Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gear Review: Brazos Walking Sticks

Everyone needs something or someone to lean on for support once in a while. Backcountry explorers are no different, whether it is a pair of telescoping hiking poles or simply a thick stick picked up along the trail. A pole or stick can assist with a wide range of backcountry situations from crossing a beaver dam to descending a mountain. This extra support becomes even more important as one gets older when the knee and hip joints need relief from the stress caused from hours of hiking over arduous terrain.

Although most hikers use the typical high-tech aluminum telescoping poles, there still remains a few who prefer the old-school wooden hiking sticks. These sticks are often found along the trail, especially near tricky wetland or beaver dam crossings. Occasionally, a hiker might develop an attachment to one of these sticks, removing the stick from its native habitat to live out a life as a trusty object of support and balance.

An alternative to these options is to buy a wooden hiking stick from Brazos Walking Sticks.

Brazos Walking Sticks makes a wide selection of walking sticks, canes, and accessories. The company’s walking stick line are an attractive alternative to the high-tech hiking poles for anyone but the most aggressive mountain climber.

Brazos products come in a wide variety of wood types including oak, cedar, ash, maple, cherry, pine and others. Each walking stick or cane is handcrafted by one of their gifted artisan craftsmen in central Texas, not far from the company’s namesake, the Brazos River.

Brazos Walking Sticks offers several different tip accessories for their walking sticks and canes. The black rubber ferrule is standard but for an additional price one of their other tips can be substituted. The Combi spike is the typical blunt metal type tip found on most traditional hiking poles. Two other sharper tips are also available.

In addition, there are several different accessories available for the handle of the walking stick. The compass, thermometer, whistle and camera mount are just a few likely to be of interest to a backcountry enthusiast.

Several cases are available for those who travel with their hiking stick using methods of locomotion involving more than just their own two feet.

The company customizes their products too. They engrave personal messages on their walking sticks in a variety of different fonts. This makes any of the Brazos Walking Sticks’ products a perfect gift for someone who does a lot of walking or hiking and could use a sturdy companion to accompany them. Each walking stick comes with a lifetime warranty against defects and a 100/100 Satisfaction Guarantee. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with your stick, just return it within 100 days for a full refund, no questions asked.

Recently, I was sent a Brazos Backpacker Walking Stick to review. The options on it were few; it was dark brown in color and 55 inches in length, with no additional handle or tip accessories included. It was made of solid oak, and was very sturdy and finely finished. It was twisted in the middle giving it a very distinctive appearance.

My first impression, after removing it from the shipping tube, was of its fine craftsmanship. It was truly a thing of art; it was super smooth and finely stained to a beautiful dark brown color. The walking stick’s finish clearly brought out the natural beauty of the wood. This walking stick would be more appropriately mounted on a wall rather than out and about on the trails in the Adirondacks.

Near the top of the stick there was a small hole drilled through with a thin strap threaded forming a loop. This wrist strap would ensure the walking stick could not be easily dropped during a stumble on the trail.

Take care laying this walking stick on the ground while out on the trails within the Adirondacks though. Given its natural look and brown color it would be very easily left behind by accident. Perhaps a bit of florescent orange flagging on the top strap might elevate this possibility.

The Backpacker Walking Stick has a black rubber ferrule at its tip, much like one found on the end of crutches. This tip is not glued on, so one should take care when using the walking stick within muddy conditions or in bogs, lest the ferrule be lost in the muck. Brazos Walking Sticks offers several other tip accessories that might be more appropriate for the wild backcountry conditions found on many Adirondack trails.

The Brazos Backpacker Walking Sticks retails for $40. Any optional accessories would cost extra.

For anyone in the market for a quality, finely-crafted walking stick should take a serious look at the Brazos Backpacker Walking Stick or any other of Brazos Walking Sticks’ outstanding products. These beautiful walking sticks make the perfect companion for anyone into walking and/or hiking, whether just around town or in the backcountry of the Adirondacks.

Photos: Brazos Backpacker Walking Stick handle, walking stick and twisted section by Brazos Walking Sticks.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Long Overdue Recognition of Ranger Douglas King

What follows is a guest essay by one of the founders of Lean2Rescue, Paul Delucia. Lean2Rescue volunteers have recently completed rehabilitations of lean-tos in DEC Region 6, and are now beginning to work on those in Region 5. The Almanack asked Delucia to tell our readers how he got involved in rehabbing lean-tos in the Adirondacks.

As the original organizer of Lean2Rescue, I have been asked many times how our group, which has renovated nearly 40 lean-tos across the Adirondacks, developed such a cooperative relationship with the DEC. Simply put, it boils down to a sincere trust in both directions. In the beginning, we needed to earn the trust of the DEC; to show that we would carry through on our (rather aggressive) commitments while respecting the rules that govern the park. Of equal importance was my instinctive trust of the DEC which is based on the privilege of knowing Ranger Douglas King. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Adirondack Sporting Experience

What follows is a guest essay by longtime local guide Joe Hackett:

The Adirondack Park has a long and storied history of outdoor sporting adventures.

For centuries, the region was a favored hunting ground for the Iroquois and Algonquin nations. Indeed, the area provided the first commodities of trade in the New World as Adirondack beaver pelts became crucial to early commerce. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wildlife Handiwork: Beaver Dams

As more frequent rain begins to replace the prolonged dry periods of early to mid summer, water levels in streams and rivers slowly start to rise from their early August lows. Yet, back country paddlers that are hoping to encounter fewer surface rocks and other obstacles that become present during times of low water are likely to be confronted with a new navigational hazard.

During the latter part of August, the awakening urge in the beaver to erect a series of dams, and to repair and heighten any stick and mud barrier that already exists in various waterways, can cause frustration to anyone hoping to encounter an unobstructed flow of water. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Scaroon Manor and Accessible State Lands

During the opening ceremony of the new Scaroon Manor Campground and Day Use Area on Schroon Lake, State Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward told a short story. Standing at a podium under a newly built pavilion on the sweeping grounds of the former resort turned DEC Campground, Sayward told a small crowd that when she was young, she “couldn’t afford to come here.” Once, she said, on a school field trip she had come to the Scaroon Manor resort by bus for the day and was amazed by what she saw. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Doug Fitzgerald: Recreation Has Value For Everyone

What follows is a guest essay by Doug Fitzgerald of the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP). Fitzgerald, a licensed guide, retired in 2010 after 26 years at the Department of Conservation’s Division of Operations as a Conservation Supervisor. Fitzgerald is also Scoutmaster Emeritus for Boy Scouts of America Troop 12 in Paul Smiths.

Recreation plays a valuable role in our lives. Getting outdoors and having fun are not luxuries; they are a necessary part of life. The benefits of recreation include physical fitness, good health, self-worth, joy, friendship and an appreciation for the environment. Playing outdoors enhances our lives through increased enjoyment and learning.

For people with disabilities, these benefits are equally important. Positive recreational experiences can be life changing. My son John is a perfect example, here is his story. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Phil Brown: Climbing the ‘Hundred Highest’

What’s a mountain climber to do once he or she has summited the Adirondack Forty-Six, the Catskill Thirty-Five, and the Northeast 115? Create a new list, of course.

And so we have the Adirondack Hundred Highest—the obsession of hard-core hikers who don’t mind surrendering a few pints of blood in their quest to stand atop the region’s tallest mountains.

The Hundred Highest includes the forty-six High Peaks first climbed by Bob and George Marshall and their guide, Herb Clark, in the first quarter of the last century. All of these peaks now have marked trails or obvious herd paths, so climbing them is not as difficult as it was in the Marshalls’ day.



Not so with most of the other fifty-four of the Hundred Highest. Thirty-nine of these peaks lack trails. Climbing them entails bushwhacking up streambeds, scrambling over or under fallen trees, and pushing through phalanxes of spruce that guard the summits. Those who undertake such a trek can expect to be poked, scratched, bruised, and bitten. It’s not for inexperienced hikers.

In 2007, Spencer Morrissey wrote a guidebook titled The Other 54 for adventurous souls aspiring to join the Hundred Highest club. Morrissey estimates that only forty or so hikers have done all the peaks. Those who qualify can request a patch from the Hundred Highest website.

Morrissey sold all 2,500 copies of the first edition of The Other 54 and has just come out with a second edition, which he published under his Inca-pah-cho Wilderness Guides imprint (the name derives from the Algonquin name for Long Lake, Morrissey’s hometown). It remains the only guidebook available to bushwhacking the pathless peaks.

The second edition updates trail conditions, describes several additional routes, and corrects many misspellings and grammatical errors (full disclosure: my son was the copy editor). In an improvement over the first edition, Morrissey arranges the chapters (one per peak) geographically rather than by the heights of the summits. This makes it easier to plan multi-peak treks. He could have made things even easier, though, by dividing the book into regions and including locater maps.

Most chapters include at least one black-and-white photograph. All include a topographical map showing the various routes to the summit. In the first edition, all the maps were grouped in a color gallery at the back of the book. The current layout is more convenient, but the tradeoff is the maps are black and white.

One odd feature is that Morrissey repeats directions unnecessarily. In the chapter on Lost Pond Peak, for instance, he describes four routes to the summit, all starting on the same trail at Adirondak Loj. Instead of providing the driving directions once, he repeats them at the start of each route description. Likewise, sections of the route descriptions are repeated. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Given the author’s enthusiasm and sense of humor, it’s easy to forgive the book’s shortcomings. Besides, whatever its flaws, The Other 54 is essential equipment for Hundred Highest aspirants.

A more serious criticism (whether justified or not) is that the book will lead to environmental degradation on summits that are now pristine, just as the Forty-Sixer craze led to the creation of herd paths.

“You simply can’t have thousands of people doing this, or even hundreds, and hope to maintain the resource or wilderness qualities of this place,” says Jim Close, an avid hiker who has climbed the Hundred Highest himself.

Since the Marshalls, more than seven thousand people have climbed the Forty-Six. They were rewarded with grand vistas on most of the summits. One wonders how many of these hikers would have wanted to endure an arduous bushwhack up Sawtooth No. 5 for a glimpse of the horizon through the trees.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer. The above review is adapted from an article that will appear in the September/October issue of the newsmagazine.



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dan Crane: The Year of the Mosquito

Biting insects are the price of admission for playing in the backcountry of the Adirondacks. But this year these pests seem to be more plentiful and ferocious than in years past. This is particularly true for the blood-sucking scourge known worldwide as the pesky mosquito.

Last month I experienced the large number and ferocity of mosquitoes first hand during an eight-day trek within the remote interior of the Five Ponds Wilderness in the northwestern Adirondacks. Saying mosquitoes were plentiful would be a vast understatement given the near-Biblical proportions of the blood-suckers encountered there. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities with Diane Chase: Wilderness Swimming with Kids

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

One of the greatest privileges in visiting and living in the Adirondack Park is being able to swim in all the natural swimming holes, pools and ponds.

Swimming in ponds and streams can be tricky with small children but not impossible. Being able to go for a refreshing dip in a natural setting is worth a few precautions. Though it is a fun family activity there are a few things to remember before you go.

The first rule is to never swim in springtime when the water is at its swiftest from recent snow-melt and mountain runoff. Each year there are incidences where people of all ages believe that they can outwit Mother Nature and battle the strong currents. Even expert swimmers have been known to drown during these rough, unpredictable times.

Never swim alone and remind children we are never too old for the buddy system. It worked when we were all in summer camp for a reason. In a wilderness setting it is always a good idea for a friend to be there to help.

Depending on your comfort zone, you may want to wear water shoes. Stones can be sharp on tender feet or slippery from algae. We always encourage children to crawl like a crab when crossing a riverbed unless rocks are dry and close together. Keep your body weight low and take your time. Let children explore the area and develop a love for nature.

Bring a swim top. Adirondack lakes and streams can be cold so tuck in that swim top to ward off the chill.

Always have the strongest swimmer perform an underwater sweep of any swimming hole. Just because you jumped off a rock into a wilderness pool last week, doesn’t mean that a tree branch didn’t break off in the mean time. A sunken branch or log can cause serious injury.

If children and adults are used to the clear waters of a chlorinated pool, swimming in the tannin-tinged Adirondack waters can be frightening. One of the largest concerns I find when we guide families is “monsters under the water.” Bring a mask and let children explore underwater. It won’t be as clear as a pool but they will still be able to see enough to stymie the fear factor and be able to explore the underwater native life.

If your child is not a strong swimmer or the current is stronger than usual, bring out that lifejacket. You can always take it off once children are comfortable.

Never push this or any experience. There is certainly enough adventures to be found just exploring along any Adirondack shoreline. Of course, with any wilderness experience swim at your own risk, use common sense and please carry in what you carry out. Enjoy your wilderness experience.

Photo and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 



Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Family Overnight Camping at the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum and the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts will host an overnight adventure at the museum on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. The event will include exploring exhibits by lantern, getting dramatic about Adirondack history with the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, hearing songs and stories by the campfire, and having a sleepover in the Woods & Waters exhibit. Dinner, an evening snack and breakfast will be served.

Camp Out for Families is open to children ages 7 – 13, and the museum requests one adult chaperone for every one to four children. The program starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends the following morning at 9:30 a.m.

Spaces are limited; pre-registration required by August 11, 2011. E-mail or call to register: [email protected] or (518) 352 – 7311 ext 115; [email protected] or (518) 352 – 7311 ext 128. The program fee includes dinner, evening snack, light breakfast, and all activity materials. $45 per person for Adirondack Museum members and Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts members; $55 per person for non-members.

The museum is open through October 17, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week, including holidays. There will be an early closing on August 12, and adjusted hours on August 13; the museum will close for the day on September 9. Visit www.adirondackmuseum.org for more information. All paid admissions are valid for a second visit within a one-week period.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paul Smith’s College VIC August Schedule

The Paul Smith’s College VIC has issued their schedule for the remaining summer season. The VIC is located at 8023 State Route 30 in Paul Smiths. For more information about the events listed here or the VIC in general contact Brian McDonnell at (518) 327-6241

July 29 – August 28: “Life on the Lakes” Juried Art Show

The Paul Smith’s College VIC has asked Caroline Thompson, Executive Director of The Arts Council of The Northern Adirondacks, to be the juror of our first juried art show. Artists from around the region have been invited to submit their works for consideration. The Opening Reception will take place from 5 to 7:00 PM on July 29th in the Great Room of the VIC. In addition to the juror selected awards, a “People’s Choice” selection determined through visitors voting for their favorite artist’s work. The balloting will be a fundraiser to support the development of art programming at The VIC.


July 30 – NOLS Comes East

The National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Lander, Wyoming, has utilized the Paul Smith’s College VIC as its eastern outpost for the month of July. NOLS is the recognized leader of “hard skills” in outdoor education and recreation. Come listen to Jack Drury, a former NOLS instructor and well known outdoor educator, give a historical perspective of NOLS followed by a presentation by Adirondack based NOLS logistics coordinator Lindsay Yost on plans for NOLS coming East with their wilderness programs.

August 6: Adirondack Wildlife Festival

The Paul Smith’s College VIC will continue the tradition of hosting the Adirondack Wildlife Festival on August 6 from 10 AM to 8 PM. There will be presentations on all creatures great and small, from Bears to Salamanders. We’ll have live music with Roy Hurd, Native American storytelling with David Fadden of the 6 Nations Indian Museum, Mark Manske’s bird on hand demonstrations, fun and games, visits to the butterfly house and a very special presentation on Loon Conservation in America by Dr. Jim Paruk, The Director of Biodiversity Research Institute’s International Center for Loon Conservation and Research.

August 12: Mindfulness Meditation Yoga Walk

Mary Bartel, ERYT, of Inner Quest Yoga and Wellness Center, will lead a silent walk from 10 AM to Noon to awaken your senses and participate in gentle flowing yoga movements on the trails at The VIC. Preregistration is required. The fee is $25.

August 13: Joe and Jessie Bruchac

Father and son Abenaki singers and storytellers, Joe and Jessie will perform their Native American themed stories and music in the Whispering Pines Amphitheatre at The Paul Smith’s College VIC at 2 PM. Sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.

August 19: Adirondack Plein Air Festival Paints the VIC

Come out to the VIC on Friday August 19th to view artists in various locations around the VIC. The public is welcome to visit artists as they create art on the trails and in the woods. Three of the Plein Air artists have donated paintings to the VIC to raise awareness of the festival and to generate funds for the center. We thank them for their generous commitment to growing The Arts presence at The VIC. We will sell tickets at the front desk. The drawing will take place at the Plein Air Festival.

August 28: Monarchs in The Meadow

The benefit concert will start at 2 PM, and outdoor fun all afternoon for friends and families of the Paul Smith’s College VIC. Join us in the meadow next to the butterfly house to celebrate the migration of the Monarch butterfly and wind down the summer in style.

Regular programs and Activities:


Farmer’s Market

Check out the goods under the pavilion from local farmers on Fridays from 2 to 5 PM.

The Paul Smith’s College VIC Butterfly House

The popular butterfly house is open and staffed 7 days a week from 10:00 to 4:00 PM throughout the summer. Visitors can view native butterflies up close and learn about the life stages and migratory patterns of these colorful insects. The Butterfly House is made possible with significant support from the Adirondack Park Institute (API.) For more information contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.

The Paul Smith’s College VIC Fun Runs – Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday of the summer The Paul Smith’s College VIC offers Free Fun Trail Runs from 6:00 to 7:30. Join area runners on the great trails at The VIC. Sarah Keyes will talk training, nutrition and techniques for adding distance to your running.

First Sunday Series of Trail Races

The “First Sunday” Series will continue with a “Predator and Prey 10K” on August 7. Every month the distance for the First Sunday Series will progressively increase. September 4th we will offer a 15k Trail Race and on October 2nd we’ll offer a 13.1 mile half marathon. There will be also be a 5k option every month. “First Sunday Series” Trail Races begin at 9:00 AM. Register: www.active.com Sponsors include Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, Mac’s Canoe Livery and Paul Smith’s College. For more information contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.

Naturalist led Back Country Paddles – Every Tuesday of the summer.

The Paul Smith’s College VIC offers a guided back country canoe trip every Tuesday of the summer. Trips are suitable for families. MAC’S Canoe Livery, in Lake Clear, will furnish the boats and equipment. Trips meet at The VIC at 10 AM and return by 4 PM. Trip fee is $75 for adults. Reservations are required. For a complete schedule, more information or to make a reservation for these popular trips 327 – 6241.

Explore the Adirondack ALPS – Every Thursday of the summer.

The Paul Smith’s College VIC offers a series of day hikes up the “Adirondack Low Peaks” in close proximity to The VIC. Trips meet at The VIC at 10 AM and return by 4 PM. Trip fee is $50 for adults. For a complete schedule, more information or to make a reservation for these popular trips, contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.

Naturalist led hikes and paddles at The VIC – Every day of the summer

Come explore nature at The Paul Smith’s College VIC! The trails are open and free to the public all the time! To enhance your experience, join one of The VIC naturalists for an investigative two hour hike in the woods or paddle on the waters of The VIC. Groups meet at 10 AM and 2 PM daily. Trip fee is $20 for adults. For a complete schedule, more information or to make a reservation for these popular trips, contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.

“Fun with Fungi” Mushroom walks

The Paul Smith’s College VIC will host naturalist led mushroom explorations on the trails and in the woods of the 3000 acre VIC campus. Come investigate “anything fungal” with mushroom specialist Susan Hopkins on Thursday, July 21, and August 4. We will meet at the VIC Visitor’s Building at 10:00AM for an introduction on what you might expect to see at this time of year; followed by a two hour walk of identification and collection. After the walk we will return to the center and those interested can sort out and discuss the various fungi collected on the tour. Susan will explain the various field guides and simple keys she uses to identify the various local mushrooms. The Fun with Fungi Interpretive Workshop is $20 per person. Preregistration is required.

Yoga on the deck at The VIC

Jackie Foster, RYT, will lead sessions on the deck at the VIC to awaken your senses to the natural world. Wednesdays through 8/31 from 9:30 to 10:45 AM. $15 per session


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Second Asian Clam Infestation Found in Lake George

A new infestation of the invasive species Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) has been discovered in Lake George in Boon Bay in the Town of Bolton. The new infestation was discovered as part of the FUND for Lake George’s Eurasian watermilfoil management and control program in cooperation with the Lake George Park Commission. Initial survey work by the RPI Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Boon Bay estimates the population to be 3.75 acres – 5 acres in size.

This is the second infestation discovered in Lake George. Last fall a 5-acre infestation in the Village of Lake George was discovered. The Lake George Asian Clam Rapid Response Task Force organized to combat this infestation and a treatment effort has been underway in the Village since late April under permits from the Adirondack Park Agency and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Over 725 benthic barriers have been installed to suffocate the clams. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gear: The Smallest Personal Locator Beacon Available

Outdoor electronic equipment is not immune to the trend toward smaller and lighter electronics, which was apparent with the official unveiling of ACR Electronics’ newest personal locator beacon (PLB), the ResQLink™.

On July 21, 2011, the FCC gave its final approval for ACR’s ResQLink, the smallest and lightest PLB currently on the market. Consequently, the ACR ResQLink went on sale soon after the announcement. The ACR ResQLink is now the smallest, full-powered, GPS-enabled rescue beacon specifically designed for anglers, pilots and, especially, back country enthusiasts.

Personal locator beacons are electronic devices used to notify search and rescue personnel of an individual in distress who is far away from normal emergency services such as 911 (e.g. bushwhacking somewhere deep in the Adirondack backcountry). These devices interface with the COSPAS-SARSAT, the international satellite system for search-and-rescue (SAR), and can often be individually identified and precisely located when GPS equipped.

Personal locator beacons have saved numerous people’s lives in the back country and should be carried on any adventure off the beaten path, especially by solo explorers. By giving a precise location of an injured person these devices save time, money and reduce the risk to SAR personnel.

The ACR ResQLink is now the smallest and lightest PLB currently on the market (a distinction previous held by the McMurdo FastFind 210). The ResQLink measures at 1.3 inches by 1.9 inches by 3.9 inches, making it comparable to the size of a cell-phone. In addition, it weighs a mere 4.6 ounces. This makes it smaller and lighter than most people’s wallets!

At this size and weight, the ResQLink can easily be stowed almost anywhere in a backpack. Just make sure it is placed somewhere accessible and not at the very bottom of an overly-stuffed backpack. It could even be carried in a shirt or pant pocket!

Although small in size, the ResQLink has the full capability of a serious PLB. With the ResQLink, ACR has packaged GPS positioning, a 406 MHz signal and 121.5 MHz homing capability into a little package that can rapidly and accurately relay your position to the search and rescue satellite system in case of an emergency. The 66-channel GPS can even guide rescuers to within 100 meters or less of your position. In addition, an integrated strobe light provides greater visibility in the case of a nighttime rescue.

Like most ACR PLBs, the ResQLink is extremely easy to use. Just deploy the antenna and press the exposed ON button, preferably somewhere with a clear view of the sky. When not in use the metal blade antenna lies wrapped around the case and the ON button is hidden behind the plastic base of the antenna. This device is so easy to use that it can even be operated with a single hand.

The ResQLink provides two built-in tests to verify the device is functioning properly. With just a push of a button either the internal electronics or the GPS functionality can be tested before heading into the backcountry. These tests can reduce the anxiety regarding the device functioning properly after an entire winter in storage.

Unlike some other PLB products, the ResQLink requires no paid subscription but through ACR’s optional 406Link.com website it does have some limited messaging capability.

The ResQLink is made right here in the USA, comes with a 5-year limited warranty and has a suggested retail price of $325. But a cursory scan of the internet yielded typical prices as low as $279.

As a matter of full disclosure, I have not had the opportunity to use (or even touch) a ResQLink yet. The information for this article is a compilation of my experience with ACR’s MicroFix (a larger and older PLB), the literature provided by ACR on their website and some reviews on the Internet (including this excellent one).

The combined size and weight make the ACR ResQLink easier to carry than any other PLB on the market, especially compared to those previously offered by ACR. Since a PLB can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency, there is increasingly no excuse to avoid carrying one especially one as small and lightweight as the ResQLink.

Photos: ResQLink by ACR Electronics.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

DEC Annouces NY Forest Photo Contest

In recognition of the importance of forests to the health and well being of society, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced a contest to celebrate New York’s forests. The contest is designed to increase awareness of and appreciation for all types of forests, urban and rural, large and small, public and privately owned, across the state.

“The value of our forests cannot be underestimated,” Commissioner Joe Martens said in a prepared statement. “In addition to providing clean air, clean water and places for wildlife to live, thousands of people are employed in the forest products, outdoor recreation and tourism industries, thanks to New York’s wealth of forest.”

In the 19th century conservationists recognized the importance of nature as a refuge from the noise and bustle of city life. Modern technology has disconnected many people from the outdoors. Virtual pastimes now rival natural, outdoor activities. Taking and sharing pictures is one of the most popular activities in this country. Through this contest, New Yorkers are encouraged to reconnect with the natural world.

Submitted photos should capture all aspects of forests and trees in five different categories:

1. Nature (wildlife, plants, natural landscapes, etc.)

2. Enjoying the forest (hunting, fishing, trails, camping, hiking, etc.)

3. Trees where we live (parks, streets, yards, etc.)

4. Forest products (maple syrup, lumber, baseball bats, furniture, etc.)

5. State-owned Forests (State Forests, Forest Preserve lands, forested Wildlife Management Areas, Campgrounds)

Contest details, rules and necessary forms can be found on DEC’s website.

Photos must be taken in New York State. Photos will be accepted through November 1, 2011. A maximum of three photos may be submitted by a photographer, each with a submission form found on the DEC website, via e-mail or on a CD via regular mail. DEC has non-exclusive rights to use submitted photos on DEC’s website, in the Conservationist magazine, in brochures and in other publications promoting forests and DEC. The photographer will retain ownership of the photo.

The winner in each category will receive a framed print of their photo. Winning photos will be announced on or about December 1, 2011.

Photo: State Forest Boundary Sign Near Ticonderoga (John Warren Photo).


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Phil Brown: East Branch of St. Regis Should be Wild

On Sunday, I took a delightful canoe trip on the East Branch of the St. Regis in the northwestern Adirondacks. It was so enjoyable that I didn’t stop until I reached the end of public land, making for a round trip of twenty miles from Everton Falls.

Four years ago, I had paddled the East Branch in early spring before the greening of the alders and the grasses. On that day the riverside scenery was a bit drab.

How different things are in July. Hues of green were everywhere—in the grasses dancing in the breeze, in the trees beyond the floodplain, and in the river grass bowed by the current. Wildflowers provided dashes of color: the purple whorls of joe-pye weed, the yellow globes of the pond lilies, the drooping scarlet petals of the cardinal flower, the violet spikes of pickerelweed, and the glistening white arrowhead. Add in a blue sky with puffy clouds, and you have the perfect day.

Soon after putting in along Red Tavern Road, I heard one or two passing cars, but as I journeyed farther upstream, I penetrated deeper into the wild where the only sounds were natural: a beaver plopping into the river, the one-note whistle of a red-winged blackbird, a merganser skittering over the water to flee a human intruder.

In ten miles I encountered no development. It’s no wonder that researchers for the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) recommended back in the 1970s that most of this stretch (some eight miles) be designated a Wild River in the state’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational River System (WSR).

All rivers in the WSR system receive a degree of protection, but Wild is the most protective designation. State regulations prohibit the construction of dams, vehicular bridges, or other structures within a Wild River corridor—not even lean-tos are permitted. The only exceptions are footbridges. Just as important, no motorboats are allowed on Wild Rivers.

If you check the APA land-use map, though, you’ll see that roughly the first fifteen miles of the East Branch, including the stretch I paddled, are designated Scenic and that the rest of the river is designated Recreational. Both are less-restrictive classifications, allowing some development, such as vehicular bridges, and motorboat usage.

Usually, the APA followed the recommendations of its field researchers in classifying rivers. Why not in this case?

In his classic guidebook Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, Paul Jamieson writes that the classification was downgraded “probably at the insistence of a paper company and its lessees” (that is, hunting clubs).

Jamieson’s book came out many years ago. Since then, New York State has purchased this part of the river from Champion International and added it to the forever-wild Forest Preserve. In other words, the original objection to designating part of the East Branch a Wild River no longer obtains. APA spokesman Keith McKeever conceded as much in an article I wrote after my earlier trip up the East Branch. “The big impediment to that classification was that it was private land, and that’s no longer the case,” McKeever said.

Well, then, let’s change the classification to Wild. This would ensure that the river corridor stays pristine and that motorboats will not upset the natural serenity with their noise and pollution.

It also would bestow upon the East Branch a cachet that might attract a few more paddling tourists to a neglected corner of the Adirondack Park.

Of the 1,200 miles of Adirondack rivers in the WSR system, only 155 are designated Wild (about 13 percent). Indeed, there are only thirteen river segments in the entire Park that are classified Wild. They tend to be remote and/or rocky. Only one of them—a long stretch of the Main Branch of the Oswegatchie—is easily accessible and navigable by the average paddler. The East Branch would be in rarefied company.

In truth, I don’t know of any plans to build lean-tos, bridges, or other facilities on the river. And I doubt that motorboats often ply the East Branch. Thus, the reclassification might be seen as more symbolic than practical. But symbolism has its place. Designating the East Branch a Wild River would acknowledge its unspoiled beauty. It’s the least we can do.

Photo by Phil Brown: the East Branch of the St. Regis River.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. Subscribers can read his original story on the East Branch in the publication’s online Adventure Planner.



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