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.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lawyers Argue In Court Over Adirondack Rail-Trail Proposal

Railroad crossing over Bog River. Photo by Phil BrownAfter months of delay, lawyers for the state and the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society squared off in court Monday over the future of a 34-mile stretch of tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.

At the end of the 45-minute hearing in Malone, acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Main Jr. reserved decision on whether to block the state from tearing up the tracks and converting the corridor into a multi-use recreational trail.

The judge also asked the state to provide more information on the ownership of the railroad corridor.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Map of Adirondack Remoteness and Boreas Ponds

Several years ago the Adirondack Park Agency mapped all the “Remote Areas” in the Park—those lying at least three miles from a road and at least two miles from any lake where motorboats are allowed. Less than 3 percent of the Park meets those criteria.

A caption states that the map “indicates the truly remote areas of the Adirondack Park are relatively small and therefore a precious resource.” They are the dark areas shown on the accompanying map.

Given the region’s network of roads, there aren’t many opportunities left to create new Remote Areas in the Park.

Boreas Ponds is one of them.

Recently, I dug up a copy of the map and traced a circle with the Boreas Ponds dam at its center and a radius of three miles based on the map’s scale. The results, though not surprising, are worth noting, given the controversy over the pending land-use classification of the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract:

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Wilderness Management of Boreas Ponds Favored by Commenters

The APA recently reported that it received more than 11,000 comments on the classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract.

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates has reviewed the comments (more than 16,000 pages worth) and found that more than 37 percent support classifying the entire tract as motor-free Wilderness.

Altogether, 84 percent of the comments support either AWA’s or BeWildNY’s plan, according to AWA, whereas only 15 percent support a Wild Forest classification that could allow motorized access all the way to Boreas Ponds.

BeWildNY, a coalition of eight environmental organizations, and Protect the Adirondacks all support opening Gulf Brook Road to within a mile of Boreas Ponds. Adirondack Wilderness Advocates and Adirondack Wild propose classifying nearly all of the Boreas Pond Tract as Wilderness. » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Don Mellor Publishes New Ice-Climbing Guidebook

Don Mellor’s second edition of Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber’s Guide, published this month, describes almost 600 ice-climbing routes — a testament to the popularity of an erstwhile fringe sport.

The growth in ice climbing is mirrored by the growth in the heft of previous guidebooks.

In 1976, Tom Rosecrans published a slim guidebook called Adirondack Rock and Ice Climbs. Though rock and ice received equal billing in the title, only nine of the 124 pages were devoted to ice climbing. Only a few ice routes were named and described.

In the 1980s, Mellor came out with a bulkier guidebook, Climbing in the Adirondacks, with a substantial section on ice climbing. The 1995 edition described more than 140 routes.

Mellor published the initial edition of Blue Lines in 2006, the region’s first guidebook devoted exclusively to ice climbing. It described about 350 routes.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Boreas Ponds Dam Drives Debate

boreas ponds damThe Adirondack Park Agency held public hearings on Boreas Ponds at eight different locations around the state in November and December. Hundreds of people spoke, offering a potpourri of opinions. But one constant was a sea of green T-shirts bearing the slogan “I Want Wilderness.”

BeWildNY, a coalition of eight environmental groups, created the T-shirts to push the idea that Boreas Ponds should be classified as motor-free Wilderness. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Book Review: A History of American Mountaineering

Maurice Isserman’s Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering is a scholarly work that covers the exploits of mountaineers in the United States and Canada from colonial days to 1963, the year that an American team reached the top of Everest.

Everest is a world away from the northeastern United States, the starting point of Isserman’s book. In 1642, Darby Field, a resident of what is now New Hampshire, climbed White Hill, known by local Indians as Agiocochook and by moderns as Mount Washington, the highest mountain in New England.

Others in the Massachusetts Bay Colony thought Field daft for climbing a mountain. It just wasn’t something people did. Isserman writes: “Following his death in 1649, it was remarked that his was a life of ‘merriness marred by insanity.’”

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What’s New In The Adirondack Explorer

Some time ago I came across a book titled Fifty Favorite Climbs: The Ultimate North American Tick List. The author, Mark Kroese, asked fifty celebrated climbers to reveal their favorite climbs on the continent.

Most leaned toward big or exotic routes. Conrad Anker, for example, picked an alpine rock climb on Baffin Island near the Arctic Circle. Alex Lowe chose the Grand Traverse, his eight-hour dash over seven summits in Wyoming’s Tetons.

But I was especially interested in the choice of Jeff Lowe, one of the greatest mountaineers of his generation. Lowe (no relation to Alex) has climbed all over the world and put up hundreds of first ascents. His favorite climb in North America? A four-pitch ice route on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain that overlooks the Northway. It’s called Gorillas in the Mist.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Nature Conservancy Buys Two Miles Of Moose River

The Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy has purchased 753 acres with a two-mile stretch of the Main Branch of the Moose River on the western edge of the Adirondack Park.

The conservancy bought the property for $880,000 and intends to sell it to a buyer who will protect it.

The two miles of river are part of a 13-mile stretch of whitewater that is rafted in the spring. “It’s nice to know that this section of the Moose River will be preserved in its wild state,” said Garry Staab, a rafting guide and owner of Adirondack River Outfitters.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Electoral College: How We Got Here

scene_at_the_signing_of_the_constitution_of_the_united_statesDonald Trump carried nine of the ten North Country counties that lie entirely or partly in the Adirondack Park and won 55.4 percent of the region’s votes. All told, 110,730 people in those ten counties voted for Trump. Their votes were counted, of course, but they did not count.

That’s because Hillary Clinton easily won the statewide vote, and in our antiquated system of electing presidents, that means she will be awarded all of the state’s votes in the Electoral College when the state’s electors meet this Monday. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Two Hikers Found Alive After Two Days In High Peaks

UPDATE: DEC has released video of the summit helicopter rescue here.

Two hikers who had been missing in the High Peaks since Sunday have been found alive.

Blake Alois, 20, and Madison Popolizio, 19, both of Niskayuna, a suburban town west of Albany, were found less than a quarter mile from the summit of Algonquin Peak at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The two were located by Forest Ranger Scott Van Laer and Lake Placid climber Don Mellor, who were among dozens of professional searchers looking for the pair. A state police helicopter transported them to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, where they were treated for cold-related injuries.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Snowmobile Trail Tree Cutting And Forest Preserve Law

peter-bauer-examines-a-stump-along-a-newly-constructed-community-connector-trailA rose is a rose is a rose, Gertrude Stein said. Defining a tree is not so simple.

That question — what is a tree? — has emerged as a central issue in a long-running dispute over the construction of “community-connector” snowmobile trails in the Forest Preserve. These trails, which link hamlets, are nine feet wide (twelve feet on curves) and graded to make them smooth. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

John Turner’s Classic Climbs At Poke-o-Moonshine

climber climbing gamesmanshipElection Day started out beautiful. Mild temperatures. Not a cloud in the sky. After voting, Will Roth and I drove from Saranac Lake to Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain to climb one of the cliff’s mega-classic routes, Gamesmanship.

There was just one other party at the cliff: two guys were roping up for Gamesmanship as we arrived at the base. Two parties, with more than 300 routes to choose from, and both opted for Gamesmanship. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

BETA Builds New Bike Trails In Wilmington

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo this is the shoulder season. The leaves are gone. It’s chilly outside, wet and gray. You don’t feel like hiking. You’re looking forward to skiing, but you don’t want to sit inside until the snow comes.

It’s a great time for mountain biking. You don’t need views, fall colors, or sunshine to enjoy riding on a well-designed trail through the woods. As for that chill in the air, you’ll warm up soon enough.

That was my thinking when I drove to Wilmington last weekend to check out some new trails off Hardy Road.

The nonprofit Barkeater Trails Alliance maintains a network of mountain-bike trails on both sides of Hardy Road, some easy, some not so. I have ridden there more than once. After Keith McKeever, a BETA volunteer, told me the group recently created two new trails, both for beginners, I drove over as soon as I had a free day.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Wiessner Left His Mark On Cliffs All Over Northeast

The legendary Fritz Wiessner put up a dozen or so rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks in the 1930s and 1940s. That doesn’t make him the most prolific climber in the Adirondack Park, but he was one of the earliest.

In truth, Wiessner is better known for his exploits elsewhere. Perhaps his greatest contribution to rock climbing was his “discovery” in 1935 of the Gunks outside New Paltz, now one of the most popular climbing destinations in the country. In 1937, he famously led Bill House and Lawrence Coveney on the first technical ascent of the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming – an extraordinarily bold feat for its time.

Wiessner also did notable first ascents on cliffs in New Hampshire and Connecticut, among other places. In 1935, he put up a route called Vector at Connecticut’s Ragged Mountain that may have then been the hardest in the country. It’s now rated 5.8 in the Yosemite Decimal System. 

Last weekend, while visiting New Haven, I had the chance to check out another early route in Connecticut established by the master: Wiessner’s Rib in Sleeping Giant State Park.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Adirondack Wild Leaves BeWildNY Coalition Over Boreas Ponds Plan

boreas pondsAdirondack Wild has left the BeWildNY coalition, saying it disagrees with the coalition’s proposal to allow the public to drive to within a mile or so of Boreas Ponds.

Adirondack Wild announced its decision as the Adirondack Park Agency prepares for public hearings on the classification of the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract, which the state bought from the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy in April.

The classification decision could influence how much motorized access is allowed on the tract.

Much of the debate over Boreas Ponds has focused on the future of Gulf Brook Road, a dirt road built for logging trucks when Finch, Pruyn & Company owned the land. » Continue Reading.