Almanack Contributor Phil Brown

Phil Brown

Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Paddling the Upper Hudson and Opalescent Rivers

Mann_opalescent-600x388Brian Mann and I had been on the water for several hours when we came to a fallen tree stretched across the river. We pulled over to a sandbank to carry our canoes around.

“Human footprints,” Brian remarked.

“So I guess we’re not Lewis and Clark,” I replied. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rail Supporters, Trail Advocates Remain Divided

Hope Frenette of ARTAAfter years of public debate and numerous public meetings, the state is nearing a final decision on the future of the rail corridor between Old Forge and Lake Placid, but railroad supporters and rail-trail advocates continue to disagree.

On Wednesday night, the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation held a public hearing on its plan to remove 34 miles of track between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake and refurbish 45 miles of track between Tupper Lake and Big Moose (a depot northeast of Old Forge).

About 120 people attended the hearing at Tupper Lake’s high school, and 38 spoke. Some favored the state’s plan, seeing it as a reasonable compromise. Rail supporters, however, opposed the removal of tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid, while trail advocates opposed the state’s spending millions of dollars to fix up the rail line south of Tupper Lake.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Old Forge Guidebook Published

Front cover onlyThe Adirondack Explorer has just published its second pocket-size guidebook, 12 Short Hikes Near Old Forge.

The book is similar in format and price ($9.75) to the Explorer’s first guidebook, 12 Short Hikes Near Lake Placid, which was published last year.

For the second book, we chose a dozen hikes to summits, ponds, and rivers in the vicinity of Old Forge and Inlet. Each chapter includes detailed trail descriptions, GPS coordinates and driving directions for the trailhead, hand-drawn maps by local artist Nancy Bernstein, and photos by a variety of veteran photographers. We also rank the difficulty and scenic beauty of the hikes. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

‘Adirondack Explorer’ Launches Climate-Change Series

July 2015 coverHere’s a word you may not have heard of: phenology. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as “the study of natural phenomena that recur periodically, as migration or blossoming, and of their relation to climate and changes in season.”

Mike Lynch writes about Adirondack phenology in the July/August issue of the Adirondack Explorer, the first article in a series about regional climate change. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Trail Needed To Access New State Lands Near High Peaks

Allen Mountain is the 26th-highest peak in the Adirondacks, but it may be the toughest to get to. Not only is it an 18-mile round trip, but you have to ford the Opalescent River

In theory, the state’s recent acquisition of the 6,200-acre MacIntyre East tract could shorten the hike and eliminate the ford.

The parcel lies between the Hudson River and Allen. A logging road extends several miles into the tract. If the state opened the road to motor vehicles, hikers could begin their hike closer to the 4,340-foot peak.

I won’t offer an opinion as to whether making Allen easier to get to is a worthy object. I suspect many Adirondack Forty-Sixers feel it would detract from Allen’s reputation as a monster hike.

In the debate over how the state should manage MacIntyre East, the road could become an issue. Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, has said he’d like to see at least part of the road open to vehicles.

Last Friday, I walked the logging road to see if it is passable by vehicles and to see the lay of the land.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, May 8, 2015

New State Lands: Paddling MacIntyre East

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrian Mann and I had been on the water for several hours when we came to a fallen tree stretched across the river. We pulled over to a sandbank to carry our canoes around.

“Human footprints,” Brian remarked.

“So I guess we’re not Lewis and Clark,” I replied.

If we weren’t intrepid explorers, at least we could pretend. For even if we weren’t the first, we must have been among the first to paddle the upper Hudson River and Opalescent River since the state purchased the 6,200-acre MacIntyre East tract from the Nature Conservancy in April. The land was formerly owned by the Finch, Pruyn paper company.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

NYCO Finishes Test Drilling In Jay Mountain Wilderness

NYCO Minerals has finished test drilling in the Jay Mountain Wilderness and now plans to assess the quality of the wollastonite found on the site.

Brian Glackin, the mine manager, said the company ended up drilling at only eight sites, though it had originally been permitted to drill at twenty-one.

“At the first three holes there was nothing. That was a big gulp,” Glackin told me Tuesday when I visited Lot 8, the 200-acre parcel that NYCO hopes to acquire from the state.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Magazine Recommends Alpine Trek In Adirondacks

Will-high-in-dikeThe May issue of Climbing magazine contains a section on alpine treks, including one in the Adirondacks. They all combine hiking with rock climbing or scrambling.

The other treks are in the Sierras, the Grand Tetons, and the North Cascades, so we’re in good company. The authors, however, evidently struggled a bit to come up with an alpine adventure to rival those in the big mountains out west. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

DEC Proposes Trail, Lean-to In Pepperbox Wilderness

Pepperbox Wilderness by Dan CraneThe 22,560-acre Pepperbox Wilderness in the western Adirondacks is one of the smaller wilderness areas in the Park, but it also is one of the wildest. It has no lean-tos and only two miles of foot trails.

The State Land Master Plan observes that the lack of a trail system “offers an opportunity to retain a portion of the Adirondack landscape in a state that even a purist might call wilderness.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Paddling Tips For New Opalescent, Hudson River Areas

Upper HudsonWhen researching my Adirondack Paddling guidebook a few years ago, I canoed a stretch of the upper Hudson River and the lower Opalescent River. At the time, legal options for accessing both rivers were limited, despite their proximity to County Route 25, the road leading to the Upper Works trailhead.

I parked along the road next to a Forest Preserve sign and put in the Hudson from a sloping boulder with poor footing. In the book, I recommended people paddle downriver to the Opalescent and then paddle back up the Hudson a few miles to take out at a bridge on County Route 76, the road that leads to the former NL Industries mine.

It was frustrating, because there were plenty of better places to take out along County 25, which parallels the Hudson, but the land was owned by the Nature Conservancy. With the state’s acquisition of MacIntyre East, that is no longer the case.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

State Acquires 6,200 Acres of Former Finch, Pruyn Land

MacIntyre EastThe state has acquired a 6,200-acre tract next to the High Peaks Wilderness that includes long stretches of the Hudson and Opalescent rivers, making them easily accessible to flatwater paddlers.

The state bought the property for $4.24 million from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy as part of a multi-year agreement to acquire sixty-five thousand acres of former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands. It is now open to the public.

Known as MacIntyre East, the property lies between Mount Adams and Allen Mountain and just east of the road leading to the Upper Works Trailhead in Newcomb. Last year, the state bought a companion tract known as MacIntyre West, which lies on the other side of the road. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

It’s April, But Don’t Put Away Skis Yet

Carol MacKinnon Fox summits Mount Van Hoevenberg on skis. Photo by Phil Brown.It may be April, but there’s still skiing to be had in the backcountry. Wednesday morning I skied to the top of Dewey Mountain outside Saranac Lake and enjoyed a fun run down in virtually midwinter conditions.

Last weekend, Carol MacKinnon Fox and I skied over the summit of Mount Van Hoevenberg and found plenty of snow on the descent. There also was plenty of snow last weekend on the Mr. Van Trail in the High Peaks Wilderness. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 30, 2015

DEC Closes Rock-Climbing Cliffs For Falcons

Nesting falcons. Photo from DEC website.You know winter is coming to an end when the state Department of Environmental Conservation closes rock-climbing cliffs where peregrine falcons are known to breed.

Peregrines are on the state’s endangered-species list, and so each spring DEC closes cliffs to protect their nesting sites. Cliffs will be reopened if no nesting occurs on them. Those cliffs used for nesting will be reopened in the summer after the chicks fledge. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 23, 2015

A Fish Creek Ponds Ski Tour

Follensby_snow-600x308The winter started out promising with a good snowfall in December, but later in the month rains washed away most of the snowpack. We received a bit of light, fluffy powder the week after Christmas, but not enough to make most trails skiable.

And so, not for the first time in recent winters, we opted for a ski tour across backcountry ponds.

When people think of pond skiing, they usually think of the Seven Carries in the St. Regis Canoe Area. Indeed, Carol MacKinnon Fox and I skied the Seven Carries route on January 2 and found the conditions ideal: a few inches of light snow on top of rock-solid ice, with no slush. We had such a good time that the next day we decided to try the ponds just to the south of the Canoe Area.

The St. Regis Canoe Area is justly celebrated for its many ponds, but if you look at a map, you’ll see that there is an even greater concentration of water south of Floodwood Road in the vicinity of Fish Creek. The ponds in this region and the Canoe Area belong to the same glacier-sculpted landscape. In fact, the Adirondack Council has recommended that the state close most of Floodwood Road and expand the Canoe Area to encompass an additional twenty-six ponds. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Skiing The Marcy Trail

Tim Peartree ascends Mount Marcy in a whiteout Sunday. Photos by Phil Brown.This has been a great winter for powder skiing in the backcountry, thanks to a two-month-plus stretch of cold weather without a serious thaw. Alas, that stretch ended last week, leaving me a bit apprehensive about ski conditions.

On Sunday, I skied Mount Marcy with my neighbor, Tim Peartree, starting from Adirondak Loj. As it turned out, the trail was in great shape for skiing. » Continue Reading.