Since the mid-1990s, a one-day open house has grown across New York State into two full Maple Weekends. This weekend (March 25-26) is a great opportunity to learn more about our region’s favorite sugary treat. » Continue Reading.
According to Festival Committee Chairperson Susan Wilder one reason their festival is such a success is that it takes place after the rush of maple sugaring season. When the sap first starts to run, most producers are busy boiling so holding the event later in the season allows area maple producers to participate with visitors and locals. » Continue Reading.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has announced the route for Cycle Adirondacks — a week-long road bike tour through the Adirondack Park scheduled to take place August 20–27, 2016. This will be the tour’s second year; registration is now open.
The 2016 route starts and ends in Hadley-Lake Luzerne, NY, and includes overnight stops in Ticonderoga, Keeseville, Saranac Lake, Indian Lake and Northville. There will be a “layover day” in Saranac Lake where riders can pedal an optional route that tours Lake Placid or take a day off the bike to enjoy the amenities available in the Olympic Region. » Continue Reading.
If my memory services me, I believe 2015 will mark the 20th since the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower Committee was organized in 1995 with the help of a spirited group of local leaders and historians in Hadley and Luzerne and Corinth, as well as the leadership of Jack Freeman of the Adirondack Mountain Club, the NYS DEC Forest Rangers, and a volunteer from the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA), Linda Champagne.
As a leader of AFPA I was glad to join Linda at one of the committee’s early meetings. Now working with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, I still hike the mountain every year in recognition of a voluntary group completely dedicated to an educational, historically significant part of the NYS Forest Preserve. And I hike up in hopes of talking with a Summit Steward.
I doubt any Hadley Fire Tower friends organization can claim to have a better newsletter than the annual Hadley Fire Tower Mountain News issued each spring for twenty years by the aforementioned Linda Champagne. The News is packed with historical, cultural and environmental news, paintings, photographs, perspective and poetry from the viewpoint of mountain people who have known the mountain for generations, and who with the vital help of NYS DEC are doing a lot more than simply keeping the fire tower upright – although the tower’s restoration and maintenance was a founding purpose of the committee. » Continue Reading.
The other day as my wife and I, along with our dogs, walked River Road near Riparius on the Hudson River, my wife said to me in a folksy manner “just think all this water here, is on its way to New York City.”
It’s true the Hudson River has flowed out of the Adirondack Mountains for millennia, southward towards the Atlantic Ocean. And for the last two centuries or so there have been plans to dam the upper Hudson River for one reason or another and most of those plans have dealt with using the water resources for some down state endeavor. » Continue Reading.
In a field bordered by forested hills and rocky ridges, Dan Plumley unfurled a zoning map of the Adirondack Park. The color-coded map was a reminder of how much private land lay before him, and how potentially fleeting the natural views from Marcy Field could be.
He pointed to a bald patch on Corliss Point above the valley, where lights from a house inconspicuous by day blaze into a flying saucer at night, one of many signs that growth in the backcountry is creeping higher.
“Hundreds of thousands of people drive by on this road every year,” said Plumley, gesturing toward Route 73. “They see this view and think it will always be there. I’m here to say that the way this land-use plan is being implemented, the transcendental beauty and ecological integrity of this scene is in jeopardy.” » Continue Reading.
Melba Mae’s was one of the few places we visited in the wee hours of the night (9 p.m.). Although the hand painted Melba Mae’s Riverview Inn sign is a bit difficult to read, the lighted message board in front touting the weekend’s band lineup is a beacon to passersby traveling along North Shore Road near the Conklingville Dam in Hadley.
Our visit to Melba Mae’s was prompted by recommendation from people we’d met at some of the Luzerne area bars we reviewed, as well as the fact that Kim’s husband is a member of the Ralph Kylloe Band, Melba Mae’s entertainment that night. The parking lot adjacent to the inn was full, but plenty of parking was available along North Shore Road. We wondered whether that was a good idea in the wintertime. We entered through a side door, greeted by pleasant cooking smells, quiet chatter and a friendly and cheerful bartender. Kim looked over the beer lineup while Pam checked out the cocktail specials. Plenty of draft and bottled beers are offered. A Davidson’s brown ale, named Aurora Borealis, caught Kim’s eye. She hadn’t heard of that one. Manette, the bartender, explained that it was Davidson’s generic brown ale, and the establishment is allowed to create its own name, this one after the owner’s daughter. Pam settled on a vanilla white Russian. When we asked Manette about the white Mexican, she explained that it was the result of an accidental switch of tequila for vodka. The customer liked it, so they decided to keep it.
Family and community seem to be predominant themes at Melba Mae’s. Greeting cards, drawings, old email jokes, and handwritten menus on day-glow paper are posted all over the wall behind the bar. Melba Mae’s sponsors several community benefits and events throughout the year, hosting holiday parties and dinners; the St. Patrick’s Day party, featuring free corned beef and beer specials, is the biggest celebration of the year. During the summer months, Melba Mae’s is a popular charity bike run stop. Luzerne music camp counselors gather to let off steam and rafters make it an annual tradition.
Melba Mae’s is the kind of joint where you don’t feel like you have to take your shoes off at the door. It feels “lived in”, with low ceilings and hardwood floors. The walls are a combination of sheetrock, pine and blackboard. The L-shaped butcher block laminate bar comfortably seats 16 and several tables provide seating for 20 more along a windowed wall. A small patio provides an outdoor area to enjoy the view or escape the noise. An unusual feature is a separate smoking room, which, surprisingly, doesn’t leak tobacco smells into the main bar area.
Setting them apart from most establishments, the kitchen is open during all operating hours. If the bar’s open, the kitchen’s open. The menu consists of the usual bar fare – burgers, wings (accompanied by their homemade bleu cheese dressing), fried seafood, “Bands ‘n’ Beans” award-winning chili, sandwiches and salads.
Melba Mae’s has been owned by the current owners, Linda and Don for the past 19 years and is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday noon to midnight. Tuesday is Open Mike night, with live entertainment on Friday and Saturday. If you go, leave your credit and debit cards at home. Melba Mae’s is a cash only bar, though they anticipate adding an ATM in the near future.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.
By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities Being able to successfully make maple syrup can reveal a lot about your personality. For our family, the credit for making our one-gallon of maple syrup goes largely to my husband. I collected the sap but he tended the fire and tested the product until we canned 4 quart jars of sticky-sweet liquid gold.
My husband and I discovered that we work well together. The tasks he willingly takes on are those that I do not care for and vice versa. Working together shows our children that the process makes the end result taste so much the better.
I enjoy hearing my children discuss with their friends how they were able to help make the syrup. It was definitely a family affair. Now they attend maple festivals and maple celebrations around the Adirondacks. Making maple was time consuming so with each taste of pancake soaked in syrup, my children have learned that some things are worth the wait. For those that want to extend the maple season, Pok-O-MacCready in Willsboro will hold its “Last Drop” Pancake Breakfast ($6/adults, $5 (kids 12 and under) $6/seniors) from 8:00 a.m. – noon on April 30th. This event features homemade maple syrup collected and made right at the Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center.
Further south in the Hadley/Lake Luzerne area the whole community is coming together for the 7th annual Maple in April Festival. On Friday, April 29th the event will kick off with a cooking contest in which all entries have to contain maple in the recipe.
Maple in April organizer Sue Wilder says, “People should drop off their entry at 4:00 p.m. at the Rockwell-Harmon House in Lake Luzerne and then enjoy live music, stories and roasting marshmallows from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the new Adirondack Folk School Amphitheater, right next door.”
The Maple in April Festival started out as a scholarship fundraising breakfast by the Hadley Business Association to support local high school students interested in pursuing a degree in business. Now the event is three days packed with activities.
Sue and Ernie Wilder will be demonstrating sugaring techniques at their Wilder’s Sugar Shack, 4088 Rockwell Street in Hadley. The breakfast (8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.) featuring homemade French Toast, Oscar’s Smokehouse maple sausage and Wilder maple syrup will kick off a day of festivities.
“The breakfast proceeds still benefit the Hadley-Luzerne Scholarship Fund,” says Wilder. “In addition we have a record number of vendors coming to sell their crafts on Saturday. The Saga City Exchange Group is putting on a children carnival with all sorts of games and there will be an inflatable Bounce House.”
There are plenty of family-friendly events happening. The town of Hadley has closed off Circular Street to create a “big truck” area where children can explore local fire trucks, dump trucks and logging trucks. The Upstate Model Railroaders will set up a display at the Hadley Town Hall and allow children (young and old) to work their scaled train models. Clarke Dunham, Tony award nominated Broadway set designer, is using this weekend to show highlights from his Railroad on Parade Museum, which is scheduled to open in Pottersville this July.
There are a lot of activities for people to do,” says Wilder, “ We also have an antique car show on Saturday and a historic walking tour on Sunday. This is the seventh year for the Maple in April Festival. We will have a lot of maple goodies and just fun for everyone.”
After skiing into Bushnell Falls that March of ’69, our intention was always to move to the Adirondacks as permanently and as soon as we could. Keene and the high peaks were the grail. Soon, however, my college friend, the actress Ellen Parker, told me that her parents, Joe and Sophie, who had been looking for a place in the Adirondacks to start a restaurant, had bought a local bar along the Sacandaga River in Hadley and might need some help.
Joe Parker was a sculptor and painter, and Sophie, who was French, a chef. I had been to their house in Dobb’s Ferry and been treated to the best food and wine of my college-kid life, in an atmosphere of garlic and red wine and art conversation with a French accent. Joe soon arranged for us to occupy a clearing amid plantation pines on Niagara-Mohawk land across the road from the restaurant—the first Chez Sophie, now a Saratoga institution. In return we hired out as part-time slaves in the remodeling and start-up of the new restaurant, the first “bistro” of any authentic type in the Adirondacks, and to other restaurants, bars and contractors in the area. Gail Stern, Sam Lewis, Pete Groff and I erected a fanciful geodesic structure of interlocking plywood and two-by-four tetrahedrons in the clearing beside the river, on the principles of Buckminster Fuller, and covered it with plastic.
That was the beginning of three or four years of seasonal—May to October—occupation. We slept there, swam and fished in the river, entertained visitors. At various times we grew vegetables or kept bees, but other than that there was little attempt to maintain a “commune.” It was more like a loose affiliation and seasonal outdoor headquarters for our various widespread friends in Montreal, California, Albany and Schenectady. We had no electrical power so no ability or inclination to have loud parties. We nevertheless became known within weeks as the Hadley hippies, for our hair, jug band, nude bathing, and politics (rather bland, really).
The restaurant grew. The menu changed each evening depending on the availability of fresh ingredients. Gail worked with Sophie in the kitchen, I stood by as kitchen help, dishwasher or bus boy—though I was quickly dismissed as being too dreamy for any duty in the front room. Joe, with his cheery round face and moustache, tended bar. He had studied with Fernand Leger in Paris, where he met Sophie, and his paintings and welded rod sculptures were displayed around the room. At the end of the shift we would go out front into the restaurant where Sophie served us tournedos, Cornish hens, or roast chicken. Sometimes late customers hung around after closing and the conversation expanded, carried along on wine and summer ease, turning often to Nixon and Vietnam or to the young men and the woman who helped the hosts and what they thought they were doing living in nature without power or running water, abandoning suburban life and the duties of middle-class adulthood.
In my own case the choice had to do with memories of childhood summers combined with a romantic identification with the wilderness writings of the Beats, Thoreau, various fishing and nature writers and Noah John Rondeau. I thought that if I could deepen my experience in nature and place I could do in the Adirondacks what other writers were beginning to do in the Pacific Northwest and Montana. What I didn’t know was that it entailed as devoted a commitment of energy and time to craft as it did to fishing, hiking and hunting. I had always written and believed I could accomplish publishable adult work in ecstatic outbursts of creativity—as Kerouac supposedly had with On the Road.
I was also the one among us most committed to the idea of place and “going back” to some prewar wilderness Arcadia. With Sam Lewis I entertained fantasies of logging as the poet Gary Snyder had, growing up in the Pacific Northwest among the old labor anarchists of the twenties and thirties who had found a home in the logging industry. There Snyder had learned the value of work, of living on and with the land within a deeply western vein of frontier self-reliance. But he belonged to perhaps the last American generation to have access to an experience of that sort so unmediated by modernity.
I was hopeless as a roughneck, anyway, at least at first. And it’s safe to say the Snyder-Woody Guthrie-Bulgakov brand of anarchism didn’t translate to the Adirondacks, no matter how many philosopher-woodsmen I met who worked in the woods in one capacity or another or how many of them adopted points of view and ways of life consistent with the deepest American vein. Some eventually came to recognize how an idea like the Adirondack Park Agency Act could protect their freedom to live in a way that most closely replicated and continued that of the mythical Northwoods. But not many.
In those days we viewed reality primarily through the prisms of our cleverness, history and politics. That summer we heard little support for the proposed agency among the old-timers we had coffee with in the morning in Lake Luzerne and beers with in the evening, but whom we idealized and emulated nevertheless. You could always talk about fish, animals, water levels, stumpage prices, weather or land. Late afternoons when the Conklingville Dam shut off we’d wade out on the bare rocks of the pre-rafting Sacandaga and cast flies for the plentiful smallmouth. For trout we drove up the Stony Creek Road to Wolf Creek, with its Hudson-fattened browns, or Stony Creek itself. In August we made our annual trek to Mount Colden via the trap dike. The days seemed to justify themselves beyond all other considerations.
The war went on, along with the violence in the cities and on campuses. When Woodstock happened that summer it already seemed far away, as if some vital link to anything “down below” had been severed, for me at least.
By September the imperatives of place had asserted their hold, and the only choices seemed to be whether or not to move farther north, deeper into the woods, in to wildness and the soon to be protected reality of unmediated experience.
July 17th marked the beginning of Upper Hudson River Railroad’s two-train Saturdays, when both morning and afternoon trains are scheduled, taking passengers northward in the morning to enjoy not only the scenic excursion by rail, but also allowing them to enjoy an outing in one of the First Wilderness Heritage Corridor communities along the route. These Saturday offerings will continue through August 21st. » Continue Reading.
O swallows, swallows, poems are not The point. Finding again the world, That is the point….
From “The Blue Swallows,” Howard Nemerov
In the mid-fifties, when I was four or five, I started visiting an old bootlegger’s hideout in the woods of Thurman with my friend Dinah, Dinny, who was a year and a century older than I was, and infinitely wiser, and whom I admired and adored.
The place belonged to her father, a surgeon who was our landlord in Schenectady. You reached it down a narrow track that opened into a long oval drive surrounding two or three acres of Arcadian white pines. The house stood at the end of the long oval, atop a bluff surrounded by a 180 degree bend in Patterson Brook. A wide screened flagstone porch supported by large pine logs gave way to a central frame structure two stories high, with one-story lean-tos built off the sides housing another bedroom, bathroom, and the kitchen. A balcony surrounded the central hall and led to the upstairs bedrooms, which were small and rough, the bathrooms wainscoted and tiled. From the balconies you looked down on a large living room of cozy bamboo couches and chairs, coffee tables, lamps and magazine racks filled with Life, Look, National Geographic, The Conservationist, Field and Stream, and Superman comics. A bear rug covered the floor in front of the fireplace, another decorated a wall, and a moose head hung over the wide, open hearth fireplace.
The electricity came from a generator in a log shed located out of earshot at the far end of the driveway, a big Chrysler six that ran only in the evening, used enormous amounts of gas and had to be frequently coaxed into life by the caretaker, Ken Bonner, whom I knew twenty years later as an old-time fiddle player in Stony Creek. The kitchen had gas appliances, and they burned gas and kerosene lamps in the rest of the house when the generator was on the fritz, which it usually was.
A concrete ramp outside led downstairs under the kitchen into the “cool cellar,” where the family stored vegetables and beer, and which had originally been the liquor vault. In bootlegging days cars backed down the ramp, loaded up and made the quick shot to Saratoga, Albany and points south. Sometimes Dinny’s older brother Jeff trapped porcupines and raccoons there.
At first the deep woods’ sensory field disoriented me. Lying alone in my bedroom, with animals prowling sometimes audibly outside, I felt even at five or six connected to a greater if more uncertain and more thrilling reality than the one on the street and in the yards of downtown Schenectady and along the Mohawk. Waking in the night I couldn’t identify or locate the sound that came from the wind in the trees, which reminded me of the bodies and pews rustling together in church and seemed to come from everywhere. The creek roaring below after a night of rain brought a similar far-off echo of white noise, a gigantic hush that drowned out the noise going on in your head. Perhaps that was the first time I noticed the world slapping me into attention.
The place generated other patterns. The days had a morning adventure and an afternoon adventure—catching frogs, rock hopping in the creek, fishing. We played on the sawdust mountain outside the mill at the end of the driveway and came home with its rich piney smell on our bodies. Cool evenings by the fireplace, the doctor or his brother, also a doctor and a jazz clarinetist, told stories. They were not sportsmen themselves, but their colleagues nearby were, and we heard a lot about fishing, hunting and wildlife.
With Jeff we crawled through the alders to the edge of clear pools in Patterson Brook and spied on wild brookies hovering on their fins as if in midair, magnified in the water’s lens. One evening at dusk, driving home from the rodeo at 1000 Acres, we skinny-dipped like trout in Stony Creek. That was interesting and the last time the adults allowed it to happen.
The Hudson braided under the Thurman Bridge a couple of miles from camp among green islands supporting rare ice-meadow flora, the consequence of jagged bergs scouring the wide low banks each spring, which we knew nothing of at the time. Beef cattle grazed on the bigger, grassier islands downstream.
On the Thurman side a cut-bank fifty feet high ran along the river, nesting habitat for a huge colony of bank swallows, thousands swirling in the evening light for mayflies hatching off the broad shallows when we drove back to camp with ice cream cones.
After I moved to Hadley in the summer of 1969, I would cross the bridge and turn right into the maze of dirt roads that ran among the knobby mountains between there and The Glen, trying to find the camp and measure it against my memory. Usually I got lost, but more than once I made my way down an overgrown path in the woods to the broken down generator shack and bare concrete cellar hole. The ramp to the booze vault was still intact but the house a pile of ash. The chimney survived. How could such a thing have happened? Dinny’s father had lost the place in a bad real estate deal, it had changed hands and been left uncared for. It burned. The next time I found it nothing remained of the huge pines but a few redwood-sized stumps.
Much else had changed in the ten years since I had stayed there. When I heard that Dinny had died of cancer a few years ago I remembered the last time I’d seen her, when she and her father had driven into the four corners of Stony Creek on a summer afternoon in the mid-seventies at the precise moment when I happened to be crossing the street from one bar to another with a beer in my hand. The doctor had retired. Dinny was married, a nurse, employed and mainstream. They had been cruising the old roads and visiting their former haunts.
The doctor followed me to our rented farmhouse five miles from the town center at the headwaters of the creek and I made them tea. It seemed wrong to him, I could tell, that I had turned up uncertainly employed and rough in such a place, a counter-culture outcast. Dinny and I talked awkwardly about their attempt to find the cellar hole and recreate in their minds the way the place had felt back when the pines and house still stood.
But what struck her the hardest, she said, was the swallow colony, wiped out by Ddt, sand mining or some combination of both and whatever other outrage we couldn’t imagine. It was the last such profusion of animals, almost Serengeti-like, we remembered in the Adirondacks. “It’s so sad,” she said, mourning we weren’t even sure what. I know now that it was the beginning of the long sorrow, the realization that no elsewhere existed for us any more that would somehow keep alive the expressions of an earlier reality in the sounds of wind and water, and the whirr of thousands of tiny wings.
In Lake Placid, Hamlet:The Met Opera Live in HD. At LPCA starting at 1 pm. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. Running time is 3 hours and 45 minutes with intermissions.
In Raquette Lake, Trish Miller and John Kirk will perform from 7:30 – 9:30 pm at The Raquette Lake School on Route 28. Tickets are $12.
In North Creek, The Noodlemen at Laura’s Tavern start at 9 pm. I looked around online for these guys and I think I found them but there is no way to prove it so I won’t include the link because what if there are other Noodlemen out there and I’d be steering you wrong.
Every Monday the blogsphere includes a few blogs about travels to the Adirondacks. For your reading pleasure we have two from this summer. Check out Big Daddy – Hubba Bubba’s trip from Rochester to Hadley Mountain by way of Little Falls:
“Saturday, Dylan woke up in a massively bad mood (see lower left photo). We all hiked up to the Fire Tower at Hadley Mountain. Not a bad little hike of 1.8 miles in each direction with an elevation climb of a little more than 1000 ft. It is a very rocky climb. I carried a 32 lb child in a backpack up this little mountain. It was brutal but extremely satisfying once we got to the peak. The firetower is really cool and there were delicious wild blueberry bushes all over the place. We had a nice rest and Dylan had a great time. The view is spectacular from the peak and is in the photo of us with Dylan in the” backpack.
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