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.
We had been instructed to bring snowshoes, which we did out of a sense of honor, but on the first day of 2022 there was really no need. We would be tramping over skinny snow, the Weight Watchers version of the real thing, the typical plump mounds and drifts reduced to an unhealthy parchment stretched thin to cover what it could of stones, stumps and tufts of grass.
Because I had snapped a photo of the thermometer at the time, social media was good enough to remind me that on the first day of 2018 the temp was 24 below. So the 37 degrees registered by the car thermometer in the Visitor Interpretive Center parking lot at Paul Smith’s College represented a 61-degree swing for which we were not entirely ungrateful.
The sprawl along Corinth Road west out of Glens Falls is about what you’d expect — shopping centers, convenience stores, government offices, subdivision signs advertising “huge lots.” Nothing for a bear or a bobcat to see here.
And why would it be otherwise? This is inside a population center and outside the Blue Line, although just barely. Yet to conservationists, the low mountains of the Palmerstown Range in Saratoga County represent a rare opportunity for plant, animal and human alike.
Indeed, said Jamie Brown of the Open Space Institute, wildland connectivity from southern Vermont into these Adirondack foothills and the Adirondacks themselves is an important goal of multiple organizations that see value in stitching together and protecting long-distance corridors of forestlands.
Adirondack communities have always been resourceful; they’ve had to be, necessity being the mother not just of invention but of 180-degree course corrections. When there were no longer enough children to support the Inlet Common School, community members turned it into a learning venue of another sort, where community members of all ages will share their expertise with others.
Similarly, Adirondack towns have customarily squirreled away a few hundred acres that they logged every so often to earn a few bucks to make up for a paucity of state support. But now, some of these towns, such as Keene and Lewis, are discovering these lands have more value as recreational venues.
As the Adirondack region looks for solutions to overcrowding some of these towns are recognizing that they can help by luring hikers away from trails that resemble mosh pits with roots.
Endemic to the Adirondack Park are a number of brilliant birders and I’m pretty sure they all roll their eyes when they see me coming, because I’m not much good with biological IDs of any kind, and I’m always peppering them with dopey questions like, “What bird is small, black and white and has a song that kind of goes ‘chickadee-dee-dee.’”
It might not have been the biggest Halloween trick in the history of the Adirondacks, but as Dizzy Dean would say, it was amongst ’em.
For years, if not decades, ’dak-o-philes had drooled over the prospect of paddling Boreas Ponds, a Shangri-La (blackflies notwithstanding) that stood out even in a park filled with natural wonders.
Locked away by timber interests longer than anyone had been alive, then subject of a lengthy, impassioned battle over access, the Gulf Brook Road finally opened to the ponds in the fall of 2019 — and was promptly washed out six weeks later on Halloween by a monster rainstorm.
I have this T-shirt that says “COLUMNIST:” Because Badass Miracle Worker Isn’t An Official Job Title.”
I didn’t say I was proud of it, I said that I have it.
Anyhow, when visiting the Sugar House Creamery in Upper Jay last spring, the shirt caught the attention of Mike Hirsch, the opinion page editor of The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
In a week where we were again reminded that development pressures are always with us, it seemed a good time to visit a spot where the reverse is occurring. On a wooded glade bordered by wetlands near the hamlet of Essex is the Brookfield Headwaters Trail, which loops eight tenths of a mile over old farmland that is embarking on a 200 year journey toward becoming, once again, an old growth forest.
Dugan said the county, with a $750,000 state grant and a $250,000 match, is building a shed to keep its stores of sand under roof. Before it’s stockpiled, salt has to be mixed into the sand to keep it from freezing into unspreadable chunks. Dougan said the shelter will keep the sand dry, and greatly reduce the ratio of salt to sand.
Dugan said he would also like to be allowed to cut trees in the highway right of way to let in the ice-melting sun, but even though environmentalists agree this is an important strategy, in the Forest Preserve that’s not allowed.
“I certainly feel an obligation to carry through with his mission, and I feel like Wilmington is leading change in the North Country,” Holzer said. Smart salt law can strike a balance between safety and the environment, while saving taxpayer money by reducing the need to purchase salt, he said.
A relatively quiet summer hiking season in the High Peaks wrapped up with a zany holiday weekend that, according to Town of Keene officials, included jammed trailheads, full shuttles, lost children, a dog bite and, why not, a group that wanted to parachute from a helicopter onto Marcy Field (they were told this might not be the best weekend for it).
When the air is crisp and the leaves are the color of lollipops and hikers descend on Keene Valley like seagulls on a sub, thoughts in this quarter inevitably turn to Cranberry Lake in the Adirondack’s northwest quadrant.
Cranberry Lake in the autumn has the feel of an outpost on civilization’s edge — a port from which the last ship has sailed for the year, leaving behind a skeleton crew of people to keep systems operational through a long dark winter.
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 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.
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.
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.
Say 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.
The Adirondack Almanack is a public forum dedicated to promoting and discussing current events, history, arts, nature and outdoor recreation and other topics of interest to the Adirondacks and its communities
We publish commentary and opinion pieces from voluntary contributors, as well as news updates and event notices from area organizations. Contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The information, views and opinions expressed by these various authors are not necessarily those of the Adirondack Almanack or its publisher, the Adirondack Explorer.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to editor Melissa Hart.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.