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.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Marshland Life of the American Bittern

Bittern Often, when I spot an interesting bird, I don’t have my binoculars handy. I’m holding a paddle or a pair of bicycle handlebars, which aren’t very helpful when it comes to birdwatching.

That was the case during an early-morning bike ride last summer, when I noticed a brownish bird about the size of a chicken standing at the edge of a farm pond. I would have liked a better look, but it was clearly an American bittern, scanning for prey against a backdrop of reeds and cattails. It was a rare sighting for me, one I was lucky to have. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Peregrine Falcon Recovery Continues

Peregrine FalconThere is a broad, craggy precipice in Franconia Notch, NH, not far from my home, called Eagle Cliff. It was named in the 1800s for the golden eagles that nested there, back when the region was full of open farmland that was conducive to the giant raptors’ lifestyle. While the fields have grown up and the eagles are long gone, the cliff has been home to nesting peregrine falcons each year since 1981.

Once completely absent from the eastern United States, peregrine falcons have been making a steady comeback since the 1980s. Those falcons that nested on Eagle Cliff in 1981 marked the first successful re-occupancy of a historic cliff breeding site. Since then, recolonization has been steady, if slow. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Prepare Your Child for Overnight Camp

First time campers enjoy Cloverbud campWith summer right around the corner, many parents are wondering how to best prepare their child for a summer camp experience.

With over 70 years of positive youth development at 4-H Camp Overlook, we have learned some tried and true tips that will increase success at overnight camp and help eliminate or reduce homesickness for first time campers. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Fish Scales and American Shad

american shad It’s tempting to simply view fish scales as armor, but there’s more to them than that. They provide camouflage; they also play a role in locomotion. For scientists working on the recovery of American Shad in the Connecticut River, scales provide a record of a fish’s life history and a way to measure the success of restoration efforts.

American shad is our largest river herring. The males, called bucks, run up to six pounds. The females, or row shad, up to four. Like their cousins alewife and blue-backed herring, shad are anadromous, spending most of the year in the ocean, then running up fresh water rivers like the Connecticut in spring to spawn. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 6, 2019

Viewpoint: Give the Grasse River Its Due

Grasse River The Grass River — or Grasse, as most now spell it — is one of the most beautiful rivers in the northwestern Adirondacks, though few know it well. That may change now that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has issued management plans for the 288-square-mile Grass River Management Unit. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Tick-Borne Diseases Are On The Rise

tick life cycleEighteen years ago, when I moved back to New Hampshire, I rarely came across ticks. The dog didn’t carry them unwittingly into the house, and I could spend the day in the garden or on wooded trails and not see a single, hard-shelled, eight-legged, blood-sucking creepy-crawly.

Not so anymore. Now, from the time of snowmelt in the spring to the first crisp snowfall of autumn – and often beyond – we find ticks everywhere: on the dog, crawling up the front door, along kids’ hairlines, on backs or arms or legs, and occasionally (and alarmingly) walking along a couch cushion or bed pillow. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Viewpoint: Let’s Geotag Responsibly

geotagged instagram postThe story of our use of wild places is becoming as complex as navigating Cascade Pass on a nice weekend, with cars parked on the shoulder, cyclists zipping down the hill, hikers playing “Frogger” with oncoming traffic, and motorists distracted by the jaw-dropping beauty of the roadside lakes. A wild experience, for sure, but maybe not the flavor of wildness we look for in the Adirondacks. Once parked, we might find crowded trailheads and toilet paper flowers blooming in the forest. This hardly seems like the experience promised in advertisements. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Visiting A Floodplain Forest

floodplain Visiting a forest along one of our major rivers, such as the Connecticut River, in late spring, is like entering a special world. Big silver maples tower overhead, with arching branches and roots reaching deep underground. Cottonwoods up to five feet in diameter and vase-shaped American elms are scattered about. Scars on the upstream side of some tree trunks bear testament to the chunks of ice that crash through when the river floods every spring. Silt stains on the trunks and dead leaves, trash, and other debris caught in crotches of trees show the height of the floodwaters. Many trees cannot withstand flooding, but the species in this forest are flood-tolerant and thrive in the nutrient-rich sediments brought by floods. » Continue Reading.


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.