From Champlain firing his arquebus in 1609 to Colvin’s ascent of Seward in 1870 to Forever Wild in 1894 to the Olympics and acid rain, history gives us a long list of worthy possibilities. There being no single correct answer, one candidate high on my list would be Archibald Campbell’s aborted and errant 1772 survey of the northern line of the Totten and Crossfield purchase. » Continue Reading.
What if I told you that the specifics of our American system of land measurement, with its miles and acres and such, was the direct result of a bunch of oxen standing tired in a field during a morning’s plowing more than a thousand years ago. Would you believe me? Read on.
If you peruse historical documents pertaining to the great Adirondack surveys you will encounter a variety of measurement units. Some, like feet and miles, will be common knowledge to you. Others, like acres, will be familiar terms though you may not know precisely what they are. But a few, like the chain, which seems to be the fundamental unit of surveying distance, may well be unknown. Every major land division in the Adirondacks was originally measured in chains using an actual metal chain called a Gunter’s chain. » Continue Reading.
It was the summer of 1771. The province of New York was part of the British Empire and all lands not in private hands belonged either to Native American nations, principally the Haudenosaunee, or to His Majesty King George III.
To the north and west of Albany a great wild forest stretched to the Saint Lawrence. European control of this territory had been in dispute for many decades but the recently ended French and Indian War had settled the matter in favor of the British and the area was now considered safe enough for agriculture, industry and settlement. » Continue Reading.
This week I return to my series on surveying. Two weeks ago we got as far as revealing the basic idea and magical power of triangulation. This wedding between shape and mathematical proportion transformed human knowledge and literally made all modern science, engineering, geography, architecture and cartography possible.
Consider two Adirondack-loving persons. Both are reasonably decent, honest, clear-headed, thoughtful people. They work, they raise families, they vote and they enjoy the woods and mountains in their own way. They have a variety of views on the wide spectrum of issues that affect the future of the Adirondack Park. Let’s call one Mr. P and one Mr. N. » Continue Reading.
How does a surveyor traipse into the woods and come out with accurate heights, positions, distances and property lines for artifacts in the middle of nowhere? It’s magic, of course, but it is mathematical magic that has been well understood for a good two-thousand years. In last week’s Dispatch I covered the core of that mathematics, which is the simple but incredible marriage between proportions and triangles.
I finished by presenting a fact little understood by the typical person: because of this mathematics you can measure the distance to anything in the world by simply pointing to it. No direct measurement is needed. This week in my continuing series on the magic of surveying I’m going to show how it is done, finishing with an Adirondack example of note. » Continue Reading.
There are many perspectives from which to tell the story of the history of the Adirondacks. Indeed the numerous Adirondack history books available to the curious reader feature a wide variety of approaches. Some are essentially chronological in nature; some are cultural; some are political. I especially enjoy the many historical writings about the region that are thematically organized around the personalities of the unequaled cast of characters whose fates were intertwined with the Adirondack Mountains. From To Charles Herreshoff to John Brown to Ned Buntline to Thomas Clark Durant the variety of people and their various enterprises is remarkable.
» Continue Reading.
Like all who know and love the Adirondacks I have always felt a personal stake in the grand debate over private versus public land and the extent to which the state of New York should support and expand its wilderness holdings. It’s no secret I firmly believe that the Adirondacks’ greatest asset is its mountainous wilderness character and that increasing this asset and leveraging the image of the Adirondacks as a wild place holds the key to gaining its best economic future.
Plenty of people disagree with me. So I laid out my arguments in great detail in a series of Dispatches running from October through November of last year that promoted what I called a wild, mountainous Adirondack Image. All told these Dispatches engendered more than a hundred and seventy comments, which is a wonderful. Meanwhile the same debate raged on in columns ranging from the State’s acquisitions of the Nature Conservancy offering to tourism, Adirondack branding and others. As I read various postings and comments I found myself thinking all too often that people still don’t get it, that so many of the viewpoints are myopic, embracing a very narrow focus at the expense of the bigger picture. » Continue Reading.
The family and I are just back from our annual winter trek to Lost Brook Tract and I have a joyful urge to write about how terrific winter camping is. My timing is not intended to offer any sort of counterpoint to Dan Crane’s recent post; the last time I checked he and I don’t coordinate our contributions. But counterpoint it will be.
In fact, let me begin with Dan: Dan! Dude! Get back out there and pitch your tent, buddy. There’s plenty of winter to go and I can vouch for the fact that there are perfect conditions in the back country right now – no doubt there will be for quite some time.
Why do we go backpacking in the Adirondacks? I submit that if you were to make a list of the reasons you go into the wilderness for an extended period, you would find that almost all of them are more valid and better fulfilled in the winter (I know, I know… yeah, sure, but it’s cold Pete). » Continue Reading.
When I was a teenager I had a small streak of juvenile delinquency. This is not uncommon in young men of course and it comes in different flavors. Some do a little drinking or drugs. Some do a little stealing. Some might commit minor vandalism. I didn’t do any of that stuff. I liked to set things on fire.
One March in Cleveland when I was fifteen or so, after a particularly long and snowy winter the weekend broke into the sixties, setting me and two of my like-minded friends, who were possessed with acute cabin fever, into a manic tizzy to play basketball. Sadly the driveway was covered in slush from the thaw, splattering us with every aborted dribble. We tried shoveling, sweeping, even hosing it down, but to no avail. Then we came to another solution. » Continue Reading.
Over the years I have been urged from time to time to write down stories from my family’s many journeys in the Adirondacks. Frankly I was never sure I’d get around to it. But along came Lost Brook Tract into my life, inspiring me to the point where I could no longer resist.
I have written a year’s worth of Dispatches now, many of them drawn from our experiences. However there is one tale in particular that others who know our adventures have repeatedly urged me to tell. As it happens, it is a Christmas story and I have waited eleven months to tell it. » Continue Reading.
So far this season my home of Madison, Wisconsin has been bereft of any semblance of winter. Last Monday it was 65 degrees and I got sweaty playing with my dog while dressed in a T-shirt. Amy and I completed our circuit of holiday parades – we do maybe a dozen of them all over southern Wisconsin – without once seeing a snowflake or having stiff fingers from the cold as we prepped our equipment. That kind of track record is without an analog in these parts.
Last week the NOAA announced that 2012 will finish as the warmest year in US history. According to USA Today’s report, every state in the lower 48 was warmer than average and eighteen states set records for warmest year ever including New York and virtually the entire Northeast. Many Midwestern cities will set records this week for longest stretch of consecutive days with no snow. Climate change is upon us and both the accumulating data and trend models show that it is warming more rapidly and more severely than previously predicted. Yet most Americans still don’t seem to care all that much about it and plenty of ignoramuses still deny it, following an ugly and embarrassing American trend of belittling science and knowledge. Even on the Almanack one suspects there are more than a few readers who are as likely to believe in Bigfoot as in human-made climate change. In their case – in all our cases – ignorance will surely not be bliss. » Continue Reading.
During our time at Lost Brook Tract one of our great pleasures has been discovering and measuring larger examples of the old growth trees that cover most of the land. There are four canonical species of tree in our boreal wonderland: red spruce, balsam, white birch and yellow birch, plus an occasional mountain ash. Both the red spruce and yellow birch impress in old-growth form, the latter in girth more than height.
Our catalog of giants includes a yellow birch with a diameter over three feet and multiple red spruces with heights over eighty feet and diameters in the two-foot range. One red spruce, just a little bit down slope from our property, exceeds a hundred feet by a good margin. At our elevation trees like these are impressive and very rare in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
I grew up appreciating Adirondack water primarily in the form of its lakes and ponds. Our family began vacationing at Blue Mountain Lake nearly sixty years ago and by now I feel as though I know every island and every inch of its depths and shoreline.
There are many other bodies of water that became at least somewhat familiar to me in my boyhood: Eagle and Utowana Lakes, Long Lake, Piseco Lake, parts of the Fulton chain, Minnow Pond, Stephens Pond, Cascade Pond, Rock Pond (one of the many), the Sargent Ponds, Lake Durant, Tirrell Pond, Indian Lake, Heart Lake. As an adult I have come to even more intimate terms with many more, primarily in the High Peaks and Saint Regis areas. » Continue Reading.
Having previously shared a vision for Adirondack telecommuting, my plan this week is to describe the current state of broadband and telecommuting in the park in some detail and then point towards the future, laying out a handful of important issues related to its long-term viability.
That plan has gotten a big boost from the readers of the Almanack. A number of you wrote in to illustrate the current state of telecommuting far better than I could have, in comments written in response to last to last week’s Dispatch. They were wonderful, revealing that while telecommuting in the Adirondacks is not commonplace, there is no question that its future is already here, thanks to these pioneer Wild Workers (this label, after the suggestion of a reader, is perfect for the situation, plus it is kind of charming). Choosing to live in the Adirondacks while working elsewhere is something that is happening right now. That fact should give a big shot of optimism to those who worry about the economy of the park. » Continue Reading.