There is a tiny bird that lives in the Adirondacks whose body weight equals that of two pennies. Its overall size in not that much bigger than a hummingbird, and it does not migrate south to escape the freezing temperatures of the North Country. I often think of these birds as the late afternoon sun dips behind the mountains and the clear star-lit skies suck back up all the warm air that felt so good during the sunny day. I think of what it must take for this bird to survive just one night at 24 below zero Fahrenheit. » Continue Reading.
As Almanack contributor Alan Wechsler reported yesterday, the big rain we had on Monday has wrecked havoc on Adirondack winter recreation. Alan noted that ice climbing, backcountry skiing, and local ski resorts were particularly hard hit (West Mountain just south of the Blue Line was forced to close), and to those we should add snowmobiling, as many trails around the region are all but impassable. Even the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival felt the pain, when rain seriously damaged this year’s Ice Palace necessitating builders to almost start from scratch.
Over the past two days the region’s nearly 30,000 miles of streams, brooks, and rivers have gathered volume and strength. In Washington County the Mettawee and Hoosic Rivers have flooded their banks, and the Batten Kill is near flood stage. The Hudson and Schroon Rivers are running very high and the Boquet has topped it’s banks, but the most serious flooding has occurred in the Franklin County community of Fort Covington where flooding along the Salmon River has threatened a number of buildings and required evacuations.
Those interested in accessing information about what is happening to streams in your local area as a result of the heavy rain can access the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) streamgage network, which operates a nationwide system of about 7,000 streamgauges that monitor water level and flow. Streamgages transmit real-time information, which the National Weather Service uses to issue local flood warnings, and which paddlers in the know can use to estimate conditions. Some streamgauges have been operational since the early 1900s; the gauge just upstream from the Route 22 bridge over the Boquet, for instance, has been recording since 1923.
Illustration: The level of the Schroon river over the last few days at Riverbank.
Anyone who doesn’t believe that birds are the descendants of dinosaurs needs only one look at a running turkey to have a change of heart. This winter a female turkey has made my back yard a daily stop in her travels, and let me tell you: there are few things in life so prehistoric-looking than a turkey going full tilt trying to escape your camera lens.
The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is one of two species of turkeys in the world. The other is a denizen of Central America and as such is of little importance to us here in the Adirondacks. No, we are concerned with our own native bird, the one of such character and pride that Ben Franklin thought it should be the symbol of our country.
When Europeans first descended upon the eastern shores of North America, turkeys ruled the roost, so to speak. Millions of them populated the woodlands, providing food for man and beast alike. But, as is the habit of mankind, forests were cut and turkeys were eaten. As early as 1672 keen observers of nature were already remarking that turkey populations were not what they once had been. In 1844, the last wild turkey in New York was reported in the extreme southwestern part of the state; after that, they were gone.
For years nothing was done to rectify the state of things, turkey-wise. By the turn of the century (c. 1900), approximately 75% of New York had been cleared, agriculture and development dominating where once forests grew. Without healthy forests, turkeys could not survive (hard mast, such as acorns and beechnuts, is a major part of their diet). As the century plodded along, however, many farmers left home, moving to the cities where jobs were more likely to be had. Old farmland began to revert to forests, and slowly turkeys started to come back, making their way northward from Pennsylvania. By the 1940s, the southwestern part of the state was once more populated with these large bronze birds.
To help things along, New York State converted a central New York pheasant hatchery into a turkey hatchery in 1952. Over the next several years, thousands of turkeys were released into the wild. Sadly, this operation was doomed to failure. Speculation was that the released birds were too tame and therefore lacked the brains to escape (or fight) predators. It was also thought that their natural reproduction was too low to sustain a viable population. So the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) went to Plan B: capture wild turkeys and relocate them.
This new plan began in 1959 and saw New York’s wild turkey population successfully soar from about 2000 birds to over 65,000 by 1990. The relocation program was so successful that the DEC started shipping birds to neighboring states to help them reestablish their own dwindling populations.
I saw my first wild turkey in the early ‘80s out at Letchworth State Park. There were two or three of them, and they flew up into a tree along the edge of a small ravine. Prior to this I never would’ve guessed that turkeys could fly. Three years later, a friend of mine shot a turkey and decided we should give it to my mother for Mother’s Day; so he and I and all my roommates drove to my parents’ house with the turkey in tow. It barely fit in the oven, but it was a mighty tasty bird. Ten years later, turkeys were all over the farm fields back home: whole herds of them marching along the rows of cut corn. (And yes, I use the word “herd” intentionally, for when they are walking along the ground en masse, they are definitely a herd.)
Back in the ‘80s it was believed by biologists that turkeys wouldn’t be able to survive the harsh winters the Adirondacks can dish out. Imagine their surprise when turkeys not only moved into the mountains, but thrived! Hardly a week goes by all year that I don’t see a turkey or two, or ten. Sometimes they lurk along the roadsides, picking up grit or maybe hunting insects; other times they are strutting across a neighbor’s yard.
A couple years ago, I came across a hen and her poults hiding in the shrubbery between the second and fourth holes on the local golf course. I was walking the dog, and of course he started barking, so the hen took off, dashing away into the trees with most of her progeny in hot pursuit. Two, however, were left behind. I sat the dog down and we waited. And waited. One of the poults peeped and trotted off after the long-gone parent, but the other remained behind, peeping its distress. Even though I knew better, the pitiful cries got to me and I finally decided to go “rescue” the thing. My plan was to carry it to the patch of woods in which its mother had disappeared and set it down where she could get to it without having to come near me and the dog. Big mistake. No sooner had I picked up the ungrateful bird then it let out a squawking and wailing that brought the mother running and flapping from the woods. A velociraptor had nothing on her. Fearing for my safety (I’ve heard tales of the damage a turkey can do with its spurs), I dropped the poult, snagged the dog’s leash, and we high-tailed it out of there. That was the last time I tried to help a “stranded” wildlife baby.
And just in case you needed further convincing that turkeys are dinosaurs in disguise, watch a herd of them come trotting across a lawn or field when the early morning fog is lying close to the ground. All you need is to cue up the music and you are staring at a living tableau from Jurassic Park. Add a rock wall for them to jump on, and the scene is complete.
It was -7 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, but I don’t think the local turkeys were much fazed by this. Indeed, I think they are here to stay, and that’s a nice thing, for every patch of wilderness should have its resident dinosaurs, and for us the wild turkey fills the bill nicely.
A day later, Roaring Brook Falls looked like Niagara, as 1.5 inches of rain turned the Adirondacks into a tropical rainforest with snow.
While the weather put a damper on winter sports, it shouldn’t take long to get things back to normal, say those in the business.
Gore posted this on their Web site on Tuesday: “Although recent severe weather in the Northeast has limited the opening of several trails today, please stay tuned because groomers and snowmakers are getting Gore back in great shape as soon as possible!”
Meanwhile, Whiteface optimistically described its frozen, rain-saturated snow as “loose granular,” and promised 73 trails a day after the storm. No doubt, both mountains will be blowing snow to improve the damage, and snow showers predicted over the next few days may help make the slopes more user-friendly.
As far as backcountry skiing, you’d better be good. “Those trails are going to be really ice,” said Ed Palin, owner of Rock and River guide service in Keene. “It will be fast.”
Speaking of ice, the rain decimated some of the most popular ice climbs in the park. But other routes — those not below major runoff channels, or fat enough to withstand the one-day warm spell, should still be climbable, he said.
“With all this water running, we might get some climbs we don’t see for a while,” he said. In the meantime, good bets for climbers include Multiplication Gully, Crystal Ice Tower and the North Face of Pitchoff, he said.
Yesterday Andrew Weibrecht became the latest of a pack of Adirondackers named to the U.S. Olympic Team. It was really just a formality. Of course Andrew would make the alpine ski squad. He’s fearless, he’s dedicated and he’s got no brakes.
It’s still huge to see his name on the list. He’s a great guy and makes us proud. It’s hard to explain why people who have nothing to do with these kids’ success can feel that way, but in a small town you just do. Six athletes who have grown up in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake are going to the 2010 games in Vancouver, and so are three who moved here at a young age, as are some luge veterans who’ve lived in Lake Placid so long it’s home.
In a region of .00004 percent of the national population that is sending 4 percent of our Olympic team, the degrees of separation are considerably foreshortened. These inspiring young men and women are neighbors and friends. Or we know their moms or dads, or see them skiing at Avalanche Lake, or listen to them play mandolin in the bandshell. We may have taught them history, drank their homemade cider or been next door when one of them (whom we will call “War Horse”) broke his leg in some sort of homemade man-size slingshot.
We thought Andrew would be the last of the Adirondack contenders to be named, but 16-year-old Ashley Caldwell also made the Olympic cut yesterday; she will compete in aerials for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team. She moved to Lake Placid three years ago to pursue her sport, and we’ll cheer just as loudly for her.
Even athletes who train or compete in Lake Placid gain a local following. My friend’s daughter will be rooting for the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team, several of whose members coached her at hockey camp last summer. The ladies also have fans at Lisa G’s.
Saranac Lake is sometimes obscured by Lake Placid’s 1932 and 1980 Olympian shadow, but it too has been known to send bobsledders, skaters, skiers and hockey players to world competition. This year four Saranac Lakers are heading to the winter Olympics: 21-year-old luger Chris Mazdzer, 17-year-old ski jumper Peter Frenette, 27-year-old Tim Burke of Paul Smiths (Biathlon) and 29-year-old Billy Demong of Vermontville (Nordic Combined). Tupper Lake also takes pride in Peter Frenette, who has many relatives there and who debuted on skis at age 2 at Big Tupper. We in Saranac Lake claim kinship with Billy and Tim because they attended and skied for Saranac Lake High School, plus they got early lessons here, at Dewey Mountain Recreation Area.
I love the fact that luger Mark Grimette is 39 and his silver-medal doubles partner Brian Martin is 36 and they still have wheels (wrong metaphor, but they are serious competitors). Vancouver will be their fourth Olympics.
My other favorite Olympic friendship story is that of Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid (Biathlon) and Tim and Billy (pictured). These three have skied together since they were little, and the love of their sport has taken them around the world. Haley Johnson of Lake Placid (Biathlon) joined that pack when she began traveling with Lowell and Tim in high school.
Kris Cheney Seymour runs the Dewey Mountain Youth Ski League in Saranac Lake and is a top-notch skier and coach. He grew up in Saranac Lake and has long known Billy, Tim, Lowell and Haley as a coach and friend. He is one of many coaches, mentors and sports-support staff around here who have a greater claim on community pride. When people joke that Dewey should be called “the Other Olympic Mountain” for its early role in so many good skiers’ lives, Kris says there’s something to it. Once, after a particularly steep hill on the World Cup circuit in Europe, Tim e-mailed Kris and commented that Dewey prepared him well.
We might take it for granted that so many kids here skate, ski and slide. But as Kris often points out, these sports can change lives. Not only are they fun, apparently they can take you places. Even if they don’t take you to the Olympics, plenty of locals have gone to college on their sport and competed against some of the best athletes in the world.
So, go Andrew! Go Billy, Lowell, Tim, Haley, Peter, Chris, Ashley, Mark, Brian, Bengt Walden (luge), John Napier (bobsled) and Erin Hamlin (luge)! And you too, speed skater Trevor Marsicano of Ballston Spa and Plattsburgh native Anders Johnson, who trained at Lake Placid’s speedskating and ski jumping facilities! And go U.S. women’s hockey team! Have a great time in Vancouver.
Photograph of (l to r) Lowell Bailey, Billy Demong and Tim Burke as young skiers, courtesy of the Demong family
Yesterday, Almanack contributor (and Adirondack Explorer editor) Phil Brown pointed out the existence of Special Management Areas at the back of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (pdf). The areas are broken into Scenic, Geographical, Historic, and Natural “Illustrative Special Interest Areas”. The historic list includes a sometimes strange selection of 14 places of special historic interest on state forest lands.
Here they are: » Continue Reading.
One of the perks of living in the Adirondacks is the lunch-hour hike or ski. In winter, I sometimes ski with sandwich in pocket to Oseetah Marsh. From Route 86 on the outskirts of Saranac Lake, I follow a trail through a pine forest for a half-mile to the edge of the marsh and then ski across the marsh. The marsh has fabulous views of nearby peaks, including McKenzie, Scarface, and the Sawtooth Range.
The trail through the forest and across the marsh happens to be a snowmobile route. This would not be noteworthy except that the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan identifies Oseetah Marsh as a “Special Management Area.”
All told, the plan lists eighty-nine Special Management Areas, selected for their scenic beauty or their geographical, natural, or historic significance. It’s kind of an odd list. For instance, seventeen summits were selected for their scenic beauty. I’ve been up all but two. They all have nice views, but there are other mountains with equal or better views. Why these seventeen?
Twenty-six places were singled out for their natural significance. They include patches of old-growth, two mountains (in addition to the other seventeen), a few bogs and marshes, and one pond—Church Pond. Of the three thousand ponds in the Adirondacks, what’s so special about this one?
The master plan gives the state Department of Environmental Conservation the authority to draw up management guidelines to protect these areas and, where appropriate, to install interpretive signs.
I wondered what special management Oseetah Marsh receives. I also wondered why, if this marsh is so special (it was chosen for its natural significance), snowmobiles are allowed to ride through it. I don’t know if the snowmobiles are doing ecological harm, but the machines do emit oil and gas.
As it turns out, Oseetah Marsh receives no special treatment. But DEC spokesman David Winchell said the agency will consider special guidelines as it draws up a management plan for the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest (the marsh lies within the Wild Forest tract).
As far as I can determine, few of the eighty-nine Special Management Areas receive special management. The High Peaks Wilderness Area, for example, contains more than a dozen Special Management Areas. Most receive no mention or only incidental mention in the 336-page unit management plan for the High Peaks.
APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the list of Special Management Areas was drawn up in the early 1970s by the APA and DEC. He said the purpose of the list is not only to provide management guidelines, but also to publicize these treasured places.
“It was to identify areas of the Park that are really magnificent,” he said, “so people can enjoy them and visit them.”
But my guess is that few people are aware of the list of Special Management Areas in the back of a rather obscure state document. Indeed, it seems to have escaped the attention of officialdom as well.
Photo by Phil Brown: snowmobile tracks at Oseetah Marsh.
This past week, Lake Placid once again hosted an Olympic Qualifier event for Freestyle skiing. The Nature Valley Freestyle Cup encompassed aerials, moguls, and ski cross competition at both Whiteface Mountain and the Olympic Jumping Complex. For many athletes, this was the last chance to secure a spot on the Olympic team. The 2010 Olympic Freestyle Team will be announced Tuesday, January 26th.
Freestyle skiing is a unique sport that involves several different events. Aerial skiing is like gymnastics on skis, in which participants flip and somersault after leaping off a ramp. Jumpers are scored on jump takeoff, jump form, and jump lading, with a degree of difficulty factored in to result in a total score. Mogul competition is characterized by skiers navigating terrain with large bumps, and requires fast maneuvering. One of the newer disciplines in freestyle skiing is Skiercross, which is based on the motorbike competition in motocross. Competitors ski in groups of four down the course, which includes jumps or banks depending on the course design, and compete to be the fastest 16 (women’s events) or 32 (men’s events). After these are chosen, there is a knockout style of series in which the first two over the line compete in the next round- in the end, the final rounds and small final rounds determine 1st-4th place and 5th-8th places.
This competition attracted some of the best athletes in the sport of freestyle skiing- World Mogul Champion Patrick Deneen competed after already securing his spot on the Olympic Team in December, placing 37th in the final round of moguls. Hannah Kearney, the World Cup Moguls Champion, won the final round. In Aerials, the highest placing US athlete was 10th place finisher Jeret Peterson, who won the event last year. The highest placing American in the women’s Aerial competition was Jana Lindsey, who finished in 8th place in the finals. The Skiercross women’s competition was won by Canadian Kelsey Serwa, and the highest placing American was Langely McNeal in 16th place. In the men’s competition, the winner of the final was Christopher Delbosco of Canada, with the USA’s Daron Rahlves in 4th place.
For more information on the Nature Valley Freestyle Cup, visit the official event website at http://www.whiteface.com/events/freestyle/schedule.php. The competitions will also be televised on NBC and Versus.
One thing for sure, this list is not complete. There are perhaps thirty important people who didn’t make this short list. Suggestions from readers on the original post seeking nominations offers a much more complete list of those influential in the Adirondacks, but I said ten, and so here is ten. I’ve listed them roughly chronologically.
Something I found interesting: five of these men (yeah, they’re all men) were born in the eighteen years between 1840 and 1858—an Adirondack Greatest Generation? » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency has scheduled five public hearings to hear comments on proposals to classify or reclassify about 31,500 acres. The acreage in question is located in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Oneida, St. Lawrence, and Warren counties. Included in the proposals is the 17,000 acre Chazy Highlands tract, located in the towns of Ellenberg, Dannemora and Saranac, in Clinton County, which is being recommended for Wild Forest classification. The Tahawus Tract, which includes Henderson Lake in the Town of Newcomb, is also being proposed for addition to the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
An inter-active map and detailed descriptions of the proposed classifications are available from the Adirondack Park Agency’s website at http://www.apa.state.ny.us/
The Public hearings will take place at the following locations and dates:
January 25, 2010, 7:00 pm
Newcomb Fire Hall
5635 Route 28N
January 27, 2010, 7:00 pm
Park Avenue Building
183 Park Ave
Old Forge, NY
January 28, 2010, 7:00 pm
Saranac Town Hall, 3662 Route 3
February 2, 2010, 7:00 pm
St. Lawrence County Human Services Center
80 SH 310
February 5, 2010, 1:00 pm
NYDEC, 625 Broadway
The public is encouraged to attend the hearings and provide comment. The Agency will also accept written comments regarding the classification proposals until March 19, 2010.
Written comments should be submitted to:
Richard E. Weber
PO Box 99, Ray Brook, NY 12977
Fax to (518)891-3938
Photo: Location map for State lands under consideration. Courtesy the APA.
The 4-H Adirondack Guide Program is a unique program designed for boys and girls 12 to 18 years old who are interested in in-depth exploration of natural resources, gaining knowledge in the biological sciences, and developing outdoor recreation teaching and leadership skills.
4-H Adirondack Guide Program activities include field trips and classes, canoe and hiking trips, and community service projects. Participants learns such skills as map and compass reading; canoeing; tree, plant, flower and wildlife identification; environmental teaching techniques; woods lore and safety; first aid and lifeguard training; outdoor clothing and equipment; wilderness trip coordination, and the use of global positioning systems (GPS). Participants have the opportunity to work with licensed Adirondack Guides, Forest Rangers, Fish and Wildlife Biologists, Foresters and skilled woodsmen. The program is conducted in an informal atmosphere, conducive to building confidence and self-esteem.
The program, sponsored by Cornell University Cooperative Extension, allows participants to advance from the Apprentice Guide level, through Intermediate, to full Senior 4-H Adirondack Guide status.
An orientation meeting for the 4-H Adirondack Guide Program will be held Thursday, February 18, 2010 7:00 p.m. at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Education Center, 377 Schroon River Road in Warrensburg, NY.
For more information, or to register, please call the Cornell Cooperative Extension office at 623-3291 or 668-4881 to register. For further information, ask to speak with John Bowe.
Photo: 4-H Adirondack Guide program participants Ben Hoffman and Sabrina Fish starting a fire.
Several years ago, while living in an old farm house in rural central New York, I woke one morning to a strange sound. It was somewhere between a cough and a bark, and it was coming from in front of the house. I crept through the bedrooms upstairs and peered out the window. To my surprise, I saw a red fox skulking around the sugar maples, apparently calling for its mate. Fast forward to about four years ago when someone sent in a recording to NCPR asking if anyone knew what the mysterious sound was. Although it had been several years, I recognized it immediately: the coughing bark of a red fox. Once you’ve heard it, you’ll never forget it.
The Adirondack Mountains are home to two species of fox: the red (Vulpes vulpes) and the grey (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). Both are small members of the dog family, and both, especially the grey, are considered to be cat-like canines. Their small size, their eyes with vertically contracting pupils, and the grey’s ability to climb trees certainly make them seem more like cats than dogs, yet there they sit on the taxonomic tree next to Fido, Wiley and The Wolf. » Continue Reading.
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Enter the Hyde Collection’s Charles R. Wood Gallery, where the stunning new exhibition, “An Enduring Legacy: American Impressionist Paintings from the Thomas Clark Collection,” is displayed, and among the first things you’ll notice is that the paintings are grouped roughly by geography, or according to the regions depicted by these early 20th century artists: the New England coast, Vermont, the Hudson Valley, California.
Far from being arbitrary or eccentric, that curatorial choice cleverly elucidates an intention shared by almost every artist represented in the show.
These American Impressionists, explains curator Erin Coe, “were deeply committed to making art that reflected the spirit of America and its distinctive scenery.”
Or, as Coe writes in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, “the landscape painters of the first third of the twentieth century were overtly nationalistic in their outlook, seeking to create a more authentic American variant of Impressionism…”
To realize that ambition, those artists were compelled to train their eyes on a particular region, if only because the American landscape is defined by its diversity and lack of uniformity. An American landscape is necessarily a local landscape.
“The works in the Clark Collection offer a comprehensive treatment of these regional schools of Impressionist activity in America,” says Coe.
For instance, the show includes three paintings by Arthur James Emery Powell (1864-1956) of the long-settled, deeply cultivated valleys of Dutchess County.
All three portray winter landscapes, for reasons at least partially explained by Coe in a lecture she delivered at The Hyde on January 17.
Winter landscapes, she said, are “the visual equivalent of a poem by Robert Frost,” that most self-consciously regional of American poets.
Approximately one quarter of the paintings collected by Thomas Clark are winter landscapes, Coe noted, in part because winter is the quintessential American season.
Perhaps it’s co-incidental that Dutchess county was a hotbed of anti-federalism in the 18th century, and that places like Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have shown separatist tendencies at different times in our history. It’s no co-incidence, though, that the artists included in this exhibition chose to paint in places with strong regional identities. The landscapes these artists selected for their subject matter were chosen in part because they exemplified a region’s characteristic and recognizable qualities.
But of equal, if not greater importance, Coe said, those landscapes were the locations of artists’ colonies that flourished in the early part of the 20th century in places like Old Lyme, Connecticut; Cape Ann, Massachusetts; New Hope, Pennsylvania; and Woodstock, New York, as well as in Vermont and California.
The traditions of European and American painting were transmitted through those colonies and schools, producing the unique vision that is embodied in Clark’s collection.
“These artists were the students and sketching partners of the seminal figures in the development of Impressionism in America, such as William Merritt Chase, Willard L. Metcalf, John Henry Twachtman, and Robert Henri,” Coe said.
Thomas Clark, who lives in Saratoga County, has promised to donate this collection of paintings to The Hyde, and this exhibition is to some extent a celebration of that gift.
“An Enduring Legacy: American Impressionist Landscape Paintings from the Thomas Clark Collection,” will remain on view at The Hyde through March 18.
The Hyde Collection is located at 161 Warren Street in downtown Glens Falls. For more information, call The Hyde at 792-1761.
For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror
Illustration: Arthur James E. Powell, American (1864-1956), Mid-Winter, Dutchess County, ca. 1920s, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in., Promised Gift of Thomas Clark. Courtesy of The Hyde Collection