Thursday, January 6, 2011

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Jan. 6)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

** indicates new or revised items.

SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN IN HIGH PEAKS
DEC Forest Rangers and others continue to search 22 year-old Wesley ‘Wes’ Wamsganz, missing since Saturday, November 20, and believed to be in the High Peaks Wilderness. He is 6’3″ 180 lbs, has buzz cut short blond hair, and blue eyes. He is believed to wearing a Black Bob Marley zip up hoodie, jeans or tan Carhart pants, basketball sneakers and a yellow, red and green striped brimmed beanie. The search was scaled back to “limited continuous status” Sunday. Wamsganz, of Saranac Lake, is believed to have been spotted by hikers at Marcy Dam last Saturday evening. Between Marcy Dam and Lake Colden Wamsganz’s green Carhartt jacket was found last Sunday. If you encounter Mr. Wamsganz or evidence of his whereabouts notify DEC Forest Rangers at (518-897-1300).

** WINTER CONDITIONS AT ALL ELEVATIONS
Winter conditions exist throughout the area. Expect to encounter snow and especially ice on trails. Currently ice and frozen ground are covered by a foot or more of snow. Prepare accordingly, pack snowshoes or skis and crampons and use them when conditions warrant. Daytime temperatures below freezing can be expected at all elevations, with wind-chill below freezing as well. Snow cover is now prominent across the Adirondacks. Although a lot of the snow cover was lost with the past weekends warm temperatures and rain, there is a 4 to 8 inches of snow in the lower elevations with a foot or more above 2300 feet and ice on summits and other open areas. The snow cover is mostly new, light and fluffy snow on top of a hard base or frozen ground. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 18 inches of snow at the cabin. Ice on Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are thick enough for crossing, thinner at inlet and outlets. There are some bare rocks still present in Avalanche Pass.

Thin Ice Safety
Ice has formed on water bodies and people have been observed on the ice at numerous locations. Always check the thickness of ice before crossing. Be cautious of ice near inlets, outlets and over any moving water. Remember, ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person. Each year a number of people fall through thin ice. One has already died. Use extreme caution with ice.

Carry Extra Winter Gear

Snowshoes or skis can prevent injuries and eases travel in heavy snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy trails and mountaintops and other exposed areas. Wear layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!), a winter hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots. Carry a day pack complete with ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.

Know The Latest Weather
Check the weather before entering the woods and be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.

Fire Danger: LOW

** Central Adirondacks Lower Elevation Weather
Friday: Chance of light snow. Cloudy, high near 25. Southeast wind around 6 mph.
Friday Night: Light snow likely. Cloudy, low around 9. East wind around 5 mph.
Saturday: Light snow likely. Cloudy, high near 24. North wind around 6 mph.
Saturday Night: Chance of light snow. Cloudy, low around 6.
Sunday: Chance of light snow. Cloudy, high near 21.

The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]

Christmas Bird Count Underway
The 111th Annual Christmas Bird Count will take place December 14th to January 6th. The longest running citizen science survey in the US, each year during this time volunteers help document bird population trends used in a wide array of research and conservation efforts. For more information and to find out how to participate as a bird counter this winter, visit birds.audubon.org/faq/cbc.

** Snow Cover
A snow drought continues across the Adirondacks, especially in the east and southeast. A lot of the snow cover was lost with the past weekends warm temperatures and rain, but there remains 4 to 8 inches of snow at lower elevations with a foot or more above 2300 feet and ice on summits and other open areas. The snow cover is mostly new, light and fluffy snow on top of a hard base or frozen ground. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 18 inches of snow at the cabin; snow can drift up to a couple feet deep at higher elevations. The lower southeast part of the park, in Northern Warren and Eastern Essex County including the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks, still has not seen significant snowfall and much of the lower elevation areas remain bare, with just a few inches even at higher elevations. The latest snow cover map from the National Weather Service provides an estimate of snow cover around the region.

** Downhill Ski Report
Mountains with snow-making capabilities are the only bet. Whiteface and Gore are open with some terrain; Whiteface has retreated to 57% of its terrain open, and Gore is back to 50%. McCauley, Mount Pisgah, Titus, and Oak Mountain are all open with limited terrain. Big Tupper and Hickory in Warrensburg remain closed waiting on mother nature.

** Cross Country Ski Report
Most cross country ski areas are currently closed with the exception of Cascade and Mt. Van Hoevenberg. Lapland near Northville, Cunninghams and Garnet Hill near North Creek are all currently closed, bubt may reopen some trails – call for information. The Jackrabbit Trail is no longer skiable its entire length. The Keene and Saranac Lake ends are now unskiable. Sections on either side of River Road, the Peninsula and Paul Smiths section are skiable, with caution.

** Backcountry Ski Report
There is still little snow on the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks and the Keene end of the JackRabbit trail is no longer skiable [conditions]. Elsewhere in the backcountry, even trucks trails and maintained trails have retreated some, although a few remain skiable. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 18 inches of snow at the cabin. Ice on Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are thick enough for crossing. Avalanche Pass is no longer skiable. There are no trails skiable beyond Marcy Dam. Most brooks thawed last weekend so crossing without bridges could be difficult. Good cover is reported at the Toll House on the Whiteface Highway, but bare areas higher up. Truck trail to Marcy Dam no longer considered worth the effort, and the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni, Fish Pond Truck Trail, Hays Brook Truck Trail are all reported “barely skiable.” Some snow on the Connery Pond Trail makes that a good opportunity. The Ausable Lake Road is no longer skiable.

** Ice Climbing Report
Areas at lower elevations continue to be the best bet, with higher elevation areas generally regarded as claimable but just average conditions. Climbable areas including Chapel Pond (the pond is now frozen), Cascade Pass, and the North side of Pitchoff, and Multi-Gulley – no report on Chillar Pillar or the Mineville Pillar. Poke-O Moonshine, Roaring Brook Falls, and Palisades on Lake Champlain went out in the thaw and are now rebuilding. There have been no recent reports, but Avalanche and Elk passes are believed to still be climbable, as is Big Blue and the Stooges at Underwood Canyon, but The Fang may not be. See additional detailed and up to date Ice Climbing Conditions here.

Municipal Ice Skating Rinks Are Open
Most municipal outdoor skating rinks are now open or about to open including those at Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake. Call ahead for specific opening days and times.

** Ice Fishing Report
Ice fishing is officially open, but ice conditions vary widely by location. This week’s thaw caused some ice to deteriorate, waters with thicker cover have refrozen. Anglers have been observed on Rollins Pond, Lake Colby, and Lake Clear and Kings Bay and Catfish Bay on Lake Champlain. Ice anglers are traveling on foot thus far and motor vehicle traffic is not recommended on the ice at this point. Due to the softness of the road, the gate at the Kings Bay Wildlife Management Area has been closed. Tip-ups may be operated on waters through April 30, 2010. General ice fishing regulations can be found in the in the 2010-11 Fishing Regulations Guide.

** Snowmobile Trails Report
The regions snowmobile trails are still very fragile with almost no base. Most trails around the region remain closed. There are trails now open in the Wilmington Wild Forest, Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, and the Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands. Riders everywhere should show restraint and wait for trails to be officially opened and sufficiently snow-covered. OThe connector trails between Newcomb, Long Lake, and Indian Lake are expected to be open this season and links to the east are in the works. Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude. Avoid riding on lakes or ponds, and excessive speed. Ride safely. More Adirondack snowmobiling resources can be found here.

** Nearly All Rivers Running Normal
Waters in the region are running at normal levels for this time of year with the exception of the Raquette River, which is now running just below normal. Ice has formed on nearly all flat waters and is forming on swift waters as well. Paddlers should use care and consult the latest streamgage data.

Hunting Seasons
Although fall hunting seasons for big game and waterfowl are over in the Adirondack region, some small game hunting is still underway. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to hunt on Forest Preserve lands. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Hikers may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.

Furbearer Trapping Seasons
Some furbearer trapping seasons remain open. This would be a good time to keep pets leased and on the trails. A reminder that body gripping traps set on land can no longer use bait or lure.

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

NORTHVILLE PLACID TRAIL

The Northville Placid Trail (NPT) is the Adirondack Park’s only designated long distance hiking trail. The 133 mile NPT was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, and is now maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Up to date NPT trail condition information can be found online.

** Upper Benson to Whitehouse: About 1.8 miles north of the Silver Lake lean-to and just south of the Canary Pond tent camping area, the trail is flooded and may require wading through water and mud. Just north of the Mud Lake lean-to there has been significant blow-down in several areas across the trail that happened sometime in early December that requires several bushwhacks to get around.

West Canada Lakes to Wakely Dam: The bridge over Mud Creek, northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out. Wading the creek is the only option. The water in Mud Creek will vary from ankle deep to knee deep.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About a half mile north of the Lake Durant trailhead at Route 28/30 the trail crosses several flooded boardwalks. Use extreme caution as the boardwalk is not visible and may shift. Expect to get your boots wet and use a stick or hiking pole to feel your way along to avoid falling off the boardwalk.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About 4 miles north of the Tirrell Pond the trail is flooded by beaver activity. The reroute to the east is now also flooded in spots.

Duck Hole to Averyville Rd. and Lake Placid: Beaver activity has flooded the trail about 3 miles south of the Averyville trailhead and will require a sturdy bushwhack.

ADIRONDACK CANOE ROUTE / NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL

Ice: Ice has formed on all waters.

Personal Flotation Devices Required: Users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

HIGH PEAKS

** Snowshoes Required: Snowshoes are required above Marcy Dam.

Western High Peaks Wilderness: Trails in the Western High Peaks Wilderness are cluttered with blowdown from a storm that occurred December 1st. DEC will be working to clear trails as soon as possible.

Ampersand Mountain Trail: There is heavy blowdown on the Ampersand Mountain Trail as far as the old caretakers cabin – approximately 1.7 miles in. Finding the trail may be difficult after fresh snows. Skiing will be frustrating as there are so many trees down. Past the cabin site the trail is good but snowshoes are needed. There is aprox 3 feet of snow near the summit. (12/23)

Wright Peak: Snow shoes are necessary on Wright Peak and full crampons will be required for the final 1/4 mile approach to the summit as there is thick ice on bare rock.

Jackrabbit Ski Trail: Improvements have been made to the Jackrabbit Trail, a 24-mile cross-country ski trail that runs between Saranac Lake and Keene. There has been a reroute of the popular six mile section between McKenzie Pond Road outside Saranac Lake to Whiteface Inn Road outside Lake Placid. The rerouted trail avoids some hilly terrain at the start of this section and also avoids the ball field, and some private property. Trailhead parking is expected to be expanded in this area later this year.

Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. This adds 2 miles of hiking, plan trips accordingly.

Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

Wilmington Wild Forest: Snowmobiles may be operating on designated snowmobile trails. Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage.

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

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Blue Ridge Wilderness: DEC Forest Rangers and trail crews have been working to clear blowdown from trails. The following trails are cleared and ready for skiing and/or snowshoeing: South Inlet Loop (no bridge at stillwater be cautious crossing ice) and the Sagamore Loop Trail

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: All designated snowmobile trails in the Moose River Plains are now open. DEC Forest Rangers and trail crews have been working to clear blowdown from trails. The following trails are cleared and ready for skiing and/or snowshoeing: Limekiln Lake Ski Routes, Bug Lake Trail (open to snowmobiles, be cautious), the north side of the Black Bear Mountain Loop (blow down still present on south side), the trails to the summits of Rocky Mountain and Black Bear Mountain are also well marked (snowshoes & crampons may be necessary).

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

Pigeon Lake Wilderness: DEC Forest Rangers and trail crew have been working to clear blowdown from trails. The following trails are cleared and ready for skiing and/or snowshoeing: Shallow Lake Trail (well-marked with some minor blow down), West Mountain Trail (well-marked, some blowdown remains on section east of the summit), and Sucker Brook Trail

SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

** Eastern Lake George Wild Forest: The Dacy Clearing Road is a designated snowmobile trail, has been reopened. Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage.

Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: Ice is forming on all waters. Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

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 Jabe Pond Road, and Buttermilk Road Extension. Although also closed, Scofield Flats, Bear Slides Access, and Pikes Beach Access roads may be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding a Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD).

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

NORTHERN ADIRONDACKS

** Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All lands are open to all legal and allowable public recreation activities beginning January 1. The gate to the Pinnacle Trail remains closed until after the spring mud season.

** Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands: Due to logging operations the Madawaska Road and Conversation Corners Road will be closed to snowmobiles and the Snowmobile Corridor C8 has been rerouted.

Saranac Lakes Chain: The lower locks on the Saranac Lakes Chain have been shut down for the winter. The locks are closed and made inoperable every winter to avoid unsafe situations for users and to prevent damage to the locks. Operation of the locks in icy conditions in the past was the cause of damage to hoses, hydraulic rams, and the hydraulic control mechanism. The repair of these damages is costly and stops boater traffic in the highly utilized area while the locks are being repaired. DEC does not officially close the upper locks on the Saranac Lakes Chain. They are manually operated and become inoperable when ice forms. Unlike the lower locks, there is no hydraulic equipment that can be damaged. The lower locks will be reopened after the ice goes out in the spring.

Saranac Lakes Wild Forest: Gates have been open on the old D & H railroad bed (Snowmobile Corridor C7B). Skiers and snowshoers using this designated snowmobile trail should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage of snowmobiles. Snowmobilers are required to slow down when passing skiers, snowshoers or other snowmmobiles on trails.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: The gate to the Lake Lila Road is closed. Public motorized access to the road is prohibited until the gate is reopened after the spring mud season. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized access is allowed on the road. Trespassing on lands adjacent to the road is prohibited.

NORTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: Numerous cross country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities exist on the Public Use Areas and Linear Recreation Corridors open to the public. Skiers and snowshoers are asked not to use the groomed snowmobile routes. Signs on the trails and maps of the snowmobile routes instruct snowmobilers on which routes are open this winter. Portions of these routes may be plowed from time to time so riders should be cautious and aware of motor vehicles that may be on the road. These route changes are a result of the cooperation of Chateaugay Woodlands, the landowner of the easement lands, and their willingness to maintain the snowmobile network. The cooperation of snowmobilers will ensure future cooperative reroutes when the need arises.

Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: A parking area has been built on Goldsmith Road for snowmobile tow vehicles and trailers. The southern terminus of Linear Recreation Corridor 8 (Liberty Road) lies several hundred feet to the east of the parking area and connects to the C8A Snowmobile Corridor Trail (Wolf Pond Road) via Linear Recreation Corridor 7 (Wolf Pond Mountain Road). Construction of the parking area was a cooperative effort of the landowner, the Town of Franklin, and DEC. The Town of Franklin donated time, personnel and equipment from their highway department and will be plowing the parking area.

Sable Highlands / Old Liberty Road / Wolf Pond Mountain Road Snowmobile Trail: Due to planned logging operations by the landowner on lands north of Loon Lake, the western portion of the snowmobile trail (Old Liberty Road/Wolf Pond Mountain Road) that connected with the C7 Snowmobile Corridor Trail (the utility corridor) just north of Loon Lake near Drew Pond and lead to the C8A Snowmobile Corridor Trail (Wolf Pond Road) has been closed this winter. The eastern portion of that snowmobile trail (Wolf Pond Mountain Road) now connects to Goldsmith Road near the parking area. Snowmobiles planning to travel between Franklin County and Clinton County using the C8A Snowmobile Corridor Trail must access C8A at the junction with C7 or use Goldsmith Road and the trail from the Goldsmith Road to C8A (Wolf Pond Road).

Sable Highlands / Mullins Road: The Mullins Road has been opened to snowmobiles to connect County Route 26 (Loon Lake Road) to C7. The road is located approximately halfway between the intersections of Route 26 with C8 (Debar Game Farm Road) and Route 26 with C7. (12/23)

Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK NOTICES

Accidents Happen, Be Prepared
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. 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.

Personal Flotation Devices Required
Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Cave And Mine Closings
White nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across the northeast has spread to at least 32 cave and mine bat hibernation sites across the New York state according to a recent survey. Populations of some bat species are declining in these caves and mines by 90 percent. White nose was first discovered in upstate New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and is now confirmed in at least 11 states. DEC has closed all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population including Norton Peak Cave in Chateuagay Woodlands Easement Lands and also Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Please respect cave and mine closures.

Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles
All backcountry users should learn and practice the Leave No Trace philosophy: Plan ahead and be prepared, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. For more information is available online.

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Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

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, January 6, 2011

Wild Center’s Winter Weekends Events Announced

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the winter season you’ll be able to come in from the cold at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake to explore our natural world. Visitors can learn about North American carnivores and tracking them from naturalist Susan Morse; join Adirondack naturalist Peter O’Shea for a nature walk on “The Wild” side; watch “The Legend of Pale Male” the infamous Red-tailed Hawk of Central Park and explore the “Return of the Wild”.

Sunday Family Art and Nature features special programs with a naturalist – a walk outside, an animal encounter or a story and a family art project related to the theme of the day. Themes include Hibernation Fascination, Outrageous Raptors, All About Bears and Otter Birthday Party. Visitors can use free snowshoes on the Wild Center’s trails during their visit, watch feature films, and the regularly scheduled otter encounters.

The Wild Center also has unveiled a new Winter Season Pass for residents and frequent visitors to the Adirondacks. With something happening every weekend during the winter months, the season pass is valid for unlimited visits from January until Memorial Day weekend. There are over 50 days that you can use the Season Pass. Pass holders can also take advantage of regular special sale discounts at the Center’s store. Please visit www.wildcenter.org/pass to purchase a Winter Season Pass at a special online today.

The Wild Center is open throughout the winter on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm and during the entire week of President’s Day. The Wild Center is closed during the month of April.

What follows is the Winters Weekends schedule. For more information, visit www.wildcenter.org or call (518) 359-7800.

January 8, 2011
Kick start your winter season with a whole day of family fun at The Wild Center, plus kids 16 and under can visit for FREE! The day will be filled with live animal programs, craft projects, story time, face painting and snowshoe treks.

January 9, 2011
Marvelous Mammals, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

January 16, 2011
Turtle Time, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

January 21, 2011
Join Susan Morse, nationally recognized naturalist and the founder of Keeping Track, for a lecture on North American carnivores at 7pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free and open to the public.

January 23, 2011
Join author, Adirondack naturalist and conservationist Peter O’Shea for a nature walk on “The Wild” side at 12:30pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

As part of Wild Winter Weekends, there will be a Family Art and Nature project, Nature Detectives, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

January 30, 2011
Hibernation Fascination, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

February 6, 2011
Outrageous Raptors, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

February 13, 2011
Creatures of the Deep, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

February 19, 2011
Learn about Adirondack winter birds during live raptor programs and expert-guided bird hikes for the whole family at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. At 1pm, enjoy the Adirondack film premiere of “The Legend of Pale Male”, the true story of love and life about a Red-tailed Hawk’s claim to Central Park.

February 20, 2011
The Mighty Moose, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

February 27, 2011
Owl Wisdom, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

March 6, 2011
Join author, Adirondack naturalist and conservationist Peter O’Shea for a nature walk on “The Wild” side at 12:30pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

All About Bears, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

March 13, 2011
Rattlesnakes, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

March 19, 2011
Spend a day learning from the experts about all of the wild Adirondack carnivores that are here and were once here during ‘Return of the Wild’ at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The day will include a discussion on wolves and an opportunity to meet a red fox.

March 20, 2011
Creatures of the Night, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.

March 27, 2011
Otter Birthday Party, at 1pm at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Free with paid admission.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

DEC Announces 2011 Tree and Shrub Seedling Sale

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Saratoga Tree Nursery has begun taking orders for its annual sale of tree and shrub seedlings. Schools across New York can also now receive free seedlings for spring planting through the DEC School Seedling Program, which will provide 50 tree seedlings or a mixed packet of 30 wildlife shrubs to any public or private school that would like to participate.

The Saratoga Tree Nursery produces more than 50 species of trees and shrubs for planting on public and private land. The objective of the program is to provide low-cost, native planting materials from known New York sources to encourage landowners to enhance the state’s environment for future generations.

Hand-picked New York seed provides the best characteristics for a lifetime of healthy and hardy plants. Trees and shrubs create excellent “green” structures; a row of cedar or spruce make attractive snow fencing, sound barrier, and songbird shelter. A row of shrub willow is a fast-growing and effective visual barrier.

Landowners can get planting advice from their nearest DEC forestry office or private forestry consultant. The brochure and order form “2011 Trees and Shrubs” can be found DEC’s website or by calling the nursery. To order seedlings by phone, call (518) 581-1439. Call early for best selection. Mail orders are also accepted and can be sent to the Saratoga Tree Nursery, 2369 Route 50, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Orders may be placed through mid-May. Seedlings are shipped from mid-April to mid-May.

To participate in DEC’s School Seedling Program, schools should contact (518) 587-1120, or the nearest DEC regional forestry office to request a “School Seedlings” brochure. The brochure contains all the information necessary to place an order. The information and application is also available online. Applications must be received at the nursery by March 31, 2011.

The seedlings can be planted on school grounds or other community spaces. Teachers and students are encouraged to plan the project ahead of time by discussing the value trees contribute to the environment and to determine the objectives of the planting. Trees are instrumental in helping control erosion, enhance wildlife, provide windbreaks, and support many other conservation practices.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sportsmen, Outdoor Recreation Lobby Day

A “Sportsmen and Outdoor Recreation Legislative Awareness Day” will be on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 in Albany. An event held earlier this year included 24 vendors from around the state and nearly 3,000 supporters. National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO & Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre will join outdoor enthusiasts from across the state at the event, which is focused on the Second Amendment and shooting sports.

“Due to the overwhelming success of the January 2010 event we have decided to make this celebration of our Second Amendment rights a yearly gathering,” event organizer Brian M. Kolb, the State Assembly’s Republican Minority Leader from Canandaigua, said in a press release, “Our goal is to highlight the rich tradition of outdoor activities in the lives of New York’s residents and our economy, and offer hunters, sportsmen and outdoor recreation enthusiasts from around the state an opportunity to meet with their legislators to discuss the legislative and policy issues affecting them.”

Kolb noted that LaPierre will give the keynote address again this year. Additionally, the slate of speakers is expected to include Tom King, President of NYSRPA; James A. Rabbia, Plant Manager for Remington Arms; Stephen Aldstadt, President of S.C.O.P.E.; and William Schwerd, Executive Director of New York State 4-H Shooting Sports.

“Hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation are essential to New York’s economy, contributing over $6 billion every year” Kolb’s statement says. “It has always been important to me that sportsmen and women have the opportunity to network with colleagues and meet with their legislators to discuss the important role of ‘Heritage Sports’ and other outdoor activities.”

Vendors scheduled to showcase their products and services include NYSRPA, S.C.O.P.E., the West Albany Rod and Gun Club, the Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of Ulster County, New York State 4-H Shooting Sports, New York Houndsmen Conservation Association, Outdoor Writers Association, Safari Club International, Conservation Alliance of New York, National Wild Turkey Federation, Sportsmen’s Association for Firearms Education, Inc., Remington Arms, New York State Trappers Association, Harvest Sun Charters, Livingston County Federation of Sportsmen Clubs, Springville Field and Spring Club, New East Coast Arms Collectors, Savage Arms and Columbia Greene Friends of the NRA, and others.

To RSVP or for more details about the event, e-mail Kolb at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, call (518) 455-5073, or look for “Sportsmen and Outdoor Recreation Legislative Awareness Day” on Facebook.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Most Read Adirondack Almanack Stories

Here is our list of the Adirondack Almanack‘s ten most popular stories of 2010.

The Return of the Black Flies (Ellen Rathbone)
It’s fitting that this year’s most read story was written by Ellen Rathbone, one of the Almanack‘s most popular contributors in 2010. With the state’s economic problems resulting in the closure of the Newcomb Visitor Interpretative Center, Ellen lost her job and we lost her regular contributions on natural history and the environment. In this gem from March, Ellen reminds us that the black flies are much more than a nuisance.

The Cougar Question: Have You Seen One? (Phil Brown)
There is perhaps no wildlife question in the Adirondacks that raises so much ire as the question of whether or not there are mountain lions (a.k.a. cougars, pumas, panthers, catamounts) in the Adirondacks. When Phil Brown asked the age old question in August, he stirred the pot one more time. Other big mountain lion stories this year included a hoax, Phil’s own encounter stories, and even a story from 2005 which still tops the charts.

Adirondack Conditions Report (Edited by John Warren)
Although not strictly a typical Almanack post per se, the weekly conditions report’s enormous popularity guarantees a spot on this year’s list of most popular stories. The report owes a great debt of thanks to all the folks around the region whose work I rely on. Special thanks to the DEC’s David Winchell, Tony Goodwin, Tom Wemett, the folks at Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service, the USGS, NOAA and the National Weather Service, and everyone who out there who writes about conditions in their area.

Dannemora Notes: The Clinton Prison (John Warren)
Some of the most popular posts of all time here at the Almanack are about the history of the Adirondack region. In fact, the history category is the currently the 13th most clicked-on page of all time. The single biggest story each month remains a piece I wrote in January 2008 about Gaslight Village. This year is continuing proof that Adirondack history is a big draw, as my short post about Dannemora Prison drew an astonishing number of readers.

A Long Standstill Over Paddlers’ Rights (Phil Brown)
Phil Brown’s regular weekly posts raise important questions about the Adirondack Park and how we use it. Among the issues that loomed the largest this year was the navigation rights of paddlers. Phil wrote controversial pieces about the Beaver River, the West Branch of the St. Regis, and for all his effort, found himself headed to court.

Famous Jerks of the Adirondacks (Mary Thill)
When I thought I was clever by coming up with the 10 Most Influential People in Adirondack History, Mary Thill put me to shame by listing the all-time top Adirondack jerks. Mary has been on hiatus from the Almanack for most of this year while she works on other projects, but her wit, wisdom, and insight into all things Adirondack remains.

Siamese Ponds: The New Botheration Pond Trail (Alan Wechsler)
Alan Wechsler’s regular forays into the outdoors are something even the most active Adirondackers envy. Not a week goes by when he’s not biking, hiking, skiing, climbing, or thinking and writing about getting outside. When he wrote about the new eight-mile Botheration Pond Loop, a route that circles around the Balm of Gilead Mountain and several lesser hills in the 114,000-acre Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area, Alan grabbed the interest of readers.

A Short History of the Moose River Plains (John Warren)
It’s been a big year for the Moose River Plains. road closures, new trails and bridges, and some reclassification brought Adirondackers out in big numbers to learn more about the plains, and to chime in on how it should be managed.

The Death of Climber Dennis Murphy (Phil Brown)
The death of Dennis Murphy at Upper Washbowl Cliff in Keene Valley was tragic. Dennis worked at Eastern Mountain Sports in Lake Placid and was a regular at local climbing hot-spots. This post by Phil Brown, written just a week after they had a lengthy talk about climbing gear and soloing Chapel Pond Slab, struck a nerve with readers. Two other stories of danger and disaster this year also ranked high: Ian Measeck’s first hand account of surviving an avalanche while skiing Wright Peak, and the High Peaks disappearance of Wesley Wamsganz.

Commentary: The Cast of ‘Opposing Smart Development (John Warren)
Commentaries are always popular at the Almanack, and my own short piece on those who have traditionally opposed smart development in the Adirondacks raised not just a few hackles, but also the readership numbers.

You can also check out the top stories of 2009, 2007, 2006.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Waterfall Wall: A Southern Adirondack Ice Route

Mention Adirondack ice climbing and most people think of Keene Vally or Cascade Pass, Pitchoff or Pok-O-Moonshine. But there is a plethora of ice tucked away in the park’s southern reaches, “must-dos” for any climbers willing and able to manage the approach. The Waterfall Wall on Crane Mountain is one of these classic lines.

Crane’s Waterfall Wall lies well east of the State trailhead. Fortunately, a well-worn climber’s path leads from the trailhead parking lot in this direction, making the start easier than it used to be. The path winds through the Boulderwoods, a summertime bouldering area, then continues eastward along the base of Crane for awhile.

If you cannot reach the parking lot – often the case in winter – just walk down the trailhead road about 150′ then cut into the woods, toward the mountain, when you see the first state boundary sign. You will run across an old ATV trail, turn right on this to skirt private property. When you see power lines, cut across straight toward the mountainside until you come to the climber’s path, then take it to the right.

The path parallels the mountain for awhile, then cuts uphill, heading for a rock crag called the Measles Walls. Cut off here, continuing eastward and staying low until the mountain swings away from your heading.

From there, cut uphill along any of several gullies, keeping a constant distance from the mountainside. You will eventually reach a ridgetop overlooking a small, steep-sided ravine blocking the way ahead. To your left, the ridge rises to join the flank of Crane Mountain, to your left, it runs down to private lands. Drop into the ravine and climb up the opposite side to reach another ridge. This one parallels Crane’s northeast flank; you’ve turned the corner of the mountain.

Follow this ridge, staying in sight of Crane, as it runs along level at first, then begins descending. At times, you will have to choose between walking down a boulder-strewn streambed close to Crane, or going farther east to avoid the worst difficulties; just keep the flank of Crane in sight.

After dropping several hundred feet, the ridge levels off. The stream exits the boulders and winds around the flat area before entering another bouldery copse. The Waterfall is directly left of this point.

Pitch One is a wide swathe of ice slab 115′ tall. It rates WI2 to 3+, depending on which line you choose to climb. At the base, the ice on the left is thin, the center is adequate, and just right of center is the fattest section. Right of this, thin ice (or bare rock) leads to the Tempest variation, the hardest option for this pitch, as it climbs through a short, vertical headwall. Farther right, there is often a strip of ice that flows along the right side of the headwall block; this is narrow but very easy, perhaps WI1.

The top-out is a roomy, wooded ledge. Most parties belay from a tree near the cliff edge so they can see their partner’s progress. Convenient trees provide TR anchors for the Tempest variation, but a 70m rope is required. A 60m rope can be used for rappel-descent off a small oak tree to climber’s left of the ice slab. If this is used, be careful of a rock crevice, often disguised by snow, at the bottom next to the slab.

Pitch Two‘s climbing begins a few steps upslope. A mound of ice with minimal WI2 climbing leads to a long, low-angled run of about 140’ up to a good ledge with a belay tree below a short headwall. Alternatives range from climbing the steep slab right of the ice mound (often too thin for screws), drytooling a right-facing rock corner farther right, or choss-stabbing up a large right-facing corner to the left of the mound. The traditional way is by far the best. Descent options range from a circuitous walk-up to the Pitch Three escape, or a 30m rappel off the belay tree that will barely reach easy ground (70m rope recommended).

Pitch Three is a the short flow directly behind the belay. On the left, it is a WI1, stepped corner, but one can also climb directly up the headwall for a harder start. Be aware the the corner takes screws, the headwall is usually too thin.

Pitch Four is non-technical. Coil the rope and walk up the streambed about 70′, then cross to its left side and walk uphill and left, toward the obvious flow high above. Climb a wooded ramp to reach the beginning of pitch five’s technical ice. Do NOT stay in the streambed; this leads to a remote section of the mountain.
To descend: walk off clmber’s left, descending a wooded ramp until near the bouldery streambed, then curl back to the base of the Waterfall.

Pitch Five is thin WI2. While not difficult, timid leaders will struggle here. The ice is thin and may be hard to find if the slab is covered in snow. Generally, begin near the slab’s low point, climb up and left to reach a narrow band of ice in a right-facing corner. At its top, move right below a bulge, then follow another right-facing corner up, keeping tools tight in the corner or even on the face above. Step up left on top of the corner and continue up easy slab to trees below the steep last pitch.
Alternatives are: weave along a narrow, technical ledge leftward then up to circumvent the pitch, or dry-tool a low-angle open book to the right.
Descent from the top of pitch five can be by rappel off the lowest oak trees (WI 1 to reach these), or a long walk-off climber’s left.

Pitch Six’s most obvious line is WI4-, and runs about 100′ from the belay trees at the bottom to the huge pine at the top. There’s no mistaking the crux here: the main ice sheet flows down a steep wall and drops a curtain in front of an overhang about 50′ up. One can climb up to the left, utilizing handy trees to pull a WI3 (thin ice) lead to reach the top, or pass up the sharp end altogether and walk left to get around and top-rope the beef. There is an obvious mixed option to the right of the main flow, which has been TR’d and is estimated MI4 or 5. Other possibilities, yet to be tried, lie farther right.

In case of emergency, cell phone reception is surprisingly good for this area, but don’t depend on it. The usual rules for escaping unfamiliar woodland do not apply here: following drainages will take you far away from help. If you carry (and know how to use) a compass, follow a bearing due south to hit Sky High Road.

More information can be found at Mountainproject’s Waterfall Wall page.

Illustrations: Above, the author leads up pitch one (Kevin Heckeler photo); middle photos, Patrick Gernert climbs the second and third pitches respectively; below, Jason Brechko leads the highest, hardest pitch of the route, WI 4-. (Courtesy Jay Harrison).

Jay Harrison of Thurman guides rock and ice climbing excursions in the Adirondacks, Catskills, and Shawangunks, and records his antics on his own blog and website.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Almanack Welcomes Climber Jay Harrison

Please join me in welcoming rock and ice climber Jay Harrison of Thurman newest (25th!) contributor here at the Adirondack Almanack. Jay has more than 15 years experience as a climbing guide and currently guides for Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing Schools. He’s also one of the primary forces behind the Southern Adirondack Rock Climbers’ Fest, held this past fall on the east side of Lake George.

Jay writes short pieces about his climbing experiences on his own blog and longer articles for his website.

Although he’s climbed his way around the Adirondacks (and has spent a lot of time down in the Gunks), Jay says one of his favorite local spots is Crane Mountain in Johnsburg, Warren County. He makes no excuses for his obsession with Crane. “For climbers, it rocks,” he told me, “even in winter.” Jay will begin his tenure here at the Almanack today with a description of Crane’s “Waterfall Wall” ice climb. He will be contributing here at the Almanack every other week on rock and ice climbing news, issues, and culture.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Joe Martens Nominated to Lead DEC

There were hints last week that it would happen, but it’s official, Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) Chair and Open Space Institute (OSI) President Joesph Martens has been nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo to head the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Martens has quite a legacy already in the Adirondack region. Under his leadership OSI secured protection of the 10,000-acre Tahawus property and most recently the 2,350-acre Camp Little Notch in Fort Ann. Martens also spearheaded OSI’s involvement in the Nature Conservancy’s 161,000-acre Finch Pryun purchase. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Agreement Reached on Paul Smiths VIC

Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Paul Smith’s College officials announced today that the transfer of the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) facility is complete. Paul Smith’s College will now own and operate the over 24,500-square-foot main building and accessory structures. A long-standing lease of the College’s land by the APA was also ended.

The APA operated the Visitor Interpretive Centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb since 1989 and 1990 respectively with a mission to “enhance public awareness of Park resources and the Agency’s role in their protection.” Paul Smiths VIC staff provided interpretive services to nearly 75,000 students participating in on-site school field trips since 1989 according to APA officials. The APA closed the Newcomb and Paul Smiths VICs late last year as New York State’s fiscal crisis worsened.

“This transfer is good news for both the community and the VIC,” according to Dr. John W. Mills, President of Paul Smith’s College. “We’re excited that this great resource has been preserved.” he told the press in a prepared statement, “We will continue to look for ways to integrate the center into our academic programs, and explore additional possibilities for community involvement at the VIC.”

The Adirondack Park Institute, a volunteer, not-for-profit group that supports educational programming at the VIC, has taken the lead role in those efforts and has already raised more than $40,000, a press release said, noting also that “the college intends to maintain public access to the VIC’s extensive trail network.” “The trails, which are on college-owned land, attract thousands of hikers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other outdoor enthusiasts to the area every year,” the release said.

Paul Smith’s is expected to announce plans for the VIC, including programming, staffing, hours of operations, public visitation, special programs for the community, groups and schools, off site programs and outreach, in the near future.

The transfer of the Paul Smiths VIC to Paul Smith’s College ends the APA involvement with the Visitor Interpretive Centers. In July 2010 the APA transferred the state-owned buildings and equipment at the Newcomb VIC to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). SUNY ESF plans to integrate the facility with the Adirondack Ecological Center and the Northern Forest Institute and maintain public access. You can read more about those plans here.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How Adirondack Wildlife Survive the Cold

While we sit inside on these increasingly colder winter days, have you ever wondered; how do the wild creatures of the Adirondacks survive? From the smallest insect to the largest mammal each is adapted to survive the cold in very interesting ways.

The black bear, an icon of the Adirondack forest does not truly hibernate, but instead slumbers through the cold winter in a torpid or dormant state within a warm den. The difference between true hibernation and a torpid state is, in a torpid state the animal can still be easily awoken. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Almanack Welcomes Naturalist Corrina Parnapy

Natural history fans will be happy to see the return of nature writing to the Almanack with the addition of our newest contributor Corrina Parnapy.

Corrina is a Lake George native who has been working and volunteering as a naturalist and an environmental research scientist for over ten years. Her love and interest in the Adirondacks led her to undergraduate degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies. Her professional focus has been on invasive species, fish and algae.

Corrina was recently invited to sit on the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Conservation and Stewardship Committee. She currently works for both the state and on a contract basis for the FUND for Lake George, while working on a forthcoming book, A Guide to the Common Algae of the Lake George Watershed.

Please join me in welcoming Corrina as the Almanack‘s 23rd regular contributor. Her columns on the environment and natural history will appear every other week.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Former Newcomb VIC Reopens Under SUNY-ESF

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) will reopen the former Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Visitor Interpretive Center in Newcomb tomorrow after taking over programming at the facility January 1st. The APA closed the Newcomb and Paul Smiths VICs late last year as New York State’s fiscal crisis worsened.

According to a press release issued today, the facility’s name has been changed to Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) “to reflect both its location and its mission to serve regional residents as well as visitors from beyond the park’s boundaries.”

The AIC, located at ESF’s Huntington Wildlife Forest, will remain open all winter, with 3.6 miles of trails, open dawn to dusk daily, to snowshoe or cross-country ski. The interpretive center’s main building is scheduled to be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. “However, during this transitional period, the building might be closed occasionally during those hours,” ESF Director of Communications Claire Dunn told the press. “Visitors wishing to ensure the building is open when they arrive are advised to check in advance by calling 518-582-2000.”

“We want to carry forward the legacy of the Adirondack Park Agency’s interpretive program,” Paul Hai, an educator with ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center, who is planning programs for the interpretive center, told the press. “We want the facility to be more than a nature center. We want to offer educational and recreational programs that are based on a foundation of natural history and science.”

Hai said he is finalizing plans for three programs that will be among those held next spring and summer and provided the following descriptions:

Fly-fishing: A series of workshops will explore the natural history of fish and the culture of fly fishing and teach fly-fishing techniques. Participants will have an opportunity to fish waters in the Huntington Wildlife Forest that are otherwise inaccessible to the public. Participants can choose to attend one session or all in the series, which will be held periodically through the spring and summer.

“Working Forests Working for You”: This series will bring experts to the center for programs and presentations on various aspects of forestry and the forest products industry, from silviculture to forest management and pulp and paper mill operation.

“Northern Lights”: This series on luminaries in the Adirondacks will include presentations on famous people whose work had a relationship with the Adirondacks. Subjects will include John Burroughs, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Winslow Homer.

Hai said that he’s also hoping to host professional development workshops, a series exploring the role the Adirondacks in modern philosophy, a book club, and canoe skills training.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Elk Lake: The First Adirondack Conservation Easement

The signing of an important conservation easement last week protecting a large percentage of the former Finch, Pruyn lands reminds me of a visit I paid to Paul Schaefer in March, 1990. At that time, Governor Mario Cuomo had proposed an Environmental Bond Act, which required legislative approval before going to the voters (it was ultimately voted down). How was the bond act being received in the legislature, Paul asked. I gave him the news that it was having a rough reception politically. Paul remained optimistic. The bond act was important because it would permit the purchase of conservation easements in the Adirondacks, and that should be enough to tip public support in its favor, he felt.

Later that year, Paul formed Sportsmen for the Bond Act. It was one of many highly focused organizations he created in his lifetime. This effort, one of the last he personally led, revealed an evolution in Schaefer’s approach to Park conservation. Since 1930, Paul had fought for any appropriation that would add more Forest Preserve, public land protected as “forever wild” by Article 14 of the NYS Constitution that would eventually be classified wild forest or wilderness. He persuaded many organized hunters to support his wilderness philosophy. But he also came to believe that many private holdings in the Park should be available for active forest management, which he viewed as complimentary, both ecologically and aesthetically, to adjacent “forever wild” Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Lawrence P. Gooley: Missing Aunt Mary

The death of a friend, and her burial on the last day of 2010, leads me a brief departure from my usual posting here. The friend, Mary (Pippo) Barber of Whitehall, was nearly four decades my senior, but acted so young that she made me feel old. I first met her around ten years ago when she came 100+ miles north to Plattsburgh with a friend and then stood with us in line for three hours at a job fair. She was there as moral support, talking and joking all day long. I had no idea she was 84 at the time. As I would learn, she never looked anywhere near her age.

My partner, Jill, is from Whitehall (at the southern tip of Lake Champlain, where the barge canal begins). It is through her that I met “Aunt Mary,” a very important person in Jill’s life. On every visit to Whitehall during the past ten years, Aunt Mary was on our schedule of stops. She was always nice, friendly, inquisitive, and fun to chat with … just a classy lady.

Her memory was as sharp as anyone’s, and our interest in history often prompted us to steer the conversation in that direction. As many of you know (but many of us neglect), elderly citizens provide an invaluable connection to the past. When we republished Whitehall’s pictorial history book a few years ago, it was Aunt Mary who readily answered dozens of questions, helping us correctly define many buildings when we prepared the captions.

At one point in our conversations over the years, she mentioned that a movie had once been filmed in Whitehall. That was news to me and Jill, and we had to wonder if maybe she had made a mistake. It would have been easy to believe that she was a little mixed up—after all, she was about 90 then, and nobody else had ever mentioned a movie. Still, we just couldn’t believe she was wrong.

Jill’s faith in Aunt Mary drove her to keep digging, and much to her surprise, delight, and amazement, it was true! After much time and considerable research, she was able to uncover the entire story, a tale that may have been lost except for the teamwork of Jill and Aunt Mary.

It strengthened the already solid bond between them, and it didn’t stop there. A poster re-creation of the original movie advertisement is now an exhibit in the Whitehall museum, donated by Jill in Aunt Mary’s name.

Aunt Mary’s passing is certainly a sad loss, but it offers a reminder of the wonderful people and great historical resources that are often neglected—our elderly, whether they are relatives, friends, or nursing home residents. If you have considered talking to any of them and asking all kinds of questions, do it. They’ll enjoy it, and so will you. Don’t put it off and eventually live with painful regret.

I’m certainly glad we asked Aunt Mary all those questions over the years, learning about her life and Whitehall’s history. It was not only a smart thing to do. It was respectful, educational, and just plain fun.

Photo Top: Mary (Pippo) Barber, circa 1943.

Photo Bottom: Mary (Pippo) Barber, circa 2005.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

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