Monday, October 8, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part Four

In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s. In Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970.

From the beginning some snowmobile riders and some folks concerned about the impacts of snowmobiles on the rural and wilderness environments began to debate the new outdoor sport. With 200,000 snowmobiles already traveling American lakes, fields, and trails in the 1966-1967 season and many more apparently on the way, government and environmental advocates began to address the possible impacts and attempt to responsibly manage them.

Snowmobile historian Leonard Reich noted that:

During the mid-1960s, snowmobile enthusiasts began to organize clubs whose activities were oriented toward safety, social events, and group activities such as festivals (“snodeos”), clearing, marking, and grooming trails, and trail rides (“snofaris” and “sno-mo-cades”) that could include as many as fifty sleds. One observer of a large nighttime ride recalled that “from a distance, their bobbing head-lights resembled a religious procession,” and in a way it was. Some clubs shipped their snowmobiles to distant sites, then flew or bussed members there for group touring.

In 1970, New York State began requiring riders to register their sleds with the Parks and Recreation Department’s Division of Marine and Recreational Vehicles. Registration forms could be had a local dealers, county clerks, Sheriff’s offices, and regional offices of the Department of Conservation. Registration cost just $5, although some sled riders complained at the cost despite the fact that events organized by local clubs often cost as much as $1 to $2 per sled. The 1970 regulations also required young riders to take a Young Snowmobile Operator’s safety course before riding alone.

Beginning in 1971, a number of governments across the United States and Canada began investigating the boom in snowmobiles in order to asses and mitigate their impacts. In 1971 Congressional testimony, Sno Goer magazine publisher Susie Scholwin voiced the freedom snowmobilers felt on their new machines:

Before snowmobiles, in northern Wisconsin] winters were something just “to be lived through.” Nice winter days on weekends brought the sleds, skis, toboggans, and general fun-in-the-snow. Nights were long and lonely. As were the weekends as a whole. Ice fishing on the lake was good, but the best spot was over a mile away. . . .

The winter of 1964 and early 1965 took on a different tone than those before [with our family’s purchase of a snowmobile]. Mom and dad loved it–the kids loved it. Winter was not the gloomy thing it had been–but each day was an adventure of its own. It was much easier to get “over to the other side of the lake” fishing. . . .

There were races held, but they were something minor. . . . The important thing . . . was that more and more of the neighbors in the area were buying these fantastic little machines and, lo and behold–winter was turning into FUN! The little snowmobile had become a funmobile–one that made winter something to look forward to! Everyone in the area looked forward to weekends, with their picnics, trail-riding, exploring, scavenger hunts, and social gatherings. . . . Many in their fifties and sixties, who were not enthused about the muscular sport of skiing, found that the snowmobile was the answer to their dreams.

For their part of the debate, the dozens of snowmobile clubs in the Adirondack region began exercising their muscle. For example, the President of the Keeseville Trail Riders wrote to local papers in 1972 to remind riders that a $1.15 billion bond issue coming before voters in November would include $44 million for land acquisition in the Adirondacks, but he “doubts very much if any of this money would be used to acquire land for snowmobile trails.” In opposing the bond issue, the Trail Riders noted that their $5 registration fee was being used to build boating services in the Adirondacks.

Take your neighbor or friend or the fellow down the street who owns a boat, the fee to register it for three years is $3.00 and the state has built parking lots and boat launching ramps.

The economic argument was also put forward early:

Take a minute to think how much money this sport has brought to the North Country. We have Boonville over in the western part of the state where thousands come to view races on weekends. Then closer to our community we have our friendly neighbors, Schroon Lake, where the Chamber of Commerce is in the process of putting out our their winter brochure.

So you see everyone stands to gain either enjoyment, money or employment from this sport.

True or not (and their was some question about the actual impact of snowmobilers on the Adirondack economy, even in the boom years), the economic arguments of the clubs and their supporters found important allies in the local press and among the property rights and anti-government crowd. We’ll explore those conflicts in Part Five.

Return to Part One. Read the entire series here.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part Three

In Parts One and Two we traced the emergence of snow vehicles from their earlier cousins, the automobile, the tractor, and motorcycle, and the development of the smaller more versatile nowmobiles popular today. That development led to some forty snowmobile manufacturers in the late 1960s and, eventually, an explosion in interest.

To help build a customer base, sled makers began traveling to winter events and showing their machines. Beginning in January of 1964, snowmobilers in Lake Placid organized one of the first annual “power sled meets.” The event was followed by Artic Cat’s first snowmobile derby in February 1964 in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The company invited all known snowmobile makers, and held dozens of races in front of a couple thousand attendees.

Snowmobile historian Leonard Reich noted:

Drag races, obstacle courses, and hill climbs provided thrills, and a “marathon” event of 22 miles demonstrated the reliability of the machines over long distances and difficult terrain. Soon, race derbies organized by towns, manufacturers, and distributors were taking place all over the winter landscape. Like its automotive precursors, the snowmobile industry used racing and other organized events to generate excitement, attract attention, and demonstrate the capability and reliability of its product. As the early automakers had said, “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday.”

The first International Diamond Trophy Snowmobile Championship held on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid in January 1967 was one of the first major snowmobile meets at a time when, as the Essex County Republican, reported: “At least three major power sled meets are scheduled for the Adirondack Park area, and a dozen or so lesser meets, although no sanctioning unit has yet organized the sport, and there is no official record keeping or planning.” Nonetheless, the Mirror Lake meet offered $1,000 in cash prizes and included a hill climb and downhill slalom. By the 1969-1970 season major races around the country could see purses as high as $25,000.

Other area meets in 1966-1967 included the Eastern New York Races at Lake George (about 125 registered sleds and a new Schaefer Cup trophy race), and another at Boonville where the New York State Snowmobile Championship was held (more than 100 sleds and the emblematic Adirondack Cup). Lesser races were held at Malone, Tupper Lake, Speculator, Schroon Lake, Chazy Lake, and Old Forge.

For the 1966-1967 season 100,000 copies of Johnson Motors’ “Fun Guide to Snowmobiling” were distributed to various dealers around the country which included facts about the sport and sources for trail information. By the end of the 1966-67 season there were about 200,000 snowmobiles in America and even the first magazine devoted to the new sport – Sno Goer, was published by an advocate for snowmobiling on public lands named Susie Scholwin. According to industry sources, the snowmobile industry rose from $3 million in sales in 1965 to $30 million in 1967.

With the boon in snowmobilers, came a local boon in snowmobile clubs. The Central Adirondack Association was organized before the 1966-67 season. By 1973, the Essex County Association of Snowmobile Clubs (ECASCO) included nine clubs from the county’s twelve towns: the “Keeseville Trail Riders,” “Bouquet Valley Snow-Drifters” of Essex Willsboro, “Crown Point RR&R Snowmobile Club,” “Lake Placid Snowmobile Club,” “Moriah Snowmobile Club,” Schroon-North Hudson Snowmobilie Club,” the “Adirondack Snowmobile Club” of Ticonderoga, “Mt. Valley Snogoers,” the Wesport area “Bessboro Ski-ters” and the “Lewis-E’Town Snow Machine Club.” Even “North Country Squares,” a dance group, was getting into the action by organizing weekly races at the Clinton County Fairgrounds in Plattsburgh.

Snowmobile dealers were spreading throughout the region by 1970 when the Essex County Republican newspaper saw fit to publish a special snowmobiling section. In Peru, auto dealer Truman Davis sold Ski Doos based at the Stanley-Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Plattsburgh. Also in Plattsburgh, Jim Manley’s Welding and Repairs sold Skiroule; in Jarvis Falls, Jarvis Auto Parts sold Polaris; Ray’s Mobile Service in Keeseville usually sold chainsaws, but now also sold Allouette sleds; in Elizabethtown Dick Burpee’s Outdoor Power Equipment sold Artic Cat, Elizabethtown Builders sold Sno Jet and Artic Cat, and Norton Insurance Agency advertised snowmobile insurance.

Along with the spread of snowmobiles in the late 1960s there also emerged the first rumblings of those concerned that the noise, new trails, and detrimental effects to the environment were something to be concerned about. But as we’ll see in Part Four, just as it appeared that snowmobiles would conquer the Adirondack environment the bottom fell out.

Read the entire series here.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part Two

In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we looked at the emergence of the “motor sleigh” in the early 1900s with experimental models that included half-tracks, airplane props, and converted Model A Fords. As snow machines became more widely known and began being used by government agencies, utilities and lumber companies, local experimenters began building their own variations. The 64 snow mobiles (by then already being called by that generic name) registered in New York State in 1935 were all large vehicles that held several passengers.

Joseph-Armand Bombardier, who had been experimenting with rear engine designs since he was teenager, came forward in 1935 with the B7, a seven passenger enclosed snow vehicle. It’s sucess was short-lived. When snow removal on roads became widespread in the late 1940s, Bombardier turned primarily to more general overland tracked vehicles. But while Bombardier and others were focused on making bigger snow machines, others had also been making independent progress on smaller, more versatile, auto sleighs using increasingly available small motors on more traditional (though now steerable) sleigh and bobsled runners.

In 1920, Lewis Newton, the owner of a Hudson Falls bicycle shop, announced that he had “perfected and auto-sleigh which attains nearly fifty miles per hour and can be operated with absolute safety.” Newton mounted two Thompson motors on a specially constructed bobsleigh and rigged a motorcycle wheel with a skid chain; the crank was kick-started. Some of the several he made may still be hiding out in Warren or Washington county barns.

In the late 1920s, Wisconsin outboard-motor dealer Carl Eliason hand-built about forty smaller snow machines (his patent is shown below). It was these that were copied by agricultural machinery manufacturer Polaris Industries’ when they developed the “Pol-Cat,” which was introduced in 1954. The Pol-Cat was followed closely by Bombadier’s “Ski-Doo,” which went on sale in 1959. Then when Edgar Hetteen (founder and president of Polaris Industries) had a falling out with his partners in 1960 he left to create the Polar Manufacturing Company which produced the “Artic Cat” in 1961. Although thirteen American patents were issued between 1927 and 1962, and by 1970 there were several dozen snowmobile companies, the still relatively small snowmobile market was dominated by these three companies: Polaris, Bombardier / Ski Doo, and Artic Cat.

Leonard Reich, who has written on early snowmobile history in the journal Technology and Culture, noted that what happened next depended largely on the role of motor boat dealers:

Northern marine outlets were an obvious place to sell snowmobiles, and many early dealers came from the ranks of boating businesses looking for a line to carry them through the fall and winter. In fact, outboard- motorboating served as a model for the developing snowmobile industry. The first outboard motor was manufactured in 1911 by Ole Evinrude, and the industry progressed slowly until after the Second World War. Outboards were usually installed on rowboats or on hulls originally designed for inboard power, which limited their capabilities and constrained the market. With the introduction of inexpensive fiberglass boat construction and light planing hull designs during the 1950s, at a time of national prosperity, rapid population growth, and television marketing, outboard-motorboating became extremely popular and dramatically changed summertime recreation patterns on lakes and rivers. Now, a mechanical whine split the summer’s natural sounds, transforming in its wake the search for relaxation to a powered pursuit of recreation. Many snowmobile dealers and buyers had their first introduction to motorized recreation through motorboating, and snowmobile salesmen often used the analogy in making the sale. Snowmobile purchasers were more than twice as likely as the general population to own motorboats.

The ready made market notwithstanding, snowmobile purchases were limited by the number of sleds produced and more importantly, by the number of people who thought they were worthwhile. Arctic Cat sold just 20 sleds in their first year (1961), and 700 the second. Bombardier produced 225 the first year (model year 1960); 700 in 1961; 2,100 in 1962; 5,300 in 1963; 8,500 in 1964; and just 13,300 for all of the United States and Canada in 1965. Advertising at first targeted fish and game officers, foresters, trappers, missionaries, prospectors and utility companies, but by 1965 had began to serious shift to the outdoor thrills market. The number of makers also multiplied with, according to historian Leonard Reich, “Trail-A-Sled in 1961, Moto-Ski and Skiroule in 1963, Sno-Jet and Johnson Skee Horse in 1964, Rupp, Fox-Trac, Hus-Ski, and Polaris (with a Ski-Doo-like model) in 1965. By the end of 1967 approximately forty makes had come to market.”


Among the early snowmobile dealers in the Adirondacks were George Moore Truck and Equipment Corp., in Keeseville whose first advertisement in 1965 claimed that their Ski-Doos “provide entertainment for all ages as it bounces over snow drifts, climbing and descending hills with ease. It has also proved its worth as a traveler on ice for fishermen and into the dense forests for hunters.” By the 1967-68 season they had secured the statewide distribution and were advertising for new dealers to join the ranks. “Snowmobiles, fast moving, profitable,” their advertisement read, “the snowmobile boom is underway… here is the opportunity to get in on this money-making fun market…to sell the nation’s hottest recreation machine.” Artic Cat, whose nearest sales room was Rochester, had to wait until 1970 before it would see an Adirondack shop.

In Part Three we’ll investigate the explosion in the snowmobile market in the Adirondacks, the organization of the area’s first clubs and races and their impact on the marketing and wider distribution of modern snowmobile.

Return to part one here. Read the entire series here.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part One

The snowmobile (or more generally, motorized snow travel) owes it existence to early developments in the motorized tractor, automobile, and motorcycle industries. In 1907, the year the future father of the modern snowmobile Joseph-Armand Bombardier was born, a “high speed motor sleigh” was featured in Popular Mechanics magazine. It had the body of touring car on skis but was propelled by a spiked wheel. “The motor sleigh is making slow progress,” the article’s author noted, “but will some day become a very popular form of sport.”

By 1912, a plethora of motorized sleigh prototypes appeared in the magazines pages. They included a half track, and a converted motorcycle. Among the most popular were those that used a large propeller for propulsion. Although dangerous and useful only on wide trails or open ground, the areo-sleighs avoided many of the problems spiked wheels and skis had with deep or wet snow. (As a side note, Adgate Schemerhorn of Ausable Chasm was rescued by an areo-sleigh after spending nearly two weeks in a snow-covered Idaho wilderness in 1943).

Ray Muscott of Michigan was issued a Canadian patent for his motor sleigh – “traineau automobile” in 1915 and the following year received the first American patent for an early snow vehicle design that included a tread belt and steerable skis mounted on a stock truck chassis.

Several others produced copies of a similar design, but the first snow vehicles that were produced in any numbers were Model A Fords converted by New Hampshire garage owner and auto dealer Virgil White. He started selling his “snow mobiles” to the general public in 1923 and sold some 25,000 before his factory burned in 1928. Although the new snowmobiles were used primarily for business – by mail carriers, doctors, logging and utility companies, farmers – as early as 1926 there was a race on a frozen Wisconsin lake attesting to the fun they could be put to. One of the first owners of a snow mobile in the Adirondack region was W.J. Dickinson, who was giving rides to his Willsboro neighbors as early as February, 1925.

In the 40 years from the birth of motor-sleighs until the advent of modern snowmobiles around 1960, snow vehicle design generally stuck to the large unwieldy halftrack type, and there were few of them. While there were more than 64,000 automobiles registered in New York in 1935, there were just 64 snow mobiles. Presumably several of these found homes in the Adirondacks – the New York State Conservation Department had some in the 1940s – but they were generally ignored by the local press. One notable exception was in 1932 when a snowmobile owned by the Gould Paper Company was sent in a blinding snowstorm to retrieve a lumberjack who had fallen from his sleigh while trying to get a runaway team of horses under control. Edward Hines, 65, was caught under the runners of the log filled sled and seriously wounded about 28 miles into the backcountry from McKeever. It took three hours to reach the lumber camp and another three to bring Hines into McKeever – unfortunately, he didn’t survive.

Another snowmobile milestone was met in 1938 when Olympic bobsledder J. Hubert Stevens, of the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Commission announced that he was “experimenting with a snowmobile with which to negotiate the mountain in winter.” According to press reports of the time, Stevens hoped to use the homemade snowmobile to carry sightseers and skiers to the top of the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway during the winter. The Ticonderoga Sentinel described the vehicle:

The machine is minus wheels in front, large skis with eight inch blades being used instead. A tractor device gives it impetus… Stevens said that the machine will do 10 miles per hour in the accent and 35 miles coming down.

In January, after a few attempts to break the trail which made it up two of the eight miles to the top, Stevens abandoned the attempt and return to his workshop to make repairs. Figuring that the rear track was not wide enough he added eight inches to each side and headed back to the mountain three weeks later. This time, with local policeman Lester Beane onboard (the cab could hold eight) the made the top.

In Part Two we’ll explore the development of the snowmobile we know today and the role played by the burgeoning motorboat industry in bringing it to market.

Read the entire series here.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Outdoor Adviser Lost On Adirondack Peak

Stories of being lost in the great north woods were so prolific in the early centuries of America that there could be jokes about them like this one from 1873:

Conversation between an inquiring stranger and steamboat pilot Andrew Hulett: “This is Black Mountain?” “Yes, Sir! The highest mountain above Lake George.” “Any story or legend connected with that mountain?” “Lots of them. Two lovers went up that mountain once and never came back again.” “Indeed-why, what became of them?” “Went down the other side.”

An 1895 newspaper account warned of the “unburied bones of hundreds of men and women who have lost their way in the pathless miles of timbered country, and have ran on terror-stricken until death overtook them in their madness.” The reporter’s caution: “sit down and wait until they find you.”

Today, geographic positioning systems (GPS), emergency beacons, and helicopter rescue teams mean that being dangerously lost in the Adirondack wilderness is usually only a temporary situation. The lack of significant large predators capable of harming us and our generally warmer weather (thanks to persistent global warming) all make traveling in the Adirondack region less dangerous.

Still, at every river crossing, every icy trail, and every dangerous ledge or mountaintop, every swimming hole and picturesque lake, danger continues to lurk. The unprepared and ill equipped, the inexperienced, and sometimes the just plain unlucky, can all still find themselves in dangerous, life-threatening and sometime life-taking situations. Each year dozens of people are lost, stranded, injured, and killed in the wilderness, on mountaintops, and lakes and rivers of the Adirondack region.

Recently, there was one more.

Barbara Brotman, who describes herself as the Chicago Tribune‘s Outdoor Adviser columnist, found out that it takes more than a cushy newspaper job title to make someone safe in the wilderness – it takes careful planning and preparedness.

Brotman, her Tribune photographer husband Chuck Berman, and their daughter, decided to take on Crane Mountain in Johnsburg, Warren County. Without a map and without enough water.

They did remember to bring their poorly charged cell phone however.

Before they left, Brotman called Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth, apparently thinking he had little more to do then give hiking advice:

His advice was a warning. Crane was an outlying mountain. The trail was hard to find and hard to hike.

“Crane Mountain is a very steep climb,” he said. “Many Adirondack High Peaks are not as challenging as Crane.”

And Adirondack trails in general are difficult and steep, he said. Unlike in the Rockies, where switchbacks allow gradual gains in altitude, Adirondack trails were cut by 19th Century guides who took the shortest route to the top.

First, Berman dropped out. While he no doubt got some great snap shots and video footage, he had failed to drink enough water as he climbed the fairly steep 1.4 miles. As he approached heat exhaustion and dehydration two young hikers descending on the same trail met the Chicago party. Did the Outdoor Adviser assist her ill husband back down the mountain? No. She left it to the other hikers to take him down.

Brotman and her daughter continued up, saw the sights, and while eating lunch realized they had little water left. That didn’t stop them from continuing on for an afternoon swim on the shoulder of the mountain – no trail markers, no map, no problem.

Swim complete, it was finally time for Brotman to begin to worry:

Again, my failure to bring a trail map was proving costly. There was no sign telling how to return to the parking lot. The trail continued along the pond’s edge, but it was in what felt like the wrong direction. We had passed what seemed to be another trail heading back into the woods marked by two red blazes on trees, but where did it lead?

I had no idea which way to go.

There was no one to ask.

It was 4:30 p.m. The sun was getting lower.

We had no water.

And now we crossed the line from challenged to scared.

But we did, at this one spot, have cell phone service. I used it to call the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation emergency line.

No sign telling how to return to the parking lot? Outdoor Advisor expected signs to lead her through the wilderness?

This time they were lucky. They had climbed a minor Adirondack mountain unprepared and had gotten lost. Sure they hadn’t listened to Woodworth’s advice, had divided their party and burdened other hikers, and had relied on a cell phone to call for help from the DEC. Luckily, they managed to make it back to the car before dark.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

RCPA Has New Chair: John Collins of Blue Mountain Lake

A Press Release recieved from the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA):

RCPA Votes John Collins as the New Chair of the Board of Directors

Robert Harrison of Brant Lake selected as Vice-Chair

North Creek – The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA) Board of Directors voted John Collins of Blue Mountain Lake as the new Board Chair. John Collins was a founding Board member and has served on the Board since 1997. Robert Harrison of Brant Lake was voted in as the new Vice-Chair. Harrison has served on the RCPA Board since 2005.

“The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks is a very important voice. The RCPA serves as the eyes and ears and especially the voice for those of us who live in the Park and recognize its value. We will continue to work to protect the natural resources and promote a sustainable economy throughout this remarkable place. The Board and staff of the RCPA are committed to preserving the Forest Preserve, the great open spaces and the rural communities that are the Adirondacks,” said John Collins, the new RCPA Chair. Collins has served on the Town of Indian Lake Planning Board, the Indian Lake Central School District Board of Education, as a Commissioner and Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency, on the Board and as Executive Director of the Adirondack Museum, on also currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Crary Foundation and the Northern Forest Center.

Robert Harrison was voted in as the RCPA’s Vice-Chair. Harrison is a member of the Brant Lake Volunteer Fire Department, is a school bus driver for the North Warren School District, and is a member of the Town of Horicon Master Plan Steering Committee. “I’m very concerned about the Adirondack Club & Resort project proposed for the Big Tupper Ski Area. The RCPA has applied for party status and will continue to participate and monitor this project in the months and years ahead. As an FSC certified landowner in the RCPA’s sustainable forestry certification program, I will work diligently to grow this program and recruit new landowners and help get more businesses certified to use certified wood and sell certified projects. This program seeks to build the local economy and protect private forestlands,” said Bob Harrison.

In addition Joe Mahay of Paradox was voted as the Secretary/Treasurer.

“We’re all delighted with the new leadership that John Collins and Bob Harrison bring to the RCPA,” said Peter Bauer, RCPA Executive Director. “We face many challenges across the Adirondacks from over-development, poor state management of the Forest Preserve, declining water quality, a serious shortage of affordable housing, invasive species and land protection among other issues. Our challenges are huge so somebody who knows the Park well, who has a successful business here, and who cares deeply about both the future of the Park’s wild areas and residents is critical at this point in time to lead the RCPA to confront these challenges.”

The 14-member RCPA Board of Directors are all year-round residents of the Adirondack Park. The Board meets seven times a year and holds an annual members meeting each September. The Board approves all RCPA programs and positions (all RCPA positions since 2003 are posted on the RCPA website www.rcpa.org). The RCPA manages the largest water quality monitoring program in the Adirondacks, the Park’s only sustainable forestry FSC certification project for landowners and businesses, monitors development on a town-by-town basis annually, and has issued reports on development trends in the Adirondack Park, ATV abuse of Forest Preserve lands, need for improvements in state regulation of septic systems in New York, and the future of Fire Towers on the public Forest Preserve and private lands in the Adirondacks. The RCPA manages the Adirondack Park Land Protection Campaign and the Adirondack Park Clean Waters Project and works collaboratively on various community development projects. The RCPA formed in 1990. The previous RCPA Chairs were Joe Mahay of Paradox, Philip Hamel of Saranac, and Peter Hornbeck of Olmstedville.

The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks

The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the stewardship and protection of the natural environment and human communities of the Adirondack Park for current and future generations. The RCPA pursues this mission through advocacy, education, legal action, sustainable forestry certification, research, water quality monitoring and grassroots organizing. The RCPA has 3,500 household members and maintains an office in North Creek.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bud York Defeats Larry Cleveland, Val Keehn Beats Gordon Boyd

Primary election returns reported by Capital News 9 show that Nathan H. “Bud” York has defeated incumbent (and Glens Falls Post Star favorite) Larry Cleveland in the Warren County Sheriff Republican and Independence Party primaries. Since Cleveland will no longer be on the ballot in November as the candidate for either party it looks like Bud York will be the next Warren County Sheriff.

In Saratoga Springs Progressive Democrat Valerie Keehn has apparently fended off a primary challenge from conservative Gordon Boyd despite heavy and nearly relentless attacks from right-wing Saratoga area blogs and the conservative Saratogian. Keehen will no doubt still have a tough battle ahead against a Republican challenger in November.

Local primary results can be found here:

Warren, Washington, and Saratoga Counties (Capital News 9)
Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Plattsburgh Press Republican
Glens Falls Post Star


Friday, September 14, 2007

Adirondack Hacks

Randomly organized links to ideas for making life in the Adirondacks just a little bit easier – technology tools and tips, do-it-yourself projects, and anything else that offers a more interesting, more convenient, or healthier way of life in our region.

Stay Up-To-Date On Fall Foliage Peaks

Make A $10 Photo Light Box

Do-It-Yourself Leaf Shredder

Build Your Own Sport Utility Bike (SUB)

Crazy Wine Cork Art

Adirondack Hacks is an occasional feature of Adirondack Almanack. Take a look at our Adirondack Hacks archive here.


Friday, September 7, 2007

RCPA Executive Director Peter Bauer Leaving

Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks today. Before his tenure with since 1994, will leave his position by the end of September according to a news release the Adirondack Almanack receivedRCPA Bauer worked for the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century, and at Adirondack Life. In his position with the RCPA, he worked on a variety of issues affecting the stewardship and environmental protection of the public and private lands of the Adirondack Park and was the target of much right-wing criticism. He is married to Cathleen Collins and has two children, Jake and Emma. He will be moving to a position as Executive Director for the Fund For Lake George. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

End of Summer: Adirondack Travel Edition

Now that the summer tourist season is mostly over, we’ll present what has become our annual list of some of the best travel blogging of the Adirondacks we’ve seen. If you have a post you find worth sharing let us know.

One of our favorite local blogs, Adirondack Musing, took their annual trip to Saratoga for a day at the flat track, the harness track, and the racino. The posts, with some nice photos, are in four parts (Saratoga, Backstreetch Tour Parts One and Two, and Race Day).

Another local, Rebbecca Leonard, has been travelling the highways and byways of the Adirondacks all summer trying to sell her first book, Adirondack Nightmare: A Spooky Tale in the North Country, which she self published in the spring. Her journeys are interesting slices of life in the region – good and bad.

Dave Schatsky just returned from an Adirondack vacation:

We didn’t see much wildlife–local experts say the park system is so large that the bobcats, martins, and other mid-sized mammals have no motive for straying closed to humans. Black bears are not hard to encounter there, but it’s better not to and we didn’t either. We did see a salamander–my favorite amphibian–frogs, wild turkeys and deer.

Dominique shared her experiences and suggestions of camping with her toddler at Cranberry Lake in Sophia In the Adirondacks:

Make sure that your child can be very involved….when my husband went fishing, we had a small toy fishing pole so that Sophia could emulate what he was doing. Also, a variety in the level of activity is beneficial. It was great to relax for the afternoon on the beach after a busy morning of hiking and campground activities.

A Woman Obsessed took a Mini Yarn Crawl through the Adirondacks with stops in Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.

Our first stop on the yarn crawl was Lonesome Landing in Saranac Lake. Cute town, cute store, cute owner. Things were a little disorganized, but there was interesting yarn, out of print books, and a great deal on Opal sock yarn ($11!!!!) I brought home this darling, after Meg spotted me the cash to make the purchase- if you go to Lonesome Landing, be forewarned that they only accept cash and checks!

Warren D. Jorgensen left Tarrytown for An Adirondack Mountain Sojourn:

Anxious to put work-city-civilization-traffic behind, I put the hammer down on the five hour slab ride that put me off exit 30 and onto route 73 west and into the park. The weight of a thousand and one problems lifted off my shoulders with the sight of the High Peaks, and for some reason, I felt at home. I have been coming to these mountains since 1958, and the sight of mountains always warms my soul.

As the evening faded, a canoeist paddled across the lake off the rear deck of our cabin just outside Lake Placid, and we decided that in this nothingness, we would do nothing. No plans, no itinerary, but just follow the front wheel and see where it would take us on the roads that wound through this “Forever Wild” wilderness.

Kathleen at Be Still And Know spent some time at Chapel Island on Upper Saranac Lake:

The loons cry, campfires burn, birds sing, leaves begin to turn, fish jump, children splash with delight into the cold lake water, water skiers ride the wake, sailboats sail, pontoons party their way around the waters edge, eagles scream and soar, and the earth smells ever so sweet. I’m bundled up with all my sweatshirts, and strip down to my tankini, forgiving the drastic temperature change…just to be here basking in the glory of Mother Nature at her best.

Many of the posts have some outstanding photos, but be sure to check out the flickr Adirondacks photo pool for more great Adirondack vacation amateur photography.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Sketches of Sam Bush by Speedy Arnold

George (Speedy) Arnold plays guitar and sings for the bluegrass band Three Doug Knight, which appears at local bluegrass festivals in the Adirondack region of New York State. The band is most enjoyable and we’ve heard them play several times this summer. Last week, at the Otis Mtn. Festival, I learned that Speedy Arnold also illustrates children’s books. Later I saw him sketching during the Sam Bush set. As with many able and talented people who live in the Adirondacks, Speedy does a variety of things to keep body and soul together. He serves as a school bus driver in the Ausable Valley Central School District, owns and operates Arnold’s Grocery and Likker Lokker in Keeseville, NY and serves as assessor for the Town of Ausable. Information about his illustrations can be found here.

Here are two sketches Speedy did during Sam’s set.


You can contact him about others.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Sam Bush, Infamous Stringdusters Led Otis Mountain

By Ted Lehmann

Saturday evening August 18th at the Otis Mountain Music Festival in Elizabethtown, NY was cool and clear, but neither the fans nor the bands felt cold as the Sam Bush Band and the Infamous Stringdusters heated up the night. Promoter Jeff Allot has worked hard to make this small festival in the rugged Adirondack Mountains a success. In bringing one of the great bands of bluegrass history as well as one of the hottest young bands on the circuit together for a day, Allot scored a huge artistic success. Whether this proves to be a financial success and allows him to continue this great festival remains to be seen, but this festival deserves support and encouragement.

The closing jam provided one of those thrilling moments that may only happen in bluegrass festivals. In the encore, Sam invited the Stringdusters to join him and they jammed for half an hour to the delight of the crowd that whooped it up for more. It was simply a great night. The New England Bluegrass Band, Big Spike, and Three Doug Knight all deserve credit too.

Ed: Above is a shot Ted took of the New England Bluegrass Band. More pictures from the Otis Mountain festival can be seen on his blog here.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bridge Collapse Recalls Historic Adirondack Disaster

The recent collapse of the bridge spanning the Mississippi River at Minneapolis brought to mind the tragic history of similar events in the Adirondacks.

Workers building the historic Stone Arch Bridge (photo above from the late 1800s) over the Ausable River in Keeseville had a close call in 1842. The bridge of native stone, believed at the time to be the largest such bridge in the country, was being built to replace the original wooden structure erected in 1805. The men had completed the first course of stone including the keystones and had nearly finished the second course when a violent storm blew in. Just as more then 30 men fled the storm’s heavy rain to a wooden shed on the bank of the river the entire bridge collapsed into the Ausable with a thunderous crash. The tremendous crash was said to have shaken buildings as far away as Port Kent.

Delays in the construction of the bridge caused by the collapse inadvertently caused a more tragic accident that same year. On local militia “muster day,” September 13, 1842, the unfinished bridge caused the Essex County militia to cross a smaller swinging bridge (supported by chains) nearby. The bridge was filled with bystanders as they marched across in lock step. It’s believed the overloaded bridge combined with the stamping feet of the marchers caused the bridge to collapse into the churning river below. Local newspapers reported that nine people were drowned, and four later died of exposure. Two boys, Richard Pope and Richard Peabody, were swept over a nearby dam with their arms around each other and were among those drowned.

A similar accident twice befell the men building what was then longest bridge in the world (3,239 feet) over the St. Lawrence River at Quebec. As one of the enormous spans was being raised from pontoons, it gave way and crashed into the river taking with it fifty men. Observers said the central span, weighing more than 5,000 tons, buckled at the center before it fell. At least five were killed. The accident occurred in 1916, but just nine years before a similar accident on the same bridge killed 70.In the spring of 1931 the Whallonsburg bridge, which carried much of the Albany-Montreal traffic over the Bouquet River in Essex County, collapsed while Robert O’Neil of Willsboro was crossing. O’Neil’s car fell nearly twelve feet but he escaped uninjured. The bridge’s steel trusses slipped from one of its abutments. The next day four boys were sitting on the railing of the wrecked bridge when it gave way and they went into the water. Kenneth McDougall was knocked unconscious from a serious head injury but the others escaped relatively unharmed. The photo at right shows the new abutments, made of rough quartzite from Champlain Stone.The 1842 Chain Bridge Collapse ranks among the deadliest accidents ever in the Adirondack region. Read more about the others here.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Otis Mountain Music Festival – Preview

The Otis Mountain Music Festival will hold its fifth annual event on August 17th and 18th in Elizabethtown, NY along route 9 between the route 73 split and Elizabethtown. This festival has been moving its date and searching for an identity which will sell in this huge rural county within the Adirondack Park in northern New York. It remains to be seen whether scheduling two of the most popular and progressive bluegrass bands in this venue will bring in the crowds needed to make this event pay. I can only hope. In scheduling the great, established Sam Bush Band and the wonderful emerging band The Infamous Stringdusters to appear on Saturday, promoter Jeff Allot is offering a day of the very finest progressive bluegrass that can be found. He is also offering an interesting, if little known, supporting cast ranging from traditional bluegrass to indie/rock that may hit the spot or fail to please.

The setting of the Otis Mountain Festival could not be any more beautiful. The band stand sits at the base of a gentle ski hill which slopes upward and away to form a natural amphitheater. There is plenty of room for people to see the bands and, I understand, an area has been set aside to permit dancing without interfering with viewing and listening. In the past, this festival has featured excellent food venders featuring offerings several cuts above the usual fair food served at bluegrass and music festivals. There is rough camping available and good transportation from the rather remote parking areas and the festival site. Allot has gone to great lengths to make this event one in which there has been extensive community involvement, and, in its 2005 version, succeeded admirably. Last year he changed the date to conflict with another New York State festival, which we chose to attend. This year he has again chosen a new date. I thought the weekend after Labor Day was a great date to hold a festival, but apparently it didn’t draw sufficient crowds, and it was chilly at night. Perhaps finding a regular date and keeping it would be a good way to build the festival audience.

Sam Bush is one of the most important influences in bluegrass music since its invention by Bill Monroe. With the establishment of The New Grass Revival in 1971, bluegrass opened itself to the new sounds coming from Rock and Roll bringing new sounds, rhythms, and themes into the acoustic music Monroe had pioneered and whose influence continues to dominate the genre. In his history of bluegrass, Neil V. Rosenberg points out that the musicians have always been out ahead of the fans of bluegrass music in their willingness to explore new approaches to the music. For more than 35 years, Sam Bush has been in the lead. He has introduced electric instruments and drums to the genre without ever bending it too far from its roots. His mandolin and fiddle playing are extraordinary. His current band, with Scott Vestal on banjo, Byron House on bass, Chris Brown on Drums, and Stephen Mougin on guitar continues in the tradition Bush has established, but the band is really Sam Bush. The list of performers Bush has played with forms a who’s who of bluegrass and country music greats.


While the Sam Bush Band represents the genesis and progress of modern bluegrass music, The Infamous Stringdusters stand for the state of the art. Composed of a group of players, several of whom studied at the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston, this fast rising group has taken the country by storm during the past eighteen months. I have written about their debut album “Fork in the Road” here. They still need to establish a solid record of ongoing accomplishment, but this first recording is better than a good start. Otis Mountain gives listeners one of their last chances to hear and see the original band, as brilliant flat-picking guitarist Chris Eldridge is leaving the band to join Chris Thile. Eldridge represents a link between the past and the future. He’s the son of Ben Eldridge, an original and continuing member of The Seldom Scene, who is acknowledged as a master of innovation on the banjo. Chris Eldridge appears to be in some other world as his wonderful solos and oh-so-solid rhythm guitar contribute mightily to the Stringdusters’ drive and style. Banjo player Chris Pandolfi is the first banjo graduate of the Berklee School of Music, perhaps the premier school for contemporary jazz, rock, and pop musicians today. Jeremy Garrett on fiddle comes from Idaho where he was a member of his father’s band The Grasshoppers, and he studied at South Plains College in Texas, where there is a well-known bluegrass program. Garrett sings lead and plays fiddle. Jesse Cobb, on mandolin, also comes from a family of bluegrass musicians. Andy Hall on Dobro and providing lead vocals is also a graduate of Berklee, where he majored in Music Production and Engineering. Finally, Travis Book, the newest member of the band on bass, comes from Colorado, where he was recognized for his playing as well as his lead singing. This band came together after all its members had moved to Nashville and established themselves with a variety of touring bands as well as studio musicians. Their collaboration grew out of jamming in the rich Nashville scene and his matured as they formed the Stringdusters and have worked to forge a distinctive sound and style. As a band they are still maturing and should provide years of delightful surprises to
thoughtful and informed listeners.

As might be expected with two such budget busting bands, the remainder of the lineup emphasizes either bands you haven’t heard of or local/regional bands that don’t have to travel too far or demand too much to appear. This does not, however, mean you won’t find something worth listening to. Big Spike, acting as host band this weekend, comes from Vermont and seeks to recreate the sounds of bluegrass and country music as it existed at about the time bluegrass began to distinguish itself as a sub-genre within the country music rubric. According to their web site “The band aims to recreate a sound that is long gone from country music, a sound closer to the honky-tonk and early bluegrass sound of the 50’s than it is to what’s played in Nashville today.” They are justly familiar to bluegrass fans around New York and New England.

Similarly, The New England Bluegrass Band, while best known in its namesake region, consists of excellent musicians presenting music in mostly traditional formats. They have recently been joined by Ashleigh Caudill, a new graduate of Berklee School of Music on bass and vocals. Joe Walsh, new mandolin player for the group, is also a student at Berklee. Since the Infamous Stringdusters are on the bill here, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Chris Pandolfi sitting in with the group, too. Lincoln Myers, Ron Cody, and Cecil Abels are long term members of this excellent bluegrass band. All the members have experiences that cross genres and also have considerable range within bluegrass. You can expect first class sets from this band on Saturday.

Three Doug Knight is a local bluegrass band that provides very satisfactory covers of bluegrass standards as well amusing songs written by guitar player Speedy Arnold. They will provide more than satisfactory sets on both Friday and Saturday. For me, Wild By Nature, Greenwich Mean Time, and Crossing North are unknown quantities. You can find a little more information on Greenwich Mean Time here at their MySpace entry. They provide a couple of cuts from their catalog. Their blurb seems determined not to provide any useful information about them except that they come from Olympia, WA. Crossing North is a duo based in Plattsburgh, NY. You can hear some of their cuts here.

Tickets to the Otis Mtn. Music Festival are $24 advance until August 18th and then $29 at the gate. The Festival map can be found here. This eclectic festival looks like a really good bet. Between two great national bands, some pretty well-known regional bands, and some new experiences, you won’t be wasting your time.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Local Olympic Hero Jack Shea: Camels Relieve Fatigue

Behold, Jack Shea, local Olympic hero declares in this classic ad that Camel cigarettes “relieve fatigue.” Now we know how Shea became the first Olympian to win two gold medals in the same Olympics – a feat he accomplished during the 1932 games at Lake Placid. The ad is courtesy of www.weirdomatic.com (via Boing Boing).

According to wikipedia:

Shea chose not to defend his Olympic titles at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, at the request of a Lake Placid rabbi for it would be in poor taste to be so “over-zealous.”
One wonders what role the Nazi Olympics controversy had in the rabbi’s urgings.

Shea twice served as the Olympic Regional Development Authority chair. From 1958 to 1974, he was a town justice, and from 1974 until his retirement in 1983 he was the supervisor of North Elba.

His son, Jim Shea, Sr., was a 1964 Olympian in Nordic skiing and his grandson, Jim Shea, Jr. was a 2002 Olympic skeleton gold medalist.

Jack Shea carried the Olympic torch into Lake Placid in 2002 but was tragically killed in a head-on car crash with a drunk driver just before his grandson won the gold.


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