Wednesday, January 18, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: Deer’s Head Inn, Elizabethtown

The Deer’s Head Inn, according to the sign in front, was established in 1806, though its current location is not the original. Fire, reconstruction, relocation and renaming have all taken place in the past two hundred years.

What remains is a charming inn, owned by JoAnne and Matthew Baldwin since 2006, bursting with history. We entered through the front door, into the intimate tavern, and were at once greeted with a sense of comfort, familiarity and warmth. We took a seat at the tiny bar, tucked neatly into a snug little nook in the back of the small room.

Our initial impression on entering the pub area of the Deer’s Head Inn was that it was more a destination than a neighborhood restaurant, and it may well be, but the patrons all seemed to know one another, exchanging greetings and news as they came and went. The courthouse and municipal building across the street may be the main attraction luring visitors (willing or not) into E’Town. The Adirondack Northway routed travelers away long ago and the GPS has since taken most of those who may have inadvertently meandered through. Maps are simply lines in a cold, two-dimensional space. The GPS does its job, efficiently calculating time and distance; but it is the populace that gives a mere pinpoint its third dimension. People fill a space and give it history, personality, warmth and life. Does your GPS know that two presidents stayed here, as did John Brown’s widow? Will it show you their signatures in the inn’s guest registers? Locate Ben Stetson’s Prohibition stash?

Though a sign over the bar boasts “Martini Lounge”, Cosmopolitans are a house specialty at the Deer’s Head as the array of more than a dozen flavored vodkas attests. Pam decided on a Maple Manhattan, with Maker’s Mark whisky and local maple syrup. The beer lineup contains a few interesting choices including St. Pauli Girl, Amstel Light, Newcastle Brown Ale, Lake Placid Ubu Ale, Stella Artois, Kaliber (non alcohol from Guinness), and Wild Blue (a blueberry lager produced by Anheuser-Busch) and several domestic brands. Two regional craft brews (currently Magic Hat Howl and VT Switchback) are always available on tap.

The Deer’s Head Inn is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and serves lunch until 2:30; dinner from 5 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. Hours vary so be sure to check times on their website. They offer an extensive wine list, with prices by the glass from $5.00 to $8.00 or they can be purchased by the bottle.

The Inn consists of three dining rooms, each with its own characteristics, and although the bar only seats six, there seemed to be ample room for standing. The bar top has old postcards of Elizabethtown attractions safely held in time under layers of “glaze”. From the bar, an old oak phone booth, with original Bell Telephone insignia and beveled glass, can be seen in the hallway. Our bartender, Joyce, laughingly advised that the booth is reserved as her “office”.

Though perhaps more often a service bar for the restaurant, the pub at Deer’s Head Inn is an intimate place for quiet conversation, reflecting on the past, or escaping the crowds of Lake Placid. Joyce seems to enjoy having company at the bar, adding interest beyond serving drinks to diners she might never see. You’ll be welcome whether just stopping in for a drink or whetting your appetite before a good meal. Next time you’re heading to Lake Placid, be sure to set your GPS “via” point to Elizabethtown along the way.

The sun’s daytime shift had already ended when we arrived, so we were not able to photograph the Deer’s Head Inn’s exterior. Not wanting to intrude on the privacy of the patrons in the busy tavern, we abstained inside as well. Photos were obtained at the Deer’s Head Inn’s website.

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, January 18, 2012

Phil Brown: The Future of Resource Management Lands

Environmentalists raised many objections to the Adirondack Club and Resort, but perhaps the biggest is that the project will fragment Resource Management lands on and near Mount Morris in Tupper Lake.

In hearings last year, Michale Glennon and other scientists raised concerns about the loss of wild habitat. The argument is that the construction of roads, driveways, homes, and lawns will change the suite of wildlife that now occupies the woods. We might, for example, see more blue jays and fewer hermit thrushes.

Yet Brian Mann reported last fall for the Adirondack Explorer and North Country Public Radio that it’s unclear whether the fragmentation will have much impact in the greater scheme of things, given that the lands in question are adjacent to tens of thousands of acres of protected forestland. In short, hermit thrushes are not about to disappear from the Adirondack Park.

Dave Gibson of Adirondack Wild and others contend that Brian gave too much credence to outside experts. One of these experts, Hal Salwasser, dean of Oregon State College of Forestry, called the proposed resort “a blip on the landscape in a regional scale.”

Reading that the biggest development ever reviewed by the Adirondack Park Agency is a “blip” is sure to rankle opponents of the project. But the man said what he said. Quoting Salwasser does not make Brian biased. Indeed, if he had not quoted him, that would have been evidence of bias. (Click here to read the story in question. You also can click here to read another story by Brian in the latest Explorer.)

As far as we know, there is nothing special about the woods where the developers want to build. They have been logged for decades. That said, it is shocking that the developers failed to undertake a comprehensive wildlife survey—and that the APA failed to require one. Even if there were little chance of finding anything significant, it should have been done.

Most people seem to think the APA will approve the project this week. If so, we hope it demands a wildlife survey as a condition of the permit.

Looking ahead, the bigger question—even bigger than this project—is what will become of the rest of the Resource Management lands in the Park. How many “blips” like the Adirondack Club and Resort can the Park withstand?

The Adirondack Park Agency Act defines Resource Management lands as “those lands where the need to protect, manage and enhance forest, agricultural, recreational and open space resources is of paramount importance because of overriding natural resource and public considerations.” Examples of “primary uses” of such lands include forestry, agriculture, hunting, and fishing.

Nevertheless, the construction of single-family homes is allowed as a “secondary use.” Under the law, landowners may build fifteen principal structures for each square mile, which works out to one every 42.7 acres.

The Adirondack Club and Resort falls well within the density guidelines: the developers intend to build 83 principal structures on 4,740 acres of Resoure Management lands—or one for every 57 acres. Still, critics say the resort’s design fails to meet the law’s requirement that homes on Resource Management lands be built “on substantial acreages or in small clusters.” Unfortunately, the APA has never come to grips with what this language means.

The Adirondack Park has 1.5 million acres of Resource Management land. Some of these lands are protected by conservation easements, and others might be undevelopable. For the sake of argument, let’s say that leaves a million acres of RM lands where a house could be built. According to the APA’s building-density guidelines, landowners could construct up to 23,255 houses.

In a 5.8-million-acre Park, each house would be a truly small blip, but if they all get built, these 23,255 homes, with their driveways, lawns, and lighting, would have a much bigger impact on habitat and wildlife than the Adirondack Club and Resort will.

Some would argue that it’s improbable that all the Resource Management lands will be developed, but it is undeniable that more of them will be developed in the years ahead. It’s time to take a hard look at the APA Act and ask whether it adequately protects the privately owned backcountry.

Photo by Carl Heilman: site of proposed Tupper Lake development.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Funding Restored for 18 Champlain Basin Streamgages

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have announced that they have secured funding to prevent the imminent shutdown of 18 United States Geological Survey (USGS) river and lake gauges in the Lake Champlain basin. Those gauges – nine in Vermont and nine in New York – were seen as vital to communities impacted by last year’s spring floods and during Tropical Storm Irene. The funding has been secured through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC). » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adirondack Family Time: Aldo Leopold Film Screening

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
~ Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

This Saturday the Adirondack Interpretive Center will be hosting the only Adirondack screening of the documentary Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and Land Ethic For Our Time. Leopold holds the honor of shaping and influencing the modern environmental conservation movement. Leopold is credited with inspiring projects all over the country that connect people and land.

The title Green Fire refers to a passage in Leopold’s book, A Sand County Almanac when he is a young forest ranger and self-described as “full of trigger-itch.” Leopold writes how he shoots a wolf believing that fewer predators would mean a hunters’ paradise. He comes upon the injured wolf and watches “a fierce green fire dying in her eyes,” an event that would change his view of the necessity of predators in the landscape.

According to Adirondack Interpretive Center Program Manager Rebecca Oyer the one-day event will be packed with activities from bench building to a panel discussion. Oyer wants people to know that they can come for one event or all of the day’s activities.

“Starting at 9:00 a.m. those that register will be able to make a Leopold bench. The cost of the materials ($30) is the only fee for this whole day. The screening, readings and panel discussions are all free,” says Oyer. “ There will be a break around 10:30 a.m. with refreshments and panelists will read passages from The Sand County Almanac. After a lunch break we will show the movie Green Fire at 1:30 p.m.”

After the film the four panelists will discuss how each apply and implement Leopold’s legacy in their own work. Panelists: Dave Gibson, partner in the not-for-profit Adirondack Wild, Lisa Eddy, a Michigan High School teacher developing curriculum based on Leopold’s philosophies, Peter Brinkley, Adirondack Wild Senior partner and Marianne Patinelli-Dubay, environmental philosopher. Both Gibson and Patinelli-Dubay are regular Almanack contributors.

A complete schedule can be found here. Registration is required by calling 518-582-2000 for the January 21, Saturday, event. Keep in mind that the trails at the Newcomb Adirondack Interpretive Center are open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

If you are bringing your own young people, know your family’s limitations. My children are excited to make the Leopold bench and see the rest of the hour-long film Green Fire. If they wish to listen to the readings and panel discussions, I am all for it. I will have snowshoes packed as a backup plan. We can discuss Leopold’s Legacy while enjoying the trails at the Adirondack Interpretive Center.

Illustration provided.

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 activities. Her second book of family activities will cover the Adirondack Lake Champlain coast and in stores summer 2012.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nature Photography in Winter: A Wild Center Workshop

Capturing the Adirondacks in winter is something that only the hardiest of hikers and Adirondack photographers do. Painters will sometimes take on the weather, but the stillness of winter is really for photographers.

The days are short, the air is cold, and the light falls in slants through the bare trees. This is the time and place that belongs to Carl Heilman, II, a photographer who has been roaming the mountains for more than three decades, producing spectacular panoramas from the frozen lakeshores to the frosted tips of the peaks.

So who better to learn from? Heilman has been leading treks through the Adirondacks as long as he has been taking photographs, and through his workshops, he has shared the secrets to his wonderous photography with others who, in their own way, help to carry on the Adirondack tradition.

On January 28th, Heilman will be teaching the photography workshop, “Nature in Winter” from 9 am – 5 pm at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The morning will be devoted to seminar instruction and Q&A to prepare participants for an afternoon of shooting on the Wild Center property and at nearby locations.

The Wild Center workshop is $125 to members and $138 to nonmembers for the day, and includes the free use of snowshoes. Notification of other equipment and recommended clothing will be provided upon registration. Register directly by contacting Sally Gross: sgross@wildcenter.org, (518) 359-7800, ext 116.

Photo by Carl Heilman, II.

Linda J. Peckel explores the Adirondacks by following the arts wherever they take her. Her general art/writing/film/photography musings on can be found at her own blog Arts Enclave


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adirondack Climate Change and Temperature

There are numerous physical characteristics of the atmosphere that can be measured to provide weather insight. Unquestionably, the data most commonly collected by meteorologists and amateur weather observers, and the one most often mentioned in casual conversation is temperature. On daily weather reports, the first order of business is noting how warm or cold it currently is, has been, and probably will be over the next several days. While the presence of sun, the threat of precipitation, and the strength of the wind may also be discussed, it is temperature that seems to dominate when the topic of weather is addressed.

Likewise, in presentations and lectures on global warming, temperature is of prime concern and useful in helping to document changes in climate. In the report Climate Change in the Champlain Basin sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and written by Dr. J. Curt Stager and Mary Thill, average temperatures were noted and analyzed from areas in the Champlain Valley and in the eastern section of the Adirondacks which drains into that basin. Additionally, other well researched national and global reports support the case for global warming partially based on the change in average temperatures at various locations over a long period of time. While average temperatures are useful for describing a climate and weather trends, they do provide some room for debate and discussion.

Average temperature is calculated by simply taking the high and low reading for the day and averaging them together. For example, a normal high temperature for mid January in the Central Adirondacks is about 24 degrees, and a normal low is about 2 degrees. This yields an average temperature of 13 degrees.

Any increase in wind speed and cloud cover over the past few decades could suppress the nightly radiational cooling of the atmosphere and result in warmer minimum temperatures. Even with a slight breeze, the air does not cool as it does when perfectly calm. A thin layer of overcast can likewise limit heat loss to space and prevent the temperature from falling, as can the presence of an air mass with high humidity.

If the temperature only drops to 10 degrees on that mid January night, it would produce a daily average temperature that is 4 degrees warmer than normal, despite the same high temperature of 24 degrees.

When I first moved to the Adirondacks in the very early 70’s, I heard on several occasions that 15 nights during the month of January should be at, or below zero. That seemed to be the case until the 80’s. Over the past decade I can’t recall any year when we have had 15 nights in January with subzero mercury readings. (In noting weather records, I realize that the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s were exceptionally cold. That may have been a function of the “mini-nuclear winter” that occurred after more than 500 nuclear weapons were tested in the atmosphere during that cold war era, or the result of some natural phenomena, and perhaps that saying was only valid for that period when our climate was unusually cool.) On the other hand, I do not believe that daytime temperatures in winter, or during any other season, have risen at all over the past 40 years.

In Stager and Thill’s report, it was noted that June and September are the months that have experienced the greatest increase in average temperature for the Adirondack region. It would be interesting to note if this was the result of an increase in both daily highs and lows, or just mainly in the lows.

An increase in just the low temperatures at this critical time of the year, when the last and first frosts of the season typically occur, would have a profound impact on the length of the growing season, and affect the ability of the region to support non-native plants.
I believe that a warming trend is in progress however, I don’t think that our daily maximum temperatures are much higher. I also believe that our nightly minimums have risen noticeably. As I have stated in my other articles, I do not keep any weather records of my own, nor have I spent the time and effort analyzing available records to ferret out this information. I only speak from 40 years of personal experience noting temperatures and weather events in the Saranac Lake region.

The study sponsored by the Nature Conservancy was a great step in the right direction, however, much more needs to be done. It takes countless hours of sifting through volumes of weather records and analyzing them in numerous ways in order to gain better insight into this extraordinarily complex problem. I wish those individuals that want to explore this issue the very best in trying to secure funding for their research, as valid scientific investigations, rather than undocumented ramblings, are desperately needed to determine what may happen to nature here in the Adirondacks.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Pioneers of Flight: The Flying Dryer Family

In the weeks and months following the amazing story of survival in the Adirondacks in January 1935, when the four-man crew of a downed Curtis Condor plane were rescued from the clutches of death, further details surfaced in the media. The two uninjured passengers had considered striking off to the south in search of help. Said one of their rescuers, Leonard Partello: “They would never have come out alive. They would have had to go fifteen miles through heavy snow without food. It couldn’t be done.”

The ultimate blame for the incident was placed on the company. No qualified dispatcher was on hand in Syracuse to authorize the flight in terrible weather, which was allowed after a call to the Newark office. That near-fatal decision was countered by the great flying skills of Ernest Dryer. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Sandy Hildreth: Artist Maps of Saranac Lake

Artists find their way around the world differently than most people. This is clearly evident in “Mapping the Familiar: Artist Maps of Saranac Lake”, which opened last week at the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery in that village. The exhibit was curated by Jess Ackerson, a young artist, printmaker who lives and works in Saranac Lake. Each artist was invited to interpret the concept of the show in their own individual way – and all the pieces in the show are very unique.

When I find my way somewhere, I am inclined to rely upon visual “signposts” – usually natural landforms. Even in an urban environment, I find myself locating the sun, when possible, so I’ll know which way is north, and I might mark my course by remembering to turn at the big tree on the corner where the road goes uphill rather than the name of the street intersection. This might be evident when a viewer examines my piece in the exhibit because I have no map in it, but I do have many of the views that one sees when in Saranac Lake.

There are several pieces in the show which are clearly maps – but maps interpreted through what the individual artists found interesting. Diane Leifheit’s map is a detailed ink drawing/silkscreen print that depicts the course of the Saranac River and the various bridges within the community, along with hand-scripted anecdotal notations. Peter Seward’s “The Resettlement of Saranac Lake” is “a whimsical depiction of the challenges faced inhabiting a wilderness”. It is reminiscent of the fanciful maps of drawn by early explorers and even has an area identified as “terra incognito”.

Mayor Clyde Rabideau, who once boasted of some interest in the arts, was also invited to contribute a piece. His cartoon style drawing of a map of the community shows the pride he feels in the village and looks like something you might have seen in a 1950’s tourism brochure! It’s title was derived from the locally known Dew Drop Inn and Mr. Rabideau wrote in his artists statement “for many generations, thousands of people have, indeed, “dropped-in” to Saranac Lake and never left, making it their permanent home”.

Some of the other pieces in the show have more emphasis on the “art” and less on the “map” although the village map has worked it’s way into the individual images. Jess Ackerson’s three color reduction lino-cut, silkscreen and colored pencil piece combines the map with other bold images like a rainbow, a compass star and a labyrinth. In her statement Jess wrote “This map is actually a maze. It’s an attempt to describe what it takes to be present while we navigate the transition from past, where there were so many other paths we could have taken, to the future.” Eric Ackerson created a labyrinth of intertwining map and snake forms titled – “A Ransack Illegal Fovea” – which happens to be an anagram for Village of Saranac Lake.

In addition to the 10 artist creations, there is also a large, interactive “Community Map” where gallery visitors are invited to draw and write upon it their special spots or trails in the village.

Find your own way to this unique and thought provoking exhibit – the Adirondack Artists Guild is located on Main Street in Saranac Lake and the exhibit will be up through January 29.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Exhibit of Stoddard Views Coming to Chapman Museum

Long considered beautiful photographs of the Adirondack landscape, Seneca Ray Stoddard’s views also serve well as documents of the plants that inhabited the region in the 19th century. The Glens Falls Historical Society’s Chapman Historical Museum’s summer exhibit, S.R. Stoddard’s Natural Views, which will run from May 4 through September 2, will feature fifty enlarged photographs of different Adirondack settings – lake shores, marshes, meadows, riverbanks and mountainsides. Highlighted in modern color images will be examples of the plants discovered in Stoddard’s photographs — from small flowers to shrubs and trees.

Since he was rediscovered in the late 1970s, Stoddard’s work has been featured in numerous exhibits that explored the history of 19th century life in the Adirondacks. A survey of the 3000 images in the Chapman archives, however, revealed hundreds of images that are purely natural landscapes. The subject matter is the Adirondack environment – not great hotels, steamers, camp scenes or other obvious evidence of human activity.

The summer 2012 exhibit will examine these photographs as documents of the history of ecological habitats, providing an opportunity to compare the present environment with the past. To address this issue the museum is consulting with Paul Smith’s College biologist, Daun Reuter, who will identify botanical species in Stoddard’s photographs, and exploring 19th century biological fieldwork records housed at the New York State Museum.

By bringing attention to a group of Stoddard photographs that have been overlooked but are significant examples of his work, the exhibit will give visitors the opportunity to discover and reflect on the changing environment – a topic of urgent concern in the region. Through their experience visitors will gain greater understanding not only to Stoddard’s photographic vision but also of the natural world of the Adirondacks.

Photos: Above, Silver Cascade, Elizabethtown by S.R. Stoddard, ca. 1890. Below: modern color photo of Wild Raisin by Dawn Reuter, Biology Dept., Paul Smith’s College.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Cold Rain and Snow

Amy and I had tarried too long in town, visiting friends, getting a tour of a local art collection, enjoying a leisurely holiday pace. We did not start the long climb up to Lost Brook Tract until after 2 PM with a scant two hours of daylight remaining. It was an icy climb and even with trekking poles to help lever the ascent our progress was halting. By the time we were three miles in and two thousand feet up, nearing the junction where the way to Lost Brook Tract leaves any hiking trail altogether, it was close to pitch black with spotty freezing rain. We didn’t mind as hiking in the dark is fun. But we were about to be stupid… well, not so much “we” as me. » Continue Reading.


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