What follows is a guest essay by Doug Fitzgerald of the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP). Fitzgerald, a licensed guide, retired in 2010 after 26 years at the Department of Conservation’s Division of Operations as a Conservation Supervisor. Fitzgerald is also Scoutmaster Emeritus for Boy Scouts of America Troop 12 in Paul Smiths.
Recreation plays a valuable role in our lives. Getting outdoors and having fun are not luxuries; they are a necessary part of life. The benefits of recreation include physical fitness, good health, self-worth, joy, friendship and an appreciation for the environment. Playing outdoors enhances our lives through increased enjoyment and learning.
For people with disabilities, these benefits are equally important. Positive recreational experiences can be life changing. My son John is a perfect example, here is his story. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).
Bald eagles are the largest bird species that nest in the Adirondacks but they are just one of 220 species of birds that reside in the Adirondacks or pass through during fall and spring migration. 53 species of mammals and 35 species of reptiles and amphibians also make the Adirondacks their home. Due to the vast size, unique habitats and geographic location of the Adirondacks many species of wildlife are found nowhere else in New York or are in much greater abundance here. Birds such as the Common Loon, Spruce Grouse, the Black-backed Woodpecker and the Palm Warbler; Mammals such as Moose, Otter, Black Bear and American Marten; and Reptile & Amphibians such as Timber Rattlesnake and Mink Frog. » Continue Reading.
Kids just want to have fun. They have fun when they feel safe and comfortable, when they’re well rested and well fed, and when they’re with family and friends in a stimulating environment. The key to getting kids involved with outdoor activities—and keeping them involved—is remembering and providing for these fun-damentals. The following tips for successful adventures are based on my own experiences as a father, Outing Club advisor, and former summer camp counselor and those of several of my friends who regularly spend time outdoors with their kids.
Fun-damental #1: Kid-Centered Activities
My friends Caren and Brian allow their three children to take turns choosing their activities. They also encourage their kids to help plan each outing, offering maps, guidebooks, etc. as assistance. My friend Bill warns that what we adults consider a “good day’s outing” may not be appropriate for small children. Instead of hiking the Great Range in a day, consider something less ambitious—OK, a lot less ambitious—like a hike to the top of Roaring Brook Falls or up Mt. Jo. Start easy, he suggests, and let them grow into it; “They’ll soon grow up and you’ll be trying to keep up with them!”
My friend Celia, who regularly hikes, skis, camps, and paddles with her two children, adds, “Be willing to turn around—remember that these days are not about you.” Kathy, also a mother of two kids, could not agree more: “Take your time, and if your children are tired, take a break or cut short your day. Remember, this is not a race to a destination; it is all about what happens on the way.” Allow ample time for exploring and enjoying a waterfall, glacial erratic, or, if paddling, a clear, shallow bay where underwater flora and fauna can be observed.
Fun-damental #2: Safety and First Aid
As a parent, you want to keep your children safe and free from harm, but also give them some freedom to experience, explore, and learn from their surroundings. Accordingly, pick locations that are accessible and secure. Choose a trail that will allow you to let the kids run ahead a bit without fear of a cliff or dangerous stream crossing. Choose campsites that don’t present obvious dangers nearby, so that you feel comfortable letting your kids explore. The more kids feel free to do what they want, the more fun they will have.
My friends Bill and Sue do a lot of camping with their three children. Bill says that successful outings require some negotiation, particularly with his nine-year-old son. “If you want him to learn how to build a fire,” Bill says, “then you have to let him use the small hatchet. Yes, I know this is dangerous, but if you say ‘no’ to everything, you may as well not take him.”
Minor cuts and bruises are inevitable, especially on the knees and palms of our “four-wheel drive” kids, so I always bring a small first aid kit. I agree with my friend Kathy on some essentials: moleskin for blisters, small and large adhesive band-aids (including some big enough for knees and palms!), anti-bacterial cream like Neosporin, and sunblock. It’s also nice to have some wipes and/or a clean bottle of water in reserve for wound cleaning.
Fun-damental #3: Comfort
The more comfortable your kids are while they recreate, the more fun they are going to have, and the more positive their memories. Footwear is a critical piece of gear when it comes to staying comfortable in the outdoors. For many outdoor activities, I think it comes down to two kinds of shoes:
• Each year, Claire and I outfit our sons with a decent pair of hiking boots. They need to fit well, come up over the ankle, and be of decent quality. They will be outgrown before they wear out, so investing in the top of the line is not necessary.
• I also like our kids to have some type of water shoe, like a reef-walker type of pull-on. Flip-flops and open-toed sandals need not apply! I look for something that will protect toes and the bottoms of our kids’ feet. Water shoes are great for paddling, swimming in rivers and lakes, and just wearing around a grassy or sandy campsite. In general, try to choose footwear that is easy to put on and take off, and that dries out fairly quickly. And always bring extra socks! Once the kids’ feet are wet, it isn’t long before they start complaining that their feet are cold and/or sore.
Pesky insects can ruin anyone’s day, and they may even cause rashes, swelling, or other allergic reactions in younger children. If you’re out during the buggy season, or buggy time of day, encourage your kids to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats. I try to use as little bug spray as possible. If it’s really necessary, I use repellents with low amounts of DEET (25% or less), and apply it sparingly to hats, necks, and other places where the kids can’t reach to fend off attackers. Bug nets fitted over wide-brimmed hats also work quite well, if your child will tolerate such headgear. If using accessories like child carriers, jog strollers, or bike trailers (I recommend combination stroller/bike trailer rigs), invest in models that have good bug netting. Don’t let a few bugs keep you and your kids inside!
Fun-damental #4: Plenty of Good Food
Caren and Brian say that a BIG part of their family’s outdoor adventures is the planning of the food. They plan food together, assigning fun names to their infamous dishes (like the “outhouse wrap”). They even have traditional “camp meals” that they incorporate into every trip, like a special breakfast oatmeal.
Gorp (a.k.a. trail mix) is popular with many kids. Kathy and Bill’s crew get to make up their own the night before a hike, ski, or paddle. It gets the kids excited about the next day, and ensures that certain ingredients aren’t left uneaten at the bottom of the bag. Some of their favorite contents include Cheerios, raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts, cashews, chocolate chips, and M & Ms (of course!). One of my tricks is to bring along a bag of Starbursts, or something similar. I “award” them at the completion of a certain section of trail, and/or at the top of the mountain. It’s a great motivator. I do a similar thing with my college students by offering “S.M.A.F.C.R.s” (smafkers): Sweet Morsels Awarded For Correct Responses!
Fun-damental #5: Stimulating Environment
The fifth and final tip is to give kids fun things to do and fun people to do them with. Try brewing up some hot chocolate along the ski trail, give the kids ‘walkie talkies’ to play with, bring binoculars, write/sing songs about your adventures, conduct scavenger hunts, or hold plant identification contests. Don’t just take your kids to the outdoors—engage them in it.
My kids seem to have an even better time on our adventures if they are with some of their friends, or even just with other kids. They tease, challenge, and teach each other…and they smile and laugh a lot. No friends available? Try a puppy! Caren says that their dog Lily “gets them out and she is a blast to hike with.”
Bottom line: the more time you spend outdoors, the more comfortable your kids will become, and the more fun they will have.
This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.
What follows is a guest essay by John Danis, a member of a new organization (YESeleven) which hopes to put an end the long-standing proposal to build the Northern Tier Expressway (aka I-98 or the Rooftop Highway), a 175-mile four lane divided highway that would link I-81 in Watertown and I-87 in Champlain. The Almanack asked Danis to provide readers with some insight as to why they oppose the highway.
Several months ago, a group of concerned citizens began discussions aimed at forming YESeleven, an organization intended to educate the public in Northern New York about the misguided attempts by bureaucrats and politicians in the region to construct a 172 mile, limited access, high-speed interstate highway, from Watertown to Plattsburgh. For the past 3 years, proponents of this so-called, “Rooftop Highway”, have been quietly and methodically lining up political support across the region to try and force the hand of the state and federal governments to finance the estimated 4-billion, (their number!), or more dollar cost of constructing what we felt was a massively transformational, destructive and financially overreaching plan for the entire region.
The Rooftop Highway, or what proponents refer to as I-98, is an idea with a history going back fifty years or more, to the era of the construction of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Periodically over these fifty or more years the notion of connecting the Maine seacoast with the Great Lakes Basin has ebbed and surged. The “Rooftop” highway concept was to be part of this, “Can-Am” highway, particularly the part that would connect I-81 and I-87, across the northern tier of New York State. Adjacent highway development on both sides of the US-Canadian border, have dampened enthusiasm for this grand concept in many regions, with the notable exception of Northern New York.
In 2008, the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), published a study, which had been three years in the making, called the “Northern Tier Expressway Corridor Study”. This study was an exhaustive and comprehensive view of the US Route 11 transportation corridor, the established and dominant corridor of economic activity across the region, (this study is available at our YESeleven website, yeseleven.org). The study looked at all aspects of life across the region and concluded that the vital Route 11 transportation corridor, with it’s myriad counties, towns, villages, businesses, farms and universities, as well as it’s environmental treasures, was best served by a plan that contemplated evolutionary and targeted upgrades and improvements to the existing corridor over twenty years. Moreover, it would be done at a tenth or less of the cost of what a new and competing economic development corridor could be built for. Further, the improvements would be made in the existing corridor, rather than destroying thousand of square miles of land, dividing the entire region, displacing hundreds of landowners, etc.
The DOT study was rejected out of hand by Rooftop Highway proponents and their political allies. Their rejection of the plan seemed to be based on the belief that the Route 11 upgrades were not good enough, that the region was owed and deserving of a full interstate highway, with four interstate connector spurs criss-crossing the St. Lawrence Valley.
YESeleven’s view is that their position is essentially creating, at phenomenal cost, what amounts to a 172 mile bypass of every economic center in the region. The development of an adjacent economic corridor can only serve to create winners and losers as interstate highways have done in so many other regions. The best argument that the Rooftoppers have put forth is that if we build it, surely, they will come. All other claims about job creation have been poorly documented, if at all.
One of our positions is that every time that this discussion has come up over the past fifty-plus years, it has sapped energy, focus and financial resources away from more immediate and essential maintenance and improvement needs to our existing highway infrastructure and economic activity.
In short, the Rooftop highway plan is an overreaching, pie-in-the-sky distraction and we need to set it aside, once and for all, and move on.
You can visit the YESeleven website to learn more about our positions on highway infrastructure needs and solutions in the Northern New York Region.
What follows is a guest essay by Mike Petroni, a member of the Croghan Dam Restoration Initiative. Concern over the stability of the 93-year-old dam (on the Beaver River in Lewis County) has led DEC to lower the water level of the impoundment by removing stop logs to reduce water pressure on the dam structure. The DEC is planning to remove the remaining logs from the two-section dam in the coming week and eventually breach the concrete structure. The Almanack asked Mike Petroni to provide some background on why local leaders, historic preservationists, and renewable energy advocates hope to keep DEC from breaching the dam. Straddling the western edge of the Blue Line, Croghan, New York, known for its exceptional bologna, is home to one of New York’s last remaining water powered saw-mills. Over the past few years, the Croghan Island Mill has been the center of a dramatic debate. The question: how will New York manage its aging small dam infrastructure? » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Ken Strike, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University and member of the board of Protect the Adirondacks. Ken and Lorraine Duvall produced a demographic study of the Adirondacks following 2009’s Adirondack Park Regional Assessment (APRAP) report. The Almanack asked Ken, who lives in Thendara on the Moose River, to provide his perspective on the 2010 Census.
What does the 2010 census tell us about ourselves? The Adirondack population is basically flat with growth in some places and losses in others, and our population is aging. For some it has been easy to conclude that these demographics are the result of a poor economy and that this poor economy results from public ownership of land and the Park’s regulatory environment. However, a more careful reading of the 2010 census data tea leaves does not support these views. Rather, they suggest that we are much like other rural areas – in fact we’re better off than many. Our population dynamics also track the dynamics of the U.S. and NYS white population. No great surprise that. And they suggest that the Park is an asset, not a liability. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay from Minerva carpenter Duane Ricketson, an original appointee to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee in 1990 and one of the longest serving state appointees. He’s an Adirondack native whose family arrived in the region in the 1790s and who enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking and camping. Ricketson supported and worked with local leaders on the Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee to get local governments and Adirondackers enfranchised in the process of open space protection, especially the local government veto, which he now sees as being usurped by the Local Government Review Board.
On the surface, the recent drive by Adirondack politicians and local media to stop the State from purchasing the former Finch-Pruyn lands from the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy is simply a continuation of the storied battle between Adirondackers and the State of New York over buying land in the Adirondack Park. This time it opens a brand new chapter, however, because the actions of local governments are now being called into question by The Local Government Review Board. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Almanack is pleased to offer this guest post by Fred Balzac of Jay, NY:
Until about midway through the play, William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, has all the trappings of a comedy: two feuding families; two young lovers who meet and marry in secret; their hot-blooded, sword-wielding cousins and buffoonish elders whose rivalry is sure to be o’erthrown by the fecund love between two representatives of the next generation of fair Verona.
But then wily old Will throws a curve into the proceedings: during a swordfight between the best duelists among the Montagues and Capulets, the lovestruck Romeo intervenes, enabling Tybalt to fatally wound Romeo’s sharp-tongued cousin, Mercutio, who musters enough breath to utter the curse, “A plague on both your houses,” before succumbing. Dazed and confused, Romeo picks up his cousin’s sword and, before he realizes what he is doing, manages to run it through his new in-law Tybalt, killing him. » Continue Reading.
Many Adirondack hikers go on to explore the many slides of the High Peaks after hiking trails for many years. Slides create a direct approach to the top, combining bushwhacking, easy rock climbing and a sense of adventure.
Then there’s Kevin “MudRat” MacKenzie of Lake Placid, who has taken slide-climbing to a new extreme.
Call it slide-bagging. And recently he got four of them in one day.
About a week ago MacKenzie, 40, an assistant registrar at St. Lawrence University, climbed Giant Mountain — the popular High Peak off Route 73 in Keene Valley. He climbed it, descended it, climbed it and descended it, by himself, going up and down four adjacent slides on the prominent west face. “I was going to do everything on the west face,” he reported later. “So I put together four of them.”
Every slide was different, he said. Every slide had its own character.
Starting his hike around 7 a.m., he hiked the Roaring Brook Trail to a bushwhack that follows drainages to the base of the Bottle Slide, one of a number of bare areas created from landslides years ago.
He describes the slide as one of his favorites, with waves of anorthosite, plenty of cracks and ledges to climb and a pitch of around 39 degrees (he figures this out at home using topographic software.
From there, he descended the Diagonal Slide, which is steeper and covered with algae, making for a nerve-racking descent. “You can’t see what you’re stepping onto,” he said.
At the bottom of the mountain’s headwall, he traversed to the Question Mark Slide, an obscure route that’s steep, overgrown and covered with wet moss. That took two hours, including a lot of bushwhacking through the trees to avoid the perilous, 45-degree wet bits.
Finally reaching the summit at 1 p.m., he was exhausted and decided to pass on hiking Giant’s most well-known slide, the majestic Eagle Slide (the wide and obvious bare section visible from Keene Valley). Instead, he walked down the 600-foot-high Tulip Slide and decided to call it a day.
MacKenzie says he’s done about 30 slides so far, and hopes to one day climb all 100 major slides in the peaks. His next area: Dix, with its dozens of slides, which he plans to attack in a weekend camping trip in the near future.
Readers: What are your favorite slide routes and why?
Well, I don’t know if we can call it “love”. Maybe a more scientific term is called for. How about “potential mate selection”? No, it just doesn’t quite have that Valentine’s Day ring to it. However we say it though, mate selection has begun in the wild woodlands of the Adirondacks.
I stopped to watch the acrobatic high-jinks of some black-capped chickadees. Off in the distance came a loud, monotone drumming on a tree down the hill. As I heard it I knew that spring was not too far away. What I heard was the drumming “call notes” of a male hairy woodpecker calling for a mate. He will rapidly drum with his bill on a branch, preferably hollow since he wants that sound to carry a great distance through the winter woods. By the way, he’ll also drum on your metal gutters, down spout, or nearby telephone pole! Hard to imagine a bird going through such self abuse while winter still holds firm in the North Country.
But as they say, the early bird catches the worm; in this case he attracts a female, courts her, and then sometime around March or early April they begin nesting, and about 30 days later they’ll have a growing family in that hollowed-out nest hole.
I’ll bet you have observed this courting of hairy and downy woodpeckers on your walks though the late winter woods. You’ll first hear the loud “chink” call notes of the male and then you’ll see the two birds chase one another around the trunk of the tree. Often she’ll fly away, but hot on her tail is the male. He’s not letting this one go. So chances are if you see two woodpeckers playing a game of tag this month or next, it’s a courting pair.
Are other birds gearing up for the mating season now? You bet your sweet-smelling-red-roses they are! Peregrine falcons will soon be returning to the Adirondacks from their wintering grounds along the coastal US, Mexico, or Central America, in search of a good cliff-dwelling-casa. We often get falcons back on North Country nesting territories in late February or early March.
Hear any owls hooting in the woods? That’s most likely a male defending his chosen territory and also trying to attract a female. Being year-round residents, barred, great horned, and saw-whet owls will begin nesting in early March. I recall seeing a great horned owl on a nest with almost a foot of snow balanced along the rim of the nest on St Patrick’s Day. And in mid April I’ve observed large great horned owl chicks sitting on a nest.
Bald Eagles will soon be courting, and what a treat that is to watch. Look for two adult bald eagles flying high above in unison, like two joined figure skaters in the air. If you’re really lucky you’ll get to see them performing a talon-locking maneuver that defies death. They will begin cleaning out the nest and re-attaching branches to spruce the place up. It’s not unusual for a pair to be sitting on eggs in a raging, late winter snowstorm.
Just like the eagles, falcons, and owls, a male red-tailed hawk will begin his pre- spring courting in the skies above our neighborhoods. Listen for the high-pitched screech he gives in flight as he searches for a mate.
In February and March there’s a whole text book list of things that are going on in the bird world, and I’ll soon be writing about them. Hormones are coursing through bodies; ovaries are growing; testes are enlarging (oops, sorry, thought this was the adult version-too graphic?). Anyways, all this is happening in our winter visiting birds and also in the birds that will soon be winging their way northward from tropical climates to find love in our Adirondack woods.
Photo: Male hairy woodpecker by Louis Agassiz Fuertes.
Lake George resident and regular Almanack reader Enid Mastrianni has offered for Black History Month this enlightening piece on a trip by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Jefferson’s enslaved servant James Hemings, to Lake George and their reactions to Prince Taylor, a free black man living just south of Ticonderoga:
Many a booster of the Adirondacks has cited the famous Thomas Jefferson quote, “Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin… finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal, and the mountain sides covered with rich groves… down to the water-edge: here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony.” » Continue Reading.
Singer John Denver wrote in Rocky Mountain High, “I know he’d be a poor man if he never saw an eagle fly.” These notes ring true for those of us fortunate enough to see a bald eagle effortlessly soaring over some Adirondack mountaintop or sparkling lake. Bald eagles have made quite a recovery over the past several decades in the Adirondacks, but now I’d like to divert your attention to the the bald eagle’s cousin, the golden eagle. The golden eagle has long been a source of inspiration, power, and mystery to humans and it shows up as the national symbol of many countries. The golden once flew in great numbers across North America but at this point in time it seems to be holding on to a limited western population and a scattered eastern population. The western population is found throughout the mountainous states from Mexico to Canada and into Alaska. East of the Mississippi it can be found in small pockets of the western Appalachian Mountains during winter, with a majority of the eastern eagles spending their summer breeding season in the regions of northeastern Canada and Maritime Islands.
To this day we still wonder if there was ever a healthy breeding population in the Adirondacks. Teddy Roosevelt stated, in an overview of his 1870’s trips to the Adirondacks: “The golden eagle probably occurs here.” It is believed that the last known nesting golden eagles in this area (around 1971) was found in the Moose River Plains area—a wonderful bird and wildlife watching area anytime of the year. There were also scattered reports of a nest around the Tupper Lake region. As previously mentioned, mystery often surrounds this bird of prey.
Well, slowly and methodically science is trying to pull back this veil of mystery. As this proceeds we get a better picture of the eastern population and, lo-and-behold, the Adirondacks often becomes an integral part of this eagle’s migratory pathways!
As late September blends into autumnal October the golden eagles of Northern Canada’s eastern provinces begin a determined southerly migration into the western Appalachian Mountains. These raptors will often complete a day’s journey of 100 miles or more with good tailwinds. As the estimated 200-300 eastern golden eagles come southward they are naturally funneled over the northeastern states and, as luck would have it, many goldens migrate directly over the Adirondacks.
Technology has played a major role in this investigation. Over the years, many golden eagles have been caught, and radio transmitters have been placed on the backs of these eagles. As the signal is given off by the moving transmitters they show up (via satellite) on “listening” computers and the eagle’s flight path is followed. Based on several mapping sites I found (here’s one), there is a distinct pattern of golden eagles flying over Franklin, Clinton, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence Counties during both fall and spring migration.
OK, now that we know they’re out there . . . what do we look for? As fall marches through October into November I would start looking at the sky when the winds are from the north or northwest. Get out into some open field or on a mountaintop that offers a wide, open view. Personally I like Coon Mountain, near Westport, or I’ll climb the accessible fire tower on Belfry Mt outside Mineville. Both offer some nice views of the Champlain Valley. Another good option is Azure Mt, off Blue Mt Road, northwest of Paul Smiths.
While up there I’ll look with my binoculars for migrating raptors and specifically I’ll focus on the many turkey vultures that are lazily soaring on the heated thermals coming off the valley below. Golden eagles can resemble turkey vultures in flight with a slight “V” shape to their up-turned wings. Most bald eagles and other bird of prey will fly with their wings straight (horizontal) out from their bodies. As you focus on these dark-colored birds, look closely at the wings and try to determine if there are white patches on the undersides of the outstretched wings and a black band on tip of the tail. If so then you may be looking at an immature golden eagle! As our only birdwatching president, Teddy Roosevelt, once said, “Bully for you!”
We birders (those who watch birds) eagerly await an e-mail that comes about this time every early fall. It’s a message that’s filled with information that can be good news or bad news. The good news can fill a birdwatcher’s heart with anticipation of a wonderful winter with colorful sightings. The bad news can mean a not-so-good winter with few of these colorful sightings. However, the bad news for us in the Adirondacks turns out to be good news for others.
Tonight in North Creek at barVino, Diz is playing at 8 pm! Diz is a multi instrumentalist singer. On his website there is a nice example of his voice. He sings poignant love songs and tells a great joke – it should be a fun show.
Also tonight there is a regular Wednesday jam at The Shamrock in Gabriels. Located at the end of Split Rock Road coming from Saranac Lake and on the left on the road that runs between Gabriels and Bloomingdale coming from Paul Smiths. It’s a fantastic place, excellent food and all round great scene. There is a core group and always folks who stop in at different times during the night. It seems to get going around 8 pm but can start on either side of that – sometimes it runs as late as midnight and sometimes it’s over by 10 pm. » Continue Reading.
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