Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Adirondack Shakespeare Company’s Season Announced

The Adirondack Shakespeare Company (ADK Shakes) will present its first full Summer Festival Season at the Boathouse Theatre in Schroon Lake Village with As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth. Last year, the company presented Hungry Will’s Variety Hour at the outdoor amphitheater at Scaroon Manor, formerly Taylor’s Point.

This summer, a company of twelve professional actors will present the three plays in repertory over the course of three weeks using ADK Shakes’s trademark, adrenaline-fueled “RAW” performance style. This method – “Shakespeare in The RAW” – strips away all extraneous elements of production, and has yielded the company success, selling out its latest production of Richard III in New York City.

With only Shakespeare’s words remaining, the actors and the audience build the world of the play together in their imaginations. In performance, the audience is let in on that rare moment when the acting company discovers the play for the very first time. Greg Davies, who played the title role in Richard III, calls his experience with the RAW method “the most energy and the most excitement I have ever felt on stage.” The company considers THE RAW as much an extreme sport as it is an art form.

ADK Shakes presents As You Like It on July 16, 22, and 30; Romeo and Juliet on July 18, 23, and 31; and Macbeth on July 25 and 29 and August 1. All performances are at 2:00 p.m. In case of rain, performances will take place inside the Boathouse Theatre in Schroon Lake Village. Weather permitting, performances will be held outside the Theatre at the Bandstand in Schroon Lake Town Park.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.adkshakes.org.

Photo: Tara Bradway as Helena, Collin Ware as Demetrius in a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Hungry Will’s Variety Hour produced by The Adirondack Shakespeare Company in 2010.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Paddle on Osgood Pond

My husband and I are alone. My daughter is worried as she goes off to a play date that we will be lonely. We are soon in the middle of a pond, completely alone. There are no young voices yelling to see a cobweb, bug, rock, or floating stick. There are never long moments of silence. The dynamic children bring to any activity can fill the air and allow one to see things differently. The enthusiasm for the simplest of things is refreshing.

That said, they also have the ability to vacuum the positive energy right out of a given situation with life altering decisions like they no longer like bread while dramatically claiming starvation at the same time they wave a sandwich overhead. Another way is when they have to go to the bathroom only after being life-jacketed and paddling in the middle of a lake no matter how many times they are asked beforehand to take care of business. It happens and we survive but during all the drama I am not always tuned into the hermit thrush’s call.

One easy place to relax is a leisure paddle on Osgood Pond though be warned if fishing is on your agenda that the pond is still under advisory for mercury. The Department of Environmental Conservation publishes a fish advisory regarding the consumption of fish caught in the Adirondacks.

There are three different advisories: The statewide advisory, advisories for children less than 15 years old and for women that are pregnant or might become pregnant and specific advisories for the Adirondack Park. For children and those expecting mothers please heed the warning and do not consume any fish from the list of lakes and ponds under advisory for mercury. According to a 2005 PBS report one in six children born each year are exposed to mercury which, when exposed in high doses, may cause learning disabilities, short-term memory loss and impaired motor skills. So if the warnings apply to you please practice “catch and release” or just enjoy the quiet.

An easy entry to Osgood Pond is the Osgood Pond Waterway Access on White Pines Rd. on Route 86. This pond does not allow personal watercrafts which only adds to our quest for quiet. We put in the canoe and hit an easy pace that is unmatched with children. We glide through the shallow weedy water startling a mother merganser. She attempts to lure us away from the shore. We are happy to oblige.

I don’t want to get philosophical on the joys of parenting. It is a pleasure and a joy. Still, there is a part of me that wistfully listens to the wanderings of my childfree friends. So for today I enjoy a few hours of quiet while my children are invited elsewhere. Today the only constant stream of chatter is that going on is inside my head.

It is a unique situation for us to be surrounded by still. Even the wind is taking a reprieve. Later we will describe the snapping turtles, calm water and gentle call of the hermit thrush to the kids. It will be some time before my daughter understands the difference between being lonely and being alone.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

APA Seeks Comments on Jessup River, Hurricane and Jay Mtns.

The Adirondack Park Agency is accepting public comments on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) compliance for the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area and Jay Mountain Wilderness unit management plans (UMP) and also for the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment. The final draft plans and the proposed final UMP amendment have been completed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and was subject to a series of public meetings and public input during the planning process.

The Adirondack Park Agency will now consider compliance of each of these plans with the State Land Master Plan prior to final adoption by DEC. The Agency will accept public comments on the UMP proposals for the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area and the Jay Mountain Wilderness until 12:00 PM on June 2, 2010; public comments on the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment are due by 12:00 PM on June 16, 2010.

Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area
The Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area (HMPA) is located in the northeast portion of the Adirondack Park in the towns of Elizabethtown, Jay, Keene and Lewis in Essex County. The unit is comprised of one Forest Preserve parcel covering approximately 13,784 acres in area and has approximately 34.3 miles of boundary line.

The area is bounded on the North by the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area, on the south by the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area, and on the east and west by private lands. Other nearby Forest Preserve units include the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area, The High Peaks Wilderness Area, the Taylor Pond Wild Forest and the Wilmington Wild Forest.

The namesake of the unit, Hurricane Mountain, is the highest and most conspicuous peak in the unit. The summit of Hurricane Mountain offers stunning 360 degree views and is a popular destination.

Jay Mountain Wilderness Area
The Jay Mountain Wilderness Area (JMWA) is located in the northeast portion of the Adirondack Park within the Towns of Jay and Lewis in Essex County. The area contains remote, rugged mountains affording spectacular views and is similar in character to the neighboring Hurricane Mountain.

The area is bounded on the north and west by private lands, on the east by the Taylor Pond Wild Forest Planning Area, and on the south by the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area. Other nearby Forest Preserve units include the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area and the Wilmington Wild Forest.

Jessup River Wild Forest
The Jessup River Wild Forest lies in the south-central Adirondack Park. It sits entirely within Hamilton County in the Towns of Arietta, Wells, Indian Lake, Lake Pleasant and the Village of Speculator. The DEC estimates the size of the planning area at 47,350 acres. The area includes Snowy Mountain, the highest peak in the southern Adirondacks – elevation 3,899 feet, more than 24 ponds and lakes – the largest being Fawn Lake and approximately 73 miles of named watercourses including parts of the Cedar, Indian, Jessup, Miami and Sacandaga rivers.

All the UMPs are available for viewing or downloading from the Adirondack Park Agency website.

Written comments should be sent to:

Richard Weber, Supervisor Regional Planning
Planning Division, Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977

Or e-mail: apa_slmp@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Depending on the level of public comment received, the Adirondack Park Agency Board may consider Jay Mountain Wilderness Area and the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area at the June or July 2010 Agency meeting. The Jessup River Wild Forest may be considered at the July 8 and 9 Agency meeting.

Any written comments received after the comment deadline will be provided to board members on meeting day but will not be part of the official record.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Golf Tournament to Benefit NY Snow Sports Athletes

Supporters of the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) efforts on behalf of New York snow sport athletes will be hitting the Mountain Course at the Lake Placid Club for the 12th Annual NYSEF Open golf tournament on Sunday, June 6, 2010. With the event less than a month away 24 teams and 26 sponsors have already registered, with an expected 35+ teams to compete.

Last year’s event raised over $10,000 for area athletes competing in snow sports – alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, cross country skiing, nordic combined and biathlon. This year’s 2010 Olympics boasted 7 former and current NYSEF athletes representing the United States, including: Nick Alexander (Ski Jumping), Lowell Bailey (Biathlon), Tim Burke (Biathlon), Bill Demong (Nordic Combined), Peter Frenette (Ski Jumping), Haley Johnson (Biathlon), and Andrew Weibrecht (Alpine Skiing). » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 17, 2010

A Final Design for West Brook, Gaslight Village Project

Three Lake George environmental conservation groups have released a final design for the West Brook Gaslight Village Project, a stormwater treatment system that will be located on the parcel on the south side of West Brook. Dubbed the “West Brook Conservation Initiative,” the Lake George Association, the FUND for Lake George and the Lake George Land Conservancy, have been working together to develop the project under the terms of a conservation easement they jointly hold with three municipal partners: the town and the village of Lake George, and Warren County.

The final plan includes restored wetlands and an environmental park that will be built on 4.9 acres south of West Brook Road where the Charley’s Saloon building stands south of the former Gaslight Village. The entire 12-acre project represents one of the most important conservation efforts in Lake George’s history, according to advocates. Designed by the Chazen Companies, the plan for the south parcel of the property will restore wetlands to naturally slow stormwater generated from the Route 9 corridor and adjoining properties, capture sediment and filter pollutants which currently make there way to a growing delta at the mouth of West Brook.

Due to the filling of historic wetlands, channeling of the stream, and development in the stream’s watershed, West Brook today is the single largest source of contaminant — pollution, nutrients and sediment — entering the south basin of Lake George. The delta at the mouth of the brook has grown to over 7,000 square meters. The land was once part of the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Yards, and later a string of attractions related to the property next door which housed Gaslight Village from 1959 to 1989.

The project will feature a settling pond to trap and retain sediment, a shallow marsh where wetland plantings will store and treat run-off, and a gravel wetland where dense root mats, crushed stone and a microbe rich environment will improve the water quality before it is conveyed to West Brook. Environmental engineers believe that the best way to treat stormwater is through natural processes of wetlands, where water is captured and retained for a period of time and allowing sediment and nutrients to be dropped out as the water is cleansed.

Project engineers estimate that 90% of the sediment will be successfully treated by this system and over one-half of the nutrients will be removed. The wetland systems are designed to also provide an open environmental park, with interpretative signage, nature trails, elevated walkways, a pavilion, an outdoor classroom, gazebo, overlooks and picnic areas for the general public.

”This project will capture and treat millions of gallons of stormwater that annually flow into the lake untreated,” Peter Bauer, executive director of the FUND for Lake George, said. The project has been carefully designed to require minimal or no maintenance according to Bauer including the use of drought resistant meadow-like grasses will require no mowing, watering or fertilizing. Minimal mowing is expected to be necessary in selected areas close to West Brook Road for aesthetic purposes, although the grass seed to be used there is a mix of fescues that will produce a low-growing and drought tolerant grass. New native plants, shrubs and trees will require little or no weeding, pruning or fertilizing. Periodically – after a few years of maturity – the wetland plantings will need to be thinned and excess plant materials removed.

Some $200,000 in state and federal funding will be used to complete the construction of the project, but money is still needed to repay for the land. In addition to the $2.1 million loan on the Gaslight Village purchase by the LGA and the FUND, the Lake George Land Conservancy is carrying a $2.7 million loan on the 1,400-acre Berry Pond tract, which protects the upland watershed for West Brook.

Demolition of Charley’s Saloon is expected to begin in mid-June, following the conclusion of Americade; construction of the storm water management complex will begin after the Adirondack Nationals Car Show in early September.


Monday, May 17, 2010

The Almanack Welcomes New Contributor Ed Forbes

Please join me in welcoming Ed Forbes as the newest contributor to Adirondack Almanack. Ed graduated from St. Lawrence University with a degree in English, history and Canadian Studies in 2002. He went to work at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake, N.Y. as a reporter, covering local government and the Adirondack Park Agency. In 2003, he became editor of the Enterprise’s weekly sister-paper, the Lake Placid News.

Ed left the News in 2007 to pursue a master’s degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Upon earning that degree in 2008, he joined the staff of The Journal News, in White Plains, N.Y. as page one editor. In March of this year he became interactivity editor. In that role, he is a member of the editorial board and oversees the paper’s blogs and social media efforts. Ed blogs regularly at ejforbes.com and lives with his wife, Emily, and their beagle, Kennedy, in Bronxville, N.Y.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Whiteface Season Pass Deadline Extended

So you haven’t purchased your 2010-2011 adult (ages 23-64), non-holiday Whiteface season pass yet, well you still have time. The deadline to ski and ride the Olympic mountain all season long, excluding holidays, for just $409 has been extended until May 20. This super savings will not be available after this date.

The adult (ages 23-64) Whiteface/Gore non-holiday pass is $549 when purchased by June 17 and increases to $659 before Nov. 18. The blackout dates for both non-holiday passes are Christmas week, Dec. 26-Jan. 2; Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Jan. 15-17; and President’s Week, Feb. 19-26.

The full season pass for Whiteface and Gore is just $699 and increases to $825 June 18 through November 18. These passes are interchangeable at both mountains and are good for every day of the ski season.

Junior (ages 7-12) full season passes are available for $299 when purchased by Nov. 18. The price increases to $399 after that date. The young adult (ages 13-22) and college full season Whiteface/Gore passes are only $375 when purchased by Nov. 18 and increase to $475 thereafter. Proof of ages or college credits are required to purchase this pass.

The Whiteface senior (ages 65-69) non-holiday pass is also just $409 and there are no deadlines for purchase, while the senior Whiteface/Gore non-holiday pass is only $549 and the senior full season pass is just $699. There are also no deadlines to purchase either pass. Skiers ages 70 and older can ski or ride Whiteface and Gore all season long for only $210.

To purchase your season pass today, log on to www.WhitefaceLakePlacid.Com, or call 518.946.2223. Financing is available for adult full season passes when purchased on or before June 17.

Whiteface was also chosen by SnowEast Magazine readers as the East’s favorite resort. Whiteface topped such resorts as Sugarloaf and Sunday River, both in Maine, and even Killington, in Vermont. More than 3,500 readers took part in the poll and they also tabbed Whiteface as the most scenic resort and their favorite destination village.

Whiteface boasts the East’s greatest vertical drop, and was recently named to the Top Five Resorts in the East in SKI Magazine’s Reader Resort Survey 2010. The mountain also received kudos for Après Ski Activities (No. 4), Scenery (No. 5), Challenge and Family Programs (No. 6), Lodging (No. 6), Overall Value (No.7), and Terrain/Variety (No. 8). Whiteface/Lake Placid also earned the distinction of being #1 in the nation for Off-Hill Activities for the 17th straight year.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Adirondack Woodpeckers: The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers

Out along the walkway coming down to the main building here at the VIC, we have an old, hollow snag. There’s a perfectly round hole in the side that I’ve often thought was ideal for a chickadee, but I’ve never seen a bird fly in or out of the tree. One year I took our Treetop Peeper, a cavity camera that is mounted on a telescopic pole, and tried to peek inside the hole, but the opening was a just a bit too small for the camera head, so I never found out if it was being used by birds or not. This morning, however, I heard a loud whack-whack-whack as I came down the walkway. I thought for sure a pileated woodpecker was drilling away, but instead what I saw was its much smaller cousin, the yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius).

First off, you have to love that name: yellow-bellied sapsucker. It sounds like an insult some rustic dude from the Old West might sling at another rustic dude about whom he had a poor opinion. But, when it comes to birds, it is a pretty apt descriptor. The bird, after all, does have a somewhat yellowish tint to its underside, and it does consume the sap of trees, although not by sucking. More on this in a bit.

The sapsucker is one of the smaller woodpeckers in our area, coming in just behind the hairy. Like its relatives, its feathers are mostly black and white, with a touch of red. Both the male and female sport red caps, but only the male has a red throat patch (see photo). And like all good woodpeckers, the sapsucker has stiff tail feathers that act as supports while the bird climbs trees and whacks away at the wood.

When it comes to excavating trees, the sapsuckers make two types of feeding holes. The first kind is round and deep. Into these holes the bird plunges its beak to extract sap. The second type of hole is more rectangular and shallow. These holes are maintained over the course of several days to keep the sap flowing. The bird uses its brush-like tongue to lick up the flowing sap, and any insects that are stuck to it.

Now, there is an art to this whole hole-making jag. You can spot a sapsucker tree at a distance for it will have a series of horizontal rows of holes going around the trunk. The bird makes these rows, one on top of the next, for a reason: they dam up the flow of the phloem sap in the summer. Phloem sap? Time for a little tree physiology 101.

Trees have phloem and xylem – two “types” of wood. The xylem is the part that provides structure to the tree – most of the wood. It also contains the “vessels” through which water and nutrients rise from the roots to the leaves of the trees. It is xylem sap that maple sugerers tap in the spring to make the sweet stuff we put on our pancakes and waffles. It is mostly water.

Phloem, on the other hand, is the part of the tree (wood) that carries nutrients from the leaves back down towards the roots. It is closer to the outer edge of the trunk. The sap that runs through the phloem is thicker, being chocked full of all sorts of nutritious goodies: proteins, amino acids, sugars, etc. It doesn’t flow in the same manner that xylem sap flows. Which raises an interesting question among tree and bird folks: how does the sapsucker keep the flow, well, flowing?

Apparently scientists have studied this and have tried to come up with an answer with little success. Attempts at mimicking the sapsucker’s techniques have met with failure. The conclusion is that there must be some sort of anticoagulant in the bird’s saliva that keeps the tree’s sap fluid enough to flow. Kind of like vampire bat saliva, which has been found to be useful in medicines for patients suffering from blood clots and heart disease, but that’s fodder for another post.

So, we have these birds making row up on row of holes, creating a backlog of sap in the phloem cells above the holes. Each new row taps into this stored sap, providing nutrients not only to the sapsucker, but to a whole host of other animals, from squirrels and porcupines to warblers, hummingbirds and insects. In fact, the sapsucker has been given the label “keystone species” for the role it plays in maintaining food sources for a variety of lifeforms within its community.

Not only that, but it seems that these birds target trees that are often already in poor health. Apparently trees suffering from insect damage, weather damage (wind, lightning), or disease produce a greater amount of protein and amino acids in their sap – no doubt a last ditch effort to try and heal themselves. This extra nutrition is highly attractive to sapsuckers – a bigger bang for their buck, so to speak. This also means they are less likely to tap into healthy trees, which cuts down on the likelihood of the birds irritating foresters and the timber industry.

If you suspect you have yellow-bellied sapsuckers in your woods, you can find out fairly easily by listening. Not only do they have a cat-like call, but when they are whacking away on a tree, the sound is quite distinctive: you’ll hear a series of about five rapid whacks, followed by three or so slower, quieter whacks: WHACK-WHACK-WHACK-WHACK-WHACK …whack…whack…whack. Add this to the discovery of trees riddled with rows of holes, and you can be pretty sure that yellow-bellies have taken up residence in your neighborhood.


Friday, May 14, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, May 14, 2010

Tracing Scouting’s Origins to Silver Bay on Lake George

The Boy Scouts of America has been called the largest environmental organization in the country, and its handbook a conservation best seller.

That both were launched one hundred years ago on Lake George, at Silver Bay, might have remained forgotten were it not for the work of a fifteen year old film maker from Latham.

Blake Cortright’s “First Encampment,” a documentary about the Scouts’ first camp at Silver Bay, will be shown on the Capital District’s WMHT on May 29 and on other public television stations later this year.

In 1910, representatives of boys’ groups from across the country gathered at Silver Bay to create an experimental camp devoted to the teaching of outdoor and leadership skills.

Among them were Dan Beard and Ernest Thompson Seton, both writers, editors and illustrators who were friends of the vigor-worshiping Theodore Roosevelt.

At the end of a trail through the woods, the groups set up camp and built an amphitheater they called the Council Ring, where the Boy Scouts of America came into being around the blazing fires.

(Seton, who wrote the Boy Scout Handbook, designed the Scouts’ uniform at the site.)

“I would not have known about the First Encampment had our troop not made a pilgrimage to Silver Bay in 2008 to trace the roots of scouting,” said Cortright, an Eagle Scout himself.

At the very same Council Ring, Silver Bay volunteer and historian Robert James regaled the scouts with the tale of the organization’s birth.

“For forty five minutes, the kids listened with rapt attention,” said Cortright.

That presentation was the germ of the documentary, which relies upon James’ research and features interviews with him at his home in Slingerlands.

Silver Bay’s archives provided many of the early 20th century photos illustrating the narrative, much of it delivered by John Kearny.

Kearny, a Lake George steamboat captain, actor and voice-over artist, was recruited by his son Kyle, a scouting friend of Cortright’s.

Once the documentary was completed, Cortright’s mother Connie made certain that it was seen.

“I made a cold call to WMHT and persuaded the staff to watch it,” said Connie. “They called back a month later and said they were prepared to put it on the air. I didn’t realize at the time how difficult it is to get something broadcast.”

“First Encampment” is Cortright’s first documentary, but unlikely to be his last. He hopes to go film school.

“I learned everything by doing it backwards, but it was a wonderful experience,” said Cortright.

The “First Encampment” DVD may be purchased online at http://www.thefirstencampment.com and at local bookstores.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, May 14, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Two Hendricks: A Mohawk Indian Mystery

In September 1755 the most famous Indian in the world was killed in the Bloody Morning Scout that launched the Battle of Lake George. His name was Henderick Peters Theyanooguin in English, but he was widely known as King Hendrick. In an unfortunate twist of linguistic and historical fate, he shared the same first name as another famous Native American, Hendrick Tejonihokarawa, who although about 30 years his senior, was also famous in his own right. He was one of the “Four Indian Kings” who became a sensation in London in 1710, met Queen Anne, and was wined and dined as an international celebrity.

Both Hendricks were Mohawk warriors. Both were Christians who aided Great Britain against France in their struggles for empire. Both served as important sachems who stressed cooperation instead of bloody confrontation and who helped negotiate the relationship between their fellow Mohawks and European colonials who recognized that the Iroquois Confederacy was critical to the balance of power in early 18th century America. Both Hendricks, were later confused by historians into one man. Eric Hinderaker’s The Two Hendricks: Unraveling a Mohawk Mystery sets out to unearth the lives of these two important Mohawk men and untangle their stories from a confused history of colonial Native American relations.

King Hendrick (1692-1755), whose death in battle and burial place are memorialized in almost forgotten ground along the highway between Glens Falls and Lake George Village, was already famous at the time of the Bloody Morning Scout, the same attack that claimed
the life of Ephraim Williams, founder of Williams College (the year before he died he gave an important speech at the Albany Congress of 1754). His death during the French and Indian War in the cause of British Empire however, propelled his fame and ships and taverns were named in his honor abroad.

The earlier Hendrick (c.1660-c.1735) took part in King Williams War, including the failed attempt to launch an all-out invasion of Canada in retaliation for Frontiac’s raid in February 1690 which destroyed Schenectady. He was among the Mohawks of Tiononderoge (the Lower Castle), who were swindled out of their lands along the Mohawk by their colonial neighbors.

Part of the value of The Two Hendricks, however, lies not only in its untangling of the two men, but also in coming to grips with the ways in which the swindling often worked both ways. Hendrick, a common Dutch name equivalent to Henry, was just one part of their names, but Mohawk names comprise the other part. Hinderaker’s new book demonstrates that both Hendricks gave as well as they got in building alliances, fame, and power that left them among the most famous Native Americans in history.

Photo Above: Henderick Peters Theyanooguin (King Hendrick), wearing the English coat he wore on public occasions and his distinctive facial tattoo. This print, published just after his death and titled “The brave old Hendrick, the great Sachem or Chief of the Mohawk Indians,” is considered the most accurate likeness of the man.

Photo Below: Hendrick Tejonihokarawa, one of the “Four Indian Kings” who traveled to London in 1710. The print, by John Verelst, is entitled “Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row, Emperor of the Six Nations.” The title “Emperor” was a bit of a stretch, he belonged to the council of the Mohawk tribe, but not to that of the Iroquois Confederacy as a whole.

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


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Free Admission to Adirondack Museum for Locals

The Adirondack Museum once again extends an invitation to year-round residents of the Adirondack Park to visit free of charge from May 28 through June 30, 2010. Through this annual gift to close friends and neighbors, the museum welcomes visitors from all corners of the Adirondack Park. Proof of residency – such as a driver’s license, passport, or voter registration card – is required.

The museum is open daily, 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., from May 28 through October 18, 2010. There will be an early closing on August 13, and extended hours on August 14; the museum will close for the day on September 10. Visit their website for exact times and details.

The Adirondack Museum tells stories of the people – past and present — who have lived, worked, and played in the unique place that is the Adirondack Park. History is in our nature. The museum is supported in part by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pin Cherry: An Overlooked Adirondack Native

A little bit of sunshine, a little bit of rain, and suddenly the trees are in bloom. It starts off slowly, with our friend the shadbush, but before you know it, white blossoms are springing forth from trees and shrubs all around us. In just a short amount of time, the novelty of delicate white flowers can become mundane, as one flowering shrub starts to look like the next. Add to this some similarity in names, and it is not surprising that many of our native shrubs are unknown or misidentified. In an attempt to shed some light on this confusing subject, today I give you the pin cherry (Prunus pennsylvanica).

The pin cherry is a small tree, or a large shrub, I suppose, depending on how you look at it. Further south, in the Great Smokey Mountains, it can reach heights of 30 to 40 feet and a diameter of 20 inches. Around here, however, I’ve only seen it as a fairly small tree – a giant if it reaches ten feet. This could be because the deer browse it heavily in winter, preventing it from gaining much height. What it lacks in stature, however, it seems to make up for with stems – instead of a single trunk rising serenely above the surrounding vegetation, it grows into rather dense copses, sometimes mixed in with its relatives the choke cherries (P. virginiana), black cherries (P. serotina), and the look-alike choke berries (Aronia sp.). And when they all come into flower, they can be difficult for the novice to tell apart, especially at a distance.

Pin cherry, also called fire cherry, bird cherry, wild cherry and red cherry, has long, narrow, dark green leaves that are very finely toothed along the edge. The delicate white flowers grow in clusters from single points along the branches, much like the needles on a white pine or larch. Each flower blossoms at the end of a long stem. When the flowers become fruits, they resemble large-headed pins, like the hat pins used by women long years ago. Today we might liken them to corsage pins.

The other common names are equally easy to interpret. The birds (and other wildlife) happily feed on the wild red fruits in fall. When a disturbance, like fire, moves through the forest, this pioneer species is one of the first to produce seedlings in the newly opened spaces. This is because the seeds can remain viable in the soil upwards of a hundred years! Just add sunshine and voila!

Insects also delight in this unassuming shrub. Spring brings bees and flies galore to sup at the flowers, making the whole plant buzz with life. Come summer, look for white trails on the leaves – these are the mines made by the larvae of a small moth known only by its scientific name: Bucculatrix copeuta. This moth is a true specialist, for its larvae feed on nothing but pin cherry leaves.

While a boon to wildlife wherever it grows, and a delight to the eye in the spring with its froth of flowers and in the fall with its glowing-coal-red leaves, to the logger pin cherry is naught but a weedy thing, a tree with no timber value. Reading through Donald Peattie’s A Natural History of Trees one can tell that this is a species for which the author has little regard, which is surprising considering the elegant prose and great praise he provides across most of the pages of this book.

Still, the fruits are edible by people as well as wildlife. I found a couple recipes online for pin cherry jelly and pudding. The important thing to remember is that the seeds/pits (as well as the leaves and bark) do contain hydrocyanic acid, which is toxic, so be sure you only eat the flesh of the fruit.

Last spring I planted a row of native shrubs/trees along the border of my property. Two of these plants were pin cherries. While each of the thirteen new shrubs was barely more than a stick with roots when placed in its new home, the pin cherries burst forth with blossoms this year. What a pleasant surprise when one isn’t expecting anything more productive than leaves for the next two or three years. I’m sure the birds will also appreciate the earlier-than-expected fruits when fall returns in a few months’ time.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Canoe Racing: ‘Round the Mountain is This Weekend

The Adirondack’s summer flatwater racing season begins this weekend with the ‘Round the Mountain Canoe Race, a fun and scenic 10.5 mile course that goes around Mount Dewey, May 15th.

The race begins at Ampersand Bay on Lower Saranac Lake. There, kayaks and canoes of all types will depart in a staggered format. You’ll see avid races with tight-fitting shirts and sleek, tippy racing canoes, guideboats, kayakers of all stripes, and canoes ranging from 1 to 8 people.

After the race begins at 11 a.m., competitors head through Lower Saranac Lake, down the Saranac River to a short but slippery portage. From there, the race traverses the left side of Oseetah Lake to the finish line — only a few miles from the start.

The race is the first of a half-dozen regional races, culminating in the famous three-day 90-miler in September. You’ll recognize the serious competitors by their odd-looking racing boats, and their various time-saving techniques (such as taping energy food to the side of the boat, or attaching a tube to a water bottle to make for instant access to a drink).

Those who don’t expect to win might want to take a breather now and again to enjoy the fantastic views, along with the sheer thrill of being part of a racing pack.

When I joined a team of four last year, rain was threatening and the wind was blowing hard. On Oseetah Lake, we made the mistake of following a lost kayaker into the middle of the maelstrom. It was only by divine providence and a well-slapped paddle from the experienced racer in the bow that kept us from being knocked over in the huge waves.

Eventually, we turned around and made it safely to the other side, passing several other dumped boats whose former occupants were not so lucky.

For those who have never canoe-raced before, it’s a great way to try out the sport — and you can rent a local, lightweight boat if you don’t have one. The race begins at 11 a.m., and entry is $25.

For more information on the race, click here.


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