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.


Friday, May 6, 2022

Honoring Seneca Ray Stoddard

seneca ray stoddard trail sign

Not far from the Acropolis in Greece, there’s a famous rock outcropping high above the Mediterranean Sea where the Apostle Paul tried to talk the Athenians out of their idolatry. Or so they say. No one thought to take any Polaroids as proof.

But there is something special about natural features that in some way connect us through the centuries — a vista of Gothics that Old Mountain Phelps insisted was “not the sort of scenery you want to hog up all at once”; a tremendous erratic that abolitionist John Brown certainly would have noticed on the rutted wagon trail out of Keene; a stony summit into which surveyors pounded a medallion under the watchful eye of Verplanck Colvin.

And then there’s Stoddard’s Rock. For all his accomplishments, having a rock named in his honor — and not a large rock, either — might not have made the great Adirondack photographer’s Top 10, even if he’d known about it, which he assuredly didn’t.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

An Earth Day outing at Essex Quarry

essex quarry

There’s nothing like a generator to spoil a good, old-fashioned Adirondack power outage. We happen to have one, so even though the juice was out for 33 hours, instead of kerosene lamps, a good book, heavy blankets, and gin rummy by candlelight, it was the same old LEDs, microwave popcorn and reruns of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

We had several friends who took the blame for the late-April snow, confessing that the weekend before they had moved the Adirondack chairs to the deck, or put up their skis and microspikes for the summer. And this was a real snow, this was not the more typical spring wintry mix.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Scouting out potential future mountain biking adventures

wilmington

It was January, and the snow was crusty and slick but not deep, not the sort of base you would want to ride a mountain bike on — so of course that’s exactly what someone had done at Otis Mountain where we were doing a little hiking on an excellent trail network that in summer will be filled with cyclists.

He had ridden across the famed Otis Mountain waterfall, which was frozen solid up top with a precipitous drop as reward for an untimely slip, and he (it had to be a he, right?) had ridden up and down some gawdawful slopes with attendant slides and spinouts evident by his track.

It reminded me of a Lollapalooza I had attended (long story, not worth it) where I saw a bruised and blood-drenched kid staggering out of the mosh pit and heard one of his friends gush, “Wow, you must have really been having fun.”

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Spring hikes for older legs

spring hike

For decades editors have told me not to use the word “elderly,” because it is both subjective and derogatory, an edict that I have afforded the same bland indifference with which I semi-acknowledge a dental hygienist who has just pressured me to floss.

But at a public hearing over a Ticonderoga public works project this week, a young woman was decrying new curbing that had facilitated the formation of ice and  caused her to fall. She was OK because she was young, she said, but — and here she pointed to her neighbor, not much older than me — “this elderly gentleman” might not be as lucky.

He gave her a look, but didn’t say anything. I got to admit, though, that kind of stung. Still, the Adirondacks is filled with little hikes suitable for us elderly folk.

I used to think some of these short but interesting jaunts like Essex Quarry or Cathedral Pines as beneath my dignity, but now that I’m elderly I revel in these, and other perks of the infirm.

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Monday, March 28, 2022

Keeping track of birds

bird band station

 

Some people open Christmas gifts with relish. But it is with an equal amount of anticipation that we bird nerds open the annual PDF emailed by Gordon Howard highlighting the previous year’s count at the Crown Point Banding Station — a document that arrived in the mailbox this week. Volunteers at the station, located at the Crown Point Historic Site, net, count and band dozens of species each spring at one of the nation’s more significant avian highways. Prior to Covid, it had become a popular attraction for tourists, birders and school classes, but it’s been closed to the public for the past two years due to the pandemic. This year it will be open again, from May 6 to May 21 for the station’s 47th consecutive year of banding birds.

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Thursday, March 24, 2022

An up-and-coming destination?

trout pond roadThe forecast was for a few inches of snow overnight and bright skies in the morning, so the idea was to ski the remote and scenic Trout Pond Road in Chesterfield before the sand trucks hit it with abrasives. Sure enough, it was sunny in the morning but — no snow. Best laid plans of mice and men, and all that.

But I was firm on the destination, so out of the truck bed went the skis and in went the bicycle. Trout Pond bisects some backcountry that’s being preserved by Open Space Institute and Northeast Wilderness Trust and, I suspect, will be much more of a destination in another decade than it is now.

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Friday, March 18, 2022

Keeping up with invasives: The gypsy moth gets a new name

gypsy moths

March is filled with days that feel like spring, even if they don’t feel like spring. The angle of the light, the birds and buds, and the blue, silviculture IV’s running from maple to maple all suggest a mood that the temperatures do not.

As we hardy, resilient outdoor types watch the calendar shift from complaining-about-ice season to complaining-about-mud season, there are bound to be some cold, sopping wet days where we just look out the window and think — no.

But there were other things to do this week, thanks to the Adirondack Garden Club, which was hosting Becca Bernacki of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, who was speaking on a quinella of insects that have the potential to do great harm in the forest, and how we can do our part to stop them.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The power of ice

ice jam

If fruit is nature’s candy, the breakup of an ice jam is nature’s performance art. Half flood, half avalanche, they move with both a wild fury and a deceptive grace as they storm down Adirondack valleys, just looking for trouble.

In the Ausable River Valley, the phenomenon is a matter of pop culture, having given a name to an Upper Jay lodge and restaurant known as the Ice Jam Inn, and inspiring residents to jockey for the best vantage points along Rt. 9N as a one-mile procession of frozen blocks thunder by —  the local version of the Running of the Bulls.

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Monday, February 28, 2022

Keeping an eye on Tupper Lake, on the ground and above

coney mountain in tupper lake

The day dawned as blue as a robin’s egg and comparatively mild, but big snow and bitter cold was in the forecast. So I had a choice. I could spend the day attending to the tough but essential details of North Country living, laying in firewood, fueling the tractor and shoveling the existing snow off the roof of the old garage. Or I could do the totally irresponsible thing and go for a hike.

Ninety minutes after this dilemma had presented itself, we were at the trailhead of Coney Mountain   in Tupper Lake, strapping on the ’shooz and reading a history of the little peak on the kiosk by the trail register.

There were multiple reasons for being there, one being that I was doing “research” for a 2023 Explorer piece I’m working on about the Tupper Triad, a three-mountain challenge that includes Coney, Goodman and Arab.

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Friday, February 25, 2022

Taking time for impromptu outing

bobcat trail CATS

For more than a few Adirondackers, buying groceries is more complex than it ought to be, because the simple act of loading bags in the hatchback is complicated by the presence of skis, snowshoes, spikes and myriad other vaguely medieval looking winter gear left there for the express purpose of impromptu adventures

Don’t try to tell me I’m wrong about this. I’ve been in the grocery store parking lot. I’ve seen your cars. But it’s OK, because I maintain that you haven’t lived until a previously unnoticed trailhead causes you to slam on the brakes on an icy road, affording the people behind you one of those all-too-rare chances to test out their wintertime evasive driving skills. 

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A ski through time on Old Mountain Road

view from old mountain road

If you are into time travel and are blessed with a good imagination, I suspect you would enjoy skiing the Jackrabbit Trail as it passes along Old Mountain Road, a trace that, at somewhere around 230 years old, has to rank as one of the most ancient remaining pieces of still-identifiable pieces of Adirondack infrastructure.

The historic route between North Elba and Keene, it is more easily accessed from the Keene side from Alstead Hill Lane, where it gradually gains elevation and traverses a beaver-assisted wetlands as it becomes increasingly pinched between the rugged backside of Pitchoff and the shoulders of Black and Slide mountains in the Sentinel wilderness.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022

A trip to a historic lodge

debar

I confess to being a groupie of the Port Kent-Hopkinton Turnpike, a 19th century transportation artifact that ran from Lake Champlain 75 miles inland to an outpost in the northern Adirondack foothills.

A lonely ribbon through the wilderness, significant mileage exists today exactly as it did in 1833 when it was completed. It tiptoes through the lovely community of Loon Lake and bobs and weaves its way past the underappreciated Loon Lake Mountain trailhead.

North of that, it passes the entry to Debar Pond Lodge, a site of consequential history and, over time, three major lodgings, the last of which, built in 1940, still stands. Perhaps most notably, the land in the late 1800s was owned by the son of a German brewer who planted a record-setting 300 acres in hops.

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Thursday, February 3, 2022

A perfect cold-weather hike

cobble lookoutCall it reverse ageism, but I have concluded that breaking trails after a heavy snow is a job for younger people. This, after slogging up Blueberry Mountain in Keene last year through 14 inches of fresh powder. I made it to the top, but it was work, and as the late Junior Sample said on Hee Haw, “work, that just kills me.”

So with that in mind, I set out to take advantage of the recent snowfall by visiting a trail that I figured was certain to be well trod. The Cobble Lookout Trail in Wilmington is only eight years old. And it’s a lesson in the speed at which an Adirondack trail can go from undiscovered to popular to a quarter mile hike along the road just to get to the trailhead.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Prisons and the North Country: A complex relationship

ray brook prison sign

I’m currently editing a manuscript by a North Country native whose views on climate change have been shaped both by his role as a military scientist and by extensive time in the woods beginning as a boy in his father’s Adirondack hunting camp.

Among the delightful vignettes is a bone-chilling recollection of the fireworks and ice palace on the shores of Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. Was the forty-five minute show worth the ensuing six hours it took to get back some semblance of inner warmth? But of course.

Construction will soon be underway for this year’s ice palace, but going forward one of the more interesting angles of the work may be lost. In the past — interrupted by the pandemic — much of the work has been performed by inmates of the Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility.

Clarence Jefferson Hall Jr., history professor and author of “A Prison in the Woods: Environment and Incarceration in New York’s North Country,” notes that the story of the Adirondacks can’t be told without noting the significance of prison work details.

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Saturday, January 15, 2022

A fresh start to a new year

first day hike at Paul Smiths VICWe 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.

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