Almanack Contributor Phil Brown

Phil Brown

Since 1999, Phil Brown has been Editor of the nonprofit 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.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Finch Lands Public Hearings Planned

Essex Chain and nearby ponds (Photo by Carl Heilman)The Adirondack Park Agency board voted Friday to schedule public hearings on seven options for classifying about 22,500 acres formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company as well as up to 25,300 acres of adjacent Forest Preserve.

The APA has yet to determine the dates and locales, but the hearings likely will take place in June and July in several communities around the state, including hamlets inside the Park.

The agency could vote on a preferred option as early as its August meeting.

The pending classification of the former Finch lands already has sparked disagreement among the Park’s various factions. At stake is the degree of access to the Essex Chain Lakes, a string of connect pond in the interior, and to takeouts on the Hudson River.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Climbing and Peregrine Falcons:
Upper Washbowl Reopens, Shelving Rock Routes Close

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARock climbers will have a few more routes to climb this weekend, according to Joe Racette, a biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation who monitors the nesting of peregrine falcons on cliffs.

Racette said the Upper Washbowl cliffs near Chapel Pond are now open to climbers. DEC closes Upper Washbowl and Lower Washbowl each spring at the start of the falcons’ breeding season. DEC has ascertained that that this year the falcons are nesting on Lower Washbowl. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

APA Lays Out Options For New State Lands

Wilderness mapThe staff of the Adirondack Park Agency has proposed seven options for the classification of 22,538 acres of former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands recently acquired by the state, all calling for the creation of a Hudson Gorge Wilderness.

The size of the new Wilderness Area—which would require the reclassification of lands already in the Forest Preserve—would range from 18,829 acres to 45,347 acres, depending on the option.

Under six of the proposals, the Wilderness Area would extend from just south of Newcomb through the Hudson Gorge to just north of the hamlet of North River. Under the other proposal, part of the river corridor would instead be classified a Canoe Area.

Because motorized use is forbidden in Wilderness Areas, local governments often oppose such a classification in favor of Wild Forest, which is less restrictive.  However, Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, thinks local officials can accept the creation of a Hudson Gorge Wilderness. The battle, he said, is likely to be waged over the classification of the nearby Essex Chain of Lakes and the degree of motorized access to both the Essex Chain and the Hudson. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Easement Climbs: Silver Lake Mountain Pioneers

IMG_0758-001Over the past two decades, the state has purchased conservation easements on some 750,000 acres in the Adirondack Park. These timberlands are protected from development, and many of them are open to the public for recreation.

In theory, at least. In reality, most visitors to the Adirondacks seldom, if ever, set foot on easement lands. Partly, that’s because they don’t know where they can go or what they can do. The cliffs on Silver Lake Mountain are an exception.

The state purchased easements on the cliffs as part of a massive deal with International Paper in 2004 that preserved some 260,000 acres. Now owned by Lyme Timber, the cliffs were opened to the public—i.e., rock climbers—in 2009. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Profile: New Adirondack Council Leader Willie Janeway

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn his first day on the new job, Willie Janeway said he has no big changes in mind at the Adirondack Council—at least, not right away.

Janeway, who is forty-nine, resigned this year as a regional director for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to become executive director of the council.

“I get to be an ambassador for the Adirondack Park. What a great thing to sell—the Adirondacks,” Janeway said Wednesday in an interview with the Adirondack Explorer and Adirondack Daily Enterprise. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 26, 2013

AG Puts Spotlight On Cunningham’s Raft Business

cunningham-300x246The owner of Hudson River Rafting Company knew a guide had a drinking problem, but he continued to let him take clients on whitewater trips, one of which resulted in the death of a client who fell out of a raft and drowned last year, according to sworn statements.

The guide—Rory Fay of North Creek—later admitted he was intoxicated at the time of the accident. He pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

In a statement to state police, Fay said Pat Cunningham, who owns the company, and one of his assistants, Mark Lebrecque, knew he drank heavily. At the time, Fay was living in a guides’ house owned by Cunningham. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Judge Says Rafting Company Violated Law

cunningham-300x246The state attorney general’s office has won the bulk of its lawsuit against Hudson River Rafting Company and its owner, Patrick Cunningham.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard Giardino ruled on March 29 in favor of the state on three of four causes of action, finding that Hudson River Rafting violated the law by repeatedly sending customers on whitewater-rafting trips with unlicensed guides and transporting them in buses with unlicensed drivers.

The judge has yet to determine any penalties, but he continued an order forbidding Hudson River Rafting from running whitewater-rafting trips. The whitewater season began a few weeks ago. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ex-DEC Official Disagrees With Essex Chain Plan

Essex Chain and nearby ponds (Photo by Carl Heilman)A former top official in the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) says the department’s proposal for managing the Essex Chain of Lakes will jeopardize the region’s natural resources.

In the May/June issue of the Adirondack Explorer, Christopher Amato calls for classifying the Essex Chain as a Canoe Area, a designation that would prohibit the public use of motorboats, floatplanes, and motor vehicles. DEC has proposed classifying the area as Wild Forest, which would permit motorized access.

Amato’s proposal is closer in spirit to proposals by the Adirondack Council and Protect the Adirondacks to classify all or most of the tract as Wilderness. Motorized use is also prohibited in Wilderness Areas. But Amato, who served as DEC’s assistant commissioner for natural resources from 2007 to 2011, contends that the Canoe designation is a better fit.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

State Buys OK Slip Falls, Hudson Riverfront

Blue LedgeGovernor Andrew Cuomo announced today that the state has purchased two jewels of the former Finch, Pruyn lands—OK Slip Falls and Blue Ledges—as well as a takeout on the Hudson River that will open up a twelve-mile canoe trip from Newcomb.

In all, the state bought 9,300 acres from the Nature Conservancy for $6.3 million. The land is split among six parcels, four in the Adirondack Park, two lying just outside it.

One parcel coveted by paddlers is a 940-acre tract at the confluence of the Hudson and Indian rivers. With this acquisition, the public will be able to put in Harris Lake at the town beach in Newcomb and then paddle south on the Hudson, taking out at the confluence.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation expects that paddlers will have access to the newly acquired river corridor in late May or early June. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Expect Traffic Delays in Cascade Pass

Cascade Pass (1)Hikers and others traveling to Lake Placid from the south should be aware that traffic on Route 73 in Cascade Pass will be limited to one lane for most of May due to roadwork. The highway may be closed to all traffic during one weekend.

Most of the parking area for one of the most popular summits in the High Peaks—Cascade Mountain—will be closed. Parking also will be banned at the western trailhead for Pitchoff Mountain, another popular destination, and Stagecoach Rock. The latter two parking areas are located near the Cascade trailhead, but on the other side of the road. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Sneak Peek At The Next ‘Adirondack Explorer’

May CoverWhat to put on the cover? That’s always a big question at magazines. At the Adirondack Explorer, our designer, Susan Bibeau, usually mocks up two or three versions of the cover and then lets the rest of us choose. Sometimes it’s hard to decide, but not this time.

The cover of our May/June issue shows Daniel Burdick holding his son, Charlie, on top of the Pinnacle near Santa Clara. It was Charlie’s first climb. Charlie’s grandpa, Neal Burdick, wrote about the hike.

The Pinnacle is on the northern edge of the Adirondack Park, a bit remote for most folks, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood it’s a great little hike. And judging from Neal’s story, it’s an ideal trail for introducing young children to the joys of hiking. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 8, 2013

A Skier’s Plea to Hikers: Don’t Post-Hole

Marcy-in-winterOn Saturday I skied Mount Marcy and was surprised at how good the snow conditions were. I began at the start of South Meadow Road and had to take my skis off only once, on a fifty-yard stretch of the Marcy Dam Truck Trail.

To be sure, the trails were hard and sometimes icy on the approach to Marcy Dam and the first mile or so beyond, but above “50-Meter Bridge” (the second crossing of Phelps Brook), there was good snow: packed powder, with fluffier stuff outside the well-trodden track. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

DEC Plans To Introduce Spruce Grouse

close-up-of-maleThe state may introduce spruce grouse into the Adirondacks as early as this year to bolster a native population that appears headed for extinction.

Without intervention, the state’s spruce-grouse population could vanish by 2020, according to a recovery plan released today by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The spruce grouse is perhaps the best-known icon and a perfect representative of boreal habitats in New York,” said Michale Glennon, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program, in a DEC news release. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Debate Continues Over Motors On New State Lands

Essex Chain and nearby ponds (Photo by Carl Heilman)

  Essex Chain (Carl Heilman Photo). 

More than five years after the Nature Conservancy bought all 161,000 acres of Finch, Pruyn & Company’s timberlands, the state has acquired eighteen thousand acres for the Forest Preserve and intends to open up some of the land to the public this spring.

As a result of the state acquisition in December, canoeists and kayakers will be able to paddle south on the Hudson River from Newcomb to a takeout just south of the confluence with the Goodnow River.

Wayne Failing, a longtime fishing and rafting guide, describes the six-mile stretch as a mix of flatwater and mild rapids in a wild setting. “It’s a fabulous section,” he said. “I’ve done the trip many times.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Backcountry Skiing Over? A Jackrabbit Trail Report

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey were predicting we’d get more than six inches, perhaps a lot more. They were wrong. We got only two or three, which prettified the woods, but it wasn’t enough to turn the season around for backcountry skiers.

There is still hope: the National Weather Services predicts Saranac Lake, where the Explorer office is located, could get three to five more inches over the next few days. Again, not enough to turn the season around, but we’ll take it. And who knows? Maybe this time we’ll get more than predicted. » Continue Reading.


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