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.


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.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

NYS Doesn’t Own 4 Parcels In Adirondack Rail-Trail Corridor

Adirondack Scenic RailroadThe state has identified four parcels along the Adirondack Rail Corridor that it doesn’t own, but officials say that shouldn’t hold up plans to build a controversial 34-mile rail trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.

“As is often the case in projects like this, title questions arise that must be resolved. That is the case here,” Benning DeLaMater, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said in an email to the Almanack.

Three of the parcels are in Saranac Lake and together comprise a 3,000-foot stretch of the corridor. One is owned by North Country Community College, and the other two are jointly owned by Essex County and Franklin County.

The fourth parcel, in Lake Placid, is owned by the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society, which operates a museum at the Lake Placid depot, where the rail line ends.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mike Carr Discusses Leaving Nature Conservancy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter 16 years on the job, Mike Carr says the time is right for him to step down as the executive director of the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy and to work full time for its affiliate, the Adirondack Land Trust.

Carr was instrumental in negotiating the deal to acquire 161,000 acres of Finch, Pruyn timberland for $110 million in 2007. Over the ensuing years, it sold 65,000 acres to the state. Most of the rest were protected with conservation easements.

The state purchased the last Finch, Pruyn parcel – the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract – in April. Over the next few years, the Nature Conservancy will oversee the removal of hunting camps on the Finch lands, but its work on the blockbuster deal is largely done.

“It feels like the right time,” Carr said when asked why he chose to change jobs now.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

APA Fails To End Criticism Over Boreas Ponds Options

boreasalternative4In response to public criticism, the Adirondack Park Agency staff came up with a fourth option for classifying the Boreas Ponds Tract, but it hasn’t ended the controversy.

The APA board is expected to vote Friday to hold public hearings on the four options, despite complaints that the staff failed to present a full range of alternatives for the tract and failed to properly analyze the alternatives it did present.

On Thursday, the State Land Committee voted to approve the hearing schedule and the four options, setting the stage for a vote by the full board, which is expected to follow suit.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Perfect Day For Climbing Thanksgiving

Monday was beautiful and sunny, with leaves at peak color. It also was Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, dozens of cars lined the shoulders of Route 73 near the trailheads for Giant Mountain.

Cars also were parked along the highway near Chapel Pond Slab, one of the region’s most popular rock-climbing venues. When Philip Brittan and I arrived at the base of the slab, we saw a party halfway up Regular Route, the most climbed route on the slab. As we put on our climbing shoes and harnesses and tied into the rope, three other parties showed up, all intent on climbing Regular Route.

Fortunately, we were climbing Thanksgiving. Given the holiday, this seemed especially appropriate. Thanksgiving is one of two major routes on Chapel Pond Slab established by the Alpine Club of Canada. The other is Victoria. It, too, is named after a Canadian holiday: Victoria Day.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Green Groups Call On APA To Reject Boreas Proposals

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdirondack Forest Preserve advocacy groups are calling on the Adirondack Park Agency’s board to reject at this week’s meeting all three staff proposals for classifying the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract.

The major objection is that under all three proposals, a 6.8-mile logging road that leads to Boreas Ponds would be designated Wild Forest, which could allow people to drive all the way to the ponds.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), said it’s even possible that motorboats could be allowed on the water. Under the APA’s first alternative, the ponds would be classified Wild Forest, which could allow motorboats. The other two alternatives are silent on the ponds’ classification.

Woodworth said the APA board should direct the staff to come up with new proposals, a step that would delay public hearings on the Boreas classification. “It’s more important to get this classification right than do it fast,” he said.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 10, 2016

APA Prepares To Classify 90 Parcels Of State Land

Lake Andrew, near the Santanoni Range, by Carl Heilman IIAt its meeting this Thursday, the Adirondack Park Agency board may discuss, in addition to the Boreas Ponds Tract, the classification of two other large parcels abutting the High Peaks Wilderness, known as MacIntyre West and MacIntyre East.

Like the Boreas tract, both MacIntyre tracts were acquired by the state from the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy. They formerly had been owned by the Finch, Pruyn paper company.

All told, the APA board will consider classifications for 90 parcels of state land scattered throughout the Park. At 20,758 acres, the Boreas tract is by far the largest. The other 89 parcels together add up to 32,053 acres. They include 32 parcels of newly acquired land (totaling 30,284 acres) and 56 corrections to the APA map (totaling 1,949 acres).

» Continue Reading.


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