Friday, June 4, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (June 3)

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

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Smoke Haze
There is a possibility that the heavy smoke we saw on Monday from a number of large fires in Quebec could return on Friday as winds shift from the Northwest. According to Quebec officials, the current fire season there has already included more than 352 fires that have consumed about 300,000 acres. Smoke from those fires has reached southward as far as the Lake George basin.


Friday: Sunny, with a high near 74.
Friday Night: 30% chance of showers after 3am.
Saturday: Occasional showers and possibly a thunderstorm.
Saturday Night: 40% chance of showers. Lower 40s.
Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 64.

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

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibilty of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

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

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

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

Local Conditions

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

Old Forge: Heavy motorcycle traffic is expected in the vicinity of Old Forge and throughout the Town of Webb for this weekend’s Thunder in Old Forge motorcycle rally.

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

Raquette River Boat Launch: The Raquette River Boat Launch along State Route 3 is closed at this time as DEC is rehabilitating the boat launch. See the press release for more information. It is expected to reopen in mid-June.

Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: A peregrine falcon nest has been confirmed on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain. All rock climbing routes including and between Garter and Mogster, are closed. All other rock climbing routes are open beginning May 12.

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

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

Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilmington Wild Forest: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch are closed due to possible peregrine falcon nesting activity.

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

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

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center Hosting GPS Workshop

On Saturday, June 5, the Visitor Interpretive Center at Newcomb will offer beginning level Global Positioning System (GPS) training from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. This “hands on” workshop is for people interested in learning more about using a GPS. It will focus on how to operate a GPS receiver and will cover basic GPS features, terms, and functions. GPS skills will be practiced both indoors and outdoors. Adirondack Connections, a private guide and trip planning service based in Tupper Lake, will conduct the training and provide Garmin eTrex GPS units for participants to use throughout the class.

Pre-registration and pre-payment is required by Wednesday, May 26th. The course fee is $55/person (includes materials, batteries, and GPS to use). The fee for members of the Adirondack Park Institute, the “friends group” for the VICs, is $50/person.

The Newcomb VIC is located on NYS Route 28N just west of the Hamlet of Newcomb, Essex County. For information and to pre-register, call the VIC at 518-582-2000.

The Adirondack Park Agency’s two Visitor Interpretive Centers at Newcomb and Paul Smiths are slated to be closed at the end of this year due to the state’s fiscal situation.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Project Silkmoth Hopes to Census Elusive Insect

Seen any good silkmoths lately? Janet Mihuc, a Paul Smith’s College professor, wants to know. Mihuc, associate professor and director of the college’s biology and environmental science programs, is leading Project Silkmoth, an 11-week census of those insects this spring and summer.

People who see silkmoths anywhere north of a line running from Oswego through Utica and Saratoga Springs between May 15 and July 30 can report their findings on a form available at Instructions for filling out the forms, as well as photos of silkmoths and other guides to finding them, are also online. Forms will be accepted through September 1.

Mihuc will compile the results and add them to the Adirondack All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, a project coordinated by Paul Smith’s College seeking to catalog every species in the park.

While some research indicates that silkmoth populations are declining in the Northeast, Mihuc hopes the project yields more data on the topic.

Despite their showy patterns and wingspans up to 6 inches, silkmoths can be an elusive target. Part of the reason is that most of the moths are nocturnal and live for just a week as adults, Mihuc said. “Many people have never seen one simply because they have such a short adult life span, they are only attracted to certain light sources and they have no chemical protection against predation so they are juicy targets for birds or small mammals,” she said. They’re also falling prey to a parasitic fly introduced to control gypsy moths. So the time to catalog them is now, she added.

“A decade ago, a survey like this would have been much more difficult, but easy access to photos, information and correspondence via the Internet make this survey a reality and a learning opportunity for participants,” she said.

For more information about the project, e-mail

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bunchberry: Fast Flowers in the Adirondack Park

One of the signature plants of the North Country is just starting to bloom: bunchberry, or dwarf dogwood (Cornus canadensis). This low-growing plant, which reaches towering heights of 2-8”, is actually considered a shrublet, and in many aspects it is identical to its more southerly relative the flowering dogwood.

Take a walk through almost any patch of Adirondack woods now and you are bound to see this striking plant. It’s four green leaves, with their gently curving veins, are smartly offset behind the four white bracts that are often mistaken as the plant’s petals. It’s only the diligent nature nut, who gets down on his hands and knees to look closely at the plant, who will see the actual flowers, for they are the tiny bits that form what the rest of the world thinks is the center of a white-petaled flower.

And it is these tiny flowers that have amazed and stunned the world of natural science. With the assistance of a good handlens, you can see the flowers up close. When closed, they look pretty unassuming, with four small greenish-white petals that come together at their tips. One of these petals has a awn, or a hair-lik projection, at its tip. So far, none of this is particularly impressive. What happens when that awn is touched, however, rocked the science world.

Bees, such as bumblebees and solitary bees, are some of this plant’s primary pollinators. As they fly from plant to plant, they brush against these hair triggers. With a speed that is unmatched by any other living thing, the petals burst open. At the same time, the stamen (part of the male reproductive structure) is driven forward by water pressure built up in its cells. Along the stamen are hinged structures containing the pollen. With a force that would pulverize any space ship at the launch pad, the pollen is flung upwards away from the plant and driven deep into the fuzzy hairs covering the unsuspecting bees. Completely unaware of what has happened, the bees fly off to the next plant and get peppered with more pollen while at the same time shedding some pollen from previous explosions.

The end result of all this pollen flinging is, hopefully, the production of small, bright red berries, which are terribly popular with a wide variety of wildlife. Spruce grouse, moose and veeries are among the many animals that frequently dine upon the lightly apple-flavored fruits. Even people can eat them, and apparently bunchberry jelly is a treat for those who go through the efforts to make it. In the 19th century bunchberries were popularly used to thicken plum puddings.

A denizen of cool, acidic soils, bunchberry cannot tolerate having its roots in dirt that exceeds 65 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, it can survive all but the most severe of forest fires. In other words, this is an ideal plant for our boreal forests.

If you miss seeing it bloom this week, fret not, for bunchberry continually reblooms throughout the growing season. Any time from now until the snow flies, if you find yourself walking past a cluster of dwarf dogwoods, hunker on down and give one of the plants a gentle poke. If you are lucky, you might witness a puff of pollen as the plant tries to enlist your finger in its quest to pass its genes into the future.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Black Fly Challenge: On Your Mark, Get Set, Swat!

With the name like the Black Fly Challenge, the Central Adirondacks’ premiere bike race does not exactly encourage spectators.

That’s a pity, because this year may prove more interesting than most. Among the expected 300 participants is expected to be riders of a three-person bicycle and a unicyclist.

That’s right — a man (presumably — one assumes women would have more sense) and a single wheel, riding dirt and paved roads for 40 miles.

“That whole unicycling thing has taken off,” said race co-organizer Ted Christodaro of the Inlet store Pedals and Petals.

The Black Fly Challenge engenders this sort of tomfoolery. While some racers may take it seriously, others are just in it for a good time. The ride is 40 miles of paved and unpaved roads with no technical challenges to speak of, aside from a few medium-size hills. It’s a grand welcome to the summer cycling season in the North Country.

The race has changed somewhat from the days it was solely a mountain bike event. These days, so many people ride it on cyclocross bike — downhill frames and wheels with knobby tires, used for all-terrain races in the fall — that organizers created a separate category.

The cyclocross riders have the advantage, since they have larger wheels and get more distance with each crank of the pedal. However, those skinny tires are also more susceptible to flat tires — which means the rider becomes victim to the inevitable bug bites.

When I rode the race two years ago (without a flat tire, I might add), I found that the only bugs that bothered me were the few that slipped down between the vents in my helmet. Forward-thinking cyclists might consider taping strips of bug netting to seal up the holes. Or just ride harder and hope for the best.

It was the bystanders who seemed to get bugs the worst. The volunteers along the plains, where the heart of the race takes place, either wore full-jacket bug nets or suffered the swatting of the damned.

Still, the race is worth catching, for those who don’t already plan to take part. This year it starts from Inlet, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 12, and ends in Indian Lake.

“With so many races in the books, there’s no shortage of wild stories from ‘out there in the Plains,’ the organizers say on their web site. “Bikes have crossed the Finish Line with no seat, flat tires, broken rims and even on the shoulder of a few determined competitors.”

While some were apparently worried the race might not take place due to the state’s threatened closure of the Moose River Plains area, Christodaro says that never would have happened anyway because the state had already issued a permit for the race and had planned to honor it.

Anyway, the plains are open, the road is in good shape and the black flies are waiting. Let the pedaling begin!

For more information on the Black Fly Challenge, click here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Whiteface Bike Park Opens With Big Events

The Whiteface Mountain Bike Park opens for the season, Friday, June 18. Riders will have the chance to experience 27 of Whiteface’s mountain bike trails or ride the cross country flume trails from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. Giant Bicycles will have their latest cross country bikes available for demonstration rides and there will be guided tours of the new flume trails all weekend long by the crew that built the trails. Other events at the mountain include a Pump Track Challenge on Saturday, at noon, and a Super D race on Sunday, also at noon.

After experiencing the hand-built downhill and cross country mountain bike trails visitors to the bike park can head down to the Wilmington dirt jump and skills park for the Kyle Ebbett & Friends Jump Jam, from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday, June 19. The Jump Jam is open to all levels and abilities and prizes will be awarded for style and creativity. Some of the top pros will be on hand, but prizes are for the amateurs in all age groups. Other events during the Jump Jam include live music from Damaged Goods and a free showing of a local bike film. The evening ends with the feature film, “Follow Me.”

The ninth annual Whiteface Uphill Bike Race is also slated for Saturday. Riders from all over the country will ascend up the eight-mile long scenic Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. Cyclists begin the 3,500-foot climb at 5:30 p.m. in group waves.

A barbecue dinner will be held following the race and awards will be presented to the men’s and women’s overall winner and the top three finishers in each class. The Whiteface Mountain Uphill Bike Race is a part of the Bike Up the Mountain Points Series (BUMPS), which includes nine competitions across four states and eight mountains, with Whiteface being the first race of the series.

For more information about the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park, the Jump Jam and the uphill race visit, or The bike park is operated by High Peaks Cyclery and the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Update on Weekend Adirondack Wildfires

The dry weather prior to and during the Memorial Day holiday weekend resulted in a high fire danger and eight wildland fires in the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 5 portion of the Adirondacks. However, the rains on Tuesday, June 1, have likely put out many of fires and lowered the fire danger. What follows is a summary of wildland fires that DEC forest rangers and others responded to over since Thursday, and their status as of late yesterday afternoon provided by the DEC:

* The 0.3 acre Valentine Pond Fire in the Town of Horicon, Warren County, which was started by lightning on May 27, is out.

* The 1.0 acre Wevertown Fire in the Town of Johnsburg, Warren County on Mill Mountain, which was started by fire on May 27, is out.

* The 7.0 acre Skagerack Mountain Fire in the Town of Chesterfield, Essex County, which was started by lightning on May 27, is in patrol status. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: A Hike To Owl’s Head

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™

Trailhead to Summit: 0.6
Ascent: 460 ft

Owl’s Head, located between Lake Placid and Keene, is a perfect hike for the entire family. It takes approximately 45 minutes round trip for an average hiker though we always plan for a bit more than an hour each way. The ascent is 460 ft., and very easy for even the smallest climber. The summit is semi-wooded, and has spectacular views of Cascade, Pitchoff and Giant Mountains.

For most families it is unfair to put a time limit on a hike due to frequent pit stops, wildlife sightings and herding of imaginary friends. Not that I wish to besmirch the herding of imaginary friends but sometimes it is enough just to get the children focused without having to gathering troops of people only visible to those under the age eight. Though it may sound tedious to some, we want to be able to take our time and instill the joy of the outdoors to our children.

This time of year scrubby blueberry bushes are in flower and line the path to the summit. Mark the calendar for a return trip midsummer when wild blueberry bushes will be in peak and ready for picking. Feel free to factor berry eating into the time factor as well unless a previous hiker has picked the trail clean.

The trail is a series of ledges, rock faces and switchbacks. To the west is Pitchoff Mountain and to the southwest, Porter and Cascade. To the east look for Hurricane Mountain’s fire tower as well as other smaller mountains and Giant Mountain to the southeast.

Local rock climbing companies use Owl’s Head for training so an added treat is to catch climbers repelling down the craggy ledges. Snacks or lunch and plenty of water are imperative. This time of year, don’t forget the bug repellent.

From the intersection of Route 9 and 73 in Keene bear north on Route 73, about 3.5 miles, turning onto Owl’s Head Lane. Continue 0.2 miles until you come to a Y. The trailhead is directly in front. Park to the left, off to the side. There isn’t a parking area. Please be considerate. The Owl’s Head trailhead and surrounding land is mostly private property.

all photos and content © Diane Chase, an excerpt from Diane’s guidebook Adirondack Family Time:Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activiities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. The other three books in the Adirondack Family Time guidebook series are: Adirondack Family Time: Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga (2012), Adirondack Family Time: Long Lake to Old Forge (2012), Adirondack Family Time:Schroon Lake to Lake George and just beyond (2013)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Move Over Americade, There is Thunder in Old Forge

A growing motorcycle event in Old Forge has been getting a lot of attention from the bike crowd for it’s laid back atmosphere and lack of overt commercialism. Thunder in Old Forge 2010 includes activities planned throughout the Town of Webb and the Central Adirondacks this coming weekend, June 4-6.

The event features several planned rides around the Central Adirondacks, 14 judged trophy classes (judging begins at 4:00 pm on Saturday), a small vendor and exhibitor area at the Hiltebrant Recreation Center Pavilion on North Street, a parade, Blessing of the Bikes, and more. Tickets are $5; for a complete listing of all the weekend activities can be found at or by calling 315-369-6983. You can also follow the event on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Forest Fire Haze: A Reminder of Past Dangers

Yesterday, as I awoke to smoke drifting south from over 70 forest fires in Quebec, I was reminded of Tarzan.

Not the Johnny Weissmüller films, but one of the last scenes from the original book by Edgar Rice Burroughs in which Tarzan rescues Jane one last time by swinging through the trees – “with the speed of a squirrel” – the trees of Wisconsin. Yup. Wisconsin. In a forest fire. » Continue Reading.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Celebrating the Life of Clarence Petty

On Sunday morning, the Wild Center hosted a memorial celebration of the life of Clarence Petty, the ardent conservationist who died last fall at 104.

The Wild Center showed two films about Clarence. After a brunch, several longtime friends and colleagues spoke about Clarence’s passion for protecting Adirondack wilderness.

As serious as Clarence was about preservation, anyone who met him was struck by his sense of humor and friendly manner.

Clarence had lots of stories from his long, rich life. He spent the first years of his life in a squatter’s cabin on the Forest Preserve. He grew up in the tiny hamlet of Coreys on the edge of the woods, a virtual frontier in those days, and went on to become a manager in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a forest ranger, a state pilot, and an indefatigable defender of the Adirondacks.

Most of the speakers at the memorial celebration, such as Michael Carr, Barbara Glaser, David Gibson, and Peter O’Shea, had known Clarence for decades and regaled the audience with one humorous anecdote after another. I particularly enjoyed Carr’s story about the time Clarence mistakenly air-dropped a load of trout over a fisherman. Thinking he may have killed or injured the fellow, Clarence flew back over the pond and saw him raising his hands in thanks.

I didn’t know Clarence as well as those folks, but as the editor of the Adirondack Explorer, I had the chance to speak with him many times in the last decade of his life. Every two months, I interviewed him for a feature called “Questions for Clarence,” which the Explorer published from 2004 until Clarence’s death.

The questions covered just about every topic under the sun, but often I would try to get Clarence to reveal what bit wisdom he would like to pass on to posterity. He kept on returning to his faith in democracy. He believed that if the people were allowed to vote on the important issues facing the Adirondack Park, they would opt to protect it.

By “the people,” he meant the people of the whole state, since the Forest Preserve is owned by all of them. The difficulty is that many of the Park’s residents don’t like outsiders making decisions that affect their lives. Hence, the continuing animosity toward the Adirondack Park Agency.

To this, Clarence had an answer. He described the Park’s wild lands, especially the Forest Preserve, as “the magnet” that draws tourists to the Adirondacks. The more wildness that is preserved, the greater the appeal to tourists. And tourists are money.

In short, protecting the Park is good for the economy–and hence good for the people who live here.

Despite his best efforts, Clarence failed to convince everyone of that point of view. But the argument will be carried forth by those he did reach.

You can find out more about Clarence Petty’s life in this remembrance by Dick Beamish, the founder of the Adirondack Explorer.

Photo by Phil Brown: Clarence Petty memorabilia at the Wild Center.

Monday, May 31, 2010

1963: A North Country Racehorse Makes Good

In honor of the Belmont Stakes being run this weekend, here’s an item from 1963, when a horse whose name had North Country ties nearly won the coveted Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont). Any idea what the horse’s name was?

The owner was John W. Galbreath, well known nationally, and a frequent visitor to the Adirondacks. While his wealth was notable, it was in the world of sports that Galbreath earned his greatest fame. He owned baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates from 1946–1985 (one of his partners was Bing Crosby), winning the World Series in 1960, 1971, and 1979. He was also a graduate of Ohio State and a longtime supporter of the school’s athletic program, one of the most successful in the nation.

Like Donald Trump did in more recent times, Galbreath became fabulously wealthy as a real estate developer, owning major properties in Columbus, Los Angeles, New York, and Pittsburgh. In 1986, the family fortune was estimated at $400 million.

Despite his substantial fame in baseball and real estate, Galbreath’s favorite subject was horseracing. Perhaps the name of his birthplace (in 1897) was a good omen for a future in the sport: he was born in Derby, Ohio.

Among other things, Galbreath’s great wealth allowed him to indulge his passion. He became involved in horse racing in the 1930s, eventually serving as chairman of Churchill Downs in Louisville (where the Kentucky Derby is run). Near Columbus, Ohio, he developed the famed Darby Dan Farm into a 4,000-acre spread, producing many outstanding racehorses.

He had never won the Kentucky Derby, a goal of all major owners, and in 1963, none of Galbreath’s horses seemed particularly promising. Then, shortly before the Derby, one of his colts captured three straight races, including the Blue Grass Stakes. Suddenly, anything was possible.

The horse’s name was Chateaugay, and despite the sudden success, most of the hype went to several other competitors prior to the Triple Crown races. Never Bend was the leading money-winner, and Candy Spots and No Robbery were the first undefeated horses to face off in the Derby in 88 years. In front of 120,000 fans at the Kentucky Derby, Galbreath’s favorite horse went off at 9-1 odds. There appeared to be little chance for success.

After running at mid-pack for much of the race, Chateaugay moved up to fourth. Near the final stretch, future-hall-of-fame-jockey Braulio Baeza steered his horse through an opening to the inside, where Chateaugay strode to the front, topping all the pre-race stars to win by 1¼ lengths.

In race number two, the Preakness, the same strategy was employed. This time, Chateaugay came roaring to the front but fell just short, finishing 3½ lengths behind winner Candy Spots. In the Belmont, the results were very similar to the Preakness, but this time, Chateaugay’s charge to the lead was successful, overtaking Candy Spots to win by 2½ lengths.

Only a close loss at the Preakness prevented Chateaugay from winning the Triple Crown, but Galbreath’s colt had proven nevertheless to be a great racehorse.

During this time, the excitement in the North Country was fairly palpable, especially in the town of Chateaugay (in the northeast corner of Franklin County). Many were fervent supporters of Galbreath and his horse, and the famed owner expressed his appreciation in a letter that appeared in local newspapers:

Dear Mr. Peacock:

It was certainly nice of you to write me a letter about Chateaugay winning the Kentucky Derby. Several people have asked me how we happened to name this horse as we did.

As you perhaps know, we have some interest in Lyon Mountain and Mineville, New York [the iron mines], and while I was up there several years ago, I saw the name Chateaugay. I made the remark at the time that I thought it was a pretty name for a town, and also thought it would be a good name for a horse.

Since Chateaugay’s older sister, Primonetta, was our best filly to date, we naturally hoped this colt would be a good one, and for that reason, we applied the name to him.

It has been very gratifying indeed to have so many nice letters from people of your town, and I hope you will thank the members of the Chamber of Commerce for their nice telegram which they sent under your name last week. I am going to have some pictures made just as soon as we receive the proofs, and I will eventually send you a picture which you can use for publishing in the paper.

Thank you again for your nice letter and wire.

Sincerely yours,

John W. Galbreath

In honor of the victory, Galbreath named one of Darby Dan’s buildings “Gay Chateau” (well before a new meaning entered the vernacular).

A few years after winning the Derby, Chateaugay was retired to stud service, first at Darby Dan Farm, and later in Japan after his sale to racing interests there. He died in 1985.

Galbreath died in 1988 at the age of 90. Besides a grand legacy in the sporting world, he left behind the John W. Galbreath Company, America’s third-largest real estate developer. A second Darby Dan horse, Proud Clarion, won the Derby in 1967, but it was Chateaugay who first made Galbreath’s long-held dream a reality.

Photo Above: Chateaugay after winning the Kentucky Derby.

Photo Below: Chateaugay after winning the Belmont Stakes.

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.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

‘Have A Seat in Glens Falls’ Outdoor Art Project Begins

After well over a year of planning, thirty-eight unique Adirondack chairs will be placed throughout downtown Memorial Day through September 6, 2010. Each chair was created by a regional artist offering a Glens Falls theme, built to be weather resistant and functional. This project is hoped to focus on Glens Falls as a tourism destination with many shopping, dining, cultural, and entertainment choices.

To promote “Have a Seat in Glens Falls,” ninety-thousand rack cards have been distributed along eastern New York from Suffern to Plattsburg and twenty-thousand brochures with chair maps have been delivered to local retail stores, restaurants, and attractions. A website provides access to all pertinent information, including an interactive map of the chairs’ locations. The project also has an active presence on Facebook. Ads, both radio and print, and banners will run throughout the summer months.

After the event is over, the chairs will be sold to the highest bidders at the “Chair-itable Auction”, scheduled for Wednesday, September 15, at The Queensbury Hotel. Each artist will receive 25% of their chair’s sale price. Net proceeds from the project benefit the City Park Restoration Project, Crandall Public Library, and Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Overlooked Adirondack Grasses, Sedges and Rushes

Birders love their birds, and botanists love their flowers; rock-hounds love their rocks and minerals, and entomologists love their insects. But who loves the grasses, sedges and rushes? Even though some members of this group of plants have become global celebrities (wheat, corn, rye), most are overlooked by the majority of people, or at least they are in this country, where the knowledge of local plant life is no longer vital to our daily survival.

Those who took a basic botany course in college probably learned some version of the rhyme “Sedges have edges and Rushes are round; Grasses have joints where elbows are found,” an amusing bit of poetry designed to help students learn which of these plants were which. As with all such things, there is an element of truth in it, but every rule has its exceptions.

Learning to tell grasses from sedges from rushes can be a challenge and one that not too many are willing to tackle. We like grass in our lawns and not in our gardens (unless it is ornamental), but there our knowledge ends. In an effort to try and stimulate a little interest in these seemingly “boring” plants, let me share some quick descriptors from Grasses, an Identification Guide, by Lauren Brown.

We’ll start with grasses. Grasses have (usually) round stems that are (mostly) hollow, and long narrow leaves with parallel veins. When you get to the part of the stem where the leaf is attached, the stem is solid and a little node or joint is formed. The base of the leaf (called the sheath) wraps around the stem at this joint. On grasses the sheath is split open along part of its length. When a grass blooms, its flowers grow in two rows along the stalk. The base of the flowering portion of the plant has two empty scales (no flowers inside).

Sedges can look a lot like grasses to the untrained eye. Keep in mind, though, that they have solid stems, and their stems are often, but not always, triangular (hence, they have “edges”). The leaves, which are also long, narrow and have parallel veins, wrap around the stem, too, but their sheaths are entirely closed. The flowers grow in a spiral around the stalk, and there are no empty scales at the base of the flowering section. You will tend to find sedges in cooler and wetter areas than grasses.

This brings us to rushes. Rushes are round (but then, so are most grass stems). Their leaves are also similar to those of the grasses and sedges: long, narrow, and with parallel veins. Their stems can be solid or hollow. Unlike the grasses, however, they don’t have nodes/joints. And unlike the grasses and sedges, their flowers are terribly tiny and occur in a circle at the very tip of the stem. Described as lily-like, the flowers have three petals and three sepals. Like the sedges, rushes prefer cool, damp habitats.

Recently a friend and I were out exploring the Ice Meadows of the Hudson River, just outside Warrensburg. This is a special habitat that runs for about 16 miles along the course of the river, where the heavy snows and ice of winter collect to depths often in excess of ten feet. Spring thaws send these small glaciers grinding along the river, scouring the cobble-strewn shore and rocky upthrusts of all but the most tenacious of plants. Anything tall and resembling a shrub stands very little chance of surviving the seasonal onslaught. The end result is one of New York’s few native grasslands. But don’t expect to find something that looks like the prairies of the Midwest. These grasslands would probably be better named “rocklands,” but the term Ice Meadows suits.

Our goal this particular morning was to find and photograph dwarf sand cherry (Prunus pumila var. depressa), a lovely sprawling plant that is on the state’s protected species list. We found it blooming in all its glory and immortalized it in pixels. The highlight of the walk for me, however, was a sedge.

Like most folks, I haven’t taken the time to try and learn many grasses, sedges or rushes. Oh, I have a of couple books, and on more than one occasion I have declared I’m going to learn them, but soon they seem overwhelming in their similarity and difficulty to ID. In truth, however, there are plenty of differences if we just take the time to learn them.

This particular plant caught my eye because of its lovely colors (see photo above). I had never seen such a grass (which I incorrectly thought it was) before. The black and green striped scales were stunningly beautiful. I was seized by its splendor like a teenager dazzled by a movie star.

My botany buddy told me that it was Buxbaum’s sedge (Carex buxbaumii), a threatened species in New York State. This was another target species for our trip here, although admittedly it was secondary to the dwarf sand cherries. Most of them weren’t blooming yet, but that was fine by me, for it was the bicolored pistallate scales that had me enthralled.

It turns out that Buxbaum’s sedge, also called brown bog sedge, is a circumpolar species that has a global status of G5 (secure), while in NY its abundance is listed as S2 (imperiled). It was named after Johann Christian Buxbaum, a German botanist who lived from 1693 until 1730. I’m not sure if he “discovered” this plant or not – sources have not been forthcoming on this point. As for the label “brown bog sedge”, well, it likes wet, boggy areas, and the stripes on its scales are actually brown, not black.

The delightful discovery of this unassuming plant has renewed my interest in learning my grasses, sedges and rushes. A daunting task, perhaps, but not impossible. With the added incentive of hanging out with other amateur botanists whose knowledge of plants is nothing short of impressive, I feel pretty confident that this summer I will master at least a few of these treasures that are hidden in plain sight.

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