Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Phil Brown: East Branch of St. Regis Should be Wild

On Sunday, I took a delightful canoe trip on the East Branch of the St. Regis in the northwestern Adirondacks. It was so enjoyable that I didn’t stop until I reached the end of public land, making for a round trip of twenty miles from Everton Falls.

Four years ago, I had paddled the East Branch in early spring before the greening of the alders and the grasses. On that day the riverside scenery was a bit drab.

How different things are in July. Hues of green were everywhere—in the grasses dancing in the breeze, in the trees beyond the floodplain, and in the river grass bowed by the current. Wildflowers provided dashes of color: the purple whorls of joe-pye weed, the yellow globes of the pond lilies, the drooping scarlet petals of the cardinal flower, the violet spikes of pickerelweed, and the glistening white arrowhead. Add in a blue sky with puffy clouds, and you have the perfect day.

Soon after putting in along Red Tavern Road, I heard one or two passing cars, but as I journeyed farther upstream, I penetrated deeper into the wild where the only sounds were natural: a beaver plopping into the river, the one-note whistle of a red-winged blackbird, a merganser skittering over the water to flee a human intruder.

In ten miles I encountered no development. It’s no wonder that researchers for the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) recommended back in the 1970s that most of this stretch (some eight miles) be designated a Wild River in the state’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational River System (WSR).

All rivers in the WSR system receive a degree of protection, but Wild is the most protective designation. State regulations prohibit the construction of dams, vehicular bridges, or other structures within a Wild River corridor—not even lean-tos are permitted. The only exceptions are footbridges. Just as important, no motorboats are allowed on Wild Rivers.

If you check the APA land-use map, though, you’ll see that roughly the first fifteen miles of the East Branch, including the stretch I paddled, are designated Scenic and that the rest of the river is designated Recreational. Both are less-restrictive classifications, allowing some development, such as vehicular bridges, and motorboat usage.

Usually, the APA followed the recommendations of its field researchers in classifying rivers. Why not in this case?

In his classic guidebook Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, Paul Jamieson writes that the classification was downgraded “probably at the insistence of a paper company and its lessees” (that is, hunting clubs).

Jamieson’s book came out many years ago. Since then, New York State has purchased this part of the river from Champion International and added it to the forever-wild Forest Preserve. In other words, the original objection to designating part of the East Branch a Wild River no longer obtains. APA spokesman Keith McKeever conceded as much in an article I wrote after my earlier trip up the East Branch. “The big impediment to that classification was that it was private land, and that’s no longer the case,” McKeever said.

Well, then, let’s change the classification to Wild. This would ensure that the river corridor stays pristine and that motorboats will not upset the natural serenity with their noise and pollution.

It also would bestow upon the East Branch a cachet that might attract a few more paddling tourists to a neglected corner of the Adirondack Park.

Of the 1,200 miles of Adirondack rivers in the WSR system, only 155 are designated Wild (about 13 percent). Indeed, there are only thirteen river segments in the entire Park that are classified Wild. They tend to be remote and/or rocky. Only one of them—a long stretch of the Main Branch of the Oswegatchie—is easily accessible and navigable by the average paddler. The East Branch would be in rarefied company.

In truth, I don’t know of any plans to build lean-tos, bridges, or other facilities on the river. And I doubt that motorboats often ply the East Branch. Thus, the reclassification might be seen as more symbolic than practical. But symbolism has its place. Designating the East Branch a Wild River would acknowledge its unspoiled beauty. It’s the least we can do.

Photo by Phil Brown: the East Branch of the St. Regis River.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. Subscribers can read his original story on the East Branch in the publication’s online Adventure Planner.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Adirondack Insects: Paper Wasps

While working around the house this summer, it is not unusual to notice the papery nest of a wasp tucked under the eaves, hidden behind a loose shutter, or placed in some other protected spot. While an encounter with this type of structure may temporarily disrupt a painting project or home repair work, such a sanctuary is vital to the summer success of these familiar yellow and black insects, and should be left alone if at all possible as wasps play a role in helping to control the populations of numerous insects, spiders and other bugs.

Out of an entire summer colony, only a few females that are born in late summer with adequate stores of fat are capable of surviving the winter in the Adirondacks. After abandoning their nest and mating with a male, these individuals typically burrow into the soil, or seek shelter inside a thick, hollow log that will eventually become buried by snow.

During mid spring, when conditions improve, these females emerge from their winter dormancy and begin to search for a sheltered spot in which to construct their papery nest. By chewing on softened pieces of partially rotted wood, and mixing this mass with chemicals in their mouth, the females, known to some as queens, fashion the mixture into a sheet that dries and forms a grayish papery substance. Initially, a small collection of hexagonal cells are produced to house the first eggs laid by the fertile female.

It takes about a week for the eggs to hatch into the tiny, worm-like larvae which remain within the papery walls of their nursery. Because the larvae require a diet high in animal protein, the matriarch of the colony goes in an almost constant search for small insects and other types of invertebrates to appease their appetite.

It takes almost two weeks before the immature wasps are ready to enter the pupa stage, and then nearly two more weeks before the transition into an adult wasp is completed. During this period, the female may add more cells to her infant colony and lay more eggs in order to increase the number of individuals that eventually will inhabit the nest.

By the start of summer, her first in a series of adult offspring emerge from their cells. All of these are females, and they instinctively assume the various chores that must be carried out to maintain the colony. The fertile female eventually settles into the role of simply laying eggs in cells constructed by the recently hatched workers.

During the early summer, wasp colonies are relatively small and contain only a limited number of females. As the number of residents increase, the colony’s need for small insects and other bugs to feed the developing larvae increases correspondingly.

While the larvae require a diet rich in protein, the adults need fluids that contain a high caloric content. Nectar from flowers and juices that develop within fruits and berries, like raspberries and blackberries, are traditionally sought out by adult wasps when they want to satisfy their own hunger.

As summer starts to wane in another few weeks, the fertile female slows the rate at which she lays eggs within her paper covered nursery. Since the increased number of worker wasps now has fewer larvae to feed, their search for bugs eventually turns to a search for the more sugary items that they favor. (In late summer, wasps prefer visiting a table with an opened can of soda, a cup of fruit juice, or some flavorful topping dripping from a burger rather than picking aphids or caterpillars from plants in a garden.)

As the fertile female’s source of sperm dwindles, she will lay a few eggs that fail to become fertilized. These eggs still hatch, but the resultant wasps have only a half set of chromosomes. These individuals are males, and their sole purpose is to mate with those females with an excess of fat in their system that are capable of surviving the winter.
While wasps are noted for the painful sting they can inflict, these insects do help the environment by controlling bug populations. Destroying a papery nest in mid summer before the individuals that can survive the winter develop could impact a wasp population in an area. This in turn allows other bugs the freedom to propagate with fewer checks on their numbers. A simple rule that I try to follow whenever I encounter a wasp nest while painting is: leave the painting project until next spring and go out on the lake.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Life Struggles of Dean Clute (Part Two)

Having planned for his condition of blindness and near total paralysis, Dean Clute forged forward without missing a beat. Other patients who were mobile and had attained some measure of literacy were enlisted to read aloud to him. There were plenty of folks to choose from, since the hospital was filled with a wide range of society’s unfortunates—the poor, the sick, and the physically disabled.

City Hospital patients were sometimes referred to by the decidedly un-PC term, “wrecks,” and some who were placed there entertained little hope of ever leaving. There was no avoiding it—Welfare Island was a notoriously dreary place to be.

Yet this paralyzed, completely blind young man had a transformative effect on the hospital. Poor readers were recruited and became good readers; nearby listeners joined the book discussions on a range of subjects; and as stories circulated through the hospital corridors, others were intrigued by this unique discussion group. The daily gathering around Dean’s bed grew, spilling out onto the hospital yard in times of good weather.

The contents of book after book had been poured into his being, and Clute’s brain, like a vessel waiting to be filled, was overflowing with knowledge. He had made himself into a scholar, and by natural progression arrived at the obvious conclusion—he must also become a writer. And so he began to dictate to his friends who recorded his words and submitted them for publication.

Among those to view his work was legendary writer and editor H. L. (Henry) Mencken, who had recently launched a new literary vehicle, The American Mercury (a magazine that ran from 1924–1981). Among other things, Mencken was an expert in the use of language, a subject he had written on extensively. He pronounced Dean’s satirical, witty writing as “good stuff.”

[In an odd bit of circumstance, Mencken was also known as a voracious reader, and 20 years later, he would suffer a stroke, leaving him similarly disabled—unimpeded mentally, but unable to read or write, and barely able to speak.]

In August 1929, Mencken published Dean’s story, “Salvation on the Brink,” in The American Mercury, and that opened the door. Others soon came calling, and the poor, blind, paralyzed young man from the North Country gained a measure of celebrity. In the next year, Dean followed with a half-dozen more articles, along with plans for a book of his own.

The remarkable story of Clute’s decade-long personal struggles reached the media and gained momentum, earning him the status of a minor cause célèbre. Prominent journalist Earl Sparling visited Dean in June 1930 and filed a story that included the following excerpts:

The man who made Welfare Island go literary lies in his wheelchair in the yard of City Hospital. Around him, soaking up the sunshine, are a dozen wrecks in gray hospital pajamas. One of them, Art by name, is reading—or trying to. The book he is reading, or trying to, is Isaac Goldberg’s The Fine Art of Living. Art never got through the eighth grade in school. He runs a heavy finger along the lines as he reads, and every second line or so comes upon a word he can’t even manage to mispronounce.

“Spell it, Art,” suggests the blind man in the wheelchair. “It’s another jaw-breaker,” growls Art, stretching his pajama-clad legs. “I’d just as soon try to say it as to spell it.” But he spells it out, haltingly, and the blind man tells him and the audience the pronunciation and the meaning. And the education of Dean Clute, the literatus of Welfare Island—and incidentally of his comrades in pajamas—continues.

Dean Clute is stone blind, and so crippled he can scarcely wiggle a finger. He has been flat on his back from arthritis for fifteen years. He has been in City Hospital for six of those fifteen. Using others in City Hospital as eyes, he has gotten through most of the philosophers, most of the lasting literature of the world, and has managed meanwhile to keep track of current book lists, with interesting results.

Today, as you wander through the wards of City Hospital, you can hear wrecks who arrived there from the Bowery discussing such things as the indebtedness of Schopenhauer to Hoffman, the modernism of Dickens’ critique of America, and the sad case of Dr. John Dewey.

It has gotten so that the nurses, interns, and the doctors are beginning to develop cultural inferiority complexes. What is a poor doctor to answer when, while thumping some patient’s backbone, he is asked, “Do you go in for Humanism, Doc?”

As Dean described it, “We start in at 8 o’clock and we stay out here in the sunshine, reading and talking until night. I’ve learned how to be happy. … I hope to have a book shop in Manhattan one day. Then I can devote myself seriously to writing. I want to write my autobiography. They say a man shouldn’t do that until he is forty. But I can’t wait. I may never get that far.”

It was truly remarkable—such inspiration arising from one of the most depressing parts of the city, and from a man who had every right and reason to throw in the towel, to give up on life altogether. But Dean Clute had given up only on his body and instead focused on his mind, developing a completely new identity. Never known as a great student, he had achieved the rarest of transformations—from a happy-go-lucky, standout athlete to a deep-thinking intellectual.

And the man had dreams. Writing articles and working on a book would have been enough, but operating his own bookstore? Impossible, sure … just like everything else he had accomplished so far.

The dream, in fact, was already on its way to reality. Working as a team, Clute and his cohorts in pajamas wrote and mailed several hundred letters to his friends and acquaintances, describing “a unique book service which presumes to deliver any book published in America to any address in the United States within six days.”

Available titles included many that the new reading group had favored, including the works of Aldous Huxley, H. L. Mencken, and Bertrand Russell. In the first two weeks they received 24 orders, which were handled by his four friends, three of whom were fellow patients.

Photo: City Hospital on Welfare Island, NY (ca. 1925).

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, July 25, 2011

John Warren: The Art of Making Enemies

A small group of the usual opponents of smart development have raised another ruckus with the help of some local media. It was reported in the local daily press (“APA hears citizens’ rage“, “APA critics blast board“), and followed up by Denton Publications, (including video!). It was one of a regular stream of media campaigns orchestrated and carried out by some of the same folks who have opposed smart development planning for the Adirondack Park since it began 40 years ago.

As if on cue, the Glens Falls Post-Star then launched another of its – this time particularly vicious – attacks on the Adirondack Park’s regional planning board, the Adirondack park Agency (APA). That nasty editorial ran on the same day some 120 people from all perspectives and sectors of the Adirondacks were meeting in Long Lake to find ways to set aside their differences and work together for a better Adirondacks.

It started July 15th with what appears to have been an organized protest at an APA business meeting, and may have been result of leaked information that APA Chairman Curt Stiles would step down the next day. The usual suspects were on hand, including Salim “Sandy” Lewis, Carol LaGrasse, Frank Casier, Mike Vilegi, Howard Aubin, and Bob Schulz. Insults were hurled at the “un-American”; cries for “liberty” and an end to “tyranny” and “repression and fear” were heard – Lewis and his entourage stormed out. Here’s a quick look at those who were there:

Salim “Sandy” Lewis is the former Wall Street trader who recently won a $71,600 settlement from state taxpayers after arguing that the APA had no jurisdiction over farms (he had sought close to a quarter million). “You are hated by a significant portion of this community,” he told the APA’s commissioners. Lewis believes the APA restricts local farming operations, despite the fact that local farming is up considerably amid a national decline (1, 2). [He believes there are two kind of farmers: “real farmers” who have capital to invest in their farms, and “phony farmers” who don’t]. Apparently, Lewis’s Wall Street experience has led him to believe that no none should have a say in the impacts large businesses have in the Adirondack Park. During a litany of threats against a variety of enemies, Lewis claimed he was asked to attend the APA meeting by the Governor’s Office. “I’ve been asked to name five new board members to this group by the Governor’s office,” he said.

Carol LaGrasse is the leader of the one-woman Property Rights Foundation who has called the APA “anti-family”. Among her more ridiculous assertions was the prediction that massive forest fires would follow the blowdown of 1995 if the state didn’t allow logging on Forest Preserve land (1). She was wrong then, but continues to appear regularly in local media reports whenever they need to trot out a rabid anti-environmentalist, Adirondack Park or Forest Preserve opponent.

Frank Casier is a former real estate developer. Now 92, Casier was a co-founder of Tony D’Elia’s Adirondack Defense League, described by Kim Smith Dedam as “an early order of resistance to the institution of the APA Act in 1973.” Casier, who said “The APA destroyed three of my housing projects,” was on hand with a 12-page pamphlet entitled The Theft of the Adirondacks. According to LaGrasse, Casier hasn’t been to an APA meeting in decades, but he said he has a new anti-APA book forthcoming. Casier was once the publisher of the anti-APA Adirondack Defender, funded by Alpo Dog Foods founder and Lake Placid summer resident (now deceased) Robert F. Hunsicker. The first Adirondack Defender was published as an supplement insert in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (then led by Will Doolittle‘s dad), and subsequently run in the Tupper Lake Free Press, Ticonderoga Sentinel, and Malone Telegram. The Denton newspapers, then numbering ten weeklies and owned by William Denton, refused to run the Defender.

Mike Vilegi was a passenger in the truck James McCulley drove down Old Mountain Road in an effort to have the long-abandoned wilderness road reopened to motorized vehicles. Vilegi is a Lake Placid builder who was leader of the “Adirondack Porn Agency” effort to taint the reputations of APA staff and commissioners. According to the Press-Republican, Vilegi once attended an APA meeting “wearing a T-shirt with the words ‘Adirondack Porn Agency’ written across the chest and a less polite phrase written on the back”. Vilegi has a flair for the dramatic; he’s a producer of YouTube videos showing how damaging hikers are.

Howard Aubin is a businessman who found his way to the Big Tupper Resort hearings to proclaim that 100 percent of Tupper Lakers support building the Adirondack Club and Resort, the largest residential development ever proposed in the Adirondacks. In an affidavit in support of the Lewis case, Aubin claimed “There is a general fear among the Bar in the North Country that participation in a dispute against the Agency will harm their practices.” Twenty years ago Aubin helped organize the Adirondack Solidarity Alliance, the folks who brought us the 1990 “freedom drive” which attempted to block Northway traffic between exits 20 and 28.

Bob Schulz, now in his 70s, is the Queensbury founder of We the People Foundation who launched the “Revolution Project” in 2008. Schulz is a longstanding proponent of the idea that Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Before that, he was the subject of several federal investigations, including his alleged failure to file Federal income tax returns for years 2001 through 2004. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice successfully sued Schulz to stop the sale “of an alleged tax fraud scheme reported to have cost the U.S. Treasury more than 21 million dollars.” Last year the Internal Revenue Service revoked We the People’s tax exempt status.

Trying to force logging of the Forest Preserve, subverting the APA Act for financial gain, blocking traffic, wearing obscene t-shirts to public meetings, promoting the refusal to pay taxes – these are the folks who enjoy standing with the local media.

Meanwhile, 120 private citizens, business, education, and nonprofit leaders, environmentalists, state and local economic development professionals and government leaders, and anti-APA property rights advocates were joining together in Long Lake to try and foster a sense that we’re all in this together. What coverage did that get? None that I can find.

Instead, we’re treated to a malicious anti-APA diatribe by the Glens Falls Post-Star that includes a number of personal attacks on APA staff and commissioners, all civil servants doing their job to help protect the Adirondack Park, a park for all the people of the state.

Unfortunately we need to constantly rehash the wrong-headed arguments expressed by the Post-Star‘s editorial board, even though they’ve been shown time and again to have no basis in fact. They claim, for example, “In its zeal to crack down on every potential encroachment of civilization, real or imagined, the agency has tipped the balance against the interests of individual rights and against economic development.” How any reasonable person can make that claim is beyond me – but they repeat it again and again.

First, the APA regulates about 40% of new buildings and 20% of total development activities. Second, the APA has declined just .8% of the projects that have been brought before it since 1973. And while we’re at it, there is also no basis whatsoever for the argument that the APA somehow coerces people to withdraw their applications – there simply aren’t that many withdrawn applications. There is no need to withdraw an application because the APA approves nearly all of them. This is what the Post-Star calls a “zeal to crack down on every potential encroachment of civilization”.

It is simply ludicrous to continue to argue that an agency that has power over just 20% of development activities and only 40% of new buildings, and has blocked only the tiniest fraction of those, is responsible for “overzealous enforcement of state regulations and an unwavering support of restrictive environmentalist policies over reasonable economic growth and development in the Adirondacks.”

The Post-Star‘s editorial board, which includes Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney and citizen representative Carol Merchant, should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to divide Adirondackers, especially on the same day those of us with an actual stake here were trying to make efforts to come together.

One final issue which really gets to the heart of the Post-Star‘s project to discredit reasonable environmental protections and smart growth planning in the Adirondack Park. The entire tone of their editorial is couched in terms of government openness, yet they don’t expect the same from the Local Government Review Board (LGRB). To my knowledge the paper has never once investigated the LGRB despite the fact that the APA-funded body is headed by Fred Monroe (and its one employee, his wife), who until very recently collected a paycheck from New York State, Warren County, and the Town of Chester (more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded salary).

The LGRB, which frequently meets at private restaurants on the public’s dime, issues no notices that a meeting is being held, no agendas before the meeting, no meeting minutes, and no online audio or video recordings of meetings. I signed up for the LGRB’s e-mail newsletter several years ago, I’m still on the list, but I’ve never received any information from them whatsoever. By the way, the APA does all these things and more.

When was the last time anyone had a say in who is on the LGRB? They are county backroom appointments, not elected, and there is no public discussion whatsoever. At a meeting I attended recently it was not even clear who was on the board and who wasn’t. They have never held a public forum or public hearing that I’m aware of. And despite the LGRB’s budget of over $110,000, it appears they haven’t produced anything in a full year.

It’s time these folks stop constantly disrupting our mutual progress for their own personal gain. As Adirondack Daily Enterprise Publisher Catherine Moore and Managing Editor Peter Crowley wrote this week in an editorial about their community’s recent division over the Adirondack Club and Resort:

“We all love nature and people, and we all want a balance between economic viability and environmental protection. It shouldn’t be shocking that people differ on where the balance point should be. Be realistic and grounded, be respectful, and don’t go looking for enemies – that’s our advice.”

And mine too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jamie Savage: Have Kids Will Recreate

What follows is a guest essay by Jamie Savage, professor of forest technology at the SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry Ranger School at Wanakena, part of our series of essays from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

Kids just want to have fun. They have fun when they feel safe and comfortable, when they’re well rested and well fed, and when they’re with family and friends in a stimulating environment. The key to getting kids involved with outdoor activities—and keeping them involved—is remembering and providing for these fun-damentals.

The following tips for successful adventures are based on my own experiences as a father, Outing Club advisor, and former summer camp counselor and those of several of my friends who regularly spend time outdoors with their kids.

Fun-damental #1: Kid-Centered Activities

My friends Caren and Brian allow their three children to take turns choosing their activities. They also encourage their kids to help plan each outing, offering maps, guidebooks, etc. as assistance. My friend Bill warns that what we adults consider a “good day’s outing” may not be appropriate for small children. Instead of hiking the Great Range in a day, consider something less ambitious—OK, a lot less ambitious—like a hike to the top of Roaring Brook Falls or up Mt. Jo. Start easy, he suggests, and let them grow into it; “They’ll soon grow up and you’ll be trying to keep up with them!”

My friend Celia, who regularly hikes, skis, camps, and paddles with her two children, adds, “Be willing to turn around—remember that these days are not about you.” Kathy, also a mother of two kids, could not agree more: “Take your time, and if your children are tired, take a break or cut short your day. Remember, this is not a race to a destination; it is all about what happens on the way.” Allow ample time for exploring and enjoying a waterfall, glacial erratic, or, if paddling, a clear, shallow bay where underwater flora and fauna can be observed.

Fun-damental #2: Safety and First Aid

As a parent, you want to keep your children safe and free from harm, but also give them some freedom to experience, explore, and learn from their surroundings. Accordingly, pick locations that are accessible and secure. Choose a trail that will allow you to let the kids run ahead a bit without fear of a cliff or dangerous stream crossing. Choose campsites that don’t present obvious dangers nearby, so that you feel comfortable letting your kids explore. The more kids feel free to do what they want, the more fun they will have.

My friends Bill and Sue do a lot of camping with their three children. Bill says that successful outings require some negotiation, particularly with his nine-year-old son. “If you want him to learn how to build a fire,” Bill says, “then you have to let him use the small hatchet. Yes, I know this is dangerous, but if you say ‘no’ to everything, you may as well not take him.”

Minor cuts and bruises are inevitable, especially on the knees and palms of our “four-wheel drive” kids, so I always bring a small first aid kit. I agree with my friend Kathy on some essentials: moleskin for blisters, small and large adhesive band-aids (including some big enough for knees and palms!), anti-bacterial cream like Neosporin, and sunblock. It’s also nice to have some wipes and/or a clean bottle of water in reserve for wound cleaning.

Fun-damental #3: Comfort

The more comfortable your kids are while they recreate, the more fun they are going to have, and the more positive their memories. Footwear is a critical piece of gear when it comes to staying comfortable in the outdoors. For many outdoor activities, I think it comes down to two kinds of shoes:

• Each year, Claire and I outfit our sons with a decent pair of hiking boots. They need to fit well, come up over the ankle, and be of decent quality. They will be outgrown before they wear out, so investing in the top of the line is not necessary.

• I also like our kids to have some type of water shoe, like a reef-walker type of pull-on. Flip-flops and open-toed sandals need not apply! I look for something that will protect toes and the bottoms of our kids’ feet. Water shoes are great for paddling, swimming in rivers and lakes, and just wearing around a grassy or sandy campsite. In general, try to choose footwear that is easy to put on and take off, and that dries out fairly quickly. And always bring extra socks! Once the kids’ feet are wet, it isn’t long before they start complaining that their feet are cold and/or sore.

Pesky insects can ruin anyone’s day, and they may even cause rashes, swelling, or other allergic reactions in younger children. If you’re out during the buggy season, or buggy time of day, encourage your kids to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats. I try to use as little bug spray as possible. If it’s really necessary, I use repellents with low amounts of DEET (25% or less), and apply it sparingly to hats, necks, and other places where the kids can’t reach to fend off attackers. Bug nets fitted over wide-brimmed hats also work quite well, if your child will tolerate such headgear. If using accessories like child carriers, jog strollers, or bike trailers (I recommend combination stroller/bike trailer rigs), invest in models that have good bug netting. Don’t let a few bugs keep you and your kids inside!

Fun-damental #4: Plenty of Good Food

Caren and Brian say that a BIG part of their family’s outdoor adventures is the planning of the food. They plan food together, assigning fun names to their infamous dishes (like the “outhouse wrap”). They even have traditional “camp meals” that they incorporate into every trip, like a special breakfast oatmeal.

Gorp (a.k.a. trail mix) is popular with many kids. Kathy and Bill’s crew get to make up their own the night before a hike, ski, or paddle. It gets the kids excited about the next day, and ensures that certain ingredients aren’t left uneaten at the bottom of the bag. Some of their favorite contents include Cheerios, raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts, cashews, chocolate chips, and M & Ms (of course!). One of my tricks is to bring along a bag of Starbursts, or something similar. I “award” them at the completion of a certain section of trail, and/or at the top of the mountain. It’s a great motivator. I do a similar thing with my college students by offering “S.M.A.F.C.R.s” (smafkers): Sweet Morsels Awarded For Correct Responses!

Fun-damental #5: Stimulating Environment

The fifth and final tip is to give kids fun things to do and fun people to do them with. Try brewing up some hot chocolate along the ski trail, give the kids ‘walkie talkies’ to play with, bring binoculars, write/sing songs about your adventures, conduct scavenger hunts, or hold plant identification contests. Don’t just take your kids to the outdoors—engage them in it.

My kids seem to have an even better time on our adventures if they are with some of their friends, or even just with other kids. They tease, challenge, and teach each other…and they smile and laugh a lot. No friends available? Try a puppy! Caren says that their dog Lily “gets them out and she is a blast to hike with.”

Bottom line: the more time you spend outdoors, the more comfortable your kids will become, and the more fun they will have.

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Solar-Voltaic Boot Camp at the Wild Center

As the cost of home heating oil rises and oil reserves decline, the need for alternative renewable energy sources such as solar has never been greater. You can help kick the oil habit by learning to install solar photo-voltaic systems at The Wild Center, in Tupper Lake. From August 8 – 10, the HeatSpring Learning Institute will host a Solar Photo-Voltaic Installer Boot Camp Training course targeted for electrical contractors, general contractors, roofers, engineers and home installers.

This intensive solar training teaches you to design, install, and sell solar PV (electric) systems, plus helps you pass the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam. The training combines 16 hours of online lessons including reading assignments, worksheets and other prep with a three-day classroom based boot camp including hands-on exercises and face to face time with an ISPQ Certified Master trainer. On the last day of the training students take the NABCEP Entry Level Exam. The blended format of this course is designed to keep time off-the-job to a minimum and present the material in a variety of formats to allow for a variety of student learning styles.

The three-day classroom based training follows 16 hours of online study beforehand when you review OSHA and solar safety, electricity basics, solar basics, solar components and solar integration. Learn to design and install solar electric systems from A to Z while earning 40 Board approved hours toward NABCEP certification, a key step to beginning or expanding your solar business.

Instructor Ken Thames is a master electrician, NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer, ISPQ Certified Master Trainer and founder of Thames Electric Co, in Denver, Colorado. Ken has installed more than 500 solar PV systems since 1994, has deep expertise in battery-backed systems, project management experience on megawatt-scale projects, and teaches courses on the NEC for inspectors.

Each day the course runs from 8 am until 5 pm. With early registration and The Wild Center coupon, the cost for the course is $1,195. The cost includes books, exam fees, field guides, as well as coffee, breakfast and lunch on all three days. Register online for the three-day comprehensive course, at www.wildcenter.org and go to Calendar of Events or contact Andrew Kitzenberg at 1-800-393-2044 x 22.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Invasives Program Named ‘Conservationist of the Year’

The Adirondack Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) received the Adirondack Council’s “2001 Conservationist of the Year” award in a ceremony at the historic Irondequoit Inn on July 9. APIPP is the 27th winner of the prestigious annual award. APIPP Director Hilary Smith accepted on the award on the organization’s behalf.

“APPIP has pioneered the effort to get control of the invasive, non-native plants that threaten to destroy and replace the healthy, native trees and plants of our vast Adirondack forests,” said Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “Under Hilary Smith’s leadership, APPIP has identified the places that need immediate attention and has trained and organized an army of volunteers to take on the hard work. It is not easy to identify, and then properly remove and dispose of invaders so they don’t take root somewhere else. » Continue Reading.

Friday, July 22, 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 6,500 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.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Adirondack Events This Weekend (July 22)

Visit the Almanack on Fridays for links to what’s happening this weekend around the Adirondacks.

The Almanack also provides weekly backcountry conditions and hunting and fishing reports for those headed into the woods or onto the waters this weekend.

Region-wide Events This Weekend

Around & About in Lake George This Weekend

Lake Placid Region Events This Weekend

Old Forge Area Events This Weekend

Friday, July 22, 2011

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

Each Friday morning Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers the previous week’s top stories. You can find all our weekly news round-ups here.

Subscribe! More than 6,500 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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