Almanack Contributor Tim Rowland

Tim Rowland

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.


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Storm water and sewers

Several times a year, usually following a heavy rain, sewage that has not been fully treated overwhelms the Ticonderoga treatment plant and flows into the La Chute River, and shortly after that, into Lake Champlain. (Check out an overview of the latest “State of the Lake” report here)

There’s nothing secret about it; the town sends out email alerts whenever it happens. The Department of Environmental Conservation allows it, up to a point. If there are too many rain storms and too many overflows, the town is fined because, well, you can’t assess a fine on God.

Ticonderoga is not alone. A half century ago, communities saw no reason not to mix sewage and storm water and send it all to the treatment plant, and that worked until more development led to more effluent, which in time exceeded sewer-plant capacity.

The growth, however, has not been sufficient to pay for sewer plant expansion. Small communities in tourist areas lack enough people among whom to divide up the cost of expanded capacity. Also, sending flow through a treatment plant comes at a cost, and treating clean water makes little financial sense.

The Ticonderoga story has a happy ending, however. Within the next few weeks the town will “throw the switch” on an $8 million project primarily designed to separate storm water from sanitary sewer effluent. The storm water will be channeled into a “day stream” that is dry except in times of high water. It will receive some basic treatment for removal of trash and litter before being diverted to the river. The rainwater will not go through the treatment plant, which will be freed up to do the job in which it was intended.

Storm water, of course, has its own issues and its own set of needs. But municipalities are coming to understand that storm water and sewer flow are two different things.

Top: Highway and water supervisor Jason Monroe, left, and Town Supervisor Craig Leggett discuss water and sewer needs in the town of Chester. Photo by Cindy Schultz

Editor’s note: This first appeared in the Explorer’s weekly Water Line newsletter. Click here to sign up.


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The secret life of water

At the recently opened Essex Quarry Nature Park, a classic Adirondack brook winds through a cedar forest, chatters over boulders artfully accented with moss and ferns and then — disappears.

Like water running down a drain, it plunges down a stony crevice in the earth and is gone. Trail stewards say it doesn’t reappear again until it reaches Lake Champlain. Precisely where it goes and what it encounters along the way will likely forever be a mystery.

The Secret Life of Water is a fascinating story that escapes most people as they appreciate the beauty and charm of Adirondack lakes, rivers and streams. Paddlers might not realize that beneath the surface Mirror Lake, to pick one example, has important work to do, and some of that work is fraught.

Water sustains life, but it is also a mover, a builder, a gardener and an excavator. What it encounters in one spot can have implications in another, as we’ve seen with road salt and excessive nutrients.

Gov. Kathy Hochul was in Lake Placid on Friday, talking about the importance of water quality and showing off permeable pavement that allows rain to seep through the ground before it reaches the lake instead of running along the surface collecting man-made toxins as it goes.

Water is the reason the Adirondack Park was created. Left to its own devices, it does its job well. But where development has knocked it off its game, sometimes it can use a little help.

 A scene from the Essex Quarry trail. Mike Lynch photo


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

After the flood and before the next storm

bridge

On the heels of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Irene, comes commemoration of another calamity: It’s been almost two years since the Halloween Storm of 2019 dumped a frightening amount of rain in the Southeastern Adirondacks, an event that probably received less attention than was due because it centered on a less populated part of the park.
The storm washed out the road to the much-ballyhooed Boreas Ponds, scarcely six weeks after it had opened. One small victim of the storm was a bridge leading to Hammond Pond, a sparkling blue sheet in the Eastern Adirondacks. It took two years, but the state has finally replaced it with a beefy piece of infrastructure that is part bridge, part work of art (see photo above).

It may seem like overkill for such a small stream, but as the climate changes, that’s what it’s going to take to withstand the beating that trails, roads and bridges are likely to absorb from rising rivers and streams. Notably, the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act on the ballot next year would spend no less than $1 billion to brace against the impact of flooding. Many have fretted over the costs of lowering carbon emissions. But failing to lower carbon emissions is likely to cost us far more.

— Tim Rowland, Explorer contributor


Monday, March 15, 2021

When nature calls, let’s hope there isn’t a bear in the outhouse

outhouseSay what you will about Adirondack bears, but they have their dignity. They may trash your camp, scare the city folk and steal your salmon sandwich, but at least they don’t hide out in the bowels, so to speak, of ADK privies, lying in wait for the next passing derriere to present itself for a quick snack.

At least not that we know of. At least not yet. Let’s hope bears can’t read.

An extremely disturbing story was reported by the Associated Press in late February about an Alaskan woman visiting an outhouse and — well, best let her tell it: “I got out there and sat down on the toilet and immediately something bit my butt right as I sat down. I jumped up and I screamed when it happened.”

No kidding. And if you’re the bear, you’re lucky that’s all she did.

The young woman was wounded, but not badly, and her brother Erik assumed it was a squirrel or a mink that had done the damage. So he shined his headlamp down the pit and — well, long story short, for the second time that morning someone ran screaming from the outhouse.

Both sister and brother said it was a miracle her injuries weren’t more severe. That should be obvious. The bear was at the bottom of an outhouse, so he couldn’t have been in a very good mood to begin with. I know I wouldn’t have been. Then someone comes along and moons him, and you have to figure that’s the last straw. 

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Government agencies in pandemic: Lack of connection, transparency

Since the Adirondack Park Agency’s monthly meetings went virtual, I have patched in to watch the fuzzy images and hear the fuzzy voices of the commissioners, on a feed that has the flavor of convicted felons appearing in court via closed circuit video.

And I’ve thought: This is a leading agency in a leading state in a leading country in the world and this is the best we can do? And the answer is, Yes! It is! Because other agencies, boards and panels are much worse. At least with the APA you can get a vague notion of what they are doing, as opposed to some remote Facebook feeds that are entirely inaudible or, in the case of one local government meeting, was broadcast upside down.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Scare from a bear: When does a charge becomes a chase?

Missing Old Forge teen claims she was chased by bear, spent night in tree

The weighty canon of Adirondack bear lore grew a little thicker recently, when an Old Forge athlete put her running shoes to good use to scamper out of the path of a momma bear intent on protecting her cubs.

According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, a 19-year-old woman later identified by state police as Rachel Smith, set out on a five-mile run on Big Otter Trail in the HaDaRonDah Wilderness Area on the evening of Aug. 18 and did not return.

What happened next is sure to be retold many times in a region that values its bear culture — from the famed Bear Fight Up in Keene to the hiker whose camp was ripped apart because his lunch included a salmon sandwich.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, May 25, 2020

Musings on return to ‘normal’: Cheeseburgers, haircuts and fresh air

This week it began. We have initiated the economic “phase-in” period of our return to normalcy, a studied collection of charts, graphs and data which, if all goes well, will allow us by mid-June to sit down in public and eat a cheeseburger.

“Easy, easy … caaareful … OK, now do you want fries with that?” By that time we will have worn masks so long that, forgetting they are there, we will smush a tuna sub right into the business end of our N95.

Then, on June 1, the North Country is expected to get back to the serious business of cutting hair. Stylists are going to be like humanitarian relief workers in Haiti after a Category IV hurricane — working around the clock to the point of exhaustion, until the average Adirondacker no longer resembles Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Farmers adjust to ‘new normal’

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the executive order in March that shut down state commerce, Katie and Brandon Donahue, owners of Donahue’s Livestock Farm in North Bangor, had 30 sizable orders of top-shelf, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef and pork in the cooler destined for North Country restaurants.

Within minutes of the shutdown order, Donahue’s phone began blowing up with cancellations. Restaurants were either shutting down altogether or going to a pickup/delivery model that relied less on the more expensive, hence more profitable, cuts. By the end of the day, 27 of the 30 restaurants had called to cancel.

“I was panicking,” Donahue said. “I have 700 cows out in the field that still have to eat, and they don’t care about the coronavirus.”

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Introverts unite! (From a distance)

lone hikerSome of us don’t have to be told to avoid cruise ships.

We don’t need to be advised to stay away from stadiums, subways, shopping malls, political rallies, airplanes, company picnics, drum circles or even the funerals of unpopular people. We have never heard of Purell and we do not spray our food with Lysol. Our “personal space” is roughly the size of Montana. We are faster than a speeding happy hour, more powerful than a mandatory committee meeting, able to ghost potential romantic partners in a single ghost. We can do a self-quarantine standing on our heads. We are the few, the proud, the perpetually socially distanced — the Introvert Writers of America.

We could have told you all along that human interaction was trouble. Why do you think we moved to the ADK to begin with, for the tent revivals? This is exactly why we freak out when we see more than three people on a mountain summit.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tim Rowland On The Plastic Bag Ban

BYO Bag courtesy DECI am a good boy when it comes to plastics, mainly.

I do own reusable totes, many of which were given to me as swag at the 2011 national auto show for some reason. Nor do I ask for a straw if the garçon does not bring me one. Sometimes I may even thank his establishment for not passing out straws, unless I am in a particularly crabby mood, which, come to think of it, I usually am. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Tim Rowland Tells A Lengthy, Somewhat Irrelevant Story

General Joshua L ChamberlainI was raised just south of the Mason-Dixon Line, or as we knew it, the IHOP-Waffle House Line. That means two things, one that I was heavily influenced by the American Civil War, and two, that to illustrate my opinions, I tell lengthy, somewhat irrelevant stories.

George Pickett was a moon-faced division commander for the Confederacy, a man who finished last in his class in West Point, and were it not for an oppressively humid summer morning in Gettysburg, Pa., might be best known today for his participation in the Pig War of 1859. He was one of those guys who could probably fix your truck, but you wouldn’t want doing your taxes, if you know what I’m saying. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Appoint Tim Rowland to Adirondack Park Agency Board

APA Building in Ray Brook NYAs membership of the Adirondack Park Agency board dwindles toward zero, I would like to toss my hat into the ring for consideration.

In the words of Sam Cooke, I don’t know much biology, don’t know much about a science book, don’t know much about the French I took. But come on, all this talk about “qualifications” has gotten a bit out of hand, don’t you think? » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 29, 2019

Empire State Trail’s Highway Rock Cuts Raise Concerns

proposed Empire State TrailYippee, it’s Harley Davidson season again — that time of year when 7 million people all ride the same motorcycle, wear the same clothes, go to the same places, eat at the same spots and travel around in packs of 60. All to express their individuality.

I don’t mind the concept. It’s a free country. But I do mind the noise. There has to be a better way for some balding, dentist from Altoona to address his insecurities than by trumpeting his existence across three adjacent counties, particularly in the Adirondack Park — you should not have to hike two full miles into the bush to escape the mechanized flatulence echoing off the canyons. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Tim Rowland: Adirondack Redemption

All Brands Redemption Center SignOn moving to the North Country for good a couple of years ago, I kept seeing all these “Redemption Centers,” and I thought to myself: I had no idea the Adirondacks had this many Baptists. And I certainly didn’t know they drank that much Bud Light.

Of course as it turned out, Redemption Centers up here are places where you go, not to be saved, but return your empty bottles and cans for a nickel apiece. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Viewpoint: Important Tick Research Needs Support

tick next to dimeI’d been living in the North Country for about a month when I woke up to discover a red bulls eye on my left arm. Since, mentally and emotionally, I have never advanced much past the fourth grade, my first thought was: “Cool!”

Because it was clearly visible, however, a number of people subsequently pointed out that this, technically, was nothing to celebrate. So I walked around for the next three days looking like the dog from the Target ads, while people dutifully commented on my impending doom.

Nothing ever came of it. So far the only discomfort ticks have caused me is embarrassment, owing to an appointment with a massage therapist that went horribly wrong. » Continue Reading.