Posts Tagged ‘Johnsburg’

Monday, June 27, 2011

John Warren: How Gore Mountain Abandoned North Creek

There were radically different stories being told last week in two Adirondack communities located below state owned ski resorts. In Wilmington, residents were talking about their community’s newly recognized esteem in the bicycling world. With the help of ORDA’s Whiteface Mountain, the DEC, local bicyclists, bike businesses and local officials, Wilmington is on the verge of becoming one of the premiere mountain biking destinations in America. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

DEC Proposes Banning Some Motors on Thirteenth Lake

A proposed regulation that would limit motorized boating on Thirteenth Lake to electric motors only has been released for public comment by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Interested parties have until July 2 to provide comments on the proposed regulation.

Thirteenth Lake lies in the northeastern portion of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area in the Town of Johnsburg, Warren County. The lakeshore is predominately state-owned lands classified as wilderness. Some privately owned parcels adjoin the lake.

During the development of the Unit Management Plan for the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area, DEC received numerous comments from private homeowners on the lake and from other users requesting that motorboats be prohibited on Thirteenth Lake due to noise, air pollution and water pollution issues. In response to these concerns, the Siamese Ponds Unit Management Plan calls for limiting motorized boating on the lake to electric motors only. This regulation implements that directive.

The use of electric motors will allow anglers to troll for trout and people with mobility disabilities to access the lake and adjoining wilderness lands.

The full proposed regulation and additional information regarding the purpose of the regulation can be viewed on the DEC website.

Comments will be accepted until July 2, 2011. Comments or questions may be directed to Peter Frank, Bureau of Forest Preserve, Division of Lands & Forests, by mail at 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4254; e-mail at pjfrank@gw.dec.state.ny.us or by telephone at 518-473-9518.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

High Peaks Happy Hour: Whitewater Derby; Recipes

North Creek’s annual Whitewater Derby is an event which deserves proper recognition – of the drink persuasion. We spent some time on “research” last week, creating the Whitewater Rushin’, and an interesting variation; its subtle maple flavor and frothy finish a tribute to spring in the northeast. It’s been some time since we were at Whitewater Derby – back when it was just a great excuse to party, camping at the ski bowl, an inch of snow on the roof of the VW bus, and no watercraft in sight. Considering our current livelihood, it was high time we returned, so we had our own private, mini pub crawl in North Creek on Saturday.

Whitewater Rushin’
1 oz. Sapling Maple Liqueur
1/2 oz. Amaretto
1 oz. vanilla vodka
2 oz. cream or milk
Shake with ice or use a blender

Beginning with Trapper’s at the Copperfield Inn, Pam ordered a “Snow Bunny Martini”, a delicious grape-flavored concoction that set the tone for the afternoon. We met a newcomer to North Creek, Michael, who had just begun the arduous task of tearing down an existing home and putting up a camp. Good luck with that, Michael. We couldn’t stay long; we had planned to visit five of the local pubs, including Laura’s which we have yet to review. As we headed out, under the gaze of Teddy Roosevelt’s moose, bedecked in his own derby number, Pam remarked that Trapper’s has, by far, the very best outdoor ashtray we have yet seen.

Snow Bunny Martini
3 Olives grape vodka
Whipped cream vodka
Cream

Off we went to the Barking Spider. We hadn’t been there since February and were pleased to find it quite crowded and noisy and we managed to grab a couple of seats at the bar. Pam couldn’t decide which direction her next cocktail should take from the grapes of Trappers and, ironically, the bartender suggested the Grape Crush. A theme was emerging. It was even more delicious than the previous drink.

Pam went outside to see what was happening on the deck (perhaps “landing” more aptly describes it) and talked to some nice people about the Derby – the Kentucky Derby. Two kayaks paddled by on the Hudson, lending a feeling of being a part of the Whitewater Derby! That’s more than we’ve ever seen in our history of attending. Hmmm, what if OTB got involved in whitewater racing??? When it was time for the ladies on the deck to order, they advised their companions that they wanted what Pam was having. She must have had “delicious” written all over her face as she sipped her beverage because she hadn’t commented on it. Upon further reflection, perhaps it was the pint sized glass the drink came in that attracted their attention.

Grape Crush
Grape vodka
Chambord
Splash of craberry juice
Top off with Sprite

And we’re off…to do a review of Laura’s. We popped in and found it totally empty; even the bartender was missing. So we scooted out undetected, planning to stop at barVino. With the grape theme going, that would have been an obvious choice, but Pam didn’t think their grapes would complement the grapes she had already consumed. So, it was decided, one last stop at Basil & Wicks, then home.

Basil & Wick’s trail marker themed sign indicated we were on the right trail. From our parking space we could see into the dining room, where Jane, the owner, was waving us in. She even came out onto the porch to greet us, making us feel really special. Pam once said, “A good tavern is one that makes strangers feel they are in their own home town.”

Basil & Wick’s is like going home. Jane proudly showed Kim her newest museum piece – a barstool from the original Basil & Wick’s, hermetically sealed in its own plexiglass case. The bar was fairly full and we actually knew a few people, among them local music legend Hank Soto, of Stony Creek Band fame. We will actually be reviewing the Stony Creek Inn next week, celebrating its reopening on Sunday, May 15, featuring the Stony Creek Band. You know ’em, you love ’em… Hope to see some of you there!

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


Monday, March 14, 2011

Dave Gibson: Less Pigeon Holing, More Story Telling

Today, the experiences, views and outlooks of wild land advocates and foresters are often pigeon-holed as necessarily antithetical to each other. I don’t hold that view, and neither does Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley. For evidence, read Dan’s “December Wood” essay. We were both mentored by Paul Schaefer, one of the most effective advocates for wilderness conditions in the Adirondacks during the 20th century.

Paul had many outdoor debates during the 1950s with former Finch, Pruyn executive Lyman Beeman. The two men saw a tract of forest and viewed its potential quite differently, of course. Yet, they both respected each other’s point of view and recognized, as we do today, that foresters of all kinds share with wilderness advocates a deep love for the land, for productive soils and for stewardship over a long period of time, on a human time scale anyway. Good wood grows on good wood, some say. And sometimes a conservationist has got to make some money cutting trees.
What brought this to mind is one of the most interesting stories I ever heard from Paul Schaefer. One day in January, 1991 he was reminiscing about the great depression and World War II, when the bank withheld his assets from his construction company. Then his bank closed, and would not allow any withdrawals, forcing Paul to take on odd jobs in order to feed his family. Then came severe restrictions and shortages on the building materials he used as a homebuilder, and the cost of a house became very dear, preventing him from doing a lot of building.

One day during WW II, Paul read in the daily newspaper in Schenectady that the county airfield, mostly undeveloped at the time, needed to be transformed into a bombing range and military airport. Trees had to be cleared there, pretty big ones at that. Paul read this and went over to Scotia to take a look. He found about ten state or county workers clipping goldenrod with handclippers. He went in and spoke with the person in authority and asked “you want someone to cut trees for you don’t you?” Yes. “What are they cutting goldenrod for?” “They don’t have the skills to cut trees,” came the answer. “Well, you’ve got your man here,” Paul replied.

Paul needed the help of some Adirondackers, so he got in touch with George Morehouse in Bakers Mills to come down and give him a hand with the tree cutting. Each week, Paul would drive up Route 9 to Bakers Mills (at least a 2.5 hour trip one way in those days), pick George up and drive him down to Scotia and the two of them would cut for days at a time. George would stay at Paul and Carolyn Schaefer’s home at night. There were no chain saws available. They required a cross-cut, two-man saw.

“We worked together really smooth,” Paul told me. They cut and they cut. One day, Paul and George got a saw wedged in the tree. They left it, took up another saw and went on cutting. Years later, Paul recovered that wedged saw, all rusted except the blade in the bole of the tree, which was gleaming. “If you want your blade to remain nice and shiny, keep it in a piece of oak or something,” Paul advised. That blade was a part of Paul’s memorabilia destroyed when his barn burned down in the early 1960’s.

One day, after many hours of cutting, George Morehouse said he had to get home. Paul offered to let him stay overnight and drive him home tomorrow. No, I got to get home today, George said. Paul, dead tired, drove George back to Bakers Mills and all the way back. He was so tired on his return journey that he almost failed to stop at a railroad crossing. He put on his brakes a foot before the train roared past him.

So that’s the way Paul Schaefer, the wilderness advocate, guide and homebuilder, got by several years during World War II by selling some of this wood from the airport as lumber and firewood, and turning the little airfield in Scotia, NY into a military facility.

Photo: Paul Schaefer at his Adirondack cabin, c. 1960, courtesy of the Paul Schaefer Collection, Adirondack Research Library.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gore Mountain Interconnect, Whiteface Troubles

The long-awaited Gore Mountain Interconnect with the Historic North Creek Ski Bowl was opened, and then closed as a lack of snow hampered the celebratory first weekend of the newly installed Hudson Chair connecting the Ski Bowl with the upper mountain. The snafu was the latest in a string of problems that have plagued the area’s state-run ski areas.

Members of the public joined state and local politicians on Saturday for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the base of the new Hudson Chair, but Sunday morning a key trail connecting Gore with the Ski Bowl, the Pipeline Traverse to Little Gore, was closed keeping skiers on the upper mountain.

Patrons using the Hudson Chair to access the Eagle’s Nest Trail at the summit of Little Gore could ski to the base of Burnt Ridge Mountain – where a quad provides access to the rest of Gore Mountain’s trail system – and then return to the Ski Bowl via the the Pipeline Traverse. By noon on Sunday however, the only trail leading from the Upper Gore area to the Ski Bowl was closed, severing the ski link with the lower mountain. Those wanting to take the new Hudson Chair were required to use a locally supplied shuttle to get to the Ski Bowl. The Hudson chairlift and Pipeline Traverse remain closed today, but are expected to reopen following this week’s snows.

“We had enough snow cover to run hundreds of skiers on Pipeline Sat, but it got a little too thin for Sunday unfortunately,” Gore Mountain’s press contact Emily Stanton, told the Almanack by e-mail.

The Gore Interconnect’s stutter start was one of a series of travails that have beset both state-run Adirondack ski areas. Lack of snow and an early January thaw at Gore has meant a slow start to the season, meanwhile lift problems have plagued Whiteface.

Just before the new year a chairlift malfunction at Whiteface stranded 76 people for up to two hours. Last week, the Kid’s Kampus chairlift malfunctioned and a lift operator suffered a fractured arm and was airlifted to Fletcher Allen in Burlington.

On Saturday, the Summit Chair malfunctioned eliminating access to the upper mountain. Whiteface personnel were relegated to using a snow cat to ferry riders to the top a few at a time. Then on Sunday, Whiteface’s Lookout Mountain chairlift stalled 45 minutes stranding patrons, although none were evacuated.

The Gore Mountain Interconnect is hoped to make North Creek’s downtown more accessible to Gore Mountain skiers and riders. A massive new resort by FrontStreet Mountain Development LLC of Darien, Connecticut, designed to take advantage of the Interconnect has not materialized. The project was first proposed in late 2005 and was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency in 2008. Only one model home has been built and none of the more than 130 condo properties have been sold.

Critics of the projects have claimed the estimated $5.5 million cost of the connection between Gore and the Ski Bowl would be an improper use of taxpayer money to help a developer.

For the second year the North Creek Business Alliance has organized a shuttle that facilitates access between Gore Mountain’s Base Area, the North Creek Ski Bowl, North Creek’s Main Street, and area lodging properties.

Gore opened January 25, 1964. The first ski train arrived in North Creek in March of 1934, and the Ski Bowl was home to one of the first commercial ski areas and ski patrols in the US.

Photo: The Gore Mountain Interconnect’s new Hudson Chair. Courtesy Gore Mountain.


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.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fiscal, Public Services Issues Plague ACR Project

There are many important issues for adjudication of the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) when the public hearing eventually begins, but perhaps the most telling will be ACR fiscal, public services, energy, housing and community impacts. These issues are incorporated in two questions which the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) ordered to go to adjudicatory public hearing way back in February, 2007. And that was a year before the great recession started to be deeply felt.

Here are two of the ten issues for adjudication which the APA ordered three and a half years ago:

Issue No. 5: What are the fiscal impacts of the project to the governmental units should any phase or section of the project not be completed as proposed? What is the public vulnerability should the project either fail or not proceed at its projected pace related to on and off site infrastructure? Or on private infrastructure that may be subject to eventual operation by the town? What is the ability to provide to provide municipal or emergency services to any section in light of the road design or elevation?

Issue No. 6 requires the consideration of the burden on and benefits to the public. What are the positive and negative economic impacts of the project (including fiscal impacts) to the governmental units? What are the impacts of the project on the municipal electric system’s ability to meet future demand? To what extent will conservation mitigate demand impacts? What are the assumptions and guarantees that the Big Tupper Ski area can be renovated and retained as a community resource? What are the current and expected market conditions related to available housing for the project workforce? What are the impacts of the project on the local housing market?

Any one of these questions deserves to be the subject of a lengthy report, and hopefully each of them will be deeply plumbed and closely scrutinized by the APA and others during the hearing. Remember that in 2006 – a full two years before the recession hit – Tupper Lake retained a number of independent experts on these subjects to advise the Town about burdens and benefits from the ACR. The developer was to pay for their services. These were good moves on the town’s part. Collectively these consultants were known as The Hudson Group, and each individual in that consulting group had a particular expertise. I am confident the APA and the Town have kept their reports and will enter relevant parts into the hearing record. I do recall reading them in 2006. The consultants poured over the original ACR application which, despite the applicant’s assertions, in my opinion has not substantively changed much over the course of five years. The consultants found, at least preliminarily, serious deficiencies or concerns. Some of the consultant concerns I remember reading about were:

1. the applicant’s analysis of market demand for the resort
2. The applicant’s math when it came to underestimating project cost and overestimating developed property values and sales.
3. the high tax burdens posed by the high level of public services which the resort would impose
4. Payments in lieu of taxes, which could shortchange Tupper Lake taxing districts in favor of bond holders.
5. Reduced state school payments that could result based on the state formula which rewards areas with overall low property valuations (which the high values of resort homes would skew upwards).

There were many other topics and concerns raised by the consultants. The Hudson Group was never allowed to finish their work. As I recall, Michael Foxman didn’t appreciate a lot of what he was reading in the preliminary reports and stopped paying the consultants. While the Town did try to get him to release more funds, that effort was mostly fruitless. The media, as I recall, devoted little coverage to The Hudson Group reports. It was left to concerned citizens and organizations to delve into them.

Given three years of recession, one wonders how The Hudson Group would respond now to the current ACR application. Just 50 or so housing units have been cut from the ACR project since 2006. There are at least twelve additional Great Camps proposed now than were proposed in 2006. Further, in a letter made public this fall, the NYS DEC has raised innumerable concerns about ACR’s incomplete and deficient descriptions and assessments of stormwater and sewage treatment. There still is no certified professional engineering study of how sewage will get to the village plant miles and a causeway away from ACR. It is probable, therefore, that the costs of sewage and stormwater have just gone up dramatically, along with the potential future burdens on the town for operating and fixing this infrastructure as it ages.

With housing and market demand still deeply impacted by the recession, we find the developer of the FrontStreet resort in North Creek – permitted by APA in 2008 – cutting way back on his commitments for upfront infrastructure construction and service payments, original demands wisely made by the Town of Johnsburg which contrasted markedly with the absence of demands made by Tupper Lake on Michael Foxman et.al. According to the current Adirondack Explorer, FrontStreet developers have completed only one building out of the 149 units approved by the APA in spring, 2008.

One of the municipal topics given the least attention when the ACR was sent to hearing in 2007, and one given the most attention in the FrontStreet permit issued by APA a year later, were energy costs and demands, a carbon budget for the development, energy efficiency and energy performance. Here is a very rich area for investigation at the ACR hearing. What is the “carbon footprint” of the proposed ACR? How much carbon dioxide would be released simply from clearing the trees and bulldozing the soils around the building and road/driveway sites, to say nothing of heating, cooling the homes over time? How much carbon dioxide would be absorbed if development were clustered, and forests preserved intact, or harvested and sustainably managed as a source of alternative biofuel to displace use of heating oil? Even if built to LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) standards, how much electrical power would these resort dwellings really draw from the new 46-kV line to Tupper Lake, and thus what are its real impacts on future demand and electric capacity?

I urge the APA and others to give all these questions a hard look with expert testimony at the hearing. I think that was the expectation of Agency commissioners in 2007 and I hope it remains so today.

Photo: From summit of Mt. Morris, looking at chairlift, Tupper Lake marsh, Rt. 30 causeway, Raquette River and in center mid-distance, Cranberry Pond. This was taken on the only field trip offered by the applicant – in spring 2007.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Dave Gibson: A Greenhorn at Hunting Camp

When I was wet behind the ears, in an Adirondack sort of way, Paul Schaefer took me to the sturdy cabin at the edge of the wilderness that he had built sometime in the early 1960s in the Town of Johnsburg. Paul had located his cabin, named Beaver House, on high ground with a distant view of Crane Mountain, but in the shadow of Eleventh or Cataract Mountain which lay in silhouette immediately to our west. It was November and somewhere below Eleventh Mountain in the gathering gloom of a wilderness afternoon lay a hunting camp populated with men who Paul had recruited into the Cataract Hunting Club years earlier. In fact, the original club members, including fathers and grandfathers of the current generation, dated to around 1931 when Paul hired a teamster to take them in by horse and wagon. In 1987 they were still going in that way courtesy of local teamster Earl Allen.

By 1987, the knees of the 78 year-old conservationist and hunter Paul Schaefer no longer supported his tall frame on the several mile tramp over rough terrain to reach the Cataract Club’s camp on Diamond Brook. So Paul did the next best thing. He sat in Beaver House before a roaring fire talking about the history of the region, its people, conservation history, hunting experiences, and the Siamese Wilderness he knew so well.

A light rain was falling outside, but the light was fading much faster. I was really getting comfortable in the warmth of that room, listening to Paul, when out of the blue he said: “now, Dave, reach into the pocket of my jacket and take out the piece of paper.” I gave him the paper. “I need you to hike into the wilderness and hand over this camping permit to the boys in camp. If the ranger shows up and they don’t have this permit, they could be in a lot of trouble. So, you’d do me and them a big favor by hiking in there.” My heart jumped. I had never been into hunt camp before. “How do I reach their camp, Paul?” Paul gestured with his big right hand, his head cocked, emphasizing. “Go down the trail here to the junction, and then follow the wagon trail west, keeping the mountain always on your left. A mile in, you’ll reach the height of land. Stop right there. A tall red spruce stands ahead on a rise. Don’t go past it. Bear left, keep the mountain on that side and follow the stream down another mile. You can’t miss it. And tell the boys I may try to go in there tomorrow, but I’m not promising.” He gave me a rain slicker and a flashlight, and a hearty “You’ll be back in no time.” With the camping permit in my pocket, my heart pounding, but my voice full of confidence, I headed out the cabin door.
The rain was falling steadily, and afternoon light had all but faded as I tried to determine if I had reached the height of land. I had gone up and down. Height of land seemed a frustrating matter of impression in these big woods. Trying to keep the mountain in sight I veered left and trusted to luck. I suddenly realized my jeans were soaked through. Trudging on, the trees were noticeably larger, including red spruce. How could horses drag a wagon full of gear all the way back here, I remember asking myself. But I was on a mission for Paul. Stumbling on and on down the rough wagon trail, crossing innumerable small streams, I finally smelled wood smoke. Excited, I went uphill into some balsam and spruce, following my nose. In the gloom below, the long tent appeared. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I had made it. I heard muffled laughter. Then my mouth dropped. In the glow of my flashlight, a huge antlered deer hung from a pole. I found the tent entrance, pulled the tent flaps open and walked in. I remember the hissing of those kerosene lamps. All conversation ceased, as ten hunters looked up at me from the chow they were eating on a long table. “Gosh, Dave,” someone said, “you look kind of wet. What can we do you for”? “Guys, Paul sent me in with your camping permit.” At that, I reached into my jeans and out came the paper, dripping wet. Nobody said a word. Bill broke the silence. “Give this to me straight. Paul sent you in here tonight to give us that?” I nodded. The tent erupted in roars of laughter. Dave got up and gave me something warm to drink and a place by the stove. The good natured kidding went on for a while. I felt a whole lot better about life and a bit dryer, and with new found confidence headed back to the cabin. I did leave that permit. The cabin lights were like a port in a storm as Paul welcomed me back with that enormous handshake, and a plate of food. “Take a seat and tell me how the boys are doing.” As I ate, I knew that I had passed some test that mattered to Paul, the first of many to come.

Photos: Cataract Club members Dave Conde, Bill Townsend and Doug Miller (l-r) at Beaver House before heading into camp; Beaver House, the cabin Paul Schaefer built near the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adirondack Geology: Some Fascinating Rocks

I was going to write about skunk cabbage today, but I find myself sitting in a local rock shop where the proprietors offered to let me use of their Wi-Fi. Surrounded by all these geological wonders of the world, I feel compelled to tip my hat to some of our local geologic treasures.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, geology isn’t my strong suite, but I sure do love rocks. I suspect most of us do. Who hasn’t, at least as a kid, stuffed his or her pockets with rocks found along beaches, roadsides, or in gardens? Some of us never outgrow this obsession. And even though geologic terms run through my mind like sand through an hourglass, I am drawn to the varied forms and colors that most of us only encounter in rock or New Age shops.

When it comes to local (Adirondack) rocks of note, the one that springs first to mind is garnet. Garnet is found in pretty good quantity in the North River area, where Barton Mines is the primary business capitalizing on this semiprecious gemstone. I have been to programs where Barton representatives gave presentations, and it is simply amazing what garnet is used for. Most of us probably think of garnet as a lovely wine-red stone that is featured in jewelry and is January’s birthstone. But at Barton, much of the garnet that is mined is used for things like sandpaper, or to make a blasting compound that is used to etch glass. Who’d have thought it?

A mineral that we find in pretty good quantity around the Park is mica. Usually we only find little bits of broken flakes, but I have found small sheets sitting on top of the ground. In North Creek, at the Ski Bowl Park, some folks put in a lovely garden, complete with some terrific boulders. On these boulders are fanned protrusions of mica, thin sheets, stacked one on top of another, and then fanned out and emerging from the hardened grasp of the rock – it is amazing to behold.

Labradorite is a feldspar mineral found in large crystal masses of anorthosite. For those who don’t know, anorthosite is one of the major rock types in the Adirondacks, or at least in the High Peaks. It is a very old rock, not common on earth and found on the moon. One of the neat things about labradorite is the way it can shimmer with colors, an effect called labradoresence, or the schiller effect. Lesley, one of the shop owners here, showed me some labradorite rocks she picked up from the Opalescent up near Calamity Brook in the southern High Peaks. She polished them up and there, when the light catches it just right, it looks like blue and green northern lights skittering across the glossy surface. Of course, I had to purchase one for my collection.

Another interesting rock here in the shop is moonstone, which is a type of feldspar. Apparently rockhounds used to be able to mine it up in Saranac Lake. It isn’t a rock with commercial value, except in the rock-collector’s world. Lesley showed me a large chunk she got from up in Saranac Lake, as well as some jewelry made from small polished bits of moonstone. Like the labradorite, it has a bit of the schiller effect – a blue, green or even pinkish dash of color when the light hits it just right.

For those interested in Adirondack geology beyond the academic level, rock shops are the place to go. The folks who run these places love rocks and geology and are always willing to share their passion with others. I wrote before about the shop at Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, but other rock shops dot the park, like Lesley’s Minerals Unlimited in Long Lake. While much of her merchandise is from other parts of the world, she has a nice collection of local rocks and minerals that make a stop here well worth the drive.

Photo credit: Labradorite, courtesy Wikipedia.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Train Sparks First Wilderness Heritage Corridor Events

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.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

North Creek Hosts Authors, Waynestock, Race the Train

North Creek will be busy this weekend with events for runners, music fans and book lovers. Hundreds of visitors will focus on the annual North Creek “Race The Train” event and later on “Waynestock,” hosted by a locally-based community group that raises funds for families suffering from tragedy or misfortune. A celebration of local authors will bring some twenty writers to town as well.

Race the Train is an 8.4 mile race from Riparius to North Creek. Runners board the tourist train of the Upper Hudson River Railroad in North Creek at 8 AM. The train transports the runners (and any family members with purchased tickets) along the Hudson River to Riparius. The train whistle will begin the race back to North Creek along a shady road that starts as pavement and changes to dirt from miles 3 to 7.5.

Waynestock III will feature music at the Pavilion at the North Creek Ski Bowl Park all afternoon. Billed as “BIGGER-BETTER-LOUDER” the event features auctions, raffles, food, and noon to midnight entertainment. Entertainment includes Vinnie Leddick, Blonde Roots, S.L. Smith Band, Phil Camp, Don’t Quit Your Day Jobbers, Donna Britton Band, Finger Diddle, Dogtown Cadillac, Hoffmeister and Keystone Band. A small price of admission supports the North Country Hardship Fund.

The Hudson River Trading Company, 292 Main Street, will host “Rhythm & Rhymes at the Hudson: A Celebration of Authors and Artists” on Saturday from 1pm-3pm. Twenty authors and artists from all over the Adirondacks and northern New York region will sign their books and CDs under the tents in front of the store. Guitarist Scott Adams will perform his Adirondack music.

Among the award-winning writers are Gary and Carol Vanriper, authors of the Adirondack Kids series; Ross Whaley, co-author of the The Great Experiment in Conservation: Voices from around the Adirondack Park; Jerry Jenkins, author of his latest, Climate Change in the Adirondacks; and Elizabeth Folwell, author of Short Carries: Essays from Adirondack Life and a co-author of the bestseller Dog Hikes in the Adirondacks.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gore: Bike Season Opens, Construction Progress

Mountain biking, gondola rides, and hiking has begun at Gore Mountain. Operations will continue every weekend through October 10, Gore’s longest off-season operation, and feature more biking terrain, instructional camps, and an expanded barbeque menu.

There is progress toward the Interconnect with the Historic North Creek Ski Bowl. The bridge that joins the Ski Bowl terrain to Burnt Ridge Mountain has been completed, snowmaking pipe on the new Peaceful Valley and Oak Ridge trails has been welded, and the black-diamond 46er trail on the lift line has been graded. Installation of the new Hudson Chair has begun.

The Gear Source of downtown North Creek has a supply of full-suspension downhill bikes available, and downhill camps that include all-day instruction, lift ticket, lunch, and an optional guided hike are available on July 24 and September 4 for just $59. Sunday, August 22 will be a second opportunity for 2010/2011 season passholders to enjoy free access to Gore’s summer activities.

Ruby Run, the trail off the top of the Northwoods Gondola, was top-dressed to offer bikers a smooth start to their ride. Trails such as the Otter Slide Glades and Tannery are now included in available riding terrain.

Photo: Aerial view showing the 46er trails that runs along the new Hudson Chair lift line. This trail was named for the 1946 T-bar that serviced skiers of the Historic North Creek Ski Bowl. The profiles of the trails and lift have retained their original routes, and offer views of North Creek Village and the Hudson River.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

APA to Meet Thursday:
Fire Towers, Champlain Bridge, Independence River UMP,North Creek Development

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting this Thursday, April 15, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The April meeting is one day only and will be webcast live.

Among the topics on this month’s agenda are proposed amendments to the Independence River Wild Forest Unit Management Plan, fire towers in the St. Regis Canoe Area and the Hurricane Primitive Area, the proposed Crown Point Bridge, a proposed parking lot and trail relocation for the Stillwater Mountain area, the large-scale Tall Timbers development in at North Creek, a Twitchell Lake waterfront development project, a Raquette River Boat Club rezoning, the 2009 State Land Classification and Reclassification package (tentatively scheduled), and a commemoration of Earth Day. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reminder: St. Patrick’s Day Donegal Beard Contest

A quick reminder that tomorrow (Wednesday, March 17th) is the day for this year’s Adirondack Donegal Beard Contest. A Donegal Beard (also called a chin-curtain or Lincoln) is a particular style of Irish beard that grows along the jaw line and covers the chin — no soul patch, no mustache.

In order to take part in the contest (and all are welcome) contestants should have a Donegal Beard grown since January 1st. Judging will be tomorrow (St. Patrick’s Day) at the Black Mountain Inn at the corner of Peaceful Valley Road and Route 8 in Johnsburg (North Creek), 4 to 7 pm.

Contestants are judged on the following criteria:

1. Length
2. Fullness
3. Style and Sophistication

To see pictures from last year’s contest, and to join the Facebook group, go here.

Photo: 2009 Adirondack Donegal Beard Contestants.


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