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.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Counting The Miles While Skiing The Toll Road

Lake Placid Turn signThere aren’t many Nordic ski routes where you can gauge your progress by mileage markers. The exception, I learned last weekend, is the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway.

When the state repaved the highway recently, it installed highway reference markers along the shoulder. These are the small rectangular signs on metal posts that you see along state-maintained roads every tenth or two-tenths of a mile. Usually they’re green, but those on the Whiteface highway are brown. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Does Boreas Ponds Dam Belong In A Wilderness Area?

Boreas Ponds aerial - Carl HeilmanWhy do they call it Boreas Ponds? After all, if you look at an aerial photograph, such as the one at left, taken by Carl Heilman II, it’s just one water body. This fact is also evident from the 1999 USGS map below.

The reason is not mysterious. Like many Adirondack lakes, the water level of Boreas Ponds has been raised by a dam. As an 1895 map indicates (it’s shown farther below), Boreas Ponds used to be three ponds connected by narrow channels.

When the state acquires Boreas Ponds from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, it must decide whether the concrete dam should be retained.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Green Groups Differ On Rail-Trail Proposal

Adirondack Tourist Train (Susan Bibeau)Two environmental groups disagree on whether a state proposal to remove 34 miles of train tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid complies with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

In a news release last week, the Adirondack Council praised the proposal, calling it “a good compromise” that protects natural resources and addresses the economic and cultural needs of the region.

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, however, contends that the proposal violates the State Land Master Plan. The proposal would amend the corridor’s unit management plan (UMP) from 1996. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Comments Sought On Adirondack Ski-Trail Guidelines

Wright Peak Ski TrailThe Adirondack Park Agency has proposed guidelines for maintaining three types of ski trails in the Forest Preserve. The public has until January 29 to submit comments on the proposals.

It’s legal to ski any trail in the Forest Preserve, but many are too narrow, too steep, and/or too rocky to be negotiated with boards attached to your feet. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Adirondacks Had A Friend In John Washburn

John WashburnThe Adirondacks and hikers of the Northville-Placid Trail lost a friend when John Washburn passed away in September.

John and his wife, Jane, ran the Trailhead Lodge in Benson in the southern Adirondacks, near where the NP enters the Silver Lake Wilderness. Many a hiker spent the night there before embarking on the 120-mile trek to Lake Placid.

I used to speak with John fairly often as he wrote a number of articles for the Adirondack Explorer and sometimes provided us news tips. I also came to know his son, Michael, when he headed the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks.

I didn’t know much about John’s history other than that he used to teach. His obituary fills in some of the details. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War and was discharged in 1964 as a first lieutenant. He taught in the Gloversville School District from 1968 to 1987. After retirement, he founded the Search Team 5-1, took part in many searches for lost hikers, and wrote a manual for rescuers titled Point Last Seen. He also wrote a book on Irish history. He and his wife ran the Trailhead Lodge from 1989 to 2011.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Harrietstown Votes To Save The Rails

Adirondack Tourist Train (Susan Bibeau)The Harrietstown Town Board voted Thursday night in favor of keeping the local railroad tracks in place, but it’s uncertain what effect the resolution will have on a state proposal to remove the tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.

On a motion by Councilman Howard Riley, the board voted 4-0 to support keeping the tracks. The resolution says the rail line provides “a positive impact on the area.”

Harrietstown includes the village of Saranac Lake, whose depot is used by two local businesses: Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which runs tourist trains to and from Lake Placid, and Rail Explorers USA, which runs pedal-power excursions to and from Lake Clear.

Rail Explorers, which began operations in July, says it attracted almost 15,000 riders in its first season, which ended in the fall. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

McCulley Sues DEC Again Over Old Mountain Road

mcculley-with-dogThirteen years after he was first ticketed for driving a snowmobile on Old Mountain Road, Jim McCulley is still fighting the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

In his latest legal action, McCulley claims DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens violated his civil rights when Martens overturned earlier decisions in the case and ruled that Old Mountain Road is part of the Forest Preserve, not a town road.

“It’s like beating your head against the wall, over and over. Why do they keep coming back?” said Lake Placid attorney Matt Norfolk, who represents McCulley.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Clarkson Students Unveil Hut-to-Hut Proposal For Saranac Lake Region

HutsAlmanackImagine hiking for five days in the wild — past lakes, ponds, and streams; over peaks with marvelous views — all the while carrying just the clothes on your back and some essential items in a small pack.

Four Clarkson University students have proposed a hut-to-hut route in the Saranac Lake region that would allow you to do just that.

Sonja Gagen, Dustin Jochum, Kayla Jurchak, and Conor Drossel created the plan as part of Clarkson’s Adirondack Semester program. They worked with Adirondack Community-based Trails and Lodging System (ACTLS), a nonprofit organization that is working on developing hut-to-hut trails throughout the Adirondack Park. Two other Clarkson students designed environmentally friendly huts for the route. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Paine, Kissel Back Expansion Of High Peaks Wilderness

boreas pondsA proposal to expand the High Peaks Wilderness has received the endorsement of two of the Adirondack Park Agency’s founding figures.

The High Peaks Wilderness already is by far the largest Wilderness Area in the Park, but the Adirondack Council and seven other environmental groups are urging the state to add 80,000 acres, expanding it to 284,000 acres.

Enlarging the Wilderness Area “will place New York State and the Adirondack Park in a position of national leadership for creation and maintenance of Wilderness lands equal to any in the Continental United States,” Peter Paine and William Kissel declared in a joint letter. The council intends to use the letter in its campaign for the Wilderness proposal and sent a copy to Adirondack Almanack on Friday. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

DEC’s Responses To Essex Chain Plan Comments

Polaris Bridge and the Upper Hudson (courtesy Protect the Adirodnacks)At its November meeting, the Adirondack Park Agency voted 8-2 to approve a controversial management plan for the Essex Chain Lakes Complex, finding that it conforms to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

Some observers contend that the plan violates both the State Land Master Plan and the state Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act. Three major issues are:

  • Retention of the Polaris Bridge over the Hudson River for use by snowmobiles.
  • Construction of a new bridge over the Cedar River.
  • Allowing bicycles in the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Environmental advocates, sportsmen, and members of the general public have raised many more issues, such as the appropriateness of creating a new snowmobile trail between Indian Lake and Newcomb, the appropriateness of allowing floatplanes to land on certain lakes, and whether historical buildings should be preserved or torn down.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Official Responses To Rail-Trail Plan Comments

Adirondack Scenic RailroadThe wrangling over the future of the state-owned rail corridor that stretches 119 miles from Remsen to Lake Placid has proved to be one of the most contentious issues in the Adirondack Park in recent years.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation received hundreds of public comments, raising many of the same questions that have appeared in articles and comments on Adirondack Almanack.

In their final plan for the corridor, the departments summarized the comments and provided their official responses. Given the public interest in this topic, the Almanack is reprinting those comments and responses. The result is a post that is much longer than usual. Of course, you don’t have to read all the comments, but we bet some people will.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, November 13, 2015

APA Approves Controversial Essex Chain Plan

Polaris Bridge over the Hudson River (Linda McIntyre Photo)The Adirondack Park Agency board voted 8-2 Friday to approve a management plan for the Essex Chain Lakes region that one of the dissenters denounced for its “legal fiction.”

One of the major controversies is over the decision to retain an iron bridge over the Hudson River for use as a future snowmobile trail.

The Hudson in that area is classified as a Scenic River, a designation that normally precludes motorized uses and large bridges. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, however, contends that motorized use over the river predated the law and thus can continue.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

APA Seems On Board With Rail Trail

rail_bikes_adiks_10-08-15_ncprThe Adirondack Park Agency intends to seek public comment on a plan to remove the railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to create a recreational trail, but agency officials do not foresee any legal obstacles to the controversial proposal.

The APA has little authority to alter the proposal. Rather, its role is to determine whether it complies with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

If all goes as planned, the state would open the recreational trail in 2017 at the earliest. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Groups Seek Expansion Of High Peaks Wilderness

boreas pondsEight environmental groups are urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to dramatically expand the High Peaks Wilderness once the state purchases Boreas Ponds from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy.

At 203,526 acres, the High Peaks Wilderness already is by far the largest Wilderness Area in the Adirondack Park. Under the environmentalists’ proposal, it would grow to more than 280,000 acres, making it larger than Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado or Mount Rainer National Park in Washington.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, November 9, 2015

State Plans To Give Lake Placid Train One More Season

Adirondack Scenic RailroadThe state will allow Adirondack Scenic Railroad to run its tourist trains for just one more season on the tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, according to a final proposal by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Department of Transportation.

In the proposal, released last week, the departments are sticking with their original plan to remove 34 miles of track between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake – the north end of a 119-mile rail corridor owned by the state. » Continue Reading.