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, 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.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Commentary: A Utility Land Bank Amendment

Burtons Peak and Utility LinesWe just went through an election season that featured not one, but two Adirondack-related amendments to the New York State Constitution. One was complicated and one controversial. Both were the subject of intense local debate and media coverage. The controversial one is still in the news.

The Adirondack region could be forgiven for having a little amendment fatigue. Yet I think we ought to do it again and as soon as possible. So do a number of people who have been working hard to do just that: to give us another proposed amendment to ponder. What could they possibly be thinking? Allow me to explain. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Trail Etiquette, Revisited: Lessons from Chile

Lost-Brook-Tract-Ridge-Trail-300x225Last week’s column on trail etiquette provoked quite a range of reactions. Setting aside the number of you who decided from the column’s sarcasm that you knew me well enough not to ever want to meet me on the trail (a remarkable feat of judgmental sleuthing, that there is), there were quite a variety of strong opinions registered. I must say this intensity caught me by surprise. Coupled with the heated exchanges about dogs on the trail from previous columns, I sensed a pattern.

What struck me is that for some reason trail etiquette clearly intersects with questions of humanity, culture and self esteem in a different way than, say, campground etiquette (where the rules are better understood and apparently tolerated as a matter of course, there being accepted norms for standard campground functions and behaviors). » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 16, 2014

NYCO Amendment Commentary:
We Need A Regional Memory

NYCO-Minerals-Wollastonite-Mine-Nancie-B-PhotoThis week has seen the most recent amendment to Article XIV of the NY State Constitution, known colloquially as the NYCO Amendment, return to front page news.

Just last Friday the Adirondack Park Agency approved an amendment to the Jay Mountain Wilderness Unit Management Plan (UMP) to allow NYCO Minerals to conduct exploratory drilling on the 200 acre parcel known as Lot 8. This drilling will allow NYCO to determine whether they want to swap Lot 8 for other land to be given to the State, as authorized by the amendment. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Commentary: Adirondack Trail Etiquette

wall of moss on way up to the topLast week I wrote a column about dogs in the back country and the need to keep them leashed while on the trail. This led to the issue of trail etiquette in general, a topic I have decided to address.

I’m trying to think of an Adirondack subject that annoys me more than behavior on trails and it isn’t coming to me. My experience of various hikers on trails is one of the primary motivators in my ongoing quest to actively dislike the majority of humanity. Trail etiquette is more important than most people think and it less followed than most people think as well. Not only that, in my experience there is surprisingly little understanding about what proper trail etiquette is. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Commentary: Dogs in the Adirondack Back Country

Henderson is sure he heard something he needs to chase.A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column asking which back country behavior readers most hated (my choice is trail eroders). I got a lot of comments, but most of them were participants in a major brouhaha over dogs in the back country: whether they should be on leash or off leash and when, or even if they should be allowed at all. This got me motivated to write a column, your average dog being one of my favorite and most admired features of all the universe.

My canine ruminations got caught up in a different thread that built up at the same time around a column about the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. This comment thread was a debate about the meaning of wilderness and a challenge to our romanticized notion of wilderness as a pristine thing apart, a challenge that was most notably posed by William Cronon in his landmark essay The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.

The relevance to dogs is this: dogs are not “native” to the Adirondacks. They have no natural ecological place in pristine wilderness; they are highly bred constructs, walking four-legged artifices. But as Cronon famously asked, is the pristine notion of wilderness not itself an artificial construct, wrought of nineteenth century romantic idealism? Do we gain anything by considering wilderness apart from all things we deem not of the pure faith, dogs included? » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Visit To Liquids and Solids in Lake Placid

Liquids and Solids ExteriorStick with this review, kids: Liquids and Solids is something else.

A couple of weeks ago I took a whirlwind weekend trip with my in-laws from Wisconsin to the Adirondacks to look at a house we’re considering. We rose at 3:30 AM on a Friday and drove straight to Lake Placid, arriving late.  We were tired in that road-weary way that invites impatience along with fatigue.

We desired a good late dinner without any more driving, so I suggested the always-reliable Lisa G’s right down the block.  Unfortunately it was closed for cleaning. But I remembered that on a recent visit to Lisa G’s the waitperson had recommended Liquids and Solids across the street. “Their stuff’s really good,” she had said. So we made our way to the other side of Station Street in hopes of being rewarded with decent food. » Continue Reading.