Almanack Contributor Community News Reports

Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mean High-Water Mark: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Early on in the discussion of public rights of passage, the term “mean high-water mark” was used as in being able to portage or carry around an obstruction as long as one stayed below this mark. This term was dropped in favor of carrying in the “least intrusive manner possible.” I think this was a good development. Why? Partly because of statistics.

The mean is one of several statistical measures of central tendency—add all the values of what you’re measuring and divide by the number of values and you get the mean. The other primary measures of central tendency are the mode (the value that occurs most frequently) and the median (the value that has half the items below it and half above it). When a distribution of values is “symmetrical” these three measures are close to each other. But, if your distribution is “skewed” (i.e., assymetrical), the mean is no longer accurate.

Say 20 families in a neighborhood have salaries between $60 K and $140 K, with most in the middle and some on the extremes. With a symmetrical distribution, the mean will be about $100 K and will be a valid measure of typical wealth. But if family A sells their house to someone earning a million dollars, the distribution will be skewed and the new mean (about $190 K) will not represent the typical neighborhood salary. If water levels for a river are symmetrically distributed, the mean is a valid measure. If not (as when rivers are flood-prone or dewatered due to dams), then the mean is not a good measure. The median or mode would be a better measure in such cases.

However, there are more pressing practical considerations suggest that any statistical measure is not very helpful for rights of passage. Until fairly recently, most paddlers would have a difficult time knowing a river’s mean flow. This information is more available now—the U. S. Geological Service has a Web site and you can get a pretty good idea of typical high water levels from scanning their databases. Still, there are problems. While a good number of rivers have gauges, many do not. Dedicated paddlers are fairly good at estimating water levels for a river by looking at the gauges for nearby rivers, but this is not an exact science. Another problem is that gauges are almost always located in fairly wide sections of a river with relatively milder current. Even if we do know a river’s mean high-water mark, it’s not clear how to extrapolate this information to the spot on the river where you need to carry.

A one-foot difference on a downstream gauge can easily translate to a several foot difference in a narrow part of the river, which is where most carries occur. And, the river at a gauge site may be rising, while a section far away is already dropping (or vice-versa). At low levels, lining may be an option and the issue of “mean high-water mark” isn’t too important. In flatwater and easier whitewater, paddlers can usually(!) carry around obstructions that block narrow passages without having to go inland very far. It is in more significant whitewater, with steep banks, ravines and gorges, where the mean high-water mark comes more into play. But how do you figure out where this is? Well, you can’t, unless you know a given river very well.

Debris lines can indicate the highest recent level and stains on ravine walls might do likewise, but these aren’t reliable measures and it is difficult to communicate this type of information to other paddlers or landowners. A lengthy whitewater run may require multiple carries in a variety of environments. Identifying the “mean high-water mark” for each is just not tenable, regardless of what we may know about USGS readings. While the phrase “least intrusive manner possible” is impossible to define, I still think it’s better than referring to a statistical concept that sounds precise but really isn’t.

Photograph: The Boquet River in late June


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Winter Wildays at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake

The Wild Center’s Winter Wildays return in every Saturday and Sunday from January 9th until March 28th 2010 with an entertaining and enlightening schedule for the whole family. Here is the announcement from a Wild Center press release:

Saturday events grow your skills. Learn more about easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint with Home Composting, Heating with Biomass or Small Windpower in the Adirondacks. Admire some of the wildlife, like Boreal Birds or the Timber Rattlesnake, that make their home in the Adirondacks. Improve your photography skills with leading photographer Carl Heilman or discover what it takes to raise chickens in your own backyard. » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Weekly Adirondack Web Highlights

Each Friday Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers the week’s best stories and links from the web about the Adirondacks. You can find all our weekly web highlights here.


Friday, January 1, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene: New Year’s Eve

It’s all happening tonight on New Year’s Eve. I hope everyone has a blast, listening, moving your bodies and celebrating. This is a great week to remember the amazing events of this past year and put a little thought into what you’d like to see happen in the new one. A toast to supporting and creating fantastic music in 2010.

Thursday, December 31st:

First Night in Saranac Lake! There are a bunch of great shows to check out. My advice; get to the venue early and buy your buttons now. Check out the website for the complete listing. I’m particularly fond of Big Slyde, Frankenpine and my band, The Dust Bunnies. I hope to see you out and about!

Also in Saranac Lake: at the Waterhole, Pie Boys Flat and Hot Day at The Zoo will be playing. These fun bands should get started around 9:30 pm, Pie Boys are first up.

In North Creek at barVino, The Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip starts at 9 pm.

In Lake Clear at Charlies Inn, Rock-n-Rob starts at 9 pm. It’s party, there will be hors d’oeuvres and champagne.

In Wilmington at Steinhoff’s, Big Boss Sausage will be playing starting at 9 pm. Steinhoff’s is also lucky enough to have chef Bill Bentz reigning over their kitchen.

In Saranac Lake at Captain Cook’s; Road Kill Dog starting at 10 pm until 2 am.

Photo: Pie Boys Flat


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Birding Along The St. Lawrence River

To the north and west of the Adirondacks lies a beautiful natural resource that often gets overlooked. It’s a massive river that carries all the water from every one of the five Great Lakes. It’s home to nesting bald eagles, migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, and hawks and falcons patrol its shoreline. Although the St. Lawrence River does not fall within the Adirondack Park “Blueline Boundary,” it is a birdwatching mecca that should not be missed by our Adirondack birders.

The following is a press release I received that announces the publishing of a new birding guide to the St. Lawrence Seaway Trail (The route parallels 518 miles of shoreline along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania):

Great Lakes Seaway Trail Publishes Guide to America’s Next Birding Travel Hot Spot

Sackets Harbor, NY – Birders interested in finding the best birding spots year-round for all manner of migratory & resident raptors, songbirds, and waterfowl along the big waters of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in New York and Pennsylvania now have new resources to enjoy.

The Seaway Trail Foundation has developed a new birding theme guidebook, audio tour CD, notecards and outdoor storytellers to help birders find their favorite flyers along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and Lake Erie.

The Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail by ornithologist Gerald A. Smith is a soft cover, full color traveler’s field guide to birding hot spots along the 518-mile shoreline byway that is one of America’s Byways and a National Recreation Trail.

Funding for the book was provided by the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program, the New York State Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways Program in the Office of Environment’s Landscape Architecture Bureau, and the John Ben Snow Foundation, Pulaski, NY.

New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee said, “The Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway provides a magnificent trip through the landscapes of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and New York State’s northern and western borders. I know Governor Paterson is proud that we support this trail and other scenic byways across the state so that travelers can enjoy the history, natural beauty, and recreational opportunities that alternative routes provide. Congratulations to the Seaway Trail Foundation for publishing their new birding guidebook, which is sure to delight generations of bird watchers and other visitors.”

Noted regional birders Willie D’Anna, an Eaton Birding Society Award winner in Western NY; Jerry McWilliams of the Presque Isle (PA) Audubon Society; and Bird Coalition of Rochester Executive Director David Semple wrote chapters for the book. Wildlife artist Robert McNamara of Art of the Wilderness, Cleveland, NY, designed and illustrated the guide edited by Julie Covey. The book retails for $19.95.

A companion audio CD, Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Audio Tour,” features the voices of wildlife biologist Kimberly Corwin and Adirondack Kids® co-author and television show host Gary Allen VanRiper. The 80-minute CD retails for $9.95.

The nonprofit Seaway Trail Foundation, based in Sackets Harbor, NY, has also developed birding notecards and a series of bird-themed Great Lakes Seaway Trail outdoor storyteller interpretive panels – all designed by McNamara – to enhance birders’ travel along the coastal byway.

Great Lakes Seaway Trail birding maps are online at www.seawaytrail.com. This new guidebook book is the latest in the “Best of the Byways” (American Recreation Coalition) series published by the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Sackets Harbor, NY, 315-646-1000.

It is also worth mentioning that our local chapter of the National Audubon Society: Northern New York Audubon features field trips each year that may include some of the St Lawrence Seaway Trail within St Lawrence County.

Photo of Bonaparte’s gulls and Ring-billed gulls-Brian McAllister


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

14th Annual Adirondack International Mountainfest

If you still want to take courses at the 14th Annual Adirondack International Mountainfest in Keene, you’d better act now.

The festival, which takes place January 15–17 (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend), is nearly sold out. The only seminars still open are an ice-climbing and slide-climbing course on Sunday and courses on avalanche safety.

However, those who love the mountains and are happy to appreciate them from a heated room should consider two events that weekend. At 8 p.m. Friday, January 15, world-famous mountaineer Erik Weihenmayer will give a slide show and lecture. Weihenmayer is the only blind climber to not only have summited Mt. Everest but also the highest peaks of all seven continents. Weihenmayer recently climbed The Naked Edge, a rock-climbing testpiece in Colorado’s Eldorado Canyon, rated a stiff 5.11.

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 16, extreme mountaineer Steve House will also do a presentation. Considered one of the best alpinists in the world, the climber and author has made dozens of dicy ascents up high-altitude snow, ice and rock routes all over the world. He is known for free-soloing (no ropes or partners) massive faces with little gear. In 2005, in one of his greatest accomplishments, he and a partner completed a new route on the deadly, 13,500-foot-high Rupal Face, the most technical of the many dangerous faces of Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat (26,600).

House is also leading an ice-climbing seminar on Saturday but—sorry, kids—that one’s sold out.

The slide shows, $10 each, will be at the Keene Central School on Market Street in Keene Valley, off Route 73 (just follow the cars if you can’t find it). There’s also an all-you-can-eat pasta dinner at the nearby firehouse from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday. And you can demo climbing gear for no charge at Rock and River’s manmade ice wall, located at the end of Alstead Hill Lane, located on Route 73 just west of Keene. All events benefit local charities.

For more information, click here.

 


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Early Film of an Adirondack Log Drive

In the early 1900s the Ford Company sent an early film camera crew to the Adirondacks to record the life and work of the region’s loggers. The footage they shot shows the logging camps, the icing of roadways for skidding, the interior of a sawmill, loading and hauling logs, and more.

The original footage is held in the National Archives, but I’ve posted a short clip of a group of river drivers working a small log jam at our YouTube page along with a clip form the PBS documentary The Adirondacks that shows similar color footage. Check it out here.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Adirondack Donegal Beard Contest

It’s that time of year again, where all the world becomes, as Jack London would say, bald face. It’s time to shave down for this year’s Adirondack Donegal Beard Contest.

A Donegal Beard (also called a chin-curtain or Lincoln) is a particular style of Irish hirsute appendage (facial hair) 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 must be clean shaven January 1st and grow a Donegal Beard by St. Patrick’s Day. On the day of the contest — which will be held at Black Mountain Inn at the corner of Peaceful Valley Road and Route 8 in Johnsburg (North Creek), 4 to 7 pm — all beards must conform to the Donegal standard.

Contestants are judged on the following criteria:

1. Length
2. Fullness
3. Style and Sophistication
4. General Manliness

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

Photo: 2009 Adirondack Donegal Beard Contestants.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Inside the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center

With the Vancouver Olympics only a few months away, many are curious about how these elite athletes get to the top of their sport.

Where do they live when they are away from home training? How do they stay on top of their game even when training conditions are less than optimal? The Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Lake Placid works to meet these needs of visiting athletes.

The OTC opened in 1982, in the building where the Northwood’s Inn is today. It opened in its present location in 1989, and mostly serves winter athletes. I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the facility with intern Matt Bailey.

Contrary to popular belief, summer athletes rarely visit the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid; most reside in the Chula Vista or Colorado Springs facilities. The exceptions are the canoe and kayak team, (who are coming to the Lake Placid OTC next week), the rhythmic gymnastics team, and Para-Olympians. The resident athletes represent biathlon, freestyle skiing, bobsledding, skeleton, luge, Nordic combined, and ski jumping. The Lake Placid OTC hosts athletes mostly dependent on their sport, but also based on availability of rooms at other training centers.

The main purpose of the Olympic Training Centers is “to assist athletes in a variety of Olympic sports, and also provide assistance to a number of affiliated sports organizations and disabled sports organizations.” The Lake Placid OTC boasts state-of-the-art training equipment, but also residence halls to house the athletes and provide a comfortable stay away from home.

Despite its smaller size compared to the Colorado and California training centers, the Lake Placid Training Center hosts an impressive amount of services for the athletes. There is a fully-supplied weight room which includes spin bikes, weight lifting equipment, shock-absorbing flooring, and even a treadmill with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.

A large gymnasium in the back of the complex boasts high ceilings (to host volleyball tournaments), basketball courts, and a trampoline for aerial skiers to practice tricks. One of the most impressive rooms in the OTC is the Coaching and Sports Sciences lab, where athletes can work on their technique with the help of technology. One such piece of equipment is a giant treadmill used mainly by biathletes, which helps them analyze their technique and stride with the help of a television monitor.

Besides helping athletes to be their best in competition, the OTC also strives to make their stay as comfortable as possible. There is an on-site cafeteria, serving meals with optimal nutrient amounts as determined by the OTC nutritionist in Colorado. Near the front lobby, a small recreation area is available for the residents to relax when they are not training.

Athletes can also spend time in the athlete’s services rooms, which include a television, Xbox gaming system, and computers (sponsored by A T & T). One of the most interesting features in the OTC is the A T & T charging station. Located across from the weight room, athletes can plug in their cell phone or iPod while working out- definitely helpful.

Some of the best athletes in winter sports are staying and training at the Olympic Training Center; Erin Hamlin (World champion and Olympian in Luge), Haley Johnson (World competitor in Biathlon), Ryan St Onge (World champion and Olympian in freestyle skiing), Mark Grimmette (World and Olympic Competitor in Luge), and John Napier (World Competitor in Bobsled). Joining them are other athletes who come to Lake Placid to train in hopes of making an Olympic team.

What is it that makes Lake Placid’s Olympic Training Center so special? The Olympic history in Lake Placid is certainly inspiring. Lake Placid is the only US city to host two Olympics Games, and the small-town atmosphere contributes to the comfortable, hometown feel. Olympic Training Center intern Matt Bailey put it this way: “The Lake Placid OTC is smaller and homier… it’s central location to all the other sports venues is very convenient for the athletes, and we have a great staff here”.


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Lake George Mirror: An Adirondack Insitution

The Lake George Mirror has finally found a spot on the web and has begun posting occasional selections from his archive. The paper, which holds the title of longest running resort newspaper in America, was founded in 1880 by Alfred Merrick (later Lake George’s oldest living resident). Originally the paper was published to serve the village of Lake George and had a temperance bent, a somewhat strange approach for a resort town.

Not long after founding the paper, Merrick gave it up for interest in a bowling alley, and it struggled until W.H. Tippetts came along. Tippets published the paper in order to promote Lake George as a summer resort. When he abandoned the Mirror in 1900 it was purchased by several local businessmen who turned it over to Edward Knight, editor of the Essex County News. The Knight family edited the paper into the 1960s.

A short history on the paper’s new website offers a glimpse of what the paper was like under the leadership of the Knight family:

While it chronicled the changes on Lake George – the rise and fall of the great resort hotels, the destruction of the mansions along Lake Shore Drive, and the proliferation of motels and tourist cabins – the Mirror itself changed little. For the families who returned each summer, the Mirror was the newspaper of record. It announced the arrivals and departures of their neighbors, publicized their activities, and performed all the offices of a country paper: heralding births, celebrating weddings, saying a few final words over the deceased in the editorial and obituary columns. The Mirror did not, however, neglect the year round residents – the homefolks. It championed projects that would enhance daily life in the villages and towns, such as the road over Tongue Mountain, the Million Dollar Beach and the expansion of Shepard Park. As long-time editor Art Knight recalled in 1970, “Many of the improvements we have advocated over the years have become realities and we like to think that perhaps in some small way we have been responsible for their ultimate adoption.”

Except on rare occasions, the Mirror had little interest in political controversy. It was, however, a fierce advocate for the protection of Lake George. During World War II, for instance, Art Knight editorialized: “There is one battle in which there can be no armistice …the battle of Lake George. The enemy are those thoughtless and selfish people who, with only their immediate profit in view, will take advantage of any laxity in our guards in order to save themselves a dollar.” Art Knight recognized that the lake’s shores would continue to be developed. But he also recognized that care would have to be taken if the development was to enhance and not detract from the lake’s beauty. “If we fail, then our detractions from the natural beauties… will earn for all of us the antipathy of future generations.”

Robert Hall took over the Lake George Mirror in the late 1950s. Hall had been a Washington and European correspondent for the Communist newspaper the Daily Worker and its Sunday edition editor. During a time when the FBI was conducting illegal operations against suspected leftist (including burglaries, opening mail, and illegal wiretaps) Hall grew tired of radical politics and moved his family to the Adirondacks where he eventually purchased the Warrensburg News, the Corinthian, the Indian Lake Bulletin and the Hamilton Country News. He established Adirondack Life magazine as a supplement to his his weekly papers in 1962.

In 1968, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed Hall to the Temporary Commission to Study the Future of the Adirondacks, whose recommendations led to the establishment of the APA. Hall later sold the Mirror, and his other weeklies, to Denton Publications and took a job as editor of the New York State’s Conservationist magazine.

The Mirror went from owner to owner until Tony Hall, Robert Hall’s son who was raised in Warrensburg, bought the paper with his wife Lisa in 1998. Of course regular readers of the Adirondack Almanack will also recognize Tony’s name on our list of contributors.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene:Acoustic, Brass and a Musical New Years Eve

Wow, it’s been such a crazy busy week that I nearly forgot to find out what gigs are happening where. Anyway, I hope everyone has been having a great holiday season and for those celebrating Christmas, I hope your day is very merry, full of friends, good food, family and ,of course, great music!

On Wednesday I did get to hear and dance to a great show put on by The Pine Ridge Rounders. They played the Waterhole’s First Annual Santa’s Ball and it was a successful first in my book. The bluegrass was hot and even though more costumes would have been appreciated, those that did participate made the Christmas Sweater Contest funny and gives us a new reason to get excited (did we need more?) over those familial yarn creations. Overheard comment from a Virginian: “They’re good but where’s the fiddle? “

First Night In Saranac Lake is my personal “must-see” this week. With an almost overwhelming amount of acts to check out, it’d be wise to start planning now. Two tips: get your buttons soon, they sold out last year and make sure you get to your event early as the venues fill up fast.

Saturday, December 26th:

In North Creek, Dreaded Wheat is playing at Laura’s. The show starts at 9 pm and lasts until 1 am.

In Queensbury, the UU Church is hosting a last Saturday of the month Coffee House & Open Mic Night. You can call (518) 793-1468 for more information.

Tuesday, December 29th:

In North Creek at the Tannery Pond Community Center, The Potsdam Brass Quintet will be giving at concert at 7:30 pm.

Wednesday, December 30th:

In Saranac Lake at Saranac Village at Will Rogers , The Dogs of Jazz will play for their New Year’s Eve Party which is held between 7:00 and 9:30 pm.

Thursday, December 31st:

First Night in Saranac Lake at multiple venues. I’ll be checking out Big Slyde at BluSeed starting at 7 pm, Frankenpine at Pendragon Theater from 8 – 9 pm and performing with The Dust Bunnies from 10 – 11 pm and 11 pm – 12 am. There are plenty of other great acts to choose from, so check the First Night schedule for details.

In North Creek at barVino, the Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip plays from 9 pm to midnight.

In Saranac Lake at The Waterhole, Pie Boys Flat (an excellent band) opens at 8 pm for Hot Day at The Zoo starts at 10 pm.

Photo: Mike Packard from Dreaded Wheat


Friday, December 25, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Web Highlights

Each Friday Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers the week’s best stories and links from the web about the Adirondacks. You can find all our weekly web highlights here.


Friday, December 25, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Consumerism: In Praise of Used Winter Gear

If anyone wants to understand my friend Jim Close’s point of view on how long something should last, all they have to see is the inside of his car.

When he sold his old Honda and bought a Prism, he pulled the greasy leather cover off the old steering wheel to reuse. It took hours to de-thread the old cover, and hours more to fasten it, using the same thread, to the steering wheel of his new car. But the thread broke partway through, so he had to use other things to attach it.

“You know,” I told him. “A new cover only costs about $10.”

“Why should I get a new one? This one works fine.”

“But look at it. You’ve got thread, black electrical tape and what’s that white stuff?”

“Dental floss.”

I shook my head. “If I was a girl going out with you, and I saw that steering wheel, there wouldn’t be a second date.”

“That’s not the worst of it,” Jim said.

“Why? What’s worse?”

“It’s used dental floss.”

The reason I bring this up is I was afraid Jim wouldn’t be skiing in the Adirondacks this year. His 30-year-old wooden L.L. Bean skis were just about too worn to be used, and a binding had broken last year. Jim lives in Saratoga County, and we usually go out on three or four backcountry ski adventures in the Adirondacks each winter – Siamese Ponds, Pharaoh Lake, the High Peaks, Hoffman Notch, the Jackrabbit Trail.

I kept encouraging him to buy new gear, but he wouldn’t have it. Usually the only time he buys new equipment is when he’s forced to.

Like the time he brought what he thought was a 20-degree sleeping bag for a late-winter backpacking trip in the Smokey Mountains. The borrowed bag, which he had never tried out before the trip, turned out to be only a nylon cover. He shivered for two nights before finding a store.

Or the time he went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail with boots (a gift from a girlfriend) that he knew were a half-size too small. He suffered in those devices of torture for several days before reaching a supply store and surrendering his credit card.

But those skis have clearly seen their last snowplow. Even Jim admitted it. And he had a new idea.

“I can bring them back to L.L. Bean and exchange them,” he said.

It was true. L.L. Bean, like many outdoor stores, provided a lifetime warranty for all its products. Just bring it back at any time and say you’re not satisfied, and they’ll give you an even exchange or your money back.

“So what are you going to tell them?” I asked. “That after 30 years, you weren’t satisfied?”

“Well … yeah.”

“After skiing on them hundreds of times, applying pine tar and layers of wax with a blowtorch, bashing them against rocks, replacing the bindings several times, they weren’t good enough?

“Uh huh.”

It’s not that I was amazed at his audacity. I just couldn’t believe he’d want to get rid of something he’d spent so much time on. And I said as much.

“What am I supposed to do with them?” he asked. “Put them over my fireplace?”

“Something like that.”

“I’ll think about it.”

A few days ago I got a call from Jim. Turns out he had decided not to return the skis after all.

“Oh,” I said. “You decided to buy new ones? Or used ones?”

“No,” he said. “A guy I ride the bus with to work says he owns about 30 pairs. He said he’d give me one.”

So it looks like we’ll be skiing together in the Adirondacks after all. Assuming his boots hold up – they’re not in very good shape either.



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