Thursday, August 12, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (August 12)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf]. Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and on the stations of North Country Public Radio.

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

General Weather Report
Friday: Slight chance of afternoon showers; high near 77
Friday Night: Mostly cloudy, low around 54.
Saturday: Partly sunny, high near 77.
Saturday Night: Slight chance of showers, thunderstorms; mostly cloudy, low near 54.
Sunday: Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Cloudy, high near 74.

The National Weather Service has begun providing a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Summer Thunderstorms
Rains have been sporadic but often heavy, with most rain being part of thunderstorms which are comparatively short in duration and limited in geographic area impacted. Be aware that trails may have mud and/or puddles in some locations. Wear appropriate footwear and to stay on the trail – hike through muddy areas and puddles to avoid widening the trails or creating “herd paths” around those areas. Rains may also raise water levels of streams – particularly during and immediately following storm events – low water crossings may not be accessible.

Biting Insects
It is “Bug Season” in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

Bear-Resistant Canisters
The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear resistant canisters; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

Local Adirondack Conditions

Hamilton / Warren Counties: The 5th Ididaride Adirondack Bike Tour will take place this Sunday, August 15th. be on the look-out for heavy than usual bike traffic on the 75-mile route that begins in North Creek and includes Bakers Mills, Wells, Speculator, Sabael, Indian Lake and North River.

Westport: The 162nd Essex County Fair is August 11 through August 15, 2010
in Westport. Expect heavier than usual traffic near the fairgrounds on Route 9N.

Ausable River: There is no public access to area of the East Branch of the Ausable River known as Champagne Falls, where a young boy recently drowned. No swimming is permitted and dangerous rocks and currents are found there. Heed the additional “No Trespassing” and “No Swimming” signs that have been posted. This covers both the Grist Mill and Hulls Falls sides of the River. Parking is being restricted. Law enforcement officers have added this area to their patrols and will be enforcing the law.

Raquette River Boat Launch: Rehabilitation of the Raquette River Boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake, also known as “The Crusher”, is complete. DEC expended approximately $190,00 from 2009 EPF Parks Capital Fund to upgrade the parking lots, install a new concrete boat ramp and floating dock, construct a separate launch area for canoes and kayaks and the improve the site so it is accessible for people with mobility disabilities. Paddlers are encouraged to use the canoe and kayak launch and retrieval area which is located just 50 feet upstream of the boat launch ramp.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge are open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Please use caution if you choose to cross this area.

Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: Climbing routes on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain have reopened.

Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

Wilmington Wild Forest: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch have reopened.

Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Adirondack Mountain Club Presents: High Peaks Bedrock

The Adirondack Mountain Club will be offering an all day program on August 19th on the fascinating bedrock geology of the High Peaks region. Mineral types, crushed rock fault zones, hybrid rocks, and the structure of the mountains will be seen in the field. ADK naturalist Matt Maloney will show rocks on display at the ADK’s Heart Lake property and then lead visits to several field locations in the Keene area. This program will run from 9am to 3pm.

Participants should meet at the Adirondak Loj. Directions and other pertinent information will be sent to participants. Participants must pre-register by calling 518-523-3441. Cost is $20 for ADK members/$25 for non-members. Maximum of 12 participants.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.

For more information about our programs, directions or questions about membership, contact ADK North Country office in Lake Placid (518) 523-3441 or visit our Web site at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

War of 1812 Lecture on Battles at Plattsburgh

The Wilmington Historical Society invites you to their program with historian and author Keith Herkalo “September 11th, 1814: The Battles at Plattsburgh” to be held on Friday, August 20th at 7 pm at the Wilmington Community Center on Springfield Road in Wilmington, Essex County, NY.

Would the United States exist if our naval and land Battles at Plattsburgh on September 11, 1814 had been lost? For the United States, the War of 1812 is often referred to as “the second war for independence”. We have learned of the battles at Baltimore, Washington and Sacketts Harbor, but what about the Battles at Plattsburgh?

Keith Herkalo, using personal journals, military journals, contemporary newspaper accounts, and other original source documents, examines the evidence that leads to the conclusion that the Battles at Plattsburgh on land and on Lake Champlain, were actually the key battles of the War of 1812. He claims that were it not for the exemplary talents and skills of two young military officers, Commodore Thomas McDonough and General Alexander Macomb, a small force of regular army and navy personnel and New York Militia, a few thousand Vermont Militia, a handful of Native Americans and Veteran Exempts (those too old for military service), and a group of boys from a local school, the United States, as we know it today, would not exist.

Plattsburgh City Clerk and a charter member of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association, Keith Herkalo believes that the Battles at Plattsburgh and the individuals who fought in the War of 1812 in the Champlain Valley and surrounding area deserve national recognition. Karen Peters, President of the Wilmington Historical Society, notes that many area residents of that time period participated in the land battle, including Major Reuben Sanford of Wilmington who commanded a regiment of detached militia. Stephen Partridge, also of Jay and Wilmington was one of the first to be killed in action in a skirmish at Culver Hill on September 6, 1814, a few days prior to the main battle.

Having grown up in both Philadelphia and Plattsburgh, and spending more than a decade in military service, Keith Herkalo returned to Plattsburgh developing a keen interest in Plattsburgh’s history with a particular attention to Plattsburgh’s involvement in the War of 1812. He is a builder and member of the boat crew of the award-winning bateau “Rooster” (the 37-foot replica of an 1812 era work boat). As an 1812-era re-enactor and an amateur historian he is the research catalyst behind the archaeological re-discovery and preservation of the 1812 Camp Site known as “Pike’s Cantonment” and the Crab Island Graves location. He is the editor of The Journalof H.K. Averill. Sr.: An Account of the Battle of Plattsburgh and Early North Country Community, and author of September 11th, 1814: the Battles at Plattsburgh which documents Plattsburgh’s importance in the War of 1812.

The “September 11th, 1814: The Battles at Plattsburgh” program on August 20th is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For further information, contact Karen Peters at (518) 524-1023 or Merri Peck at (518) 946-7627.

Illustration: Naval battle on Lake Champlain. Engraving in 1816 by B. Tanner.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Antiques Show and Sale at the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum will host its annual Antiques Show and Sale this weekend, August 14th and 15th. Forty-five of the country’s top antique dealers will offer the finest examples of premium vintage furnishings and collectables. For a complete listing of dealers, visit the “Exhibits and Events” section of the Adirondack Museum web site at

Show hours will be 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on August 14, and 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on August 15. The Antiques Show and Sale is included in the price of general museum admission.

The 2010 Antiques Show and Sale will include: vintage Adirondack furniture, folk art, historic guideboats and canoes, genuine Old Hickory, taxidermy, books and ephemera for the collector, fine art, oriental and Persian rugs, camp and trade signs, Olympic advertising, and everything camp and cottage.

A shipping service will be available on each day of the show. Porters will be on site to assist with heavy or cumbersome items.

Rod Lich, Inc. of Georgetown, Indiana will manage the show. Rod and his wife Susan Parrett have 32 years of experience organizing premier antiques shows throughout the country. To learn more about Rod Lich, Inc. visit

The Antiques Show Preview Benefit will be held on August 14 from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. Guests will enjoy exclusive early access to the show, a champagne brunch, and music. Proceeds from the benefit will support exhibits and programs at the Adirondack Museum. Preview benefit tickets are $125 and include admission to the Antiques Show and Sale on Saturday and Sunday. To reserve tickets call (518) 352-7311, ext. 119.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Purple Loosestrife and the Adirondacks

I was recently on a road trip to and from the beautiful state of Maine. The trip took me across Lake Champlain, through the agricultural and ski lands of Vermont, zipping down the forest-lined highways of New Hampshire, and then into Maine itself, where I briefly visited the coast before heading upstate to Augusta. As beautiful as each of these states is, there was one thing they all had in common: purple loosestrife.

I know, you are thinking “we’ve got purple loosestrife here in New York, too – even in the Adirondacks,” and you would be correct in this thought. But let me tell you – the Adirondacks have nothing compared to these other states, where this elegant purple flower is thick as thieves in every body of water I passed – be it fresh or salt. I was bowled over by how far its reach had stretched, and how established it had become. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Comparing Colorado to the Adirondacks

I recently spent a few days touring around Colorado by bicycle. It was my seventh trip to the state, in both summer and winter.

The trip took me on a few parts of the Colorado Trail, a 450-mile hiking route that follows the spine of the Continental Divide from Denver to Durango. It also took me to some of Colorado’s old mining towns, most of which have been recast as a combination tourist attraction and burgeoning home to the young, artsy and outdoorsy.

The trip got me thinking about the differences between the Rocky Mountains and the Adirondacks, where I first learned to climb mountains and have spent the last 25 years exploring. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

APA Meeting:
Lake George YMCA, Benson Mines Wind, More

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, August 12 and Friday August 13, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY.

The Agency will consider a third renewal for the Westport Development Park’s commercial/industrial use permit, a shoreline structure setback variance for Camp Chingachgook on Lake George, a Benson Mines wind project, Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan compliance for the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP, Champlain-Hudson Power Express’s proposed 300-mile, 2,000-MW electric transmission line from Canada to New York City via Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, a memorandum of understanding between the Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation concerning State-owned conservation easements on private lands within the Adirondack Park, and the Route 3 Travel Corridor Management Plan. Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Train Sparks First Wilderness Heritage Corridor Events

July 17th marked the beginning of Upper Hudson River Railroad’s two-train Saturdays, when both morning and afternoon trains are scheduled, taking passengers northward in the morning to enjoy not only the scenic excursion by rail, but also allowing them to enjoy an outing in one of the First Wilderness Heritage Corridor communities along the route. These Saturday offerings will continue through August 21st. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities’s Diane Chase: The Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™

There are just a few weeks left before Director Stan Burdick closes the doors to the Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum. There is a lot of history in the 50-year collection of cartoon memorabilia. A political cartoonist himself, Stan contributed to many local newspapers during his career. His work has been selected numerous times for the annual publication, “Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year” and in 1996 he won the New York Press Association Award for his editorial cartoon of Eliot Spitzer. My children greet Stan like he is the cable man and he just offered free access to unlimited channels. They look at me like I am the only thing holding them back from nirvana. I shush them off making sure they carefully maneuver through the aisles.

The museum houses over 700 pieces of original art from mainstream cartoonists like Chuck Jones’ Bugs Bunny, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, and Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury to the more obscure work of Henri Daumier, an 18th century French caricaturist. Special exhibits include the work of Arto Monaco (creator of Santa’s Workshop and Land of Make Believe), Sid Couchey’s Richie Rich, and Charles Dana Gibson’s Gibson Girls. The collection will be moved to the Pittsburgh ToonSeum in September.

There is also a reference library of over 300 books if anyone has a moment to research any favorite comic strip characters. For us, Mr. Burdick manages to answer a seemingly endless array of questions.

Stan even gives us a quick cartooning demonstration and explains this particular art form that with all the ease of computers and scanning is still rendered by hand. He shows how a political cartoonist has to be up on current events by reading newspapers and listening to the news, find the right concept, think up the caption, draw it, and “ink” the artwork. The original art is then reduced in size, scanned and e-mailed to the newspapers to be read by all. That is the simplified version.

I am not sure my children grasp how much work goes into each cartoon. They innocently ask if they can go back to reading and looking at the cartoons. Gladly. It is an opportunity not to be missed. We can fill them in later on specific historical events that created the cartoons.

The Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum is located on the lower level of the Community Center on Montcalm Street. It is currently open on Fridays from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. or by appointment. Please call 518-585-7015 for additional times and more information.

Photo of Stan Burdick, director of the Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum, and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

At Chapel Pond Slab: Is Solo Climbing Crazy?

The Empress is one of two five-star climbing routes on Chapel Pond Slab—a route first ascended in 1933 by the legendary Fritz Wiessner.

Empress is long—865 feet, usually climbed in seven pitches—but not especially difficult. It’s rated only 5.5 on the Yosemite decimal scale. It’s mostly friction climbing: you smear your soles on small toeholds to progress upward. There also is an off-width crack in one section.

Click here to a read a more detailed description of the route.

I climbed Empress for the first time the other day and had a great time. My ascent was all the more exciting in that I did it solo, without a rope, without protection against a fall.

Climbers often ascend Chapel Pond Slab solo. A few weeks ago a friend did laps on Regular Route, the other five-star route on the cliff, while waiting for me to meet him. The guidebook Adirondack Rock contains a photo of a solo climber on that same route. The book also tells of a soloist who slipped on a neighboring route and slid far down the slab, ripping the skin off his palms. “He then drove to a bar using his wrists,” the authors write.

To many people, solo climbing is lunacy. In a recent issue of the Adirondack Explorer, however, the Lake Placid climber Don Mellor defends the practice. He argues that we all take risks and that what seems like lunacy to one person is an acceptable risk to another.

“The pleasure of a bushwhack comes from the uncertainty of the outcome,” says Mellor, the author of American Rock and other climbing books. “The slide hike is exciting, not in spite of the danger, but because of it. Appreciating security by tasting insecurity is an elemental human endeavor. The only real variable, I guess, is the size of the dose.”

That said, solo climbers do push the limits. Two years ago, Alex Honnold scaled a 23-pitch route on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The sheer-vertical climb is rated 5.12a—too hard for most climbers even with a rope.

Click here to see video of this incredible feat (sorry for the German overdubbing).

If the average climber attempted to solo this route, it would indeed be lunacy. But Honnold obviously is not your average climber, and he knows his limits.

Indeed, climbers usually stay well within their comfort zone when going solo. Nevertheless, accidents do occur, some of them fatal, even to the best of climbers. John Bachar, one of most renowned soloists in the world, died in a fall last summer. He had been solo climbing for decades. Apparently, the odds caught up with him.

What do you think? Do solo climbers have rocks in their heads?

Photo from halfway up Empress taken by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mark Twain in the Adirondacks Event

As fans of Mark Twain the world ‘round await the fall release of his unexpurgated autobiography a century after his death, scholars, authors, teachers, and other admirers of Twain will gather on the time-carved shores of Lower Saranac Lake to draw a more intimate portrait of the writer and humorist and explore his indelible contributions to American life and letters.

On Saturday, August 14, Dr. Charles Alexander of Paul Smith’s College, Dr. Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History at Cornell University, and beloved children’s author Steven Kellogg of Essex, NY, will headline the day-long “Mark Twain in the Adirondacks” program at Guggenheim Camp on Lower Saranac Lake.

Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. At 10:00 a.m., Dr. Alexander will explore Twain’s surprising connections to the Adirondacks, focusing on his retreat from the outside world to the Kane Camp on Lower Saranac Lake in 1901 and the little-known essay, “The United States of Lyncherdom”, Twain wrote when the news of lynchings in Missouri reached him there. So incendiary, Twain allowed publication of the essay only after his death.

At 11:00 a.m., Steven Kellogg will read passages from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and share why he counts it among his favorite books. Dr. Washington will continue the focus on Huck Finn, guiding the audience through critical debates over the work since its publication in 1885 and Twain’s straightforward treatment of slavery and race.

Following their formal presentations, Kellogg, Washington and Alexander will invite the audience to participate with them in an open-ended conversation about Twain and his lasting influence and power to provoke even today, 100 years after his death.

In November, the University of California Press will publish the first of three volumes of Twain’s half-million word autobiography, most of which the author dictated to a stenographer over the course of the four years before he died in 1910. According to New York Times reviewer Larry Rother, “a very different Twain emerges, more pointedly political and willing to play the angry prophet” (NYT 10 Jul 2010).

“Mark Twain in the Adirondacks” will be held at the rustic Guggenheim. Complimentary coffee, tea and pastries will be provided in the morning and ice cream donated by Stewart’s Shops will be served during the afternoon conversation. People are encouraged to pack a lunch.

A $5 donation is requested for Guggenheim program. Optional hour-long boat tours to the privately-owned Kane Camp where Twain stayed will be offered in the afternoon, starting at 2:00 p.m. Sign-up for the tours is on a first come, first serve basis, beginning when the doors open at 9:30 am. Tickets for the boat tours are $20 each, which includes entrance to the talks at Guggenheim Camp.

“Mark Twain in the Adirondacks” is a joint project of Historic Saranac Lake, John Brown Lives!, Paul Smith’s College, Keene Valley Library, and Saranac Lake Free Library. On July 23, Keene Valley Library hosted Huck Finn Out Loud—a twelve-hour marathon reading of the novel. Volunteer readers and listeners from all walks of life hailed from across the North Country and from Paris, France.

North Country Public Radio is media sponsor of “Mark Twain in the Adirondacks”. Funding has been provided by New York Council for the Humanities, Stewart’s Shops, Cape Air, Paul Smith’s College, and International Paper-Ticonderoga Mill. For more information, contact Amy Catania, Director of Historic Saranac Lake at 518-891-4606 or Martha Swan, Director of John Brown Lives! at 518-962-4758.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Commentary: Forest Preserve – Forever Taxable?

The approximately three million acre, publicly-owned and “forever wild” NYS Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks is taxable for all purposes. Since 1886, that’s been the law. How can we make sure such tax obligations are paid, forever? I want it that way, and so do many others.

The law says that Forest Preserve lands shall be valued for tax purposes as if privately owned (Section 532a of the Real Property Tax Law). Late 19th century lawmakers recognized that downstate economic and other benefits of protecting upstate watersheds in the Adirondacks and Catskills more than justified waiving the State’s exemption from being taxed. And thus it has been ever since. » Continue Reading.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Plattsburgh’s Link to a Maritime Tragedy

In the past 200 years, a few ships have borne the name Plattsburg. In the War of 1812, there was the unfinished vessel at Sackets Harbor, a project abandoned when the war ended. There was the rechristened troop transport that hauled thousands of troops home from the battlefields of World War I. There was the oil tanker that saw service in the Pacific theater during World War II. And there was the cruise boat that plied the waters of Lake Champlain in 2003–4. One of them played a role in perhaps the most famous maritime disaster of all time.

The unfinished ship at Sacket’s Harbor had been designated the USS Plattsburg. The oil tanker was the Plattsburg Socony, which survived a horrific fire in 1944. Thirty-three years later, after two more re-namings, it split in two beneath 30-foot waves and sank off Gloucester. The cruise ship was the short-lived Spirit of Plattsburgh. But it is the USS Plattsburg from the First World War that holds a remarkable place among the best “what if” stories ever.

In early April 1917, just three days after the United States entered World War I, a merchant marine ship, the New York, struck a German mine near Liverpool, England. The damage required extensive repairs. A year later, the ship was chartered by the US Navy, converted into a troop transport, and newly christened the USS Plattsburg.

By the time the armistice was signed, ending the war in November of that same year, the Plattsburg had made four trips to Europe within six months, carrying nearly 9,000 troops of the AEF (American Expeditionary Forces) to battle.

The transport assignment continued, and in the next nine months, the Plattsburg made seven additional trips, bringing more than 24,000 American troops home. A few months later, the ship was returned to her owners, reassuming the name SS New York. After performing commercial work for a few years, the ship was scrapped in 1923.

When the end came, the New York had been in service for 35 years. At its launch in 1888 in Glasgow, Scotland, it was named S.S. City of New York. The S.S. indicated it was a “screw steamer,” a steamship propelled by rotating screw propellers (City of New York was one of the first to feature twin screws). After service under the British merchant flag, the ship was placed under the US registry as the New York, where it served in like manner for five more years.

In 1898, the US Navy chartered the New York, renaming it Harvard for service during the Spanish-American War. It served as a transport in the Caribbean, and once plucked more than 600 Spanish sailors from ships that were destroyed off Santiago, Cuba. When the war ended, the Harvard transported US troops back to the mainland, after which it was decommissioned and returned to her owners as the New York.

A few years later, the ship was rebuilt, and from 1903–1917, it was used for routine commercial activities around the world. In April 1912, the New York was at the crowded inland port of Southampton, England. It wasn’t the largest ship docked there, but at 585 feet long and 63 feet wide, it was substantial.

Towering above it at noon on the 10th of April was the Titanic. At 883 feet long, it was the largest man-made vessel ever built. This was launch day for the great ship, and thousands were on hand to observe history. The show nearly ended before it started.

No one could predict what would happen. After all, nobody on earth was familiar with operating a vessel of that size. Just ahead lay the Oceanic and the New York, and as the Titanic slowly passed them, an unexpected reaction occurred.

The Titanic’s more than 50,000-ton displacement of water caused a suction effect, and the New York, solidly moored, resisted. It rose on the Titanic’s wave, and as it dropped suddenly, the heavy mooring ropes began to snap, one by one, with a sound likened to gunshots. The New York was adrift, inexorably drawn towards the Titanic. A collision seemed inevitable.

Huge ships passing within 50 to 100 feet of each other might be considered a close call. In this case, desperate maneuvers by bridge personnel and tug operators saved the day (unfortunately). The gap between the two ships closed to only a few feet (some said it was two feet, and others said four). Had they collided, the Titanic’s maiden voyage would have been postponed.

No one can say for sure what else might have happened, but a launch delay would have prevented the calamity that occurred a few days later, when the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank within hours, claiming more than 1,500 lives.

There you have it. A ship that bore four names—City of New York, Harvard, New York, and Plattsburg—is forever tied to the fascinating, tragic story of the Titanic.

Photo Top: USS Plattsburg at Brest France 1918.

Photo Middle Right: L to R: The Oceanic, New York, and Titanic in Southampton harbor.

Photo Middle Left: The tug Vulcan struggles with the New York to avoid a collision.

Photo Bottom: The New York (right) is drawn ever closer to the Titanic.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Film Shot in Tupper Will Premiere at Wild Center

The much-anticipated local sci-fi adventure Recreator will have its premiere at The Wild Center on Thursday, August 19th at 7pm in advance of a local theatrical run, say the film’s producers, who shot the movie last fall in Tupper Lake. The premiere will benefit the Big Tupper Ski Area, according to Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe and ARISE Chairman Jim LaValley, co-hosts of the event. Tickets for the benefit, which includes the screening, reception and appearances by some of the actors and filmmakers are $25 and available online at » Continue Reading.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

ACW Presents Bill McKibben and Verlyn Klinkenborg

The Adirondack Center for Writing presents Bill McKibben and Verlyn Klinkenborg as a part of The Field Guide to Nature and Environmental Writing – a weekend workshop at Paul Smith’s College. McKibben will give a lecture entitled “Writing and Fighting: The Great Activist Legacy of American Nature Writers” on Friday, August 13th at 7:30 PM. Klinkenborg will read the following evening at the same time, and both talks will be held in The Pine Room at the Joan Weill Student Union on Paul Smith’s Campus. The lectures are open to the public, free for ACW members and $5 for non-members.

Bill McKibben is an American environmentalist at the forefront of climate activism and writing. He published The End of Nature in 1989, the first book for a mass audience on the subject of climate change. Since that groundbreaking release, McKibben founded and manages, which organizes international grassroots climate action, hoping to stabilize global carbon concentrations at 350 ppm.

His most recent book, Eaarth, questions whether we have changed our planet too fundamentally to treat it as the “Earth” we once knew. He outlines how we can live “Lightly, Carefully, Gracefully,” in our communities, and has been called by the Time Magazine, “maybe the world’s best green journalist.” In addition to his groundbreaking climate writing, he is the author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and Durable Future, Wandering Home and edited the collection American Earth.

Bill is a frequent contributor to magazines including The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and Orion Magazine, He is also a board member for Grist Magazine. He has been awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, and he won the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. He lives with his wife Sue Halpern and their daughter Sophie in Ripton, VT. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.

Verlyn Klinkenborg is an acclaimed author of several books, and of the much-loved column “The Rural Life,” which appears on the The New York Times editorial page twenty-six times a year. Tom Brokaw has called Klinkenborg “our modern Thoreau;” others hear echoes of E. B. White in his voice. Like both of them, Klinkenborg observes the juncture at which our lives and the natural world intersect, and finds the luminous details that transform everyday experiences into luminous and revitalizing prose.

His books include The Rural Life, Making Hay, The Last Fine Time, and Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile. He has published extensively in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, National Geographic, Mother Jones, and other periodicals.

Klinkenborg was raised on an Iowa farm belonging to his family, graduated from Pomona College, received a PhD from Princeton, teaches creative writing at a number of American universities and colleges, and lives on a small farm in upstate New York. In 2007, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which is funding his current writing project, The Mermaids of Lapland, about the 18th-century English radical and farmer William Cobbett.

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