Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: How Wild is the Adirondacks?

For some time I have been musing about the question of what we call wilderness, how we deem an area to be wilderness, what it means in the Adirondacks and what it means to me. Is Lost Brook Tract really wild? Can I think of something as wilderness when it is possible for me to run from the heart of it to a warm car and a coffee shop in an hour if I have to? This is complicated question.

Several weeks ago when I began these dispatches I resolved to write about the question of wilderness. Then last week came the most recent post from Steve Signell, our resident mapping expert, his topic being Adirondack land classifications. The debate it engendered in the comments section addressed the very subject I was just beginning to write about. Serendipity! » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 2, 2012

The Battle on Snowshoes Event at Fort Ticonderoga

A living history event at Fort Ticonderoga highlighting Major Robert Rogers and the Battle of Snowshoes will be held on Saturday, March 10 from 10 am – 4 pm. Visitors will be able to encounter the French Garrison in the middle of winter inside Fort Ticonderoga and tour through opposing pickets of British rangers and French soldiers adapted to frontier, winter warfare.

At 1 pm on Saturday, visitors will experience the hectic tree to tree fighting in a recreated battle during which the rangers make a stand against superior numbers, only to retreat through the deep woods.

Visitors will be invited to tour Fort Ticonderoga as it appeared in the winter of 1758, meet the French and Indians who overwhelmed Roger’s experienced woodsmen, and see how native and French soldiers survived the deep winter at this remote military post. More adventurous visitors can take a hike led by a historic interpreter through the opposed pickets of soldiers in the deep woods. In these tours visitors can see how rangers kept a vigilant watch for subtle signs that might reveal their ferocious enemy.

“The Battle on Snowshoes event recreates the savage fight between Robert Roger’s rangers, and a mixed French force of regular soldiers, milice, and allied native warriors on March 13, 1758,” said Stuart Lilie, Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga. “This event is designed to be a rich experience for both participants and visitors alike.”

Re-enactors portraying French soldiers and native allies will live inside the period furnished barracks rooms of Fort Ticonderoga. They will recreate the winter garrison for Fort Carillon, as it was known until 1759. Just as in the March of 1758 these re-enactors will sortie out from the Fort to meet and overwhelm Roger’s men.

Major Robert Rogers force of both volunteers from the 27th foot, and his own rangers headed out on an extended scout from Fort Edward along Lake George, following an attack on a similar patrol from Captain Israel Putnam’s Connecticut rangers. Hiking on snowshoes due to the three feet of snow, the tracks of Roger’s force were spotted on its march up the west side of Lake George. Near the north end of Lake George, Major Rogers, advanced scouts spotted their French counterparts. Rogers and his Rangers took up positions in a ravine, setting his force in ambuscade to await whatever French patrol would come to meet him.

The French patrol that met Roger’s men proved far larger than he imagined, and in this Battle on Snowshoes, the rangers’ ambush was itself surrounded and overwhelmed. In deep woods on deep snow, the rangers were forced to retreat with heavy casualties as the French regulars, malice, and natives pressed home their attack. Despite stands along the way, this retreat quickly became chaotic as rangers, Roger’s included, ran for their lives from superior numbers of French.

Illustration from Gary S Zaboly‘s “A True Ranger: The Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers” (Garden City Park, NY: Royal Blockhouse, 2004).


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Philosophy: A New Vision for Old Woods

Something has had men heading for the interior, long before Henry David Thoreau publicly declared “I am leaving the city more and more, and withdrawing into the wilderness.” And as men of a certain tradition in 19th century America began to make their private pilgrimages public through written and artistic records, their excursions and revelations became canonized.

These meditations contributed to a change in national ideas about the value and fragility of nature and “man’s” place within it.

I understand the importance of reaching back into our histories to understand the cultural touchstones like these that have come to signify certain ideas and ideals, certain styles of thought and ideologies. After all, our histories are our foreground and they mark the path that we took to get here. Yet, from time to time in the midst of what can seem like a tireless reminiscence on the trope of the vigorous and steadfast wayfaring male archetype depicted through art and literature in the wilderness; I can hear a sucking sound like my boot makes when I’ve gone walking in mud season.

Since its creation, advocacy for and against conservation and preservation within the Park boundary has called on these and other similar images to underscore qualities like individuality, independence and virility in the midst of a seemingly untamed and unspoiled country. Guided by certain American philosophers and artists we enter into a stylized landscape, one that was politically manufactured through legislation and philosophically manufactured through the proliferation of 19th century ideals.

When popular literature and art combine to illuminate different parts of the same story, the impact often resonates outside the original medium of paint or narrative and into the larger cultural landscape. In the case of 19th century landscape art and literature, the story that fine art and prose conspire to tell transcends the cultural period and becomes part of one collective identity. Artists and writers who have become signs themselves of this aesthetic, and of a singular set of values, labored under a shared vision of wild America. These artists and scholars illustrated an ideal landscape beyond increasingly industrialized cities, and the legacy of this movement is largely responsible for our 21st century conception of the natural ideal.

Yet, this ideal only represents those who are drawn into its frame. But ours are stories (plural) and histories (as in many) so what would it take to shift the emphasis from one tone of voice to another? When old signifiers dominate a changed contemporary scene, we risk losing our way by walking backwards into the present.

Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Museum

Marianne Patinelli-Dubay is a philosopher, writing and teaching in the Adirondack Park


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Depot Theatre Welcomes New Managing Director

The Adirondacks’ professional theatre company, the Depot Theatre, has announced the addition of Angel Wuellner as its new Managing Director.

“We are thrilled to welcome Angel into our theatre family,” said George Davis, president of the Depot Theatre Board of Trustees. “She was a standout in the executive team’s national search, with ample industry experience and terrific energy.”

Wuellner has worked in the theatre industry for the past twenty years, as an administrator, stage manager, director, and actor. Most recently, she worked at Actors’ Equity Association in the Auditions Department. She has also worked with The Vineyard Theatre (NYC), Clarence Brown Theatre, Actors Co-op, Tennessee Stage Company, and Smoky Mountain Shakespeare Festival. Wuellner is the founder of PromCon, an organization that collects prom dresses for underprivileged young women. She is a graduate of NYU’s Performing Arts Administration Masters’ Program and of Northern Kentucky University’s theatre department. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Sandy Hildreth: Exploring Adirondack Landscape Art

In 1997 I was fortunate to receive a Summer Fellowship for Independent Study in the Humanities from the Council for Basic Education, part of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For the next few months I will post excerpts from the research, writing, and painting I did for that project.

The broad, former jeep trail ran straight as an arrow, cutting a path through the massive beech and maples of a mature Adirondack forest. While the trail was clear, the woods were tangled with downed trees from the great “microburst” storm of July ‘95 and huge, scattered boulders, the ancient remnants of the last ice age. Soon the trail narrowed and passed through a grove of evergreens, their rusty brown fallen needles silencing my steady steps. To the right, the forest climbed; to the left, it dropped into a swampy area. Now and again the trail veered from its straight course as it followed the uneven contours of the ascent. The dense shade of the green canopy was occasionally broken where the force of the summer wind storm two years ago had snapped hundred year old trees off like they were toothpicks.

It was a hot, humid July day and I had just delivered two of my paintings to the Arts Center in Old Forge. Heading home, since I was in the midst of my Independent Study in the Humanities project, I checked my maps and chose an alternative route, a back road that would perhaps lead to some interesting or scenic place. My study topic was “A Personal Investigation of Contemporary and 19th Century Landscape Painting of the Adirondacks and St. Lawrence Valley”.

The basic question I was seeking an answer to was why had landscape painting suddenly become so popular in 1825, as well as why I have always personally felt so drawn to the land. On that hot July day, with the air conditioner working overtime, I’d actually driven past the small brown trail marker before I skidded to a dusty stop on the gravel road. Backing up, I found the small parking area of the trail head to Black Bear Mountain. While it was only two miles to the summit, it wasn’t even marked on the map in my booklet of short day trips in the Adirondacks.

I’d already made one climb that day, Rondaxe Mountain, but for several reasons, it had been quite uninspiring. It was only a one mile hike, located right alongside a major highway, and it had been crowded. Obviously a popular outing, there were many small groups and families on the trail, and what probably would have been scenic views of the Fulton Chain of Lakes were masked by the haze and humidity of the day. Much of the summit area was barren, open expanses of ancient Adirondack rock, worn down to its current level by eons of glaciers and tens of thousands of years of wind and rain and snow.

It is said the Adirondacks are among the oldest mountains on the planet, once surpassing the Himalayas in altitude. Now, Rondaxe Mountain was not much more than 2000 feet in elevation. The most disturbing part of the hike, however, were the scrapes and skid marks along those bare summit rocks, left by enthusiastic mountain bikers. It just seemed a shame that these rocks had withstood the forces of nature for so many million years, only to be scarred by humanity in less than a generation.

But the trail to Black Bear Mountain was quiet. No other vehicles had been at the trail head, and while it was evident others had used the trail, I met no one. Perhaps it was the threat of afternoon thunderstorms. The easy walk began to climb, twisting around tumbles of boulders and the tangled branches of broken or uprooted trees. Sometimes it went down, always to turn and climb even higher, following now what appeared to be a dry stream bed. I could imagine the rush of torrent crashing over the boulders during the spring run-off season.

Then the trail narrowed further, turned away from the rocks, and climbed steadily through dense spruce and pine. It was now just a foot path, worn through the thin fragile loam of the forest floor to the bedrock below. Gnarled roots grasped tenuously to the rock, and the air was noticeably cooler. Feeling the whispering breeze of open sky, I knew I was nearing the summit area. Is this what it was like for Thomas Cole, the young artist who had hiked into the Catskills in 1825, then returned with sketches to his New York City studio to produce his now famous paintings of the pristine wilderness?

I’d been wondering why it seemed like Americans had waited until then to notice the beauty of the landscape of the New World. My own heart was pounding harder, due to the increased altitude as well as the anticipation of what I would discover at the end of the trail. Winding through small, stunted spruce, I could sense the approach of the summit as there was now nothing but bare rock in front of me. Eagerly climbing it, my breath was taken away by the vast solitude that greeted me.

Directly ahead, across the valley that separated us, was another densely forested mountain, with additional peaks and ridges stretching back, one behind the other, all the way to the horizon. I supposed the tallest, distant ones to be the High Peaks of the central Adirondacks. To the right, the valley and mountains continued unbroken. To the left, the valley spread and opened up to a meandering stream and what appeared to be a beaver meadow. Further on was a second clearing, then mountains once again climbing to the horizon. Nowhere was there evidence of humanity. It was incredible to think this is what Verplanck Colvin had witnessed as he surveyed the Adirondacks for the first time in the 1830’s. A raven glided along the currents above the tree tops in the valley below me, arcing up to circle back towards the rocky cliffs. The silence was only broken by the gentle hissing of the wind in the branches of the pines clinging to the summit rocks. I could have been the only human being in the world.

This was the start of my personal exploration. The painting shown here, “View from Black Bear Mountain,” was based on a second hike up the mountain in late August of 1997.


Monday, February 27, 2012

A St. Lawrence County Trust Buster, Peace Advocate

The Potsdam area of St. Lawrence County is home to many citizens of great accomplishment. The achievement list is extensive: a US Secretary of State; a Nobel Peace Prize winner; a judge on the World Court; an attorney known as the “Trust Buster” for defeating multiple gigantic corporations, including Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company; and a man who was the force behind the historic Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact of 1928.

There’s more, including a senator from Minnesota and a US Ambassador to Great Britain. By any standard, that’s an impressive list. What makes it truly mindboggling is one other fact: those are all the accomplishments of a single North Country native.

Frank Billings Kellogg had such a varied, successful career that even an outline of his life is very impressive. He was born in Potsdam in December 1856, the son of Asa Farnsworth Kellogg and Abigail Billings Kellogg. The family moved to Long Lake, New York, in 1857, and then relocated west to a small farm in Minnesota in 1865.

Five years later, Asa’s health problems forced fourteen-year-old Frank to quit school in order to run the farm. In 1872, the family moved to Olmsted County, where they assumed operations of a larger farm. These seemingly trivial events would play an important role in Kellogg’s career.

In 1875, when he was nineteen, Frank left the farm and moved to nearby Rochester, Minnesota, where he ran errands and did chores in exchange for the opportunity to read and study law in a local office. He worked on nearby farms to support himself.

Two years later, the young, self-taught lawyer was admitted to the bar, and within a year was appointed Rochester city attorney. In 1881, he became Olmsted County attorney, a position he held until 1887. During his tenure, Frank won an important case representing two townships against a railroad company, which helped establish his eventual career path.

He married Clara Cook in 1886, and in the following year became a member of Davis, Kellogg, and Severance, a new firm that for decades remained one of the top corporate law firms in the Midwest. Among their clients were some of the most powerful businessmen and politicians in the country.

For several years, Frank was a Minnesota delegate to the Republican National Convention, while also serving the party in several other capacities. In 1905, his reputation led to assignment as prosecutor of the Western Paper Trust for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. His efforts forced the company to dissolve in 1906, and Kellogg became known as a “trust-buster.”

During the next several years, Teddy Roosevelt appointed him to similar ventures against several railroad trusts and Standard Oil, the massive corporation owned by J. D. Rockefeller, the world’s richest man. In each case, Kellogg won, enhancing his public persona. His victory over Standard Oil solidified the perception that Frank was the nation’s top trust-buster.

In 1912, he was elected president of the American Bar Association. Kellogg left Republican ranks to support Roosevelt’s presidential campaign under the Progressive Party, but in 1916, he returned to the GOP and became the first Minnesota senator ever elected by popular vote.

After serving for six years, Kellogg lost his re-election bid. In 1923, shortly after leaving office, he began his first diplomatic mission, having been assigned by President Harding to the Fifth Pan-American Conference, held in Chile. Harding died later that year, and when Kellogg returned, President Coolidge appointed him as US ambassador to Great Britain, a position he assumed for two years.

In 1925, Coolidge named him Secretary of State, and through 1929 he represented American interests around the world. Kellogg was a strong proponent of arbitration rather than military involvement to settle international disputes. He signed a record number of treaties during his tenure (more than eighty). The most famous of all was the Pact of Paris, often referred to as the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

In the years following the horrors of World War I, French Foreign Minister Aristide Brand called for a treaty with the US, specifically denouncing war. Kellogg was less than enthusiastic initially, wary of making the US appear weak.

But the concept aligned with his own beliefs, and Kellogg seized the opportunity, offering a remarkable counter-proposal: a treaty “renouncing war as an instrument of national policy.”

He pushed the idea for all he was worth, and in August 1928, an agreement was signed. Eventually, more than 60 nations committed to the alliance.

Though war continued in the years to come, Kellogg’s efforts were lauded by many as an honorable, honest attempt at eliminating war as a tool for settling differences. Until the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, war had been accepted worldwide as a legal policy. There was no clause providing for punishment of violators, causing some to label the new pact as a futile effort. Others deemed it an idea well worth pursuing.

After leaving office in 1929, Frank toured Europe and America, receiving many honorary degrees and other laurels for his work towards ending international conflict. In addition to the French Legion of Honor medal, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929.

A year later, Kellogg was elected to the World Court, but resigned in 1935 due to health reasons. He passed away in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 21, 1937, one day shy of his 81st birthday. Death spared him the great disappointment of seeing world war afflict the planet less than two years in the future.

Though some dismissed his efforts for world peace as misguided and unrealistic, many others admired Kellogg’s adherence to a noble, worthy cause. To not pursue the opportunity would have meant giving up hope.

And as a man who rose from the humble beginnings of a poor farm boy, a self-educated attorney who reached the top of his profession, and a man who performed for years on the world stage, Frank Kellogg knew a thing or two about hope.

Photos: Frank Billings Kellogg (circa 1900); in the East Room of the White House in 1929, standing are Calvin Coolidge, President Herbert Hoover, and Frank B. Kellogg, with representatives of the governments that ratified the Kellogg-Briand Pact; Frank Billings Kellogg (1912).

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Hulett Hotel Fire on Lake George

The rise of local and specialist history publishers such as Arcadia and History Press has been a boon to local history and an opportunity part-time writers and historians to have their work published outside the vanity press.

One of those part-timers is George Kapusinski, long time denizen of Huletts Landing on Lake George and publisher of The Huletts Current blog. His second effort for History Press (his previous work Huletts Landing on Lake George was published by Arcadia) has just been published, and it’s a fascinating and well-written account of the devastating fire at the Hulett Hotel 1915.

Even more revealing is the well-researched tale of the trial held in the aftermath of the fire. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sliding Sports Museum Plans, Hall of Fame Inductees

With the bobsled and skeleton 2012 World Championships wrapping-up in Lake Placid, sliding sports enthusiasts will be gathering to celebrate the history of the sport at two events on Saturday. The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF) will induct its second class of Hall of Fame members at 2 pm this Saturday, Feb. 25 following the first two heats of the World Championship four-man bobsled race at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Lamy Lodge. Then, at the same location at 2:30 pm, the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) will unveil plans for a planned International Sliding Sports Museum (ISSM) and a related Science and Technology Park to be located at Mt Van Hoevenberg. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Ice Fishing: Lake Champlain Shanty Stories

The centuries-old tradition of ice fishing in the North Country has taken a real hit this winter, what with remarkably mild weather dominating the news. In an already terrible economy, the incomes of businesses and individuals alike have been deeply affected by the unusual conditions. There’s little that can be done, but perhaps a few interesting shanty stories from the past will provide a little distraction.

Wind has always been a factor in the lives of ice-fishermen, occasionally turning shanties into moving vehicles. A Plattsburgh fisherman, Frank Herwerth (caretaker at Clinton Community College) discovered just that in 1928 when a stiff March wind sent him sliding a couple of miles to near the middle of Lake Champlain.

The following year, in the narrows at Putnam, south of Ticonderoga, strong winds pushed a shanty across the lake, smashing it against the opposite shore. There were many similar cases over the years where even tethered structures broke free and slid for considerable distance on the open lake.

During the freakishly warm winters of the early 1930s, fishermen got an early start on the task of removing shanties dotting the few frozen sections of Lake Champlain. As conditions deteriorated at Bluff Point near Plattsburgh, one man in a group of five friends drove across the ice and successfully towed his shanty to shore.

Encouraged, his pals followed suit. One of them asked to borrow a car, and the owner lacked the wisdom to say no. Less than 100 feet from shore, the car began to settle in the soft surface. The passengers made a quick exit, and a short time later, another Dodge was on the lake’s bottom. (Not funny for the environment, of course, but a real head-shaker that someone would loan a car in that situation.)

One of the strangest sights ever to grace the surface of Lake Champlain (or any other lake, for that matter) occurred in late March 1911, during a terrific gale. Toppled shanties blew across the lake at speeds estimated between 20 and 30 mph, but that was only a prelude to the star attraction.

On Willsboro Point, a two-story home on the eastern shore was being moved about a half mile to a new location on the point. The easiest way was to deposit it on the ice and slide it, rather than cut a number of trees and attempt the move on land.

The sight of a two-story house sitting on the lake would have been enough, but the gale winds that arrived that day turned the situation into one of high drama. The house began to move to the southwest, slowly at first, but gained momentum, and was soon hurtling down the lake at an estimated speed of 40 mph.

Anomalies in the ice surface caused the house to spin and lurch at times as it sped along. At one point, it was headed towards a community of ice-fishing shanties. Finally, the house struck a prominent crack in the ice, which sent it twirling and slowed its progress. It eventually came to a halt in the vicinity of Split Rock Point, ten miles from its origin. When the wind died down, a team of horses hauled the house back to Willsboro Point.

Finally, here’s one of the many pranks ice fishermen engaged in, as reported in the Ticonderoga Sentinel seven decades ago: “Del Dumas thought his Champlain fishing shanty was afire when he awakened from a nap in the tiny shack the other day—but it developed that a jokester had plugged Mister Dumas’ stovepipe from the exterior, and you could have smoked a ham inside the hut.”

Photo: Headline from January 1928.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Adirondack Aquatic Insect History Made, Again

When entomologist James Needham arrived in Upper Saranac Lake in 1900 on a mission to study Adirondack aquatic insects, he found no room at the Saranac Inn. For the first 10 days, Needham, State Entomologist Ephraim P. Felt, and their assistant Cornelius Betten, were forced to find lodging two miles from the Adirondack Fish Hatchery where they hoped to “collect and study the habits of aquatic insects, paying special attention to the conditions necessary for the existence of the various species, their relative value as food for fishes, the relations of the forms to each other, and their life histories.” Although their study was short, it was also a historic first, up until that time all that had been written about Adirondack aquatic insects amounted to a few short paragraphs by former State Entomologist J. A. Lintner (1889).

The daily trek to their study area didn’t diminish their enthusiasm. “I arrived at Saranac Inn on the evening of June 12m and at once began looking over the ground,” Needham recalled. “Dr. Felt came on the 14th, and spent the day with me canvassing the situations to be studied… and the regular work of the session was at once begun, to be continued without cessation to the date of closing [on August 20].” The study session was the first of a comprehensive study of aquatic insects in the state funded by the NYS Museum that also included short surveys in Old Forge and Lake George, and two additional trips to the Saranac Inn.

Needham and Felt identified a number waters to be studied. They were provided by the hatchery a space to work, the use of several hatching troughs for insect breeding, a carpenter bench and tools to build specialized breeding cages, and a small boat. They brought with them or acquired additional equipment necessary to sweep vegetation, raise insects, and store their collections. “Extensive use was made of white wash bowls, soup plates and saucers in the examination of our catch,” Needham reported.

The entomologists chose Little Clear creek on the hatchery grounds for their study area, which proved to be the most fruitful, but also the hatchery’s three fish propagating ponds, Little Clear, Little Green, and Bone. Twice they made trips to Lake Colby, Stony Brook (just north of Axton) and St. Regis, at the end of the carry from Little Clear, and the first week they spent mornings and evenings at Lake Clear.

The study they produced, “Aquatic Insects of the Adirondacks” (NYS Museum Bulletin 47, September 1901, link to pdf), proved to be the most important study of the subject for more than 100 years. It was one of the first truly scientific studies of aquatic insects in North America, and yielded life histories of more than 100 species, the discovery of 10 new species and and two new genera, plus additional information about Chironomidae dragon flies.

Needham, who studied under renowned entomologist John Henry Comstock (1849–1931), was then refining his pretracheation insect wing theory. Although discredited in 1938 by more refined studies, Needham’s work was the basis for the Comstock–Needham System of naming insect wing veins, considered “an important step in showing the homology of all insect wings.” Needham later replaced Comstock as head of the Department of Entomology at Cornell, a position he held for more than 20 years.

A new study by Luke Myers (a Saranac native) and Timothy Mihuc of the Lake Champlain Research Institute at SUNY Plattsburgh, along with Boris Kondratieff of Colorado State University, highlights the role of Needham and Betten in the rise to prominence of of aquatic insect entomology in New York State in the early 20th century and treads new ground as an important update to our knowledge of aquatic insects in the Adirondack region.

After four years of studying mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies, Myers (who did much of the fieldwork with the assistance of self-taught caddisfly expert D.E. Ruiter), Mihuc, and Kondratieff have produced what is being considered the most comprehensive biodiversity study of those aquatic insects in the Adirondacks.

According to a story by Mike Lynch in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, “Myers and his team examined 25,000 specimens from 465 locations. They found 509 species of mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies, including 99 that were reported in this state for the first time. They also discovered several species new to science and some species of conservation concern.”

Even given the new techniques and equipment available to modern researchers, that’s no mean feat. It’s also one that will be a welcome addition to those interested in the biodiversity of Adirondack wetlands and their place in the larger ecology of the region.

Photos: Above, Little Clear creek, Adirondack Fish Hatchery (1900 NYS Museum Photo); Middle, illustration from the 1901 report “Aquatic Insects – Sepedon and Tetanecera”; Below, Luke Myers working on the Raquette River near Axton Landing (Photo Provided).


Sunday, February 19, 2012

America’s Invasion of Canada: The War of 1812

Although it has taken a backseat to the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and has been largely forgotten outside the areas it was fought, this year marks the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. In the reissued The American Invasion of Canada: The War of 1812’s First Year (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012), Pierre Berton transforms history into an engrossing narrative that reads like a fast-paced novel. To America’s leaders in 1812, an invasion of Canada seemed to be “a mere matter of marching,” as Thomas Jefferson confidently predicted. How could a nation of eight million Americans fail to subdue a struggling British colony of 300,000 already enmeshed in a life and death struggle with the armies (and navies) of Napoleon?

Burton is deft at describing the mood of the nation at the outbreak of war, and lends a well-needed dose of Canadian perspective. The War of 1812, he says, was “the war that Canada won, or to put it more precisely did not lose, by successfully repulsing the armies that tried to invade and conquer British North America. The war was fought almost entirely in Upper Canada, whose settlers, most of the Americans, did not not invite the war, did not care about the issues, and did not want to fight.”

Drawing on primary sources such as memoirs, diaries, letters and official dispatches, Pierre Berton gets inside the characters of the men who fought the war, from common soldiers to generals, bureaucrats, profiteers, traitors, and loyalists. Berton is at his best when describing the lives and motives of individual soldiers and politicians, an effort he doesn’t accomplish as well for Native American warriors who were as much a part of the story of the War of 1812.

This shortcoming is perhaps understood, considering Berton’s relaince on primary written sources, few of which are Native American. And it is outweighed to some extent by the author’s broad inclusion of lesser battles, attacks and massacres in which Native Americans played the key role. Still, his “Cast of Characters” list precious few Native American names: Tenskwatawa, “The Prophet”; Tecumseh, the Shawnee killed in the Battle of the Thames, in October 1813, who is considered one of Native America’s most important political leaders; the Wyandot Chief Roundhead; and the Mohawk Chief John Brant, the son of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) who was instrumental in stopping an American attack at the Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812. Overall however, this book is a fascinating popular history of a complex war from an outstanding historian; the first of two volumes. His second work in the series, Flames Across the Border, picks up where this account ends.

Pierre Berton was an internationally renowned bestselling author of fifty books including Vinny, Klondike, and The Last Spike, and the recipient of over thirty literary awards including three Governor General’s Awards for Creative Non-Fiction. He was raised in Yukon (he was Chancellor of Yukon College), served almost four years in the army, was an editor at the Toronto Star, and a writer and host of CBC programs (and a member of the Newsman’s Hall of Fame).

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pendragon Takes "To Kill A Mockingbird" on Tour

The Pendragon Theatre Company tackles yet another American classic with their performance of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” at View in Old Forge on Thursday, March 1st at 7:00 PM—one of several touring performances by the company, following the close of their 2011 season at their home theatre in Saranac Lake.

The Pendragon Theatre secured a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts with additional funds from the Lake Placid Center for the Arts to mount an Adirondack tour of this stage adaptation by Christopher Sergal of the 1960 novel by Harper Lee. The grants allow the company to offer reduced-price tickets to schools wishing to send their classes who may be already studying this classic American novel.

This riveting story of boiling racial tension in the 1930s South as white lawyer Atticus Finch defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in a small Alabama town has as much relevance today as it did when Gregory Peck gave his 1962 academy award-winning performance. The trial takes center stage, but we share the view from the ‘colored’ balcony with Atticus’ two small children, whose innocence magnifies the ugliness of the prejudice and violence around them.

Tickets for the March 1st performance at View, located at 3273 State Rt. 28 in Old Forge, NY, are $20 for adults, $15 for members and $10 for children. For further information contact View at 315-369-6411 or visit their website at www.ViewArts.org

The tour will then go to Main Street Landing PAC: Burlington, V.T. – Friday, March 9th @ 7:30pm, and wrap the following week at the Tannery Pond Community Center: North Creek, N.Y. – Friday, March 16th. Visit the Pendragon Theatre website for more information on these and future performances.

Photo courtesy of Pendragon Theatre from their home performances of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Linda J. Peckel explores the Adirondacks by following the arts wherever they take her. Her general art/writing/film/photography musings on can be found at her own blog Arts Enclave.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Natural History: Climate Change and the Winter of ’32

“Is our climate changing? This is a question heard often these days. Some are inclined to believe it is, but others are inclined to believe it is just one of those unusual open winters. The weather has been so mild that pussy willows are showing buds, woodchucks are out, and caterpillars were found crawling on the ground.” Those aren’t my words. They’re from the Norwood News, January 20, 1932.

On my way to the mailbox four times in the past week, I stepped between different types of insects on the sidewalk, a reminder of how unusual our weather has been. While reading about years past, it struck me how this mild winter parallels those of 1932 and 1933.

In both instances, ice fishing was drastically curtailed by the open waters of Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. Fishermen were successful back then by using motorboats from Whitehall to Rouses Point, in the dead of winter, to access the best fishing spots.

Temperatures were often in the 50s, pleasant for sure, but not so much for business. Logging, a mainstay of the region’s economy, was months behind schedule. Even when brief cold snaps allowed construction of the required ice roads, balmy weather quickly turned them to slush and mud. Cut timber, ready to haul, lay in the woods until cold weather returned, which wasn’t often.

It was feared the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid would be cancelled due to a lack of snow: January’s temperatures averaged nearly 13 degrees above normal. At one point, the entire bobrun was washed out by heavy rain. Snow was hauled in by train to ensure the games would be held. A storm just days before the opening ceremonies helped, but warm temperatures caused problems throughout the Games.

In 1932 and 1933, events normally associated with summer occurred throughout the winter, grabbing everyone’s attention. In January: outdoor picnics; bicycling; ducks and geese flying north; the picking of wildflowers; and, in Whitehall, using the village street-sprinkler to suppress road dust.

In February: fishing from rafts at Port Henry; boating on Lake George and Lake Champlain; woodchucks, chipmunks, and other mammals out and about; blackbirds, robins, and other songbirds sighted regularly; and snakes (some of them hit by cars) seen on area roadways.

Both months saw golfers on area courses, interrupted only by occasional cold―and thunderstorms! Baseball players couldn’t resist the opportunity to play, although the effort was often better characterized as mudball. Still, in most any year, even playing catch in winter wasn’t even a consideration.

Experience tells us we’ll still get slammed this season, but just as folks did back then, we can marvel for now at how far into the new year the weather has remained so warm. It’s been a pleasure, and for me, a back-saver as well.

Photo: Headline from January, 1933.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Ridgelines and Airplanes

It was New Year’s Eve 2010, our first visit to Lost Brook Tract, just two days after we had closed on the property. I was standing in four feet of snow, contemplating potential trouble. I had bushwhacked down from the small plateau that marks the low point of our land, trying to get a feel for the ridge upon which it lay so that I could solidify the route in my mind.

My family and I had been guided in by Vinny McClelland the first time and on the way I had a noted couple of tricky spots. I was glad for the deep snow that provided sure tracks back to camp for at that moment I stood at one of those locations that raises the pulses of off-trail adventurers. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

From Howling Wilderness to Vacation Destination

The Adirondack Museum third 2012 Cabin Fever Sunday series, “Nature: From Howling Wilderness to Vacation Destination” will be held on Sunday, February 12, 2012. The event will be offered free of charge.

Drawing on landscape painting, photography, traveler’s accounts, and other sources, this presentation by Dr. Charles Mitchell will explore the evolution of American attitudes towards nature. Beginning with perceptions of the American landscape as a howling wilderness, a wasteland to be tamed and transformed, the lecture will trace the social, cultural and economic forces that led to the perception of wild nature as something of value to be experienced and preserved. Key topics and figures along the way include the sublime, romanticism, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School, John Muir, Ansel Adams, and the Lorax.

Dr. Charles Mitchell is Associate Professor of American Studies at Elmira College. Mitchell has been on the faculty of Elmira College since 1993. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Lynbrook (on Long Island) he still occasionally refers to everything north of Yonkers as “upstate.” He teaches a side variety of courses in American cultural history, with specific
interests in environmental history, the history of ideas about nature, and the representation of the landscape in literature and art.

This program will be held at the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts at Blue Mountain Lake, and will begin at 1:30 p.m. For additional information, please call (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit www.adirondackmuseum.org.


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