Thursday, August 25, 2011

DEC: Avoid the Backcountry Sunday and Monday

Due to anticipated hazardous weather from Hurricane Irene the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued a warning urging the public to not attempt to use hiking trails or backcountry camping areas throughout the Adirondacks from Sunday 8/28 through Monday 8/29.

Hurricane Irene is expected to generate extremely high winds and heavy rainfalls which could result in flooding, heavy erosion of trails, falling trees and limbs and, possibly, landslides on steep slopes. Already saturated soils could also increase the potential for blow-downs. DEC is currently considering whether or not to close its local campgrounds.

Adirondack Almanack will have a more complete report on conditions around the Adirondacks this afternoon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bushwacking the 46 High Peaks

A short while ago Spencer Morrissey completed a decade long quest of bushwhacking to or from every one of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. Although when he got started he had not heard of John Winkler, he eventually met him at book signings and had the rare privilege on several occasions of exchanging hiking stories.

John E ‘Bushwhack’ Winkler (1941-2007), who received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, preferred bushwhacking to trail hiking and over a span of 30 years climbed just about every bump, scaled most of the slides and visited many of the ponds and bogs of his ‘Cherished Wilderness’, the Adirondacks. Nevertheless his most famous accomplishment is climbing all of the 46 (over a 5 year span during the late 70s early 80s), from one direction or the other following a set of rules he had established himself but bushwhacking in at least one direction between each mountain base and its summit. A talented photographer, he came back with two volumes of extraordinary pictures. The volumes sport little text but one can guess many of his routes easily since every picture is worth a 1000 words. » Continue Reading.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our New Outdoors Contributor: Christine Bourjade

Please join me in welcoming our newest contributor here at Adirondack Almanack, Christine Bourjade. Although Christine tells me she’s “58 and one-half”, you wouldn’t believe it. She’s an avid and energetic hiker and gardener who has climbed the 46 many times in summer and more than five times in winter (46er #4967W).

Christine was born in France, but for more than 20 years she and her husband Alex Radmanovich (#4968W) have run their own PR firm in Montreal, Canada, and raised their daughter, Lyla, who has climbed three High Peaks, at last count. When it came time to climb the 100 Highest, Alex said, “No way.”

Luckily, plenty of friends were willing to join Christine in her backcountry madness. Living part time in New Russia, Christine is a correspondent for the 46ers who manages to also find time for trail work with her good friends and hiking companions Gary Koch (#1137W) and the late Ed Bunk (#3052W), “as well as numerous requisitioned volunteers.”

Christine will contribute stories about her outdoor adventures beginning today.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Incumbent Desmarais Out of Tupper Mayor’s Race

A couple weeks ago, I told you the local election to watch this fall was the Tupper Lake village mayor’s race.

As of this week, that’s no longer the case. The Tupper Lake Free Press is reporting this week that incumbent Mayor Mickey Desmarais is bowing out of the contest, leaving Franklin County Legislator Paul Maroun as the sole candidate.

Desmarais faced a couple hurdles — namely, Maroun had locked up support from village Democrats and Republicans. But as Jess Collier of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise put it, those realities didn’t put the race completely out of reach for Desmarais.

Reporting for WNBZ, George Earl wrote that “verbal attacks” against Desmarais over his somewhat critical stance on the Adirondack Club & Resort project led to his decision to drop his candidacy.

In an interview with the Tupper Lake Free Press, Desmarais said the criticisms didn’t bother him — but they were affecting his family and friends.

His opponent, Paul Maroun, responded to the news Wednesday, calling Desmarais a “great leader.” “I just had a different way of being a leader for the community,” Maroun told WNBZ. “I decided if you’re not 110 percent behind the resort, it’s not going to work.”

This story is still developing and I’ll check back in when some local reaction starts filtering through.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Philosophy: Teaching Across Disciplines

Here is a recent exchange between me and a colleague:

Colleague: So, what do you do?

Me: I’m a philosopher, much of my work involves teaching.

Colleague: (Amused) like what, the philosophy of green?

Here’s another:

Colleague: So you’re here to do philosophy with the students.

Me: Yes, environmental philosophy.

Colleague: I think that’s great, because students come to me for content and they come to you for this kind of (gesturing as if wafting an unwelcome scent) experience.

Both of these exchanges, and rest assured I have enough of these for a night at the Improv, were with colleagues in environmental science. In fact, most of my interactions are not with other professional philosophers but with scientists and students of science in the Adirondacks. I consider this unusual situation a privilege and one that most of my colleagues in the humanities, philosophy in particular, don’t enjoy and therefore don’t benefit from intellectually – mindfully.

Though from time to time I wonder, when did intellectual curiosity stop at the shore of empiricism? When did it become frivolous or worse, vacuous, to engage in thoughtful discourse about patently irresolvable and fundamentally human notions of ethics, values, personhood, identity, agency, responsibility and so on?

Another colleague that I work with closely precisely because he has never wavered in his certainty that (as I often remind students) this is not nothing, related a conversation to me in which he had explained to a third party “Marianne’s work hasn’t always been taken seriously, so she’s particularly committed to a high standard of academic and scholarly integrity.” The former is true and the latter is kind and yet, ouch!

I spent a little while turning this over in my mind until another colleague came by. I shared with her this bit about being taken seriously and we agreed that this work is bound to have a different contour here among scientists, and that the utility of philosophy outside the silo of the humanities is at once harder to understand and deeply important once it is.

Later that evening I gave a talk to a group of incoming freshmen and returning undergraduates about the critical need for us to interrogate the social/sexual/political “positionality” (as in view point and bias) of established institutions and comfortable habits of scholarship and politics, to name a few. We talked about how “decentering” or removing the privilege of accepted truths and norms that are often the product of a dominant and sometimes oppressive majority is the first step in liberating marginalized communities whose truths and traditions have been relegated to “alternative” status in the process of sanctifying one type of worldview. We talked about “rupturing” (as in creating an opening) in the often codified boundaries that surround disciplines in order to make way for so-called other knowledges to participate in and enrich the discourse.

After the lecture a former student and I stood together quietly until she looked over at me and smiled, “troublemaker” she said. Well, somebody’s got to do it.

They were young, these students, and for some the hour may have been late and some others might have had their minds on the bonfire to follow, but most (most) were enlivened. Emerson called teaching a drawing out of the soul and the Greeks understood happiness as harmony between one’s soul and the good; this is my work.

Photo: Illustration by Johannes van Loon.

Marianne is a philosopher living, writing and teaching in the Adirondacks

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

High Peaks Happy Hour: Grizle-T’s, Saranac Lake

We had been watching the door at Grizle-T’s from outside the Waterhole for quite some time, trying to decide if it was worthy of a review. Pam reported that people had gone in, but no one ever came out. A small sign hung over the door, barely visible from across the street. Not much of a conclusion to draw from a door and a beer sign in the window. Piqued, Kim started across the street. Pam insisted she not go in there alone, and we giggled our way over, leaving our companions unattended while wondering where our nerve had gone.

Instinctively scanning the interior as we crossed the wide plank wood floor, we spotted the bartender playing a board game with a patron. We took a seat at the relatively empty bar, which seats about ten, and started looking around. No particular style of décor exists in the long, fairly narrow interior, but Grizle-T’s has a homey, “lived-in” feel to it like a family rec. room, complete with two TV’s and a pool table. Various columns support the low, beamed ceiling and beer art and photo collages plaster the walls.

Michelle, the bartender, was at our side immediately. Earthenware beer mugs hung over the bar and Kim couldn’t resist the inquiry. Pam began her interrogation. Gettin’ the facts, ma’am – Joe Friday style. Mug Club members are treated to 50 cents off drafts every day from 4 to 7 p.m. Michelle launched into the specials formula consisting of Micro Monday, 2fer Tuesday, Whisky Wednesday and Thirsty Thursday. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, various drink specials are featured all day long. This week’s “Shots for Shark Week” were the Shark Bite and the Dead Sailor. We were surprised to learn later that Michelle was relatively new to Grizle-T’s and to Saranac Lake, given her knowledge of their specials.

Kim wandered off to look around and talk to the patrons while she decided which of the many drafts she’d like to try. On tap this day were some she had not yet tasted so started with an agave wheat – perfect for a hot summer day. John, a regular and one of Grizle T’s best promoters, recommended a Moo Thunder Stout, produced by Butternuts Beer and Ale in Garrattsville, NY. That would be next.

Games are available on loan to patrons and include backgammon, Connect 4, Guess Who, Scattergories and Phase 10. There is something about playing a game while you’re out at a bar that helps keep you focused and alert, not to mention just how much fun it is, and a great way to meet people. We couldn’t resist a stop in the photo booth to commemorate our visit. Don’t those Happy Hour in the High Peaks hats look smashing? We didn’t test it, but WiFi is available at Grizle-Ts and an ATM was found on the premises. In an effort to appease the graffiti artist in most of us, the bathroom walls are covered in chalkboard wallpaper. We left our URL, but were sure to wash our hands afterward.

Open 7 days per week, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., Grizle-T’s has no blackout dates. They offer microwave fare and the pizza shop next door actually has a window into the bar where they take and deliver orders. Several different seating areas offer additional seating separate from the bar, with pub tables at the front and another separate area at the rear. A deck off the back features outdoor seating with built-in benches and several picnic tables and allows smoking. Grizle-T’s hosts D.J. Karaoke on Friday and live music on Monday.

As we were considering leaving, Pam noticed and commented on the Fish Bowl sign offering a drink by that name for $25.00 all day, every day. The deal is a rum based drink mix served in a large fish bowl, intended to be shared. Typically it comes with straws, but glasses are available for the feeble drinkers.

Owned by Adam Harris since 2007, Grizle-Ts seems to be on the right track as an entertaining and welcoming place to go with plenty to do, a variety of drink specials and a pleasant staff and friendly patrons. This, along with the comfortable atmosphere, made Grizle-Ts our favorite spot in Saranac Lake.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gear Review: Brazos Walking Sticks

Everyone needs something or someone to lean on for support once in a while. Backcountry explorers are no different, whether it is a pair of telescoping hiking poles or simply a thick stick picked up along the trail. A pole or stick can assist with a wide range of backcountry situations from crossing a beaver dam to descending a mountain. This extra support becomes even more important as one gets older when the knee and hip joints need relief from the stress caused from hours of hiking over arduous terrain.

Although most hikers use the typical high-tech aluminum telescoping poles, there still remains a few who prefer the old-school wooden hiking sticks. These sticks are often found along the trail, especially near tricky wetland or beaver dam crossings. Occasionally, a hiker might develop an attachment to one of these sticks, removing the stick from its native habitat to live out a life as a trusty object of support and balance.

An alternative to these options is to buy a wooden hiking stick from Brazos Walking Sticks.

Brazos Walking Sticks makes a wide selection of walking sticks, canes, and accessories. The company’s walking stick line are an attractive alternative to the high-tech hiking poles for anyone but the most aggressive mountain climber.

Brazos products come in a wide variety of wood types including oak, cedar, ash, maple, cherry, pine and others. Each walking stick or cane is handcrafted by one of their gifted artisan craftsmen in central Texas, not far from the company’s namesake, the Brazos River.

Brazos Walking Sticks offers several different tip accessories for their walking sticks and canes. The black rubber ferrule is standard but for an additional price one of their other tips can be substituted. The Combi spike is the typical blunt metal type tip found on most traditional hiking poles. Two other sharper tips are also available.

In addition, there are several different accessories available for the handle of the walking stick. The compass, thermometer, whistle and camera mount are just a few likely to be of interest to a backcountry enthusiast.

Several cases are available for those who travel with their hiking stick using methods of locomotion involving more than just their own two feet.

The company customizes their products too. They engrave personal messages on their walking sticks in a variety of different fonts. This makes any of the Brazos Walking Sticks’ products a perfect gift for someone who does a lot of walking or hiking and could use a sturdy companion to accompany them. Each walking stick comes with a lifetime warranty against defects and a 100/100 Satisfaction Guarantee. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with your stick, just return it within 100 days for a full refund, no questions asked.

Recently, I was sent a Brazos Backpacker Walking Stick to review. The options on it were few; it was dark brown in color and 55 inches in length, with no additional handle or tip accessories included. It was made of solid oak, and was very sturdy and finely finished. It was twisted in the middle giving it a very distinctive appearance.

My first impression, after removing it from the shipping tube, was of its fine craftsmanship. It was truly a thing of art; it was super smooth and finely stained to a beautiful dark brown color. The walking stick’s finish clearly brought out the natural beauty of the wood. This walking stick would be more appropriately mounted on a wall rather than out and about on the trails in the Adirondacks.

Near the top of the stick there was a small hole drilled through with a thin strap threaded forming a loop. This wrist strap would ensure the walking stick could not be easily dropped during a stumble on the trail.

Take care laying this walking stick on the ground while out on the trails within the Adirondacks though. Given its natural look and brown color it would be very easily left behind by accident. Perhaps a bit of florescent orange flagging on the top strap might elevate this possibility.

The Backpacker Walking Stick has a black rubber ferrule at its tip, much like one found on the end of crutches. This tip is not glued on, so one should take care when using the walking stick within muddy conditions or in bogs, lest the ferrule be lost in the muck. Brazos Walking Sticks offers several other tip accessories that might be more appropriate for the wild backcountry conditions found on many Adirondack trails.

The Brazos Backpacker Walking Sticks retails for $40. Any optional accessories would cost extra.

For anyone in the market for a quality, finely-crafted walking stick should take a serious look at the Brazos Backpacker Walking Stick or any other of Brazos Walking Sticks’ outstanding products. These beautiful walking sticks make the perfect companion for anyone into walking and/or hiking, whether just around town or in the backcountry of the Adirondacks.

Photos: Brazos Backpacker Walking Stick handle, walking stick and twisted section by Brazos Walking Sticks.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bobsled, Skeleton World Championships to Return

Lake Placid will once again be hosting the 2012 FIBT Bobsled/Skeleton World Championships February 13th-26th.

Lake Placid has been a trendsetter in hosting events. They became the first village outside of Europe to host a world championships event in 1949, and the village has staged eight world championship races since then. The most recent Bobsled/Skeleton World Championships was in 2009 when the “Night Train”, led by Steve Holcomb, rocketed to the first US World 4-Man Bobsled title since 1959. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Donnelly’s Ice Cream

A choice is something we (as Americans) are used to getting but with Donnelly’s Ice Cream the one thing you don’t get to decide is the flavor of the day. As the Donnelly’s motto attests, “Please pick a size, the flavor has already been decided.”

Over the years that we’ve lived in the Adirondack Park, Donnelly’s Homemade Ice Cream has been the only reason some groups we’ve led hiking in the High Peaks have made it down the mountain. A beacon to many a hiker, Donnelly’s Homemade Ice Cream is a social place as well as ice cream pit-stop at the four corners of Route 86 and 186, commonly known as Donnelly’s Corners, just minutes from Saranac Lake. It doesn’t seem to matter how weary we are on a hike off the mountain we can always manage to muster the energy for a cone of the flavor of the day. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Serenades at Sembrich Opera House

Music and mountains seem to go together—and there are plenty of places to find it. One of the special secrets of Bolton Landing on Lake George is the Marcella Sembrich Opera House Museum, which this Saturday will be featuring a vocal recital with mezzo-soprano Lucille Beer as one event in their ongoing summer concert series. Ms. Beer will be singing various pieces from composers such as Mahler, Copeland, Brahms, and Debussy, accompanied by Michael Clement on piano.

The historic Sembrich Museum is a living tribute to the large and colorful life of opera singer Marcella Sembrich, who spent the latter part of her life in Bolton Landing, teaching voice students at the studio that is still part of the property. At twenty-five she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera, embarking on a long and successful career. Her travels took her around the world where her eye for impressionist paintings and other artworks helped her collection grow impressively. Those, along with mementos and memorabilia of a unique life form the basis of this wonderful place to visit.

But if all this isn’t enough to convince you, then you simply must go to just to step back in time and enjoy one of the finest views of Lake George available, as it must have been a hundred years ago.

Tickets for the Lucille Beer recital are $20. Other concerts rounding out the last weeks of the season include “An Evening with the Hyperion String Quartet,” on Saturday August 27th ($25), and a recital on Saturday, September 3rd by pianist Thomas Pandolfi, playing music by Liszt, Scriabin, Chopin, and Gershwin ($25).

For more information, call Faith Bouchard at 518-644-2431, or visit the Sembrich’s website.

Photo: Marcella Sembrich in the 1880s.

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