Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Funding Boosts Invasive Species Program

The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) received a private foundation grant of $170,000 for invasive species prevention and control in 2011. One of the primary uses of funds will be to pilot a terrestrial regional response team, a four person seasonal crew that will manage terrestrial invasive plants in priority areas across the Adirondack region.

APIPP also directed funds to lend aid to three other projects including the Town of Inlet’s Regional Inlet Invasive Plant Program to control Japanese knotweed in various communities, Paul Smith’s College Watershed Stewardship Program to intercept aquatic invasive species at boat launches and the Lake George Asian Clam Rapid Response Task Force to control the first infestation of Asian Clam detected in the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Madshus Epochs: Good Skis for Spring

Yesterday, the temperature climbed into the forties in Saranac Lake, and the sun shone all day. I saw people walking around in T-shirts. It was perfect weather for testing a new pair of skis.

Sue Bibeau, the designer for the Adirondack Explorer, and I did a round trip to Klondike Notch in the High Peaks Wilderness, a little-used trail that starts at the end of South Meadow Road and ends near Johns Brook Lodge.

I was trying out my Madshus Epochs, a waxless ski designed for backcountry touring. The Epochs have metal edges and are wide enough to provide stability for quick turns on downhills, though they’re not as beefy as most telemark skis.

The Epochs weigh 5 pounds 9 ounces. In comparison, Black Diamond Havocs (which I also own) weigh 8 pounds 6 ounces. Their lightness makes the Epochs a good all-round ski, ideal for tours that involve flats and rolling terrain as well as substantial downhill runs. A lightweight telemark boot is a good match.

Coincidentally, Sue was using essentially the same ski: Tenth Mountain Divisions made by Karhu, which is no longer in the ski business. The Tenth Mountains were in Karhu’s popular “XC Downhill” line of skis. The line’s four models, from narrowest to widest, were the Pinnacles, GTs (for “general touring”), Tenth Mountains, and Guides.

Last year, Madshus took over the XC Downhhill line. It dropped the Pinnacle but still manufactures the other three under different names (the GT is now the Eon, and the Guide is now the Annum).

Sue has owned her Tenth Mountain Divisions for a few years and loves them. She has taken them up Mount Marcy, Algonquin Peak, and Wright Peak, among other places. She says the skis are not ideal for the steepest terrain in the High Peaks, but they do work. If you plan to ski a lot of steep terrain, the wider Annums are a better choice.

I wouldn’t mind trying the Epochs on Marcy if conditions were right (light powder), but I’d be more comfortable on the difficult pitches on heavier skis, my Havocs or Karhu Jaks. Given that much of the 7.5-mile trail up Marcy is fairly mellow, I can see the appeal of going light. In fact, many people do ski Marcy with light skis and leather boots.

Because they’re waxless, the Epochs are a good choice for spring skiing (as are the Eons and Annums). Hard waxes do not work when the temperatures rise above freezing, so those with waxable skis must resort to klister or kicker skins to grip the snow while climbing or kicking and gliding.

I used klister only once, years ago. It was such a gloppy mess that I haven’t used it since. It’s like melted bubble gum, sticking to everything it touches, including fingers and clothing. I later bought a pair of kicker skins, but I don’t use them much. Kicker skins attach to the ski’s kick zone. The nylon nap grips the snow, sort of like wax. The problem I have found is that the metal piece at the front of the skins often digs into the snow, inhibiting glide.

With waxless skis, you don’t have to fuss with klister or kicker skins. But waxless skis have their limitations. If climbing a lot of steep terrain, you should bring a pair of full-length skins–just as you would with waxable skis. Or be prepared to herringbone or side-step.

On our ascent of Klondike Notch, Sue and I gained more than a thousand feet of elevation. Since most of the trail is mellow, the scales on our skis usually provided sufficient grip. In a number of places, we did resort to herringboning or side-stepping, but these pitches were short. Skins would have been overkill and would have slowed our progress on the flats and small dips we encountered en route to the notch.

All in all, we had the right equipment for the job.

Click here to see a video of Ron Konowitz demonstrating the Karhu Guides (now Annums) on the Marcy Dam trail.

Photo by Phil Brown: Sue Bibeau carries her skis over South Meadow Brook.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Local History: The Search for Judge Crater

Amelia Earhart. Pattie Hearst. Jimmie Hoffa. Famous vanishing acts that obsessed the public and saturated the media. In their time, they were big, but it’s doubtful they topped the notoriety of New York State’s most famous disappearance, that of Supreme Court Justice Joseph Force Crater. And some of his story played out across the Adirondacks and the North Country.

The tale has now faded, but in 75 years it spawned fiction and nonfiction books, countless thousands of newspaper articles, was satirized in Mad Magazine, and formed the plot for movies. It was used for laughs on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Golden Girls, and others. It fostered a guaranteed punch line for standup comics, and produced a common slang expression that appeared in some dictionaries.

The basic details of the story begin with Joseph Crater’s rapid rise in New York City politics. A graduate of Columbia Law School, he taught at Fordham and NYU and aligned himself with the Democratic Party, a move that significantly boosted his private law practice. The New York City wing of the party was widely known as Tammany Hall, where corruption ran rampant and payoffs were routine.

Crater worked within that system, and in 1930, at age 41, he was appointed to the New York State Supreme Court, filling a vacancy. With a career that was flourishing, a dapper public persona, and plenty of power, prestige, and money, “Good-time Joe,” as he was known, had New York City and life itself by the tail.

After the June court session ended, he and wife Stella (she was still in her teens when he married her more than a decade earlier, after handling her divorce) headed for their retreat in Maine for some relaxation. On August 3, Crater received news of a problem in New York. He headed back to the city, leaving Stella with words to the effect, “I have to straighten those fellows out.”

The rest of the story has been repeated thousands of times. The main components are: he went to their apartment on Fifth Avenue; spent time at his courthouse office early on August 6; removed several files there and brought them back to the apartment; had his assistant cash several checks for him; and bought one ticket to see Dancing Partner on Broadway later in the evening.

He dined with attorney William Klein and showgirl Sally Lou Ritz, and shortly after 9 p.m., they parted company. Crater was said to have hailed a cab, supposedly heading for Broadway—and was never heard from again. Nada. Zippo. Nothing.

Because of Joe’s frequent comings and goings, Stella was only mildly concerned with his absence at first. She grew nervous when he didn’t make it back for her birthday, August 9. Within days, she sent her chauffeur to New York to look for Crater, but he only found assurances that Joe would eventually show up.

Finally, Stella hired a private detective, but just like the chauffeur’s efforts, it produced nothing of substance. Friends were confident he would soon be seen. Everything at the apartment seemed normal—travel bags, watch, clothing, and other personal effects were there—but no Joe.

An unofficial search ensued, but alarm really set in when court resumed on August 25 and he still hadn’t surfaced. For various reasons, no official report was made until September 3, a month after Stella had last seen him. An investigation began, and soon many lurid facts were revealed.

As it turned out, there had been plenty of women in Joe’s life, and he was deeply involved in the Tammany machine. It was noted that he had withdrawn $20,000 from the bank at about the time he was appointed to the Supreme Court. Coincidentally, in the ongoing political corruption probe, that was the figure named as the going price for judgeships and other positions.

Dozens of other ugly details were revealed as investigators kept digging. Meanwhile, there was one other important issue to deal with—where the heck was Justice Crater?

A month after his disappearance (but within a week of when the official search began), authorities had traced nearly every second of Joe’s trip to New York. After the dinner date, the trail went cold. The police inspector issued this statement: “We have no reason to believe he is alive, and no reason to believe he is dead. There is absolutely no new development in the case.”

At the time of that statement, a friend said that Crater had mentioned taking a trip to Canada (but gave no reason why). The focus of the continuous search was on far upstate New York. In fact, as far upstate as you can get. In northeastern Clinton County, Plattsburgh reporters were contacted by NYC police and urged to investigate rumors that Crater was in the vicinity.

At Champlain, north of Plattsburgh and less than a mile from the Canadian border, was a famed Prohibition hotspot, the Meridian Hotel. Just a few feet inside of Canada, it was a favored watering hole for thirsty Americans. Crater was reportedly seen at the Meridian, and, since he was a horse-racing enthusiast, it was assumed he had stopped at Saratoga on his way north.

Read Part 2: The search for Judge Crater spans the Adirondacks.

Photo Top: Judge Crater reward poster (the $5,000 is equal to $65,000 in 2011).

Photo Bottom: Judge Crater and wife, Stella, on the last day they were together, August 3, 1930.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Dave Gibson: Elected APA Commissioners?

Brian Mann has raised a proposal to allow Park residents to cast ballots and elect the five Park resident APA Commissioners, which would require a change in the law which requires the Governor to nominate, and the Senate to confirm all eight of private citizen members of the agency. I happen to believe that the current law remains the most equitable and practical way to ensure a proper diversity, array of statewide and park talents and commitments to the purposes of the APA Act. Be that as it may, Brian’s is hardly a new idea.

I found some interesting quotes from early APA Chairmen who were answering a question posed to them in 1981 at a conference. The question from a member of the audience was: “If one of our main goals is to win the acceptance of the Adirondack people, wouldn’t it have been a good idea earlier on to include local representation and to have the commissioners elected, or to give the local people some other access or resources in dealing with the agency”?

One of the most interesting resources from which to follow the thinking and trends of the Adirondack Park Agency in its early history are the printed records of the Conferences on the Adirondack Park, 1971-1981, published by St. Lawrence University. SLU faithfully captured every word spoken at those June conferences held on their beautiful Camp Canaras campus on Upper Saranac Lake.

Just about every conference in those years featured the views and reports of APA Executive Directors and Chairmen, along with those knowledgeable in Adirondack wildlife research, tax policy, land use planning, Forest Preserve, water quality, invasive species, great camp architecture, and much more. The costs of publishing these printed records of the conference in the era before computerization eventually became prohibitive, but SLU’s Camp Canaras conferences continued for another 15 years or so, and I always felt they were “must attend” events. The content, entry price, company, and shoreline scenery were all outstanding.

How did former APA Chairmen Richard Lawrence of New York City and Elizabethtown and Robert Flacke of Lake George answer the above question which was posed to them on that summer day of 1981? The answers are found in the printed proceedings of St. Lawrence University’s 1981 Conference on the Adirondack Park. Richard Lawrence served as chairman of the APA from its beginnings in 1971 until 1975. Robert Flacke succeeded Dick Lawrence as chairman in 1976 and served until 1978.

Robert Flacke: “I think the history of land use controls give us the answer to that…if 51 percent of any type of a voting body has a parochial interest, whether it is in a village or a town or a county or region then essentially those are the only interests that will be forwarded and protected. That is what happened with the (Lake) Tahoe experiment (in California). There was an equal voting strength between the two bodies and there was no overriding concern. Now, the basic question was asked in the Study Commission on the Adirondacks: Are the Adirondacks an area of statewide concern? The answer was affirmative. The program goes beyond the interests of the people who are here, although the interests of the people who are here are very, very important. Therefore, the balance that was established, I think, is the proper balance… One must maintain, then, a statewide interest if one continues to believe that the resource is important for all the people of the state.”

Richard Lawrence: “I might add just one other point. We have, of course, elected representatives in the legislature such as assemblymen and state senators. Yet this is a fact of political life that not one of our local representatives is here. Andrew Ryan, Glenn Harris or Senator Ronald Stafford could not possibly be reelected if they would support and go all out for the Adirondack Park Agency. That is a simple fact of life. If they choose to be in office they simply cannot believe very strenuously in land use planning. Perhaps ten years from now there will be a different answer. That is the name of the game now.”

Later on, in response to a statement from Park resident that “the thing I am most worried about is that the Adirondack Park Agency may disappear. I do not want it to disappear because I do not want to lose any of this,” Robert Flacke continued, “That brings out the fundamental question of membership in a land use agency. Land use control started with the Park Avenue experiment in New York City, but the lowest level of government, when you look back in the history book, has always been unable to perform adequately in land use controls because of the very issue that you bring out. If a town board gets involved in land use questions, its members then become subject to very grave social and economic pressures… I can remember during my tenure as town supervisor certain councilmen had to make a decision that they felt very strongly about. It may have gone against certain other economic interests. A fellow that ran a gas station came to me one day and said ‘I’m going to go broke because all my customers are telling me that if I don’t vote that way they will go elsewhere for their gas.’ This essentially says that when you are involved in land use, you have to have an insulated body generally at the next level of government, whether it is county or regional. I think time will tell that economically the local people are not destroyed (by the APA), but benefited, if in a different way.”

Photo: Above, looking out on Upper Saranac Lake from the SLU Camp Canaras campus, 1991 Conference on the Adirondacks; Below, a panel at the same conference.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wilmington to Host Major Bike Race Qualifer

The Town of Wilmington has announced that the region will host the Wilmington/Whiteface 100k on June 19, 2011. Wilmington will serve as one of three qualifier series race host venues for the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race, the best known and most prestigious mountain bike race in North America.

The event’s schedule coincides with the annual Wilmington Bike Fest, which includes the Whiteface Uphill Bike Race, which will be held on Saturday, June 18. Wilmington/Whiteface 100k participants are invited to “Warm UP” by riding in the mountain bike division that is being introduced this year; a five mile race to the top of the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway.

“The event is a perfect fit for the destination, as it supports the Whiteface Region‘s brand as a biking destination, and will increase visitor activity during the typically slower shoulder season,” said James McKenna, President of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism/Lake Placid CVB. “This is another event that resulted from the cooperative partnerships that were cemented in order to successfully host the Empire State Winter Games. Kudos to the staff at the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) who facilitated the connection with the event organizers that ultimately brought this event to Wilmington.”

Showcasing some of the best places to ride in America, the Leadville Qualifying Series races will be held in America’s great mountains with races in the Adirondacks, Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies. The other two qualifiers will be held in North Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on July 10 and Crested Butte, Colorado on July 31. Each qualifying race will provide 100 qualifying spots to the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. The spots will be allocated partially on the basis of age-group performance and partly by lottery among finishers.

The Adirondack qualifier will traverse 100 kilometers of backcountry trails in the Towns of Wilmington and Jay and finish on Whiteface Mountain.

Since 1983, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race has been the pinnacle of the mountain biking world. Currently 103 miles in length and 11,500 feet of climbing, the ultra-distance event is a single- and double-track-style mountain bike race on one of the world’s most challenging courses. The weekend event is produced by Life Time Fitness and challenges both amateur and professional mountain bikers to steep climbs and descents, with elevation topping out at more than 12,500 feet. More information on the Leadville Qualifier Series can be found online.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Visiting Author Sapphire at Paul Smith’s College VIC

Paul Smith’s College and the Adirondack Center for Writing are proud to present Sapphire, poet and best-selling author of the novel Push — the inspiration for the Academy-Award winning film, “Precious” at the Paul Smith’s VIC on April 19, 2011 at 7pm. The reading is free for students and faculty, $5 for all others. Sapphire’s books will be available for sale, which the author will sign.

Famed in the worlds of literature, poetry, and literacy—and an extraordinary public speaker—Sapphire is first and foremost a poet and performer. She is the author of American Dreams, cited by Publisher’s Weekly as, “One of the strongest debut collections of the nineties;” and Black Wings & Blind Angels, of which Poets & Writers declared, “With her soul on the line in each verse, her latest collection retains Sapphire’s incendiary power to win hearts and singe minds.”

Sapphire’s bestselling novel, Push, about an illiterate, brutalized Harlem teenager, won the Book-of-the-Month Club Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s First Novelist Award, and in Great Britain, the Mind Book of the Year Award. Push was named by The Village Voice as one of the top twenty-five books of 1996 and by TIMEOUT New York as one of the top ten books of 1996. Push was also nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction. It was made into a major motion film, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”, produced by Oprah Winfrey.

Past authors featured in the Visiting Author Series sponsored by Paul Smith’s College and Adirondack Center for Writing have included Rick Moody, Andrea Barret, Terry Tempest Williams, William Kennedy, and Alistair McLeod. The Adirondack Center for Writing is an independent non-profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting literature and providing educational opportunities and support to both aspiring and established writers in the Adirondack region. We provide workshops, conferences, and readings throughout the year in locations all around the Adirondack Park. Paul Smith’s College also generously donates office space and in-kind office services to the Adirondack Center for Writing.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Northville-Placid Trail ADK Chapter Established

The newest chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will focus on enhancing and promoting the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT).

The NPT, which stretches 133 miles through some of the wildest and most remote parts of the Adirondack Park, was the first trail project undertaken by ADK after it was formed in 1922. In November, Tom Wemett, a self-described “NPT fanatic,” launched a new Web site devoted to the trail. Tom also circulated a petition to create a new ADK chapter to help protect, preserve and promote the trail and to raise money to enhance and maintain it. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Adirondack Ingenuity at the Adirondack Museum

What do a jitterbug, a car saw, and a water bicycle have in common – besides really strange names? Learn the answer when you join the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York for the final program in the 2011 Cabin Fever Sunday series.

Associate Curator Laura Cotton will reveal the secrets of these and many other Rube Goldberg contraptions on Sunday, April 10, 2011 in a presentation entitled “Adirondack Ingenuity”as part of the museum’s Cabin Fever Sunday programs.

Historically, Adirondackers have been really good at re-inventing, re-using, and re-purposing. Ingeniously clever, local residents have made do with what they have, and made what they have do even more! A number of intriguing examples of North Country inventiveness are part of the Adirondack Museum’s permanent collections and will be at the heart of Cotton’s presentation.

From spruce gum pickers to the mysterious jitterbug, folks have created unique and useful items to make “getting by” a bit easier and occasionally a lot more fun. The museum invites audience participation in the program. Do you have a unique Adirondack artifact? Bring your ingenious example on April 10, and share its clever story!

Held in the Auditorium, the program will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sundays are offered at no charge to museum members or children of elementary school age and younger. The fee for non-members is $5.00. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at www.adirondackmuseum.org.

The Museum Store and Visitor Center will be open from noon to 4 p.m.

Laura Cotton, both Associate Curator and Registrar, is a graduate of Whitworth College, Spokane, Washington with a BA in Art and Art Administration. She holds a MA from the University of Washington. She was a Curatorial Research Assistant at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, N.Y. before joining the staff of the Adirondack Museum in 2008.

Photo: 1923 Chevrolet pick-up truck that was converted into a buzz saw in the late 1920’s to early 1930’s. Gift of Bradford McAdam in memory of Harold L. McAdam. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Plattsburgh Native, Video Game Programmer to Speak

A Plattsburgh native and Clarkson University alumnus who is lead programmer for High Moon Studios, maker of the Transformers video games, will give a presentation at Clarkson on “Transforming a Franchise: The Making of Transformers: War for Cybertron” on Tuesday, April 5.

Andrew Zaferakis will speak about his experience in the games industry, as well as give an inside-look into the game development pipeline for a high-profile game. The presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m. in CAMP building room 176 and is free and open to the public.

Zaferakis is a 13-year veteran of the computer and video game industry. He first began programming computer graphics demos on the Apple IIe in the early 1980s. His interest in programming brought him to Clarkson where he received a B.S. in computer science with a minor in mathematics in 1998.

He then spent two years working for IBM Microelectronics before going to graduate school to obtain his M.S. in computer science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a focus in real-time rendering and collision detection.

Zaferakis entered the games industry in 2001, and within a few years was hired by Rockstar Games to be the Xbox lead programmer for the multi-million dollar Midnight Club II franchise.

In his current position at High Moon Studios, Zaferakis has worked on multiplayer aspects of Darkwatch and led the programming development for both the Bourne Conspiracy and the critically-acclaimed Transformers: War for Cybertron. He continues to lend his programming expertise to future projects, as well as drive the vision of online and multiplayer aspects of game development.

The presentation is sponsored by Clarkson’s Digital Arts & Sciences (DA&S) Program. DA&S combines elements of strong scientific research with equally impressive technological expertise in the digital arts.

Clarkson’s program is rated as one of the Princeton Review’s top-50 game design programs and was named the Most Innovative Program in North America by the International Digital Media and Arts Association in 2010.

For questions regarding the DA&S program or the presentation, please contact Dave Beck, director of the Digital Arts & Sciences Program, at dbeck@clarkson.edu or 315-268-4205.


Friday, April 1, 2011

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

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

Subscribe! More than 5,200 people get Adirondack Almanack each day via RSS, E-Mail, or Twitter or Facebook updates. It’s a convenient way to get the latest news and information about the Adirondacks.


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