Almanack Contributor Diane Chase

Diane Chase

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time. She writes about ways to foster imaginative play through fun-filled events and activities in the Adirondack region.

From her home in Saranac Lake, Diane also writes a weekly family-oriented newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and keeps her own blog Adirondack Family Time. Her writing and photography has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, marketing companies and advertising agencies.

She even finds time to assist her husband with Adirondack Expeditions guiding families and young adults in the High Peaks.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

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

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™

Trailhead to Summit: 0.6
Ascent: 460 ft

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Paddle on Osgood Pond

My husband and I are alone. My daughter is worried as she goes off to a play date that we will be lonely. We are soon in the middle of a pond, completely alone. There are no young voices yelling to see a cobweb, bug, rock, or floating stick. There are never long moments of silence. The dynamic children bring to any activity can fill the air and allow one to see things differently. The enthusiasm for the simplest of things is refreshing.

That said, they also have the ability to vacuum the positive energy right out of a given situation with life altering decisions like they no longer like bread while dramatically claiming starvation at the same time they wave a sandwich overhead. Another way is when they have to go to the bathroom only after being life-jacketed and paddling in the middle of a lake no matter how many times they are asked beforehand to take care of business. It happens and we survive but during all the drama I am not always tuned into the hermit thrush’s call.

One easy place to relax is a leisure paddle on Osgood Pond though be warned if fishing is on your agenda that the pond is still under advisory for mercury. The Department of Environmental Conservation publishes a fish advisory regarding the consumption of fish caught in the Adirondacks.

There are three different advisories: The statewide advisory, advisories for children less than 15 years old and for women that are pregnant or might become pregnant and specific advisories for the Adirondack Park. For children and those expecting mothers please heed the warning and do not consume any fish from the list of lakes and ponds under advisory for mercury. According to a 2005 PBS report one in six children born each year are exposed to mercury which, when exposed in high doses, may cause learning disabilities, short-term memory loss and impaired motor skills. So if the warnings apply to you please practice “catch and release” or just enjoy the quiet.

An easy entry to Osgood Pond is the Osgood Pond Waterway Access on White Pines Rd. on Route 86. This pond does not allow personal watercrafts which only adds to our quest for quiet. We put in the canoe and hit an easy pace that is unmatched with children. We glide through the shallow weedy water startling a mother merganser. She attempts to lure us away from the shore. We are happy to oblige.

I don’t want to get philosophical on the joys of parenting. It is a pleasure and a joy. Still, there is a part of me that wistfully listens to the wanderings of my childfree friends. So for today I enjoy a few hours of quiet while my children are invited elsewhere. Today the only constant stream of chatter is that going on is inside my head.

It is a unique situation for us to be surrounded by still. Even the wind is taking a reprieve. Later we will describe the snapping turtles, calm water and gentle call of the hermit thrush to the kids. It will be some time before my daughter understands the difference between being lonely and being alone.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Free Wild Center Community Day

Personally I like to see my fish on a platter with a slice of lemon but I am out voted every time. My children and husband love to fish though they mostly subscribe to the “catch and release” philosophy. Part of me thinks that it is because my children are not really successful with the catching part making the release a foregone conclusion.

I am always a bit put off by catching fish. If they go to that trouble why torture it with a hook? Just because we can catch it doesn’t mean we have to. But the point comes back to this: if I want a fish on the table someone has to put it there. Fish just don’t swan-dive into a market display case. There is a current disconnect with people and food so I am grateful that my children have an opportunity to know where their food is coming from.

For those people that want to learn more about fishing or just have an opportunity to witness all the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (Wild Center) has to offer, this May 15th will be featuring a FishFest with James Prosek.

James Prosek has made his initial plunge into his passion of fishing with his first book, Trout: an Illustrated History. Published when he was only nineteen and illustrated with 70 of his own watercolors, Prosek is known as a writer, activist, naturalist and artist. He has gone on to document fishing and the natural world in the pages of Audobon magazine, the New York Times, and Orion as well as winning a Peabody Award for following the footsteps of Izaak Walton, author of the 17th century classic, The Complete Angler.

Encountering James Prosek is only a part of what the Wild Center has to offer. It will be a full day of activities planned from wooden boat making to a nature scavenger hunt. There are over 20 organizations that are participating in this event highlighting healthy ways to get families back to nature.

There will also be fishing demonstrations and plenty of opportunity to showcase your own fishing skills. So even if, like me, you prefer your fish lightly seasoned it is a wonderful opportunity to let others share their own passion for the wild.

This Saturday, May 15, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. the museum is free and open to the public. Here are directions to get to the Wild Center.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: Mother’s Day

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™

I have always felt a few holidays were put on the calendar as a means to sell greeting cards or perhaps boost a lull in candy sales after Easter. Though I have a mother and am a mother, Mother’s Day used to fall in that category for me. It would seem that the mother in question either deserves to be treated well every day for being motherly or was the type of person that didn’t live up to the title. It should be up to the discretion of the child. I was pleased to note that the celebration is much more than cards and flowers.

Days dedicated to mothers have been traced back to a variety of sources. The ancient Greeks honored Rhea, the mother of the gods. Christians honor Mary, the mother of Christ. In the late 1500s, servants apprenticed away from home would be given the fourth Sunday of Lent to return to their “mother” church and gather again as a family. The holiday became a day reuniting mothers with their children.

In 1858, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis organized Mother’s Day Work Clubs to help improve sanitation and worker safety in Appalachian West Virginia. During the Civil War the clubs remained neutral to provide medical care for both Union and Confederate soldiers.

In 1872 Julia Ward Howe (author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic) organized a Mother’s Day of Peace. In her Mother’s Day Proclamation she encouraged a holiday where mothers rally for peace. Originally held on June 2, Howe envisioned a day of activism.

The current holiday occurred in 1907 when Anna Jarvis, a Philadelphia schoolteacher started the progress toward a national Mother’s Day, in honor of her mother. Jarvis petitioned influential businessmen and legislators to establish a day to honor mothers. It took Jarvis seven years, but finally in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May, the anniversary of her mother’s death, as a national holiday in celebration of mothers.

With the immediate commercialization of the holiday, Jarvis apparently attempted to lobby businesses to donate a percentage of the Mother’s Day profits back to women and children in need. She was unsuccessful. It is said that she regretted forming the holiday and even petitioned the courts to have it disbanded.

I am not suggesting that Mother’s Day be dissolved. I rather like the idea of breakfast in bed and all the niceties. I look forward to it. I also embrace the original concept to be a day of peace.

If you are looking for ways to celebrate together here are some events around the Adirondacks this weekend. Of course paddles, hikes and walks are always plentiful and readily available.

all content © Diane Chase.  Diane Chase is of Adirondack Family Time:Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activiities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. Diane’s next guidebook Adirondack Family Time: Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga (2012), Adirondack Family Time: Long lake to Old Forge, Adirondack Family Time Schroon Lake to Lake George. (2013)


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Newcomb Get Out & Play! Conference

There is more and more concern that children do not get enough time outside in nature. Richard Louv’s 2005 book “Last Child in the Woods” sparked a fire with parents, health professionals, educators and others. Louv coined the term nature-deficit disorder for our youths’ disconnect from nature while suffering from the lack of unstructured, imaginative play.

On May 15th in Newcomb, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), the Children in Nature New York (CNNY) and Newcomb Central School will present the first annual Get Out and Play! Conference.

According to Erin Vinson, co-event coordinator and educational specialist at SUNY-ESF, the day-long series of workshops will provide training and development for anyone working with children from professionals in a formal setting like organized sports, scouting, youth programs, day and overnight camps to childcare providers as well as nonprofessionals.

“This is the first year for what we feel is an exciting opportunity,” says Vinson. “My colleague Paul Hai was attending a sports conference when the idea started to form for this series of workshops. He is also very involved in the Children in Nature New York.”

Children in Nature Network is a grassroots movement to reconnect children and nature.

“The basic goal is to help guide people that currently work with children about being outside in nature and teaching those instructors how to engage children to stay active in different ways,” continues Vinson. “The idea is for less structure and infusing the idea of age-appropriate competition. There will be different lessons and coach training throughout. This is an opportunity to look at new games, activities and free play for children. It isn’t just about organized sports either. There are workshops on nature-based play that is not as structured. The three different sessions have separate lessons that anyone working with children will benefit from greatly.”

The Get Out and PLAY! Conference will include professional presenters and educators from a variety of different backgrounds.

Elizabeth Lee, as a licensed Adirondack guide, will lead sessions on nature-based play from her experiences teaching recreational and educational programs and actively playing outdoors for over 50 years.

John LaRue is the president and owner of Back2BasicPlay, Inc. His workshops will focus on new games and Futsal, a soccer variation. He has traveled throughout New England and Eastern New York helping communities create unique play spaces as well as advocating the use of games and cooperative-based play to promote character education growth and healthier lifestyles in children.

Bill Sampaio is the National Director of Futsal Coaches – USFF. He has played and coached both soccer and Futsal at high school, college, as well as at the amateur and professional level. Sampaio uses Futsal and soccer to help children develop their self-esteem to a higher level. He will also be leading seminars on new games and Futsal.

Timothy Donavan is the Executive Director of SUNY Youth Sports Institute (YSI). YSI training provides evidence-based methods and tools for adult leaders in organized youth sports. Donavan will lead the Youth Coach Training sessions.

For our family playing out in nature is part of our everyday life. My husband has been taking families and young adults out into the Adirondack backcountry for the past 25 years so our children are fortunate enough to feel that being in the woods is just part of their playground. This weekend they played in the yard and surrounding woods and never once came to ask me to entertain them. They were busy climbing trees, inventing games and creating an imaginary world that I was not part of. The only time I was asked for help was to get the pine pitch off of my daughter’s hands.

The Newcomb Get Out and Play! Conference will take place on May 15. For registration information please call Erin Vinson at (518) 582-4551 Ext 116. The conference fee is $10, which includes lunch and is open to the public.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Earth Day

Earth Day isn’t about weaving a hair shirt, though it would enable me to recycle all my golden retriever fur. It’s not about singing Kumbaya around the campfire and filling the neighborhood with air and noise pollution. To our family it is a day to remember that we are only guests here. Most people, we hope, treat everyday like it’s Earth Day.

My family’s Earth Day tradition is cleaning the trailhead of one our favorite hikes. We have found some crazy things tucked along the edges of the parking lot of Ampersand Mountain. Some have been personal items that I had difficulty explaining to my son, which only reinforced the importance of wearing gloves. The deer carcass would have been easy to justify in nature, except its remains were still wrapped in a plastic bag. Beer cans and cigarette butts are sadly a normal sight.

Making changes in our lifestyle can be daunting. Sometimes all we need to do is make a small step. The Adirondack Green Circle is trying to help people take those steps so that every day can be about the earth. It can be as seemingly insignificant as bringing a canvas bag to the store to limit the production of plastic bags or as simple as learning where food comes from.

Where food comes from? If a product’s label takes a biochemist to decipher then we need to question what we are putting in our mouths.

For the second year, Adirondack Green Circle is holding its Wake Up Film Festival, showcasing documentaries directed at tracing our food and garbage.

Founder Gail Brill says, “We have lined up different movies that explain where our commercial food comes from. The first film will be appropriately shown on Earth Day, Thursday, at Pendragon. Food, Inc. demonstrates how broken our food system is. We will also have copies of Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules as well. Part of our mission is to promote local food so Jen Perry of Farm to Family Food Network will be there to talk about where to get local food.”

Brill explains a few common sense rules from Pollan’s book like, “If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it is made in a plant, don’t.” Some of the movies are not for the very young so check out the website for age recommendations. Brill has screened the films and found them age appropriate for high school and beyond.

Brill and some other members of Adirondack Green Circle are carrying their garbage around with them all this week to start a garbage conversation. w

“People say they throw their garbage away,” Brill continues. “Where is away? Away is in our ground water, away is in our ground, away is in our children.”

This experiment will culminate at the North Country Community College Junk to Funk Show. She encourages others to take the challenge and see what happens when “throwing garbage away” gets close and personal.

So there are some simple ways to help the environment, limit our trash and maybe leave a trailhead a bit cleaner for the next person.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Springtime Bicycle Rides

Learning to ride a bicycle has as many stages as learning to walk, though walking seems to come with less drama. First the scooter stage (quad-cycle,) then on to the tricycle, which leads to training wheels. Finally that two-wheeled sense of freedom is achieved. Each stage brings a different challenge. For my family, each stage was clung to with white-knuckled intensity.

While learning to ride a two-wheeler, my children weaved their way through parked cars and were incredulous that I would ask them to look both ways when crossing the road. Surely, they felt, looking one way was enough.

For anyone living in or visiting a rural community following an inexperienced biker on a busy road can be daunting. While the New York State fine-tunes its budget and decides which campgrounds and historic sites are slated for closure, off-season campgrounds are still a good way for a young or old person to learn how to ride a bike.

Fish Creek Pond Campground in Saranac Inn features a 5-mile paved loop that circles the campground. In the summer it can become a literal parking lot of cars and movement as RVs and day visitors swarm for the perfect waterfront real estate. Spring though finds it pleasantly empty with an added bonus of no parking fee.

If you do not have a bicycle and want to learn to ride try the website Freecycle. This nonprofit network asks people to recycle and reuse. It is free to register, just look for a place near your community. List what you have or see if someone in your area is looking for something that has been collecting dust in your garage.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has a complete list of campgrounds and the amenities. Some campgrounds are slated for closure in 2010. Below is a partial list of NYS Adirondack campgrounds that promote bicycling.

Brown Tract Pond, Raquette Lake
Buck Pond, Onchiota
Eagle Point Campground, Pottersville
Fish Creek Campground, Saranac Inn
Lake Durant, Blue Mountain Lake
Lake Eaton Campground, Long Lake
Lake Harris near Newcomb
Poke-O-Moonshine, Keeseville (was closed for camping in 2009 but a portion remains available for Forest Preserve public access.
Nicks Lake in the Black River Wild Forest
Rogers Rock, Lake George
Rollins Pond Campground
Sharp Bridge, Schroon River


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Mount Baker

We choose a typical spring day to climb Mount Baker in Saranac Lake. We pack the car with all the enthusiasm of a family caught in the thrall of spring fever. I can hardly keep my children in shoes now that the snow has melted, let alone convince them that putting boots back on after a winter’s worth of wear will be a positive experience. Flip-flops are not an option. I am also able to convince my daughter that rhinestone platform slides are best left at home.

Just 2,452′ in elevation, Baker is often referred to as a little mountain. For locals, it’s a quick hike during a lunch break while for others it’s an opportunity to see the High Peaks without investing a lot of time. For children it is a perfect segue to climbing steeper mountains.

Springtime in the Adirondacks presents its own unique set of challenges. Sections of the trail are a frustrating combination of sweet springtime freshness and thick mud and ice. Each step threatens to leave us either barefoot (from the mud sucking the shoes right off our feet) or flat on our backs from a misplaced step on ice. Though some people have cramp-ons, we manage to maneuver the path with ski poles and sticks.

The summit of Baker is only .9 mile from the base. Since we don’t have cramp-ons we opt to skirt the trail, following other footprints along the edge. It becomes a game of search-and-find for my son. The lower section of the main trail has become a frozen waterfall so he must search across and around it for safe places for us to walk. He willingly takes on the challenge.

The path is a gentle incline at first. We then start to see large rocks surrounding us and realize that the summit is near. The path cuts sharply between two boulders but it is too slick for us to approach. We cut back around to the right and climb over the rocks, avoiding the slippery rock chimney. The first vista we find overlooks the town. We identify Lake Flower and the shops surrounding it. The next overlook is behind us, a beautiful view of Scarface and the McIntyre Range.

After our well-deserved snack, we descend, but we do not have to choose our steps as carefully. We glissade down the slippery slope, avoiding the mud when we can. There is enough ice that we are able to avoid any damage to the trail.

To access Mount Baker, on Main Street in Saranac Lake, turn right onto Dugway. Take the first left, Forest Hill Ave, and continue straight to Moody Pond. The trail marker is on the left.

photo: snow seen on the distant McIntyre Range and Mt. Marcy from the summit of Mount Baker
photo credit: www.adkfamilytime.com


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Adirondack Fish Hatchery

After being closed for the coldest months, the Adirondack Fish Hatchery is once again open for tours. Though fishing with children is a wonderful activity, having the ability to see the rearing of landlocked Atlantic salmon is well worth the trip. Most children, and adults, don’t realize that a good portion of the fish they catch in the Adirondacks have been raised in one of New York State’s 12 fish hatcheries. Each hatchery specializes in producing a select few species of fish.

The Adirondack Fish Hatchery facility in Lake Clear, located about 12 miles from Saranac Lake, produces 30,000 pounds of salmon yearly for release into regional lakes and rivers.

“There are two sources for eggs,” say Adirondack Fish Hatchery Manager Ed Grant. “The wild fish we catch from the pond and those we harvest from captive fish. That is about 500,000 eggs from wild fish and another 700,000 eggs from captive fish for 1.2 million eggs a year. That is the goal and we usually make it.”

The facility is open for free guided tours. The indoor visitor center contains a self-guided tour with a pool containing salmon, a monitor showing brood fish in a pond, and other exhibits on fish propagation. There is also a video in the Visitor’s Center showcasing the method necessary to produce all that yearly landlocked salmon. Inside the hatchery are 16 tanks holding approximately 275,000 fish; each tank is about 31’ in diameter and holds 8,000 gallons of water. Three of the tanks house the brood stock, the fish used to produce the eggs and milt for the next year’s stock, while the other 13 tanks hold the fingerlings that will be released into the wild now that it’s spring.

According to Grant tours are given throughout the summer and fall as well as certain times during the spring. He recommends that individuals call first during the spring if a tour of the whole facility is requested. Otherwise drop by the Visitor’s Center and Hatchery starting April 1 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The springtime is a busy time as the staff is preparing to release the yearlings and fry into lakes and rivers.

“We have different ways of stocking fish,” says Grant. “The yearlings smolts go right into Lake Champlain. They are able to find a healthy habitat but they are not able to imprint. We also stock about 300,000 non-feeding fry in the Boquet, Ausable, and Saranac Rivers each year. A fry is a fish that first hatches from the egg and has lived off its yolk sac for a while and then it will start looking for natural food. Fry are placed and will stay in the river’s water stream until reaching the smolt stage. The fry then leave the stream environment for lakes but it has imprinted on a section of the river by its keen sense of smell. By requiring a certain number to imprint, we hope to recreate that natural process.”

For children it may be an opportunity to view a salmon for the first time. The next occasion that child and fish may meet could be in a match of wits over a hook and line.

The Adirondack Fish Hatchery is located off Route 30, approximately one mile south of Lake Clear. Call 891-3358 for more information.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities:Lake George Opera’s Three Little Pigs

This year Lake George Opera’s Opera-To-Go is performing another adaptation by John Davies of Opera Tales. Davies, a bass-baritone has performed with a variety of opera companies such as Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco and Philadelphia as well as many others. Then in the 1990s, as a means to entertain his own children, Davies hit on a combination that worked. He merged classic fairy tales with classic music in a way to engage and entertain children of all ages.

Each Davies children’s opera takes recognizable tunes and pairs them to a story with a lesson, similar to the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon that showcased The Barber of Seville. In this performance one little pig goes to the library as she researches how to build a house. The Three Little Pigs converges with Mozart’s Don Giovanni as the wolf pretends to be a statue and ends up being invited for dinner with a second little pig and trouble commences.

For Liz Giblin, Director of Marketing for the Lake George Opera, Davies’ children’s operas not only take classic operatic ideas and themes but have a strong educational element to them as well. Each year the company performs for schools throughout upstate New York, the Adirondacks and western New England as well as a series of free performances for families.

“The Opera-To-Go program has been going into communities and schools since 1985,” Giblin says. “Children aren’t only exposed to opera but to good lessons within each of the classic fairy tales. The Three Little Pigs shows how everything you need to know is in the library. Last year’s opera was about the danger of talking to strangers. Another opera was about the Golden Rule. Children are not only exposed to opera but also exposed to stories and music. Obviously we are an opera company so want people to know that opera is available to everyone not just an older generation.”

The 45-minute opera of The Three Little Pigs will be held at the Charles R. Wood Theatre in Glens Falls free of charge at 1:00 p.m. on March 27. According to Executive Director Bill Woodward seating for the operatic performance at the Wood Theatre is on a first-come, first-serve basis. The 299-seat theatre will be open a half-hour before show time.

“This a great opportunity for kids to come and see opera where it is reachable. It is a fairy tale and children are mesmerized with the singing. It’s a good way to assimilate them to opera,” says Woodward. “Parents will enjoy it just as much as the kids.”


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: New York Maple Sugar Days!

There are a variety of places that a person can visit to see maple sap collected, especially this weekend as maple producers join together for the first of two New York State Maple Producers Association Maple Weekends, March 20-21 and 27-28.

My husband and I have had our experiences (and disagreements) with attempting to make maple syrup. All in all and only with the ability to look back do we both see it as something that was fun. It was hard work but we can say we did it. And have, ad nauseum, to anyone within hearing, to the point where our friends that actually produce syrup roll their eyes and remind us we made one gallon. Yes, but one gallon of pure liquid gold. Either way for now we are leaving it to the experts.

At Cornell University-Uihlein scientists and maple producers, on their 200+ acre forest research station, are perfecting ways to increase production rates so that the sap is collected and boiled at the same rate. In the Sixties scientists worked to improve sap collection by applying suction to existing networks of tubes that rendered the bucket collection technique inefficient. Now sap buckets are only used for demonstration purposes, school trips or home sugaring operations.

Another way the maple industry continues to evolve is through the New York State Maple Producers Association with its 502 members and 150 associate members. According to Helen Thomas, Executive Director of the New York State Maple Producers Association, the organization has many goals such as keeping its membership informed with legislature in New York and Washington. Members receive the publication Maple Digest and the NYS Association newsletter. Incorporated in 1954, NY Maple Producers Association provides educational training, energy grants, networking opportunities and maple promotion opportunities.

“It is an interesting sugaring season,” says Thomas. “We have two climates in New York, the Adirondacks and downstate. The north didn’t get the heavy snowfall and seems to be having a good year. It is a concern for downstate as well as Ohio and Michigan. That heavy snowfall they received didn’t allow producers to get started until the middle of March, which cuts into the average season. It is also warming up fast.”

“We think it will be a short season for sugaring but there will be plenty of syrup for everyone in the New York State,” she laughs. “So not to worry.”

In order for the sap to flow temperatures must rise above freezing during the day and drop below freezing at night. The recent melts may be bad for the ski industry but it’s good for maple producers.

Last year the snow level was so high that the tubing remained under the snow. In some locations maple production was low because the sap remained frozen in the line. This weekend should not be a problem. It is supposed to be high 40s, low 50s allowing the sap to thaw and flow throughout the day.

“This is a great weekend activity for families. There is a producer in just about every county in upstate New York. There is someone within an hour drive,” assures Thomas.

Each producer may have different activities planned such as samplings, face painting, petting zoos and horse-drawn wagon rides. It is best to check with each location.

An all time favorite for this family is the pancake breakfast. It is a perfect avenue for my ten-year-old to attempt to fill his bottomless pit while I stock up on the maple cream. I am not a maple connoisseur and have no interest in being able to distinguish the various grades of syrup available, but with each pancake I eat, I do appreciate the amount of work each drop took to bring it to my table.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities:Pendragon Theatre Subscription Deals

Pendragon Theatre is once again offering its year-round subscriptions with some bonuses added in celebration of their 30th year anniversary. The line-up is expansive and for anyone who wants more live theatre in his/her life there are discounts available to make that possible.

Between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011, Pendragon will offer 11 productions. Productions that are set are an adaptation of Jungle Book, Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, Constance Cogdon’s adaptation of The Imaginary Invalid, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, a return engagement of Orson’s Welle’s Moby Dick Rehearsed, and a return engagement of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged). The annual holiday show and fall production are still in the process of being finalized.

Another facet of the 30th anniversary, Adirondack only year-round professional theatre, is a “Pendragon Alumni” staged reading for one night only, July 17, 2010 with a reception. There will also be Cabaret Evenings – songs from past Pendragon productions and the New Directions Series – showcasing up-and-coming directors and playwrights.

“We wanted to offer these subscriptions as a celebration of our 30th year and as a thank you to the community, a payback for all the support over the last 30 years,” says Managing Director and Pendragon Co-Founder Bob Pettee. “We hope that people will also be able to come to more performances and understand the variety we have.”

“We feel like you don’t get the full effect of what we do unless you see a range of performances. Some people ask or want to know what the one ‘best’ show is to see. I want people to know that all the shows are well crafted and together offer the audience diversity.”

Pendragon is a repertory theatre, showcasing a range of musical, dramatic and comedic material with a professional resident cast. There will be six different performances happening continuously throughout this upcoming summer season along with various other special events.

“Being a repertory allows us to perform a variety of plays. A full-length play is just that full length [with different acts and usually an intermission] while something like Jungle Book is considered a one-act as New Directions is a series of one-act plays,” says Pettee. “We also have an alumni event and about five different cabarets throughout the season.”

“The 3 for $30 subscription is for three events so you can use it see whatever you want throughout the year. People are only allowed to purchase one of these so if they want to see that fourth play, it would be full price. The year-round subscriptions save people money. If someone wants to see all 11 productions the subscription ticket price is almost half price, about $10 a ticket from the regular $20 adult price. A subscription gives people an inexpensive way to experience all that we have to offer.”

“What we want most of all and the reason why we made the subscription price so reasonable is we really want people to come in and understand the breadth of the stuff that we do at Pendragon.” Pettee says. “Seeing more than one event is critical to that understanding and the cheapest way is to buy a subscription.”

Pettee acknowledges all the Pendragon supporters, “The only reason we are still here is because of our supporters and the community. People have shown us they want live theatre by coming to the theatre for all these years.”

Pendragon Theatre is located at 15 Brandy Brook Lane, Saranac Lake. 518-891-1854. Regular ticket prices are $20.00 for adults, $17.00 for seniors and $10.00 for those under 18 years of age. Other productions: Jungle Book, New Directions, The Holiday Show: ages 15 and up/$10.00, under 15/$8.00. All Full Length Matinees are $12.00 (also Cabarets and Alumni Readings)

Subscription only apply to Pendragon Productions at the Pendragon Theatre location, not tour locations or special events. Subscriptions are prepaid admissions, non-transferable and do not assure you a seat. Reservations are required.
Year Round: All 11 events (including Moby Dick and Shakespeare) $120
Year Round: All 9 events $100
The 5 Show Summer Full-Length: $70
Special 30th year deal: “3 for $30” = 3 events for $30 (restrictions do apply. Only one/person/season) Good for any combination of full length, cabaret, alumni event, etc…but just three events.

*As a matter of full disclosure I am a board member of Pendragon Theatre but also a parent on a budget. If you have never attended Pendragon Theatre before the “3 for $30” would be a good opportunity to save some money and see three shows. If you attend or wish to start attending more frequently, a year-round subscription will benefit your pocketbook.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Saranac Lake Cabin Fever Film Festival

For the ninth year the Cabin Fever Film Festival will be hosting classic films in Saranac Lake each Wednesday in March. Organizer Tim Fortune says,“ We are now located at the John Black Room of the Saranac Lake Laboratory. It is a great venue. This is our third location since we started nine years ago. We started at the Hotel Saranac and had one season at Pendragon Theatre. With the setting of this historic building and showing these old classic movies gives the John Black Room the intimate feeling of a home movie theatre.”

For the first time the Cabin Fever Festival committee has chosen a slightly different format. In past years the Festival consisted of a short film or cartoon and a feature film. This year on Wednesdays, episodes of the 1932 serial Heroes of the West will be shown along with six cartoons and comedy shorts. Each evening will then be a continuation of the “cliffhanger” ending from the previous show of Heroes of the West.

“We are showing all shorts,” says Fortune. “W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Our Gang, Buster Keaton as well as a classic cartoon each night.”

“We have always been fortunate in the past with local sponsors. Putting on Cabin Fever is very expensive. This year Cape Air has generously sponsored the whole festival with Compass Printing providing the posters and programs.”

Along with Fortune, four other volunteers meet to brainstorm about the Cabin Fever Film Festival schedule and provide multiply duties to pull off the event each year. Fortune credits Bruce Young, Chris Brescia, Danny Ryan and Charles Alexander with making the Festival happen.

“We are all volunteers and any profit goes toward supporting other arts endeavors like the Third Thursday Art Walks that run from June through September,” says Fortune.

Across the street from the Saranac Lake Laboratory, Executive Chef of the Robert Louis Stevenson Tea Room Les Hershhorn, is creating a special weekly buffet for those interested in “Dinner and a Movie.”

Hershhorn states, “There will be a new menu each week. We will feature various international buffets for $25 per person. This week we have a Spanish cuisine with a chicken and sausage paella, salad, vegetable dish, home baked breads and dessert. Last year during the Film Festival we did a Mexican buffet, Indian night and other international flavors. The buffet starts at 5:30 and reservations are required.”

Hershhorn wants everyone to know that children are welcome and to please ask for pricing when making the reservations. He expects more families to come this year because of the “shorts” format of this year’s Cabin Fever Film Festival.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Tea Room, 78 Church Street, and the John Black Room of the Saranac Lake Laboratory are linked in history. The RLS Tea Room was the original home of Dr. Hugh Kinghorn one of the original founders of the RLS Society of America. The Stevenson Society’s goal was to preserve the Baker Cottage (where Stevenson spent time while attempting to recover from TB while in Saranac Lake), original manuscripts and a collection of his artifacts. Across the street the Cabin Fever Film Festival takes place in Dr. Trudeau’s laboratory, now the home to Historic Saranac Lake. Dr. Trudeau was not only a renowned physician but a pioneer in Tuberculosis research and a founding member of the Stevenson Society as well.

General admission is $6.00 per film or $25.00 for all five; Students and seniors are $5.00 or $20.00 for all five while children twelve and under are free. Subscriptions may be purchased up to the first day of the series, March 3. The film starts at 7:00 p.m. each Wednesday in March at the Saranac Lake Laboratory 89 Church Street. For more information call Tim Fortune at 891-1139.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Tour the Luge

The Olympic Winter Games are well underway and we are breaking the no television during the school week rule under the guise of educational purposes. I do not personally know anyone participating in the winter games, past or present. I can certainly claim six degrees of separation as can anyone else living in the Tri-Lakes area of the Adirondack Park. Those athletes, like all Olympians, are consumed with their sport. Every walking hour is spent traveling, training, and pursuing perfection.

I have tried to educate my son on how lucky he is to live near a town that hosted the 1932 and 1980 games. He shrugs his shoulders and asks when he can skate on the Olympic Oval or nonchalantly tells our extended family he (yawn) tried a ski jumping clinic at the Whiteface Olympic Jumping Complex. It is hard to describe to a child the privilege of being in an area where athletes are constantly training so that they can represent their country in a quest for the gold. For mine it is an everyday occurrence.

USA Luge Marketing Director Gordy Sheer is no stranger to the Olympics. He and luge partner Chris Thorpe won a silver medal in the Nagano Olympics in 1998. This was the first medal ever won by a US luge competitor.

Sheer says, “We try to host Luge Challenges throughout the season. It’s essentially luge on ski hills. We use a recreational sled that isn’t fiberglass and steel. It doesn’t weigh as much as the regular sled. Basically it is an opportunity to experience the sport in a family-friendly environment. We also keep our eyes open for any kids that show potential.”

According to Sheer another opportunity to achieve this particular Olympic experience is through the Slider Search. These events are conducted on city streets in the summer months with sleds on wheels. The USA Luge Official web site has an up-to-date schedule of events.

The USA Luge team, headquartered in Lake Placid, gives free tours of their facility every weekday at 2:00 p.m. This week the Olympic luge team and most of the staff are in Vancouver supporting their athletes so tours will resume the week of the 22nd.

Considering it is the official headquarters for the US Luge, it is an unassuming structure, more warehouse than office building. It’s a casual tour where athletes may be fine-tuning their sleds or watching videos of individual practice starts.

The tour starts with a 20-minute introduction video that can jump-start anyone’s luge education. The movie is just as fast and furious as the sport. The indoor facility, the only one in the US and one of seven in the world, is quite impressive. Athletes use three refrigerated ramps to improve their start techniques with the latest technology, shaving milliseconds off their time. There is even an opportunity to try out a practice sled (not to slide on) and find out how to steer using your legs to squeeze on the curved part of the runners (kufen), to direct the pod, the custom-formed fiberglass shell.

For those that have tried luge and want to continue sliding the Adirondack Luge Club may be the place for you. The club season starts in January and continues through March. Membership and track fees do apply. Practices take place on the Olympic Sports Complex Slide Track, one of only two refrigerated full-length tracks in the United States. The other one is located in Park City, Utah.

The Luge Rocket Ride is only available Christmas Day for anyone wishing for an opportunity to slide on the official training track without having to join the club. The sled is slightly different than the competitors’ sleds. It contains a shield that covers three-quarters of the slider’s body. Yes, it looks like a small space ship for the 1/4-mile ride. All participants must be 13 years or older.

We will watch the luge team from the comfort of our home. The women’s singles medal round is today, February 16 at 4:00 p.m. EST. The men’s doubles medal round is February 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST. After all, we can build a luge track outside the house. Why not? Last year we had a bobsled run.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Biathlon

With the amount of local talent being sent to the Vancouver Olympics this weekend, I feel it is only fair to make sure my children get as much Olympic exposure as possible. Since Lake Placid has generously hosted the Olympics twice, it is no hardship for anyone entering the Park to get on their Olympic Spirit.

For those wishing to achieve a bit of instant gratification, on February 12-13 the Lake Placid Biathlon Club with the Saratoga, Syracuse, and Western NY Biathlon Clubs is hosting the North American Championship Cup 5 (NorAM) in cooperation with the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).

According to Rick Costanza, President for the Lake Placid Biathlon Club, there will be about 50-75 competitors this weekend in a variety of events.

The NorAM’s will be a good introduction to the sport and observers are encouraged. Costanza advises observers to pull into the Bobsled Parking lot of the Olympic Sports Complex and it is just a short walk to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Biathlon Range. Races will begin at 10:00 a.m. The 1st day (Feb 12) is a Sprint (10K) and a Pursuit format on the 13th.

“Most people like to watch the shooting. There is a nice sloping hill where people can observe the shooting range,” Costanza says. “One thing we drill into the kids is safety. Biathlon is challenging. The skiing is aggressive and then you have to switch gears to marksmanship. The shooting is more Zen. This sport is one of the best uses of firearms we have. It teaches kids a lot of good habits in a strict environment.”

For those that wish to observe the sport from the comfort of their own home, Lowell Bailey and Haley Johnson of Lake Placid and Tim Burke of Paul Smiths are part of the US Biathlon National Team and 2010 US Olympic Team. These local competitors are blogging and writing about their Olympic experiences. It is certainly an amazing opportunity for any young adult or child to realize that dreams can come true.

The Vancouver Olympic Biathlon roster will consist of the following: Men’s 7.5K Relay, the Women’s 6K Relay, Men’s 10K Sprint, Women’s 7.5K Sprint, Men’s 12.5K Pursuit, Women’s 10K Pursuit, Men’s 15K Mass Start, Women’s 12.5K Mass Start, Men’s 20K Individual, and the Women’s 15K Individual.

According to the Olympic Biathlon Organization, Biathlon is said to be of Greek origin meaning “two contests” combining the endurance of long distance skiing and control of sharp shooting.

It originated with hunters as a means of providing food during long skiing expeditions. Gradually the sport became an alternative means of military training for Scandinavian border patrol. The first competition took place in Norway around 1776. Since then it has become the modern day demonstration sport of cross-country skiing and precision target shooting.

A biathlon is divided into both standing and prone target shooting positions. Each participant must ski a specific distance, shoot from the shooting lanes and then continue skiing. Throughout all, the athlete is required to carry a rifle in a sling. Typically five targets are required during each stop. 100% accuracy is required. Either a time penalty or penalty loop is given for each target missed.

The Sprint is a timed event skied over three laps with the athlete shooting twice at any shooting lane, once prone and once standing for a total of 10 shots. In the Pursuit the starts are staggered and based on a previous race so the individual crossing the finish line first wins. The Relay consists four athletes skiing one leg of three laps with two shooting rounds. The Individual is another timed event usually skied over five laps with the athlete shooting four times with penalties given for each missed target.

If just observing Biathlon isn’t enough, ORDA offers individuals the opportunity to become a biathlete at the Olympic Sports Complex with a freestyle skiing lesson and (under strict supervision) take a shot (I couldn’t let that pass) at the target range. This particular exercise is available most Saturdays and holiday weeks at a cost of $33.00.

photo used with permission from Marque Moffett.


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