Almanack Contributor John Warren

John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.


Sunday, February 5, 2006

Super Bowl Sunday

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! er that is unless you happen to live in Detroit.

Nearly 2 million people lived in Detroit in the 1950s; today it has fewer than 900,000. According to the Census Bureau, more than a third of those people lived at or below the federal poverty line in 2004, the largest percentage of any U.S. city with a population of 250,000 or more.

Detroit’s 2005 unemployment rate was 14.1 percent, more than 2 1/2 times the national level.

The city has announced deep cuts in services over the past year to cope with an enormous deficit. Hundreds of municipal employees have been laid off, bus service has been scaled back, nine recreation centers have been shuttered, and bulk trash pickup has been canceled.

374 homicides last year! This year – one Super Bowl!

UPDATE 2/5/06: Fans Call for a National Holiday – NY Gov and Condeleeza Rice Take In the Big Game


Friday, February 3, 2006

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Kicks Off Today

Since 1897 the people of Saranac Lake have been throwing a midwinter party – the 109th Saranac Winter Carnival begins today. According to their website:

The Winter Carnival’s origins can be found in Saranac Lake’s history as a world-famous health resort. In 1897, the first year of the event, the village was already a thriving community nestled deep in the Adirondack wilderness, its pristine setting providing rejuvenation for hundreds of tuberculosis sufferers drawn from all over North America. In the course of “taking the cure” here, many patients experienced a renewed passion for life, and took every opportunity – in every season – to explore the natural beauty that surrounded them.

The long, cold Adirondack winters offered an array of snow-covered mountains and ice-covered lakes, begging to be enjoyed on skis, sleds and skates. Thus, to break winter’s chill and to promote “outdoor sports and games”, the Pontiac Club was formed in 1896, and a year later, they sponsored the first “Mid-Winter Carnival”.

The first Winter Carnival was a two-day affair that sponsored skating races, a parade and an “ice tower” – features that have been, in one form or another, part of every Carnival since.

This coming week (Feb. 3-12, 2006) will feature the “The Roaring 20’s” theme (that’s the decade, not the band) and will include two parades and two displays of fireworks along with:

Sports: Innertube, skating, and nordic and alpine ski races at Dewey Mountain and Mount Pisgah, skating races, snow volleyball, broomball, hockey, and snowshoe softball

Culture: Dramatic presentations by the Pendragon Theatre, a murder-mystery dinner theater, “an old-time amateur revue in the historic Harrietstown Town Hall, a Main Street Festival, a bevy of dinners, dances, receptions and concerts, and a slide show presentation.”

There will also be a display of traditional logging in the Adirondacks at the Saranac Lake Civic Center, but the centerpiece is the Ice Palace built using many of the old ice harvesting techniques:

The palace was an outgrowth of the village’s ice industry, which, in the days before electric refrigerators, harvested ice from local lakes for use in ice boxes across the country and around the world. Despite some refinements in machinery, the Palace is still constructed in much the same manner as it was in 1898, the first year it was built.

Legend has it though that the Palace was created to house the Winter Carnival Mascot Sara the Snowy Owl.

About six weeks before the Carnival, an ice field is marked off on Pontiac Bay on Lake Flower; once a suitable ice thickness has been achieved, cutting with long ice saws begins. The blocks taken from the lake are two feet wide and four feet long, are anywhere from one-and-a-half to three feet thick, and weigh between four and eight hundred pounds!

These are moved onshore via a conveyor belt, and are maneuvered into place with “peaveys” – metal-tipped poles with hinged metal hooks – and ice tongs. The blocks are secured to one another with a “mortar” made of slush. While designs may vary from year to year, each palace has, on average, over 1500 blocks in it, and ranges from 70 to 90 feet in length and 40 to 60 feet in height. Within each design is an array of colored lights, that each night transforms the Palace into a vivid sculpture of ice and light!

Here are some links:

Early Ice Palace Postcard

Winter Carnival Profile from North Country Public Radio

Photo Gallery from the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce

Photo Gallery from WNBZ Saranac Lake (2003)

Ice Palace, a children’s book by Deborah Blumenthal

Flickr Ice Palace Search (Includes Others Beyond Saranac Lake)

UPDATE 2/8/06: Adirondack Musing is posting some photos of the construction of this year’s Ice Palace.


Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Tupper Lake’s Adirondack Dark Skies

Associated Press reporter Michael Virtanen is now offering a nice piece on the Adirondack Public Observatory:

The not-for-profit Adirondack Public Observatory in its first year has raised about $40,000 toward a $500,000 goal, according to board members. They have chosen a site in Tupper Lake, about 110 miles north of Albany. The parcel, at 1,600 feet in elevation, overlooks the town beach and campground at Little Wolf Pond.

“We are in what’s called a dark puddle here,” Staves said, noting the contrast in nighttime satellite images of the Earth. “We can actually see the Milky Way, which is something you can’t actually see most places now.”

The observatory had been offered a spot near the new Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks being built on the other side of the village. The reason it wasn’t? “there was too much light pollution from nearby Sunmount hospital, said Jan Wojcik, observatory board member.”

Great planning folks… the lights from a hospital reduce the overall impact of having both facilities within walking distance. Imagine the draw for something like that – now imagine how many visitors to the new museum will leave the museum, climb into their car, and drive to the observatory – we’ll guess not too many.

Apparently some planners in Tupper Lake neeeds a lesson on light pollution.

MSNBC has a nice image (on a screwy web page) of light pollution in New York.

By the way, the Natural History Museum construction is well under way.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Transgender Discrimination in Glens Falls

The Glens Falls Post Star is reporting today that they “received three letters to the editor alleging transgender discrimination on South Street.” Though they are at pains to diminish the seriousness of denying people basic human rights, here’s the evidence: » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 30, 2005

Hops Around. Hops Around. Get Up and Get Down.

A while back (a long while back) William Dowd’s Hops To It post got us thinking about doing a nice piece on the history of hops in New York and the Adirondacks; Especially now that the Beer Hawkers have returned to the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Over at the Northeast Hop Alliance, there is a nice recent NY hop history. While hops was a staple crop of New York farmers in years past it, only last year was the first beer brewed with all New York hops.

Hops, once a leading specialty crop in New York state, suffered from plant disease and insect pests. Prohibition in the 1930s also helped spell the crop’s demise, and 50 years ago, production ceased.

The last beer made entirely from New York-grown hops was brewed in the 1950s.

In the Adirondacks hops were an important supplemental crop for many farmers and hop picking provided income to many women and children as well. In Merrilsville George Lamson hired local women to pick his hops every year – Mrs. Henry Fadden wrote a poem about her hop-picking experience:

I went picking hops and though I worked with a will,
I had to go back with my box half filled.

To find my house in disorder, my dishes unwashed.
The children were sleepy, my husband was cross;

And because I didn’t get the supper before I swept the floor,
He kicked the poor dog and slammed the back door.

And said that if I would leaving picking hops alone,
He would give me a job of picking stone.

His advice was unheeded, I refused with disdain,
And resolved the next day to try it again.

Convinced if only I would do my best,
I could pick hops as fast as the rest.

But the weather was cold and I almost froze.
My fingers were numb and cold were my toes.

Thus for five long days I labored and toiled,
My work was neglected, my temper was spoiled.

And though you may think my experience funny,
I am resolved in the future to let the men earn the money.

The last reference I could find regarding the growing of hops in the Adirondack region was a 1949 notice of the arrival of “400 pounds of Bavarian beer hop roots” in Malone where “local growers hope to revive a once-flourishing New York industry.” Unfortunately, the importers were not mentioned by name, and how the experiement went was never revealed.

And who knew? Hops are good for you!

And while we’re at it:

Alan over at Gen X at 40, has our region on his mind – he’s looking forward to a trip to the Adirondacks, and at his Good Beer Blog, he has spotlighted Saratoga’s He’Brew 9 and declared his pick for Best Pub of 2005… drum roll please… is…..

Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George

Have a great new year!


Suggested Reading

The Homebrewer’s Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use Your Own Hops, Malts, Brewing Herbs


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Christmas Truce of 1914

For a brief time in 1914, against the wishes of the politicians and their absurd generals, the slaughter of World War One abated – at first those in power denied it had happened, but it did: The Christmas Truce of 1914

Some nice first hand accounts from the New York Times

More details from First World War.com

World War One executions for resistance


Friday, December 23, 2005

Need Something Worth Saying?

We’re on record regarding the inadequacy of our region’s media, but today just seems weird. First we have Rick Brockway, the Oneonta Star’s Outdoors Columnist, who gave us a strangely rambling an incoherent rant on, well, we guess it’s something along the lines of build more roads into the Adirondacks to protect them.

Here’s a gem of nonsense:

The Adirondack back-country was put out of reach for the majority of the people. The APA closed the wilderness lakes and ponds to aircraft. Float planes were prohibited from landing, thus making the only access into those areas by foot. I still backpack into that great land, but so many others can’t.

Today, the old growth forests are rotting away and falling down, and most of the lakes are dead or dying from acid rain.

There is no push to reclaim these areas, primarily because so few people use the land and water. Their faint voices are never heard.

Out of reach of most people? Maybe this outdoor columnist hasn’t been paying attention. Otherwise he might recall one recent controversy in the region – the overwhelming numbers of large hiking and camping parties, some arriving by Canadian buses, that led to restrictions on group size in the back-country. Forget about his amazing assertion that “the old growth forests are rotting away and falling down” – ah… yeah… where is that exactly?

Then there is a classic from none other than George Farwell, chairman and education program director of the Iroquois Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club in Utica. It seems that he is concerned, forget about the whole lot of more important issues on the Adirondack table, that people using the backcountry are relying on rescue services far too frequently. Hey we might even agree, but for this:

These “incidents” (not really accidents, as “accident” infers circumstances beyond one’s control), have become more commonplace.

Ahhh… they have? By what standard Mr. Farewell? A simple search of local newspapers reveals that Adirondack history is loaded with search and rescue operations, when the Adirondacks was a more remote place it was a lot easier to get lost or hurt. There were a lot more people in the region in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today there are a lot more search and rescue organizations, it’s highly doubtful there are more people getting into trouble in the woods. They’re just more widely reported.

When a coasting (sledding) accident happened in Keeseville one Thursday night in 1902 “Wilfred Graves, aged twenty-three years was almost instantly killed, and his sister Miss Rachel Graves, and Miss Edith Bulley were crushed so that it is feared they cannot recover. Among the others hurt were: Harry Miles, broken leg; John King, arm broken; George La Duke, arm dislocated.” It was no wonder the newspaper carried the headline “Frightful Coasting Accident.” Getting the seriously injured to a hospital in a timely manner in 1902 was all but impossible – not so today from even the most remote areas.

Travel over the ice in the days of fewer bridges meant for more accidents. Albert Rand with his wife and three children were crossing Lake George on the ice in February 1860 when their horse and sleigh “suddenly went through a crack in the ice” just a short distance from the shore. They cried out in vain for help as Rand struggled to drag himself onto good ice and then saved his wife and one of his children – the other two were drowned.

J. M. Riford, a merchant from Moriah in Essex County loaded his wife and their two children into their sleigh and set out to visit his father across Lake Champlain in Warren, Vermont on January 11, 1884.The family had a good team of horses and was expected to make the trip over in one day – they never arrived and were never heard from again. “Their friends fear that they are at the bottom of Lake Champlain or frozen to death
under the snow in the Green Mountains,” the New York Times reported.

These are just a couple of stories that indicate the kind of dangers people faced in the region, that they simply don’t face anymore. A little bit of research would easily dispel the myth that somehow the Adirondack region is a more dangerous place today. A short visit to the remaining (and recently reborn) stands of Old Growth would put an end to the notion that our forests are “rotting away.” We’re not saying the Adirondacks are not dangerous, they are, always have been. A little research, that’s all we ask from our local media, a little research, a little investigation.

The bottom line these days seems to be, if your beat is supposed to be the Adirondacks, if you can’t find a ship run-aground, and you can’t be bothered with the real issues like backhandedly opening the region to ATVs, or running your town like an old boys club, then just make something up – rotting ancient forest, silly people in the woods, whatever you like.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The War On Christmas

The War on Christmas has been funny, and sad, and it doesn’t even include the biggest threat to the Christmas Tradition as reported by the Washington Post:

This year has been one of the hottest on record, scientists in the United States and Britain reported yesterday, a finding that puts eight of the past 10 years at the top of the charts in terms of high temperatures.

Scientists said… that the world is experiencing serious climate change, driven in part by human activity. Researchers recently found by drilling ice cores that there is a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than in any time in the last 650,000 years, which reflects that humans are burning an increased amount of fossil fuels to power automobiles and utilities.

It’s seems clear here at the Adirondack Almanack that the War of Christmas is a distraction from sinister attacks on American Civil Rights, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

An outrageous attack on civil liberties has occurred in Albany, where student activists are being watched by the our new secret police.

So let’s get this straight:

Secret Police
Secret Prisons
Torture

And now, another $453 Billion for the a war that “may never end,” not to mention the true cost of the war locally.

Say Merry Christmas! Or Else! You athiest commie hippie homo immigrant welfare mothers on drugs!


Friday, December 16, 2005

Historic Lake Placid Lodge Burns – Lost Hikers – Adirondack Brain Drain

Three items for your Adirondacks fix today:

Photos of the Adirondack Lodge fire from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

The resort was built in 1882 as a private residence. In the 1950s, he said, the residence became the Lake Placid Manor and was later renamed the Lake Placid Lodge. It is currently owned by David and Christie Garrett, who also own The Point, another resort lodge located on Upper
Saranac Lake.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Northernmost Full Moon Will Light The Adirondack Night

Bruce McClure reminds us that tonight begins the northernmost full Moon until December 27, 2023.

Traditionally, in our northern hemisphere, the full Moon closest to the December (Southern) solstice goes by the moniker of Long Night Moon. Depending on the year, the Long Night Moon can fall on the day of the solstice, or up to two weeks before or after. (This year’s December solstice, incidentally, falls on December 21, at 1:35 p.m. EST.) Like the Sun in summer, Long Night Moons rise far north of due east and set far north of due west, and oftentimes stay out for more hours than the Sun does on the longest day of the year.

Maybe dark skies are gone forever afterall.

Also: This week in Sky and Telescope


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Adirondackers Going Boldy to Port Henry on Lake Champlain

Students trying to get home from college after the fall of local Greyhound service have about as much chance as James Cawley of Ticonderoga has of getting his transporter to actually work. Wired magazine has a feature on Cawley, who lives in Ticonderoga and who has recently moved his exacting replica of Star Trek’s Enterprise from his grandfather’s garage to a old car dealership in Port Henry for the third installment (of an expected five episodes) of his fan film series New Voyages. And what a cast!

At the car dealership in upstate New York, [Walter] Koenig’s colleagues try to act like professional filmmakers and not gushing fanboys. As they eat pizza between takes, the actor [who played Chekov on the original series] regales them with stories about that scene-stealing jerk Shatner. But there’s an awed hush when he staggers onto the set as the rapidly aging Chekov to play his final scene. His skin is spotted, his hair nothing but a wisp. As the Enterprise navigator lies down in his quarters for one last rest, his captain comes to bid him farewell. “Who would have thought I would live so long,” Chekov wheezes, “in such a short time?”

Koenig has given James Cawley one piece of acting advice: Captain Kirk does not cry. But the cameraman is crying. The dolly grip is crying. The boom-mike operator is crying. And as he walks off the set, Jack Marshall’s face is streaked with tears.

Chekov is dead. Star Trek lives.

Further proof that what the Adirondacks needs is a focus on new media technology – a truly non-polluting growth industry.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Adirondack Wilderness vs. Adirondack History?

The Glens Falls Post Star today is telling us all about Earl Allen, who (according to the photo cutline) “owns more than 200 acres in the Adirondack Park and has fought with the state to keep every bit of it.” Apparently in newspeak when you’re asked to sell your two and one half acre piece of land in the middle of the wilderness area to the state for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers, you are fighting the state to keep your more than 200 acres of land.

It’s no surprise that the Post Star panders to the right wing anti-Adirondack Park types. There used to be a William “Bill” Doolittle (the Will Doolittle of the Post Star or his father? Not that Will Doolittle) who was a one-time publisher of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and former President of the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce. He moved from New Jersey and then outwardly positioned his paper to support the radical right “natives vs the state” mentality – he even suggested the hands across the mountains emblem for the developer front-group League for Adirondack Citizens’ Rights (now long defunct) and suggested to them that they make connections between their fight to eliminate environmental protection of the Adirondacks to the Patriot cause in the American Revolution.

Three items in the Post Star article bothered us here at the Almanack:

“One Johnsburg town official, who requested his name be withheld for fear of retribution, likened state land to cancer.” Apparently, in Johnsburg you can get elected by lying to your constituents, or at least keeping them from the truth of your views.

” ‘I wouldn’t give the state nothing,’ [Allen] said sharply during an interview earlier this month, his 80-year-old hand balling into a fist on his dining room table. ” Now we can guess that Mr. Allen doesn’t really mean that he “wouldn’t give the state nothing,” what he really means is that if it’s his private preserve, surrounded by state forest, he’s not going to give it up. We assume he doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t serve his country in time of war, or send his children or grandchildren to do the same. We assume that even though the state no doubt gives plenty to him and his town (which has just received nearly a million dollars in tax dollars for development), he certainly can not be drawing Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, sending his kids to public schools, or driving on state or county roads – can he? When he is ready to leave this world he’s not going to ride in a partially state funded Johnsburg ambulance – is he?

Now for the funny part. Here’s a couple of gems:

It seems Mr. Allen is “still bitter about the burning” of Fox Lair, a resort for the rich that was turned into a rich boys summer camp until it was burned to the ground when the state purchased the land in the 1970s. Mr. Allen – It’s our land! We own it! You don’t want to sell yours and we wanted to clear the rich kids camp off ours! Maybe you should apply your property rights to someone besides yourself.

“You can drive anywhere in the state, anywhere in the park and not have any recollection of what was there 100 years ago in some places,” J.R. Risley, the Town Supervisor of Inlet, said. Ohhh… Mr. Risley we support your newfound devotion to historic preservation! That’s why environmentalist want to see wilderness instead of New Jersey-style development!

The problem is that you want to return to a time when the developers (Railroads, Tanning, Mining, and Lumber firms) took advantage of their friends in the State Legislature to clear-cut, cause devastating fires, and horrific depletion of topsoil, dams that flooded farmland and villages alike. The problem is, Mr. Allen and Mr. Risley – you don’t know your history!

So – here we are to give you some details:

Army archaeologists discovering history at Fort Drum:

Army archaeologists already have identified a major Iroquois village in the middle of the post with dozens of lesser sites scattered around the installation. Rush said nearly 200 significant sites have been located on post. Among them: Near the boat-building site, Rush and her colleagues have marked out a 5,000-year-old Indian village.

100 years indeed.


Friday, December 9, 2005

The Adirondack’s TV-8 is Going Bananas

We always thought it strange that Glens Falls’ newly relocated TV-8 (they moved this year from their old and grimy digs on Quaker Road in Queensbury to a new spot Downtown) was run by both Jesse Jackson (not that Jesse) and Michael Collins (not that Michael).

Newly arrived co-owner Jackson, who has been presented by local media as a TV programming executive from the big city who worked with the History Channel and VH1, turns out to have been a local ad man who went south when his firm went under and got a job in marketing.

By now you may have heard of the great banana crime spree that required a Hudson Falls crime stopper to draw his gun. “Oh my God, don’t shoot the banana,” Mechanic Street resident Steven Wilson said. What you probably don’t know is that with violent plushy crime way up, even giant chickens are going into hiding.

Ever wonder about your plushie fantasies? According to Gus Sheridan:

As a group, plushies are sexually oriented towards soft fuzzy things (living or otherwise, real or otherwise), but this can lead to practices ranging from a mere erotic interest in stuffed toys to using said toys as sexual aids to actually wanting to be a stuffed toy. You ever think maybe Chip & Dale were gay? You wonder what it would be like to see them copulate? Would you like to be one of them? Then you might be a plushie.

The extremists of this group actually wear soft costumes (akin to Barney, Grimace, or the life-size characters at Disneyland) and engages in sexual conduct with similarly-attired partners. The action might not be penetrative (at least in the traditional sense), but it’s fun for them.

This costume business comes in varying flavors and intensities as well. Dollies, instead of attiring themselves as some sort of real or fantasy version of an animal, gad about in getups that make them resemble Raggedy Ann, Strawberry Shortcake, or some other sort of doll.

Hensons take the practice into the SM realm by adding explicit elements of domination and submission play to the mix, as well as physical penetration in an attempt to mimic puppetry. In short, Hensons get into the kind of behavior immortalized in William Friedkin’s 1980 film Cruising. ‘Nuff said.


Friday, December 2, 2005

Demon Rum: The Adirondack Winter Elixir

Alternet is offering a nice set of articles [one, two] on Rum the booze that changed the world. One of our favorite excerpts:

As the Prohibition and Temperance movements grew in strength patriotic prints of the first president and his officers were bowdlerized. The Currier and Ives print of [George] Washington’s farewell toast to his officers that was published in 1848 showed a glass in his hand and a decanter on the table. By 1867, the glass had disappeared, leaving him with his hand on his chest in Nelsonian mode, and the decanter had been converted to a hat! Successive biographers of Patrick Henry turned him from a former tavern keeper to an occasional tavern visitor, before dropping the tavern entirely from his life story.

And then there is this gem:

On January 15, 1918, a 58-feet-high tank built by the Purity Distilling Company split open and disgorged its 2.3 million gallons — 14,000 tons — of molasses. Like some glutinous volcanic lava flow, it gurgled across the North End of the city in a flood 5 feet deep that ran at 35 miles an hour, taking over twenty people in its path to the stickiest of sticky ends.

Molasses drownings aside, maybe its time for a Rum Revival! Check out:

Peter’s Rum Labels

Wikipeda: Rum Running

Rum Across the Border The Prohibition Era In Northern New York

A Coast Guard History of Rum Interdiction

The Epic Story of the Drink That Conquered the World

Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776

Rum, Romanism, & Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884

We like beer, though we’ve commented before on liquor in the North Country, and on Homeland Security and Prohibition. – in case you missed it.


Friday, December 2, 2005

Adirondack Mountain Lions, Panthers, Pumas, and Cougars Oh My!

There is perhaps no wildlife question in the Adirondack Region that raises so many anti-government / anti-DEC hackles as the question of whether or not there are mountain lions (a.ka. cougars, pumas, panthers, catamounts) in them thar woods. People actually get angry… figuring that them city folk in the DEC just don’t know what they’re talking about, they don’t believe the locals, or they are hiding the fact that the big cats are around. » Continue Reading.



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