Almanack Contributor Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.

When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.

Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Lecture on Wilderness by William Cronon

Giant from Amy's Lookout.  Many new Irene slides.This week I attended the Third Annual Jordahl Lecture, established by the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies in Madison, Wisconsin.

This year’s lecture, intended to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, was given by renowned environmental historian William Cronon. As we ponder revisions to both New York State’s Open Space Conservation Plan and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), Cronon’s presentation provides an interesting and useful historical perspective. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Western Ridge

S0010504-001One of the things I value most about Adirondack wilderness is how evocative it is in its intimate spaces. Where other wilderness areas might be most affecting in their scenery, their grand vistas or their iconic imagery, the Adirondack forest itself, in its dense, primeval nature, generates equally strong emotions. The vast and trackless stretches of uneven terrain and close-held woods, unremarkable by any common standards of majesty or wonder, possess as much power as any wild place I’ve ever visited. To venture into the Forest Preserve is to experience an unmistakable immersion that activates ancient echoes of the primitive selves we all harbor, institutional memories lodged deep in our genetic code.

Of all the sensations the Adirondack wilderness evokes, the strongest and most valued to me is loneliness. It may seem odd to value loneliness so highly. If I were forced to live with it on a daily basis I have no doubt it would lose its appeal. But in this era of social bombardment a little loneliness is good for the soul. Indeed it always has been. Loneliness invites a distinct form of reflection replete with significance about one’s place in the world, about one’s values and priorities. It requires, in the absence of civilized companionship, that we instead connect with Nature and with our internal lives, indeed with those deep, primeval echoes that, more to me than religion or the supernatural, define mystery. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

What’s The Most Difficult Bushwhack in the Adirondacks?

Bushwhack Fallen Spruce and DuffIt was a perfect fall day here in Madison last Monday, the kind of luminous afternoon where it seems nothing can possibly go wrong. I was at the park with my loyal dog Henderson, whose raison d’etre is to chase and catch flying discs (Frisbees, for those of you as old as me).  There we were, surrounded by blazing fall colors and muted green grass, warmed by an Indian summer sun and refreshed by a delightful breeze.  All was bucolic even as I, in a moment of excess enthusiasm, overthrew the disc, launching it into what seemed like the jet stream.  It soared skyward, caught the prevailing westerlies and proceeded well down field like a fat, migrating goose until it shot past a fence and over a thick stand of trees and brush, depositing itself somewhere therein.  “No worries,” I cheerily shouted to Henderson, who had brought himself up short at the fence and was peering beyond with concerned attention.  “I’ll get it.”

I hopped the fence and jogged over to the thicket.  The disc was lodged deep inside so I forged on in.  It was quite dense and I had to bull my way through it.  No matter – everything around me was erupting in fall beauty and my spirits were unassailable.

My scratching, scraping and shoving efforts immediately brought to mind memories of Adirondack bushwhacking, which did nothing but brighten my mood.  I could almost imagine myself plundering along in some great Adirondack fastness, maybe a favorite place like the dense woods between Blue Mountain Lake and the Sargent Ponds.  Oh revel! » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Voices From The Diversity Symposium

image001(4)It has been nearly a year since I began a series of columns on diversity in the Adirondacks. Much has happened since then, most notably a challenging, motivating and well-received symposium held in August, “Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks.”

The symposium was a good start to addressing the important challenges in making the Adirondack Park more welcoming and inclusive, thereby increasing the Park’s role in the betterment of the lives of all New Yorkers and giving it a richer, more robustly supported future. But if a good day of conversation was all we accomplished it would amount to very little. So a number of initiatives are underway to the further the work. It is our sincere wish to make diversity part of the cultural DNA of the Adirondacks, as surely for human beings as it is for the natural world. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pete Nelson: An Updated Adirondack Promotional Quiz

the view from NewcombSince I posted my little prototype promotional quiz on Saturday I have gotten a lot of great input, some on-line, some off-line. The reaction tells me that people are interested in this, so I have incorporated the various suggestions I received into a new version.

Here it is: Adirondack Promotional Quiz Version Two » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lost Brook Dispatches: A Promotional Adirondack Quiz

the view from NewcombLast time Amy and I were at Lost Brook Tract we were talking about how to promote the Adirondack Region to people who know little or nothing about it.  The default approach for decades has been to promote it as something like Vermont, the Berkshires or the Poconos:  cozy resorts, Adirondack chairs, pretty scenery, shopping, tourist sites and an overriding rustic chic.  That’s all well and good, but in a time when more and more people crave mountains and wild places, when camping and hiking are the leading recreational pursuits, I have wondered why we don’t try to promote the Adirondacks in a different way. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Commentary: Adirondack Electric Cars Future

VoltIn my final column on Electric Cars in the Adirondacks I’d like to pose two questions. Is driving an electric car in the park actually beneficial to the environment? If so, how can the Adirondack region evolve to better support electric cars?

As seems true with any subject these days, there is plenty of criticism of electric cars, with many making the argument that their supposed environmental benefits are non-existent or negligible at best. With a park that is and ought to be a standard-bearer for environmental health, yet which faces devastating consequences from climate change, this becomes an important question. We need to put our efforts where they’ll do proven good. So are the critics right about electric cars? The simple answer is no. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review: Driving an Electric Car in the Adirondacks

VoltLast week I discussed the general concept of electric cars in the Adirondacks and the possible types of electric car one might choose. I suggested that a pure electric car – that is, one with no gas engine backup – would not yet be practical in the park because the odds that one would use up their range and be potentially stranded are too high. But an electric car with gas backup is completely workable – and considerably better in terms of fossil fuel use than a hybrid.

This week I’d like to report on our experience driving a Chevy Volt in the Adirondacks. The Volt is an electric car with a gas engine that acts as a backup generator as needed, giving a total range comparable to typical internal combustion cars. As before, I do not endorse the Volt; it simply happens to be the car I own. However many of its features and the issues attendant to driving it in a vast, mountainous park would be common to any electric car. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11th: A Day Of Remembrance, Pride

Battle-of-Plattburgh-300x210As Americans pause today to mark the terrible events of 2001, it would be fitting to also mark a bicentennial of which few Americans are aware, but of which the North Country should be justly proud: the 1814 Battle of Plattsburgh.

These two momentous days, from across a span of nearly two centuries, share an importance that will forever be marked by historians.

Both are absolutely critical to the shape of the America we live in today. Both are fulcra, balancing a more innocent and vulnerable America of the past with a changed nation that confronted a vastly different future world. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Commentary: Electric Cars in the Adirondacks

VoltOur most recent time in the Adirondacks had an interesting dimension for Amy and me. In early August, right at the height of our busy performing season – during which we are almost constantly on the road – our beloved Subaru WRX blew its engine. Thrillingly for us it was just out of warranty, guaranteeing that the curve to fix it, both in time and money, would be a long and brutal one. Having an immediate need to hit the highway for several weeks straight, we were faced with three choices: rent (ouch), buy a used car and hope for the best, or buy a new car.

The only sure option was the last one and although it was a financial obligation we’d rather not have taken, it presented us with an opportunity to take the plunge a few years earlier than planned on a long-term dream we have harbored: to own an electric car. So we did our research, selected a brand, test drove a demo, measured the trunk length with the seats down (very important for professional stilt walkers), miraculously secured credit approval and bought ourselves a Chevy Volt. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lost Brook Dispatches: Giants in the Mist

Magnificent giants - timeless and veiled.Last week we spent a few precious days at Lost Brook Tract. It was a cool, overcast stretch of weather that reminded me of the Adirondacks of my youth, when impending fall could at any time push and urge its way into lazy August days, into the fading summer.

During nearly all of the time we were on our land the cloud ceiling remained low and Keene Valley enjoyed gray days and rain. But at our lean- to at 3,300 feet we were immersed in the clouds themselves, the daylight hours gloaming, exalting the primeval feel of the forest.

We are accommodated to – though ever awed by – our cathedral of ancient forest giants: red spruces that lift from thick-barked trunks to as much as a hundred feet in the air. At Lost Brook Tract stands of old-growth trees tower and brood as in few other boreal forest communities in the park. To sit among them is for me to feel both old and ageless, all at once. These groves are for patience and contemplation. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Commentary: Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks

PrintSeveral months ago I wrote a series of columns on socioeconomic and racial diversity and the Adirondacks. The reception to these columns was even stronger than I expected. Much of it was thoughtful. Some of it was controversial. Some of it was ugly. But in total the columns and the reaction validated my point that for most people diversity in the Adirondacks is an under-the-radar issue even though it is arguably the most important issue facing the future of the park.

Since then the conversation has grown and led to action. Many stakeholders in the park recognize that human diversity – my new descriptor, for indeed the issue is bigger than just racial or socioeconomic problems – is just as important to the Adirondacks as plant and animal diversity is to a healthy Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

NYCO Commentary: How Much Wollastonite Is There?

WollastoniteLast week, as a part of a larger effort to document the aftermath of Proposition 5 – the so-called NYCO Amendment – I wrote a column comparing claims made about NYCO in support of the amendment to the factual record.

I listed the following five claims we’ve heard repeatedly (remember, not all claims are NYCO’s responsibility; some claims were made by others):

Claim One: NYCO is a local company headquartered in Willsboro. It has been there for more than fifty years and employs about a hundred people. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pete Nelson: Who is NYCO?

WollastoniteA month ago I wrote a column advocating that we create and maintain a regional memory of the NYCO amendment process and all that comes from it. My argument is that by doing so we will be better able to prevail in future battles against amendments that propose to take from the Forest Preserve for private gain. At the end of that column I said my starting point would be to ask who NYCO really is, in contrast to the picture of NYCO given by its own claims, by pro-amendment advocates and by popular assumption.

At the moment we need no assistance recalling the amendment controversy since NYCO is once again all over the regional news. With the dual stories that NYCO is seeking to expand its two existing mines and that environmental groups have sued to stop test drilling on Lot 8, any profile of NYCO is not only important in chronicling the amendment process, it is relevant right now. NYCO is making certain claims, environmental groups are making others and the state of New York still others. That means the question I pose today matters, today: who is NYCO? » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Great American Wilderness: Two Tragic Anniversaries

Snowy Mountain from the Jessup River Wild ForestI have noticed some opinions floating through the media lately calling into question the extent to which the Adirondacks really qualify as a wilderness.

As I write this, on July 10th, a sad and sobering anniversary has arrived. Then in September we will mark the seventieth anniversary of another tragedy, one of many plane crashes that have occurred in the park, this one remarkable for the longevity of its mystery. Both anniversaries remind me just how formidable a wilderness the Adirondack region really is. » Continue Reading.