Our goal is to protect » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Judge Reaffirms Order Against Hudson River Rafting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA state judge has once again ordered Hudson River Rafting Company to stop offering whitewater trips until it replenishes a $50,000 performance bond required by an earlier court order.

At a hearing Tuesday afternoon, State Supreme Court Justice Richard Giardino said that Hudson River Rafting cannot offer raft trips on any part of a river where licensed guides are required, according to the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In doing so, the judge reaffirmed an earlier order.

The attorney general has taken Hudson River Rafting and its owner, Patrick Cunningham, to court several times over the past few years. In 2012, Schneiderman tried to close Hudson River Rafting permanently over » Continue Reading.



Monday, July 7, 2014

State Takes Rafting Company To Court Again

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe owner of Hudson River Rafting Company is scheduled to appear in State Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon to answer accusations that he is operating his business in violation of a court order.

Assistant State Attorney General G. Nicholas Garin is asking Justice Richard Giardino to forbid Hudson River Rafting from operating whitewater trips on rivers that require licensed guides until its owner, Patrick Cunningham, replenishes a $50,000 performance bond.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

First Ascent Of Tilman’s Arete Was A First For Women

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARock climbing has always been a male-dominated sport, and it was especially so in its early days. But not exclusively so.

The Olympian skier Betty Woolsey climbed in the Adirondacks and Gunks with such pioneers of rock as Jim Goodwin, John Case, and Fritz Wiessner. Circa 1950, she put up the first Adirondack route led by a woman—the Woolsey Route on Rooster Comb Mountain.

The guidebook Adirondack Rock says it’s not exactly clear where Woolsey’s route went, but it most likely followed a corner near a climb established by Wiessner known as Old Route. It is rated 5.8 on the Yosemite Decimal System scale, » Continue Reading.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Moss Cliff In Wilmington Notch Reopened To Climbers

falconJust in time for the holiday weekend, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is giving rock climbers access again to Moss Cliff, one of the region’s better crags. Moss Cliff had been closed to avoid disturbance of peregrine falcons during nesting season, but DEC has detected no nesting activity on the cliff this year.

Located in Wilmington Notch,the 400-foot cliff towers over Route 86 and the West Branch of the Ausable River. It’s a landmark to motorists, but climbers know it for its clean rock and tough routes.



Friday, June 27, 2014

Earthjustice Seeks Info On Routes Of Oil Trains

Rail accident in Lac Megantic, Quebec in 2013 (Wikimedia photo)The environmental organization Earthjustice is asking authorities to disclose the routes of trains that transport Bakken crude oil through New York State.

Earthjustice attorney Christopher Amato filed the freedom-of-information request Thursday with the state Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Management on behalf of several environmental groups, including Adirondack Wild and the Sierra Club.

Amato is seeking all records submitted by rail carriers regarding the oil-transport routes as well as any requests by the carriers to keep such records secret.



Friday, June 13, 2014

East Dix Renamed In Honor Of Grace Hudowalski

Grace HudowalskiFor years, Adirondack Forty-Sixers have been referring to East Dix as Grace Peak, but now the name change is official.

On Thursday, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names voted to rename the 4,012-foot peak after Grace Hudowalski, the first woman to climb all forty-six of the High Peaks and the longtime historian of the Forty-Sixers organization.

Doug Arnold, chairman of the group’s Grace Peak Committee, worked twelve years to get support from local and state officials for the name change.

“Mountain naming is not a frivolous thing,” he said. “Ultimately, she was proven worthy, and I think that is a testament to the Forty-Sixers.”



Thursday, June 12, 2014

APA Panel Votes To Allow NYCO Drilling In Wilderness

vernal poolThe Adirondack Park Agency’s State Land Committee voted unanimously today to allow NYCO Minerals to conduct exploratory drilling in the Jay Mountain Wilderness on a parcel known as Lot 8.

Dick Booth, the chairman of the committee, acknowledged that some green activists oppose the test drilling on legal and environmental grounds.

“This may well get litigated, but that’s not a surprise,” Booth said before the vote.

The committee voted to amend the Jay Mountain Wilderness management plan to allow the drilling. The full APA board is expected to approve the same amendment on Friday. (The board did indeed pass the amendment without further discussion.)



Friday, June 6, 2014

Protect Calls For Wilderness Area In Southern Adirondacks

West Stony mapProtect the Adirondacks is urging the state to create a 12,850-acre West Stony Creek Wilderness Area in the southern Adirondacks.

The Wilderness Area would combine 3,925 acres of former Finch, Pruyn timberlands that the state recently purchased from the Nature Conservancy and 8,925 acres of existing Forest Preserve in the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest.

“The West Stony Creek area is rugged terrain dominated by low ridges and mountains and the meandering West Stony Creek and associated wetlands. The Forest Preserve sections have old-growth forest communities,” Protect Chairman Chuck Clusen said in a news release today.

Protect also says a Wilderness classification would offer stronger protection for a six-mile stretch of West Stony Creek that » Continue Reading.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Phil Brown Paddles The Hudson River Gorge In A Ducky

phil_raft-600x388From time to time I’ve played with the idea of putting together a list of quintessential Adirondack adventures. It would include, for example, climbing the Trap Dike on Mount Colden, skiing Mount Marcy on a bluebird day, and scaling the eight-hundred-foot cliff on Wallface.

Last summer, I ticked off another adventure on my bucket list: rafting the Hudson Gorge.

My friend Mike got me into this one. He arranged a trip with North Creek Rafting Company with the intention of writing an article for the Associated Press. I readily agreed to shoot some photos and video.

Our Hudson Gorge outing differed from most in one important respect: instead of riding in rafts, we piloted inflatable kayaks, » Continue Reading.



Monday, May 19, 2014

DEC Plans To Adopt Ski Trails Near Tupper

Bog River skierA few years ago I spent several hours skiing some informal trails in the Forest Preserve along the Bog River in Tupper Lake. I liked the trails so much that I wrote an article describing the experience.

I got some heat for the article, because after it was published the state Department of Environmental Conservation removed the trails’ home-made markers and signs. I also wrote an article for the Adirondack Almanack that can be read here.

But there may be a happy ending to the story: DEC is proposing to adopt and maintain the trails.



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Climbing: A Rock-fall At Shipton’s Arete

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other day my neighbor Tim Peartree and I went to Shipton’s Arete overlooking Chapel Pond for some early-season climbing. When we got there we found mud, stones, and a few broken trees at the base. It was the debris from a huge rock-fall that wiped out much of the wooded area above the cliff.

We moved a tree and several branches from the base before beginning to climb. I climbed a 120-foot route called Shipton’s Voyage with the intention of setting up a top rope. Upon reaching the top, I discovered that the rock-fall had damaged the cedar tree used as a belay and rappel anchor. The tree had three trunks, and one » Continue Reading.



Monday, May 12, 2014

New State Lands: Sugarloaf Cliffs Open For Climbing

Sugarloaf Cliffs Carl HeilmanI recently got my first close look at the cliffs on Sugarloaf Mountain near Indian Lake, which are now open to rock climbers as a result of the state’s latest acquisition of former Finch, Pruyn lands.

The second edition of Adirondack Rock—due out later this year—lists eighteen routes that were put in over the years (presumably without the landowner’s knowledge), but there is potential for many more. The climbing portion of the cliff is 450 feet high and more than a quarter-mile wide.

Last Thursday, I visited Sugarloaf with Will Roth, an EMS climbing guide and instructor in North Country Community College’s outdoor-recreation program. Will had his » Continue Reading.



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