Friday, October 30, 2009

PBS Stations Picking Up Locally-Made Documentary

The locally-made documentary about the French and Indian War, “Forgotten War: The Struggle for North America,” has been selected for broadcast by more than two hundred public broadcasting stations.

The documentary, which was produced by Plattsburgh’s Mountain Lakes PBS in conjunction with commemorations of the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian Wars, will be seen in three of the biggest markets in the country: New York, Boston and San Francisco, said Janet Kennedy, the executive director of Lakes to Locks Passage, which underwrote the documentary.

Stations in Los Angeles and Philadelphia are considering broadcasts, said Kennedy.

“Mountain Lakes PBS is the smallest public television station in the country, so having one of its productions broadcast nationally is a remarkable achievement,” said Peter Repas, executive director of the Association of Public Broadcasting Stations of New York.

According to Colin Powers, Mountain Lakes PBS’s director of production and programming, for too many Americans, the French and Indian war is still the forgotten war, despite the fact that the 250th anniversary of the pre-Independence War conflict inspired countless new books and films.

Not only do relatively few Americans understand the role the conflict played in shaping the history of the North American continent, the significance of Lake George and Lake Champlain in determining the conflict’s outcome is often lost sight of, Powers said.

To remedy that defect, Powers and a team of producers, directors and writers spent more than two years creating “Forgotten War: The Struggle for North America,” an hour long documentary that will be seen on public broadcasting stations throughout the United States and Canada.

“We wanted to bring the war back to this corridor,” Powers said at the documentary’s premiere, which was held at Fort Ticonderoga. “An epic struggle for the fate of North America was played out right here in our own backyards. For five years—from 1755 to 1760—the battles raged at Lake George, Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, and Quebec as France, Britain and the native peoples of North America fought to decide who would control the crucial highway of rivers and lakes between New York and the city of Montreal.”

The film makers succeeded in restoring the primacy of northern New York to the historical narrative, said David Starbuck, the archaeologist who has conducted excavations at Fort George and Fort William Henry.

“They did a great job of putting this area front and center,” said Starbuck, who served as one of the film’s consultants.

According to Powers, the film makers hoped to restore a perspective that many historians felt had been distorted by the PBS documentary “The War that made America,” which was filmed near Pittsburgh.

Much of “Forgotten War” was filmed in and around Fort Ticonderoga, using the 2000 re-enactors who show up every year as extras.

“They’re re-enactors, not actors, so we frequently had to re-stage scenes,” said Damian Panetta, the documentary’s producer and director.

Panetta and associate producer Karin O‘Connell elicited the advice not only of scholars but of the descendants of those who participated in the conflict.

“I was very cognizant of trying to tell a balanced story so I spoke to British, French, French Canadian, British Canadian, Scottish, American, Iroquios, Abenaki, and Mohican peoples,” said O’Connell.

The result, said Colin Powers, is a documentary that gives proper weight to Native Americans and the American colonists.

The French and Indian War is a forgotten war not merely because it has been overshadowed by the War of Independence, but also because it contains so many forgotten stories, said Powers.

According to Powers, ‘Forgotten War’ will be a rich resource long after it has been shown on television.

In addition to the full-length documentary, the producers have created videos that will be available at historic sites, a website with
downloadable content, and educational curriculum that meet state curriculum standards.

“This was a project that took more than two years to complete,” said Alice Recore, the president and CEO of Mountain Lakes PBS. “I hope viewers will feel that it was well worth the time and the effort.”

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hamilton County’s Long-Standing Sheriff Retires

Hamilton County Sheriff Douglas A. Parker has announced his retirement, ending a history of Parkers serving as the county’s top cop that stretches back to 1964; just three men have filled the post since 1946. The Long Lake resident, now 67, has spent 40 years with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department. He was appointed to the position of Jailer by his father Arthur E. Parker in 1964 after a short stint about and anti-submarine aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy, he was elected Sheriff on his father’s retirement in 1983.

Parker is being lauded by locals for his approach to rehabilitation of those that find their way into the county’s criminal justice system. “I’d describe Doug as one of those rare individuals that can project authority, that isn’t questioned, and still has the ability to listen and empathize, almost like a social worker,” Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chair William Farber (who has known Parker all these 40 years) told the Schenectady Gazette. “He’s seriously going to be missed. We have a department that’s second to none in how they handle people,” Hamilton County Judge S. Peter Feldstein told the paper. “More young people get turned around because of their interactions with the department, and that’s all because of him.” Some 250 people showed up at the Oak Mountain Ski Center lodge in Speculator for Parker’s retirement party last week.

While serving as Jailer (and living above the jail with his wife), Douglas Parker was put in charge of serial killer Robert F. Garrow when he was held in county lock-up in Lake Pleasant (part of which was built in 1840) for nine months in 1973-1974. He immediately doubled the guard (to two), but still felt uneasy about his charge, calling the experience “a nightmare.” “We didn’t trust Garrow to take a shower. He took a bath in a kiddy pool.” he recently told the Gazette, “He was never out of his cell, but that there were two deputies with him.”

Douglas Parker’s father Arthur E. Parker was elected Long Lake Town Clerk in 1939, and then served 19 years as Long Lake Town Supervisor before being appointed by then New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller when then sheriff Merritt Lamos died in office in 1964.

Hamilton County is the most rural and least populated county in the state, and also, at 1,700-square-miles, one of the largest. The county’s year-round population is about 5,400, which rises to an estimated 55,000 during the summer. The Sheriff’s department includes a staff of six including dispatchers.

The county is considered the most consistently Republican of the entire state. The Republican candidate has lost the county only once over the last 23 Presidential elections (Barry Goldwater). John McCain carried Hamilton County by 27% margin over Barack Obama – the highest margin of victory of McCain in the state.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Top Mountains of Initial Ascent for Adirondack Forty Sixers

As many know, Adirondack Forty-Sixers, or just Forty-Sixers, are people who have climbed the 46 mountains of New York State traditionally considered to be at least 4,000’ in elevation. Membership numbers took nearly a half century to grow from the club’s first recorded member on June 10, 1925 to 1,000 in 1974. Since then, numbers have increased dramatically to 6,385, according to the Forty-Sixer website’s last roster update. Perhaps you too have contemplated exploring the peaks but don’t know where to begin. A good guidebook and some research help, but footprints from the past may also serve as a guide.

Numbers based on the membership roster yielded the four most popular peaks for first ascent:

1. 1,370 or 21.5% people began with Marcy.
2. 1,097 or 17.2% began with Cascade.
3. 593 or 9.2% began with Algonquin.
4. 588 also about 9.2% began with Giant.

Cascade is the most conservative choice for those unsure about their performance over an extended distance. It’s still a challenge with a five-mile round trip covering 2,000’ elevation gain. Porter Mtn. sits alongside and can be added to the day for a minimum of effort. Giant is a rugged and unrelenting round trip of a bit over five miles from Chapel Pond. Elevation gain is over 3,000’ vertical. A side venture to Rocky Peak Ridge can add another high peak to the day, but costs a good bit more in effort. Algonquin jumps to an eight-mile roundtrip over about 2,400’ in ascent. A side spur ascent up Wright or trek over Boundary to Iroquois can make the Algonquin trip either a double or triple header high peak day with multiple choices for descent. Marcy weighs in at about fifteen miles in total with over 3,100’ vertical. Various other destinations can be added if you’re particularly fit and up for the challenge.

All four choices boast open summits with stunning 360 degree views. Marcy is 5,344’ in elevation and overlooks a large percentage of the high peaks being the highest and nearly centered in the grouping. Cascade climbs to 4,098’ with views of Whiteface to the north and most of the peaks from the McIntyre Range over to Big Slide. Algonquin is the second Highest Peak at 5,114’ and is placed a bit to the west. It offers views of numerous mountains including the remote Wallface, Marshall and Iroquois as well as a breathtaking view of Mt. Colden’s incredible slide array down to Avalanche Lake. Giant is aptly named at 4,627’ and delivers views spanning from Lake Champlain and beyond as well as the Dix Range to the east. Each peak is equally rewarding.

So, in deciding how to begin, it’s nice to reflect upon past statistics as well as current sources. Once you’ve wet your feet on Adirondack trails, perhaps you’ll have a taste for more explorations and even more difficult challenges. Stay “tuned” for more on the High Peaks, including one of several ways to accumulate over 10,000 vertical feet in a day hike.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two Adirondack Almanack Debates You May Be Missing

We often have some outstanding discussions here at Adirondack Almanack, debates that carry on long after the story has left the main page. I thought I’d take a moment to point readers to two active and interesting debates that have recently slipped off the main page.

The first involves Mary Thill’ s October 8 post “Posted Signs Do’s And Don’ts” which has 21 insightful comments on navigation law, trespass, private property and paddlers.

A second post also generating a lot of discussion is the recent announcement I made about a planned North Creek to Tahawus Rail Trail on October 14. There you’ll find nearly a dozen comments on the subject of abandoned railway easements and the Forest Preserve. Both discussion are enlightening—take a moment to check them out.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Abenaki Candidates to Address Voters Saturday

Denise Watso, a descendant of the legendary Abenaki Chief Louis Watso who lived in Lake George Village for a time and figures prominently in 19th century Native American life there, sent the Almanack a press release (below) about an upcoming candidate forum in Albany on Saturday, October 24.

This is a significant event in the history of the Abenaki Nation. It was only within this decade that the substantial membership of the Odanak Abenaki First Nation living in the Albany area have been able to vote for their chief and council members. This is the first election in which off-reserve Abenaki are able to run for office as well as vote.

Here is the press release:

The Capital District will host one of three forums for Abenaki voters to hear directly from candidates for Chief and Council of the Odanak Abenaki First Nation. The forum will be held from 12-4 PM, Saturday, October 24 at the German-American Club, 32 Cherry Street, Albany, NY 12205. This is an exciting time in the history of the Abenaki people – all Abenaki enrolled at Odanak are invited and encouraged to attend with their families.

Two additional forums will be held during the election season at Sudbury, Ontario, and on-reserve at Odanak. Elections will be held Saturday, November 28, 2009, although voters may also cast their ballots by mail.

The Abenaki are the aboriginal people associated with homelands in much of northern New England and adjacent parts of New York, Massachusetts and Quebec, as well as with the Odanak (Saint Francis) and Wôlinak (Becancour) reserves in central Quebec (and historically with the Penobscot Nation in Maine, too). Abenaki derives from Wabanaki (“people from where the sun rises,” “people of the east,” or “people of the dawn”), and this latter term is often used in a general sense to refer collectively to the Mi’kmaq, Malecite, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Abenaki peoples.

While many Abenaki have been thought of as “Saint Francis Indians,” living at Odanak, in truth many Abenaki families have maintained part-time or full-time residence within their homelands south of the border continuously since the American Revolution. In fact, the first election held by the Odanak First Nation under the Indian Act, the legislation regulating aboriginal affairs in Canada, occurred January 18, 1876, after many Abenaki (and their Indian Agent) complained that the three chiefs serving the community at the time – Louis Watso, Solomon Benedict and Jean Hannis – were away from the reserve so often that two additional chiefs were required to ensure adequate representation. (The aged chief Louis Watso was actually living at Lake George, where a good deal of his family resided.) Samuel Watso and Lazare Wawanolett were chosen from a field of six candidates, and elections for office have been held at regular intervals ever since.

Abenaki history on the upper Hudson dates to at least the late 17th century when many ancestors of the modern Abenaki people lived at Schaghticoke, near the mouth of the Hoosic River. Continuing Abenaki presence in New York State is attested to by such notable 19th century Adirondack Abenaki as Sabael Benedict, Mitchell Sabattis, and the late 19th/early 20th century Indian Encampments at Saratoga Springs, Lake George and Lake Luzerne were primarily occupied by Abenaki. Despite a lack of recognition by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, these Abenaki families have persisted within and beyond their homelands: today, the Albany metro region is a major Abenaki population center. Other significant concentrations of Abenaki people are located in Waterbury, CT; Newport, VT; and Sudbury, Ontario.

This will be the second time that a formal forum for candidates for Chief and Council has been held in Albany. Approximately 60 people attended a similar event two years ago, and an even higher turn-out is expected this weekend. Off-reserve Abenaki were not allowed to vote in Odanak’s election until after the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 Corbiere ruling struck down the voter residency requirement of Canada’s Indian Act.

The importance of the off-reserve vote has been increasing with each passing election. This election, however, may bring about even greater change as it will be the first time since the Indian Act was enacted that off-reserve Abenaki will be eligible to accept a nomination for office (per the 2007 Federal Court of Appeals’ Esquega decision). The potential impact of this development places an even greater spotlight on the role of off-reserve voters in the civic affairs of the Abenaki Nation.

It is also a point of pride for many Abenaki who think of both Odanak and the Albany area as home. Susan Marshall, a lifelong resident of Albany and Rensselaer, is looking forward to attending the candidate’s forum and voting for her first time. “I just wish my mom (Mary Jane Nagazoa) was here to see this, knowing how proud she would be.”


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Have Dinner With Samuel de Champlain Oct. 24th

Rogers Island Visitors Center in Fort Edward is hosting dinner with Samuel de Champlain on October 24th at the Tee Bird North Golf Club (30 Reservoir Road, Fort Edward). Local Chefs, Neal Orsini owner of the Anvil Restaurant in Fort Edward and Steve Collyer, researched the stores list aboard Champlain’s ship, the Saint-Julien, to develop a dinner menu using European, 17th century ship and New World ingredients. Some menu items were standard fare aboard 17th century ships, but the Saint-Julien was 500 tons, carried more than 100 crew and had a galley which meant that even livestock was brought on board aboard, if only for the captain and officers.

Don Thompson, who has spent this Quadricentennial year traveling throughout New York, Vermont and Canada portraying Samuel de Champlain, will serve as a special guest presenter bringing the story of de Champlain’s North American explorations to life.

There will be a cash bar at 5 pm; and dinner served at 6 pm. The price is $22 for Rogers Island VC members, $25 for non-members and $8 for children under 12. Special prize baskets have been donated for a raffle.

For reservations call Rogers Island Visitor Center at 518-747-3693 or e-mail rogersisland@gmail.com. Proceeds benefit the Rogers Island Visitor Center.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Origins of the Adirondack Park Agency: A Footnote

New York’s history of preserving wild, open spaces in the Adirondack Park while, at the same time, sustaining (or at least suffering) its small communities has become known as “an experiment,” a misleading term at best.

Now comes “The Great Experiment in Conservation; Voices from the Adirondack Park,” a collection of essays meant to extract transferable lessons from the Park’s history of mixing public and private uses. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First of Several Local John Brown Events on Saturday

This year marks the 150th anniversary of abolitionist John Brown’s anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, his subsequent execution and the return of his body to North Elba. I’ve been writing a series of posts – The Last Days of John Brown – to commemorate Brown’s struggle to end slavery in America, and here at the Almanack we’ll be reporting on local events as the anniversary approaches. So far activities include a lecture, a symposium, and a reenactment of the return of Brown’s body to North Elba. It all kicks off with a lecture this Saturday, October 10th, with a lecture by historian Zoe Trodd at 2:00 PM, at John Brown’s Farm.

Here is the event announcement:

A Living Legacy: John Brown in the Anti-Lynching Protest Tradition, a lecture by Zoe Trodd. Protest writers have long pointed to the abolitionist past as central to present and future social change. At the heart was of this living legacy was one figure: John Brown. This lecture will trace the presence of Brown in anti-lynching literature from the Niagara Movement to Langston Hughes. Trodd is the author of Meteor of War: The John Brown Story; American Protest Literature; and The Tribunal: Responses to John Brown and the Harper’s Ferry Raid. This event is presented by John Brown Lives!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Curious Tales of Lake Champlain Towns

One of the most creative contributors to Adirondack Life is Tom Henry. You never know where one of his travelogues is going to go, and I don’t think he knows, either, until the trip is done and the story finished.

Henry teaches music in Charlotte, Vermont, and is a writer and historian by avocation. A Port Henry Henry, he has made a specialty of exploring the recreation and past of the eastern Adirondacks, often at the same time. He wrote a chapter for Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History (2009, Adirondack Life) and will deliver a slide presentation Saturday, October 3 at Northwoods Inn, in Lake Placid, entitled “Exploring Old Port Towns Along Lake Champlain: Curious Stories Behind Their Relics.”

The following details are from a press release describing the event:

From Shelburne’s elegant passenger steamships to Bridport’s world-famous 19th-century racehorses to Moriah’s strange subterranean world of railroads and iron mines, this slideshow of now and then images from old port towns around Lake Champlain will help us visualize many of the 400-square-mile lake’s unusual early enterprises.

2009 marks the 400th anniversary of European discovery of the lake with the arrival of Samuel de Champlain. Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History celebrates America’s most historic lake and offers stunning photos, vintage postcards, paintings, maps and military history. Tom Henry’s portion of the book, “Towns Along the Lake,” provides some of the book’s most interesting writing. He highlights each of Lake Champlain’s principle shoreline communities and describes their link to the lake’s history.

The evening begins at 6:30 with a half hour cash bar cocktail reception. Mr. Henry will deliver his presentation at approximately 7 p.m. Following, we invite any of our guests to join us in our Northern Exposure restaurant for dinner with Mr. Henry. More information is available at www.northwoodsinn.com.
 
The Northwoods Inn is a 92-room hotel located at 2520 Main Street, the heart of downtown Lake Placid. The hotel includes a sidewalk café, two restaurants and “The Cabin,” a cozy fireplace bar overlooking Main Street. A rooftop deck offers views of town plus the High Peaks and Whiteface Mountain.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Study: Coy-Wolves Evolved To Hunt Local Deer

A new study by scientists from the New York State Museum shows how local coyotes have evolved to be bigger and stronger over the last 90 years, both expanding their geographic range and becoming the top predator in the Northeast – by interbreeding with wolves.

The study of eastern coyote genetics and skull morphology demonstrates that remnant wolf populations in Canada hybridized with coyotes expanding north of the Great Lakes, and helped turn coyotes from mousers of western grasslands to deer hunters of eastern forests. The resulting coy-wolves are larger, with wider skulls better adapted to killing lager animals like whitetail deer.

Dr. Roland Kays, the state museum’s curator of mammals, and Dr. Jeremy Kirchman, curator of birds, co-authored an article on their research that appears in the peer-reviewed journal Biology Letters. The other author was Abigail Curtis, who conducted the study an undergraduate at SUNY Albany, and is now a graduate student at UCLA.

According to the study’s authors “the North American coyote evolved as a hunter of small prey in the Great Plains, but rapidly colonized all of eastern North America over the last half-century.” Earlier research had suggested that the spread of agriculture and the extinction of wolves aided coyote expansion, but the question of as to whether remnant wolves and coyotes interbred remained unanswered until now.

A media release form the State Museum notes that “Historical records of the coyote population expansion indicated that movement along the northern route was five times faster than along the route south of the Great Lakes. Populations of pure western coyote and coy-wolf hybrids are presently coming into contact in areas of western New York and Pennsylvania.”

The study was based on DNA from 696 eastern coyotes and the measurements of 196 skulls from State Museum specimens. According to State Museum officials “they also tested three very large animals that looked more like large, full-blooded grey wolves. Two of the animals had the western grey wolf genetic signature and one had a Great Lakes wolf signature, suggesting that a few full-sized wolves have recently migrated into New York and Vermont, but are not breeding here. Only one of the 696 coyote samples was closely related to domestic dogs, showing that coyotes are not frequently breeding with domestic dogs in the region and the popular moniker ‘coydog’ is technically inaccurate.”

The research also indicates that whitetail deer accounted for about a third of the coyote’s diet and they have made extensive use of forested areas.

The State Museum has the longest continuously operating state natural history research and collection survey in the United States, It was begin in 1836 – you can read more about that here.

NCPR addressed the issue of coy-wolves in the Adirondacks back in June, but this is the first study to parse out the local genetics.

Photo: A coy-wolf, courtesy Eastern Coyote Research.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: Museum Day

If you have not had an opportunity to visit the Adirondack Museum yet this season I am here to pave the way with offers of free admission and coupon savings. Okay, it isn’t money falling from the sky but if you attend Smithsonian magazine’s free museum day money may just jingle in your pocket. Though with or without Museum Day the Adirondack Museum is a bargain any day of the week.

In its fifth year Museum Day is an annual event taking place across the country on September 26th. More than 900 participating museums will offer free general admission to an attendee and guest with a Museum Day admission card. The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake is just one facility that is participating. A complete list by state can be found at Smithsonian magazine.

The Adirondack Museum houses twenty buildings on 32 acres of land, beautiful gardens and ponds. There are many interactive elements like the Rising Schoolhouse filled with paper crafts and era-specific wooden toys, a treasure hunt in the “Age of Horses” building, or build a toy boat at the Boat Shop. Since that barely touches on the activities available, keep in mind all admissions are valid for a second visit within a one-week time period.

If unable to attend Museum Day, The Adirondack Harvest Festival will be held the next weekend, October 3rd and 4th. A good tip for all: year-round residents of the Adirondack Park are admitted free all days that the museum is open in October.

This festival will provide wagon rides, music and even a traditional blacksmith demonstration by David Woodward. There is a barn raising, cider pressing and pumpkin painting. If just having fun isn’t enough there are altruistic opportunities as well. Have children bring canned or dried goods to support the Warren–Hamilton Community Action Harvest Food Drive.

Please call 518-352-7311 for more information. Open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. until October 18. If you visit the museum website, click on the monthly special icon for a coupon good for $2 off one adult admission. There is no charge for children under six.

Even with discounts, coupons and free admission museums need to function so keep in mind that even on free days a donation (no matter the size) is probably greatly appreciated.

Photograph of an antique cider press.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Upper Hudson River Railroad Schedule Features 40-Miler

The Upper Hudson River Railroad in North Creek has announced its Fall Schedule which includes foliage rides, a BBQ trip to 1,000 Acres Ranch, and the all-day 40 Miler excursion. Regular trains will run Thursday through Sunday through Columbus Day weekend, on Columbus Day, and on Saturday and Sunday thereafter to October 25th. Regular trains include a round trip from the North Creek Station to Riparius and back including a half-hour layover at the Riverside Station. Reservations are strongly recommended for Columbus Day weekend.

Upcoming special events include:

LUNCH AT 1000 ACRES – September 30, 2009. Features BBQ lunch at the 1000 Acres Ranch. RESERVATIONS REQUIRED, 10% early bird discount. Includes a short stop at the Thurman Craft and Farmers’ Market Christmas in September at Thurman Siding.

40 MILER – Saturday October 17, 2009 – RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. The weekend after Columbus Day, features an all day excursion from the restored 90’ turntable in North Creek to the 96’ trestle where the Sacandaga River meets the Hudson.

For additional information call the Upper Hudson River Railroad at 518-251-5334 or visit their website at www.uhrr.com


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Restoring Arto Monaco’s Land of Makebelieve

Among theme-park historians Arto Monaco is a legend. The work of Monaco in designing the area’s theme parks has become a central part of the history of tourism in the Adirondacks. His creations have been found in the defunct Old McDonald’s Farm (Lake Placid), The Land of Makebelieve (Upper Jay), Gaslight Village (Pottersville and then Lake George), and Frontier Town (North Hudson), at Storytown (now the corporate Great Escape) and Santa’s Workshop in Wilmington (the last of a breed and a spot that made our Seven Human-Made Wonders of the Adirondacks).

Monaco was a local artist who designed sets for MGM and Warner Brothers, a fake German village in the Arizona desert to train World War II soldiers, and later his own Land of Makebelieve. Monaco died in 2005, but not before the Arto Monaco Historical Society (AMHS) was organized (in 2004) in order to preserve and perpetuate Monaco’s legacy, assemble a collection of his work, and stabilize and restore the Land of Makebelieve which was closed in 1979 after the Ausable River flooded the park for the eleventh time.

Since they first went into the woods with tools in 2006, volunteers of the AMHS have hacked the now overgrown Land of Makebelieve out of the encroaching forests in hopes of saving what’s left of Monaco’s legacy there from the ravages of nature.

On Saturday, September 26, the AMHS will hold its 2009 Annual Meeting followed by a another work session at the former Land of Makebelieve site from 1 to 4 pm. The morning meeting will be held at Paul Johnson’s Bakery, on Route 9N one mile south of the Upper Jay bridge. Lunch is available for those who stay for the afternoon work session. To RSVP, or for information on the upcoming work day or volunteering for the AMHS in general, contact them through their website at http://www.artomonaco.org/.

Photo: The Land of Makebelieve in 2006 before volunteers began work on the abandoned theme park.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An Adirondack Poison: White Snakeroot

‘Tis the season for White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima). This pretty, weedy plant can be found blooming in many of our forests from late summer “until frost.” Hm…that could be any day now, if you believe the weather reports!

One of the nice things about white snakeroot is that it is one of our native plants. According to my field guide, it is classified with the bonesets and Joe Pye weed – a Eupatorium. However, botanists, like birders, can be found reclassifying living organisms on an almost daily basis, it seems, and now this plant is in a separate genus: Ageratina.

I think that because we are surrounded these days with warnings about non-native invasive species, we tend to slip into the idea that native plants must all be good. In one sense they are: they are good for the ecological niche in which they have evolved. But this doesn’t make them “good” plants, necessarily. White snakeroot is an excellent example of this, for it is poisonous.

Back in the 19th century, many many people died from a disease that was labelled “milk sickness.” It seems that some milk (and, it turns out, meat) was tainted with something that made the cattle ill and killed people. The disease was known to wipe out large portions of early settlements (Abraham Lincoln’s own mother was one of its victims), and it became such a problem in parts of Kentucky that a $600 award was offered in the early 1800s to anyone who could find the cause of the disease.

Although not officially identified until 1928, legend has it that Dr. Anna Bixby (1809-1869) identified the causative agent long before that. Supposedly many of her patients were dying from milk sickness, and, as was probably fairly common at the time, the disease was blamed on witchcraft. Dr. Bixby knew there must be a more rational explanation, and noted that the disease only turned up in late summer and into the fall, and it seemed to be based on something the cattle were eating. One day she met up with a Shawnee woman who told her that white snakeroot was the culprit. Dr. Bixby fed a bit of the plant to a calf, which promptly displayed all the symptoms. She had all of the plant torn out from the fields and forests where cattle were grazing, and remarkably, the disease went away. Sadly, she never got credit for this (nor did the Shawnee woman).

What happens is that cattle eat white snakeroot when there is no other forage around, so it’s not like it’s a primary food choice for them. The plant contains tremetol, which is the poisonous compound. Tremetol is stored in the meat and milk, and thus it gets passed on to people who consume these cattle products.

That said, according to Daniel Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany, the Cherokee and Iroquois did use this plant for a variety of medicines, including treatment for urinary ailments, as a diuretic, and as a treatment for venereal diseases. He doesn’t say, however, how well the medicines worked.

Still, just because a plant is toxic doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it – just don’t eat it! As you walk through the woods, perhaps along a shady path, keep your eyes open for a scraggly-looking plant about three to five feet tall. The leaves are jagged, and the top has a flattened cluster of white flowers. If you are lucky, you may find some butterflies nectaring on it, for it is one of their foods. Take the time to get to know it, for it is a lovely plant. Then note where it is so you can be sure your cattle don’t graze upon it.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rogers Rangers Challenge Triathlon Event

The Rogers Island Visitors Center at Fort Edward is hosting the Rogers Rangers Challenge triathlon. The run, canoe/kayak, and bike event will be held (rain or shine) on Saturday October 3, 2009.

The Rogers Rangers Challenge is dedicated to the memory of Major Robert Rogers and his Independent Company of American Rangers which were based on Rogers Island at Fort Edward during the French & Indian War (1755-1763). Rogers Rangers, forerunners of the U.S. Army Rangers, fought and died on ground upon which the challenge takes place. Local Native Americans described Rogers as having the ability to “run like a deer.” Participants in the event are encouraged to dress in period costume.

The Challenge begins at the Hogtown Trailhead with a run over Buck Mountain to Fort Ann Beach at Pilot Knob (7.5 miles) and then a canoe/ kayak along the east shore of Lake George (3 miles) (a Compass is recommended due to the potential of thick fog). The final leg is a bike from Fort Ann Beach to Rogers Island Visitors Center, Fort Edward (30 miles). The race is limited to 100 participants and you must be at least 16 to participate. The entry fees is $60.00 per person which includes membership to Rogers Island Visitors Center, and entertainment & catered lunch for each participant.

Participants must pre-register by September 12th; for more information e-mail Eileen Hannay at rogersisland@gmail.com or call 518-747-3693.



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