Thursday, March 8, 2012

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Mar 8)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1), WSLP (93.3) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack also publishes a weekly Adirondack Hunting and Fishing Report.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Will NCPR have its own Congressional District?

Among the standards used by the US Department of Justice in determining the validity of newly redrawn political districts are that district maps be compact and contiguous and respect natural and artificial boundaries. In drawing up the new map for the 21st Congressional District, Special Master Roanne Mann strictly followed county borders (artificial boundaries), with the exceptions of Herkimer and Saratoga Counties whose southern population centers would have thrown off the numbers.

For an equally useful artificial boundary that validates the common interest of the proposed 21st Congressional District, consider the frequency and signal strength map of North Country Public Radio. Broadcasting out of studios at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NCPR operates 13 transmitting towers, all but two—the Bristol Vermont tower reaches west to the NY shore of Lake Champlain, and the Boonville tower—located within the proposed district lines. In fact, the maps are so closely aligned, one would be hard-pressed to find another Congressional district (not counting Vermont and other single district states) where a single broadcaster has such identical and unrivaled coverage.

If nothing else, this convergence of maps raises a clear question to Bill Owens, Matt Doheny and (potentially) Doug Hoffman: Is your membership paid up?

The post was amended to reflect the fact that NCPR’s Boonville transmitter is outside the proposed district line.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: Melody Lodge, Speculator

A spectacular 45 degree day and less than an hour from Warrensburg, our drive over Route 8, its bumps, heaves and moguls making a challenging run for the Highlander, led us to Melody Lodge, located on Page Hill off Route 30 in Speculator. As we pulled into the parking lot of the lodge, it was difficult to decide what to look at first: the incredible hilltop views, or the rustic grandeur of an authentic Adirondack lodge. We decided to take our time and do both.

From the upper parking lot we observed another lower lot, snow-covered and partially filled with roughly a dozen snowmobiles, indicating easy access from the surrounding lakes. Beyond, a leafless view of Lake Pleasant. Looking to the right from there, a mountain stands firm. Further right, a view of Sacandaga Lake is visible in the distance. The barn red Melody Lodge, a rustic, two-story structure wrapped in a porch of stone columns, stands as the centerpiece in this picturesque frame. The columns of seemingly haphazard piles of stone authenticate the craftsmanship of earlier days. Piles of wood on the porch, growing thinner as winter wanes, promise warmth within. Several outdoor tables, partially covered in snow on the front lawn and white Adirondack chairs on the porch, remind us that spring and summer will come again and offer very different scenic views.

The promised warmth greets us as we enter the lobby, a cozy common room with several people gathered comfortably in front of the fireplace. To the left, partitioned by paneled glass walls and doors, is the dining room, expectantly awaiting the dinner bell. Another fireplace, of massive proportions in stone, is the focal point of the dining room. To our right, we are beckoned to another room where noises and voices indicate the possibility of a pub.

As we enter what Melody Lodge calls the Tap Room, a ten-point buck’s head on the wall and multi-level seating command our attention but are held at bay. The ceiling full of white earthenware mugs looms overhead, covering nearly the entire ceiling over the bar. With over 250 members in Melody Lodge’s Mug Club, no new members are being accepted at this time, conjuring up scenarios of Melody Lodge Mug Club mugs being bequeathed to next-of-kin upon a member’s death, bitterly fought over in a divorce settlement, or bringing in thousands of dollars at auction on EBay or Sotheby’s.

Though primarily a summer venue, Melody Lodge seems to do quite well in winter months. Twenty or so snowmobilers, savoring a rare weekend after a fresh snowfall, gathered in boisterous groups, eager to grab lunch and a drink before moving on to the next stop. A Tap Room menu is available for dining all day. The dinner menu is available in the bar after 5:00 p.m. when the dining room opens. Melody Lodge closes each year for the months of April and November. In light of this fact, the usually plentiful tap selections were sparse, in preparation for the semi-annual closing. The Tap Room and restaurant are open from 11:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday in winter; Wednesday through Monday in summer.

We had an opportunity to interview the owner, Julie, from whom we learned that Melody Lodge was originally built in 1912 as a singing school for girls. It was converted to a lodge along the way, and purchased by Julie’s parents in 1976. Julie and her husband, Kyle, took over the operation in 2006. The Lodge offers seven guest rooms, each uniquely named for a musical instrument, promising private baths for today’s standards. The constant smile on Julie’s face and her open friendliness as she imparted facts and history indicated pride and enjoyment in Melody Lodge.

The Melody Lodge is more a visitor’s venue than a hangout for locals, though the exchange of greetings between Pam the bartender and the coming and going customers made it clear that many patrons stop in regularly. The ample bar seats ten, with pub and dining tables in the immediate vicinity. A lower level features several varieties of table seating while a regulation shuffleboard table consumes one whole wall on the lower level. A curious square game board, scuffed and worn with obvious decades of enjoyment, hangs on the wall. Called ring toss, the objective is to get the ring, suspended from the ceiling with a length of string, onto a hook in the center of the game board. We couldn’t resist trying it out, though it was more difficult than it looked and we didn’t have time to keep practicing. Appreciating any novel amusement, Pam now plans to add ring toss to her home pub.

There are some venues that warrant a visit for no other reason than to see them for yourself, though we don’t usually know it until we do just that. Melody Lodge is just such a place, inviting and warm, without pretense, and well worth visiting.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dan Crane: Licensing Adirondack Hikers

Adirondack backcountry rescues have been in the news lately. From the Saratoga man lost during a descent of Mount Marcy to the three different people requiring searches in a single day, the New York State search and rescue personnel are keeping busy. All this activity has renewed the controversy on whether those rescued should pay some or all of the cost of their rescues.

In addition to defraying the cost, the frequent rescues have spurred some interesting ideas from no-rescue zones to backcountry rescue insurance. While some ideas are intriguing, others border on the bizarre. A few of these ideas might even create new industries, such as body retrieval for the many cadavers littering the new no-rescue zones. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Before Forest Rangers, There Were Game Protectors

A recent spate of backcountry rescues has shone a light on some of those among us on the front lines of Adirondack Park stewardship and public safety – Forest Rangers. Until 1981 there were over 100 Forest Rangers patrolling the Adirondacks. Over the succeeding 30 years that number was gradually reduced to 40-45 and now continues to fall due to budget cuts, retirements, and defunding of the the Forest Ranger and Environmental Conservation Officer Training Academy. As Dave Gibson recently noted:

“These days, one is hard pressed to encounter a Forest Ranger on the trails or in the woods – at the very time when the recreating public is most in need of their services. And their jobs have become much more complex. Since becoming a part of the DEC Office of Public Protection around 1997, law enforcement has become a big part of their jobs, and Rangers are frequently pulled away from their patrols to enforce against substance abuse in crowded places like campgrounds.” » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Congressional District (Almost) Unifies the Adirondack Park

Three years ago in anticipation of the decennial census, reapportionment and redistricting, Adirondack Almanack suggested a congressional district (red outline on the map) that would comprise the entire Adirondack Park and lands reaching to the St. Lawrence River from Alexandria Bay to Cornwall and the US/Canadian boundary from Cornwall east. If necessary there was plenty of room on the map for the district to expand below the park to accommodate larger numbers.

The numbers were loosely based on a guess that New York would lose only one congressional seat this time around. The fact that New York lost two seats in the reapportionment process, and that prison populations would no longer be credited to the prison’s district, meant that any resulting congressional district would have to cover more territory.

The map of the new 21st CD released yesterday by Special Master, US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann (blue outline on the map) came pretty close to the imagined Adirondack/North Country district—with Watertown, Fort Drum and Tug Hill added for good measure. The only scrap of the Adirondack Park missing from the new district is the northeastern point of Oneida County, now assigned to the 22nd district. Oh so close, especially when you consider the extra wart on the new 21st CD below the Adirondack Park at Hinckley Reservoir, encompassing Gravesville and the town of Russia. Not to be petty here, but would it have killed someone to swap a few dozen Russians for as many resident Adirondackers settled around White, Long and Otter Lakes?

This post was amended to reflect the correct name and official designation of US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities: Four Free Outdoor Events

Sometimes when the weather starts to fluctuate it is easier for someone else to plan the outdoor activities. A lot of times, attending these Adirondack Family events introduce us to a new area, new favorite trail or friend. This weekend is a typical Adirondack weekend where the choices are numerous. Unfortunately we can’t be everywhere at once. There are special family events happening in all corners and beyond the Adirondack Park. Here are four events that are free to attend.

The Lake George Land Conservancy is hosting its Winter Warm Up on March 10 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Lake George Recreation Center with a variety of activities from live raptor presentations to broomball matches. Up Yonda Farm will offer interpretive snowshoe walks. If you always wanted to try snowshoeing, this is your chance. The snowshoes are available to use for free as well. There will be nature crafts to make and storytelling by the bonfire. Hot soup, bread and s’mores will top it off. Also the Lake George Recreation Center has a sledding hill and cross-country trails. The LGRC’s Berry Pond Preserve can be accessed from the Rec Center if people want to venture out on their own.

Dewey Mountain Ski Center in Saranac Lake is hosting its annual Dewey Day with Adirondack Lake & Trail Outfitters on March 10 (9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The facility will be free and open to the public. If your 6 to 13 year-old ever wanted to try biathlon, the Adirondack Paintball Biathlon is also on the roster. Other games include a children’s snowshoe scavenger hunt, icicle obstacle course and ski speed trap. Bring a team for the boxer short triathlon relay where teams will ski, snowshoe and sled.

In Newcomb the full moon will be celebrated at The Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) with a chili ski/snowshoe party on March 10th. The AIC’s trails usually close at dusk so these full moon parties are special indeed. The $5 fee covers the cost of the chili, hot chocolate and marshmallows. The trails at the AIC are always free and open to the public. This event is going to run no matter the weather so gear up. The event starts with chili at 6:00 p.m. and then closes with fireside hot chocolate and marshmallows at 8:00 p.m.

With the temperatures fluctuating, Thurman is making maple and inviting the public for tours of its sugar bushes. March 10-11 is the first of three consecutive maple weekends in Thurman. The other Thurman Maple Weekend dates are March 17-18 and 24-25. Each weekend will start with a 9:00 a.m. pancake breakfast ($) at Valley Road Maple Farm, the rest of the weekend events run from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. with free demonstrations, tastings and walking tours showcasing tree tapping, evaporating and maple making. There will also be some free sampling. (Don’t worry if you miss the 9:00 a.m. breakfast call, t continues until 1:00 p.m.)

If you can stick around on March 10th, the 53rd annual Maple Party will start at 4:00p.m. ($) with live music, all-you-can-eat buffet and a tasty treat of Jackwax (maple sugar on snow). The Maple Sugar Party is not only a fun event but a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

I realize there are plenty of other things happening around the Adirondacks but these four events are just a sampling that can get families outside and doing things together. How you spend your time together is important, I hope I made it a bit easier for you.

Photo of family viewing maple energy-saving equipment at Toad Hill Maple Farm by Teresa Whalen

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time: Lake Placid and the High Peaks: Your Four-Seaosn Guide to Over 300 Activities. Her second Adirondack Family Time guide will be in stores this summer 2012.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Saw-Whet Owl

As the moon becomes full this week, the opportunity arises to be able to hike on a woodland trail or backcountry road well after dusk without the aid of an artificial light. Regardless of the amount of cloud cover, there inevitably exists on nights around this phase of the moon enough natural light to be able to travel into the woods using only lunar illumination. While nocturnal outings in mid spring can provide a great audio experience, there are relatively few sounds that disturb the silence at this time of year. However, among the seldom noted noises that occur in the Adirondacks in March and April is the call of the Adirondacks smallest nighttime aerial predator, the saw-whet owl.

When initially heard, few people associate this distinct sound with that of an owl. Rather than bellow out muffled hooting notes, the saw-whet makes a rapid series of short “beeps” that resemble the noise produced by a back-hoe or other piece of heavy equipment when in reverse. The very quick tempo, or rate at which the saw-whet makes these beeps, (over a dozen in a 10 second interval of time) creates an air of haste to this bird’s call. Also, once it starts calling a few hours after sunset, the saw-whet continues uninterrupted for several hours in its seemingly intense bouts of vocalization. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Study: Environmental Protection Fund Builds NY Economy

New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) supports industries that generate approximately $40 billion annually for the State’s economy and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to a recent analysis.

The report, prepared by The Trust for Public Land (a national conservation organization) in collaboration with the New York Environmental Leaders Group, concludes that the EPF generates jobs, supports local economies, and elevates property values. The analysis also concludes that for every $1 invested to protect lands under EPF, $7 in economic benefits is returned to New York through “natural goods and services,” such as filtering air and water of pollutants, and flood control. » Continue Reading.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Community Supported Agriculture in the Adirondacks

It isn’t always easy to imagine farming in the Adirondacks with factors like a short growing season, or faraway markets – but you can find a thriving and vibrant community of farmers and producers here and maybe not as far away as you might think.

One way farmers are able to have a more predictable revenue stream is through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Before the growing season begins, customers are able to purchase a share in the season’s harvest – your up-front investment typically entitles you to a weekly box of vegetables or fruit produced by the farm over the course of 4 to 5 months — and often times you pick up the share at the farm. » Continue Reading.

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