Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Return To The Pharaoh Lake Wilderness

Cathy Pedler's family on the summit of Pharoah Mountain around 1900Although I’ve been working in Albany with the Adirondack Mountain Club over the past two years, the Adirondack Park is relatively new to me.  It’s not new to my family. I am beginning to discover a long familial history with the Adirondacks.

My father recently found an old photo album documenting trips from Philadelphia in 1900 and 1903 when my great-grandmother visited Schroon Lake and hiked Pharaoh Mountain with her family. They traveled to NYC and then made their way north on the Hudson by riverboat.

This summer I traveled back to the area my family visited 115 years ago. I walked to the shore of Schroon Lake for the first time and paddled Lost and Berrymill Ponds in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness.

The return was prompted by ADK’s work (with several partners) to monitor the backcountry waters of the Lake Champlain Basin for aquatic invasive species. Fortunately, we didn’t find any invasives in Lost or Berrymill Ponds, and of the 14 ponds our group of volunteers surveyed, only one (near Lake Champlain) was found to have an invasive species (Eurasian watermilfoil).

number of adirondack lakes with invasive speciesOne of our partners, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) has a robust lake monitoring program with almost 700 volunteer lake monitors who annually help to survey the thousands of waterbodies in the Adirondack Park.  In 2014, of the 332 lakes and ponds surveyed, only 97 had invasive plant species identified.

Although many Adirondack Mountain Club members are currently involved in this effort, we thought we could be especially helpful in focusing our members (who tend to like remote areas) on the unsurveyed backcountry waters.

Our objective included raising the awareness of our 28,000 members about invasive species and the importance of early detection. Public awareness, early detection and rapid response are powerful tools in controlling invasive species.

Lost Pond in the Pharoah Lake Wilderness by David PedlerAlthough some ADK members have the equipment needed for backcountry water surveys, including lightweight or packable boats (e.g., boats by Hornbeck or Placid Boatworks), we’ve also purchased two NRS packrafts (with paddles and air inflation bags) so that volunteers can borrow the boats for backcountry surveys.

So far ADK has trained twenty-eight water monitors for the backcountry water survey program. In 2015, they adopted 33 backcountry ponds or lakes for aquatic invasive species monitoring.

This past July my family, including some of my nephews and nieces spent a week with me at Heart Lake (one of backountry waters our volunteers recently found free of invasives).

Next time they visit I hope we can all hike Pharaoh Mountain together and rest at the same spot that my great-grandmother and her family visited so many years ago.

How you can help: Learn more about this project by visiting You can help protect the backcountry waters you love from Aquatic Invasive Species by supporting ADK’s Backcountry Water Monitors program here.

Illustrations, from above: Cathy’s family on the summit of Pharaoh Mountain; a chart of invasive species (courtesy APIPP); and Lost Pond (photo by Dave Pedler).

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Cathy Pedler is the Adirondack Mountain Club's Director of Government Relations and Conservation. Cathy has a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh, studied sustainability at Slippery Rock University, and received a M.S. in Applied Intelligence from the Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University. Cathy has been a board member and employee for environmental organizations and forest protection groups including, most recently, Heartwood and the Allegheny Defense Project.

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