Almanack Contributor John Sasso

John Sasso is an avid hiker and bushwhacker of the Adirondacks and self-taught Adirondack historian. Outside of his day-job, John manages a Facebook group "History and Legends of the Adirondacks." John has also helped build and maintain trails with the ADK and Adirondack Forty-Sixers, participated in the Trailhead Steward Program, and maintained the fire tower and trail to Mount Adams.


Monday, December 18, 2023

Lost and Never Found: The Case of Leighton Goodell

Loon Lake Mountain region

The Adirondacks have their share of people who have gone missing and never been found. The cases of Douglas Legg (1971), George Bombadier (1971), Steven Thomas (1976), Thomas Carleton (1993), George LaForest (2006), Jack Coloney (2006), Irene Horne (2007), and Thomas Messick Sr. (2015) are among the more well-publicized in the annals of Search and Rescue. Adam Federman’s article “Lost,” published in a 2010 edition of in Adirondack Life, provides a superb-yet-chilling summary of the those who went missing within the Park between 1951 and 2008. One unsolved missing-person case barely discussed is that of Leighton G. Goodell, who went missing in October 1924 – almost 100 years ago.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

What’s In A Name: Styles Brook of Keene

 

styles brook book cover

By John Sasso

Recently, author and Keene resident Lorraine Duvall released her latest book, Where the Styles Brook Waters Flow: The Place I Call Home. Her book is a collection of stories which were told to her by her neighbors about life along the Styles Brook Valley, along with her own personal recollections. The waters of Styles Brook flow westward for about seven miles from The Glen, a hamlet tucked between the Jay and Hurricane Mountains, into the East Branch of the Ausable River. The brook is fed by smaller brooks and ponds on these mountains, such as O’Connell Brook, Madden Brook, and Merriam Swamp.

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Thursday, February 23, 2023

HISTORICAL PROFILE:  Fish Hawk Cliffs of Lower Ausable Lake

aerial show of lower ausable lake

Overlooking the northern end of Lower Ausable Lake in Keene are two open ledges which are popular destinations for hikers:  Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs.  The lookouts, both of which are accessible via trail, offer spectacular views of the lake, the Colvin Range to the left, and Sawteeth Mountain and the Lower Great Range to the right.  The Fish Hawk Cliffs are reachable in 0.2 miles via the connector trail from Indian Head to the Mt. Colvin Trail but prepare for a steep into a col along the way.  What follows is some of the history behind Fish Hawk Cliffs which you may not be aware of.

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Friday, February 10, 2023

The Heart of the Adirondacks: The Totten & Crossfield Purchase

The boundary of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase, represented within the bounds of the Adirondack Park. Shown within the Purchase are the gores and numbered townships.

The Totten and Crossfield Purchase is a massive land tract named for Joseph Totten and Stephen Crossfield, two shipwrights from New York City who, acting as front-men for two prominent land speculators, acquired the 1.15 million acres from the Mohawk and Caughnawaga Indians in 1772.  This tract was sometimes referred to as Jessup’s Purchase.  While much has been written about the Purchase, I want to impress upon the reader, especially those who live or enjoy leisure time in the Adirondack Park, the great extent of this tract and provide a quick overview of its history.  If you would like to learn more about this very famous and important Adirondack land tract, see Volume 1 of A History of the Adirondacks by Alfred Donaldson, Rural Indigenousness by Melissa Otis, and Verplanck Colvin’s State Land Survey reports (which are available online through Google Books).

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Sunday, July 17, 2022

What’s in a Name: O.K. Slip Falls

OK slip falls

One of the most popular destinations for those who seek out waterfalls is O.K. Slip Falls in the Town of Indian Lake, Hamilton County.  From the parking area on State Route 28 between North Creek and Indian Lake, it is just over a 3-mile hike over a well-maintained, marked trail to get to a viewing area where one can gaze upon this natural wonder.  O.K. Slip Falls is considered one of the tallest waterfalls in New York State, having a 250-foot drop.  On several occasions I have seen or heard the following inquiry:  how did O.K. Slip Falls get its name?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Moriah’s Ensign Pond and the Great Flood of 1869

moriah map

Running between North Hudson and Moriah Center is a quiet, thirteen-mile section of County Route 4 known as Ensign Pond Road. Drive seven miles down this road from North Hudson and you will reach its namesake, Ensign Pond. This roughly ten-acre pond is a tranquil sheet of water which is guarded over by Harris Hill to the north, and feeds Mill Brook to the east. As you drive toward Port Henry on this county road, it will change names a few times, becoming Dugway Road, then Plank Road, and, finally, Broad Street. From Ensign Pond, County Route 4 follows Mill Brook as it flows towards its final destination: Lake Champlain at Port Henry.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2021

A New Clue to the Origin of Saranac Lake’s “Ampersand”

ampersand

One of the most popular hiking destinations in the Saranac Lake region is Ampersand Mountain.  Standing at 3,353 feet, Ampersand provides one of the most exceptional view of the Saranac Lake region – and beyond.  From the expanse of the bare, granite summit, your eyes will gaze about a 360° panorama, whose beauty you will wish you could seal in your mind indefinitely.  The waters of the Saranac Lakes, Raquette Pond and River, Long Lake, and Ampersand Lake.  A plethora of Adirondack peaks such as Mount Van Dorrien, the MacIntyre Range, the Sawtooth Mountains, the Seward Range, Stony Creek Mountain, the McKenzie Range, Whiteface Mountain, and the Sentinel Range.

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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Historical profile: The person behind Kempshall Mountain

In the southwestern spur of the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness lies Kempshall Mountain, a peak with a prominent history in fire observation.  Rising 3,350 feet on the northeast side of Long Lake, it is the town’s highest peak.  After the 35-foot steel tower on its summit was closed in 1971 and dismantled in June 1977, the trail to it from Long Lake was left largely unmaintained and nature was allowed to slowly consume what man had made.  Today, some old State trail markers can be seen along parts of the former trail.

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Thursday, January 7, 2021

HISTORICAL PROFILE: Bartonville Mountain of Brant Lake

Brant Lake in the Town of Horicon, Warren County, offers opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast to kill some time and enjoy a relaxing day. One can indulge in canoeing, kayaking, or fishing on the lake, or venture to Bartonville Mountain to go mountain biking, trail running, hiking, or, in the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trailhead for Bartonville Mountain is in back of a business called The Hub, located on 27 Market Street in Brant Lake, by Mill Pond. The Hub is a bike shop, restaurant, and bar, so after expending some energy outdoors, one can head to The Hub to enjoy a good lunch or refreshment.

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

HISTORICAL PROFILE: Coon Mountain of Westport

Continuing my hikes and bushwhacks to various peaks in the Adirondacks and exploring their history,  I paid a visit to Coon Mountain in the Town of Westport, Essex County. From the trailhead located off a dirt road called Halds Road, I made the short, 0.7-mile hike along the leaf-littered trail to the bare-rock lookout point. From the lookout, I found a nice view of Lake Champlain and North West Bay (below), and the Green Mountains of Vermont across the lake. I should note that the true summit of Coon Mountain is about 0.25-miles north-northwest of the lookout point and requires a bushwhack to get to.

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Thursday, November 12, 2020

HISTORICAL PROFILE: Balm of Gilead Mountain

A few years ago, I added a short history of Balm of Gilead Mountain, located in the Town of Johnsburg on the eastern side of Thirteenth Lake. While revisiting the peak with a couple of folks yesterday, I found more questions coming up that were not addressed in my short historical profile (which I had added to my larger profile of Peaked Mountain). I decided to make Balm of Gilead Mountain its own historical profile and elaborate more on its history, especially its name origin.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Taking Down a Bear with a Knife on Haystack Mountain

From my research on the history of Mount Matumbla:

The December 16, 1936 edition of the “Plattsburgh Daily Press” gave a riveting report of two local hunters who dispatched a 302-pound black bear with just a hunting knife during a hunt off Mount Matumbla.

Roland Rushford and Joe Weaver, both of Faust, recalled coming across the track of a black bear near their camp at Pitchfork Pond on December 8th. They followed the track for about four miles, upward towards the eastern end of the Mount Matumbla ridge. The newspaper called a point at the end of this ridge “Haystack Mountain.”

When the two men closed in on the bear on Haystack Mountain, the bear rolled onto its side, apparently weakened from exhaustion. Rushford recalls closing in on the snarling bear and ending its life with the thrust of his knife into its throat. Rushford told the paper that he intended to use the bear’s pelt as a rug. A photograph of the knife Rushford used to kill the bear is shown here.

As for Haystack Mountain, this news article was the only instance I found referring to the eastern end of the Mount Matumbla ridge by this name. Further inquiries on Facebook, which asked if Tupper Lake residents ever heard of a Haystack Mountain off Mount Matumbla, went unanswered.

Photo: Carrie Snye’s father stabbed a bear with this hunting knife in 1936. Photo courtesy of Carrie Snye.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Mount Matumbla: The highest point in St. Lawrence Co.

Perhaps the most striking feature of Mount Matumbla is its odd name which “tumbles” off one lips (some pun intended) when pronounced. At 2,688 feet, Mount Matumbla is the highest point in St. Lawrence County, and is about 5-1/2 miles north of Arab Mountain. The peak overlooks the Raquette River to the west, and the St. Lawrence/Franklin County boundary line crosses the Mount Matumbla ridge. There is no trail to the summit, which is on private land, so please respect private property!

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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Hiker Permits? Turns out we’ve been there before

Over the past few years, articles in the Adirondack Almanack, Adirondack Explorer, and other  media outlets, in addition to posts on blogs and social media, has made quite apparent the issues facing the High Peaks Wilderness related to hiking and backpacking.

Matters of hiker education, the ever-increasing number of search-and-rescues, an overly strained and understaffed force of  Forest Rangers, parking, and litter have been brought to the forefront of the public’s attention.

A  variety of solutions have been proposed by groups such as the Adirondack Mountain Club  (ADK), Adirondack Council, and the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG).  A hiker permit system is one of the proposed solutions. In contrast to other articles regarding  hiker permits, this one does not opine on the merits of such, but to make readers aware that they were once implemented in the Adirondacks – albeit at a very small scale.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Belfry Mountain – Beyond the Fire Tower

Belfry Mountain is a 1,864-foot peak located in the Town of Moriah in Essex County, just over 0.6 miles south of the Moriah-Elizabethtown town boundary and near the old iron mining communities of Mineville and Witherbee.
This runt of a peak is a popular destination for those working on the Fire Tower Challenge. It is often combined with other hikes in the region given the short, 0.4-mile hike along a gravel road from the trailhead off Dalton Hill Road, in which one ascends an “incredible” … 137 feet! Although there is not much for views from the summit rock itself, the cab of the 47-foot steel tower lets one view a beautiful panorama of the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Champlain Valley, and the High Peaks region.

Much of the history given here is apart from Belfry Mountain’s historical role in fire observation. I discuss the name origin of peak and the people connected with it. Thus, like the trail to the summit, this historical profile is short and sweet. For a well-written, detailed history of the use of Belfry Mountain for fire observation, see Martin Podskoch’s “Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts.”

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