Saturday, June 26, 2010

Weibrecht’s Bronze Medal on Display in Lake Placid

The Lake Placid 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum has added another piece to its collection of artifacts from last February’s 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, Andrew Weibrecht’s men’s Super-G bronze medal.

“The medal was turned over for display and for safe keeping between appearances,” noted museum curator Liz Defazio. “It’s so nice for these athletes to have a place where they can share their accomplishments with others… sort of their home away from home.”

Weibrecht’s bronze medal helped spark the U.S. alpine ski team to a record eight medals in Vancouver. Overall, the U.S. Olympic squad celebrated its best Olympics ever, claiming the overall medal count with 37.

Nicknamed the “Warhorse” on the international alpine ski tour, Weibrecht began skiing at the age of five at Whiteface Mountain and began racing with the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) program by the time he was 10. He had only been on the World Cup circuit since 2006 and Vancouver was his first Olympic Winter Games.

There are quite a number of artifacts on display in the museum from the 2010 winter games donated by several of the 12 area athletes who competed, as well as coaches and officials. The artifacts include race gear, Opening Ceremony clothing, official U.S. Olympic team clothing, event tickets, programs and pins.

Lake Placid’s 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum features the largest collection of winter Olympic artifacts outside the International Olympic Committee’s museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Some of the artifacts include the first Winter Olympic medal awarded, gold in 1924 in Chamonix, France, to Lake Placid native and speedskater Charles Jewtraw, equipment worn by U.S. goalie Jim Craig during the 1980 winter games, parade clothing from the 1932 winter games, athletes participation medals and Olympic medals from every winter Olympics.

Admission to the museum is $6 for adults and $4 for juniors and seniors. Admission is also included when purchasing an Olympic Sites Passport. The Passport gives visitors access to each of ORDA’s Olympic venues—from Whiteface Mountain to the Olympic Sports Complex and everything in between. Sold for $29 at the ORDA Store and all of our ticket offices, the Passport saves you time, money, and gets you into the venues at a good value. For more information about the Olympic Sites Passport, log on to

Photo: Andrew Weibrecht’s Super-G Bronze Medal. Courtesy 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Museum, Lake Placid, NY.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cedar Waxwings: Silk-Tailed Birds of the Cedars

Every day for the last three weeks or so, the air has been filled with the thin, high pitched calls of cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). Highly social birds, they flock together year round as they forage for food in their favorite haunts. Lately these haunts have been the yards and lawns around town, where daily I see their heads popping up from the grassy carpets, peering at me with their beady eyes while they assess whether my presence is threatening or not.

From the first time I saw a cedar waxwing, I fell in love with it. Its feathers are so sleek that they blend together to form a whole, making the bird look like something made of silk or satin. In fact, the name Bombycilla was coined in an attempt to reflect this: silk-tailed. Add to the fine-textured caramel-colored body a jaunty crest, a black mask, a yellow stripe on the tail and wings tipped with “red sealing wax”, and you have one dapper bird.

I recently found a deceased waxwing on the side of the road and had the chance to examine it in great detail. Those bits of red on the wings really do look like someone dripped sealing wax on the ends of the feathers. In truth, however, each red “thing” is merely a flattened extension of the feather’s shaft. It is quite stiff and does feel waxy.

People have speculated for many years the reason(s) for these decorations, and in the 1980s a theory was put forth that the birds use them to assess each other for potential mates. Apparently the number of “droplets” reflects the age of the bird: more droplets means greater age. It seems that the birds select mates who share the same number of droplets as they sport, thus mating with individuals that are the same age. It seems as good a theory as any.

Several years ago, I had a friend who had a parakeet. She had to be sure to provide the bird with red or orange foods to keep its color optimum, otherwise it faded to a pale yellow. Likewise, flamingoes that don’t eat enough shrimp start to loose their pink coloration. The same seems to hold true with the waxwings. Back in the 1960s birds started to show up in the northeast with orange-colored wax droplets instead of red, and orange tips on their tails instead of yellow. It turns out that this color change coincided with the introduction of non-native honeysuckles. The red wax droplets are colored by the presence of certain carotenoid pigments found in the birds’ regular food. The birds eating the foreign fruits consumed different carotneoids and ended up with differently colored feather tips.

Cedar waxwings are one of the most serious fruit-eating birds we have. Most of the year they dine on fruits: cherries, serviceberries, winterberries, dogwood berries, hawthorns, mountain ash, et al (note that all these fruits are red). These small fruits are inhaled whole and digested with such rapidity that the seeds pass right through the birds’ digestive tracts. When fruits are ripe, the flocks sweep in, take a seat on a convenient branch and start gulping them down, although sometimes they will hover mid-air and pluck the fruits. A tree or shrub can be stripped clean in a day or two, and then the flock moves on.

A classic waxwing behavior, and one every bird photographer has captured, is the passing of a fruit from bird to bird. Sometimes this is done between members of the flock, until one bird decides to eat it. Other times it is done as part of a courtship ritual, where the male presents the female with a fruit. She in turn takes it and hops away, contemplating the gift. If she is impressed, she hops back and gives the fruit back to him. This little ritual repeats until the female decides to eat the fruit (or not). Apparently fruit consumption is equivalent to accepting an engagement ring. Shortly thereafter, nest building begins.

By the time late spring and early summer roll around, however, there are few, if any fruits, left for the birds to eat. When this happens, these birds don’t starve and fade away, they have a back up plan. They change their diet to insects. And just as they eat fruit like there is no tomorrow, so, too, do they gorge on insects. This can be quite the boon when insect pests are around, for a flock can go through an insect population like wildfire through a drought-stricken forest. I’d be willing to bet that this is what all those waxwings on the lawns have been doing for the last few weeks: hunting down insects to fill their bottomless bellies. Sadly, this single-minded behavior can get them in trouble, for flocks foraging along roadsides can get run down by passing cars and trucks, like the waxwing I found yesterday.

If you find yourself walking along a forest edge, or a grassy field near a woodlot, keep your eyes and ears open for waxwings. You are bound to hear them, and when you do, it is only a matter of glancing around before you find the source of their distinctive sound.

Photo Courtesy Wikipedia.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Venison and Potato Chips: Native Foodways Lecture

During the nineteenth century, a number of Adirondack Indians marketed their skill as hunters, guides, basket makers, doctors, and cooks.

On Monday, July 5, 2010 Dr. Marge Bruchac will offer a program entitled “Venison and Potato Chips: Native Foodways in the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Bruchac will focus attention on what might be a lesser-known Native skill – cooking.

The first offering of the season for the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Nineteenth century white tourists paid good money to purchase wild game from Native people, to hunt in their territories, to buy medicines and remedies, and to eat in restaurants or lodgings where Indians held sway in the kitchen.

Dr. Bruchac will highlight stories of individuals such as Pete Francis, notorious for hunting wild game and creating French cuisine; George Speck and Katie Wicks, both cooks at Moon’s Lake House and co-inventors of the potato chip; and Emma Camp Mead, proprietress of the Adirondack House, Indian Lake, N.Y., known for setting an exceptionally fine table.

Bruchac contends that these people, and others like them, actively purveyed and shaped the appetite for uniquely American foods steeped in Indigenous foodways.

The Adirondack Museum celebrates food, drink, and the pleasures of eating in the Adirondack Park this year with a new exhibition, “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.” The exhibit includes a 1915 photograph of Emma Mead as well as her hand-written recipes for “Green Tomato Pickles” and “Cranberry Puffs.”

Marge Bruchac, PhD, is a preeminent Abenaki historian. A scholar, performer, and historical consultant on the Abenaki and other Northeastern native peoples, Bruchac lectures and performs widely for schools, museums, and historical societies. Her 2006 book for children about the French and Indian War, Malian’s Song, was selected as an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times and was the winner of the American Folklore Society’s Aesop Award.

Photo: Dr. Marge Bruchac

Friday, June 25, 2010

Warren County Sheriff Compiling Office’s History

In 1958, at the urging of Sheriff Carl McCoy, Warren County’s Board of Supervisors established a marine division within the Sheriff’s department, one of the first local marine patrols in New York State. The supervisors appropriated $5,661 to pay pay the salaries of deputies and to purchase one boat, a 23 foot Lyman utility, for patrolling Lake George.

A photo of that boat being driven by McCoy, reproduced here, will hang on the wall of Warren County’s new Public Safety building, along with other photos documenting the history of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Bud York has launched a drive to assemble and display material associated with the Sheriff’s department, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2013.

“I’ve always belonged to law enforcement agencies that valued their history, and the history of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department deserves to be preserved,” said York.

In 1911, York said, Undersheriff Mac R. Smith compiled photographs of the Sheriffs who had had served during the department’s first century.

“Those photos were hung on the walls of the Sheriffs Office in the court house in Lake George, where they remained until Warren County moved to the new municipal center in Queensbury,” York said.

After that, York said, the photos were stored in boxes. County historian John Austin located them and made them available to the Sheriff’s office, which reproduced them. They now hang in the new Public Safety building.

“Among them are Bert Lamb, a relative of Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover’s wife Kathy, Fred Smith, who founded F.R. Smith and Sons and Carl McCoy, the uncle of Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy,” York said at a press conference to announce the project earlier this week.

Frank McCoy attended the press conference, as did Bill Carboy, the son of Sheriff Bill Carboy, and former Sheriff Fred Lamy.

Because of the number of relatives of former Sheriffs still living in the area, York hopes that the public can help find photos of Sheriffs who are not represented on the wall.

Those former Sheriffs are: Henry Spencer, Jospeh Teft, Artemus Aldrich, James Thurman, Dudley Farin, James Cameron, Luther Brown, King Allen, Stephen Starbuck, Gideon Towsley, William Clothier, Edgar Baker, Truman Thomas and Robert Lilly.

Anyone with any information about any of these Sheriffs should contact Sheriff York at 743-2518.

Photo: Warren County Sheriff’s Department

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

Friday, June 25, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

Friday, June 25, 2010

Northern Forest Canoe Trail Event Has 740-Mile Goal

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2010, and is hosting an international paddling challenge as part of its anniversary festivities.

On Saturday, July 24, kayakers and canoeists paddling on any waterway of the 740-mile trail can contribute to “740 Miles in One Day,” with the goal to paddle the total mileage of the trail between sunrise and 5:00 p.m. on that day. Pre-registration for the free event is open at the event website.

“This event is a great excuse for families or a group of friends to get out on a lake, river or pond along the Trail and be a part of our fun anniversary celebration weekend,” said NFCT Executive Director Kate Williams.

Jen Lamphere running the Saranac by Mike PrescottMiles will be counted per person, not per boat, so you don’t have to be a serious paddler to have a big impact. A canoe with three people making a 5-mile trip will translate to 15 miles toward the goal. Participating paddlers will report their mileage to the designated email address or by calling or texting 802-279-8302. Photos and videos of paddler’s experiences can be uploaded on the event website.

Visit to see the 13 mapped sections of the water trail in New York, Vermont, southern Québec, New Hampshire and Maine. Choose a portion of the trail close to home or take a road trip to a far off destination. People paddling from Vermont into Canada or from Canada into Vermont should have a passport to show at border patrol stations.

The “740 Miles in One Day” event is part of NFCT’s 10th Anniversary Paddler’s Rendezvous taking place July 24-25 in Rangeley, Maine. There will be a hosted paddle station set up on Haley Pond in Rangeley from noon to 4:00 p.m. on the 24th to give anniversary celebrants an easy way to contribute to the 740-mile goal.

The total miles paddled will be announced during a Saturday evening anniversary party and dinner at Saddleback Maine resort.

Friday, June 25, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (June 24)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: Low
Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 71.
Friday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 50.
Saturday: Scattered showers, then thunderstorms likely, a high near 67.
Saturday Night: Showers and thunderstorms likely.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 72.

Biting Insects
“Bug Season” has begun in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibilty 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 begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Rainy Weather: Due to significant recent rainfalls, trails have mud and/or puddles in many locations. Hikers are advised to wear appropriate footwear and to stay on the trail – hike through muddy areas and puddles to avoid widening the trails or creating “herd paths” around those areas. The rains have also raised the water levels of many streams – particularly during and immediately following storm events – low water crossings may not be accessible.

Blowdowns: Due to recent storms and high winds blowdown may be found on trails, particularly infrequently used side trails. Blowdown may be heavy enough in some places to impede travel.

Bear-Resistant Canisters: The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear resistant canisters; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

The Raquette River Boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, although the floating docks are not expected to be installed until mid-July. The canoe and kayak launch area is not yet open but paddlers can launch at the ramp until that area reopens as well.

New York State Free Fishing Days are this weekend. No license is required to fish the state’s waters on Saturday and Sunday. DEC’s other fishing rules and regulations remain in effect.

Santanoni Historic Preserve: Part of the stone bridge on the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni has collapsed in recent rains. Hikers and bikers can still pass, but horse trailers can not. DEC is working with the Town of Newcomb to repair the bridge, in the meantime use caution when crossing the bridge.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) is open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Rock Climbing Route Closures: Peregrine falcon nesting activity has closed a number of Adirondack climbing routes including The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain, the Upper Washbowl on Giant Mountain, and Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch. A complete list of closed routes can be found online.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has a lot of blowdown. Also beavers have flooded a section of trail about half way between the ponds. A significant amount of bushwhacking will be needed to get through the carry, so be prepared for a real wilderness experience.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

High Peaks/VanHovenburg Trail: The High Water Bridge has reopened.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

SUNY ESF Will Take Over Newcomb VIC

Officials from the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) announced today that on July 1, 2010, the APA will transfer ownership of the state-owned buildings and equipment of the Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb to SUNY-ESF. The College will then begin a transitional period with the goal to manage future Newcomb VIC programs, according to a press release.

SUNY-ESF has announced its intention to integrate operations of its Adirondack Ecological Center and the Northern Forest Institute. SUNY-ESF President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr., said the agreement supports the work of the college’s Adirondack Ecological Center, which is located on the Newcomb property. “This new initiative extends the mission of the AEC, with additional educational resources for both students and visitors so they can learn about the wonders of ecology in the Adirondacks,” Murphy said.

APA staff are expected to provide traditional VIC programming in consultation with SUNY-ESF at the Newcomb facility during the transitional period. Staff will provide interpretive services for the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9am till 5pm. The public will continue to have access to the trail network and exhibit rooms. During this time period, APA staff will also assist SUNY-ESF in the identification of programming needs that meet the college’s goals.

The agreement will include the transfer of all state-owned buildings on the 236 acre Newcomb site. The 6,000-square-foot main public assembly building with its 150-seat multiple purpose room, 700-square-foot exhibit room and staff offices as well as an adjacent 2,500-square-foot garage and classroom building will be surrendered to SUNY-ESF.

After December 31, 2010 programming needs in reference to staffing, hours of operations, public visitation, special programs inclusive of groups and schools, off site programs and outreach will be directly managed and funded by SUNY-ESF.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lake Placid Celebrates Olympic Day Saturday

The Lake Placid Olympic Training Center and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) will be hosting Olympic Day, on Saturday, June 26, from 1-3 p.m. at the Olympic Training Center.

The free event gives families and youngsters the chance to try Olympic sports such as bobsled and biathlon. Participants can even try luge on the fully refrigerated start ramps inside USA Luge’s headquarters. Visitors can also watch freestyle athletes train on trampolines and there will be autograph sessions with luge, bobsled, skeleton, biathlon, ski jumping and freestyle athletes.

Guests will also be given the chance to win great raffle prizes including dinner with an Olympian at the Olympic Training Center and enjoy great games and ice cream. There will also be live music performed by U.S. biathlete and two-time Olympian Lowell Bailey.

Those who participate in Olympic Day will also receive ORDA coupons good for 50% off a Lake Placid bobsled ride, 50% off admission to the Olympic Jumping Complex and 50% off the Be a Biathlete.

During last February’s Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, 12 area athletes competed for the United States. Lake Placid’s Mark Grimmette, a five-time Olympian in doubles’ luge, was the team’s flag bearer during the Opening Ceremonies, while Andrew Weibrecht, also of Lake Placid, won a bronze medal in the men’s Super-G. Vermontville’s Bill Demong claimed silver in the Nordic combined team event and gold in the large hill Nordic combined event. Overall, the U.S. Olympic squad celebrated its best Olympics ever, claiming the overall medal count with 37.

Olympic Day is an international event celebrating and promoting the participation in sport by men, women and children from all walks of life in all corners of the world. It is a worldwide commemoration of Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s June 23, 1894, convening the first International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting at the Sorbonne in Paris, and the founding of the Modern Olympic Games. National Olympic Committees (NOCs) throughout the world will also participate in the international celebration, with each Olympic Committee sending Olympic Day greetings to participating nations and to further the Olympic spirit and movement.

For more information about Olympic Day, visit, or

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Invasive Identified in Lake George Watershed

An invasive terrestrial plant, Mycelis muralis, commonly known as wall lettuce, has been identified growing alongside 9N near Dunham’s Bay in Lake George, according to the Lake George Association. Wall lettuce is one of several newer species that was placed on a watch list earlier this spring by the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program. This is the first time that the plant has been known to exist within the Lake George Watershed, although it has likely been growing for a few years without having been identified. Citizens are asked to contact the LGA if they believe this plant may be growing on their property, so that the organization can assess the spread of its growth. » Continue Reading.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ausable and Boquet River Associations Hosting Native Plant Sales

The Ausable and Boquet River Associations (AsRA and BRASS) will host native plant sales offering gardeners a selection of plants native to northern NY and the Adirondacks. A Master Gardener will also be present to offer gardening advice.

BRASS will host a sale tomorrow, on Friday, June 25 from 9-1pm at the Elizabethtown Farmer’s Market located on Hand Avenue. AsRA will host a sale this Sunday, June 27 from 9-2pm at the Keene Valley Farmer’s Market located at Marcy Field. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (May-June 2010)

What follows is the May and June Forest Ranger Activity Report for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. These reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date. You can read previous Forest Ranger Reports here.

Essex County

Town of Jay, Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area

On Saturday, April 24, 2010, at approximately 3:54 pm, State Police Dispatch received a call reporting a hiker on the Lost Pond side of Weston Mountain who was vomiting, had a severe headache and was unable to walk. Joe Demer, 23 of Amsterdam, NY, was hiking with a group of friends and reportedly had had nothing to eat or drink all day. DEC Forest Rangers responded and requested assistance from State Police Aviation and BackCountry Medical. When forest rangers located Mr. Demer and his party they provided him water and energy food. His condition improved and forest rangers cancelled the aviation and backcountry medical assistance. Eventually, Mr. Demer’s condition improved enough for him to walk. Forest rangers escorted him and his party out to the trailhead. Mr. Demer refused further medical treatment and was released to his friends at 8:00 pm. DEC Forest Rangers remind hikers to carry and consume plenty of food and water while hiking. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Adirondack Wintergreens: A Plethora of Pyrolas

Now that summer is here, finding woodland wildflowers can be more of a challenge. Gone are the flashy, brightly blossomed sprites that flourished in the spring sunshine. The dark shade cast by the trees and shrubs hides the nourishing rays of our closest star. Still, if one takes the time to look, and knows where to cast one’s gaze, one can find a few shy flowers that prefer the dimmer light. I give you the pyrolas.

Pyrolas, commonly known as wintergreens, even though they are not THE wintergreen made famous in flavorings and linaments, are small inconspicuous plants that dot many of our forest floors. Overall they are unimpressive, their leaves no more than a green rosette that clings tightly to the ground. But from the center of this rosette rises a slender stalk, and from this stalk the flower(s) droop(s).

Most common in our mixed northern woods is shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica). Its flowers are a greenish white, and, like all pyrolas, hang downwards as though the plant were nodding off to sleep. If you tilt a blossom upward and take a close look (a hand lens comes in real handy about now, or a macro lens on your camera), you’ll see some of the other traits of this clan of flowers.

For example, sticking out from the center, extending well beyond the reach of the petals, is the style – part of the female productive system. The tip of the style supports the stigma, which is the part that receives the pollen. On pyrolas, the stigma is flared, or sometimes lobed, and it acts as a landing platform for the flower’s insect pollinators, most of which are flies.

Surrounding the style are the stamens, the male parts. At the tip of each stamen is the anther, which produces the pollen. Now, what’s really cool about the anthers is that they look like straws: hollow at the tip. Go ahead and grab a hand lens and take a good close look. The tips have holes! They remind me of some of the anemones one sees waving about on coral reefs. It is from these holes that the pollen is shed.

The pollen, which you will not likely see, is sticky. When the flies come in to sup at the flower, the pollen is shed upon and sticks to their furry bodies. The flies travel from flower to flower, and the pollen is transferred from their bodies to the sticky stigma. From here the pollen travels down the style to the ovary and voila! the plant is fertilized.

Pyrolas are fascinating in other ways as well. For example, they have a close relationship with the local fungi. The soil all around us is full of mycelia, the vegetative structures of many fungi. The pyrolas are what scientists call mycoheterotrophs, meaning they acquire nutrients by feeding off these mycelia. It’s a parasitic relationship. In and of itself, this isn’t all that unusual, for many forest plants have similar relationships with fungi. What makes the pyrolas stand out, however, is that they can also survive completely photosynthetically – they can make their own food. It seems that the parasitic relationship is optional for them. From what I’ve been able to determine in the literature, the exact nature of this plant’s relationship with (and without) the fungi is not well understood. There could be a good research project in this, just waiting for the right graduate student to unlock the secret.

Recently I’ve been fortunate enough to see several of our local pyrolas in bloom, including the pink, or bog, pyrola (P. asarifolia), which is a threatened species in New York State. With a little scouting around our forest floors, especially damp woodlands, you, too, can add shinleaf pyrola, one-flowered pyrola (P. secunda), one-sided pyrola (Moneses uniflora), green-flowered (P. virens)* and round-leaf pyrola (P. rotundifolia) to your life list. And if the flower gods are smiling on you, you can also add the pink pyrola, a real treat to any nature nut, even if flowers are not your passion.

* this is the one pictured above

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

High Peak Hiking: Four Slides in One Day

Many Adirondack hikers go on to explore the many slides of the High Peaks after hiking trails for many years. Slides create a direct approach to the top, combining bushwhacking, easy rock climbing and a sense of adventure.

Then there’s Kevin “MudRat” MacKenzie of Lake Placid, who has taken slide-climbing to a new extreme.

Call it slide-bagging. And recently he got four of them in one day.

About a week ago MacKenzie, 40, an assistant registrar at St. Lawrence University, climbed Giant Mountain — the popular High Peak off Route 73 in Keene Valley. He climbed it, descended it, climbed it and descended it, by himself, going up and down four adjacent slides on the prominent west face.

“I was going to do everything on the west face,” he reported later. “So I put together four of them.”

Every slide was different, he said. Every slide had its own character.

Starting his hike around 7 a.m., he hiked the Roaring Brook Trail to a bushwhack that follows drainages to the base of the Bottle Slide, one of a number of bare areas created from landslides years ago.

He describes the slide as one of his favorites, with waves of anorthosite, plenty of cracks and ledges to climb and a pitch of around 39 degrees (he figures this out at home using topographic software.

From there, he descended the Diagonal Slide, which is steeper and covered with algae, making for a nerve-racking descent. “You can’t see what you’re stepping onto,” he said.

At the bottom of the mountain’s headwall, he traversed to the Question Mark Slide, an obscure route that’s steep, overgrown and covered with wet moss. That took two hours, including a lot of bushwhacking through the trees to avoid the perilous, 45-degree wet bits.

Finally reaching the summit at 1 p.m., he was exhausted and decided to pass on hiking Giant’s most well-known slide, the majestic Eagle Slide (the wide and obvious bare section visible from Keene Valley). Instead, he walked down the 600-foot-high Tulip Slide and decided to call it a day.

MacKenzie says he’s done about 30 slides so far, and hopes to one day climb all 100 major slides in the peaks. His next area: Dix, with its dozens of slides, which he plans to attack in a weekend camping trip in the near future.

Readers: What are your favorite slide routes and why?


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