Almanack Contributor Guest Contributor

Guest Essayist

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with a biding interest in the Adirondack Park.

Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor John Warren at adkalmanack@gmail.com.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

A Tale of Two Sugar Making Seasons

sugaring The 2019 maple sugaring season has, for most, just ended in the Northeast. And so sugarmakers are tallying up their sap and syrup volumes to see how they made out. My sense, as a sugarmaker myself, is that most did well.

In tallying our own numbers, it was interesting to look at this year compared to last, as things unfolded in very different ways. In 2018 we collected our first sap on February 19, and our last on April 4. Within that 45-day window, we collected sap on 25 days. This year we collected our first sap on March 12 and our last on April 7. In that 28-day window, we collected on 26 days. In other words, we collected roughly the same number of days, it’s just that last season was drawn out, and this one was compressed. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Spencer Phillips: The Humbling Power of Wilderness

protecting the wildLet’s stipulate that religious epiphany requires an understanding of one’s relationship to the divine … to the creator … to God. I would further submit that this understanding is fundamentally a matter of humility. Humility is the recognition that we are not masters of the universe — not even of our own little corners of it — and that we need something more than ourselves if we are to make sense of our lives. What Kennedy’s observation suggests is that this understanding — this humility — is best attained in wilderness.

I am not going to argue that other human experiences cannot have this effect. Try giving birth, for example. Or, if you are not properly equipped, watch your wife do it. Listen to a symphony. Or head to a museum or gallery and see what Georgia O’Keeffe or Ansel Adams saw when they looked at the wild. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Northeastern Wolves: Then and Now

On a moonlit night two hundred years ago, a dog-shaped shadow slipped through the Vermont woods. The large, shaggy canid emerged onto a hilltop pasture, raised its muzzle, and howled – a deep, throaty howl that reverberated through the hills. A chorus of wolves responded.

Wolves were common in the Northeast and most of the U.S. when European settlers arrived. And it didn’t take long for the settlers, who were steeped in folklore that portrayed wolves as evil, to wage war. Towns enacted bounties, to which livestock owners were legally bound to contribute, for every dead wolf brought in. In 1657, New Haven, Connecticut, offered five pounds to anyone who could kill “one great black woolfe of a more than ordinaire bigness which is like to be more feirce and bould than the rest, and so occasions more hurt.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Animal Population Estimates: What’s in a Number?

moose by adelaide tyrolForty years ago, amid the surge of legislation that accompanied the rise of the modern environmental movement, New Hampshire passed its first Endangered Species Conservation Act.

The goal was to protect wildlife facing extinction in the Granite State. There was just one problem: they had no list of exactly which species were threatened or endangered. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 18, 2019

The Mink: An Outside Story

otter by adelaide tyrolIt was a cold, snowy Sunday morning in the middle of January. I planned to heed the warnings encouraging motorists to stay off the road and turned the radio on to catch the end of an interview with poet Mary Oliver, recorded in 2015.

The poet had died earlier that week, at the age of 83. “Listening to the World” was the title of the conversation, ironic on a snowy morning when the earth seemed so quiet. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Eyeshine: Those Glowing Eyes Looking Back At You

eye shine I’ve taken to wandering the night lately – one of the pleasures of having a puppy. Willow, my pup, and I walk at all hours, from twilight to midnight and into the shadowy early morning. Some nights we walk under the cover of stars and moonlight, and other nights the world is so dark my black dog disappears and I wonder what exactly is on the end of my leash.

Void of visual stimulus, any earthbound glimmer of light is noteworthy. One night I saw the glow of two small eyes, like gold coins caught in the arc of my headlamp. I watched the weasel – a long small body, and bold shimmering eyes – disappear down the crevice of a stonewall. Since then I’ve become obsessed with eyeshine. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Take An Online Survey About The High Peaks Wilderness

Outdoor recreation in the Adirondack Park has grown significantly in recent years, rising from an estimate of 10 million visitors in 2001 to over 12.4 million in 2018. The popularity of the park has not been inconsequential.

The High Peaks Wilderness has been ground zero for major impacts, with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) listing overcrowded trailheads, trail deterioration, undesired trails, campsite and lean-to deterioration, water pollution, and impacts to wildlife as some of the negative consequences of high public use.

Some trails and mountain peaks are seeing large crowds on weekends. It’s not unusual for Cascade Mountain to see 1,000 hikers on a weekend. Many High Peaks are seeing 30,000 to 40,000 hikers on their trails each year. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Debatable: Should Renewable Energy Be An APA Priority? Yes

APA Building in Ray Brook NY“It’s Debatable” appears in each issue of the Adirondack Explorer. This essay by Adirondack North Country Association’s Sean Connin is a companion piece to “Debatable: Should Renewable Energy Be An APA Priority? No” by John Droz Jr., physicist and environmental advocate at Brantingham Lakes.

Locally sourced renewable energy — whether from wood, water, wind, sun, geothermal, or plant and animal waste — is important to the park’s future. It provides a multiplier for local economies, builds on traditions of self-reliance, and can provide environmental and social benefits. The trick is to design these renewable projects and practices to fit the local landscape and to provide value to communities. Such convergence can emerge through bottom-up strategies that optimize wealth retention at the local level and that benefit from equitable frameworks for land-use and energy policy at regional and state levels. The Adirondack Park Agency must lend its capacity to these outcomes and secure a best fit for resource use, protection, and quality of life within the park. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Debatable: Should Renewable Energy Be An APA Priority? No

APA Building in Ray Brook NY“It’s Debatable” appears in each issue of the Adirondack Explorer. This essay by John Droz Jr., physicist and environmental advocate at Brantingham Lakes, is a companion piece to “Debatable: Should Renewable Energy Be An APA Priority? Yes” by Adirondack North Country Association’s Sean Connin.

It’s very appropriate that the Adirondack Park Agency periodically review regional issues to decide what items should be added, deleted or re-prioritized, to best meet its mission.

Recently, the APA released a proposed renewable energy policy. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Sociable Gray Squirrel

squirrels On winter mornings when I look out my window, I often see a gray squirrel clinging upside down to the post supporting my bird feeder, with his front paws in the tray, munching sunflower seeds. Sometimes, a much smaller red squirrel is perched on the opposite side of the feeder.

This brings to mind my studies of squirrels years ago and the differences between the two species. For my thesis in biology at Williams College, I conducted a field study of social behavior and organization in the eastern gray squirrel in a suburban area in Williamstown, Massachusetts. My first step was to live-trap and mark squirrels so I could identify individuals. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Beneath The Ice: The Quiet Parlor of the Fishes

ice skating When I’m skiing or skating across a pond, I observe the shoreline, surrounding hills, islands, maybe a woodpecker or blue jay winging its way to the opposite shore. I look up at the sky, the clouds, swirling snowflakes. But there is a world beneath my feet that I don’t see, in what Henry David Thoreau called “the quiet parlor of the fishes.”

Beneath a layer of ice up to three feet thick, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and tiny invertebrates are going about their winter business. For most of these creatures, this means slowing their metabolism down to survive with reduced light and oxygen. They move less, eat less, and breathe more slowly than in warmer months. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Some Science Behind Lake Champlain’s Ice

ice fishing Come mid-January, when I’m acclimatized to winter, I enjoy an occasional stroll on the icy surface of Lake Champlain. I favor bays sheltered from the brunt of winter winds where the ice has had ample time to thicken. I pull microspikes on over my boots and off I go.

There’s room to roam between Burlington and the breakwater that parallels the shoreline. The lake ice locks spectacular natural art in place. Bubbles trapped under December ice are entombed as January’s ice forms below. Crystalline patterns resembling minute stars form during the various freezing and thawing cycles that occur as lake ice interacts with fallen snow. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Opinion: Adirondack Park Doesn’t Need More Wilderness

high peaks by carl heilman ii“It’s Debatable” appears in each issue of the Adirondack Explorer. This essay by Matthew J. Simpson of the Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages is a companion piece to “Opinion: Adirondack Park Needs More Wilderness” by Adirondack Wilderness Advocates’ Bill Ingersoll.

The Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages was invited to provide the “No” response in this debate, but in truth, this is not a yes-or-no question. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Remembering Elk in the Adirondacks

elkHundreds of years ago, haunting bugle-like calls echoed through these hills and valleys. The sounds were made by bull elk to attract mates and fend off rivals.

Elk in the Northeast?  Yes, elk were once the most widely distributed of North American hoofed mammals. Millions roamed over much of the U.S. and Canada. Adaptable to a variety of habitats, elk were found in the Adirondacks, and in most ecosystems except the tundra, deserts, and the Gulf Coast. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Sparkle Snow: An Outside Story

snowflakes The other day I was driving through New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch, where my eyes are usually drawn to the tall mountains and long, cascading waterfalls on either side of the road. But on this day my gaze shifted toward the snowbanks lining the narrow highway. The sun was shining and the landscape glittered. The sparkle of sunlight on cold white reminded me of childhood trips, when I would look out the backseat window at passing fields and imagine all those tiny glimmers were winter fairies, twirling and skipping through the snow.

Snow sparkle isn’t (as far as science has revealed) attributable to fairies, but to light bouncing off the snow at multiple angles. “When you have a really cold snowfall, you tend to get a bunch of little individual plates,” explained Adam Gill, a weather observer and meteorologist with the Mount Washington Observatory. “It’s like billions of these little tiny reflectors all over the ground. If there’s a bright light source, if you’re at the correct angle, that light source will reflect back at you.” As we move across the landscape, our angle changes, and light flashes from different directions. » Continue Reading.