Almanack Contributor Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson has been a lover of the Adirondacks since his family discovered Blue Mountain Lake in 1954 and made it a family summer destination. As the years have passed, his love for unspoiled territory has changed his focus to wilder areas in the Central and Western Adirondacks and the High Peaks.

Pete recently purchased an Adirondack in-holding and writes about his adventures exploring it.

When not in the Adirondacks Pete is a college math teacher, musician and professional stilt walker in Madison, Wisconsin.




Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Mysterious Benchmark At Station 77

Colvin Division of Levels - Measurement of Whiteface MountainIt was late on the afternoon of November 4th, 1875.  A party of men worked feverishly in dense fog and deepening Adirondack frost, chiseling into the hard summit stone of Mount Marcy, New York’s highest point. They had been working since the first hint of daylight without the benefit of food or water, pressing on to finish their work as conditions worsened.  They turned their attention to setting a benchmark – chipping into anorthosite so tough that it had destroyed scores of their drill bits and chisel points.

Their leader Verplanck Colvin had just completed the final rod and level measurement in a series that had begun weeks » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Brother Yusuf Burgess: A Trailblazer is Stilled

Brother Yusef is amazing. Our hopes are with him.Last weekend the people of New York State lost a leading citizen, the children of Albany lost a dear friend and the Adirondacks lost a trailblazer. On Friday, December 5th, Brother Yusuf Abdul-Wasi passed away unexpectedly at the age of sixty four.  His substantial contributions to the Adirondack region were only a small part of his many undertakings.  But from the perspective of the ongoing work to make the Adirondack Park a more inclusive, welcoming and life-changing place for everyone,  we have suffered an incalculable setback.

Brother Yusuf was a tireless doer, a walker of the walk who gave the experience of the outdoors to countless urban children.  » Continue Reading.



Monday, December 8, 2014

Commentary: Should We Manage Wilderness?

Lost Brook Tract in WinterA couple of weeks ago my friend Dave Mason sent me an interesting article from the New York Review of Books. The article was “It’s Time to Live with the Birds”, a review of a book by Ecologist John M. Marzluff entitled Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife. Let me quote an excerpt from the review:

“Marzluff and other urban ecologists find a gradient in bird life. A few tough survivors hang on in the urban core; the open country outside has many birds. In between—in leafy, variegated suburbia—there is the richest mixture of bird species of all. This finding is counterintuitive. One » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Commentary: Adirondack Population Decline Not Inevitable

IMG_0226Peter Bauer recently ran a post reviewing a report that college-educated young people are leaving rural areas in droves for “close-in” living in cities where economic opportunities, cultural amenities and entertainment options far exceed their native communities. Bauer described this as a subset of a larger dynamic, namely the decades-long global trend toward urbanization. At the conclusion of the article he asked leaders of the Park to “understand these dynamics and to develop strategies for ways to tap into these larger trends.”

Adirondack leaders and residents alike have been aware of these trends for a long time, living both population decline and gentrification of their communities as » Continue Reading.



Saturday, November 8, 2014

Commentary: Summon The Will To Address Land Issues

APSLMP - LogoNearly a year ago I posted an informal poll here at the Almanack in order to measure which issues facing the Adirondack Park were considered most important to readers. At the time my purpose was to prove my suspicion that human diversity, the issue I considered most critical to the future of the region, was not on the collective radar. The poll results supported my contention and started a conversation that has grown into multiple initiatives. I couldn’t be happier about that. But now I want to return to the poll for a different purpose.



Saturday, November 1, 2014

What Would an Adirondack National Park Look Like?

1967 National Park Proposal An interesting discussion developed this week in the comment sections of several Almanack articles related to the APA’s review of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP). The discussion was spurred by DEC Forest Ranger Scott van Laer. His contribution: why not consider an Adirondack National Park? So I thought I’d have a little fun and explore what one might look like.

Those who know their history or have read Bill Ingersoll’s two-part series covering the history that led to the SLMP know that this is not a new idea. In 1967 Laurance Rockefeller proposed that a National Park be established » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Commentary: Make Ecology Cornerstone Of State Land Plan

Slide BrookThe Adirondack Park Agency has announced that it is opening the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan for review. This is momentous news. Together with the Land Use and Development Plan which governs development on private land in the Park, the State Land Master Plan (SLMP) is one of two fundamental documents used to carry out the will of the people, as expressed in Article XIV of the NYS Constitution, that the Adirondack Forest Preserve  should be “forever kept as wild forest lands”.

My interest in revising the SLMP is to strengthen its focus on ecological integrity over more traditional notions of open space. The SLMP, to its credit, already emphasizes science and ecology. But it » Continue Reading.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Lecture on Wilderness by William Cronon

Giant from Amy's Lookout. Many new Irene slides.This week I attended the Third Annual Jordahl Lecture, established by the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies in Madison, Wisconsin.

This year’s lecture, intended to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, was given by renowned environmental historian William Cronon. As we ponder revisions to both New York State’s Open Space Conservation Plan and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), Cronon’s presentation provides an interesting and useful historical perspective.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Western Ridge

S0010504-001One of the things I value most about Adirondack wilderness is how evocative it is in its intimate spaces. Where other wilderness areas might be most affecting in their scenery, their grand vistas or their iconic imagery, the Adirondack forest itself, in its dense, primeval nature, generates equally strong emotions. The vast and trackless stretches of uneven terrain and close-held woods, unremarkable by any common standards of majesty or wonder, possess as much power as any wild place I’ve ever visited. To venture into the Forest Preserve is to experience an unmistakable immersion that activates ancient echoes of the primitive selves we all harbor, institutional memories lodged deep in our genetic code.

Of all the sensations » Continue Reading.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

What’s The Most Difficult Bushwhack in the Adirondacks?

Bushwhack Fallen Spruce and DuffIt was a perfect fall day here in Madison last Monday, the kind of luminous afternoon where it seems nothing can possibly go wrong. I was at the park with my loyal dog Henderson, whose raison d’etre is to chase and catch flying discs (Frisbees, for those of you as old as me).  There we were, surrounded by blazing fall colors and muted green grass, warmed by an Indian summer sun and refreshed by a delightful breeze.  All was bucolic even as I, in a moment of excess enthusiasm, overthrew the disc, launching it into what seemed like the jet stream.  It soared skyward, caught the prevailing westerlies and proceeded well down » Continue Reading.



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Voices From The Diversity Symposium

image001(4)It has been nearly a year since I began a series of columns on diversity in the Adirondacks. Much has happened since then, most notably a challenging, motivating and well-received symposium held in August, “Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks.”

The symposium was a good start to addressing the important challenges in making the Adirondack Park more welcoming and inclusive, thereby increasing the Park’s role in the betterment of the lives of all New Yorkers and giving it a richer, more robustly supported future. But if a good day of conversation was all we accomplished it would amount to very little. So a number of initiatives are underway to the further the work. It is our sincere » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pete Nelson: An Updated Adirondack Promotional Quiz

the view from NewcombSince I posted my little prototype promotional quiz on Saturday I have gotten a lot of great input, some on-line, some off-line. The reaction tells me that people are interested in this, so I have incorporated the various suggestions I received into a new version.

Here it is: Adirondack Promotional Quiz Version Two



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lost Brook Dispatches: A Promotional Adirondack Quiz

the view from NewcombLast time Amy and I were at Lost Brook Tract we were talking about how to promote the Adirondack Region to people who know little or nothing about it.  The default approach for decades has been to promote it as something like Vermont, the Berkshires or the Poconos:  cozy resorts, Adirondack chairs, pretty scenery, shopping, tourist sites and an overriding rustic chic.  That’s all well and good, but in a time when more and more people crave mountains and wild places, when camping and hiking are the leading recreational pursuits, I have wondered why we don’t try to promote the Adirondacks in a different way.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Commentary: Adirondack Electric Cars Future

VoltIn my final column on Electric Cars in the Adirondacks I’d like to pose two questions. Is driving an electric car in the park actually beneficial to the environment? If so, how can the Adirondack region evolve to better support electric cars?

As seems true with any subject these days, there is plenty of criticism of electric cars, with many making the argument that their supposed environmental benefits are non-existent or negligible at best. With a park that is and ought to be a standard-bearer for environmental health, yet which faces devastating consequences from climate change, this becomes an important question. We need to put our efforts where they’ll do proven good. So are the critics » Continue Reading.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review: Driving an Electric Car in the Adirondacks

VoltLast week I discussed the general concept of electric cars in the Adirondacks and the possible types of electric car one might choose. I suggested that a pure electric car – that is, one with no gas engine backup – would not yet be practical in the park because the odds that one would use up their range and be potentially stranded are too high. But an electric car with gas backup is completely workable – and considerably better in terms of fossil fuel use than a hybrid.

This week I’d like to report on our experience driving a Chevy Volt in the Adirondacks. The Volt is an electric car with a gas engine that acts » Continue Reading.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11th: A Day Of Remembrance, Pride

Battle-of-Plattburgh-300x210As Americans pause today to mark the terrible events of 2001, it would be fitting to also mark a bicentennial of which few Americans are aware, but of which the North Country should be justly proud: the 1814 Battle of Plattsburgh.

These two momentous days, from across a span of nearly two centuries, share an importance that will forever be marked by historians.

Both are absolutely critical to the shape of the America we live in today. Both are fulcra, balancing a more innocent and vulnerable America of the past with a changed nation that confronted a vastly different future world.



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Commentary: Electric Cars in the Adirondacks

VoltOur most recent time in the Adirondacks had an interesting dimension for Amy and me. In early August, right at the height of our busy performing season – during which we are almost constantly on the road – our beloved Subaru WRX blew its engine. Thrillingly for us it was just out of warranty, guaranteeing that the curve to fix it, both in time and money, would be a long and brutal one. Having an immediate need to hit the highway for several weeks straight, we were faced with three choices: rent (ouch), buy a used car and hope for the best, or buy a new car.

The only sure option was the last one and » Continue Reading.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lost Brook Dispatches: Giants in the Mist

Magnificent giants - timeless and veiled.Last week we spent a few precious days at Lost Brook Tract. It was a cool, overcast stretch of weather that reminded me of the Adirondacks of my youth, when impending fall could at any time push and urge its way into lazy August days, into the fading summer.

During nearly all of the time we were on our land the cloud ceiling remained low and Keene Valley enjoyed gray days and rain. But at our lean- to at 3,300 feet we were immersed in the clouds themselves, the daylight hours gloaming, exalting the primeval feel of the forest.

We are accommodated to – though ever awed by – our cathedral » Continue Reading.



Saturday, August 2, 2014

Commentary: Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks

PrintSeveral months ago I wrote a series of columns on socioeconomic and racial diversity and the Adirondacks. The reception to these columns was even stronger than I expected. Much of it was thoughtful. Some of it was controversial. Some of it was ugly. But in total the columns and the reaction validated my point that for most people diversity in the Adirondacks is an under-the-radar issue even though it is arguably the most important issue facing the future of the park.

Since then the conversation has grown and led to action. Many stakeholders in the park recognize that human diversity – my new descriptor, for indeed » Continue Reading.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

NYCO Commentary: How Much Wollastonite Is There?

WollastoniteLast week, as a part of a larger effort to document the aftermath of Proposition 5 – the so-called NYCO Amendment – I wrote a column comparing claims made about NYCO in support of the amendment to the factual record.

I listed the following five claims we’ve heard repeatedly (remember, not all claims are NYCO’s responsibility; some claims were made by others):

Claim One: NYCO is a local company headquartered in Willsboro. It has been there for more than fifty years and employs about a hundred people.



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