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.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cross-Country Skiing Tips For This Weekend

A skier starts out on the Upper Hudson Ski Trail. Photo by Phil Brown.It’s late January, but we’re still waiting for midwinter ski conditions. That said, you can find good skiing if you pick the right spots.

At lower elevations, you want to stick to smoother trails – such as former truck trails and old woods roads – as there might not be enough snow to cover big rocks and roots.

At higher elevations, this is less of a problem. Tony Goodwin reports on the Jackrabbit Trail website that there is 26 inches of snow at Lake Colden and three to four feet above the 4,000-foot contour.



Monday, January 19, 2015

Plethora Of Proposals For Forest Preserve Lands

snowmobiles photo by Nancie BattagliaThis fall, the Adirondack Park Agency invited the public to offer ideas for revising the State Land Master Plan – which hasn’t been substantially amended since 1987 – and the agency got an earful.Among those submitting suggestions were the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, environmental organizations, mountain bikers, and backcountry skiers.

The Local Government Review Board, which has a non-voting seat on the APA board, proposed a number of amendments. Perhaps the most fundamental change would put economic development on an equal footing with natural resource protection in the plan’s mission statement.



Friday, January 16, 2015

DEC Opens Ski Trail Along Upper Hudson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe state Department of Environmental Conservation has opened a new cross-country-ski trail on former Finch, Pruyn timberlands that takes you along the Goodnow and Hudson rivers in the town of Newcomb.

I skied the 4.2-mile loop trail on Wednesday afternoon with my neighbor, Tim Peartree, and we had a blast.

“I liked the variety, the ups and downs, the scenery. It’s a terrific trail,” Tim said after our trip.

The ski trip is possible thanks to the state’s purchase of lands in the Essex Chain Lakes region from the Nature Conservancy a few years ago. The conservancy had purchased the land from Finch, Pruyn & Company in 2007.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

APA Approves Controversial Subdivision

WoodworthLakeThe Adirondack Park Agency board voted unanimously Thursday to approve a controversial development at a former Boy Scouts camp in the southern Adirondacks.

New York Land and Lakes Development LLC plans to subdivide the 1,119-acre property into 24 building lots, most of them bordering two water bodies, Hines Pond and Woodworth Lake. The lots range from three acres to 145 acres.

All of the Park’s four major environmental groups as well as the regional chapter of the Sierra Club opposed the project. They contend that the developers should be forced to minimize fragmentation of the forest by clustering homes closer together.



Monday, January 12, 2015

NYCO Begins Drilling In Jay Mt. Wilderness Area

plumley-lot-8-300x2051NYCO Minerals has begun cutting trees and drilling for wollastonite in the Jay Mountain Wilderness, actions that could render moot legal efforts to thwart the company’s plans.

NYCO spokesman John Brodt confirmed that the company began work in December after New York State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Buchanan dismissed a lawsuit challenging NYCO’s permit.

Last week, Earthjustice filed a notice of appeal with the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, but it’s uncertain whether it will follow through. The nonprofit organization is representing Protect the Adirondacks, Adirondack Wild, the Sierra Club, and the Atlantic States Legal Foundation.



Monday, December 29, 2014

Adirondackers Await Rail Corridor Decision

Train_overhead-Nancie BattagliaAfter four public meetings on the future of the eighty-mile rail corridor between Big Moose and Lake Placid, the public seems as divided as ever, and the state now must make a decision sure to leave many people unhappy.

The Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation plan to review the public comments and make a recommendation for the best use of the state-owned corridor. After the public has had a chance to weigh in on that recommendation, the departments will make a final decision.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Push For Forest Preserve Mountain Biking

Mountain Biking by Nancie BattagliaThe Adirondack Park Agency’s promise to consider allowing mountain biking in the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area has generated a broader discussion – with much disagreement – of the place of bikes in the Forest Preserve.

The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan allows bikes on trails in tracts classified as Wild Forest Areas but prohibits them in Wilderness Areas. They are allowed in Primitive Areas only on old roads used by state officials for managing natural resources.



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Book Review: ‘Adirondack Trail Skier’

trail skier bookAfter last week’s snowstorm, a lot of people got out to ski and or at least were prompted into thinking of skiing. Ah, but where to go?

For years, the bible for the region’s cross-country skiers has been Tony Goodwin’s Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks.

Now there’s another book on the market: Adirondack Trail Skier by Spencer Morrissey.

Morrissey self-published his guidebook in 2013, but I didn’t get a copy until late last winter, so I held off reviewing it until now.



Friday, December 19, 2014

DA Won’t Press Charges In Death At Indian Lake Church

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Hamilton County prosecutor will not press charges in the death of a man who died of a cardiac attack at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Indian Lake during an altercation with parishioners.

District Attorney Marsha King Purdue described the deceased—44-year-old Joseph Berg—as “a deeply troubled man” who had been drinking heavily before attending the 4 p.m. mass on June 28. She said his blood-alcohol level was about three times higher than the legal limit for drivers in New York State.



Friday, December 19, 2014

New ‘Adirondack Explorer’ Features Ice Climbing

CoverALast winter, at age fifty-nine, I took up ice climbing. My first route was the popular Chouinard’s Gully above Chapel Pond. Don Mellor, the author of Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber’s Guide, led all three pitches.

Later in the season, I climbed four classic routes with Dan Plumley: Roaring Brook Falls, the Cascade (between Cascade Lakes), Multiplication Gully in Wilmington Notch, and Chapel Pond Slab. On each climb, Dan led and thus assumed the lion’s share of the risk.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Plaintiffs In Tupper Resort Suit Lose Final Appeal

cranberry pondEnvironmentalists challenging the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake have lost their bid to continue their lawsuit against the developer and the Adirondack Park Agency.

The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest tribunal, today rejected a motion by Protect the Adirondacks and the Sierra Club seeking permission to appeal a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.

The green groups contended, among other things, that the project violated the APA Act by fragmenting timberlands into “Great Camp” estates. The APA, which approved the project in January 2012, maintains that the project is legal.

“We’re very disappointed in the decision,” Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect, told Adirondack Almanack. “It takes thousands of acres of » Continue Reading.



Sunday, November 30, 2014

Climbers Seek State Land Master Plan Recognition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 1971, the year before the State Land Master Plan was adopted, Trudy Healy published the second edition of A Climber’s Guide to the Adirondacks. It was a slim, staple-bound booklet that described about seventy rock-climbing routes.

Last year, Jeremy Haas and Jim Lawyer published the second edition of Adirondack Rock, a two-volume affair with descriptions of more than three thousand routes. In addition, other authors are working on guidebooks for bouldering and slide climbing in the Adirondack Park.

Haas points to these books as evidence of the growth in popularity of technical climbing and mountaineering since the early 1970s. He and other climbers are hoping the Adirondack » Continue Reading.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

St. Regis Mountain: Bring Your Skis And Snowshoes

StRegisLast winter, my daughter Becky and her fiancé, Joe, wanted to climb one of the Saranac Lake 6, so we snowshoed up St. Regis Mountain.

Although I like St. Regis – with its marvelous views of ponds and lakes—I am not an enthusiastic snowshoer. I mean, snowshoeing is OK, but I like cross-country skiing a whole lot more.

As we walked through the woods, I kept thinking, “This would be a great ski trail.” The terrain is gentle enough that on our way off the mountain we encountered a guy in MicroSpikes running up the mountain.

Becky and Joe, though, thoroughly liked the snowshoe trip.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

State Land Master Plan Meeting Rescheduled

comments board for webBecause of snow in the forecast, the Adirondack Park Agency has canceled tonight’s meeting in Old Forge on proposed amendments to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

The meeting has been rescheduled for 4-6 p.m. Monday at the gymnasium in the Town of Webb School on Route 28 in Old Forge.

The APA is considering two changes to the master plan. One would permit mountain biking in the Essex Chain Primitive Area, and the other would allow the state to build a snowmobile bridge over the Cedar River using some non-natural materials.

In addition, the agency is soliciting ideas for other amendments to the plan. The Adirondack Park » Continue Reading.



Monday, November 17, 2014

DEC Misinformed Public In Rail-Trail Slide Show

Bog RiverAt recent meetings on the Remsen-Lake Placid rail corridor, the state misinformed the public about the legal implications of removing tracks that cross rivers between Big Moose and Tupper Lake.

The public was told that the state’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Act would prohibit the state from restoring the railroad tracks between Big Moose and Tupper Lake if they were removed.

In a slide show, the state Department of Environmental Conservation noted that railroad bridges generally are not permitted over rivers classified as Wild or Scenic. It said the railroad crosses three such rivers south of Tupper Lake: the Moose, Bog, and Raquette.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Rails With Trails: Win-Win Or Apples and Oranges?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJack Drury says the Trails with Rails Action Committee (TRAC) has a win-win solution to the controversy over the future of the rail corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid: keep the tracks and build a network of bike trails that run alongside or in the vicinity of the tracks.

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) also envisions a bike trail between Tupper and Placid, but its plan calls for removing the tracks.

The bike trails proposed by TRAC and ARTA are fundamentally different. To many observers, it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison.



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Train Supporters Stand By Rails-With-Trails Option

Adirondack Tourist Train (Susan Bibeau)Supporters of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad continue to insist, contrary to assertions by state officials, that it’s possible to keep the tracks and build trails in and out of the 34-mile rail corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.

The Trails with Rails Action Committee (TRAC) has prepared maps and engineer’s drawings showing where trails could be located within the corridor and, where that’s not feasible, where spur trails could be built that leave and re-enter the corridor. The map of TRAC’s proposed trails and sample engineer’s drawings can be found on the group’s website.

TRAC members will be attending public meetings in » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

PROTECT Faults DEC For Rebuilding Road in Preserve

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few years ago I wrote a story for the Adirondack Explorer about a trail run to Gull Lake in the Black River Wild Forest near Woodgate. My outing began on a muddy mess of a road passable only by jeeps and pickup trucks.

This year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation repaired two miles of the road, smoothing it out, laying down gravel, and installing new culverts. I was able to drive my Honda Fit (not a high-clearance vehicle) the full two miles with no problem.



Friday, October 31, 2014

Would Rail Trail Cost Taxpayers $20M Or Nothing?

Adirondack Tourist Train (Susan Bibeau)The state Department of Transportation estimates that it would cost about $20 million to convert 70 miles of rail corridor between Big Moose and Lake Placid to a recreational trail.

Joe Hattrup says he can do it for free.

Hattrup asserts that the sale of the rails and other steel hardware would cover the costs of removing the tracks and creating a trail that could be used by snowmobilers in winter and cyclists in other seasons. The trail would have a stone-dust surface suitable for road bikes.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

APA Gets Ideas For Amending State Land Master Plan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Adirondack Park Agency is considering two amendments to the State Land Master Plan, both concerning the Essex Chain Lakes region, but the agency likely will be asked to weigh broader changes to the document.

The Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board already has set forth nine proposals for amending the master plan, which governs the state’s management of the Forest Preserve.

“There’s going to be more, but that’s a start,” Fred Monroe, the board’s executive director, told Adirondack Almanack at an APA “listening session” Wednesday evening, the first of four such meetings that the agency plans to hold to gather ideas on amending the master plan.



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