Almanack Contributor 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.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Brandon Park: 28,000 Acres For Sale

There are not many privately owned estates like Brandon Park left in the Adirondacks: twenty-eight thousand acres with seven miles of pristine river, eleven brook-trout ponds, and a 2,200-foot mountain. It sounds like a recreational paradise, and it’s for sale.

Ordinarily, you’d think environmentalists would be goading the state to buy Brandon Park for the forever-wild Forest Preserve, but so far that’s not been the case.

For one thing, the state doesn’t have as much money for land acquisition as it had in the years before the current recession. For another, the state already is committed to spend $50 million over the next several years to acquire lands once owned by the Finch, Pruyn & Company. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Life Under the Fast Lane

Life Under the Fast Lane by Tom DuBoisThe Adirondack Park has its share of guidebooks—for hiking, paddling, birding, fishing, cross-country skiing, you name it. Just when you think the field has been exhausted along comes another.

The latest addition to the genre is one I never would have foreseen: a guidebook to the culverts under the Northway.

The author, Tom DuBois, is a veteran bushwhacker who likes to scout out remote cliffs for rock climbing. Life Under the Fast Lane grew out of his efforts to find crags in the Dix Mountain Wilderness, Hoffman Notch Wilderness, and other state lands on the west side of the Northway (I-87).

The book gives detailed directions to eleven “walking culverts” between Exit 28 and Exit 31 that can be used to reach public lands that otherwise would be inaccessible. As the name suggests, all of these culverts are large enough to walk through (and sometimes drive through). You may need to ford a river or bushwhack to get to a culvert, and once on the other side, you’ll need to bushwhack if you plan to hike any distance. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 12, 2012

New Moxham Mountain Trail A Scenic Treat

I have driven past Moxham Mountain in Minerva many times and admired its cliffs from afar. Back in the seventies and eighties, rock climbers put up more than a dozen routes on these steep slabs, but because the approach crosses private land, Moxham was omitted from the most recent climbing guidebook.

That must be frustrating for climbers, especially since most of Moxham Mountain lies within the public Forest Preserve. But even though you can’t scale the cliffs, you can enjoy the view from the summit, thanks to a new trail that ascends Moxham on state land from the other side of the mountain.

The Student Conservation Association built the 2.7-mile trail in July under the auspices of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Starting on a dirt road on the north side of the mountain, the trail goes over a hill, descends to a beaver meadow, and goes up a narrow ridge to Moxham’s 2,361-foot summit.

When I did the hike in August, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of views during the climb, but I was happy to be proven wrong. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Climbing The Wiessner Route On Upper Washbowl

We took advantage of some fall sunshine last week to climb the historic Wiessner Route on Upper Washbowl Cliff with Matt Wiech, a guide with the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School.

Fritz Wiessner, a top climber in his day, put up the route in 1938. Like most of his routes, this one is regarded as moderate in difficulty, but it’s great fun, with interesting problems, thrilling exposure, and spectacular views of Chapel Pond Pass and the Great Range.

The crux (hardest part) comes at the very beginning when climbers have to squeeze past and then surmount a rectangular block. This pitch is rated 5.6 on the Yosemite Decimal System scale, which is pretty easy by today’s standards, but the pitch would have been a lot harder in Wiessner’s era, when climbers wore mountaineering boots instead of sticky-soled slippers. In fact, one of Wiessner’s partners, M. Beckett Howorth, avoided the block altogether, according to the guidebook Adirondack Rock. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More Adirondack Volunteers Sought

The Adirondack Park has a few thousand miles of trails, but few were designed for biking. The Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA) is trying to change that.

A group of passionate mountain bikers, BETA has developed dozens of trails in the Wilmington, Lake Placid, and Saranac Lake region and dreams of connecting them so visitors someday will be able to ride all day without their rubber hitting pavement.

BETA is one of several volunteer organizations in the Adirondacks Park that help make the park user-friendly. Others that jump to mind include Lean2Rescue, the Adirondack Forty-Sixers, and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Judge Rules Against Rafting Company

Blue Ledge on Hudson River GorgeA State Supreme Court judge ruled today that Hudson River Rafting Company cannot operate until a final decision is made in a lawsuit filed against the company by the state attorney general’s office.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Hudson River Rafting and its owner, Patrick Cunningham, a few weeks after one of its clients drowned in the Indian River. He accuses the company of running unsafe whitewater excursions, sometimes sending customers on trips without licensed guides or with no guides at all. Click here to read the account of one unhappy customer. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Oufitter: ‘No Idea’ Guide Was Drunk

The owner of the Hudson River Rafting Company said today he couldn’t comment on a fatal accident on the Indian River last week other than to assert that he did not know if the employee guiding the raft was intoxicated.

“We had no idea he was drunk,” Pat Cunningham said, “and I don’t know all that happened.”

State Police say the guide, Rory Fay of North Creek, was indeed intoxicated when he undertook the whitewater trip last Thursday morning. They arrested him on a charge of criminally negligent homicide, a class E felony. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

DA Seeks To Reinstate Charges Against Cunningham

The owner of a rafting company in the spotlight after a drowning last week is accused of violating a court agreement stemming from criminal charges lodged two years ago, according to court papers.

Patrick J. Cunningham, the owner of the Hudson River Rafting Company, was indicted in November 2010 on misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment.

In one count, Cunningham was accused of sending two customers downriver in an inflatable kayak even though they lacked kayak and whitewater experience. Free-lance writer Mary Thill reported last year that the customers capsized in the second rapid and then hitched a ride in an overloaded raft, which also flipped. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Climbing the North Face of Gothics

A wall of rock 1,200 feet high and a quarter-mile wide tends to stand out. Indeed, the North Face of Gothics is one of the most conspicuous landmarks of the High Peaks, drawing the eye whether you’re in downtown Lake Placid or on top of Mount Marcy.

Yes, the North Face is big, and if you want to climb it, plan on a big day. The same goes for the other two rock walls on Gothics: the South Face and the Rainbow Slide. All three offer rock climbers spectacular routes in a wilderness setting to one of the Adirondacks’ most beautiful summits. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Rafting Guide Arrested in Drowning

A woman drowned on a rafting trip in the Adirondacks yesterday morning, and State Police say her guide was intoxicated.

Rory F. Fay of North Creek, a guide for Hudson River Rafting Company, faces a charge of criminally negligent homicide, a felony, according to state troopers.

Fay was guiding two clients from Columbus, Ohio—Richard J. Clar, 53, and Tamara F. Blake, also 53—on a trip down the Indian and Hudson rivers. Before they made it to the Hudson, Blake and Fay were ejected from the raft, police say. Clar stayed in the raft and steered it to shore. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

DEC Answers Questions About Death of Ausable Moose

State officials felt they had no choice but to kill an injured moose that had been hanging out in the Ausable River in Wilmington Notch, according to David Winchell, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“The primary factor was its deteriorating condition,” Winchell said this morning. “It was not able to move out of there on its own, and the likely outcome would have been its death anyway.”

The bull moose showed up last weekend in a steep ravine on the West Branch of the Ausable. Over the next several days, motorists would stop to gawk at the animal, creating a traffic hazard along the narrow Route 86 corridor. On Saturday, a DEC wildlife technician shot the moose with a paintball gun to try to get it to leave. Although favoring its left leg, the moose was able to move into nearby woods. At the time, DEC thought the animal stood a good chance of recovery. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 24, 2012

New State Lands: The Long Road To Boreas Ponds

Boreas Ponds in the Adirondack MountainsBoreas Ponds lives up to expectations, but getting there is not easy, even by car. It would be much harder if the state decides to close the seven-and-a-half mile dirt road that leads to the mile-long lake, which affords stupendous views of the High Peaks.

This Sunday I visited Boreas Ponds for the first time as part of the band of reporters accompanying Governor Andrew Cuomo and other state officials.  Boreas Ponds is not open to the public now, but it will be sometime in the next five years.

The state intends to buy Boreas Ponds and the surrounding timberlands—some twenty-two thousand acres in all—from the Nature Conservancy in the coming years. All told, the state will buy sixty-nine thousand acres from the conservancy, nearly all of it former Finch Pruyn land. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Adirondack Mountain Club Revamping Guidebook Series

HIgh Peaks Trails guidebook published by Adirondack Mountain Club.The Adirondack Mountain Club has issued the fourteenth edition of its popular High Peaks Trails guidebook, and some might say it’s bigger and better than ever.

No one can dispute that it’s bigger. The new edition measures 5½ inches wide by 8½ inches tall, whereas the previous edition measured 5 by 7. This continues a trend toward larger: the twelfth edition measured roughly 5 by 6¼.

It’s part of ADK’s plan to revamp its Forest Preserve series of guidebooks. For years, the club has published six guidebooks that together cover the entire Adirondack Park (in addition to a separate book for the Northville-Placid Trail). ADK is reducing the number of books from six to four, meaning each book will cover more territory. Hence, the larger format. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Legal Details On Tupper Resort Permit Conditions

Yesterday I wrote a post on the Adirondack Explorer website about the contention of Protect the Adirondacks and the Sierra Club that the permits for the Adirondack Club and Resort have expired. Consequently, I found myself in the middle of a dispute over arcane (to most) passages in the Adirondack Park Agency Act.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the APA has not issued permits for the Tupper Lake project. Rather, the APA board approved the permits subject to certain conditions being fulfilled, such as a study of the project’s impact on amphibians.

Until the conditions are met, there are no permits, and so far the conditions have not been met. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Adirondack Explorer: APA Series, Shorelines At Risk, More

The Adirondack Explorer has just published the second installment in a series of articles looking at the performance of the Adirondack Park Agency and the adequacy of its regulations.

In the September/October issue, North Country Public Radio reporter Brian Mann looks at the consequences of political compromises that watered down shoreline protections in the early 1970s.

APA regulations allow more development along the water than away from it, which critics say is the exact opposite of what should be allowed. » Continue Reading.



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