Beginning in June, the much awaited Adirondack Folk School in Lake Luzerne will begin its first classes. Dubbed by its founders as “the only school of its kind in the country dedicated to teaching the arts, crafts and culture of this unique Adirondack region,” the Lake Luzerne school will be housed in the former Odd Fellows hall (and later an elementary school and Town Hall) which was constructed in the 1930s. The school began with an idea by town resident Jim Mandle who was looking for ways to revitalize Lake Luzerne’s downtown. It came to fruition with the support of town leaders, Adirondack Community College, and the Adirondack Museum.
The school is expected to house classes in Fiber Arts, Basketry, Woodworking, Ceramics, Felting, Quilting, Fly Tying, Cooking, Gardening, Leather Craft, Photography, Outdoor Skills, Rustic Furniture, and Blacksmithing.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that changes to the state’s freshwater fishing regulations will become effective on October 1, 2010.
Among the most important changes to local anglers is the elimination of the special allowance for five extra brook trout less than eight inches. With the exception of certain water body-specific regulations, the daily limit is now five trout of any size. Changes locally also include the elimination of special regulations for pickerel in several local waters, for northern pike in Adirondack Lake (Hamilton County), and for yellow perch and sunfish in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties (including Schroon Lake); statewide regulations will now apply. The open season for trout in Glen Lake (Warren County) has been extended for ice fishing, and the minimum size limit for lake trout in Lake Bonaparte (Lewis County) has been reduced to 18 inches.
The changes to the freshwater regulations are the result of a two-year process during which DEC solicited public feedback during the development of the proposals, and also provided a comment period for public input on the draft rules.
The full text of the new 2010-2012 regulations can be viewed on the DEC website.
The DEC is encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to consider purchasing a Habitat/Access Stamp, an optional stamp that helps support the DEC’s efforts to conserve habitat and increase public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation. Buying the $5 stamp is a way to help conserve New York’s wildlife heritage. More information about purchasing a Habitat Stamp is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/329.html
You know spring has truly arrived when the trilliums are in bloom. Around these parts, the trillium that first appears is usually Trillium erectum, known to the layman as purple or red trillium, wake-robin, or stinking Benjamin. This deep red flower, almost burgundy in color, graces our woodlands usually by the end of April and early May. This year I expect we may see its richly colored blooms earlier than usual. One of the things I like best about studying plants is learning what our ancestors thought of them. Those plants that came over with the colonists, intentionally or not, have written histories going back sometimes to the days of the Roman Empire. Others we only find in records dating back to the Middle Ages. Reading through some of the accounts of Nicholas Culpepper or Pliny the Elder can be alternately enchanting and humorous. But when it comes to our native plants, like the red trillium, our histories can be Spartan.
Books that describe the uses plants were put to by the various native peoples often tend to be no more than lists (diuretic, emetic, febrifuge, treatment for coughs, treatments for skin ailments, dye, cordage, etc.) . In one sense it is informative, yet in another it is lacking in detail.
So, unless we have personal connections with native people who have retained their ancestral knowledge of medicinal, edible, and otherwise useful plants, we find ourselves having to rely on plant lore that may date back only a couple hundred years. Thank goodness for the Victorian era when the study of plants (among other things) was “in.” Interest in plants and their uses continued to be popular among the laypeople up through probably WWII, after which industry and a keen interest in all things mechanical took over in the mind of John Q. Public, where we most of us remain mired to this day.
But I digress. Back to our friend the trillium.
Sometimes with plant names, their origins are obvious. Red trillium is red in color. Or purplish, hence the alternate name purple trillium. But how in the world did it end up called Stinking Benjamin or Wake-Robin? Let’s look at the more obvious one first: Wake-Robin. This fanciful name is applied to many flowers of the genus Trillium, not just the red ones, and they were dubbed thus because the flowers traditionally bloomed about the same time that the first robins of spring were sighted.
Ah, but Stinking Benjamin – surely that is a name behind which a good tale lies. Sadly, no. It turns out that it, like so many words in our language today, is a corruption of something else, in this case the word benzoin, which itself was a corruption of the earlier word benjoin, an ingredient derived from plants from Sumatra and used in the manufacture of perfume. Our trillium, however, does not smell sweet or spicy, hence the tag “stinking.”
Go out this spring and find yourself a red trillium and take a sniff. You may discover it smells a bit like rotting meat. Mmmm. This aroma, however, serves a purpose, which goes hand-in-hand with the flower’s rather raw-fleshy coloration, and that purpose is to attract pollinators. In this flower’s case, though, the pollinators are green flesh-flies who are out in search of rotting meat on which to lay their eggs. Instead of finding the perfect nursery, however, they end up assisting the plant in its procreative efforts. And you thought plants were boring! These flies aren’t left without any reward though, as some insects are when they are deceived by other plants. No, as payment for their services, they are rewarded with a meal of pollen – the flowers produce no nectar (which is probably another reason why bees don’t visit them).
Here are a few other monikers that are listed for Trillium erectum that I find amusing or interesting: nosebleed (it was apparently used at one time to help staunch the flow from a damaged schnozz), trinity lilies (anything with three parts was attributed to the Christian idea of divinity, and they are part of the lily family), and true love (awwww). How about this one: birthroot – for the native people taught early settlers to use it to stimulate birth.
While today many of the medicinal uses to which this plant was put (treatment for gangrene and tumors, heart palpitations and hemorrhages) are debated among herbalists, we can still enjoy it for the way it lifts our spirits every spring. Here in Newcomb I’ve encountered both the red trillium and its cousin the painted trillium (T. undulatum). Further south in the Saratoga region I’ve heard tales of snow trillium (T. nivale – also called dwarf white trillium) and I’ve seen the giant large-flowered trillium (T. grandiflorum), which is also pure white.
Already in those more southern climes the trilliums have come into bloom, but plant enthusiasts can still get their fill of these delightful harbingers of spring here in the North Country, where they have yet to show their faces. But keep your eyes open, for I suspect they will open sooner than usual this year. And remember, they are on New York’s list of protected native plants. Look, sniff, photograph, but do not pick or remove. If you want trilliums for your garden, find a nursery that specializes in native plants – leave the wild ones in the wild for all to enjoy.
Gar Wood and George Reis excepted, Gold Cup racing produced no amateur racer more famous than Guy Lombardo, the director of the dance orchestra at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
In the spring of 1949, he paid a visit to Lake George, ostensibly to plan a record-breaking run from Lake George Village to Bolton Landing.
As it happened, the bandleader never did bring his his boat to Lake George. But never mind. The visit is one more chapter in the annals of boats and boating on Lake George. Lombardo won the 1946 Gold Cup race on the Detroit River in his Tempo VI, a 1934 hull with an engine that still qualified for Gold Cup racing according to the rules established in 1920. Bolton summer resident Melvin Crook described Lombardo’s victory this way for Yachting magazine: “Lombardo finished by finding a good rhythm and conducted to a fine crescendo, rather like as if he were directing Ravel’s Bolero.” 1946, however, was the last year the old rules applied, and as a consequence, the boats were much faster in 1947 and 1948. Lombardo lost the Gold Cup races in 1947 and 1948, although, with a new engine, he broke a world speed record for the mile in Miami in 1948. Clearly, Lombardo was not ready to retire from racing. He hoped to break a speed record of 141.74 mph set by Sir Malcom Campbell in 1939, which his rival, racer Danny Foster, had tried and failed to do in 1946. To succeed, Lombardo needed a new boat, and a body of water suitable for record breaking speeds, or so he said.
Lombardo was performing with his orchestra in Glens Falls that month; one day, he brought two of his brothers and some members of his band and his racing crew to Lake George to see if it would be a good place to break Campbell’s records. After inspecting water conditions, docking facilities and a probable course (a 10-mile, straight course from Lake George Village to Bolton Landing), Lombardo reportedly pronounced conditions ideal.
Henry Kaiser, who had built hundreds of ships during World War II, was supposedly paying for a new boat capable of great speeds for Lombardo to use to set the new world record. She was to be built by Ventnor Boat Works in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which also built Lombardo’s Tempo VI. Kaiser, who had a summer home in Lake Placid, said that he wanted the record to be broken there. Lombardo claimed that if that was the case, he would bring Tempo VI to Lake George and, at the very least, break Gar Wood’s 1932 record of 124.915 miles per hour.
Lombardo, accompanied by Paul Lukaris and Harry Cohan, went by boat from Lake George Village to Bolton Landing, where they docked at George Reis’s boathouse and where Lombardo, it was reported “matched nautical knowledge and swapped boating information” with Reis.
The photographs taken that day are apparently all that the visit produced. Boat racer and builder Bill Morgan says that to the best of his knowledge, Lombardo never returned, and that he certainly never attempted to break a world’s record on Lake George.
Given the involvement of Paul Lukaris (who later promoted Diane Struble’s swim of Lake George), Harry Cohan (who would become New York’s boxing commissioner) and the Lake George Chamber of Commerce, one can’t help but assume that Lombardo’s visit to the lake that day and his claim that he was considering coming to the lake later in the year to set a world’s record were all part of a publicity stunt, useful for Lake George and for Lombardo himself, whose orchestra still had engagements in Glens Falls.
For more news and commentary from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror Photo: Guy Lombardo with George Reis, inspecting El Lagarto.
The 5th Annual Rock Against Rape Benefit Saturday looks to be a great one with so many very good bands to get into. Five bands under one roof, that’s pretty rare in the North Country, plus it’s always cool when you can have fun while contributing to a worthy cause.
Also on Saturday night is Heidi Little, a singer/songwriter/rhythm guitar player who will be giving a 2-hour concert. She happens to be a fairly new to the Adirondacks and resides in Bloomingdale. It’d be wonderful if the community went out to hear what she has to share and give her some support. Friday, April 16th:
In Potsdam, Happy Hour Jazz at Maxfields. The band consists of: Stephen Bird on bass, Kyle Tupper on percussion and vocals and Bill Vitek on piano. They will be entertaining diners 5 – 7 pm.
In Potsdam, Cue Ball Revue presents Americana Dance Music at La Casbah. The band plays from 9 – 11 pm.
In Lake Placid, The Met Live in HD Series, “Hamlet” will be shown at 1 pm at LPCA. Tickets are $18 to $12. The performance runs 3 hours and 45 minutes with intermissions. For more information call 518-523-2512.
The Adirondack History Center Museum will hold its Maple Sugar Festival on Saturday April 17th from 9:00am – 1:00pm. Part of the Festival includes a Maple Dessert Contest for kids, youth and adults. Entries will be judged by a panel of five locals with expertise in the production and consumption of fine foods.
Entries must be made with real maple syrup, preferably New York made. Grade B Amber is suggested for its great maple flavor. Entries will be judged on taste, texture, quality, presentation and serve-ability. The winning creation will be featured for a week at the Deer’s Head Inn. To enter, bring your creation to the Adirondack History Center Museum – top of the hill – in Elizabethtown – by 11:00 AM on Saturday the 17th. Volunteers will fill out your entry form and judging will start at noon. If refrigeration is necessary, please bring the entry in a cooler.
For more information, call the Adirondack History Center Museum at 873-6466 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The museum is located at 7590 Court Street, Elizabethtown, NY 12932.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) will bring its Northern Forest Paddlers Film Festival to Lake Placid on Friday, April 16 at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and screenings begin at 7:00 p.m.
Four documentary films and a clay-animated short will cover a range of themes on recreational canoeing and kayaking from exploring the Antarctic peninsula and Inside Passage, to finding record whitewater kayak waterfall runs and building a traditional birch bark canoe. The lineup of films:
– Selections from Terra Antarctica: Rediscovering the Seventh Continent (20 min) An up-close look at the iceberg and turquoise blue water landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula by sea kayak.
– Selections from Dream Result (30 min). A group of extreme whitewater kayakers explore wild rivers and monster waterfalls in Canada, Chile, and Scandinavia, and one dares the world record descent of 186-foot Palouse Falls in Washington.
– Earl’s Canoe (30 min). Follow Ojibwe Nation member Earl Nyholm as he builds an Ojibwe birch bark canoe on Madeleine Island, Wisconsin, using traditional tools and methods.
– Paddle to Seattle (50 min). This independent documentary chronicles the journey of two intrepid adventurers paddling handmade wooden Pygmy kayaks from Alaska to Seattle via the 1,300-mile Inside Passage.
– Kayaking is Not a Crime (7 min). A clay-animated short with a fun pro-kayaking message created by young New York filmmaker Ben Doran.
All proceeds from the festival will benefit NFCT programs and stewardship activities along the canoe and kayak waterway that begins in Old Forge and stretches for 740 miles to northern Maine. There will be paddling-related door prizes and a silent auction.
Tickets are $8 for students and $10 in advance or $12 at the door for adults. Tickets can be reserved by calling the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at .
With all the unseasonably balmy weather we’ve had this month, and all the advanced blooming and migrations, it really shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone that the bears are awake and searching for food. In fact, I’m surprised that the first signs of bear activity only appeared this weekend. Unfortunately, these signs were in my back yard, where the bear broke through the fence and ravaged two birdfeeder poles and something like seven bird feeders, not to mention my compost bin. Yes, the bears are awake. » Continue Reading.
It was T.S. Eliot who wrote “April is the cruellest month.” He also wrote, in his epic poem “The Waste Lands”: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
Substitute “mud” for “dust,” and Eliot might have been talking about the Adirondacks after the snow melts (although, you want to talk about cruel, let’s talk black flies …but that’s a subject for another post).
Anyway, as we reach the spring mud season, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues its annual “please don’t hike on muddy High Peaks trails” request, may we suggest a few dryer alternatives?
For starters, cast your eyes southward. The Lake George region, which gets much less snowfall than other areas in the park, is also one of the first places to warm up in the spring. There’s enough hikes there to last a full season, but we can easily recommend a few: » Continue Reading.
The Lake George Arts Project will host “Spring Fling!” at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George on Sunday, April 25, from 3 to 7 PM. Featuring food and music, the Spring Fling is in keeping with other Lake George Arts Project events such as Bands ‘n Beans, the Summer Solstice Cruise, and the Black Velvet Art Party. Proceeds from the event will help support the Arts Project’s many programs which include the Summer Concert Series in Shepard Park, the Lake George Jazz Weekend, various art workshops, and the Courthouse Gallery exhibition series. Music will be performed by “Tequila Mockingbirds,” a Saratoga based acoustic duo. The menu will feature roast pork prepared by chef Ed Pagnotta from the Barnsider Restaurant. This year’s special raffle prize is a chainsaw carving of a bear, which will be sculpted on the premises by wood carver Glenn Durlacher of Queensbury.
Tickets are $20.00 for adults, $10.00 for children 12 and under, and are available at the Lake George Arts Project and at the door at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery, 33 Canada Street in Lake George. A special pre-sale price of $15.00 is offered if purchased by April 21st . For information/tickets, contact the Lake George Arts Project at 518-668-2616.
Learning to ride a bicycle has as many stages as learning to walk, though walking seems to come with less drama. First the scooter stage (quad-cycle,) then on to the tricycle, which leads to training wheels. Finally that two-wheeled sense of freedom is achieved. Each stage brings a different challenge. For my family, each stage was clung to with white-knuckled intensity.
While learning to ride a two-wheeler, my children weaved their way through parked cars and were incredulous that I would ask them to look both ways when crossing the road. Surely, they felt, looking one way was enough.
For anyone living in or visiting a rural community following an inexperienced biker on a busy road can be daunting. While the New York State fine-tunes its budget and decides which campgrounds and historic sites are slated for closure, off-season campgrounds are still a good way for a young or old person to learn how to ride a bike.
Fish Creek Pond Campground in Saranac Inn features a 5-mile paved loop that circles the campground. In the summer it can become a literal parking lot of cars and movement as RVs and day visitors swarm for the perfect waterfront real estate. Spring though finds it pleasantly empty with an added bonus of no parking fee.
If you do not have a bicycle and want to learn to ride try the website Freecycle. This nonprofit network asks people to recycle and reuse. It is free to register, just look for a place near your community. List what you have or see if someone in your area is looking for something that has been collecting dust in your garage.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has a complete list of campgrounds and the amenities. Some campgrounds are slated for closure in 2010. Below is a partial list of NYS Adirondack campgrounds that promote bicycling.
Brown Tract Pond, Raquette Lake Buck Pond, Onchiota Eagle Point Campground, Pottersville Fish Creek Campground, Saranac Inn Lake Durant, Blue Mountain Lake Lake Eaton Campground, Long Lake Lake Harris near Newcomb Poke-O-Moonshine, Keeseville (was closed for camping in 2009 but a portion remains available for Forest Preserve public access. Nicks Lake in the Black River Wild Forest Rogers Rock, Lake George Rollins Pond Campground Sharp Bridge, Schroon River
In 1926 artist Rockwell Kent married Frances Lee, his second wife. An infamous womanizer, Kent made little effort to hide his affairs, even bringing some of his paramours home for dinner with his new bride. In less than a year, the Kent’s marriage was in serious trouble. To save the relationship, Rockwell and Frances agreed to leave New York City and move to a place with fewer temptations.
Frances found a perfect spot in the heart of the Adirondacks–an old farm near Ausable Forks with views of Whiteface. Kent remembered his first view of the property: “The nearer we got to the house the worse it looked; and when we finally came so close as to lose sight of its general proportional unsightliness we became only the more aware of its particular shoddiness.” Nevertheless, the couple purchased the property for $5,000. It was about 200 acres, the heart of the farm “being level meadowland, and the rest pine woods and pasture of a sort…Lock, stock, and barrel we had purchased our farm: the land, the buildings, the team, the cows and heifers, the wagons, implements, and tools.” Within three weeks of purchasing the property, plans for a new house and barn were complete, and within five weeks contractors had poured the concrete foundations. By snowfall, the buildings were under roof. Kent named the farm “Asgaard,” meaning the “farm of the gods” in Nordic myth. He painted the name in four-foot-high letters on the barn.
The property came complete with a tenant farmer on site. Kent purchased a local milk route, and hired the man to manage the dairy operation. The business of farming did not prove very profitable: “You’d think—I mean that people who have never owned a farm would think—that when a farmer, paying his own taxes and all his costs of operation, can earn enough to live, he’d earn at least as much when someone else pays his taxes and his costs for him, not to mention a salary. But it’s funny about farming…It just doesn’t work out that way.” Kent persisted, finding satisfaction in making his land productive, if not entirely profitable.
During World War II, Kent aided the war effort by doubling Asgaard’s milk production, increasing the size of his herd of Jersey cows, enlarging the barn, and installing a bottling plant so he could sell directly to local customers.
In 1948, Kent’s business ran afoul of local political sentiment when he organized a chapter of the leftist American Labor Party. After distributing political leaflets in Ausable Forks, his customers began canceling orders, one of them saying, “We don’t want Russian milk.” The local Catholic priest visited his workers, telling them to quit and asking them if they were Communists. After losing two employees and the major portion of his customers, Kent gave his entire business to two of his remaining employees and asked them to move it off the property as quickly as possible. When he and Frances received death threats, and a warning that “Someday they’ll be up to burn him out,” friend Billy Burgess watched the property armed with two guns.
The national press picked up the story of the controversy, and although Kent estimated that the incident cost him $15,000, the resulting publicity for the American Labor Party was well worth it. Kent himself decided to run for Congress on the American Party ticket, but to no one’s surprise, was not elected.
In 1969, lightening struck the house at Asgaard, and burned it to the ground. Rockwell and Frances rebuilt a smaller home on the site, where Kent, aged 87, died two years later. He is buried at Asgaard, under a slab of Vermont marble inscribed “This Is My Own.”
Come see Rockwell Kent’s milk bottle (2008.21), and more, in “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Open for the season on May 28, 2010.
On Sunday an interesting op-ed by John Sheehan appeared in The Times-Union in which the Adirondack Council Director of Communications argues that the Adirondack Park “is one of the most robust rural areas in the Northeastern United States.”
This may not be a surprising contention coming from the head of a green group. But Sheehan noted that “a survey published last year by local officials — the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project — reinforces this. Their own data shows that the economy and quality of life are better inside the Adirondack Park than in any other rural area of the state…” “What the report did find was that the average household income in the Adirondacks had risen 28 percent faster than the rate of inflation between 1980 and 2000. That means increased buying power that far outpaced inflation and far outpaced other rural areas of the state.”
Sheehan does try to address the elephant in the room.
“Still, most Adirondackers (33 percent) work for local and state government. That includes towns, villages, counties, school districts and state agencies. While such jobs don’t lead to riches, they do have their perks. The jobs rarely go away. Towns and counties don’t stop providing services, regardless of economic conditions.”
As someone with backgrounds in both math and language, I find ‘most’ a strange adjective to describe ‘one-third’, but Sheehan’s contention that these public sector jobs ‘rarely go away’ seems more than a bit out of touch in the midst of this state budget crisis. Perhaps he missed headlines of the governor proposing to shut down three of the Park’s major prisons as well as slashing aid to education, to health care and to counties and municipalities.
Still, when you visit other rural areas of New York and New England, areas which lack the outdoor tourism revenue Adirondack residents and businesses depend on, it’s hard to argue with Sheehan’s contention that the “being a park is helping, not harming, the Adirondacks.”
A NCPR blog post has some hard numbers about the Park as compared to other non-metropolitan areas of the state. Some of the conclusions may surprise readers.
Among the observations:
-The North Country is very diverse.
-The North Country’s least-urban counties may have a higher standard of living, based on select indicators, when compared to the more urbanized areas [of the state].
-Poverty is no higher in the North Country than elsewhere in non-metropolitan New York State.
-With the exception of Lewis County, the North Country does not have particularly high civilian employment in agriculture and/or manufacturing. The North Country’s level of dependence on these industries is similar to the level elsewhere in rural New York.
I’ve said before that for all the complaining about the Adirondack Park Agency’s existence (not necessarily its sometimes opaque and unaccountable workings, which can deserve scorn), the fact remains that a pristine natural environment is the single biggest economic advantage the Park has. Threaten that and you lose the outdoor tourism revenue so central to the region’s economy.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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