Almanack Contributor Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.

When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.

Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pete Nelson: Norway has Lessons for High Peaks Overuse

Regular Almanack readers are used to hearing me stress the importance of perspectives from outside the Adirondack Park. Today I’ve got one from way outside the Adirondack Park, specifically Norway, where my wife Amy and I are traveling for two weeks. While here I have enjoyed the geologic kinship Norway shares with the Adirondacks. I have also enjoyed the fact that my experiences so far have reinforced the sentiments I expressed in my last Almanack column, namely that we should not overreact to busy trails in the High Peaks. If you think we have a problem in the Adirondacks, you should see the hiking traffic here. And if you think that pervasive cultural experiences of pristine, wild places can’t place their fragile value at the heart of an entire society, you should see this country.

Yesterday Amy and I climbed Preikestolen, one of Norway’s most popular hiking destinations and a national icon. In some ways Preikestolen is Norway’s answer to Indian Head: a massive, open rock slab with a spectacular view, positioned far above a narrow body of water that is set between mountain ridges. However the scale is far greater: Priekestolen’s height above the water is three times that of Indian Head and the body of water is a sizeable fjord, not a small lake. For the purposes of this article, a better comparison is our own infamous Cascade Mountain. Cascade’s trail involves several hundred feet more vertical ascent than Preikestolen, but both routes are 2.4 miles and, more important, both trails are crammed with people who want an accessible but authentic regional mountain experience. Like Cascade, Preikestolen is a challenge that a neophyte hiker or ambitious family might take, an intimidating but doable workout with major parking problems down below and a show-stopper payoff on top. The difference, once again, is scale: Preikestolen’s foot traffic makes Cascade look like Allen Mountain.   » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pete Nelson: Don’t Overreact to High Peaks Use

Overuse in portions of the High Peaks is a real and growing problem, exacerbated by trends in social media and the expanding desire to count-off summits.  It has been documented extensively here in the Almanack.  But in the last few weeks these discussions have reached a rolling boil with a bit too much hyperbole for me.   A range of ideas has been raised, a number of them falling under the general concept of limiting access to the High Peaks, including permit systems, licensing schemes, daily caps and so on.  Some of these limiting suggestions have been accompanied by exclusionary rhetoric with which I strongly disagree, along the lines of “Why are we trying to get more people here?” or “I like my (town, street, access) the way it is, without all the visitors.”  I agree that increasing use in parts of the High Peaks is a real issue, and I have written about various aspects of the problem for several years.  But the exclusionary sentiments I’m starting to hear are where I draw the line. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pete Nelson: Adirondack Experience Gets Diversity Right

adirondack experienceOn July 1st I attended the grand opening of the Adirondack Experience’s new multi-million-dollar exhibit Life in the Adirondacks.  Situated overlooking Blue Mountain Lake, The Adirondack Experience (formerly the Adirondack Museum) is a regional icon with an unparalleled collection of Adirondack historical artifacts.  Their new exhibit, intended to interactively place visitors in the context of the Adirondack Park in all its human dimensions, is located in the former Roads and Rails building.

Life in the Adirondacks is a dramatic change in approach and style for a museum renowned for its depiction of history through objects of every description from the last two centuries of human activity in the region.  I spoke with one of the staff who manages collections and she told me the count of items on display in this exhibit space was down from 3,000 to roughly 500.  Those who know the former exhibit will see a much cleaner, streamlined, modern presentation with a number of new “hands-on” interactive displays.  Life in the Adirondacks is bracketed by two video presentations.  The first is a visually striking short film in a small theater that introduces visitors to the spectrum of human passions concerning the Adirondack Park.  The second, near the exit, is an excellent collection of short interviews with various leaders and advocates in the Park, representing different sides of the difficult questions we debate here, from land use to preservation to local economies. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

High Peaks Overuse: Make Cascade an Educational Asset

Over the past few months Governor Andrew Cuomo has shown his economic love for the Adirondacks by putting his money where his mouth is, pledging $32 million towards an Adirondack Gateway facility at Frontier Town in North Hudson and another $20 million for improvements to the Gore, Whiteface and Mt Van Hoevenberg ski centers.

Seeing as generosity is in the air, I have a proposal:  let’s take a small portion of the monetary love intended for these projects and turn Cascade Mountain from a dangerous and degraded poster child for Adirondack overuse to a model of Wilderness education that becomes an asset in the struggle to protect the High Peaks. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lost Brook Dispatches: Adirondack Winter Redeemed

Those of us who cherish classic Adirondack winters suffered mightily through the depressing, bare-grounded blandness that was last winter. Thank goodness for sweet redemption: the accumulating snow pack in the mountains this year has purged a lot of disappointment.

Things started looking up early in the season. Although there were ups and downs through December, we eked out a White Christmas down in Keene and did better aloft: the upper portion of Pitchoff East rewarded our holiday family climb with nearly two feet of lush snow. My January expedition to explore the Opalescent’s source high on the shoulder of Mount Marcy found a good five feet. Snow in early February added to the total and had Amy and me breaking trail to Round Pond in a foot of new powder. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pete Nelson: Facts Show Boreas Ponds Tract Should Be Wilderness

Boreas Ponds ClassificationAs the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) prepares for their March meeting, a decision on classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract is not on the agenda.  That’s a good thing, indicating that more research and deliberations are ongoing and providing some comfort that the decision is not just pro forma.

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates believes that it is therefore an excellent time to review the status of the deliberation process.  In doing so, we can justly say “hats off” to the Adirondack Park Agency staff.  Their thorough analysis of the Boreas Ponds Tract, conducted as part of  developing a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS), and presented to the State Land Committee at the February Agency Meeting, was a breath of fresh, evidence-based, rational air in a process that to this point has been in dire need of reason and facts.  » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Commentary: A Vision For A ‘High Peaks South’ Gateway

Paddling on Boreas Ponds as guest of The Nature ConservancyOne of the biggest Adirondack issues of the year will be the debate over how to classify the Boreas Ponds Tract.  Anyone who has paid attention to land-use squabbles in the Adirondacks for the last fifty years can describe the lineups on either side just as well as I can: recreation, access and the welfare of local communities on one side and wilderness preservation, aesthetics, non-mechanized travel and ecological protection on the other.

But what if this debate is false, predicated on outdated ideas and a fading history?  What if adherence to this old narrative is detrimental to the natural world and to the residents of the Adirondacks in equal measure?   Suppose instead that Wilderness protection and the welfare of local communities is in fact a synergy ripe with opportunity?  Lots of evidence from across the country tells us what ought to make sense looking at how Lake Placid, Keene and Keene Valley thrive: proximity to grand wilderness is an economic asset, and the grander and better protected it is, the more valuable the asset. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

An Adirondack Response To The Orlando Massacre

TMDA Logo NewAll of us reel in horror at the violence in Orlando, Florida on Sunday.  As Coordinator for the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council I feel it important to respond to this tragedy, just as I feel it important to respond as a human being.  In either capacity I struggle to offer any kind of worthy reaction except to express solidarity with the victims and with all who suffer from the conditions that foster the kind of hate and anger we saw unleashed.

Though it is hard to find meaningful words, I think I know the right question to ask.  Where do we go from here?  How does our society move towards a destination where senseless mass killings, where violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, recedes into history?  Many will say that such a future is unimaginable, that there will always be hatred and bitter, alienated individuals capable of acting with insane malice.  To those doubters I ask how such a future can be more unimaginable than what took place Sunday in Orlando. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Pete Nelson: Close The Road Into The Boreas Ponds

Paddling on Boreas Ponds as guest of The Nature ConservancyThe State of New York has completed purchase of the Boreas Ponds Tract, the final stage of its acquisition of the former Finch Pruyn lands from the Nature Conservancy.  Now the classification process will begin.  As with the Essex Chain acquisition the debate will be over recreational access and protection of its biological assets and its aesthetic experience as a wild place.  As with the Essex Chain the debate will largely come down to roads, in this case Gulf Brook Road, a dirt and gravel road that provides access to the interior of the tract from Blue Ridge Road.

It’s obvious why arguments between wilderness protection and recreational access so often come down to roads, but I think that’s unfortunate.  I think it distracts us from the larger issues of land use and protection with which we should be more concerned.  The issue of Gulf Brook Road in the Boreas classification makes a perfect example.  So let’s look at it in a little more detail. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lost Brook Dispatches: April Winter Weather Adventures

full view - Kuma's view is a good one.It has been a dismal winter in these parts, and spring is closing in.  But for lovers of winter weather like Amy and myself, there is always hope.  We both had last weekend completely free, the first time that has happened since we moved to Keene last September.  The forecast promised to turn early April into something more like January: a strong front coming through, a big temperature drop, snow accumulation and winds gusting to 70 mph.  Wind warnings were up and the wind chill was expected to be well below zero that night.  It sounded like a perfect recipe for one last Adirondack winter fling.  But it was even better than we expected.  The rapidly changing conditions produced two surprises for us, two unique happenings, one dramatic, one mysterious and magical, and each beautiful in their own way.  » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Lost Brook Dispatches: Moose, Part Twose

Moose At Helldiver Pond by John Warren(This letter to my father-in-law is a follow-on to my column “You Moose Be Kidding”

Dear Howard:

I’m thinking of you, stuck in your hospital bed, red-legged and bored to death.  I sympathize, but I am very happy that you are where you are, remembering as I do my son Zach’s bout with cellulitis in the Blue Ridge Wilderness some years ago.   Cellulitis is a very serious thing and I’m glad you are out of danger.

Still, boredom is its own danger too, potentially injurious to your most excellent mental make-up.  So I thought I’d entertain you with some wonderful news.  Of course, this may not be news you want to hear, as it forces upon you a terrible choice: either accept the demise of your bothersome claim there are no moose in the Adirondacks (because you haven’t seen one); or instead accuse your own beautiful daughter, your precious flesh and blood, of being a bald-faced liar. For indeed, glory has been visited upon us!  Oh hail the great hand of fate that has delivered unto us a primary source to quiet you once and for all: last Friday we saw a moose! » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Pete Nelson: Slippery Slopes

Giant from Amy's Lookout. Many new Irene slides.Last weekend I did a traverse through the Giant Mountain Wilderness, from Chapel Pond over Giant, down to Hopkins and out to Keene Valley. The trail from Giant’s summit down to the col between Giant and Green Mountain is a favorite, a marvelous, unrelenting descent along a forested slope.

Last Sunday it was more entertaining than usual. Facing north and covered in trees, the slope had preserved a modest snowpack, but of course it had not escaped the cycle of thaws and freezes we have endured during this odd winter. The result was a mighty slippery hike. The Ridge Trail up Giant had its typical rivers of ice but the trail down to the col was considerably more treacherous, coated in a dull sheen, with long, icy slabs and bulwarks often lurking under less than an inch of crusty, fragile snow. Even with microspikes it was a dicey scramble requiring a special level of vigilance.

It occurred to me while I was making my way down Giant that this hike represented a pretty strong metaphor for the political shift that seems to be happening in State land use policy here in the Adirondacks. From my perspective we are positioned on a slippery slope and it is incumbent upon us as citizens of New York to raise our level of vigilance.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Restaurant Review: A Return to Liquids and Solids

Liquids and Solids ExteriorAs a foodie, occasional restaurant reviewer, and newly minted full-time resident of the Adirondack Park, I plan to really delve into the region’s many culinary heights. Nearly two years ago I visited Liquids and Solids in Lake Placid, which was relatively new on the scene. As I wrote at the time, I was impressed with their creativity and ambition. So what better place to start my latest Adirondack food tour than a return visit to see how they have come along? » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Pete Nelson: Keep Creativity in Adirondack Arts Education

If you are a parent, a teacher, a student, or were ever a student here in the Adirondacks, I’d like you to engage in a little visioning exercise with me. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit, maybe with a soothing beverage, do a little deep breathing and relaxation, close your eyes and let peace descend upon you.

When you’re good and ready, think about your own experiences with the arts in school. Whatever the nature and level of your involvement, from painting to music to drama, to even just doodling on your pad during calculus, remember what it was about the arts that mattered to you, how they felt and what memories will most strongly stay with you.

Try to distill your thoughts and feelings about the arts to the essential things that were most important in your schooling life: how they changed you as a person, how they contributed to your growth, the beautiful ways in which they made your education richer and more wonderful, how they were liberating and creative, how they touched other things you were learning, how they resonated deeply with your humanity.  In short, think about the essential meaning and power of the arts in your education. Then come back here. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pete Nelson: The Adirondack Rail Trail’s Benefits For Wilderness

Elroy Sparta TrailThe unfortunate war over New York State’s plan to turn 34 miles of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor into an all-season recreational trail may not be entirely over; certainly no one has surrendered just yet. But for all intents and purposes, opponents of the State’s plan have had their Waterloo.

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Board has voted to affirm that the plan is consistent with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), clearing the way to proceed. Barring successful lawsuits or an unlikely turnaround, the Tri-Lakes region is going to get its Adirondack Recreational Trail.  » Continue Reading.


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