Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.
There’s nothing quite like autumn in the Adirondacks — the brilliant reds, vibrant oranges and pulsating yellows. And that’s just the construction barrels, road cones and flashing signs warning people to find someplace other than the shoulder of Rt. 73 in Keene Valley to park their Subarus.
Welcome to the wilderness — not to be confused with the Scranton/Wilkes Barre stretch of Interstate 81. » Continue Reading.
I was chatting a couple of weeks ago with a town supervisor about a project he was working on, and he told me it had been paid for with a DANSY grant.
“That’s great,” I said, “What’s a DANSY grant?”
“You know, DANSY. D-A-N-S-Y.”
“I get that, but what does DANSY stand for?”
I might as well have asked him his granddaughter’s opinion of rhizomes. It totally threw him off track, and it was pretty clear that in the 30-some years he had been supervisor, no one had ever asked him that question before. He stumbled around a bit before, with a self-satisfied look on his face he pronounced, “It came out of (Sen.) Betty Little’s office.” As if that should settle things. » Continue Reading.
True story: Maybe eight or 10 years ago, we were acting as Trail Angels for an Alabama judge who was hiking the Appalachian Trail. When he reached our neck of the woods in Maryland, we picked him up, brought him into town for a shower and took him to lunch in Sharpsburg, Md., scene of the famed Battle of Antietam.
At that time, I was still young enough that I would, like guys do, reflexively choose the biggest slab of meat on the menu, saving me any intellectual deliberation. On this day, the restaurant had a burger they called the Howitzer, which fit the bill, so after ordering we went on chatting about the judge’s hike, and the state of affairs back in the South. » Continue Reading.
Somewhere I read that up here in the Adirondacks you should not feed the birds after March 31st. I forget the exact logic. The article provided one of those explanations that, you know, sounded quasi-plausible, but might have just been something that a guy would tell his wife so he wouldn’t have to go out into the yard and top off the feeder for the 7,000th time this year.
I think it had to do with birds needing to fend for themselves, and several other sundry character issues that I hadn’t thought of as applying to wildlife. I sort of understand, though. It’s like all our kids thinking that food comes from a supermarket instead of a farm. Maybe bird-parents sit around Starbucks saying, “Fledglings today, do you believe it? They think everything comes from a feeder. They don’t realize all the work it takes to peck it out of a seedhead.” » Continue Reading.
I know snowmobiles are controversial here, but I don’t know much about them. Back in the Mid Atlantic, I think one guy in our entire county had a snowmobile, and once every winter it might precipitate enough for him to pull it out and lap his house a few times before putting it away for another year. It worked for him.
But I do know a lot about all-terrain vehicles and their big brothers that seat multiple people and have enough cargo space to haul the entire Imelda Marcos Memorial Shoe Collection. (Imelda, if you’re not dead, my apologies; I didn’t have time to look it up.) » Continue Reading.
If I had to pick a side, I suppose I would cast my lot with the older and wiser set who are cheering the APA’s decision to classify the sublime Boreas Ponds tract as a road-accessible wilderness, balanced by an adjoining swath of Wild Forest offering sucor to wielders of mountain bikes, snowmobiles, Falcon Heavy rocketships and any other toy that might strike their fancy. » Continue Reading.
As with most people, my time is not always my own. To a degree, my day is molded around my two dogs, whose hikes in the winter have been limited by the recent extreme cold and the balls of ice that built up in between their toes.
Booties are not an option since their breed, Bouvier des Flandres, goes by the nickname of “Bouncing Bouviers,” and getting them into footwear would be like trying to put mittens on a hummingbird. They have this characteristic that Alan Greenspan would call irrational exuberance, and while this can be endearing at first, putting up with it for extended lengths of time turns into something of a challenge.
If I drop the animals off in the morning for an appointment, I will usually be told, “Sure, pick them up at the end of the day if you want.” But invariably my phone will ring at about 1:30 in the afternoon and a harried voice on the other end of the line will say “COME GET YOUR DOGS!”
So while one of the first items on my Adirondack to-do list has been to learn to snowshoe, it’s taken a while to work out the logistics. » Continue Reading.
You know you’re starting to acclimate to the North Country when you see the thermometer reading 24 degrees and you wonder if it’s even worth building a fire.
At this particular moment, anything above 20 would seem like a steam bath. As I did my morning chores, the mercury hovered (which feels like the wrong word) at 12 below; the horse droppings clacked against each other in the muck bucket like billiard balls, and a couple of eggs had frozen and burst before I came to collect them.
We do not take the cold lightly. We have read all the literature, bought all the appropriate gear and taken all the appropriate advice. But while maintaining the proper respect, there is also something attractive about the cold. It’s a fine line, I know. But we have come here from a region where, as Mark Twain said of India, “hot” is a relative term and used to distinguish temperatures that would melt a doorknob from those that would just make it mushy. » Continue Reading.
We live in an age when a considerable duplication of services could be eliminated by merging the Congressional Record with the National Sex Offender Registry. So squalid behavior in Washington is no longer a surprise, with the hands of the politicians groping their way into all sorts of unwanted places, from middle-class wallets to the web to western public lands.
Now that I have lived through half of one, a century doesn’t seem like that long of a timeframe, so forgive me when I say it’s “only” been a hundred years or so that the last great conservative occupied the White House. Also, forgive me for being tone-deaf to political nuance, but to my mind if you want to call yourself a conservative, you actually have to want to conserve something. » Continue Reading.
I voted for the first time as a New Yorker this month, mainly to vote against the constitutional convention, which might have opened the door to wholesale changes in the forest preserve, and, conversely, for a land bank that will allow small, common sense changes in the forest preserve.
I have to hand it to New York voters. Back in West Virginia, we never would have figured that out. As dearly as I love my home state, it is safe to say that the color gray simply does not exist. You’re either fer-it or agin-it, and the idea that fine tuning is not dependent on wholesale destruction, as a concept, simply does not exist. » Continue Reading.
I have a history of missing the big picture. When I see that a cleaning product “kills 99.9 percent of household germs,” instead of being comforted I worry about that one tenth of 1 percent. What’s that germ got? And will it destroy us all?
So I might be missing a perfectly logical reason why the Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC would think it a good idea to junk 2,000 flaking old oil tankers in the heart of the Adirondacks, where hikers and fishermen are seeking natural and spiritual repast, not a chain of rolling testaments to a (nearly) bygone era of dirty energy.
You wonder how this is this even possible in a land where, to hear some people tell it, you can’t even look at a spruce sideways, and the regulators sit around just waiting for you to commit some overt act that they can take you to court for. » Continue Reading.
Climbing Ampersand recently, I slipped on a rock. Fine. It happens. But not that much, not to me. Lacking other things to be proud of, I at least take satisfaction in a good sense of balance. This sense of balance was learned long ago, a factual nugget I reflected upon as I continued to hike, in the way that desultory, pointless thoughts float through your mind like breeze-buffeted wisps of milkweed on long stretches of lonely trails.
Growing up in rural West Virginia, our county’s school system didn’t have a lot of spare lettuce for playground improvements, so the janitor, Mr. Ryder — a taciturn, thickly muscled man man who was not tall, and whose darkly tanned face was deeply lined from too many years of mopping up crayon induced vomit — fashioned outdoor toys from the scrap he had on hand. » Continue Reading.
Maybe 15 years ago, having completed the 46 High Peaks and just becoming aware that there were indeed other trails in the Park, I was searching for new options when I stumbled across a brief description of the seldom-climbed Jay Mountain, the capstone of the Jay Range, smack in the center of the Jay Wilderness off of Jay Mountain Road between the communities of Jay and Upper Jay. Everything in Jay is named Jay. People even name their goldfish Jay. Less to remember that way, I suppose.
It was a mountain that, it was said, only “the locals” climbed, but if that were the case, those rascally locals weren’t talking. People whom I was certain had hiked Jay clammed up, guarding the secret with the same passion as one trying to keep the nuclear codes away from President Trump.
Of course this only meant that I made up my mind that I would find the trailhead or die. Find it I eventually did, but it wasn’t within a hundred yards of where it was supposed to be, and was marked only by three sorry old stones masquerading as a cairn. I do believe it took longer to find the trail than it did to hike it. » Continue Reading.
Every two decades, New Yorkers go to the polls to decide whether they want to rewrite the language in their state constitution. Historically, they take a pass on this opportunity — in more than a century, only three constitutional conventions have been called by the voters, the most recent in 1967. And even in that year, the same voters who called for the convention decided they didn’t like the result and rejected the changes proposed by the convention’s delegates.
But if last year’s presidential elections and the rise of a self-styled populist to power were reflective of anything, it was that much of the electorate is irritated with business as usual and might be willing to take chances in the name of draining the swamp. » Continue Reading.
Many moons ago, not too far north of Old Forge, there was a tourist trap that — apparently believing that honesty was the best policy — gave itself the name of The Tourist Trap. It sold the usual fare of balsam-scented incense burners in the shape of a log cabin, birch-bark lamps and every piece of junk imaginable with a picture of a loon on it — all destined, in time, for some North Carolina yard sale.
As a child in search of a meaningful memento costing south of 75 cents, I invested in a “paperweight” that was a river pebble that had been covered with postage stamps and apathetically lacquered. This artifact stayed with me for a remarkably long period of time, serving not as a reminder of the Adirondacks, but as a reminder to stay out of tourist traps. » Continue Reading.
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