Thursday, September 9, 2010

Almanack Welcomes Dan Crane, Bushwhacking Fool

Please join me in welcoming Dan Crane as the Adirondack Almanack‘s newest regular contributor. Dan has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry by hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing for almost two decades. In addition, he is a life-long naturalist with a Bachelor and Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends most of his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He will be writing about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. His posts will appear every other week on Thursdays, beginning today.

Dan will no doubt share some exciting stories of the backcountry. Hopefully none will match his most recent harrowing adventure, experiencing the July 1995 Great Blowdown first hand; he was airlifted out of the Five Ponds Wilderness via helicopter the day after the storm.

Dan is also the creator of the new blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures in the Adirondacks and elsewhere.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adirondack Herbs: Heal-All

Yesterday evening the dog decided to take our walk around behind the rescue squad building. A variety of wildlife no doubt travels this corridor, so it was not surprising that his nose led us in this general direction. My nose is not as sensitive as the dog’s, but my eyes are drawn to things that he probably thinks are dull – like a white flower blooming at the corner of the building.

White flowers that are not asters are not common at this time of year. In fact, the only white flowers that come to mind are the aforementioned asters and nodding ladies tresses. The plant that caught my eye was neither of these; it was heal-all (Prunella vulgaris).

You all know heal-all (alternatively known as self-heal, heart-of-the-earth, carpenter weed, blue curls, sicklewort, and woundwort): it is the short, stocky plant that grows in your yard, sporting purple blossoms throughout the warm seasons. The key point here is that it normally has purple blossoms. The plant I encountered last night was white. There are rogues in every population.

Most people probably consider heal-all a weed. It disrupts the perfect lawn. Ah – how we have changed. Not all that long ago this was a plant sought by people from all walks of life, for it is edible and medicinal, making it highly desirable.

The modern lawn is often a barren wasteland, botanically speaking. Chemically controlled to prevent all but a very few plant species from growing, not to mention to keep out all sorts of insects, it may look like a lovely plush green carpet, but it’s lacking in character and life. Once upon a time, the lawn was a veritable salad bowl, chocked full of all sorts of edible plants, not the least of which is/was heal-all. Highly nutritious, if bitter, it used to find its way into salads, soups and stews. It could even be boiled and used as a pot herb. Considering the amount of heal-all in my lawn, I could open a U-Pick stand if it was still popular!

As important as this plant was to supplement the human diet, it was as a medicinal herb that it found its niche. At one point in time, it was considered to be a panacea. Have a sty in your eye? Use a rinse made from Prunella. Have a fever? Prunella will save the day. Stomach ailment? Diarrhea? Internal bleeding? Wounds that won’t heal? Prunella to the rescue!

As it turns out, this humble herb, which is mostly Eurasian in origin (although recent studies have turned up a native variety, Prunella vulgaris elongata), contains many compounds that are truly beneficial in the field of medicine, not the least of which is a strong anti-bacterial property. This quality alone would explain why the plant was so often sought to help heal wounds in the days before germs were common knowledge.

Modern medicine is now studying the effects of heal-all as a treatment for herpes, AIDS, cancer and diabetes.

If food and medicine aren’t enough to convince you to keep heal-all in your yard, then consider this: it is an important nectar source for a large variety of native pollinators (bees and butterflies), not to mention that its leaves are a food source for the larval form of the gray marvel moth.

While I’ve taken the time to look at heal-all in the past, it wasn’t until this white form grabbed my attention last night that I decided to take another look. There’s a moral here: it’s often pays to look twice at those things which we take for granted. There might be a hidden quality that we’ve missed in our assumption of the common.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Climbing: Cascade Pass’s Pitchoff Chimney Cliff

Located on the windiest spot of Cascade Pass, Pitchoff Chimney Cliff is visible to everyone who stops by. Given the precipitous road, drivers would be forgiven for not giving the wide, bare rock more than a passing glance as they maneuvered through one of the High Peak’s most scenic routes.

But if they pulled to the side and looked up, they would most likely see climbers plastered all over the rock. And with good reason — the cliff contains some of the park’s best moderate routes. It also has something climbers like best: an easy approach.

In late August I spent a day here with partner Steve Goldstein and his teenage son Joe. We climbed several routes, including the justly famous Pete’s Farewell and the lesser-known but quite good route called Great Chimney.

The Great Chimney is a route that all climbers on the face should try, because it gives ascentionists a chance to see what Chimney Crag is all about. While the cliff looks like solid rock from the road, much of the face is actually a thin veneer of stone, detached except for the base from the mountain itself, and separated by a dark, roofless space known as a “chimney.”

A chimney in climbing parlance is generally a crack large enough to fit a body in. Many of these routes require “stemming” both walls, making a bridge with hands and feet and using opposing pressure to climb up. They can be some of the most physically demanding and intimidating routes, and climbers often emerge exhausted, with clothes ripped and bodies bloodied from the wrestling match with granite.

Pitchoff’s chimney is much more friendly. After a single pitch up the outside corner, climbers find themselves in its dark bowels, hidden from the view outside and clambering among a pile of broken boulders at its base. The second pitch is short but interesting. Rated 5.6 (fairly easy on the climbing rating scale), I found it somewhat intimidating and hard to figure out. It follows an overhanging crack up the chimney to a notch, where sunlight poured down from the outside world.

It was my turn to lead. I puzzled over the crack for a few minutes, and finally reached out to the other side and ascended the route in classic chimney fashion. Climbing chimneys can often feel sketchy, like you can fall at any moment, but thanks to a wall featured with indentations, this one was solid. It took a while, but eventually I went through the notch and found myself back in the world of sun and sky.

Joe and then Steve soon followed, each finding their own way to ascend the route, and agreeing it was more difficult than the rating suggested.

After rapelling back to the ground, we reorganized our gear and ascended Pete’s Farewell, a true Adirondack classic. This is a more traditional route that follows cracks and corners up the middle of the face. We were following a couple, and the lady — a French-Canadian named Myriam — was having trouble on the crux.

“Oh, my God,” she said repeatedly in heavily-accented English, before finally making the move with help from pulling on a piece of rock-climbing gear. It was clear we weren’t the only ones to be intimidated by the stout nature of Adirondack climbing.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adirondack Explorer’s ‘Adventure Planner’

The Adirondack Explorer has been publishing for more than eleven years. Our primary mission is to educate people about environmental issues facing the Adirondack Park, but as our readers know, we also have a strong interest in outdoor recreation.

Actually, it’s impossible to separate environmental issues from recreation. Many debates in the Adirondacks pit muscle-powered recreationists against advocates of motorized access.

The Explorer has run numerous stories that reflect the divide over motorized use. We’ve delved into such controversies as: Should all-terrain vehicles be allowed on the Forest Preserve? Should more waterways be declared motor-free? Should old woods roads be open to vehicles? Should the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor be converted into a bike path? Should floatplanes be allowed on wilderness lakes? Should tractor-groomers be allowed on snowmobile trails?

Although we always try to get both sides of every story, we cannot deny that we at the Explorer prefer non-motorized recreation as more environmentally friendly. This is not to say that motorized recreation does not have a place in the Park. The debates are over where motorized use is appropriate.

Every issue of the Explorer features several first-person accounts of muscle-powered recreation: hiking, paddling, cross-country skiing, rock climbing, biking, snowshoeing. We’ve published hundreds of such stories over the years, and they’ve proven quite popular with readers looking for new places to explore.

We’ve collected some of these stories in the anthologies Wild Excursions and Wild Times, but now we have begun putting them online as well, where you can read them for free.

The brand-new Adirondack Explorer Adventure Planner is a unique online resource that allows you to search for recreational stories by sport and region. If you select “Hiking,” for example, you will get a list of stories split among six regions in the Park. Select a particular region, say “Southern,” and you’ll see all the hiking stories for that part of the Park.

The Adventure Planner has been in the works for months, but we’re not done. Although it’s complete enough to show the public, we plan to add more content and features in the weeks, months, and years ahead. We also want to fix whatever bugs arise and make the site as useful and user-friendly as possible.

This is where the readers of Adirondack Almanack come in. Please visit the Adventure Planner and let us know what you think of the site and how we could improve it. You can post comments here or send an e-mail to me at phil@adirondackexplorer.org.

Click here to visit the site. We look forward to hearing from you.

Photo: The Cedar River Flow by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorernewsmagazine.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Diane Chase Adirondack Family Activities: Inlet’s Rocky Mountain

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

Rocky Mountain is about the easiest climb I have had the pleasure to complete in a while. With a vertical rise of 450’ and just a half-mile to the top, not only do we get a chance to stretch our legs but an astounding view as well.

I love those types of climbs. Not every opportunity to get outside can be a full day event. Sometimes our schedule only permits a quick jaunt. Knowing where to find a family-friendly hike that satisfies all levels of hiker is worth putting on the list. Rocky Mountain is just such a hike.

Just south of Inlet we find the parking area with ease. We have an expert guide. We are visiting a friend from the area that knows exactly what my children need, a run up a mountain. The kids rush out of the car hardly waiting for it to be put into park. The register is signed and we are on our way.

It is an easy path. Even the damp ground and slick rocks do not impede our scramble up the wide rocky trail. A jogger and a family pass us on an outing. This trail is well used by visitors as well as locals but not overly crowded.

I hang toward the back nudging my daughter on as she stops every few steps to look for butterflies, bugs or perhaps, once again, mermaids. A few trees have started to turn color so we play a game to find the next tree that is putting on its autumn cloak. I have to remind her the goal is going up the mountain not into it. We need to stay on the trail. My son is just the opposite. He is focused on the summit.

We rarely have all sorts of time at the top to explore and soak in the view. Usually we have a quick look around and retreat due to time constraints. With this hike we can relax. Fourth Lake, McCauley Mountain to the west and Bald Mountain along the north are pointed out to us.

I sit in a quiet corner and just breathe while my kids play hopscotch in the soft earth. Later we rub out any marks to make sure that we leave the area exactly (or better) than we found it.

To access the trailhead drive about one mile south on Route 28 from downtown Inlet to the parking area for Rocky Mountain. The path is an easy one-mile round trip hike.

Photo of Fourth Lake from the summit of Rocky Mt © Diane Chase used with permission from Adirondack Family Time


photo and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

2010 Adirondack Harvest Festival Week

Adirondack Harvest, the community-based farm and local food development and promotion program, is celebrating the fall harvest season with events and farm tours in Essex and Clinton Counties from September 18th through the 26th. The week-long celebration will provide consumers with opportunities to meet farmers, visit farms, and taste local products and an opportunity for farmers, chefs, and store managers to showcase their products.

Adirondack Harvest members receive marketing and promotional support, quarterly newsletters, workshop invitations, and various premiums from Adirondack Harvest hats and aprons to the Three Farms DVD, gift baskets and the Adirondack Harvest Cookbook.

Saturday, September 18th:

Rivermede Farm at Snowslip. 9:00am to 5:00pm. River Road, Lake Placid. This new farm at Snowslip will kick off Harvest Festival week with a community pancake breakfast, agricultural demonstrations, wagon rides by Adirondack Equine Center, animal exhibits, local foods and treats, pumpkin painting, horseshoes, and live music. Barbecue lunch will be served on-farm by Generations Restaurant with local harvest from Rivermede, Snowslip, DaCy Meadow, Kilcoyne and Windy Mountain Farms. $5 suggested donation, free for children under 10.

Restaurants serving local food: Several Adirondack Harvest member restaurants will feature local foods on their menus on the evening of September 18th including:

* Down Hill Grill, 6143 Sentinel Road, Lake Placid
* Mirror Lake Inn, 77 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid
* High Peaks Resort, 2384 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid
* Liquids & Solids at the Handlebar, 6115 Sentinel Road, Lake Placid
* Generations Restaurant, Main Street, Lake Placid

Sunday, September 19th:

Keene Farmers Market: “Farmers & Crafters Show”. 9:30am to 2:00pm. Rt. 73, Marcy Field, Keene. This market is great for summer residents and visitors heading home after a stay in the Adirondacks. While they offer plenty of great fresh produce, this market also features a large selection of fine crafts – easy to transport and great for gifts and remembrances.

Jubert-Castine Farms Tour. 2:00pm to 4:00pm. 8296 State Rte. 22, West Chazy. 493-7792. Grass-fed Angus beef raised on a family farm. No hormones or antibiotics used and featuring rotational grazing methods on nine parcels. Visit their circa 1900s ice house converted to a freezer room. Finish the afternoon with a wood road tour to their camp for some chili made with their own grass-fed beef. Free.

Ben Wever Farm: “Farmers, Friends & Food”. 6:00pm to 9:00pm. 444 Mountain View Drive, Willsboro. 963-7447. This farm, run by the Gillilland family and featuring grass-fed beef, poultry, eggs, honey and more, is presenting a potluck dinner, in the field and under the stars, featuring food from local farmers and impromptu music. Free for Adirondack Harvest members or $25 per family includes 2011 membership benefits. Call 962-4810 x404 to attend.

Monday, September 20th:

Asgaard Farm Tour. 10:00am to 12:00pm. 74 Asgaard Way, Au Sable Forks. 647-5754. Picturesque Asgaard Farm is the former home of artist, writer, adventurer and political activist Rockwell Kent. While the farm focus is on crafting award-winning farmstead goat cheeses, Asgaard Farm also raises grass-fed and finished beef, pastured whey-fed pork, as well as pastured eggs and chickens. They sell their products at farmers markets and select local natural grocery stores. Stop by for a farm tour and cheese tasting. Free.

Uihlein Maple Research Station Tour. 1:00pm to 4:00pm. 157 Bear Cub Lane, Lake Placid. 523-9337. The Uihlein Forest is a state of the art maple syrup production facility owned and operated by Cornell University. Visitors will receive guided tours of the sugarbush where sap is collected as well as the buildings and equipment that transform raw sap into syrup. The final stop is at the education center where visitors can also taste the various grades of syrup and purchase pure maple products. Free.

Tuesday, September 21st:

Fledging Crow Farm Tour. 10:00am to 12:00pm. 122 Robare Road, Keeseville. 834-5012. Fledging Crow is a small organic vegetable farm working in partnership with Manzini Farm to focus on the production of vibrant andnourishing food, the rejuvenation of soils, and growth with the spirit of the land. They operate a CSA while also selling at area farmers markets stores and restaurants. Free.

Stone House Vineyard Tour. 2:00pm to 4:00pm. 73 Blair Road, Sciota. 493-5971. For over 30 years the Favreaus have been growing grapes and own the first farm winery licensed in Clinton County. They also produce a limited selection of fruit wines, including apple and berry wines. They grow eight grape varieties and have available for sale a large number of grapevines, including Concord, Edelweiss, Valiant and Marechal Foch. Free.

Friday, September 24th:

Essex Farm Tour. 4:00pm to 6:00pm. 2503 NYS Route 22, Essex. 963-4613. Kristin and Mark Kimball run a unique year-round, full food, horse powered CSA featuring a full range of vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs and more. This farm tour will coincide with the weekly member share distribution, offering visitors a chance to see the full seasonal offerings. Free.

Saturday, September 25th:

Plattsburgh Farmers & Crafters Market. 9:00am to 2:00pm. Durkee St. parking lot pavilion, Plattsburgh. Clinton County master gardeners will be on hand with information to help promote local food in our region. Bring your gardening questions.

Sunday, September 26th:

Keene Farmers Market: “Farmers & Crafters Show”. 9:30am to 2:00pm. Rt. 73, Marcy Field, Keene. This market is great for summer residents and visitors heading home after a stay in the Adirondacks. While they offer plenty of great fresh produce, this market also features a large selection of fine crafts – easy to transport and great for gifts and remembrances.

Rehoboth Homestead Tour. 2:00pm to 4:00pm. 3071 Rt. 9, Peru. 643-7822. Farmer Beth Spaugh raises organically-grown produce, cut flowers, pastured, free-range poultry and eggs. This tour will focus on the beautifully productive roadside field. For garden fresh vegetables you can join her Farm Fresh Food Club CSA or you can find Rehoboth Homestead products at select, producer-only farmers markets. Free.

September 11-26:

Adirondack Harvest member restaurant “Generations” at the Golden Arrow Resort in Lake Placid is offering daily Farm Specials with local beer and wine from September 11th through September 26th featuring farm-fresh Adirondack food. Products from at least a half dozen North Country farms will be prepared in a delicious array of daily menu offerings.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dave Gibson: On Common Ground

The political reality in America today is certainly distressing. We elect too many Republicans and Democrats who feel unable to reach across the party aisle towards each other, or to be even seen with one another for fear of being unelectable in their primaries. The same polarization can be found dividing environmental and conservation circles. Fortunately, I’ve known quite a few Adirondackers who relate to the person, not the label, and who share the Adirondack woods and waters as common ground. I wanted to write about two of them.

Last night I read an entry in my journal about DEC Regional Director Tom Monroe’s retirement dinner in Lake Placid in early 1994. Tom had been Regional Director since the 1970s, still a time when DEC Regional Directors rose to that position through the civil service ranks, and who had considerable autonomy as a result. Put another way, these Regional Directors were forces unto themselves. That all ended by the time Tom Monroe retired. For good or ill, his able successors have been appointed by Commissioners, and ultimately answer to Governors, and enjoy far less autonomy.

I had gone to the dinner with my friend and associate Tom Cobb, who at the time was Park Manager with the State’s Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and Trustee of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, and who is now a Director of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. Both Tom and I – and many others from all ends of the conservation spectrum – respected Tom Monroe. Environmental leaders sometimes had their reasons to distrust him. I remember an environmental colleague advising me “just make sure he is truly retired”! However, the respect came from the fact that Tom Monroe was completely his own person, and was seen to treat people equally, without favoritism. Tom did not suffer bullies easily, and there are many interesting stories about his time at DEC. This quality of perceived even-handedness brought a diverse crowd to his dinner. In my journal, I write: “I feel pretty good about going to a farewell dinner that brought together the likes of Bob Purdy (Supervisor of Keene), Peter Paine (member of the APA), Roger Dziengeleski (Woodlands Manager of Finch, Pruyn and Co.), Senator Ron Stafford and Tom (Cobb) and I in one place.”

These qualities of Tom Monroe reminded me of a woman attending his dinner who was beloved by sportsmen and women, and respected by elected leaders. She died late last year. Nellie Staves of Tupper Lake was a deeply rooted Adirondack conservationist who made friends and influenced people wherever she went. Elegant at an evening dinner one day, warmly clad to inspect her traps the next, she was comfortable being Nellie Staves. Like Tom Monroe, Nellie didn’t mind in the least whom she was seen with. I first met her in 1988 when, in a memorable few words to the Adirondack Park Agency, she made the case why wildlife mounts deserved to be a part of the soon- to- be opened Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smith’s. Her presentation earned her an audience with Governor Mario Cuomo at the dedication of the VIC the next year. Years later another Governor, George Pataki, would dedicate the Wild Center (Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks) with its founding director, Nellie, at his side. In 2007, I was so grateful to Nellie for coming up to me after a fractious meeting about the Adirondack Club and Resort at the high school. “Good to see you in Tupper Lake, Dave,” she beamed.

One day at an Adirondack conference on Upper Saranac Lake, Nellie opened the back of her car and she invited our staff member and photographer Ken Rimany to look in: there were some of the world’s most beautiful depictions of wildlife drawn not on canvas, but on bracket fungi (“toadstools,” she said) once growing on great, craggy Adirondack trees. Ken was overwhelmed with her artistry. From that time on, their friendship grew and he was introduced to members of her family. With Ken’s encouragement and help, her artwork came to be featured in The Conservationist magazine – not once but several times.

Thanks to Nellie, we were introduced to some fine Adirondack people from diverse perspectives whom we learned to respect, people who shared Nellie’s sense of humor and gift for storytelling. What hearty laughter she induced in all who knew her. Thanks to Nellie, we learned not to take ourselves too seriously, to observe closely and be receptive to the unexpected. From her, we learned that those who know the most about the Adirondack woods, from its wilderness to its wildlife, to those who work in those woods also care very deeply about the future. Nellie helped us remember that those who log, fish, hunt, trap, create or teach in the Adirondacks have one great legacy to pass on: caring, understanding, knowledgeable, talented kids growing up on these lakes, or on the trails.

Photo:(Nellie Staves outside Tupper Lake High School


Monday, September 6, 2010

Saranac Lake: The Allen Mooney Murder

On May 12, 1903, Franklin County attorney Robert M. Moore was at wit’s end. After two years of haggling, all possibilities had been exhausted, and he knew his client was in serious trouble. There was nothing left but a claim of insanity. If that failed, a man was sure to die.

The client was Allen Mooney, and his crime in Saranac Lake became one of the most talked-about murders in North Country lore. It’s not a particularly complex tale, but its salacious and violent aspects guaranteed plenty of media coverage. Legally, it was pretty much a cut-and-dried case. Mooney admitted the shootings, and there was plenty of evidence against him.

However, peripheral factors never mentioned in testimony may have “eased” the jury’s decision. And, there were opinions voiced in court that would never be allowed to reach a modern jury’s ears. It all combined to determine a man’s fate. Not to say that Mooney would have otherwise been found innocent; he was guilty, but his sentence may have differed sharply.

In the early 1900s, Saranac Lake was in some ways like the Wild West. Smuggling, shootings, public drunkenness, prostitution, and murder were subjects bemoaned in the press as far too frequent. Any day was a good day for hell-raising, but Election Day was a particular favorite in many towns. Of course, the folks involved in Mooney’s crime led pretty rough lives. They may well have been clueless that it was Election Day.

The year was 1902, and the principals were: Allen Mooney, 25, a plumber’s assistant; Fred McClelland, 30, a friend of Mooney’s; Charles Merrill, 22, a local laborer and Mooney’s nephew; Viola Middleton, about 30, housemate of McClelland; and Ellen Thomas, about 24, known in Saranac Lake as Ethel “Maude” Faysette, love interest of both Mooney and Merrill.

On Election Day, the group was said to have been drinking and carousing at McClelland’s house. When Mooney eventually became loud and abusive, Fred threw him out. Testimony about the day’s events varied, but there was no disagreement on what happened that evening. Mooney, fueled with alcohol and driven by jealousy over Ellen Thomas, managed to get into the house through a door that had only a chair propped against it (the lock didn’t work properly).

By all accounts, he entered a bedroom and found McClelland there with Middleton. Mooney aimed his gun at McClelland, telling him “If you have anything to say, then say it quick.” After a momentary pause, Mooney fired two shots. One hit McClelland and deflected into Viola Middleton, and the other struck Middleton directly.

Charles Merrill and Ellen Thomas were in another room together. When the shooting began, Merrill hid beneath the bed. Mooney entered, shot the girl twice, and left the room. Charles Merrill was uninjured, and most reports claim he managed to jump Mooney, subdue him, secure the gun, and hold him until the local officer arrived. Both men were jailed (Merrill as a witness), and Mooney was said to have soon fallen into a deep sleep. Upon waking the next morning, he claimed to have no recollection of the previous night’s events.

McClelland’s wounds were serious, but he survived. Ellen Thomas died shortly after the shooting, and Viola Middleton lasted only a few days. In spring 1903, Mooney was indicted on two counts of 1st-degree murder and one count of assault. Awaiting trial, he was held in the bottom floor of the county jail in Malone, in what was referred to as “the cage.”

As usual, the case was tried in the newspapers until the actual trial date arrived. There were stories of Ellen Thomas (as Maude Faysette) having been arrested two days before the shooting, only to be released the next day. And, local bars were taken to task over serving liquor to Allen Mooney, knowing his condition and his reputation.

In May 1903, court testimony confirmed the shooting was done by Mooney in a drunken, jealous rage. Intent was proven by his purchase of a gun and cartridges that afternoon. Upon arrest, he reportedly said words to the effect, “I’ll go quietly. I’ve made a fool of myself.” Attorney Moore, left with no other defense, strove to prove Mooney’s insanity at the time of the shooting.

As evidence, he cited Mooney’s aunt (his father’s sister), who “lost all control of herself” during hysterical fits that kept her confined to a Canadian asylum for many years. And, Mooney himself was said to have suffered epileptic seizures since childhood, often turning violent during the attacks. Doctors said that, due to his physical condition, a small amount of alcohol could cause him to “become violently insane and unconscious of his acts.”

Best of all, though, were the professional opinions about Mooney’s appearance. As one reporter wrote, the doctors said, “From the peculiarities of his head, eyes, and looks, they would classify him as a degenerate who was more susceptible to insanity than a normal man.” Add the booze, and you had a powder keg, but one that was not responsible for its own explosion.

The prosecution was inclined to agree, partially. Four doctors, including one from the Ogdensburg Insane Asylum, upped the ante with this assessment: Mooney “ … represented a low type of manhood and possessed certain peculiarities of degeneracy.” But they also felt he was rational, and based on the same factors cited by the defense—physical condition, appearance, and actions—they believed Mooney was conscious of his acts.

Next week: The verdict; some interesting new friends; Mooney’s introduction to Robert Elliott.

Photo Top: The Franklin County Government Buildings, early 1900s.

Photo Bottom: Saranac Lake in the early 1900s.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, September 6, 2010

APA Revised Boathouse and Dock Regulations

The Adirondack Park Agency’s (APA) revised regulatory definitions for “boathouse” and “dock” will become effective on September 21, 2010. The agency board approved the dock regulation at its May 2010 board meeting and the boathouse regulation at the June 2010 meeting.

In response to public comment, the board delayed implementation of the revised regulations until after the 2010 summer construction season. Therefore this definition change does not apply to new boathouses with in-water components such as support piers substantially underway pursuant to a Department of Environmental Conservation permit or docks lawfully in place on the effective date of September 21, 2010. In addition, the board modified the proposed regulations applying Lake George Park Commission dimensional requirements for boathouses and docks built within the Lake George basin.

The regulatory change is prospective only. Lawfully existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelope. An APA variance is required, however, to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional thresholds still apply in all cases.

The revisions were undertaken as part of a statutorily required, five-year review and clarification of APA regulations following the 2002 promulgation of the current definitions. Additional changes were made as a result of public comment received during the rulemaking process.

The new regulatory definitions are:

Boathouse means a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind; (6) does not exceed a single story in that the roof rafters rest on the top plate of the first floor wall, and all rigid roof surfaces have a minimum pitch of four on twelve, or, alternatively, one flat roof covers the entire structure; and (7) has a footprint of 1200 square feet or less measured at the exterior walls (or in the absence of exterior walls, at the perimeter of the roof), and a height of fifteen feet or less. For the purpose of this definition, the height of a boathouse shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure. The dimensional requirements specified herein shall not apply to a covered structure for berthing boats located within the Lake George Park, provided the structure is built or modified in accordance with a permit from the Lake George Park Commission and is located fully lake-ward of the mean high-water mark of Lake George.

Dock means a floating or fixed structure that: (1) extends horizontally (parallel with the water surface) into or over a lake, pond or navigable river or stream from only that portion of the immediate shoreline or boathouse necessary to attach the floating or fixed structure to the shoreline or boathouse; (2) is no more than eight feet in width, or, in the case of interconnected structures, intended to accommodate multiple watercraft or other authorized use, each element of which is no more than eight feet in width; and (3) is built or used for the purposes of securing and/or loading or unloading water craft and/or for swimming or water recreation. A permanent supporting structure located within the applicable setback area which is used to suspend a dock above water level for storage by means of a hoist or other mechanical device is limited to not more than 100 square feet, measured in the aggregate if more than one such supporting structure is used. A dock must remain parallel with the water when suspended for storage, unless the size of the total structure does not exceed 100 square feet. Mechanisms necessary to hoist or suspend the dock must be temporary and must be removed during the boating season.

Contact APA’s jurisdictional office at (518) 891-4050, or email aparule@gw.dec.state.ny.us with any questions about the new definitions.

The APA statutes and regulations are meant to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. Boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements.

Shorelines are important to the Adirondack Park’s communities and environment. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat.

Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline cause unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to these critical areas.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ampersand Mountain Salamander Research Expedition

The Wild Center’s Assistant Curator Leah Filo and Staff Biologist Frank Panero will lead an off-site research project to look for salamanders on Ampersand Mountain on Saturday, September 11th at 9 am. Participants will be hiking off trail surveying for salamanders and species richness. This is a great opportunity to learn about the ecology of salamanders in the Adirondacks, participate in an active research project, as well as get a chance to meet some of these elusive creatures up close.

Two-thirds of all salamanders live in North Eastern North America. The Wild Center’s research project is part of a larger, ongoing salamander study that has existed since 1999. Participants should be prepared to hike off-trail over rough terrain. This program is free and open to the public however registration is requested. Group size is limited to 12 people.

The program will start at 9 am at the Ampersand Mountain trailhead located halfway between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake on Rte. 3. Register at www.wildcenter.org or call Sally Gross at 518-359-7800 x116. This program is suitable for participants ages 12 and up.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Adirondack Museum’s Rustic Furniture Fair

The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake will be hosting the 23rd annual Rustic Furniture Fair on September 11, 2010 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on September 12, 2010 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. More than sixty artisans, including fifteen new craftsmen, will showcase their rustic creations. This year’s show will include handcrafted furniture, furnishings and Adirondack paintings.

The Adirondack Museum’s Rustic Furniture Fair is recognized as the premier “rustic” show in the country. This gathering of talented artisans includes both traditional and contemporary styles of furniture design, handcrafted from natural materials.

Alternative parking will be available Saturday and Sunday on Route 28 in the village of Blue Mountain Lake, at the museum’s Collections Storage and Study Center. Look for signs. A free shuttle to and from the museum will be provided.

Rustic Fair activities and demonstrations are included in the price of regular museum admission. All museum exhibits will be open. The UPS Store of Lake Placid, N.Y. will provide shipping service for items purchased at the Rustic Furniture Fair.

An original work of art by Barney Bellinger of Sampson Bog Studio, Mayfield, N.Y., will be sold via silent auction. The painting, Rodney’s Camp, is in an antique Victorian frame with extensive antique fly rod embellishments. Bid sheets will be available in the Visitor Center. The winner will be announced at 3:00 p.m. on September 12, 2010.

On Saturday, September 11, bluegrass music will be provided by Adrenaline Hayride – Chris Leske, Arlin Greene, Ralph Lane, and Dave Bevins. The band plays a mix of traditional and contemporary bluegrass/newgrass music. Sample their sound online at www.adrenalinehayride.com.

Sunday, September 12 will feature traditional fiddling by Frank Orsini. For many years, Orsini has been one of the prominent acoustic musicians on the Upstate New York music scene, playing fiddle, viola and mandolin. A sampling from Frank’s repertoire includes: Celtic music, Elizabethan or early music selections, old-time fiddle tunes from the Southern mountain tradition, New England and Canadian dance tunes, bluegrass and country classics, Cajun, and blues selections, as well as Urban and Western swing standards.

Also on Sunday, hear the sounds of hammered dulcimer, played by Jeff Fedan of West Virginia. Fedan’s music features the tunes of Appalachia, particularly those of northern West Virginia. In addition to performances, he also teaches workshops at music festivals and privately, and plays other events throughout West Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania.

On Friday, September 10, the museum will host the Rustic Fair Preview Benefit from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Preview is an exclusive opportunity to explore the Rustic Fair and purchase one-of-kind treasures. The museum will be closed to the public on Friday, September 10, 2010 for the Preview. For tickets, call (518) 352-7311 ext. 119.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

APA, DEC Extend Moose River Plains Comment Period

The New York State Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have extended the public comment period for the comprehensive, integrated management actions proposed for the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.

The agencies recently held three public hearings on these actions and determined, based on public input, that additional time is warranted for public comment. The public comment period is now extended to September 17, 2010. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Changes Proposed for Game Harvest Reporting

DEC is proposing changes to regulations that would extend the mandatory reporting period for a harvested deer, bear or wild turkey from 48 hours to 7 days. Many hunters hunt in remote areas that lack cell phone coverage or internet access or both, and they often stay in those locations for a week or more during the hunting season. According to the DEC, the purpose of these changes is to provide greater flexibility for reporting the harvest of these species, while continuing to mandate those reports to enable the accurate compilation of annual take.

You can review the text of the proposed regulation online (under Part 180, Section 180.10 – Game Harvest Reporting at the bottom of the web page).

Also, find out how to submit comments, which will be accepted through October 4, 2010.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Adirondack Fire Towers History and Lore

A few years ago I made a list of the Seven Human Made Wonders of the Adirondacks. Taking a look at Martin Podskoch’s two-volume Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, I feel like I left one wonder off that list.

Podskoch’s endeavor to chronicle the history and lore of each of the nearly 60 Adirondack fire towers deserves a spot on the shelf of not just those interested in the history of the Adirondacks (where it’s an essential volume), but also those with an interest in the history of forestry, conservation, wildfires, rural labor and community life in remote places. Podskoch’s extensive interviews with those familiar with the towers serves as an important Adirondack oral history of New York’s leadership in wildfire suppression. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Reptiles: Adirondack Turtles

I love turtles. I know, it seems I start a lot of articles with expressions of extreme admiration for whatever the featured species is that day. What can I say – I find nature to be endlessly fascinating. That said, I think turtles are special, and the more I learn about them, the more amazing they become.

On the surface, we all know that turtles are animals with shells. They plod along on land, or swim gracefully in the water. Some live in the oceans, some in the deserts – what wonderful extremes they have come to inhabit. They have been around for over 200 million years – since the late Triassic. Some species can live well over a hundred years. Digging deeper, though, we find even more fascinating information.

Four species of turtles live within the Blue Line: snapping turtles, wood turtles, painted turtles (eastern and midland species), and Blanding’s turtles. Let me share with you a little bit about each of these species before detouring into some generalized nifty turtle traits.

Snapping turtles, those truly dinosaurish turtles, are probably the turtle we see most often. Every spring the females leave their watery homes in search of the perfect sandy spot in which to dig holes and lay eggs. Most of these eggs will be eaten by predators, but the survivors hatch by late summer. Sometimes the newly hatched turtles leave the nest immediately, while others opt to remain in the relative safety of the nest over winter, which explains why baby snappers are found on the move in both the spring and the fall. When they aren’t out searching for nest sites, these turtles are most often lying low in the muddy substrate of shallow, slow-moving waters, which is why their shells are “mossy” – these turtles are not baskers. Despite the apparent commonness of the species, recent population studies show that snapping turtles are in decline across New York State, mostly a result of fatal encounters with motorized vehicles.

Wood turtles are close to my heart. I see them every spring as they, too, search for perfect nest sites along the sandy shoulders of our roads. Their populations are considered sporadic, possibly because they are terrestrial and often on the move. One of our larger turtles, the wood turtle stands out among its brethren on two accounts: it has brilliant orange markings along its neck, forelegs and tail, and it is considered to be quite intelligent. Sadly, these turtles are frequently exploited in the pet trade, which compounds their losses to fast-moving traffic.

I know we have painted turtles in the Park, but I seldom see them. Most likely this is because they like particular types of wetlands, of which I am also quite fond, but I don’t get into them nearly enough to encounter painted turtles on a regular basis. Common and widespread, the painted turtle is the one we all know by sight: dark with red and yellow lines “painted’ along its neck, legs, tail and shell.

Our fourth turtle is the Blanding’s. This may not be a species most people have heard of, which isn’t too surprising. In New York it is a threatened species; I’ve only seen two in my life, both of which were in captivity. The first had been hit by a car and the facility where I was working was taking care of it until it could be returned to the wild. The second, which I saw this summer, was a “pet” belonging to a herptetologist. Blanding’s turtles are on the largish end of the land turtle scale, smaller than the snappers, but comparable to wood turtles. What stands out about these turtles is their highly domed shells and their yellow chins. If necessary, the Blanding’s turtle (named for William Blanding, by the way, a physician and naturalist from Massachusetts, who collected the original specimen in 1830) can close the front end of its shell, ala box turtle, for protection. (Box turtles can actually close both the front and back ends of their shells.)

And now, some of the fascinating things we should all know about turtles.

First, it takes an awfully long time for a turtle to become reproductive (ten or more years). It is currently believed that this is because after birth young turtles put most of their energy into developing their shells. The turtle’s shell is its means of protection, and until the advent of the motorized vehicle, it served the animals well. Once completely developed, the turtle’s shell is a formidable defense. There aren’t too many natural predators that can kill a turtle. A good shell, therefore, is imperative to survival; offspring can come later.

Next, there’s the method by which a turtle breathes. Like reproduction, a turtle’s breathing is tied in to its shell. Anyone who has seen a turtle shell sans turtle has noted that the animal’s ribs are fused to the inner carapace (the carapace is the upper portion of the shell; the plastron covers the belly). You and I manage breathing because our rib cages can expand with our lungs. Not so the turtles. Instead, they have a special musculature that, as so eloquently put in The Reptiles and Amphibians of New York State, “ sloshes the internal organs back and forth to draw air in and out of the lungs.” Curious about this, I did a little more digging. One set of respiratory muscles pulls all the internal organs outwards towards the edges of the shell. This allows the lungs, which are located near the top of the shell, to fill with air. The second set of muscles pushes everything back inwards, pressing against the lungs to expel the air. How wonderfully adaptive!

Temperature affects sex. That is, temperature determines the sex of the animal . When I first learned this, I thought it was just amazing. It seems that the warmer eggs develop into females, while the cooler eggs, which tend to be toward the bottom of the nest, develop into males. Depending on climate, some years nests can hatch out mostly female turtles, while other years the balance tips in favor of males. Will climate change affect this? If most nests yield females, how will our turtles find enough males to reproduce? Interesting question.

It breaks my heart that so many species of turtles are in decline. We (as a species) eat them, capture them for the pet trade, toss them aside as by-kill in the fishing industry, and run them over with our cars. Their homes are lost to development and pollution. I sometimes wonder if this ancient line of animals, who have survived so much, will ever survive humans. So, perhaps it isn’t too surprising that I experience great joy every time I see a turtle.

Wild turtles shouldn’t be pets, and pet turtles, which may not be native species, should not be released into the wild when the novelty wears off. If you see a turtle trying to cross the road, slow down – don’t run it over. If traffic is slow, pull over and assist the turtle in its journey. Never pick a turtle up by its tail (I don’t care what popular belief is – this can/will injure the turtle). Be cautious around the business end of a snapper – its name is well deserved.

I encourage everyone to enjoy turtles, and with a little common sense, it is easy to do.


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