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, August 5, 2016

Former Finch, Pruyn Lodge At Boreas Ponds Demolished

Boreas lodge webA large lodge at Boreas Ponds built by Finch, Pruyn & Company has been demolished, removing one thorny issue facing state officials responsible for drafting a management plan for a recently acquired tract of Forest Preserve.

The Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy, which sold the ponds to the state this year, hired a contractor to dismantle the lodge. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) agreed that the lodge should be removed — even though local officials wanted it to stay.

Rob Davies, director of DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests, told Adirondack Almanack that it was not feasible to keep the lodge, partly because of the cost of maintenance, partly because it was a “non-conforming structure” in the Preserve. He said the project, including removal of debris and rehabilitation of the site, should be complete this month.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Forest Preserve Advocates Modify Boreas Ponds Proposal

Proposed_Expanded_High_Peaks_Wild_July2016-2-1024x659A coalition of environmental groups that includes the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, and Adirondack Wild has significantly altered its proposal for the recently acquired Boreas Ponds Tract, calling for less of the region to be classified Wilderness.

Under the original proposal, about 15,000 of the tract’s 20,758 acres would have been added to the High Peaks Wilderness. This included land north and south of Gulf Brook Road, a durable logging road that leads to Boreas Ponds. The road itself would have been designated a Primitive Corridor, allowing visitors to drive as far as LaBier Flow, some six miles from County Route 2.

Under the new plan, Gulf Brook Road and the land south of it would be Wild Forest, a less-restrictive classification that allows motorized use. Thus, it would not be necessary to designate Gulf Brook Road a Primitive Corridor to allow people to drive to LaBier Flow. Some 13,000 acres north of the road would be Wilderness.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Phil Brown: A Journey To Boreas Ponds

boreas pond journeyIn early June, I enjoyed one of my most memorable canoe trips in the Adirondacks: I spent the morning paddling around lovely Boreas Ponds, taking in breathtaking views of the High Peaks.

I had the place all to myself. This might seem surprising, given that the state had only recently purchased Boreas Ponds from the Nature Conservancy. Usually, such a magnificent acquisition to the Forest Preserve will attract curiosity seekers. Yes, it was a weekday, but my guess is that the explanation lies in the difficulty of getting there — especially with a canoe. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DEC Sweetened Pot With Champlain, Lake George Lands To Close Raquette Lake Land Deal

Marion_RiverAs part of an effort to resolve a century-old dispute over the ownership of land near Raquette Lake, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has agreed to acquire not only the Marion River carry, but also more than 1,400 acres of land in other parts of the Adirondack Park.

In a letter to Assemblyman Steven Englebright, DEC chief Basil Seggos said the state is committed to buying from the Open State Institute 836 acres on Huckleberry Mountain in Warren County and 616 acres along Lake Champlain, including 4,000 feet of shoreline.

In addition, Seggos said DEC will be buying “some or all” of the following properties: » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Via Ferrata: Enjoying Mountains The Italian Way

DaveThe Dolomites in northern Italy are mountains, but they’re not like the Adirondacks. For one thing, they’re a lot bigger. The tallest mountain, Marmolada, rises to nearly 11,000 feet, more than twice as high as Mount Marcy. They’re also more civilized than the Adirondacks.

By civilized, I mean developed. In the Adirondacks, we prohibit cabins on the Forest Preserve. In the Dolomites, you’ll find lodges, known as rifugios, on many of the mountains. In the Adirondacks, there are only two ski resorts on the Forest Preserve, on Whiteface and Gore. In the Dolomites there are ski resorts all over, with chairlifts and gondolas running in summer (for sightseeing) as well as winter.

And then there are the via ferratas. Whereas Adirondack rock climbers might argue over the placement of a bolt on a crag, many cliffs in the Dolomites are outfitted with steel cables, ladders, stemples (giant metal staples), and bridges. The idea is to give non-climbers a climbing experience

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hiker Dies In Fall From Top Of Roaring Brook Falls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA hiker from New York City died after falling 80 to 100 feet from the top of Roaring Brook Falls in St. Huberts on Saturday afternoon.

State Police identified the victim as Joann N. Restko, 37, of Staten Island. Troopers said Restko, who was hiking with a friend, slipped while taking photos.

State forest rangers got an emergency call about 12:40 p.m. They found Restko lying face down in a pool of water, already dead. An autopsy concluded she died from multiple injuries suffered in the fall. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Lows Ridge Bike, Hike, Swim and Climb

Lows-upper-dam-1Carol says I come up with my best trip ideas at the breakfast table. Since this was the last day of her Adirondack vacation, I felt the pressure to suggest something special. She likes to swim, I like to rock climb, and we both like to bike and hike. If I could combine all four of those activities, I might win her affection for all eternity.

It’d be worth a shot, anyway. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rock Climber Badly Hurt In Fall From Pitchoff Cliff

Pitchoff Chimney CliffA rock climber was flown to a Vermont hospital after suffering severe injuries in a 60-foot fall from a cliff on Pitchoff Mountain on Monday afternoon. State Police identified the victim as Kyle R. Ciarletta, 22, of Eagleville, PA.

Ciarletta fell after climbing a difficult route known as Roaches on the Wall, said David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Winchell attributed the accident to miscommunication between Ciarletta and his belayer, a 23-year-old woman from Norristown, PA.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Bike Trip To The Forgotten Pine Lake

Pine Lake near Essex ChainThe Essex Chain Lakes and Boreas Ponds have been hogging much of the publicity over the state’s acquisition of the former Finch, Pruyn lands. That’s understandable, for both waterways are jewels that are sure to become popular paddling and hiking destinations.

Lost in all the hoopla is Pine Lake, another handsome body of water located a little south of the Essex Chain. In another time, Pine Lake by itself would have been a celebrated acquisition.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Railroad Seeks To Block Adirondack Rail Trail

Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Photo by Susan BibeauThe Adirondack Railway Preservation Society has asked a judge to prohibit the state from moving forward with a plan to remove 34 miles of railroad tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.

In a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court, the nonprofit organization contends that the plan to divide a state-owned railroad corridor into a rail segment and trail segment violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and the state Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Law.

It names as defendants the Adirondack Park Agency, APA Chairwoman Lani Ulrich, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and Basil Seggos, the DEC acting commissioner.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dick Booth: Boreas Ponds Should Be Wilderness

Boreas Ponds aerialDick Booth probably won’t be on the Adirondack Park Agency’s board when it decides how to classify the recently acquired Boreas Ponds Tract, but he is convinced that most of the 20,758 acres should be designated Wilderness, the strictest of the APA’s land-use categories.

“The great bulk of the lands, including the ponds, should be Wilderness,” Booth told Adirondack Almanack on Tuesday, a day after revealing he intends to retire from the APA.

Environmental groups concur that the three linked ponds — with their stupendous views of the High Peaks — should be classified Wilderness, but local towns are arguing for a less-restrictive Wild Forest classification for the ponds and nearby land. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cuomo Announces Approval Of Adirondack Rail-Trail Plan

Adirondack Scenic RailroadGovernor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced approval of a controversial plan to remove state-owned railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to create a 34-mile multi-use trail. In addition, the state is committed to restoring 45 miles of tracks between Big Moose and Tupper Lake.

The governor’s announcement is a victory for Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) and a defeat for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad (ASR), which operates a tourist train on a 10-mile stretch of tracks that will be removed. Later in the day, ASR revealed that it recently filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court seeking to save the tracks.

ARTA President Joe Mercurio, who lives in Saranac Lake, said he was thrilled by the governor’s announcement. “ARTA and a great many others have worked long and hard for this,” he said. “Governor Cuomo deserves a huge round of applause for his support. It was the right thing to do.”

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dick Booth To Step Down From APA Board

BoothThe Adirondack Park Agency board will soon lose its strongest defender of wilderness: Dick Booth does not intend to serve another term.

Booth’s current four-year term expires June 30, but he said he will stay on awhile if a successor is not appointed by then.

A professor in Cornell’s Department of City and Regional Planning, Booth told Adirondack Almanack he is leaving partly out of frustration with decisions at the agency. He also said the long drive from Ithaca to Ray Brook for monthly meetings and poring over stacks of documents in preparation for those meetings proved draining over the years.

“I’ve been there eight and a half years,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it, but at some point it’s time to step aside.”

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Adirondack Park Gets Its Own Bouldering Guidebook

Aaron Newell_Tower of Power_V2Years ago I often saw a line of cars parked along McKenzie Pond Road outside Saranac Lake and wondered why they were there. There was no trailhead, no house, just nondescript woods.

Eventually, I learned that those woods harbored a collection of giant boulders and that people would drive for hours to climb them. Not just any people, but hard-core climbers willing to abrade their fingertips on tiny crimps, strain their biceps on overhanging rock, and curse the sky as they labored up routes that often are less than ten feet long. That is, boulderers. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Towns Favor Wild Forest Designation For Boreas Ponds

Boreas_Ponds Map_20160401Five local towns have set forth a land-use proposal for the newly acquired Boreas Ponds Tract that would allow mountain biking and “reasonable” motorized access — an alternative to plans supported by environmentalists.

Both the towns and environmental groups have proposed classification schemes that divide the 20,758-acre tract into Wilderness, where motors and bikes are prohibited, and Wild Forest, a less-restrictive classification. The major difference is that the towns recommend that the Boreas Ponds themselves be designated Wild Forest.

Under all the plans, most people would be allowed to drive on the dirt Gulf Brook Road only as far as LaBier Flow, an impoundment on the Boreas River, the outlet of the ponds. From there, hikers would have to walk a mile or so to the ponds. Canoeists would have to paddle up the flow and then portage to the ponds.

» Continue Reading.


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