I have been thinking a lot lately about Route 28. From the moment it branches off from Route 12 at Alder Creek just southwest of the Adirondack Park, until it branches again at Blue Mountain Lake, it runs sixty-one miles through the very center of my heart. It is and will always remain the fundamental representation for me of what it is to take a journey. But it is more than that: it is an emblem for the magical transition from urban and suburban America to the higher state of wilderness, to the experience of “Freedom in the Wilds,” as artist and Adirondack lover Harold Weston called it. For as long as I can remember I have longed to be able to take that journey from civilization to the Adirondacks and not have to return. » Continue Reading.
A month ago I published a little survey on mountain biking in the Adirondacks. Since the issue of mountain biking is front and center in the ongoing discussion of land use and in potential amendments to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), I was curious to take the pulse of Almanack Readers.
What were the prevailing opinions? Did they bear resemblance to the claims various interest groups put forth about public support for mountain biking in the Park? » Continue Reading.
Back in September I wrote a series of three articles about the efficacy of driving electric cars (EV’s) in the Adirondacks. My overall conclusion was that electric cars had a definite, practical future in the Adirondacks.
All of my driving experience however, was in summer and early fall, which accounts for only about a quarter of an Adirondack year. The $64,000 question then, was how would an electric car perform under real winter conditions? With the January we’ve had in Wisconsin I’m ready to report.
It is possible that in a past column or two I might have made reference to my mother-in-law; further it is possible that in said reference or references there might have been a maligning whiff in the air. Believe not a word of it! She is a shining paragon of virtue, a sweet, pleasant creature of generous heart, evocative of nothing so much as a gentle summer breeze.
It’s my father-in-law Howard who is the problem. » Continue Reading.
A month ago I published a little survey on mountain bikingOne of the focal points of recent efforts revise the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) has been where and how to allow mountain biking, specifically in the Essex Chain of Lakes. This has generated a lot of discussion about the appropriateness of mountain biking in the Forest Preserve.
New York State is clearly promoting it: the Adirondack Park Agency has signaled an interest in allowing mountain biking in the Essex Chain (which would require new policy, as currently mountain biking is prohibited in Wilderness and Primitive areas) and DEC is opening the Moose River Plains Wild Forest Unit Management Plan to amendments that would support their conceptual mountain bike plan for a 100-mile single track trail system. » Continue Reading.
There has been some old-school rancor in the Adirondacks lately. From management of the Essex Chain to the opening of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) for review to the fate of Lot 8 and NYCO’s drilling, some of the traditional disputes between advocates for preservation and advocates for increased access, recreation and development have been heating up.
These tensions have never been absent, but in an era when many are talking about “common ground,” things have been getting surprisingly vitriolic of late. This spike in old fashioned hostility hit an undistinguished apex with the unanimous approval by the Essex County Board of Supervisors of a resolution supporting Denton Publications’ flame-throwing, editorial calling for the abolition of environmental advocacy group Protect the Adirondacks.
For the first time in many years Amy and I are not spending our winter break in the Adirondacks. We are busy here in Madison and we have spent lots of money on making the house ready to sell, so this decision feels like the right one. But it is not easy. Lost Brook Tract issues a nearly irresistible call to us. The feel of Adirondack winter, which I was lucky enough to briefly enjoy just two weeks ago, is a physical sensation in our bones. Most of all, we miss you three. The times in our lives that have most powerfully bonded us to everything it is to be a parent are those Adirondack winter adventures we shared together. » Continue Reading.
Recently I celebrated the heavy snowfall by visiting the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area. The first part of the visit was a hike to the summit along the trail that begins at Route 9N between the Keene Valley and Elizabethtown.
What a glorious day in the woods! The beauty of the snowfall, clinging to every branch, brushed and sparkled in the higher elevations with hoar frost, worked in concert with an utterly luminous winter light, to make it one of the loveliest winter climbs I’ve ever done. » Continue Reading.
Thanks to the good faith and honesty of Kyle Kristiansen, the young man who unearthed a benchmark disk from Verplanck Colvin’s 1882 Adirondack Survey in a New Jersey field, I had in my possession a triangulation survey bolt marked Station 77.
Colvin and his crew placed thousands of benchmarks, but only about three hundred of these nickel-plated copper triangulation bolts, which I was told were numbered roughly from 1 to 299.
I assumed it would be a simple matter to find records that would positively identify it. I was mistaken. » Continue Reading.
It was late on the afternoon of November 4th, 1875. A party of men worked feverishly in dense fog and deepening Adirondack frost, chiseling into the hard summit stone of Mount Marcy, New York’s highest point. They had been working since the first hint of daylight without the benefit of food or water, pressing on to finish their work as conditions worsened. They turned their attention to setting a benchmark – chipping into anorthosite so tough that it had destroyed scores of their drill bits and chisel points.
Their leader Verplanck Colvin had just completed the final rod and level measurement in a series that had begun weeks before, many miles away on the shore of Lake Champlain. At last the height of the mightiest peak in the Empire State was determined with accuracy: 5344.311 feet above mean tide.
The benchmark they laid on Marcy in the growing darkness and cold that afternoon was number 111 in a long sequence rising from Westport. » Continue Reading.
Last weekend the people of New York State lost a leading citizen, the children of Albany lost a dear friend and the Adirondacks lost a trailblazer. On Friday, December 5th, Brother Yusuf Abdul-Wasi passed away unexpectedly at the age of sixty four. His substantial contributions to the Adirondack region were only a small part of his many undertakings. But from the perspective of the ongoing work to make the Adirondack Park a more inclusive, welcoming and life-changing place for everyone, we have suffered an incalculable setback.
Brother Yusuf was a tireless doer, a walker of the walk who gave the experience of the outdoors to countless urban children. He was also a man of courage and staying power who struggled through war and personal adversity and emerged as a voice of dignity, commitment and wisdom. His story is a great American story and his accomplishments were many (you can read a brief article about his life here). » Continue Reading.
A couple of weeks ago my friend Dave Mason sent me an interesting article from the New York Review of Books. The article was “It’s Time to Live with the Birds”, a review of a book by Ecologist John M. Marzluff entitled Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife. Let me quote an excerpt from the review:
“Marzluff and other urban ecologists find a gradient in bird life. A few tough survivors hang on in the urban core; the open country outside has many birds. In between—in leafy, variegated suburbia—there is the richest mixture of bird species of all. This finding is counterintuitive. One would have imagined that what he calls the “urban tsunami,” the global shift of populations into cities, would result in homogenized biological deserts with only a few starlings, house sparrows, and pigeons for bird life. That fails to take into account many wild animals’ elemental will to survive, and their capacity to adapt rapidly to new opportunities.”
The book’s argument is that suburban environments constitute a new class of ecosystem that could be studied and leveraged for the benefit of many species. Despite that, I’m not likely to take my next hike in search of a wilderness experience in Barrington, Illinois. But Marzluff’s work reminds us to consider – from an admittedly odd context – that the best way to care for a wilderness might be to leave it alone. Whatever changes and challenges the area faces, Nature itself, with its relentless motive to adapt, will find a better way then well-intentioned human beings who try to manage it ever could. » Continue Reading.
Peter Bauer recently ran a post reviewing a report that college-educated young people are leaving rural areas in droves for “close-in” living in cities where economic opportunities, cultural amenities and entertainment options far exceed their native communities. Bauer described this as a subset of a larger dynamic, namely the decades-long global trend toward urbanization. At the conclusion of the article he asked leaders of the Park to “understand these dynamics and to develop strategies for ways to tap into these larger trends.”
Adirondack leaders and residents alike have been aware of these trends for a long time, living both population decline and gentrification of their communities as personal experiences. But while the fact of these changes is unquestionable, Bauer is right in his call: the full dynamics are not that well understood here in the Park. » Continue Reading.
Nearly a year ago I posted an informal poll here at the Almanack in order to measure which issues facing the Adirondack Park were considered most important to readers. At the time my purpose was to prove my suspicion that human diversity, the issue I considered most critical to the future of the region, was not on the collective radar. The poll results supported my contention and started a conversation that has grown into multiple initiatives. I couldn’t be happier about that. But now I want to return to the poll for a different purpose. » Continue Reading.
An interesting discussion developed this week in the comment sections of several Almanack articles related to the APA’s review of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP). The discussion was spurred by DEC Forest Ranger Scott van Laer. His contribution: why not consider an Adirondack National Park? So I thought I’d have a little fun and explore what one might look like.
Those who know their history or have read Bill Ingersoll’s two-part series covering the history that led to the SLMP know that this is not a new idea. In 1967 Laurance Rockefeller proposed that a National Park be established in the heart of the Adirondacks. It was a non-starter – overwhelmingly opposed – but spurred changes in thinking that were critical to all that followed. » Continue Reading.
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