Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lake Placid Celebrates Olympic Day Saturday

The United States Olympic Committee’s Lake Placid Olympic Training Center and the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) are teaming up to present Olympic Day, Saturday, June 25, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Olympic Training Center, 196 Old Military Rd., in Lake Placid. Village of Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall will open Olympic Day with the Olympic Day Proclamation.

The free event gives families and youngsters the chance to try Olympic sports and meet athletes from biathlon, luge, bobsled, ski jumping and Nordic combined, freestyle aerials, speed skating, figure skating and canoe and kayak. Plus participants can try luge on the fully refrigerated indoor start ramps at USA Luge’s headquarters. Visitors can also watch athletes train, including 2010 U.S. bobsled Olympian John Napier. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

High Peaks Happy Hour: Tavern 16 Stony Creek

A diamond in the rough? Set back from the road, porch covered in vines, (which we later learned were hops); the dirt parking area and picnic tables are deceiving. Step onto the porch and the entrance inspires curiosity. Round tables with sprawling chairs invoke a shady retreat. No sign that we noticed, just a simple number 16, embellished with scroll work, over the front entrance-way of Tavern 16.

Enter and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Upper walls on three sides are completely covered in various pieces of artwork, some originals, some prints (we’re pretty sure the VanGogh was a print), including a painting of the Sagamore Hotel, among other works by Elsie Soto, mother of owner Hank. Decorative panels beneath the bar, each one unique, are also creations of hers. The bar on the opposite wall is adorned with intricately detailed oak wood and mirrors, once bed headboards. Every glance reveals some now object of interest, painstakingly selected and collected by owners Hank and Toni. We take a seat at the bar and wonder where to purchase our tickets to this museum.

The bartender waits patiently while Pam surveys the liquor display. Oooh, pear flavored vodka, something she hasn’t tried yet. Ken suggests the pear with club soda and a splash of cranberry and Pam agrees. We are recognized by a long lost acquaintance and our story unfolds. Kim wishes she brought her wide angle lens for the photo shoot; there is so much to observe. Pam is eager to check out the bathroom and is not disappointed once she does. It’s a little gallery in there.

A pool table is nearly centered in the room, with maybe 50 trophies hanging above it and a few pool cues as well. We know the history of the family behind this tavern so we are not as surprised as some might be. Henry Soto, known as “Pop”, is a locally renowned pool shark. Reigning champions for at least the last decade, the Tavern 16 pool league, “Pop’s Pool League”, is reverently named for him. His son, Hank, has been a member of the Stony Creek Band for more than 30 years. Interestingly, neither Hank nor his father has aged much in those 30 years.

Pam begins her fact-finding dialogue with the bartender, Ken, and finds him extremely knowledgeable about the history and the everyday details of Tavern 16 – more like a curator than bartender. When she eventually learns that he was just filling in for the day, she is even more impressed. He is, in fact, more a patron than curator. In either role, Ken seems genuinely fond and proud of the establishment and its owners. The patrons, too, are quite proud of Tavern 16, its history, and the history of Stony Creek.

On a follow-up visit, it seemed everyone in the place had a story or morsel of trivia they wanted to share: “You don’t need a tattoo to fit in here.” “The jukebox has the most eclectic collection of music in the Adirondacks.” “Stony Creek has the highest number of single men per capita in Warren County.” And so on. Tavern 16 served as the Grange Hall in the 1940’s, but judging from newspapers used as insulation in the walls and dated 1865, Hank concludes that it was built in the mid-1800’s.

Ken modestly reveals that he has an interest in drink creation and shared an unnamed blend with us, which we have dubbed Ken’s Creekside Cooler until something better comes up. Jennifer, Tavern 16’s longest-standing bartender has a list of her own drink creations as well, including Sex in the Creek and the Jen-Garita, though her recipes are secret and she didn’t want to share. You’ll have to see her personally for that.

Ken’s Creekside Cooler
1 part tequila
1 part Absolut Citron
Pineapple juice

Tavern 16 is open every day, year round, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. (or later) and closes ONLY on Thanksgiving Day. Though they don’t serve food, in winter months a crockpot of something tasty and comforting is always simmering.

During the summer months, Tavern 16 hosts a cookout every Tuesday evening in conjunction with the town sponsored Stony Creek Music in the Park series of concerts. The first of this season is on July 5 at 7:00 p.m., rain or shine. They fire up the grill at about 5:30 at the Tavern 16. Food is free, but you can bring along something to share. One day a year, a Customer Appreciation Day cookout is held as well. We apparently just missed that event. Drink prices are in the low to average range, but a Saranac Pale Ale pint was a little pricier than most places we’ve reviewed. Don’t let that stop you though. Just experiencing this tavern is worth it.

Several bikers came in while we were there and Pam couldn’t resist a little friendly taunting. Yes, Pam would have to taunt the bikers! They offered some information about other bars in the Adirondacks that we must visit, gave her more insight about Sporty’s Tavern in Minerva, and eventually headed out. Probably wanted to get to a WiFi hotspot to check out our blog on their iPhones or Blackberries.

This is a “must see” tavern. Next time you are in Stony Creek, stop in, but put your transition lens glasses in your pocket for a few minutes before entering. You’ll find a warm, welcoming staff, a friendly bunch of locals who like to tell stories, and probably a visitor or two. And be sure to mention Happy Hour in the High Peaks if you run into Ken or Hank.

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.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Philosophy: Caring About Environmental Conservation

I recently gave a talk at a gathering of philosophical practitioners on making the transition from theory to praxis as it relates to environmental conservation. In other words, how do I make the shift from caring about a situation to doing something about that situation? At what point does sentiment or care become the behavior of care?

Incidentally, this question is subtly though importantly different from the one that those of us who advocate for a particular agenda generally ask namely: how can we get others to care about and participate in this initiative?
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Long Lake Graduates a Class of One

This is the Long Lake Central School class of 2011, Stephen Pitcher. According to a school newsletter Stephen is an honors student who plans to attend Onondaga Community College to study electrical engineering. He was a member of the student council, played varsity basketball for the Long Lake/Indian Lake Orange, and helped build an electric race car, which his school team drove to second place at Watkins Glen. The school will not hold a graduation ceremony this year, at the Pitcher family’s request.

People in this Hamilton County town of 800 are exploring the feasibility of a magnet school, mainly to draw new students to their district. The school board has begun to research three specialties: the environment, the arts and “safe haven” schools, which provide alternatives for students in chronically violent city schools.

Many Adirondack schools struggle with low enrollment, and they share proms, sports teams and other resources with neighboring districts. Raquette Lake Central School closed in 2005, busing its last three students to Indian Lake. Hamilton County will celebrate only 52 graduates this week, according to the Hamilton County Express.

Some isolated districts are trying unorthodox things to keep their schools from closing. The New York Times last week profiled Newcomb Central School’s recruitment of students from 19 countries over the past four years. Schools are often an Adirondack town’s largest employer and social core as logging and other traditional economies decline or transition.

Long Lake Central School’s superintendent did not respond to telephone calls from the Almanack.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Phil Brown: Debating Wilderness Trail Running

Last weekend, the Mountaineer sponsored an annual footrace that passes through the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area in Keene. It’s a popular event that benefits local charities.

This year, as in the past, I received an e-mail at the Adirondack Explorer from Jim Close contending that the race is illegal.

Close argues that competitive races violate the letter and spirit of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which defines Wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man” and which offers “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.”

“It is no more appropriate to hold competitive running events in the wilderness than it is to play baseball in the Sistine Chapel,” Close wrote the Explorer.

Since the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues permits each year for the Great Adirondack Trail Run, it obviously disagrees with Close (who, incidentally, works at DEC). The department also has issued a permit for the Wakely Dam Ultra in July, a 32.6-mile race through the West Canada Lake Wilderness.

Close may be something of a gadfly, but he is not alone in his criticism. Earlier this year, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve called on DEC to prohibit such events in Wilderness Areas as well as in Primitive and Canoe Areas. And several years ago, the historian Philip Terrie published a piece in the Adirondack Explorer contending that races violate management guidelines for Wilderness Areas.

“The spirit, the ethos, of the State Land Master Plan makes it clear from the outset that the state seeks to protect a certain kind of experience, one that involves serenity, getting away from the life of city and suburb, and a personal engagement with nature,” Terrie wrote. “All of these are fundamentally disrupted when an erratic procession of runners comes barreling down the trail.”

Apart from the interpretation of the State Land Master Plan, there are two basic concerns: (1) Do these competitions damage the environment? (2) Do they detract from the wilderness experience of hikers and other recreationists?

In a letter to DEC, Adirondack Wild asserts that “organized events which concentrate human use on the Forest Preserve demonstrably do a lot of damage to natural resources.”

However, DEC says there is no evidence that the Great Adirondack Trail Run or the Wakely Dam Ultra inflicts lasting damage on the Forest Preserve.

As to the second question, it’s true that some hikers might be annoyed by passing runners. The fact is, though, that DEC has received no complaints from hikers in the years it has permitted the trail runs. It’s possible that hikers were annoyed but didn’t lodge a complaint. Still, the lack of an outcry suggests that the annoyance to hikers is more hypothetical than actual. And it must must be weighed against the real benefits that races bring to the community and to the competitors.

Judging by the evidence, then, it appears that trail races do no harm and bother no one (in the field, at least). If the evidence turns out to be wrong, DEC should reconsider its position. Otherwise, the argument against these races relies on the interpretation of the State Land Master Plan, which is not explicit on the matter.

Some people might object to trail races—or even solo trail running—on aesthetic grounds. How can a person appreciate nature while dashing through the forest? This question was asked in 2002 when Ted “Cave Dog” Keizer, in a highly publicized effort, set a speed record (later broken) for climbing all the High Peaks. Last week, Sheryl Wheeler set a record by completing the 122-mile Northville-Placid Trail in 35 hours 15 minutes. After we posted a link about her feat on the Explorer’s Facebook page, one person commented, “Wow way to enjoy nature.”

As someone who occasionally runs on trails (though not for 122 miles), I can address this point. First, running through the forest is a way to enjoy nature. It’s just different from hiking, say, or birding. Second, if I am at all typical, most trail runners are also hikers, paddlers, cross-country skiers, etc. Running is just one way they enjoy nature, not the only way. The suggestion that trail runners don’t appreciate nature is a canard. Third, if someone wants to run on a trail, as opposed to walk, skip, or ride a bike, so what?

Those of you who do enjoy trail running may be interested in a new online venture called Xoona (ZOO-na), begun by Peter Fish and Allan Rego, two outdoors enthusiasts from Lake Placid. The Xoona website contains a number of routes for trail running (as well as other outdoor pursuits). Participants run the routes at their convenience— alone or with friends — and post their times. It’s a way of competing without the hassle or expense of organized races. And without the legal questions.

You can learn more about Xoona in an article by Susan Bibeau in the July/August issue of the Adirondack Explorer. Click here to read it online.

Photo by Susan Bibeau: a trail runner on a Xoona course.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Scenic RR Summer Events

There certainly is controversy about the Adirondack Scenic Railroad being a viable tourist attraction versus the tracks becoming an interconnecting bike path through the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.

Those that believe the expense, need and usage isn’t warranted are often pitted against nostalgic train riders who want to ride the rails. For now the Adirondack Scenic Railroad is running full steam ahead for the summer season. For parents wishing for a different type of experience, perhaps this is the way to go.

I have never been sure what made my son stop in his tracks when he heard a train’s whistle. Is it a taste of magic, new destinations or a promise of adventure? For us as we board the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and hear the conductor yell “Ready to button up,” it is a bit of each. With our busy lives this is one Adirondack family activity where we really do get to sit and watch clouds go by. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vintage Fire Equipment Show July 23rd

This year Chilson Volunteer Fire Department will celebrate its 50th anniversary with an antique-and-classic firefighting equipment show at the department’s annual barbecue.

The event, which is open to the public, takes place on July 23rd at the department’s headquarters, 60 Putts Pond Road in Ticonderoga. Festivities begin at noon and the barbecue will be served beginning at 2:00 p.m. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bishop Wins Wilmington-Whiteface 100 K Bike Race

On Sunday over 200 cyclists participated in the Wilmington/Whiteface 100 K race. While some were hoping just to complete the challenging 57-mile course, others were aiming to qualify for the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race (LT100). People from all walks of life competed in this event, from professionals to Olympic athletes.

The Leadville 100 was created in 1994 and participants previously had to gain access by using a lottery system; now, athletes hoping to complete in the prestigious race can qualify through one of the qualifying races in Wilmington, Tahoe, and Crested Butte. Each of the three races allow 100 racers to qualify for spots in the LT 100; 50 of these slots are based on age group performance, while the other 50 with a drawing among the athletes who finished within the time standard. Wilmington’s race, along with the other two in the western part of the country, is one of the inaugural races, as 2011 is the first year ever to allow athletes to qualify. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Adirondack Insects: The Spittlebug

After several days without a significant rain, an observant gardener pulling up clumps of weeds, or a perceptive hiker traveling through a pine forest or a meadow near a stand of conifers may notice a glob of saliva-like fluid attached to a wildflower stalk or the stem of a piece of grass.

Occasionally referred to by some people as snake spit, or frog spit, this common frothy deposit of whitish, watery liquid is neither associated with a snake or frog, nor is it produced by the salivary glands of any creature. The spit-like fluid seen on various plants during the early days of summer in the Adirondacks is a form of protective enclosure that surrounds a small insect known as the spittlebug. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Essex County Grange Hall Farm Mixer

The Greenhorns, a national nonprofit organization led by a self described “raucous posse of America’s new generation of farmers,” will host a grange hall mixer at the historic Whallonsburg Grange Hall on the shores of Lake Champlain this Saturday, June 25th beginning at 10 am and continuing into the night.

More than 150 aspiring, young, beginning and veteran farmers from the Hudson Valley, Champlain Valley, Capital Region, Adirondacks, and even some Vermonters are expected to attend this inaugural event. » Continue Reading.


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