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, January 19, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Magic of Surveying

Surveying Tools, 1728Today I begin a series of Dispatches on surveying, one of the greatest and richest interactions between humans and their natural environment, rife with beauties,  drama and challenge.  And magic.

There are many perspectives from which to tell the story of the history of the Adirondacks.  Indeed the numerous Adirondack history books available to the curious reader feature a wide variety of approaches.  Some are essentially chronological in nature; some are cultural; some are political.  I especially enjoy the many historical writings about the region that are thematically organized around the personalities of the unequaled cast of characters whose fates were intertwined with the Adirondack Mountains.  From To Charles Herreshoff to John Brown to Ned Buntline to Thomas Clark Durant the variety of people and their various enterprises is remarkable.
» Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: Promoting Wilderness

Looking up the cliffs to Adam's Ledge and the summit of Burton's PeakLike all who know and love the Adirondacks I have always felt a personal stake in the grand debate over private versus public land and the extent to which the state of New York should support and expand its wilderness holdings.   It’s no secret I firmly believe that the Adirondacks’ greatest asset is its mountainous wilderness character and that increasing this asset and leveraging the image of the Adirondacks as a wild place holds the key to gaining its best economic future.

Plenty of people disagree with me.  So I laid out my arguments in great detail in a series of Dispatches running from October through November of last year that promoted what I called a wild, mountainous Adirondack Image.  All told these Dispatches engendered more than a hundred and seventy comments, which is a wonderful.  Meanwhile the same debate raged on in columns ranging from the State’s acquisitions of the Nature Conservancy offering to tourism, Adirondack branding and others.  As I read various postings and comments I found myself thinking all too often that people still don’t get it, that so many of the viewpoints are myopic, embracing a very narrow focus at the expense of the bigger picture. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Pleasures of Winter Camping

The family and I are just back from our annual winter trek to Lost Brook Tract and I have a joyful urge to write about how terrific winter camping is.  My timing is not intended to offer any sort of counterpoint to Dan Crane’s recent post; the last time I checked he and I don’t  coordinate our contributions.  But counterpoint it will be.

In fact, let me begin with Dan: Dan!  Dude!  Get back out there and pitch your tent, buddy.  There’s plenty of winter to go and I can vouch for the fact that there are perfect conditions in the back country right now – no doubt there will be for quite some time.

Why do we go backpacking in the Adirondacks?  I submit that if you were to make a list of the reasons you go into the wilderness for an extended period, you would find that almost all of them are more valid and better fulfilled in the winter (I know, I know… yeah, sure, but it’s cold Pete).  » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Christmas Turkey, Part Two

When I was a  teenager I had a small streak of juvenile delinquency.  This is not uncommon in young men of course and it comes in different flavors.  Some do a little drinking or drugs.  Some do a little stealing.  Some  might commit minor vandalism.  I didn’t do any of that stuff.  I liked to set things on fire.

One March in Cleveland when I was fifteen or so, after a particularly long  and snowy winter the weekend broke into the sixties, setting me and two of my like-minded friends, who were possessed with acute cabin fever, into a manic tizzy to play basketball.  Sadly the driveway was covered in slush from the thaw, splattering us with every aborted dribble.  We tried shoveling, sweeping, even hosing it down, but to no avail. Then we came to another solution. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Christmas Turkey, Part One

Over the years I have been urged from time to time to write down stories from my family’s many journeys in the Adirondacks.  Frankly I was never sure I’d get around to it.  But along came Lost Brook Tract into my life, inspiring me to the point where I could no longer resist.

I have written a year’s worth of Dispatches now, many of them drawn from our experiences.  However there is one tale in particular that others who know our adventures have repeatedly urged me to tell.  As it happens, it is a Christmas story and I have waited eleven months to tell it. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Winter Perfection on Pitchoff

So far this season my home of Madison, Wisconsin has been bereft of any semblance of winter.  Last Monday it was 65 degrees and I got sweaty playing with my dog while dressed in a T-shirt.  Amy and I completed our circuit of holiday parades – we do maybe a dozen of them all over southern Wisconsin – without once seeing a snowflake or having stiff fingers from the cold as we prepped our equipment.  That kind of track record is without an analog in these parts.

Last week the NOAA announced that 2012 will finish as the warmest year in US history.  According to USA Today’s report, every state in the lower 48 was warmer than average and eighteen states set records for warmest year ever including New York and virtually the entire Northeast.  Many Midwestern cities will set records this week for longest stretch of consecutive days with no snow.  Climate change is upon us and both the accumulating data and trend models show that it is warming more rapidly and more severely than previously predicted. Yet most Americans still don’t seem to care all that much about it and plenty of ignoramuses still deny it, following an ugly and embarrassing American trend of belittling science and knowledge.  Even on the Almanack one suspects there are more than a few readers who are as likely to believe in Bigfoot as in human-made climate change.  In their case – in all our cases – ignorance will surely not be bliss. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Tree of Magic

During our time at Lost Brook Tract one of our great pleasures has been discovering and measuring larger examples of the old growth trees that cover most of the land.   There are four canonical species of tree in our boreal wonderland: red spruce, balsam, white birch and yellow birch, plus an occasional mountain ash.  Both the red spruce and yellow birch impress in old-growth form, the latter in girth more than height.

Our catalog of giants includes a yellow birch with a diameter over three feet and multiple red spruces with heights over eighty feet and diameters in the two-foot range.  One red spruce, just a little bit down slope from our property, exceeds a hundred feet by a good margin. At our elevation trees like these are impressive and very rare in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Allure of Lost Brook

I grew up appreciating Adirondack water primarily in the form of its lakes and ponds.  Our family began vacationing at Blue Mountain Lake nearly sixty years ago and by now I feel as though I know every island and every inch of its depths and shoreline.

There are many other bodies of water that became at least somewhat familiar to me in my boyhood: Eagle and Utowana Lakes, Long Lake, Piseco Lake, parts of the Fulton chain, Minnow Pond, Stephens Pond, Cascade Pond, Rock Pond (one of the many), the Sargent Ponds, Lake Durant, Tirrell Pond, Indian Lake, Heart Lake.  As an adult I have come to even more intimate terms with many more, primarily in the High Peaks and Saint Regis areas. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches:
Telecommuting Today and Tomorrow

Having previously shared a vision for Adirondack telecommuting, my plan this week is to describe the current state of broadband and telecommuting in the park in some detail and then point towards the future, laying out a handful of important issues related to its long-term viability.

That plan has gotten a big boost from the readers of the Almanack.  A number of you wrote in to illustrate the current state of telecommuting far better than I could have, in comments written in response to last to last week’s Dispatch.  They were wonderful, revealing that while telecommuting in the Adirondacks is not commonplace, there is no question that its future is already here, thanks to these pioneer Wild Workers (this label, after the suggestion of a reader, is perfect for the situation, plus it is kind of charming).  Choosing to live in the Adirondacks while working elsewhere is something that is happening right now.  That fact should give a big shot of optimism to those who worry about the economy of the park. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Vision for Adk Telecommuting

Grab a cup of coffee kids, this one is long and important.

Imagine the following scenario.

You run a growing business in New York City, an entrepreneurial company that has an exciting new technology to improve the effectiveness of solar power generation.  You have a design team working on a bet-the-business heat exchanger that uses magnetic materials to be three times as efficient as anything on the market.   But a crisis has developed.  Mere days away from unveiling the first prototype, the project has hit a serious roadblock. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Three More Economic Strategies

I have been in the middle of a series of arguments for building the Adirondack economy by promoting the region as a premier wilderness destination, something it is not widely known as now.  A wild Adirondack Image will resonate in a much different way than current conceptions of the region bring to mind.  It will become more unique, more valuable and more appropriate for answering the large and growing national demand for wild places.

The first two strategies of my five point economic proposal argued that a wild Adirondack Image can be a powerful tool in promoting wilderness tourism and recreation.  Now I will move onto three additional strategies for leveraging a wild Adirondacks

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Fear in the Wild

I take a break from economics, tourism and telecommuting this week to honor my favorite holiday, Halloween, and the fear and imagination it is meant to celebrate.

It is a crisp Adirondack morning, barely six AM and the water is glass. A dense mist hangs on the lake and the air is heavy with silence.  Just a few yards into my paddle across to Osprey Island the canoe has become enveloped, leaving me to make the trip only on instinct and the experience of dozens of similar journeys.  There is nothing but white to be seen, that and the slate gray surface of the water, disturbed only slightly by the ripples spreading out from the bow.  » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: New Adk Image, New Economy

Last week I ended my Dispatch on the Adirondack economy by suggesting the outlines of a five-point economic proposal. This proposal is based upon that idea that the most valuable Adirondack asset that can be leveraged is wilderness itself.

This week I will briefly describe core of the proposal, the creation of a new Adirondack image as a mountainous wilderness area second to none. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fringe? Third Party Media Coverage

Greetings, readers.  My regular Dispatch will air as usual on Saturday, but I have been moved to write a guest column by a matter I consider to be of great importance.

I have been following the debate on the Adirondack Almanack, NCPR’s web site and various commenters on both sites over the question of whether political reporters do their job these days and specifically whether the media should cover the Green Party and their presidential candidate Jill Stein.

Pardon me for saying so, but this debate exhibits two characteristics that all too often define our contemporary political discourse.  One is an appalling lack of understanding of the American political system.  The other is the dull, lowbrow, American celebration of winners and size:  “Bigger is better…” …”Winning is the only thing…”, etc.  Heaven help us. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Building the Adirondack Economy

Last week’s Dispatch provoked a healthy discussion in the comments section.  The readers of the Almanack proved once again to be light years ahead of your average blog trollers by being thoughtful and respectful.  My arguments about economic reality in the park and elitism in the question of land use were not met with a single angry or accusatory response, but rather thoughtful commentary.  So thanks to all.

In fact, I was a little surprised to see that my economic argument was left virtually unchallenged.  Instead the discussion followed the common theme over whether there is enough wilderness in the Adirondacks, but along two lines so as to apparently dismiss the claim that a local perspective is elitist.  The first line was to question the value of wilderness in the first place (as I strictly defined it for the purposes of this argument).  Is an area of untrammeled Adirondack wilderness really that valuable to anyone, much less someone leagues away living in Cleveland?  The second line was to argue over usage, both locally and from a national perspective: who uses Adirondack wilderness and how much? » Continue Reading.


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