Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gear: A High Peaks Mobile Phone App

You and a friend finally reach the summit of Gothics, take in the glorious view, and begin to wonder what the names are of all the peaks around you. So your friend whips out an iPhone and starts tapping the screen.

Is he calling the local forest ranger for answers?

Not if he has installed the ADK46erNow app on his phone. Developed by Keith Kubarek, an enthusiastic Adirondack hiker, the app uses the phone’s GPS system to help people identify peaks in the viewshed of any of the forty-six High Peaks.

The app also contains basic facts about each of the High Peaks, including elevation and the feet of ascent and mileage from trailhead to summit; a logbook for keeping track of the peaks you’ve climbed; and links to the current weather at your location or at any of the High Peaks.

The program can be purchased for $4.99 at the App Store on Apple’s website. The hitch is that you must own an iPhone. I don’t, but I was able to download the app onto my iPod Touch to test the features in the office. Without the phone’s GPS capability, however, I was unable to use the app in the field.

The app’s home page has four options: “My Log Book,” “ADK 46er Now,” “High Peaks,” and “Weather.” The coolest feature, the electronic peak-finder, is found under the ADK 46er Now rubric.

If you select this option, your current GPS coordinates appear at the bottom of the screen. Three new options also appear: “Map,” “360-DegreeView,” and “Summit Stamp.”

For the peak-finder, select 360-Degree View. The screen turns into a clear window with a red vertical line running down the middle. It’s as if you’re viewing the landscape through the phone’s camera. When the red line bisects one of the High Peaks in the vista, the peak’s name appears at the bottom of the screen. The function can be used not just on summits, but whenever you have a good view.

One shortcoming is that the app can identify only High Peaks and only those within a five-mile radius. So if you’re on Mount Marcy, for example, it won’t tell you that the big mountain ten miles distant in the southwest is Santanoni Peak. Kubarek tried using a ten-mile radius, but the phone’s screen became too cluttered. He says he may give users the option of adjusting the viewing radius in a future version of the app.

You can get a better sense of how the peak-finder works by clicking this link to the developer’s website.

Other features include:

Summit Stamp. When you reach the top of a High Peak, it records the date and time of your ascent, the current weather, and your GPS coordinates.

High Peaks Sorter. It allows you to order the peaks by name, height, feet of ascent, or round-trip mileage to the summit. By selecting a summit, you can view it in a satellite image or on a topo or terrain map.

Map and Compass. The map function allows you to see your location on a topo map at any time. It also provides your GPS coordinates. You can activate the compass function by tapping the circular logo on the home screen.

For an overview of all the features of ADK46erNow, click here.

Kubarek says he expects to add new features this year, including one that will allow hikers to e-mail trip notes and Summit Stamps to their friends and family. Those who purchase the app now will be able to update it for free as new versions are available.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. For more of his gear reviews, click here.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lake George Clearest Among 98 New York Lakes

Lake George received the best reading on a measurement for clarity among 98 New York lakes in 2011, the Lake George Association (LGA) has announced. “If you want clear water in New York State, Gull Bay on Lake George is the place to be” said Nancy Mueller, the manager of the NYS Federation of Lake Associations, Inc., the organization sponsoring New York’s Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP), in conjunction with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. On Lake George, the program has been coordinated by the Lake George Association for the past eight years. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Adirondack Family Time: Movie Houses For The Holidays

This is a busy week for all. Schools will be closed for the holidays and some parents are wondering what to do with their kids.

Tonight is also the beginning of the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) and Christmas is right around the corner. We seem to be so busy cooking and preparing for the holidays that it takes a bit of reminding that the goal is to spend time with each other.

If you can’t get outside and enjoy the numerous Adirondack adventures perhaps stage a family bowling tournament or enjoy indoor ice-skating.

One thing we like to do, besides being outside skiing, skating or sledding in the winter is to enjoy a small intimate theatre experience. Not just live theatre, though that plays (no pun intended) a prominent role in our lives. No, it’s escaping for a few hours and going to “The Movies.”

At one time many towns in the Adirondacks had their own year-round movie houses. Sadly most have made way for the multiplex. Some theatres have retained their original architecture so the movie is not always the only thing to observe.

Take a moment and enjoy a small slice of history. Each theatre offers a unique experience that a larger cineplex may not. These theatres are independently owned and operated and can offer a less expensive ticket price. After a holiday spending spree, saving money is a pretty good gift, too.

Here are five year-round Adirondack movie theatres to get in a few laughs, enjoy a snack and leave any aspect of holiday stress behind.

Hollywood Theatre 14232 NYS Route 9N, Au Sable Forks, NY 12912
(518) 647-5953 (in the winters closed Monday and Tuesdays)

*Lake Placid Palace Theatre 2430 Main St, Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 523-9271
 *open every day including Christmas and New Year’s with a 2:15 p.m. matinee through the Christmas-New Year’s week.

Lake Theatre Main Street, Indian Lake, NY 12842
(518) 648-5950

The Strand Theatre in Old Forge 3093 Rte 28 Main St., Old Forge, NY 13420
(315) 369-6703

Tupper Lake State Theatre, 100 Park St, Tupper Lake, NY 12986
(518) 359-3593

Enjoy your time together!

Photo: Palace Theatre (Courtesy Diane Chase).

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 activities. Her second book of family activities will cover the Adirondack Lake Champlain coast and in stores summer 2012.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Freestyle World Cup Returns to Lake Placid

American skiers Hannah Kearney (Norwich, Vt.) and Ashley Caldwell (Hamilton, Va.) will try to defend their World Cup crowns when the FIS Freestyle World Cup returns to Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain, January 19-21. Lake Placid is one of only five U.S. sites selected to host a World Cup event this season.

Action begins Thursday, Jan. 19, at Whiteface, when Kearney begins defense of her moguls’ World Cup crown and France’s Guilbault Colas tries to hold off a deep men’s field and capture his second World Cup win on the mountain’s Wilderness Trail. Competition on 240-meter long course begins at 9:15 a.m. with the women’s qualifications, followed by the men’s qualifications at 11:35 a.m. The women’s semi-finals are scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m. and the men’s semis start at 2:20 p.m. The medal rounds start at 2:40 p.m. for the women and eight minutes later men’s finals is slated to begin.

Action will move over to the Olympic jumping complex both Friday and Saturday night, for two exciting evenings of aerial competitions. The 18-year-old Caldwell, a 2010 Olympian, will begin defense of her World Cup title, when she and the rest of the international field twist, flip, summersault and soar into the evening skies, some as high as 60-feet. The fun begins both nights 7 p.m.

In addition to the exciting action, there will be bonfires, music, giveaways and plenty of food and drinks provided by Centerplate. Saturday’s jumping will also conclude with a fireworks display.

Tickets to the aerial competitions are $15 for adults and $9 for juniors and seniors. A lift ticket and skis are required to view the mogul events Whiteface.

More information about the FIS Freestyle World Cup can be found online.

Photo: Freestyle World Cup Moguls (Courtesy ORDA / Whiteface).


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Finance Workshop to Assist Forest Owners

With timber prices at historic lows, tax bills to be paid and the real estate market languishing, many owners of forest land are having a hard time making their woodlands pay their own way. The decisions involved can be anguishing, especially for those whose families have owned their land for several generations.

On January 14, 2012, a team of industry and academic experts will outline a businesslike approach to managing family forest lands that can help landowners save money and perhaps find new sources of income from their woodlots.

The workshop, titled “Forest Finance 2012,” will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Great Escape Lodge on Route 9 in Lake George. However, preregistration is required in order to attend.

Topics to be discussed will include income and property tax strategies, estate planning, business and bookkeeping practices for woodland owners, and forest management systems. Speakers will include Eric Carlson, president of Empire State Forest Products Association, Dr. Steven Bick of Northeast Forests, LLC, and author, and Dr. Shorna Broussard Allred of Cornell University.

The session is sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extensions, Warren County, The New York Forest Owners Association – Southern Adirondack chapter, the Forest Stewardship Program of Protect the Adirondacks!, and New York Tree Farm.

The registration charge is $25 for this all-day session on Saturday, January 14, 2012 – including lunch. Preregistration is required by calling Cornell Cooperative Extension at 518-623-3291 or 518-668-4881 or email: warren@cornell.edu.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Local Winter Athletes Competition Update

For a lot of area athletes, the first half of their international competition schedules are wrapping up. Some will be returning home for some much needed rest and prepare for the second half of their competition tours. Below are some of the results from this past weekend.

Alpine Skiing

Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, N.Y.), Tommy Beisemeyer (Keene, N.Y.): The FIS alpine World Cup series visited Val Gardena-Groeden, Italy, where Weibrecht skied to a 20th place finish in Friday’s, Dec. 16, men’s Super G. Beisemeyer did not finish the race. High winds forced officials to cancel Saturday’s, Dec. 17, 50th running of the famed Saslong Classic downhill.

Biathlon

Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.), Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.), Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, N.Y.): Hochfilzen, Austria hosted the IBU biathlon World Cup’s third stop of the season. Bailey skied to a 21st place result in Thursday’s, Dec. 15, 10 km event, while Burke was 63rd. Bailey was 25th in Saturday’s 12.5 km pursuit, while Burke did not race. Burke and Cook teamed up with Sara Studebaker (Boise, Idaho) and Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.) in Sunday’s mixed relay and finished 14th. Cook also made her World Cup debut, finishing 60th in Friday’s 7.5 km race and she did not complete Saturday’s 10 km pursuit.

Bobsled

John Napier (Lake Placid, N.Y.): The third stop of the FIBT World Cup bobsled series took the world’s top sliders to Winterberg, Germany where they battled high winds and blowing snow throughout the weekend. Napier drove his two-man sled to a 14th place finish, Saturday, and a 13th place showing in Sunday’s, Dec. 18, four-man event.

Nordic Combined

Bill Demong (Vermontville, N.Y.): The FIS World Cup Nordic combined series paid a visit to Seefeld, Austria. Partnering with Bryan Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), Demong finished sixth in Friday’s team sprint event. Saturday, Demong did not qualify out of the jumping round.

Ski Jumping

Peter Frenette (Saranac Lake, N.Y.): Frenette did not jump this weekend. He’s still awaiting his 2011-’12 season debut.


Monday, December 19, 2011

History: Dangerous Ideas from Christmas Past

Twenty years ago, Dana Carvey’s character, “Grumpy Old Man,” was a popular recurring feature of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.

He’d offer an assessment of current times compared to the so-called “good old days,” highlighting some barbaric practices of the past (exaggerated to great comedic effect) with the closing line, “And we liked it!” » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Balsam Fir: Adirondack Christmas Tradition

As a rule, the severity of the winter becomes harsher with an increase in altitude. In the lowlands, around the periphery of the Park, conditions are more favorable for life, as these valley settings are capable of supporting a wide diversity of flora and fauna. However, closer to the summit of the peaks, the weather becomes as inhospitable as at much higher latitudes, such as near the Arctic Circle, where only a handful of extremely hardy forms of vegetation can flourish to grace the rugged, boulder strewn terrain. Among the woody plants that are successful in rooting in the shallow soil of these frigid, wind swept sites is the balsam fir (Abies balsamea), known as our most popular type of Christmas tree.

The bitter cold atmosphere that prevails at these locations is incapable of holding much moisture, resulting in extremely low humidity. As this ultra-dry air buffets the needles, twigs, and trunk of the balsam, along with the few other species of trees that grow in this zone, it attempts to draw out whatever water molecules are present in exposed tissues.

Similarly, under the crystal clear skies of the long days of early summer, the intensity of the sun at these higher elevations would quickly bake moisture out of surface cells if they were not somehow sealed. It is intense dryness, rather than exposure to low temperatures, that creates a challenge for the various plants that attempt to gain a foothold there.

The resin that gives balsam its characteristic fragrance is fundamental to the fir’s success, as this gooey sap is highly effective in sealing moisture in and preventing desiccation. Even though the soil may often be saturated with water from frequent periods of rain, and prolonged exposure to water laden clouds that may shroud the slopes for days, once the ground freezes in late autumn, the resulting ice crystals can not be taken in by the roots and transported throughout the tree.

Consequently, it is quite common for plants of this zone to be without access to outside water from mid November through April. Any water that is in a plant at the start of the winter must be held there for the next 5 months, or it could suffer debilitating dehydration, or death.

Because of balsam’s drought tolerance, its needles are far less likely to drop off its twigs after the tree has been cut. When placed in a stand containing water, a balsam fir will remain relatively fresh for several weeks. This is considerably longer than other conifers, as some react to the dry inside air by shedding their needles within a week after being propped-up in a living room corner.

Periodic snowfalls and bouts of rime icing that encapsulate the surfaces of everything at upper elevations not only create a picturesque appearance to the terrain, but also are effective at assisting the plants of this region to deal with the issue of dryness. Being encrusted in a layer of dense snow or ice, the needles and twigs are no longer exposed to the evaporating effect of the air, regardless of how strong the winds may become.

Even though the weight of the snow or ice on the branches occasionally becomes substantial, the limbs of fir are adapted to bend, rather than snap. Despite being entombed in ice for well over a month, the branches spring back to normal once the weight falls off, or melts. This ability of balsam branches to support a fair amount of weight allows people obsessed with hanging hundreds of ornaments to completely cover its boughs with all-types of seasonal decorations and not have the branches break.

Aside from making a great Christmas tree, balsam fir contributes greatly to the wildlife community of those areas in which it grows. The ecological role of balsam was best presented by Ellen Rathbone’s article on balsam fir which appeared in the Almanack almost exactly two years ago.

Please remember that while balsam makes a great Christmas tree, it is one of our most flammable trees, especially after it has been indoors for a few weeks. Caution should always be used to ensure that it is a safe distance from heaters, wood stoves and candles; and when its needles start to fall off, it is time to put it outside.

Have a great Christmas and enjoy your Christmas tree, even if it isn’t a balsam.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Master Gardener Program Offered in January

Applications for the January 2012 Master Gardener Training Program are now being accepted in Warren County. Space is limited, so contact the office soon for more information and an application. Whatever your level of experience, the program can provide either new or additional information.

After enrolling in the course, participants are given a binder of information that supplements weekly presentations by Cornell University faculty, Cooperative Extension staff, and local experts on a wide range of garden topics. The topics include basic botany; entomology; soil health; home lawn care; vegetable, fruit and flower gardening; composting; organic gardening, and other practical and interesting subject matter.

If you would like to learn more about what’s going on in your own garden, share your gardening knowledge with people in your community, and you enjoy the camaraderie of fellow gardeners, please call Cornell Cooperative Extension in Warren County for more information at: 518-623-3291 or by e-mail at: warren@cornell.edu.

Photo by Master Gardener Bonnie Vicki, 2010.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Clarkson Offers Courses For Local HS Students

Clarkson University’s Project Challenge, a unique academic program for local high school students, returns this winter with a choice of nine five-week courses. The popular program is designed to offer area students in grades nine through 12 an opportunity to participate in classes that are not commonly offered in their high-school curriculum.

Clarkson faculty and administrators teach the courses on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. until noon for five weeks, under the direction of The Clarkson School. This winter’s program begins on January 14.

This year, the program offers four new courses: Emerging Leaders 101, Engineering for Life, How to Write a Short Story, and Intro to Entrepreneurship.

Emerging Leaders 101, with Brenda Kozsan and Kevin Lobdell, will focus on learning about the characteristics of an effective leader and developing skills through personal assessment, role playing, team- building, and interacting with invited guest speakers who will share their experiences.

Engineering for Life, with Melissa Richards, will be for all those students who have ever wanted to design and build their own rocket, tractor, roller-coaster, automobile, or robotic arm. In this class, students will learn how engineers are able to design the devices we see everywhere around us. They will even have the opportunity to design and build their own “Rec-Rube-y.”

How to Write a Short Story, with Joseph Duemer, will teach students the basics of fiction writing by the drafting and revising a short story. In each class session, they will read aloud one short story and consider how it is put together. Using these insights regarding plot, point of view, setting, and characterization, students will then work on producing their own work of short fiction.

Intro to Entrepreneurship, with Erin Draper, will be for all students who have ever thought about owning their own business. This fast-paced course will focus on the entrepreneurial spirit of students and allow them to apply classroom concepts in a “real-world” context. During the class, students will be exposed to leadership principles, team building, ethical decision making, financial statements, and marketing principles.

Blood and Guts: Medical History through the Ages, with Stephen Casper and Karen Buckle, will provide students with an opportunity to explore a number of different case studies from actual historical medical records and advance medical problem-solving skills. Whether students want to become a doctor or surgeon, enter a physician assistant program, work in physiotherapy, or are just fascinated by old stories of blood, guts and gore, ‘Medicine through the Ages’ will have something interesting for you.

Contemporary Moral Issues, with William Vitek, will have students examine a number of contemporary moral issues that challenge us as individuals and as a society. They will begin by exploring the nature of a moral issue, as opposed to a legal or scientific issue, and discuss the nature of a moral argument and outline a method that will assist in resolving moral dilemmas.

Know Your Computer: How to Make Your Home Computer Work for You, with Jeanna Matthews, will have students see what kind of data goes over the network when they surf the Web or use AIM, as well as look at traces of common attacks like viruses or worms. They will write their own Web page and learn to install an operating system from Windows.

Real Medicine, with instructors from Clarkson’s new Physician Assistant Program, will provide students with an opportunity to learn about the real world of today’s medicine. Students will visualize X-rays of fractures and some splinting of the arms and legs. They will learn how to put stitches in, test their blood sugar and find out what happens when someone has a heart attack or stroke, and much more.

Saturdays with Grey’s Anatomy, with Mary Alice Minor and graduate students from the Physical Therapy Program, will provide hands-on instruction on diagnosing injuries and the study of anatomy and physical therapy. Each session will consist of active participation in the anatomy lab and ‘hands-on’ activities and/or exercises for the focused area.

Project Challenge courses will begin on January 14 and continue through the next four Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon until February 11, with a possible snow date of February 18.

Schools that have participated in the past include Alexandria Bay, Brasher Falls, Brushton-Moira, Canton, Chateaugay, Clifton-Fine, Colton-Pierrepont, Edwards-Knox, Gouverneur, Herman-Dekalb, Heuvelton, Indian River, Lisbon, Lyme, Malone, Massena, Morristown, Ogdensburg, Parishville-Hopkinton, Potsdam, Sackets Harbor, Salmon River, Saranac Lake, and Thousand Islands.

Interested students should first contact their guidance counselor to see if their school is participating. Participating high schools may sponsor all or part of the students’ tuition. If the school is not participating, the out-of-pocket expense for the program is $140 per student. Enrollment in all courses is now available, but space is limited.

For more information, contact Brenda Kozsan or Annette Green at 315-268-4425 or kozsanbd@clarkson.edu.

Photo: Students in last year’s Real Medicine course practice their newly learned suturing skills.


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