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.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Following The Masters at Chapel Pond Slab

The Adirondack Park doesn’t enjoy as much cachet in the rock-climbing world as, say, the Gunks and the White Mountains. A recent geology book written for rock climbers, for instance, fails to mention the Adirondacks in its chapter on climbing venues in the Northeast.

That’s OK. We can do without the crowds. But the fact is that the Adirondacks offer superb rock routes and a rich climbing history. On Sunday, Josh Wilson and I got a taste of both at Chapel Pond Slab.

Anyone who regularly drives Route 73 from the Northway to Keene knows the slab—eight hundred feet of bare rock that rises above the highway just south of Chapel Pond. It’s an excellent place for beginning climbers to learn how to do multi-pitch routes.

The guidebook Adirondack Rock awards five stars—its highest rating—to two of the six routes at the slab: the Regular Route and Empress. Both were pioneered, at least in part, by legendary rock climbers and both are rated 5.5 in the Yosemite Decimal System. By today’s standards, a 5.5 climb is considered easy. But when the system was created, back in the 1950s, the scale ranged from 5.0 to 5.9, so a 5.5 route would have been regarded as moderate in difficulty. Nowadays, the scale ranges up to 5.15, so a 5.5 is no big shakes.

The Regular Route evolved from another route, Bob’s Knob Standard (rated 5.3), that was first climbed by John Case in 1933. Case, a former president of the American Alpine Club, helped introduce European climbing techniques to the United States earlier in the century. Case’s route was the first on the slab. Over the years, climbers tried variations of the route and eventually developed the more interesting and more challenging line known as Regular Route. The two routes still share the same beginning.

Empress was first ascended in the 1930s by Fritz Wiessner, one of the best climbers of his generation. Among his many accomplishments, Wiessner “discovered” the Gunks and established a number of routes there. He also earned fame as a high-altitude alpinist. In 1939, he came within two hundred meters of K2’s summit—fifteen years before “the Savage Mountain” would finally be conquered (four men died on Wiessner’s expedition).

On Sunday, Josh and I followed in the footholds and handholds of these masters when we did Bob Knob’s Standard, Regular Route, and Empress—altogether about 2,400 feet of climbing. Usually, each route is ascended in six or seven pitches, or stages, but we climbed without a rope except for one wet pitch on Regular Route. Climbing sans rope (that is, without belays or protection) is not recommended, but it’s sometimes done on these routes.

Although I had climbed Empress twice before, I got a little wigged out on its celebrated fourth and fifth pitches. Both involve ascending long stretches of slab with almost no holds. The holds that do exist are Lilliputian bulges, ridges, or depressions. Essentially, you trust the rubber of your climbing shoes to keep you on the rock.

Josh finished the route first. I waited several minutes while he went to the top of Bob’s Knob to take photos of me ascending the final pitches on Empress. This gave me the opportunity to look down (at that point, I had climbed five hundred feet) and contemplate what I was about to do, mindful of a nasty fall I had taken on the Eagle Slide last summer.

When Josh gave me the OK to start, I stepped onto a small ledge on the slab and began searching for tiny irregularities in the rock on which to smear my soles. Starting up, I had to fight the impulse to rush over the rock to get out of danger as soon as possible. I knew I’d be safer if I proceeded carefully, deliberately. Still, I found myself hurrying toward the end.

After finishing, I had a greater admiration for Fritz Wiessner. Yes, the routes he established are not especially difficult by today’s standards, but advances in equipment have changed the climbing game. Wiessner explored Chapel Pond Slab long before the era of sticky-soled slippers. In those days climbers wore leather boots. I suppose Fritz had on something of the sort when he first did Empress. I can’t imagine how he found the traction—and the nerve—to get up that rock.

As for protection, the old-school climbers hammered pitons into the rock instead of placing cams and aluminum chocks into cracks. And their ropes were made of hemp, not stretchy nylon. If the lead climber slipped, chances are the rope would break when it pulled taut. Hence, the motto of that time: “The leader does not fall.”

Do you think Empress is easy? Try climbing it in hiking boots.

Photo by Phil Brown: Josh Wilson on Regular Route.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Monroe Still Questions Land Purchases

One of the local officials who supported an investigation of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy’s sale of land to the state says he still thinks the state’s land-acquisition policy needs to be reformed–even though the probe found no wrongdoing.

Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, continues to question why the state paid $3.7 million more for the land in 2008 than the Nature Conservancy paid four years earlier. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DEC Seeks Money for Follensby Pond

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is fighting for federal monies to help pay for the acquisition of Follensby Pond near Tupper Lake.

The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought Follensby Pond and its surrounding forest—some 14,600 acres, in all—for $16 million in 2008 with the intention of selling it to the state. The property had been on the wish list of preservationists for decades. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rock Climbing: Life on the Sharp End

Rock climbers call it the sharp end of the rope. That would be the end attached to the lead climber, the one taking the risks. Some say you haven’t really climbed until you’ve been on the sharp end.

Cambridge University Press’s online dictionary defines “sharp end” as the part of any activity “where the most problems are likely to be found.” Having experienced the sharp end of the rope for the first time last weekend, I would say that about sums things up.

Unlike the following climber (the “second’’), a leader risks injury or even death if he falls. Although the leader places protection during the climb, meant to hold him in a fall, if he slips, he will plummet twice as far as he ascended above his last piece of “pro”—and a bit more if you factor in slack and rope stretch. Thus, if he is ten feet above his last piece, he falls more than twenty feet. In contrast, when the leader belays the second climber from above, he keeps the rope taut, so if the second slips, he falls hardly at all.

Although I never led a climb before Sunday, I had climbed solo on multi-pitch routes on Chapel Pond Slab. You’d think that solo climbing, with no rope or protection, would be more unnerving than leading a climb. Strangely, I found that wasn’t the case.

Anybody attempting a lead climb for the first time should choose a route well within his ability. I did two short routes — “Return Home” and “And She Was” — on the Roast and Boast Slab in Wilmington Notch (my son, Nathan, belayed me). Both are rated 5.2 in the Yosemite Decimal System. Essentially, they’re novice climbs.

So why did I feel less comfortable leading the 80-foot And She Was (named for a Talking Heads song) than I did soloing the 800-foot Regular Route on Chapel Pond Slab, which is rated 5.5?

For one thing, I think my reaction says something about the subjectivity of the rating system. Most of Regular Route is straightforward slab climbing that requires little technique. And She Was, in contrast, follows a series of cracks. Which route you find easier will depend on whether you prefer slab climbing or crack climbing. I enjoy both, but for whatever reason, I felt more comfortable on Regular Route.

More important, though, lead climbing is simply harder than solo climbing. You’ve got all that heavy gear—wired nuts, cams, and carabiners—hanging off your harness. It tends to get in the way. You’re also dragging a rope behind you. It sometimes tugs at you, and it might even throw you off balance. Finally, you have to stop frequently to wedge a nut or cam into a crack and clip the rope to it, trying to maintain your position on the cliff with one hand while the other fiddles with the gear. To top things off, if you’re new to leading, you’re bound to have doubts about whether that protection will hold in a fall. I sure did.

I suspect the fears and doubts will subside as I gain experience, but I don’t imagine they ever go completely away, and that’s probably a good thing. Fear keeps you alert.

But why climb at all? Why take any risk? I pondered that question after taking an unroped fall on the Eagle Slide last summer. I wrote about the fall briefly in this story in the Adirondack Explorer. In the newsmagazine’s current issue, I describe the fall in more detail with my commentary. Click here to read it.

Photo of climber’s rack by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Phil Brown: Is Tupper Lake Resort Realistic?

Tupper Lake is hurting. Logging no longer employs as many people as it once did. The Oval Wood Dish factory closed years ago. Young people leave because they can’t find work. Over the past decade, the community lost 7 percent of its population.

Enter the developers behind the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort. They want to build a year-round resort with 650 residential units in the vicinity of the Big Tupper Ski Area. They also plan to refurbish and reopen the beloved ski area.

The developers predict that the resort will create more than three hundred jobs during the construction phase, giving a huge boost to the local economy. They also say local governments and the school district will reap hundreds of thousands dollars each year in property taxes.

“I don’t know what else is out there that could even begin to bring the magnitude of benefit that this project is going to bring,” says Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, who represents Tupper Lake.

It’s easy to see why, given a choice between continued decline and hope, Tupper Lakers choose hope and want to see the project approved by the Adirondack Park Agency. But is the resort’s business plan plausible?

To finance the project, the developers hope to sell forty to fifty luxury properties a year—some vacant parcels, some parcels with homes—at prices ranging from $100,000 to $5 million.

Reporter Brian Mann recently interviewed a number of real-estate agents and found that nearly all of them—including some who have voiced support for the project—doubt that the developers will be able to sell that many properties or fetch those kinds of prices. As one agent put it, “even in Lake Placid, that number of sales would be far-fetched.”

Tupper Lake is not Lake Placid. But could it be? Michael Foxman, the resort’s lead developer, seems to think so. He contends that his resort will transform Tupper Lake into a premier destination.

“Sometimes it takes an outsider to see a local opportunity,” he told Mann. “With luck, we all will get a chance to see if this is one of those times. We think all the ingredients for an outstanding resort are there.”

Mann’s is the most in-depth article about the project’s financing that I have seen. It will appear in the May/June issue of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine, but you can click here to read it now.

Photo by Susan Bibeau: Tupper Lake’s downtown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Books: Best Easy Day Hikes

Saranac Lake native Lisa Densmore has just published her second Adirondack guidebook within the past year: Best Easy Day Hikes: Adirondacks, a selection of twenty-two hikes, most of them under four miles.

Densmore chose the hikes from her longer book, Adirondack Hiking, reviewed here . The descriptions have been condensed and the photos dispensed with. As a result, the new book is slimmer (126 pages), more compact (4¼ by 7 inches), and less expensive ($9.95). It fits easily into a backpack.

All of these hikes are worth doing. People may differ on how easy they are, as all of them involve climbing to a summit or lookout. Perhaps Best Short Climbs would have been a more accurate title.

Half of the hikes are less than three miles. The easiest is probably Bald Mountain outside Old Forge: a two-mile round trip with only 353 feet of ascent. Only four hikes are longer than five miles. The hardest is Noonmark Mountain in Keene: 6.3 miles round trip with 2,100 feet of ascent.

At the top of each chapter, Densmore lists the following facts about the hike: total distance, type of hike (“out and back” or loop), highest point, vertical gain, hiking time, and canine compatibility. Each chapter also includes a map, driving directions (with GPS coordinates), and a list of waypoints along the hike, such as trail junctions, with their distances from the trailhead.

Densmore is a good writer who packs a lot of trail details into a small space (“the canopy opens briefly as you wind through a small clearing of ferns”), giving hikers a good sense of what to expect. She also identifies trees and wildflowers that grow alongside the trails and weaves in historical tidbits when appropriate.

The hikes are spread throughout the Adirondacks, though there is a heavier concentration in the High Peaks region. Ten of the trails lead to fire towers.

If you’re looking for an introduction to the Adirondacks, Best Easy Day Hikes is a good choice at a low price. Eventually, you may want to buy a more comprehensive guidebook, such as Densmore’s earlier book (both were published by Falcon Guides) or one of the others on the market.

Click here to read about a hike up Loon Lake Mountain that I took with Lisa while she was working on her first Adirondack guidebook.

NOTE: This review will appear in the May/June issue of the Adirondack Explorer, which we are about to send to the printer. The magazine also will include articles about the financing of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort, the continued decline of bats, the local-food scene, a family camping trip on Forked Lake, and the death of Jim Goodwin, among other subjects. Our centerspread is a gallery of wildflowers that paddlers are apt to see on Adirondack streams and ponds.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Still Midwinter on Mount Marcy

Heavy rain, thunder and lightning, flood watches, the Yankees vying for first place, the Mets vying for last—it seems that spring has arrived.

Not so fast. This past Saturday, I skied Mount Marcy with Sue Bibeau, the Adirondack Explorer’s designer and sometime photographer, and we were amazed at how much snow remains up high.

We took the Van Hoevenberg Trail from Adirondak Loj. Except for three short sections—at Algonquin Brook, Marcy Dam, and Phelps Brook—we kept our skis on the whole way. As we approached the tree line on Marcy’s summit, we found the last signpost, at the junction with the Phelps Trail, completely buried in snow except for the top few inches.

I’m not sure how tall that signpost is, though I’m told it’s under five feet. In any case, I’ve been up Marcy many times in midwinter and not found that much snow.

Of course, the snow is not going to disappear overnight. So despite the rains this week, there will be skiing on Marcy next weekend and (if we’re lucky) perhaps into May. As the days pass, skiers will have to carry their boards farther and farther to find snow. In past springs, I’ve lugged my skis as far as three and a half miles. That still left me with nearly four miles of good skiing.

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but there’s nothing quite like skiing Marcy’s bowl in a T-shirt. It’s no wonder we saw thirteen other skiers on the summit on Saturday.

Incidentally, I did the trip on the Madshus Epochs I reviewed here last week. The skis worked fine, though I was unable turn them as quickly as my wider skis. One big advantage is that the Epochs are a few pounds lighter than my other skis and can be used with lighter boots. This makes a huge difference on a 7.4-mile ascent.

Paddlers, too, should be grateful for the abundance of snow in the peaks. As it melts in the weeks ahead, the creeks will be running high. This is also good news for anglers: the cold, rushing water will scour silt from the holes where trout hide out and lay eggs.

It’s been a good winter, but it’s not quite over.

Photo by Phil Brown: Marcy’s summit last weekend.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Madshus Epochs: Good Skis for Spring

Yesterday, the temperature climbed into the forties in Saranac Lake, and the sun shone all day. I saw people walking around in T-shirts. It was perfect weather for testing a new pair of skis.

Sue Bibeau, the designer for the Adirondack Explorer, and I did a round trip to Klondike Notch in the High Peaks Wilderness, a little-used trail that starts at the end of South Meadow Road and ends near Johns Brook Lodge.

I was trying out my Madshus Epochs, a waxless ski designed for backcountry touring. The Epochs have metal edges and are wide enough to provide stability for quick turns on downhills, though they’re not as beefy as most telemark skis.

The Epochs weigh 5 pounds 9 ounces. In comparison, Black Diamond Havocs (which I also own) weigh 8 pounds 6 ounces. Their lightness makes the Epochs a good all-round ski, ideal for tours that involve flats and rolling terrain as well as substantial downhill runs. A lightweight telemark boot is a good match.

Coincidentally, Sue was using essentially the same ski: Tenth Mountain Divisions made by Karhu, which is no longer in the ski business. The Tenth Mountains were in Karhu’s popular “XC Downhill” line of skis. The line’s four models, from narrowest to widest, were the Pinnacles, GTs (for “general touring”), Tenth Mountains, and Guides.

Last year, Madshus took over the XC Downhhill line. It dropped the Pinnacle but still manufactures the other three under different names (the GT is now the Eon, and the Guide is now the Annum).

Sue has owned her Tenth Mountain Divisions for a few years and loves them. She has taken them up Mount Marcy, Algonquin Peak, and Wright Peak, among other places. She says the skis are not ideal for the steepest terrain in the High Peaks, but they do work. If you plan to ski a lot of steep terrain, the wider Annums are a better choice.

I wouldn’t mind trying the Epochs on Marcy if conditions were right (light powder), but I’d be more comfortable on the difficult pitches on heavier skis, my Havocs or Karhu Jaks. Given that much of the 7.5-mile trail up Marcy is fairly mellow, I can see the appeal of going light. In fact, many people do ski Marcy with light skis and leather boots.

Because they’re waxless, the Epochs are a good choice for spring skiing (as are the Eons and Annums). Hard waxes do not work when the temperatures rise above freezing, so those with waxable skis must resort to klister or kicker skins to grip the snow while climbing or kicking and gliding.

I used klister only once, years ago. It was such a gloppy mess that I haven’t used it since. It’s like melted bubble gum, sticking to everything it touches, including fingers and clothing. I later bought a pair of kicker skins, but I don’t use them much. Kicker skins attach to the ski’s kick zone. The nylon nap grips the snow, sort of like wax. The problem I have found is that the metal piece at the front of the skins often digs into the snow, inhibiting glide.

With waxless skis, you don’t have to fuss with klister or kicker skins. But waxless skis have their limitations. If climbing a lot of steep terrain, you should bring a pair of full-length skins–just as you would with waxable skis. Or be prepared to herringbone or side-step.

On our ascent of Klondike Notch, Sue and I gained more than a thousand feet of elevation. Since most of the trail is mellow, the scales on our skis usually provided sufficient grip. In a number of places, we did resort to herringboning or side-stepping, but these pitches were short. Skins would have been overkill and would have slowed our progress on the flats and small dips we encountered en route to the notch.

All in all, we had the right equipment for the job.

Click here to see a video of Ron Konowitz demonstrating the Karhu Guides (now Annums) on the Marcy Dam trail.

Photo by Phil Brown: Sue Bibeau carries her skis over South Meadow Brook.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Outdoor Gear For The Shoulder Season

This afternoon I took my regular lunchtime hike up Baker Mountain outside Saranac Lake. The trail is a mix of frozen turf, hard snow, and glare ice. I imagine most trails in the region are in similar shape.

This is a good time to invest in a pair of Microspikes. These lightweight mini-crampons are perfect for hiking on trails in early spring, when there isn’t enough powder to warrant snowshoes and where regular crampons would be overkill.

Made by Kahtoola, Micropikes weigh just 11.4 to 15.6 ounces, depending on which of the four sizes you buy. They consist of a tough elastic band (red or black) attached to a steel chain with small steel spikes. Just stretch the band over your boot and go. Microspikes are compact enough that you can easily carry them in your pack until they’re needed. They sell for $59.95 (stuff sack is $10 extra).

I’ve been impressed with how well the spikes grip even in hard ice on steep slopes. On my trips up Baker, I often pass hikers struggling up the slippery trail without traction. But I also see more and more hikers wearing Microspikes. Apparently, I am not the only one impressed with their effectiveness.

I do have one complaint: Microspikes don’t fit well over telemark boots, but this is not a flaw that will concern hikers.

Another worthy piece of shoulder-season gear is the NRS Wetsock, a neoprene bootie that can be worn with sandals, wet shoes, or whatever else you put on your feet while paddling. They’re great for keeping your feet warm on those early-spring trips when you find yourself stepping into frigid water.

Recently, I read a post from a backcountry skier who carries Wetsocks in her ski pack for emergency use in the event her regular socks get wet. This hadn’t occurred to me, but I’ll be carrying mine in my ski pack from now on.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Adirondack Winter: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Sunshine, melting snow, mild temperatures—it sure felt like spring this past weekend. But not everywhere.

On Saturday, I climbed the Trap Dike and the slide on the northwest face of Mount Colden. The snow throughout the ascent was hard, like Styrofoam, ideal for ascending with crampons. When my foot did break through the crust one time, I sank up to my thigh.

The trip served as a reminder that winter lingers in the high elevations long after spring arrives in the valleys. If you’re willing to carry your equipment two or three miles over muddy trails at the start, you sometimes can ski Mount Marcy into May.

Spring skiing is great fun if you catch the right conditions. Ideally, the nights are cold enough that the snowpack remains hard, but the temperatures climb enough during the day to soften the surface. If snow remains too firm, you’ll have a hair-raising descent. If it softens too much, you’ll be sinking into mashed potatoes.

A friend of mine snowboarded Algonquin Peak and Wright Peak on the day I climbed the Trap Dike. In photos posted on Facebook, his friends are seen crossing an open brook with skis over their shoulders. This kind of thing is typical of the approaches in spring.

A few years ago, I did the Algonquin/Wright trip with four others and wrote about it for the Adirondack Explorer in a story headlined “Winter’s last redoubt.” If you’re interested in reading a detailed account of spring adventure, click here to see the story and Susan Bibeau’s photos.

Spring skiing leads to odd juxtapositions. I once skied Marcy and played golf on the same day. Other times, I drove to Albany after a ski trip and saw flowers in bloom, with temperatures in the seventies. If you tell people you went skiing on a day like that, they look at you funny.

Indeed, many people do not realize how long winter hangs on in the High Peaks. On a warm day in April, I once encountered a hiker on the plateau below Marcy’s summit, sinking to his knees with each step. I asked him why he wasn’t wearing snowshoes, as required by law. He informed me that “the season is over”—referring, I suppose, to the skiing/snowshoeing season.

I’m skiing and you’re sinking up to your knees in snow, but the season is over?

Another day, I started out from the Adirondak Loj in a T-shirt. The temperatures must have been in the sixties, and it got warmer as the day progressed. Nevertheless, when I got to Marcy’s summit cone, the wind-chill made it feel well below freezing. I put on my winter layers. Meanwhile, a hiker was struggling up the slope in shorts, looking miserable but determined to get to the top.

So if you’re planning to climb a High Peak in April or early May, don’t be misled by the mild weather at the trailhead. Winter can be nasty, even in spring.

Photo by Susan Bibeau: skiers ascending Algonquin Peak in spring.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Phil Brown: Questions About Adirondack Cougars

Does the eastern cougar still exist? A few weeks ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that it does not—a finding that’s unlikely to end the debate over whether cougars live in the Adirondacks.

Here’s another question: did the eastern cougar ever exist?

No one disputes that cougars once roamed the Adirondacks and the rest of the East. Indeed, the Fish and Wildlife Service report describes the cougar as “the most widely distributed land mammal in the New World.” The cats have adapted to a variety of habitats, including forests, swamps, deserts, and high mountains. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Study: Who Uses The Forest Preserve?

Have you gone hiking recently in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness or canoed the Kunjamuk River? I’ve never met you, but I can guess a lot of things about you.

You probably live within fifty miles of the trailhead or put-in. You probably have a college degree. And you’re probably white.

These are statistical probabilities based on a survey of Forest Preserve users in the southeastern Adirondacks. For a year, researchers from the New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry staked out trailheads and put-ins and interviewed more than a thousand people.

You can find an article about the study in the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer, but here are some of the highlights:

• 76% of the people drove less than fifty miles to get to their destination.
• 44% said hiking was the primary purpose of their outing.
• 67% held at least a two-year college degree (26% had a postgraduate degree).
• 66% were male.
• 26% were under thirty.
• 18% were between thirty and forty.
• 56% were forty or older.
• 90% were white (less than 1% identified themselves as African-American).

In a follow-up survey, nearly five hundred of the interviewees were asked to rate in importance various reasons for visiting the Forest Preserve. Following are the top five responses:

1. Experience natural environment and scenic beauty.
2. Experience an environment free of litter and human waste and impacts.
3. Enjoy physical activity, challenge, and exercise.
4. Feeling a connection with nature and a natural environment.
5. Experience a remote area away from sight and sound of cities and people.

The survey does not draw any grand conclusions from the data, but Chad Dawson, professor emeritus at ESF, said the results cannot be extrapolated to other regions of the Park. For example, the High Peaks region draws more visitors from distant cities and other states. ESF hopes to finish surveys of the Park’s other three quadrants within a year.

One finding, though, does apply to the rest of the Forest Preserve. Most of the people who enjoy it are white, and given changes in the ethnic makeup of the population, this raises questions about public support of the Preserve in years to come.

“The future of the Forest Preserve and the Adirondack Park itself rests on the support of the people of New York State,” the survey notes. “It is imperative that a wide diversity of New York State citizens learn to know and love the Adirondack Park and its Forest Preserve lands, for as Freeman Tilden (1957) has often said: We protect only what we know and love.”

What are your thoughts about this survey? Are you surprised by any of the findings? Does it tell us anything we need to take into account in managing or promoting the Park?

Photo of the Kunjamuk River by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Phil Brown: On Secret Ski Trails

Last month I “discovered” some wonderful backcountry ski trails in the Bog River region south of Tupper Lake. I liked them so much I wrote a story about them for the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

I feel guilty about that.

You see, the trails lack the imprimatur of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. They’re marked by homemade disks and signs. As a journalist, I had to ask the question: is this legal? » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Phil Brown: The Ethics of Feeding Wild Birds

A few years ago I saw my first gray jay—one of the Adirondack Park’s boreal birds. I had read that the gray jay, a member of the crow family, is known for its boldness in stealing scraps of food from humans. Hence, it has been nicknamed “camp robber.”

I saw the jay in the dead of winter on my way to Mount Marcy. I had skied up the Van Hoevenberg Trail as far as the junction with the Hopkins Trail, about 1.2 miles from the summit. There, in the shelter of the spruce and fir trees, I stopped for lunch—a peanut-butter sandwich with raisins.

As I ate, I noticed the gray jay on a branch about fifteen feet away, eyeing my sandwich. When I held out a crumb in my palm, the bird flew down and grabbed the offering. It then returned to its perch and continued looking at me, cockeyed. So I offered another crumb and another one after that. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Phil Brown: Aristotle and the Land Purchase Debate

Recently, Adirondack politicians have intensified their effort to block the state’s acquisition of Follensby Pond and some sixty-five thousand acres once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.

In the past two weeks, the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board and the Franklin County legislature adopted resolutions opposing the purchases. The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages is expected to vote soon on a similar measure, and it stands an excellent chance of passing.

The opponents say the purchases would cost forestry jobs, force traditional hunting clubs to disband, and in general harm the local economy. But their ace in the hole is the claim that the state simply cannot afford to buy these properties. » Continue Reading.


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