Thursday, March 15, 2012

Adirondack Fish and Game Report (Mar 15)

Adirondack Almanack provides this weekly Hunting and Fishing Report each Thursday evening, year round. The Almanack also provides weekly backcountry recreation conditions reports for those headed into the woods or onto the waters.

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

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

** indicates new or revised items.

** LATE WINTER CONDITIONS
Temperatures are forecast to be in 50 and 60s this week, cooler in the higher elevations and nighttime temperatures remain near freezing. Warm weather and rains have decreased snow cover so that there is little to no snow in the lower elevations, and most trails are muddy and very icy. There is still some two feet of snow at higher elevations where skis or snowshoes continue to be necessary. Crampons will be necessary at higher elevations and should be carried and used when necessary in all areas. Lake ice, and snow and ice bridges at water crossings have melted. The levels of streams in the central Adirondacks has risen and low water crossings may not be passable; use caution crossing streams and stay off ice on water. Backcountry users should continue to be prepared for cold weather by wearing a waterproof outer shell, appropriate layered clothing, drink plenty of water and eat plenty of food to avoid hypothermia, and be prepared to spend the night in freezing temperatures in an emergency.

** SNOW DEPTH REPORT
Although sheltered areas can still contain considerable snow, there is little to no snow on the ground at lower elevations throughout the Adirondacks. There is still plenty of snow in the High Peaks where the Lake Colden Interior Cabin caretaker reports 24 inches at the stake. Snow depth at most trailheads to higher elevations is thin or non-existent, but snow depths increase as trail elevation increases. The National Weather Service snow cover map provides a good gauge of snow cover around the region, albeit somewhat under-reporting actual snow accumulations.

** ICE IS OUT
Ice is generally out, extremely thin or consists of weak layers of water, slush and ice. Travel on ice should be avoided – including Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake.

** NEARLY ALL SNOWMOBILE TRAILS NOW CLOSED
Nearly all snowmobile trails throughout the Adirondacks have been closed for the season. There are still some pockets of snow around Hamilton County around Morehouse and the Town of Webb, but getting to good snow is an issue, so for all intents and purposes the snowmobile season has ended. Snowmobile trails in the Jessup River Wild Forest, the Moose River Plains Wild Forest and the Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement Lands are closed and the gates have been shut for mud season. End of the season die-hards should show restraint in areas with insufficient snow cover to avoid damaging the trails. Stay off lake ice!

** KNOW THE LATEST WEATHER
Check the weather before entering the woods or heading onto the waters and be aware of weather conditions at all times. The National Weather Service (NWS) at Burlington and Albany cover the Adirondack region.

** Fire Danger: LOW – MODERATE

FIREWOOD BAN IN EFFECT
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 been ticketing violators of the firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

ADIRONDACK FISHING REPORTS

** WATERS RUNNING ABOVE NORMAL LEVELS
The levels of streams in the central Adirondacks has risen and low water crossings may not be passable; use caution crossing streams and stay off ice on water. Most waters are running above normal for this time of year and the Hudson, Independence, and Oswegatchie rivers are running well above normal. Consult the latest streamgage data if you our venturing onto the region’s waters.

** LOW SNOW PACK MAY AFFECT PADDLING, RAFTING, FISHING
This has been fourth-warmest winter on record for lower 48 states and below normal snowpack is being reported by climatologists across the region. Reduced snowpack could mean lower levels for rivers and streams this spring, a situation that could reduce the threat of floods, but hamper paddlers and rafters looking for class big rapids this spring. The Hudson, Sacandaga, and Schroon rivers could be notably affected. Unless there are torrential spring rains, the Hudson River may not reach the level required for class five rapids as this rafting season begins. On the Ausable, low water two years ago and extreme flooding last year, combined with lower water levels this spring could adversly affect the upcoming trout season which begins April 1. Spring stocking could also be affected.

** Water Temperatures
Water temperatures in many of the Adirondack waters have dropped into the lower 30s, colder water temperatures can be expected in higher elevation waters. Lake Champlain water temperature is 34 degrees.

Free Fishing Day Clinics for 2012 Announced
Each year DEC offers free fishing day clinics at various locations statewide. This means participants can enjoy a day of fishing without the need to purchase a fishing license. In addition, participants learn about fish identification, fishing equipmentand techniques, DEC fisheries management, angling ethics and more. Free Fishing Clinics are scheduled for May 19 at Hawkins Point, Massena, at Remington Pond and all waters on Ft. Drum, and on June 30 and July 1 at Silver Bay YMCA on Lake George (pre-registration required). A full list of DEC’s 2012 Free Fishing Day clinic locations is available online.

DEC Announces Proposed Freshwater Fishing Changes
Proposed changes to the current freshwater fishing regulations were announced today by the DEC. DEC will accept public comments on the proposals through April 2, 2012. Changes under consideration for this proposal were available on DEC’s website earlier this year for comment. This feedback, in addition to comments received from angling interest groups, provided input to the development of the regulation changes which include (among others): The establishment of a special walleye regulation of 18-inch minimum size and three per day in Lake Pleasant and Sacandaga Lake (Hamilton County) to aid restoration of the walleye populations in these waters; Prohibit fishing from the Lake Pleasant outlet to the mouth of the Kunjamuk River (Hamilton County) from March 16 until the first Saturday in May (opening day for walleye) to protect spawning walleye; Open Lake Kushaqua and Rollins Pond (Franklin County) to ice fishing for lake trout as these populations are considered stable enough to support this activity; Open Blue Mountain Lake, Eagle Lake, Forked Lake, Gilman Lake, South Pond and Utowana Lake (Hamilton County) to ice fishing for landlocked salmon and reduce the daily limit for lake trout in these waters from three per day to two per day. Combined with an existing regulation this change will create a suite of nine lakes in Hamilton County that will have the same ice fishing regulations for lake trout and landlocked salmon. Delete the catch and release trout regulation for Jordan River from Carry Falls Reservoir upstream to Franklin County line (St. Lawrence County) because this regulation is considered inappropriate for this remote stream section. Delete the special trout regulation for Palmer Lake (Saratoga County) to match the statewide regulation. This minor adjustment would extend the season 15 days. Delete special ice fishing regulation for Square Pond (Franklin County) because this water will no longer be managed for trout. Open specific waters to ice fishing currently deemed as trout waters in the counties of Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and St. Lawrence Counties as ice fishing can be allowed for at these locations. Provide for ice fishing at a privately managed water in Hamilton County (Salmon Pond) that is stocked with trout by a private party, as requested. The full text of the draft regulation as well as instructions for submitting comments can be found on DEC’s website. Comments on the proposals can be sent via e-mail to fishregs@gw.dec.state.ny.us, or mailed to Shaun Keeler, New York State DEC, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753. Hard copies of the full text can be requested from Shaun Keeler at the same addresses listed above. Final regulations, following full review of public comments, will take effect October 1, 2012.

Special Fishing Seasons Remain Open
The statewide trout season is closed but there are some exceptions to this regulation. The catch-and-release areas on the West Branch of the Ausable River, Saranac River and the Battenkill remain open as well as a few ponds such as Mountain Pond, Lake Clear & Lake Colby in Franklin County; and Connery Pond in Essex County. Lake Champlain and sections of its tributaries are open all year for trout and salmon fishing. To find out which waters near you still have trout fishing opportunities, check the special fishing regulations by County.

** Some Fishing Seasons Now Closed
Open seasons include Pike, Pickerel, Tiger Muskie, Walleye seasons are now closed (they reopen May 15). Yellow Perch, Crappie, and Sunfish seasons are open all year. Black Bass season is closed but catch-and-release fishing for bass is allowed in the following Region 5 Counties; Clinton, Essex, Warren, Washington, Saratoga, and Fulton Counties. For catch and size limits view the freshwater fishing regulations online.

Personal Flotation Devices Required
Boaters are reminded all persons aboard a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet regardless of age must wear a personal flotation device from November 1st to May 1st.

** Lake Clear
The gate for the road to Lake Clear Girl Scout Camp is shut for the mud season. This road is used to access Meadow and St. Germain Ponds.

Use Baitfish Wisely
Anglers using fish for bait are reminded to be careful with how these fish are used and disposed of. Careless use of baitfish is one of the primary means by which non-native species and fish diseases are spread from water to water. Unused baitfish should be discarded in an appropriate location on dry land. A “Green List” of commercially available baitfish species that are approved for use in New York State has now been established in regulation. A discussion of these regulations and how to identify approved baitfish species is available online. Personal collection and use of baitfish other than those on the “Green List” is permitted, but only on the water from which they were collected and they may not be transported overland by motorized vehicle. Anglers are reminded that new regulations for transportation of baitfish are currently under consideration, and these proposed regulations can be viewed online.

Preventing Invasive Species and Fish Diseases
Anglers are reminded to be sure to dry or disinfect their fishing and boating equipment, including waders and boots, before entering a new body of water. This is the only way to prevent the spread of potentially damaging invasive plant and animal species (didymo and zebra mussels) and fish diseases (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) and whirling disease). Methods to clean and disinfect fishing gear can be found online.

Health Advisories on Fish
The NYSDOH has issued the 2010-2011 advisories on eating sportfish and game. Some of fish and game contain chemicals at levels that may be harmful to human health. See the DEC webpage on Fish Health Advisories for more information and links to the Department of Health information.

ADIRONDACK HUNTING REPORTS

2011 Whitetail Deer Harvest Report
The 2011 deer take varied less than one percent from the 2010 take statewide. In 2011, hunters took slightly more than 118,350 antlerless deer (adult females and fawns) and just over 110,000 adult male deer (bucks). In the northern zone, the buck take (about 15,900) was
essentially unchanged from 2010, though the antlerless harvest (about 10,900) was down about 13 percent from last year. More details and links to the full harvest summaries are available online.

2011 Black Bear Harvest Report
Outside of the Adirondack region the 2011 bear harvest set new records, substantially exceeding previous record takes in central and western New York. In contrast, bear take in the Adirondack region dropped to a level not seen since 1998. The bear take was below the five-year average during each of the bear seasons and the overall bear take was down about 47 percent from 2010 for the region. Bear harvest rates in the Adirondacks typically drop in the early season during years of abundant soft mast (cherries, raspberries and apples), while the take will increase during the regular season in years with abundant beech nuts. More details and links to the full harvest summaries are available online.

Most Small Game Seasons Closed
Grey, Black and Fox Squirrel, Snipe, Rail, Gallinule, Ruffed Grouse, Pheasant, Woodcock, Coyote, Fox, Raccoon, Skunk, Opossum, and Weasel seasons are now closed. Crow, Cottontail, Varying Hare, and Coyote Season remain open. See the DEC Small Game webpage for more information on seasons and regulations.

Most Trapping Seasons Closed
Fisher, Martin, Coyote, Red Fox, Gray Fox, Raccoon, Skunk, Opossum, Weasel, and Bobcat seasons are now closed in all Region 5 WMUs; Mink and Muskrat season closes April 15 in all Region 5 WMUs except 5R, 5S & 5T where it closes April 7. Otter season closes April 7 in all Region 5 WMUs except 5S and 5T where it closed February 28 and in 5R where there is no trapping season. Beaver season closes April 7 in all Region 5 WMUs.

Snow Goose Season Now Open
In the Northeastern Waterfowl Hunting Zone Snow Goose season reopens February 24 and closes April 15. Note that the boundary between the Northeastern and the Southeastern Waterfowl Hunting Zones now runs east along Route 29 to Route 22, north along Route 22 to Route 153, east along Route 153 to the New York – Vermont boundary.

DEC Reviewing Bobcat Management Plan Comments
The draft Management Plan for Bobcat in New York State, 2012-2017 (PDF) was available for public review and comment from January 18 through February 16. DEC received comments from more than 1,500 individuals and organizations and are now processing the comments to determine whether changes are warranted for the final plan. The assessment of public comments and the final plan will be posted on DEC’s Bobcat webpage later this spring.

** Sportsmen & Outdoor Recreation Legislative Day
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association has set a date of Tuesday, March 20, 2012 for the 3rd Annual Sportsmen & Outdoor Recreation Legislative Awareness Day. It will take place from 9:00am to 1:00pm in the “Well” of the State Legislative Office Building in Albany. Sponsored by NYSRPA and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb the event focuses on lobbying around 2nd Amendment issues and exhibits and presentations by advocates, including a keynote address by Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association.

Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey
Visit DEC’s Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48756.html) webpage and start recording observations of turkey flocks to help monitor their status and health. Just print a turkey-sighting form, record the number of turkeys you see in a flock from January through March, and send in your results to the address noted on the form at the end the survey period. In 2011, more than 640 reports were received, resulting in 10,200 birds counted in 49 of the 62 counties in New York State.

Lewis Preserve WMA
The Brandy Brook has jumped its bank creating a braided stream channel across the main foot trail adjacent to the existing foot bridge. Users should use caution while attempting to cross this new stream channel as it may be deep and swift moving.
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Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park hunting, fishing, and trapping information can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

The DEC Habitat/Access Stamp is available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Stamp proceeds support the DEC’s efforts to conserve habitat and increase public access for fish and wildlife related recreation. A Habitat/Access Stamp is not required to hunt, fish or trap, nor do you have to purchase a sporting license to buy a habitat stamp.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Mar 15)

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

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

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

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Case of the Missing North Creek Game Protector

This week’s story of murdered Schroon Lake Special Game Protector William Jackson sparked an inquiry from one of the Almanack‘s regular readers. TiSentinel had heard the story of longstanding rumors of foul play in the death of a game warden at Jabe Pond in Hague and wanted to know more.

The story he was referring to is that of 21-year-old Special Game Protector Paul J. DuCuennois of North Creek who disappeared on October 16, 1932 while patrolling Jabe Pond; his car was located at the end of the trail to the pond. He was reported drowned by Charles Foote and Wilson Putnam, who said they saw him go into the water from the other side of water. They told authorities they rowed to the spot of DuCuennois’s swamped and overturned canoe, but could not immediately locate his body. Nearby his jacket lay floating, the men said, and in its pocket, the key to the game warden’s car. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

15th Adirondack Park Local Government Day Set

The 15th Annual Adirondack Park Local Government Day Conference is scheduled for March 20 and 21, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Lake Placid. The event is presented by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages (AATV), Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board (LGRB), NYS Department of State (DOS), NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and Empire State Development Corporation.

The event begins on Tuesday afternoon with a discussion on the governor’s economic development councils initiative. Co-chair Garry Douglas and regional directors from the Capital, Mohawk and North County are expected to discuss economic development strategies for the Adirondack Park.

Tuesday afternoon concludes with a facilitated forum with local and state leaders including AATV President Brian Towers, APA Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich, Adirondack Partnership (a consortium of municipalities and economic development agencies) Chairman Bill Farber, DEC Deputy Commissioner Marc Gerstman, DOS Deputy Secretary Dede Scozzafava, ESD Regional Director Roseanne Murphy and LGRB Executive Director Fred Monroe, who are expected to offer their thoughts on the role of state agencies and local governments in shaping the future of the Adirondack Park.

An informal social with state and local officials follows the Tuesday afternoon session. On Wednesday, a full-day of conference presentations and workshops focuses on Adirondack issues, community planning, and training for planning and zoning board members. Economic development topics continue to be featured along with examples of community initiatives and municipal efficiencies. The full conference agenda and registration materials are available on the Adirondack Park Agency’s website.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Commentary: APA Lacked Will, Not Authority

Will New York build upon its historic leadership as a steward of our protected Adirondack Park, home to people and wild nature, exhibiting the highest standards for ecosystem management? Or will that promise be lost to the lowest common denominator, where the most specious claims to the economic bottom line win the argument, a “go along-to-get along” mindset? Following the issuance of a permit by the Adirondack Park Agency for the sprawling Adirondack Club and Resort, citizens around the state are wondering.

Remember what APA permitted in January: 706 residential units, 332 buildings, 39 large “great camps,” 15 miles of new roads, sewer, water and electric lines, fences and posted signs spread across 6,200 mostly undeveloped forest acres – 75 % of which is in the most protected private land classification in the park, Resource Management. Remember what this permit jettisons: a variety of traditional backcountry recreational uses, including hunting leases as well as forestry operations. The permit sanctioned real estate estimates shown to be highly exaggerated and completely unreliable. The applicant’s payments in lieu of taxes scheme is probably illegal. This is speculative development at its worst. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: Oxbow Inn, Piseco

We aren’t snowmobilers. But, if we were, the Oxbow Inn in Piseco could easily be the designated last stop on the trail. They are open the latest, have great drink prices, and plenty of dinner and appetizer choices. Burgers are a notoriously popular choice. Mostly, though, they seem to be the hardest place to leave.

Like so many of the roadhouses tucked away in the Adirondacks, the Oxbow Inn is genuine and unapologetic, the interior pieced together with no particular theme in mind, spanning decades of decorative tastes. The veneer-topped bar is built on a glass block base, the floor is linoleum tile, and the walls are pine. A variety of memorabilia, humorous signs and beer advertising fill the walls and area behind the bar. A hand-painted saw blade depicts the old country inn in its serene lakeside setting. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Team Adirondacks: Local and Regional Tourism

Despite the fact that it’s been more than twenty years since I walked the halls of my Adirondack K-12 school, I still consider myself a Westport Eagle.

I’m actually somewhat of a traitor, living in neighboring Moriah. But since our two schools were in different sports leagues (based on enrollment), the people of Westport do continue to welcome me for reunions and the like. (Now, if I lived in Elizabethtown, we’d be having a whole different conversation.)

It occurred to me long ago that our Adirondack community rivalries embed themselves early via friendly competition on soccer, baseball and football fields. As we grow older, those loyalties remain.

The competitive rivalries continue today for those who grew up in these communities, and are contagious for those who relocate to them from afar, but the stakes have changed. Instead of a league title, there is a competition between municipalities for County, Region and State attention and funding, and for most, competition for a share of tourism; the greatest economic driver for the region.

It is encouraging and inspiring to see those municipal boundaries disappear, however, courtesy of a threat from a common rival. A crisis such as Tropical Storm Irene, for example, showcased both the communities rivalries AND teamwork. The Town of Jay perceives that it didn’t initially receive the heightened attention from Albany and the media that the town of Keene and the repair to Route 73 received. On the other hand, the ongoing outpouring of hands-on cleanup and monetary support for relief efforts in all of the affected communities from the Adirondack neighborhood was overwhelming and inspiring.

This takes us to the reason I brought this up; a recent instance in which those community boundaries disappeared in front of my very eyes.

New York State’s tourism promotion program, I Love New York, is run by the the state’s Empire State Development wing. In 2012, they hired a new public relations agency to promote the State’s regions to the traveling public via traditional public relations efforts. The agency, M.Silver Associates, were ushered around the state to meet with tourism promotion agents from each county in meetings set up by region. This was an exercise set up so that the agency could learn as much about the regions as possible in order to develop their strategy for acquiring editorial coverage.

For tourism promotion, the state has been cut into 11 geographic regions, including the Catskills, Finger Lakes, New York City, Thousand Islands-Seaway and Greater Niagara, and the Adirondacks. As communications director for Essex County, I attended the meeting in which they solicited information about the Adirondacks from representatives from the Counties that comprise our region; the Tourism Promotion Agents that make up the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council.

We went around the room, describing the events, attractions, activities and experiences that differentiated our respective Counties as the PR agency staff furiously took notes. As the conversation drew on, however, the comments from the individual counties took on a more collective, regional context. Oddly enough, that change happened right after M. Silver mentioned what they had learned while talking to the “Catskills people”, and that they were headed next to talk to the “Finger Lakes” representatives.

New York State is big, and some of our competition lies within. Suddenly, we were not St. Lawrence, Essex, Warren and Hamilton Counties; we were Team Adirondacks. And when we had finished explaining all the reasons that the Adirondacks should represent most of M. Silver’s promotional efforts versus the other regions of New York State, we then turned our attention to the adjacent states.

As an unintentional catalyst for mayhem, the M.Silver rep asked innocently, “Isn’t Lake Champlain in Vermont?”

An uproar quickly ensued. We replied defensively that the “Adirondack Coast” is collectively promoted from Plattsburgh south to Ticonderoga, despite the vast promotion of “Vermont’s Lake Champlain”. 

The evidence was stacked up with comments from every side of the table. “Vermont doesn’t own Lake Champlain, and WE produce maple syrup, too,” “Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point are on OUR side,” and the most convincing: “Everyone knows that Champ, the Lake Champlain monster, lives on the New York side of the lake.”

The conflict over our common asset, Lake Champlain, seems strangely appropriate as one of the most historically significant waterways in America, home to discoveries and events that shaped the Country. And fittingly, the conversation culminated in the proposed creation of a new event in which the Adirondacks wage a battle against Vermont to gain control of Lake Champlain – in tandem with the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

The mission of the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council is to promote the region collectively on behalf of the Counties, and our organization has long subscribed to a regional approach with respect to destination marketing. But this conversation banded us together in a different context, and there is a greater understanding that not just for Essex County’s Lake Placid, or Warren County’s Lake George, but for all of our region’s communities, our competitive advantage is to tie our destinations to the Adirondacks. After all, visitors don’t know when they’ve crossed a county line.

The meeting for me was enlightening and encouraging. In those moments when we were able to shout out our individual differentiators, I learned even more about the visitor experiences that the rest of the region offers.

And now I look forward to seeing what our Team Adirondack uniforms look like. We’ll need them for our war with Vermont.

Illustration: Lake Champlain-River Richelieu watershed. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Kimberly Rielly is the director of communications for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism based in Lake Placid.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Remembering Murdered Game Warden William Jackson

The LaGoy brothers were rough. A neighbor near Severence, on the road between Schroon Lake Village and Paradox, once wrote a letter to a local newspaper asking for a telling retraction. “I was not lost,” D.S. Knox wrote. “My wife was much excited by the delay of about an hour of time over due, thinking as I have an organic heart trouble, caused to give her alarm, and not ever thinking of any of the LeGoy family causing any harm as neither of us believe that any of the LeGoy family ever would cause any personal harm without a provocation.” It was rather important to Knox to make it clear to the world, that even if his wife had been talking out of school, neither of them harbored any ill will toward the LaGoys.

There was probably good reason to write that letter. Three LaGoy brothers were then being held at the Elizabethtown Jail on suspicion of the axe murder of game warden William H. Jackson. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities: Hike Mount Defiance in Ticonderoga

My family spends just as much time exploring the rest of the Adirondack Park as we do our own neighborhood. Recently we were fortunate enough to be in the Ticonderoga area and looking for a quick and easy hike. The one-mile paved road to the summit of Mount Defiance did the trick.

The land surrounding Mount Defiance is owned by Fort Ticonderoga Association but remains open to the public. This trail is open to cars in the summer with an accessible pavilion at the summit. This one mile trail has an elevation of 853’ with so many boulders and views of Lake Champlain along the road, I wasn’t sure if we would bother getting to the summit. About ¾ mile up we come to the first major overlook and set of cannons.

We are not historians but are fortunate to meet an amateur local historian while walking. He shares with us that Mount Defiance was know as Rattlesnake Hill to the French. The Americans thought Mount Defiance was too steep to fortify but 400 British soldiers cut a road and dragged cannons up the hill in 24 hours causing the Americans to abandon Fort Ticonderoga. We question why a few cannons would cause an army to leave a stone fort. Our unofficial guide tells we shall see when we get to the summit.

We walk the next ¼ mile and arrive at the summit. There are two more cannons as well as a flagpole and pavilion. The view is incredible facing Lake Champlain. One can see why the Americans gave up their control of the fort with such an unobstructed view from the top. The Americans would have gone to sleep feeling secure in their position only to rise in the morning to cannons pointing at them. There is a clear sighting of Fort Ticonderoga to the northeast on the shore of Lake Champlain and Mount Independence in Vermont to the southeast and a major portion of both shorelines of the southern section of Lake Champlain.

The only mild disappointment was the power hub that was just below the summit. Another passerby tells us that it is a work in progress, like so many other things.

To get to Mount Defiance from the center of Ticonderoga on Montcalm St. turn right onto Champlain Ave. Then bear left onto The Portage Road and take the second left onto Defiance Road. The trailhead is located 0.03 mile at this dead end. Parking is to the right, next to the gate. The gate is closed during the winter but people access the trail year-round.

photo of Fort Ticonderoga from the summit of Mount Defiance used with permission of Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Time

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series. The first book, Adirondack Family Time Lake Placid and the High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities (with GPS coordinates) is in stores now. Her second Adirondack Family Activities book will cover the area from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sandy Hildreth: Exploring Adirondack Landscape Art

As a former high school Art and Humanities teacher, one of my favorite time periods of American history was the mid-nineteenth century when the Hudson River School of Painting was at its peak. Thomas Cole had sparked the whole movement with his first paintings of Katerskill Falls and other Catskill wilderness scenes in 1825. Prior to that time, only one of every ten paintings was a landscape, but by the 1850’s, nine of every ten were paintings of wild American places.

At the very same time that our country was on the path to fulfill the charge of Manifest Destiny! Settlers were cutting down trees, damming rivers, clearing fields and building roads. The Erie Canal had just opened and railroads were pushing farther and farther into the remote areas of the continent. From a limited number of landscapes that were merely backdrops for pastoral farm, military encampment, or village scenes to an abundance of masterful paintings of unspoiled wilderness was quite a development and it had more of an impact than many people realize.

The popularity of American wilderness landscapes in the 19th century is partly due to the new, young Republic’s search for a heritage that was not linked to Europe. The political break of the Revolution had left America a newly born nation without a past. European painting was based on tradition and history. They had mythology, ancient Greek and Roman ruins, medieval castles, Gothic cathedrals, and centuries of civilization to glorify or refer to in their various art forms. America had the heroes of the Revolution, but not much more. In “Fair Wilderness: American Paintings in the Collection of the Adirondack Museum” Thomas Cole is quoted as saying that the most distinctive characteristic of the region was its wildness, “distinctive because in civilized Europe the primitive features of scenery have long since been destroyed or modified – the extensive forests that once over shadowed a great part of it have been felled – rugged mountains have been smoothed, and impetuous rivers turned from their courses… the once tangled wood is now a grassy lawn…”.

Cole’s biographer wrote that in the spring of 1823 “It was now that a great thought came to Cole, and told him he had gone to work wrong. Hitherto he had been trying mainly to make up nature from his own mind, instead of making up his mind from nature. This now flashed on him as a radical mistake. He must not only muse abroad in nature, and catch her spirit, but gain for his eye and hand a mastery over all that was visible in her outward, material form, if he would have his pictures breathe of her spirit.”

In 1825 Cole moved with his family to New York City and a painting placed in a store window sold for $10 and financed a sketching trip up the Hudson River that autumn. That trip, which corresponded to the 10 day celebration marking the opening of the Erie Canal, resulted in 3 new paintings, which sold immediately after being put on display in New York city, and the era of the Hudson River School began. The name was coined because most of the paintings were produced within the Hudson River watershed – the river valley itself, the Catskills, and the Adirondacks.

Popular philosophy of the early 19th century associated nature with virtue and civilization with degeneracy and evil. Artists like Thomas Cole, and writers like Emerson and Cooper believed nature to be synonymous with both personal and national health and viewed the city, the bank, and the railroad as producing sickness by encroaching upon nature and finally by destroying it. Cole illustrated these beliefs in several of his allegorical series of paintings like “The Course of Empire”. It showed that the replacement of nature by civilization results in the ultimate collapse of civilization. When combined with the growing national pride, it seems that Cole’s wilderness paintings became “an effective substitute for a missing national tradition. America was thus both new and old”. ‘New’ in being previously undiscovered, with unsettled, wild territories, and ‘old’ in terms of the ancient wild mountains, older than mankind.

Our wilderness became a substitute for the European historical past. It also became linked directly with the divine destiny believed to belong to Americans – that the continent was there for us. In a nation founded on concepts of religious freedom, and whose Protestant colonists practiced their religion in environments devoid of religious art, 19th century landscape painting almost becomes our religious art, the essence of the spiritual beliefs of the country. We proclaimed separation of church and state, yet never abandoned the belief in “God on our side” as we conquered the wilderness and the virgin bounty of the continent.

The spiritual message contained in many of the landscapes of the Hudson River era was repeatedly mentioned in the literature of the era. From “The Knickerbocker”, in 1835: “God has promised us a renowned existence, if we will but deserve it. He speaks of this promise in the sublimity of Nature. It resounds all along the crags of the Alleghenies. It is uttered in the thunder of the Niagara. It is heard in the roar of two oceans, from the great Pacific to the rocky ramparts of the Bay of Fundy. His finger has written it in the broad expanse of our Inland Seas, and traced it out by the mighty Father of the Waters! The august TEMPLE in which we dwell was built for lofty purposes. Oh! that we may consecrate it to LIBERTY and CONCORD, and be found fit worshipers within its holy wall!” America’s Transcendentalists, like Emerson and Thoreau, believed that bonding with nature’s solitude and silence nurtured spiritual development and character. The paintings mirrored these beliefs.

Tied to the spiritual message was current aesthetic philosophy. Landscape painting was usually classified as sublime or beautiful and picturesque. European landscapes were generally considered picturesque, with their ancient ruins and craggy, snow-capped Alps. Because America was lacking in the picturesque, and also since much of the known landscape consisted of split rail fences and burnt or hacked off trees, the unknown, wilderness scenery, vast and diverse, was easily accepted, once artists began painting it.

The sublime aspect of the wilderness landscape was also apparently well discussed in artistic circles. While scenes could easily be rendered beautiful and picturesque, to evoke the sublime, was uniquely special. Sublime is the addition of something terrifying, fear or awe-inspiring in its power or potential – bringing to the viewer a feeling for Divine authority or design. Many of the Hudson River artists intentionally included the sublime in their paintings – the distant threatening storm clouds, dramatic sunsets, the rushing, over-powering torrent of a cascading waterfall, or the gnarled and broken tree, evidence of the awesome power of nature (God).

In “Kindred Spirits”, the strong connection between the artists and writers of the Hudson River region was exposed. The rawness of the American landscape, with its lack of polish and historic ruins, came to be ignored by both artists and writers who focused on the wildness and freshness of the New World. The writers created and publicized the legends and folklore in characters like Rip Van Winkle, Ichabod Crane and Natty Bumppo. The lack of a past was replaced with the unlimited potential for the future and the relatively new historical sites, like Fort Ticonderoga could substitute for the missing ancient ruins. So while the writers were supporting and describing a positive, patriotic recognition of the assets of the continent, the artists capitalized on this with their paintings. In response, they received public praise from the writers, and the artists also published their own poems and essays in support of their work. For nearly 50 years, the Hudson River School painters and the Knickerbocker writers enjoyed common and self-supporting popularity. It is interesting to note that this mutual focus on the uniqueness of America extended right through and past the Civil War, almost totally ignoring it.

Paintings: “Katerskill Falls”, by Thomas Cole and “Twilight in the Wilderness” by Frederic Church.


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