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.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Nature Conservancy Favors Wilderness For Boreas Ponds

tnc-mapThe Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy has taken the unusual step of entering into the debate over the classification of the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract, which it sold to the state this year.

In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the conservancy recommends that 11,500 acres be classified Wilderness, the most restrictive designation, and 9,030 acres be classified Wild Forest, which allows some motorized use. The adjacent 1,587-acre Casey Brook Tract also would be classified Wilderness.

Among other things, the tract’s classification will determine how close visitors will be allowed to drive to Boreas Ponds and whether they will be allowed to ride mountain bikes on old logging roads around the ponds.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

APA Plans Hearings On Boreas Ponds Classification

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Adirondack Park Agency has scheduled tentative dates for hearings on the controversial classification of Boreas Ponds.

The APA staff is expected to present a classification proposal for Boreas Ponds and other newly acquired state lands at the APA’s next board meeting, on October 13.

After reviewing public input, the agency is expected to vote on the classifications of these lands early next year. The state Department of Environmental Conservation will then write a management plan based on the classifications.

The classification of the 20,578-acre Boreas Ponds Tract, which the state acquired in April, has been an issue that has generated much discussion on the Almanack. Click here for a list of some of the stories.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Towns Campaign For Motorized, Bike Access At Boreas Ponds

North Hudson and four nearby towns have launched a website and petition drive to muster support for classifying Boreas Ponds as Wild Forest instead of Wilderness, the designation supported by Forest Preserve advocates.

Called Access the Adirondacks, the website says the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract has a network of former logging roads and is suitable for a variety of recreational uses, including mountain biking, horseback riding, and snowmobiling.

“While some would have you believe the Boreas Ponds Tract is a unique ecological jewel untouched my man, nothing could be further from the truth,” the site says.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

On Sighting My First Black-Crowned Night-Heron

I’ve canoed all over the Adirondacks without ever seeing a black-crowned night-heron. Last weekend, I finally got to see one. On the Bronx River.

We saw other birds as well, including great blue herons, mallards, gulls, and (I think) cormorants. This being the Bronx, we also saw a lot of trash: plastic bags, soda bottles, an electric fan, a sunken tire.

But the river is much cleaner and more loved than in the past, thanks to a nonprofit organization called the Bronx River Alliance.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

American Alpine Club Chronicles Climbing Accidents

2016-accidents-croppedFor those who climb, Accidents in North American Climbing, issued annually by the American Alpine Club, should be required reading—not because climbers are morbid, but because they can learn from others’ mistakes, too many of which are fatal.

The 2016 edition, which was published recently, describes dozens of rock-climbing and mountaineering accidents from the previous year. Most occurred out west or in Alaska. The only incident in the Adirondacks involved a climber who fell on Wallface, a large and remote cliff in the High Peaks Wilderness.

I wrote about the Wallface accident on the Almanack soon after it happened. The climber, a 23-year-old man from Carmel, NY, plummeted 60 to 80 feet after his protection failed to hold on a popular route known as the Diagonal. State forest rangers and volunteer climbers carried out a complicated rescue and managed to get the victim to a hospital that night. He was knocked unconscious in the fall and suffered a deep head gash, but he was able to leave the hospital early the next day.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Boreas Ponds Interim Access Plan Criticized

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome Forest Preserve advocates are concerned that the state’s decision to allow people to ride mountain bikes to Boreas Ponds under an interim-access plan could become the permanent policy for the newly acquired Boreas Ponds Tract.

Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, and David Gibson, a partner in Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, criticized this and other aspects of the interim plan released by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in late August.

The interim plan allows the public to drive 3.2 miles up the dirt Gulf Brook Road. From there, people can hike or bicycle the remaining 3.6 miles to the ponds.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hiking The Logging Roads Near Boreas Ponds

Not everyone who visits Boreas Ponds goes there to paddle. Some people just want to see the ponds and walk in the woods. But since the state has yet to create or mark any trails, what are hikers to do once they get there?

Last Sunday, my girlfriend Carol and I scouted out the old logging roads in the vicinity in the ponds. The next day I went back alone and hiked a loop around the ponds with side trips to White Lily Pond and the headwater pond of the Boreas River.

I rode my mountain bike to the dam on Boreas Ponds, as allowed under the interim-access plan, so I’ll use that as my starting point in the description of my itinerary. If you start your hike from the parking area on Gulf Brook Road, you’ll need to add 3.6 miles to the distances.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

DEC Chief Refuses To Renew Cunningham’s Guide License

cunningham-300x246State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos has refused to renew the guide’s license of Patrick Cunningham, the owner of Hudson River Rafting Company in North Creek.

Cunningham has run afoul of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s regulations on several occasions. In June 2015, DEC staff refused Cunningham’s request to renew his license.

Cunningham appealed that decision, but it was upheld by Administrative Law Judge Michael S. Caruso the following November after a hearing. Caruso said the department had ample reasons for denying Cunningham a guide’s license.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rock Climbers Discover Boreas Ponds Tract

Kittens and RainbowsThe newly acquired Boreas Ponds Tract has been touted as a destination for backpackers, paddlers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and snowmobilers. As it turns out, some of the earliest users of the land have been rock climbers.

Within a few months of the state’s purchase of the tract in April, rock climbers established nine technical climbing routes on the southwest face of Ragged Mountain, a small peak that lies less than a mile from County Route 84.

The Adirondack Rock website awards Ragged four out of five stars for the overall quality of the climbing. Most of the routes are hard, with ratings from 5.10 to 5.13 in the Yosemite Decimal System, which ranges from 5.0 (easy) to 5.15 (nearly impossible).

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

With Road Open To Vehicles, Boreas Ponds Sees More Visitors

When I lugged my boat more than six miles to paddle Boreas Ponds in early June, I saw exactly no one. That wasn’t the case this past Labor Day weekend.

Evidently, more people are willing to visit the ponds now that the state has opened up the first 3.2 miles of Gulf Brook Road to motor vehicles.

When my girlfriend Carol and I arrived at the new parking lot on Sunday morning, there were already seven other cars. We biked to Boreas Ponds, as allowed under an interim-access plan released last week, and then hiked for several miles on old logging roads in the vicinity of the ponds. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Parts Of Boreas Ponds Tract Opened To Motor Vehicles, Bicycles

Boreas interimIn a long-awaited interim-access plan for the Boreas Ponds Tract, the state has opened to motor vehicles part of a former logging road leading to Boreas Ponds and opened all of the road to bicycles.

The future of the dirt thoroughfare, known as Gulf Brook Road, has been the subject of several articles and much debate on Adirondack Almanack and in the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.

Gulf Brook Road starts at County Route 2 (also known as the Boreas Road or Blue Ridge Road) and leads in 6.7 miles to the dam at Boreas Ponds. On Wednesday afternoon, state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the first 3.2 miles will be open to motor vehicles and that mountain bikers will be able to pedal all the way to the dam.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

New Group Seeks More Wilderness Around Boreas Ponds

AWA-Draft-Map-20160803Three wilderness advocates have banded together to garner public support for adding nearly all of the Boreas Pond Tract to the High Peaks Wilderness and keeping out motor vehicles.

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, as they call themselves, has created a website where people can sign a letter to the Adirondack Park Agency calling for statewide hearings on the classification of the Boreas tract. People can also sign up for the group’s emails.

The founders of the Adirondack Wilderness Advocates are Bill Ingersoll, publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks guidebooks; Brendan Wiltse, a photographer and scientist employed by the Ausable River Association (his work is unrelated to his involvement with AWA); and Pete Nelson, a teacher who frequently writes for Adirondack Almanack.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Judge Refuses To Halt Work On Snowmobile Thoroughfare

Peter Bauer measures a snowmobile trail near Newcomb.A judge has denied a request by Protect the Adirondacks to prohibit the state Department of Environmental Conservation from cutting Forest Preserve trees for a snowmobile trail while the trail’s legality is being contested in court.

State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly ruled that Protect failed to demonstrate that it is likely to prevail in its lawsuit against DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Former Finch, Pruyn Lodge At Boreas Ponds Demolished

Boreas lodge webA large lodge at Boreas Ponds built by Finch, Pruyn & Company has been demolished, removing one thorny issue facing state officials responsible for drafting a management plan for a recently acquired tract of Forest Preserve.

The Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy, which sold the ponds to the state this year, hired a contractor to dismantle the lodge. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) agreed that the lodge should be removed — even though local officials wanted it to stay.

Rob Davies, director of DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests, told Adirondack Almanack that it was not feasible to keep the lodge, partly because of the cost of maintenance, partly because it was a “non-conforming structure” in the Preserve. He said the project, including removal of debris and rehabilitation of the site, should be complete this month.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Forest Preserve Advocates Modify Boreas Ponds Proposal

Proposed_Expanded_High_Peaks_Wild_July2016-2-1024x659A coalition of environmental groups that includes the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, and Adirondack Wild has significantly altered its proposal for the recently acquired Boreas Ponds Tract, calling for less of the region to be classified Wilderness.

Under the original proposal, about 15,000 of the tract’s 20,758 acres would have been added to the High Peaks Wilderness. This included land north and south of Gulf Brook Road, a durable logging road that leads to Boreas Ponds. The road itself would have been designated a Primitive Corridor, allowing visitors to drive as far as LaBier Flow, some six miles from County Route 2.

Under the new plan, Gulf Brook Road and the land south of it would be Wild Forest, a less-restrictive classification that allows motorized use. Thus, it would not be necessary to designate Gulf Brook Road a Primitive Corridor to allow people to drive to LaBier Flow. Some 13,000 acres north of the road would be Wilderness.

» Continue Reading.


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