Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 22 books and more than 200 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.
With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004, which has published 83 titles to date. They also offer editing/proofreading services, web design, and a range of PowerPoint presentations based on Gooley's books.
Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publishers Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.
Thanksgiving, with food a major holiday component, calls to mind a time of year that was once the subject of great anticipation: nutting season. I’m not old enough to have experienced it first-hand, although back in the 1980s I did explore many natural edibles. Among my favorites was beechnuts, which we harvested and used in chocolate-chip cookies. Outstanding!
But in days long ago, when many folks earned a subsistence living that utilized home-grown vegetables and wild foods, nutting season was an important time. » Continue Reading.
The colorful name Devil’s Kitchen has been used in numerous book titles, restaurant names, and for hiking destinations in at least seven states. Close to home in upstate New York, we have a Catskill version, described here as “quite possibly the most hellacious [bicycle] climb in New York State.” The same area, with cliffs, numerous waterfalls, and slippery slopes, has seen many hiker deaths as well.
But there’s another Devil’s Kitchen farther north, located about midway on Route 9 between Chestertown and Warrensburg. Despite lacking the cliffs and stunning landscapes featured at other identically named places, deaths have occurred at the Adirondack site—which today exists in name only. » Continue Reading.
Researching Dr. Bradford VanDiver’s life and telling his full story isn’t possible in this brief format, but if you read last week’s account, you’re at least privy to the amazing and varied highlights. There remains one stunning and frightening event that he failed to mention during published interviews about various achievements and key moments in his past.
While plumbing for details that might have occurred prior to his professional career, I encountered reference to VanDiver’s participation with the National Speleological Society in exploring several new caves in the Howe’s Cavern area of Schoharie County in 1948. Some of the underground sites there involved drops of more than 100 feet, for which the spelunkers’ group called upon Brad VanDiver and his close friend, Ernest Ackerly, to handle the rigging of ropes, ladders, and other safety equipment. They also joined in the exploration of new passages. » Continue Reading.
Bradford B. VanDiver, president of the ADK Laurentian Chapter four decades ago, had a deep impact on my life, which is not surprising because he was a lifetime teacher. But the truth is, I never met him — at least not in person. His passion for many pursuits was first revealed to me through the pages of one of several books he authored. What I discovered was a native New Yorker and eventual North Country transplant who was truly a Renaissance Man.
At a young age, innate curiosity across many fields of science drove my quest to know more about animals, plants, rocks, and “bugs” that were routinely encountered on all sorts of outdoor expeditions. When VanDiver’s book, Rocks and Routes of the North Country, New York (1976) was released in 1976, I immediately obtained an autographed copy, which still resides on my desk to this very day. He presented a wealth of knowledge supported by scientific terms, but written for the layman as a practical guide to discovery. The book accompanied me on hundreds of hours of exploration across the Adirondacks, and in part led me to write my own first book.
But VanDiver was much more than a professional rock hound — professional as in a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Washington. He also taught at universities in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and for a year in Munich, Germany, during a sabbatical from Potsdam State, where he spent 24 years as professor of geology. » Continue Reading.
In keeping with some old-fashioned parlor games and modern trivia fun, here are 15 questions incorporating the names of some of the 100 highest mountains in the Adirondacks. See how well you do answering them off the top of your head, or use a mountain list here or here to help figure out the correct responses. Subtle clues are built into each description. After the final question, you’ll find the list of answers … so don’t ruin the fun by peeking!
A High Peak’s name fills the blank in a 1950 movie title, The _____ Trail. It’s the story of an American scout aiding the British during the French and Indian War. Assisting him is an Indian blood brother, Sagamore.
Despite increasing opportunities in other entertainment media, most of Mary Boylan’s time was spent in New York City’s theater scene, where a rejection of Broadway’s commercialism was attractive to those deeply interested in art for the sake of art itself. Already there was an established Off-Broadway scene, but this was shunned as well. The year 1958 is cited as the birth of Off-Off-Broadway at a place in Greenwich Village known as Caffe Cino, where a plaque today honors the site’s significance. Among the established and most popular regulars there from the start was Mary Boylan, with Al Pacino listed as one of many of the café’s early performers.
True to the Village’s bohemian reputation, the café’s actors received no pay directly. Patrons normally bought a coffee and sandwich, and a basket was passed as compensation for the performers. Caffe Cino’s popularity inspired similar efforts nearby in other café settings, like La Mama, and in churches, bars, and any available spaces, lending to the wild and carefree attitude of the Village. Mary was considered a star performer at both café venues (Cino and La Mama). She looked much older than her actual age, leading to many roles as elderly citizens, but in real life was a smiling, energetic personality with a great sense of humor and a ready laugh. » Continue Reading.
On the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City, Greenwich Village has long been home to progressive thinkers and artists of all types, as well as ground zero for several movements. In the 1950s and 60s, it was a mainstay of the nation’s bohemian culture, hosting beatniks, folk music originals, the strong counter-culture movement, and the Beat Generation, with such icons as Maya Angelou, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Rod McKuen.
The coffeehouse scene flourished at that time, when a remarkable alternative to commercial theater was developed: Off-Off-Broadway, where productions ran the gamut from scripted to impromptu, and venues ranged from old warehouses to small cafes. At the heart of this historic movement was a little-known North Country actress and writer who was widely respected in the New York City arts community.
Mary Elizabeth Boylan was born in Plattsburgh, New York, in February 1913. Her father, John, was a mainstay of the community, serving as district deputy of the Knights of Columbus for four years, president of the chamber of commerce for two years, and general manager of the Mountain Home Telephone Company. In 1924, when Mary was 11, the family moved to Rochester, New York, where her dad became president of the Rochester Telephone Company three years later. » Continue Reading.
Recently in this column appeared the story of Selden Clobridge, a teenage Civil War soldier from Turin, New York, whose battlefield career ended at the grand old age of 18 after multiple wounds that included limb loss. About 85 miles northeast of Turin, an even younger soldier took it to the extreme, receiving his discharge from the army before he became a teenager.
William R. Bastin was born in December in the town of Lawrence, near the St. Lawrence County line, east of Potsdam. A headstone gives his birth year as 1852, which corresponds with his age in three of six census records and his obituary. Other census records disagree by a year, suggesting he was born in 1851—but by any measure, he was far too young to become a soldier.
When William enlisted at Malone on September 14, 1864, he gave his age as 16. But by most indications, including interviews as an adult, he was actually three months shy of twelve years old when he joined the army, purportedly as a drummer boy. Things didn’t work out as expected, though, and he instead became a child soldier. » Continue Reading.
The small town of Turin in Lewis County has some interesting historical connections to the Civil War. Among them is native son Selden Clobridge, who was born in January 1846 in the hamlet of Houseville. In official records, his enlistment age is 21, which means he would have joined the army in 1867, two years after the war ended. It’s no surprise that he’s among the thousands who lied about their age in order to join the fight.
When he joined the army in summer 1862, Selden was actually just 16 years old. For perspective, consider yourself at age 16. What were you doing? Perhaps chasing boyfriends or girlfriends, goofing around a lot, and maybe beginning to consider your future after leaving high school in a couple of years.
At age 18, a time typically characterized by major life decisions — getting a job, going to college, joining the military — Selden was already a hardened veteran whose active army career had been ended by enemy fire. After two years of long marches, terrible living conditions, and dozens of battles where friends and compatriots were killed by his side, he was a survivor of war’s horrors—not completely intact, but a survivor nonetheless. » Continue Reading.
New Hampshire’s famous Presidential Range in the White Mountains has many peaks named after presidents and other famous statesmen. While we don’t have a range here in the Adirondacks dedicated to our nation’s leaders, we do have several mountains that bear presidential surnames. They weren’t necessarily named after White House occupants, but the name is the key if you like trivia games, which I do. Giving it some thought, how many can you name?
The High Peaks by far get the most attention in the Adirondacks, but because I began favoring less-traveled areas many years ago as popular trails became more crowded, I climbed some lesser-known mountains that happened to have presidential names. In the trivia realm, that helped me list a half dozen before I turned to digging up some additional examples. Without revealing their names just yet, here’s a bit of info about each. » Continue Reading.
“Surfing” is popular in many forms in the Adirondack Park. There’s wakeboarding, windsurfing, kiteboarding, kayak surfing in rapids, and other options. One of the greatest thrills I’ve ever experienced on the water is what I’ve since referred to as “canoe surfing,” sometimes riding hundreds of feet on large waves. It’s not a recommended activity, and this is not a suggestion to try it. In fact, the first time I did it was serendipitous: I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to catch a wave.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch windsurfers and kiteboarders locally, check out this video taken in June on Plattsburgh’s Cumberland Bay, just outside the Park. As you’ll see, the mountain views from Lake Champlain are spectacular and the boarding action is exciting. (Simple searches will yield more videos.) » Continue Reading.
An excellent pair of articles published here recently by Mike Lynch (Beyond Peak Capacity and Group of 67 People Ticketed on Algonquin) resurrected some memories from the 1970s and ’80s, when avid (or zealous, rabid, insatiable … just pick one) hikers like me lived in constant fear that access to the mountains would soon be restricted. That anxiety was based on frequent newspaper headlines touting plans to alleviate trail damage attributed to hordes of newcomers to the Adirondacks.
Like now, the problems back then were intensified by successful efforts aimed at raising public awareness about the wonders within the mountains, and thus boost the region’s tourism-based economy. The result: more people, more spending, and greater profits, but also more boots on the ground, more worn trails, and more poop in the woods. The problems intensified so quickly that organizations and politicians offered all sorts of solutions, most of which left hikers fearful that the freedom to roam would be restricted. » Continue Reading.
In addition to a remarkable shooting career that included winning three Olympic gold medals, New York attorney Karl T. Frederick was deeply involved in conservation issues. In the early 1900s, through membership in groups like the Camp Fire Club of America, he became involved in national issues as well as regional ones. Foremost among them was the battle to protect the Adirondacks. He supported the club’s stance, recommending the purchase of private land inside the Blue Line for addition to the state Forest Preserve, and advocating for expansion of the Adirondack Park, which at that time consisted of approximately three million acres— half of what it encompasses in 2016.
His law practice was briefly derailed when the company disbanded, but in 1925, the new legal firm of Kobbe, Thatcher, Frederick & Hoar, with offices on Broadway, began handling cases ranging from high-profile divorces to corporate litigation. Besides further enhancing Karl’s profile as a capable lawyer, it expanded his connections among like-minded business leaders who favored protecting the natural world. In time, his respected abilities as an attorney and his deep interest in preserving the nation’s outdoor resources led to an unusual blending of leadership positions on the state and national levels. » Continue Reading.
The 2016 Summer Olympics have ended, and as usual, they were quite the spectacle. Folks in the Adirondacks and North Country are perhaps bigger fans of the Winter Olympics, for obvious reasons: the games have been held twice at Lake Placid, and a number of area natives have attained lifelong dreams by earning a place on the podium. But a man born in this region achieved summer Olympic glory long ago, one of many highlights in a very accomplished life.
Karl Telford Frederick was born in 1881 in Chateaugay (northern Franklin County), where his father was a Presbyterian minister, which required a somewhat nomadic existence (five relocations in 14 years). Before Karl was three, the family moved to Essex on Lake Champlain, remaining there until 1888—not a long time, but sufficient to establish a lasting connection between him and the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
In 1903, after winning a national championship with the Michigan Wolverines college football team during the previous season, Fort Covington native Big Bill Palmer was working in Chester, Massachusetts. In subsequent years, homesickness, financial issues, and the supposed need to care for his ill mother were reasons cited by reporters seeking to explain his decision to leave the University of Michigan. The real issue, however, was his status as an amateur athlete. At the time, colleges were cracking down on the use of athletes who were considered professionals, and after winning the national title, Michigan discovered that Palmer, unbeknownst to them, had been paid to play football for Watertown in 1901. By the rules, any type of payment for play changed an athlete’s status from amateur to professional, so Michigan was unable to allow his return to the roster in 1903. » Continue Reading.