Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Adirondack Wild Turkey in Winter

There are only a few dozen species of birds capable of surviving the rigors of an Adirondack winter, and of these, the wild turkey is one that is more closely associated with the warmer and less snowy regions to our south than the boreal woodlands to the north.

While the turkey is traditionally viewed as one the most successful inhabitants of open, temperate forests, the cold-hardy nature of this bird and its resourceful and adaptable traits permit it to survive throughout the Park, even during winters when intense cold and deep snows are the rule for lengthy periods of time.

With its large, round body and small head, the wild turkey possesses a shape well designed for retaining heat. Despite the lack of feathers on its head, the turkey is able to hold its head close enough to its body for much of the day to reduce heat loss from the limited amount of exposed skin that occurs on its face and over its skull. A dense covering of plumage over the core of its body, along with a layer of fat, helps this bird effectively conserve body heat. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Lake George Land Conservancy Winter Warm-Up

The Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) is again hosting its free family event, the Winter Warm Up, March 10, 9 am to 1 pm at the Lake George Recreation Center in Lake George. This year’s event will include new live presentations and activities, including a live raptor presentation at 10 am by North Country Wild Care members Nancy Kimball and Wendy Hall; Mammals of the Adirondacks presentation at 11 am by DEC with animal pelts and bones; invasive forest pests educational table and presentation; interpretive snowshoe walks led by staff from Up Yonda Farm Environmental Education Center; family broomball at 10:30 and teens/adults broomball at noon (bring your own broom!); door prize giveaways; and ongoing nature crafts, sledding, snowman building, storytelling and marshmallow-roasting by the bonfire.

Breakfast goods will be available from 9 – 10 am and hot soups and bread donated by local restaurants and bakeries will be available from 11:30 am – 1 pm. Coffee, hot chocolate and ingredients for s’mores will be out all day. Participating businesses at time of this release include Rock Hill Bakehouse, Lake George Baking Company, and Bella’s Delicatessen.

“We were very pleased with last year’s event,” said Sarah Hoffman, LGLC’s communications and outreach manager, “so we wanted do it again, but make it better with more activities and entertainment for all ages. Some snow would be ideal but even without it there will be things to keep families busy and having fun together.”

The Lake George Recreation Center’s trail system provides access to LGLC’s Berry Pond Preserve. Hikes onto the 1,436-acre Berry Pond Preserve will not be led during the Winter Warm Up, but guests are welcome to explore its trails on their own. Trail maps will be available.

For more information contact Sarah Hoffman at 518-644-9673 or email shoffman@lglc.org.

Founded in 1988, the Lake George Land Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust dedicated to working with willing landowners and other partners to protect the world-renowned water quality of Lake George and to permanently preserve the natural, scenic, historical and recreational resources of the Lake George region.

Photo: A snowshoeing group from 2011’s Winter Warm Up (courtesy Jeremy Parnapy).


Monday, January 30, 2012

Local Civil War History: The One-Legged Jims

I guarantee you’re going to enjoy this. Continuing in the vein of last week’s piece related to the Civil War (a Plattsburgh woman who served as a man), here’s another unique North Country link to that conflict. Though a true story, it’s perhaps best characterized as one of those Ripley’s Believe It or Not! items, and begs the question: What the heck are the odds of that happening?

I can’t answer that, but I do recall that in my former employment, it was notable when three men all having the same first name worked in the same department. So what can you say about a group of three war veterans called “The One-Legged Jims”?

Among the many Union outfits filled by soldiers from upstate was Company A, 77th Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Enlistment sites, always plentiful, included Chatham, about twenty-five miles south of Albany, and Westport, on the shore of Lake Champlain.

The interest here focuses on three enlistees: James G. Allen, 39; James E. Barnes, 35; and James A. Lawrence, 19. Barnes and Lawrence mustered in at Westport on October 1, 1861, while Allen mustered in at Chatham on February 4, 1864.

All three served in Company A, 77th Regiment. Even though there’s more than a two-year span between their muster dates, they all ended up serving at the same time in 1864. Three Jims, same regiment, same company―no big deal.

In June of that year, the men of the 77th were joined in battle at Petersburg, Virginia. During a lull, the troops relaxed behind the breastworks (barriers to protect from ground attack). Many of them laid down to rest, talking and joking amongst themselves to ease the tensions of war. Within their midst, by mere coincidence lying side by side, were the three aforementioned Jims.

Hell erupted in an instant, courtesy of a Rebel shell that landed virtually in their laps. In describing the scene firsthand, Dr. George Stevens said, “Its explosion threw them in every direction. One went high in the air and fell twenty feet from the spot where he was lying when the shell exploded. Strange to tell, not a man was killed, yet three had each a leg crushed to jelly, and two others were seriously wounded.”

But for the quick work and dedication of medical personnel, the three Jims with mangled legs might have died on the spot. The surgeon gave each a glass of brandy, administered chloroform, and went to work.

Within thirty minutes, three limbs were amputated, the remaining stumps were treated and bandaged, and the men were in ambulances. Their destination was City Point, eleven miles away, where they arrived within three hours of being wounded. The speedy effort saved their lives. Later, all three were transferred to Stanton General Hospital in Washington.

One shell, three legs lost … three left legs … and three one-legged survivors, all named Jim. What are the chances? The coincidence wasn’t lost on anyone, and it earned the men plenty of extra attention during their recovery. In the years to come, they became known informally as The One-Legged Jims. Their story developed into a sort of military urban legend: men would tell it as an incredible army tale from their own outfit, perhaps not aware that it was, in fact, a true story taken from New York’s 77th.

After the war, Jim Lawrence eventually moved west, but Barnes remained in his hometown of Westport. At veterans’ GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) reunions across the state, he became known as the best of storytellers. The highlight, of course, was the retelling of how The One-Legged Jims, a very exclusive club, came into being. Many of the listeners had been present when the shell exploded.

“Well, boys, it was down in a rifle pit before Petersburg on the 21st of June, 1864 – lots of you remember the day – myself, Jim Lawrence, and Jim Allen, all of Company A … had finished our coffee and were lying down, smoking our pipes. My head was supported by my arm, which rested on my knapsack, and my right leg was curled up under me, my left one being stretched out. The other two Jims were lying near me in about the same position. That Rebel shell came, it did, and three Jims lost their left legs.”

He was always careful to describe the treatment and efficiency of the surgeon and others who worked so hard to keep them alive every step of the way.

Barnes made his mark outside the military as well. A pension (equal to $800 a month today) for the loss of his leg helped financially, but he also worked. Those who follow the history of Lake Champlain might recognize James Barnes as the first keeper of Barber’s Point Lighthouse when it opened in 1873.

For the remainder of his life, Barnes attended GAR gatherings. The best one of all, from his perspective, came in 1884, when the annual reunion of the 77th Regiment was held at Westport. Jim’s stories were a highlight of the affair. Over the years, from Saratoga to Plattsburgh, he entertained folks in like manner and made many friends at veterans’ events.

The 1890 reunion was remembered by many as both sweet and bittersweet. Jim Lawrence, the only other surviving member of The One-Legged Jims, came all the way from Nebraska, reconnecting with his friend and sharing stories from the past. It was fortunate that he did.

After the Gloversville reunion, Barnes headed for Westport, but stopped to visit a friend at Fort Ann in Washington County. While there, he was struck down by a stroke and never made it home alive.

As fate would have it, the reunion for 1891 was held in Westport. The unfortunate absence of Barnes was noted in a published summary of the event:

“The ‘boys in blue’ … adjourned to the lower rooms, where refreshments were served and old army stories (which no doubt grow tougher as they grow older) were told. James Barnes, the champion storyteller, was missed from the ranks, he having been summoned by the last roll since their last reunion.”

Photo: The crimson silk flank marker of New York’s 77th Regiment.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Adirondack Mapping: Parts But Little Known

The Adirondacks have long been a bit of a blank spot on maps. From the time Jacques Cartier first glimpsed the Adirondack Mountains from Montreal in 1535 until the mid 1700s (long after coastal and more populous areas were mapped in great detail), the remote and mountainous Adirondack region was represented only by terse descriptions such as “This Country by reason of Mountains, Swamps & drowned Lands is impassable & uninhabited,” or “Parts but little known.” But Adirondack history is full of explorers, surveyors and cartographers who underwent great risk and hardship in order to fill in these blanks.

By 1900, thanks to the work of men such as Verplanck Colvin, the basic geography of the park was well-known. The beloved 7.5 minute USGS topographic quads we are all so familiar with were the culmination of this effort, and they have undergone only slight revisions over the last hundred years or so. But an interesting thing has happened in the last 30 years with the rise of computers and their ability to overlay map layers in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Maps and the way people use them have changed radically.

People today are not satisfied with paper maps that merely portray the geographic arrangement of features; they expect maps to be full-blown search engines where they can explore the virtual landscape and then connect instantly to information about map features. Prospective visitors don’t want to just see where a hotel is, they want to click on it and get information about room availability, prices and contact information. Hikers don’t just want the location of a trail, they want to know its difficulty, its condition or how much use it gets.

With all these new expectations, the Adirondacks once again lag behind more populous areas where the work of connecting geographic features to attribute information has advanced further. So, while perhaps not quite as risky (thankfully) or romantic as it once was, there are still many people working to improve the quality and quantity of spatial data and produce ever better maps of the Adirondacks.

Thanks to the proliferation of inexpensive GPS units and free web-based GIS applications such as Google Earth, members of the general public are now active participants in both data collection and map production.

If cartography is the art of producing a map, anyone who has printed out GoogleMap directions is an amateur cartographer! For specialists such as myself, this has been a paradigm shift that has changed our jobs radically. We now must think not only of how to manage the incredible amounts of spatial data being created, but also how best to communicate that information to the public. To conclude my first post, I’d like to highlight one elegant example of how modern technology can communicate spatial information in new and exciting ways.

John Barge, GIS specialist for the Adirondack Park Agency, has made many map resources available on the APA’s GIS page. I encourage you to browse through them all, but I’d like to feature a particular resource John has produced– a downloadable .kmz file that superimposes historic bird’s eye maps of several Adirondack communities onto the virtual landscape of Google Earth. A quick video tutorial can be found here.

I look forward to future posts on Adirondack spatial matters, and to reading your comments!

PS: Thanks much to the Almanack for having me!

Illustration: Richard William Seal. “New and Accurate Map of the Present War in North America, 1757″.


Monday, January 30, 2012

New Adirondack Maps Contributor Steve Signell

Please join us all here at the Almanack in welcoming our newest contributor, Steve Signell. A resident of Long Lake, Steve is a mapping specialist at the SUNY-ESF Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb, where his main task is to provide spatial decision support for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). As part of his duties, Steve coordinates the activities of the Adirondack Park Regional GIS Consortium, whose goal is to facilitate the sharing of map data via the Adirondack Regional Geographic Information System web portal. Steve also runs Frontier Spatial, an Adirondack-based GIS consulting firm. Steve will write regularly about geography, maps, new data sources, mapping technologies, etc., all with an Adirondack focus.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Upcoming Adirondack Winter Carnivals

This February, local revelers and from those from around the world will take part in the Adirondack region’s Winter Carnival season. Events like the Ladies’ Fry Pan Toss, Polar Bear Plunges, Outhouse Races, Parades, and a Hot Air Balloon Fly-Off make these events not to be missed.

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival is touted by National Geographic Traveler as one of the “Top 10 Winter Carnivals” in the world. For 115-years, this annual winter celebration has transformed the Village of Saranac Lake. On February 3, the carnival kicks off with a bang as the opening Fireworks signal the start of the 10-day festival. Enjoy fun for the whole family and special carnival events. Watch the Curlers toss stones, join in local ski races, toss a cast-iron pan, and snag a front row spot for the Gala Parade. Don’t miss a tour through the Carnival’s crowned jewel – the Ice Palace. Constructed from ice blocks quarried in nearby Lake Flower, the palace is the perfect place to watch the Carnival’s opening and closing fireworks.

Lake George Winter Carnival offers festivities throughout February. Every weekend, the village of Lake George heads outside to revel in the snow. Dive in during the Polar Bear Plunge, play ice golf, enjoy fireworks, a giant snow slide and ice castle. Take a ride in a hot air balloon and don’t miss the “Moon Glow” and “Fly Off,” where hot air balloons will rise into the wintry sky.

Old Forge Winter Carnival is slated for February 3 and 4 at McCauley Mountain. Enjoy a parade, music, bonfire, snowshoe and ski events, fireworks, a cardboard sled race, and more.

WinterXCape Winterfest in Lowville is slated for February 4. Enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides, dogsled rides, a petting zoo, geo-caching, cross-country skiing, a snowman contest, refreshments and more.

WinterFest in Indian Lake, slated for February 17-19, promises a jam-packed weekend of Adirondack events. Enjoy ski and snowboarding races, a craft fair, the annual snowmobile poker run and organized snowshoe outings.

Raquette Lake Winter Carnival kicks off February 18-19. Celebrate winter and enjoy winter sports events, a bonfire and fireworks in this idyllic Adirondack village.

Inlet’s Frozen Fire & Lights on February 25 offers a full day of family fun with free sledding, ice-skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Enjoy fireworks, a bonfire and complimentary refreshments.

Tri-Town Winterfest in the St. Lawrence River Valley kicks off the second weekend in February and lasts all week long. Enjoy outdoor concerts and theatrical shows, scrapbooking demos and workshops, a chili cook-off and the Polar Bear Golf Tournament.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Book: Salt Lake City Olympic Bid Scandal

In late 1998 and the early months of 1999, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was an organization in crisis. Revelations of a slush fund employed by Salt Lake City officials to secure votes from a number of IOC members in support of the city’s bid for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games invited intense scrutiny of the organization by the international media.

The IOC and its president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, staggered through the opening weeks of the scandal, but ultimately Samaranch and key actors such as IOC Vice–President Richard Pound, Marketing Director Michael Payne, and Director General François Carrard weathered the storm, safeguarded the IOC’s autonomy, and subsequently spearheaded the push for reforms to the Olympic Charter intended to better position the IOC for the twenty–first century.

In Tarnished Rings: The International Olympic Committee and the Salt Lake City Bid Scandal (Syracuse University Press, 2011), the authors delve into this fascinating story, exploring the genesis of the scandal and charting the IOC’s efforts to bring stability to its operations. Based on extensive research and unique access to primary source material, the authors offer a behind–the–scenes account of the politics surrounding the IOC and the bidding process. Wenn, Barney, and Martyn’s potent examination of this critical episode in Olympic history and of the presidency of Samaranch, who brought sweeping change to the Olympic Movement in the 1980s and 1990s, offers lessons for those interested in the IOC, the Olympic Movement, and the broader concepts of leadership and crisis management.

About the authors:

Stephen Wenn is professor of kinesiology and physical education at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. He, Robert Barney, and Scott Martyn are the authors of Selling the Five Rings: The International Olympic Committee and the Rise of Olympic Commercialism.

Robert Barney is professor emeritus of kinesiology and the founding director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.

Scott Martyn is associate professor of human kinetics and founding director of the International Centre for Sport and Leisure Studies at the University of Windsor in Windsor, Ontario.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fort Ti Offers Garden & Landscape Symposium

The King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga is presenting its first Garden & Landscape Symposium, “Planting the Seeds of Knowledge for Home Gardeners,” on Saturday, April 14. This new annually planned day-long symposium, geared for both beginning and experienced gardeners, provides helpful insights from garden experts who live and garden in upstate New York and Vermont. This springtime event takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open by pre-registration only.

This one-day program focuses on practical, easy-to-implement strategies for expanding and improving your garden or landscape. The programs are offered in an informal setting that encourages interaction between speakers and attendees. Speakers include: » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Striking a Balance

One of the most romantic characteristics of Lost Brook Tract is that hardly anyone has ever been there. This is not a wishful abstraction; we know it to be true. Fascinated by having found it to be old growth forest when we first visited it, I plunged into a research project to find out everything I could about the land.

Remarkably, the record is complete enough to paint a fairly thorough picture of its history. I was able to assemble a detailed chronology that shows Lost Brook Tract was simply missed by the surprising volume of human activity that occurred in the park, to the point where it is likely only a handful of people have ever walked on it. I find this a very compelling idea. It is incredibly romantic to imagine that in wandering through it I might set foot on some part where no one has ever trod. But is this a characteristic I am justified in preserving?

In last week’s post I offered my rationale for writing these dispatches. However I see now that what I presented was incomplete. Shortly after it posted one reader wrote a comment that this endeavor seemed self-serving, “praising the Park and its availability to all at the same time he is enjoying his secret hideaway with one of the few stands of old growth, no visitors allowed, thank you.” I think this is a valid criticism. I thought so before he wrote in. In fact I have been troubled by this very issue and it is one of the reasons I decided to write these dispatches.

It did not occur to us initially, but my family and I find ourselves deliberating a serious and difficult question about Lost Brook Tract that is an analog of the larger dispute over the Adirondack Park itself: how do we strike a balance between our interests, the interests of the public and the interests of the woods themselves? This is a challenging problem in ethics and aesthetics – that I used the term “primeval aesthetic” in my previous dispatch is no accident. Perhaps I should enlist the help of the Almanack’s resident Philosopher, Marianne Patinelli-Dubay, but in the absence of her input let me share a little bit about how we have tried to sort it out.

First, there are what I would describe as the two extremes. At the one extreme we simply deny access to anyone other than family and keep a shotgun handy to ward off any trespasser who ignores the signs that say “Posted.” This is easy enough to do. All it requires is a typical embrace of the centuries-old European cultural heritage of private property rights. Whatever one might think of this heritage (and it is a bloody one), it has prevailed in almost all the civilized world. From this view there is no debate at all: property ownership is sacred, especially land. This is the case with Lost Brook Tract: we have a deed, you cannot set foot on it without our permission, end of story.

I think most people would recognize this as the default condition (perhaps absent the threatening shotgun, but consider that this right is so sacrosanct as to give me the justification to shoot a trespasser to defend my property). If so, how can I characterize it as an extreme position? My answer to that has to do with context. It is fashionable to think in absolutes these days, especially with respect to political and social rights and morality. But absolutes are never universal. “Thou shalt not kill” seems about as defensible an absolute as there is. But it is beholden to context, lest we rule out war, the death penalty, self-defense, doctor-assisted suicide and even food consumption. As concerns property rights, absolutes are uncommon in practice. The average suburban homeowner makes multiple levels contextual distinction with hardly a thought. Consider a handsome stranger on your property without your permission. If he walks onto your front lawn will your authority as land owner engage at the same level as if he walks to your front door? Through the front door into your living room? Into your bedroom? At night?

Even if we have the force of law and cultural norms entirely on our side it seems to be a problem of context if we choose not to share Lost Brook Tract at all. Virgin forest is a precious and rare resource that is potentially of great importance to others. To hoard it while trumpeting wilderness values raises the damning specter of elitism.

At the other extreme we open the land to all. We go further: recognizing its unique value to the world at large and having preached about the importance of the primeval experience we invite all the readers of the Almanack to come up for a visit, describing its location and the route in, attaching a map and giving out GPS coordinates.

Obviously this is no balance either. For one thing we did not purchase Lost Brook Tract without a good share of self-interest on behalf of ourselves and our heirs. While we like to think we’re as altruistic as the next folks we’re not ready to entirely give up those interests, which include solitude among other things. But of course there is another competing interest in the mix, that of the land itself. Advertising it to several tens of thousands of Almanack readers risks what makes it valuable in the first place. Sixty acres is not a whole lot of land. If one percent of the Almanack’s readers came out to camp in a calendar year the land would be irrevocably damaged.

As always, that leaves the middle ground. How do we sort it out?

Our thinking has proceeded from the idea that Lost Brook Tract’s uniqueness and importance is directly due to its inaccessibility. The idea that a visit to such a place should be earned by effort and skill is not uncommon in the wilderness ethos. But this implies that it can and should be earnable. Therefore we decided to achieve our balance by allowing people to earn the experience of the land on the land’s terms. We’ll give up the romantic notion that no one should walk on it but we’re not going to make it any easier to get to.

Here’s how this has translated into practice.

First, we did not post Lost Brook Tract. Barring a disastrous series of incursions we never will. Instead we have a visitors log posted in our lean-to. The log welcomes hunters, hikers and campers. It has rules that we require visitors to follow; those rules are designed to protect the land. We allow use of the lean-to but not the gear we have stored there. We prohibit camping elsewhere. We allow fires in the fire ring, but only during hunting season and winter. Other rules are consistent with DEC wilderness regulations

Next, we have advertised Lost Brook Tract to important people in the political and environmental spectrum of the park who we think should know about the forest and see it. Several have already visited. We have invited an Adirondack-based ecologist who is currently doing research on old growth forests to come and conduct field work on the land.

Finally, we’re writing about it, for reasons already given. We do so knowing full well that makes it a potential destination for an enterprising reader. If someone really wants to find Lost Brook Tract they will. We have to trust that such an effort would be made with reverence for the land, for its wildness, and that the hike in, compass in hand, would earn it.

We welcome any comments or ideas on this balance.

Photo: Long Pond, in the Saint Regis Canoe Area (Courtesy Wikipedia).


Friday, January 27, 2012

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

On Friday afternoons Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers a collection of the week’s top weblinks. You can find all our weekly web round-ups here.

Subscribe! More than 7,500 people get Adirondack Almanack each day via RSS, E-Mail, or Twitter or Facebook updates. It’s a convenient way to get the latest news and information about the Adirondacks.


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