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.


Sunday, January 2, 2022

A special kind of connectivity

OSI land

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.

» Continue Reading.


Kid next to water
Saturday, December 18, 2021

New use for logging trails in Lewis

thrall dam in lewis

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.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Keeping an eye on bird migrations

bird banding

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.’”

Birds are fascinating for their appearance, songs and habits, and as with most outdoor things, I know just enough to be dangerous.

This week a creature of avian disposition crossed my path and I silently wondered what kind of bird is blue, with a little rust and is about the size of a bluebi …

Oh, right.

» Continue Reading.


Kid next to water
Sunday, November 28, 2021

A trick of nature

wolf pondIt 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.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Accessible Adirondacks: Exploring the Clintonville Pine Barrens

columnist sweatshirtI 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.

» Continue Reading.


Kid next to water
Sunday, November 14, 2021

Exploring wild places

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.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Salt solutions?

Billy Jones salt bill

Lake George has been a leader in road salt reduction and now some of those lessons will be coming north.

Wilmington Supervisor Roy Holzer, who attended the sixth annual Lake George road salt reduction summit last week, said his town has applied for a grant that would pay for cameras on the Whiteface Highway, a steep climb out of the hamlet to elevations where it can snow before it does down below. But not always. With cameras, plow drivers can open an app and assess conditions before driving up and salting a road that may not need it. Salt pollution has been recognized as a threat both to the environment and public health.

Essex County Department of Public Works Director Jim Dugan said some methods used further south, such as brining the highway, aren’t as effective in the mountains where it’s colder. But that doesn’t mean local governments are powerless.

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.

Holzer follows the late Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston, for which road salt reduction law is named.

“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.

NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones speaks Dec. 4, 2020, at a commemoration of the signing of the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act. More than 10 months later, the task force created by the bill is still without members. Mike Lynch photo 

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


Kid next to water
Sunday, October 24, 2021

Watching the salmon run

salmon run

The warm October has slowed the fall salmon run a bit, but the fact that there is any salmon run at all in the rivers that flow from the Adirondacks into Lake Champlain is a point of some celebration. The dams that powered industry, the resulting pollution from this industry and overfishing destroyed the Atlantic salmon fishery in Lake Champlain prior to the Civil War.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Adirondack gold

fall foliage

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).

Being fortunate enough to live here year ’round, I got out on a couple of trails this week after the crowds had gone, feeling a bit like a cockroach coming out after the lights have been turned out for the night. A favorite of mine is Clements Pond, a slip of a trail scarcely 15 minutes from the popular Cascade but worlds away in terms of use.

» Continue Reading.


Kid next to water
Monday, October 18, 2021

Exploring Cranberry Lake

wanakena bridge

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.

» Continue Reading.


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.


Kid next to water
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


Kid next to water
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.



Kid next to water

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