Friday, March 27, 2009

Adirondack Bracket: Round Three Recap


If it looked as though seasonal residents just didn’t show up for their match against the Wild Center otters, it’s because they didn’t. Excuses ranged from new restrictions on use of corporate jets, to a few who were laying low, waiting to cash their TARP-subsidized year-end bonuses. It was an early present for otters Squeaker, Louie and Squirt, who will celebrate their birthdays on Sunday.

Speaking of anniversaries, quadricentennial explorer Samuel de Champlain showed off his skillet skills, making a 30-minute meal out of Rachael Ray.

In the second quad, home to a couple of southeastern Adirondack powerhouses, file this one under “just say nose.” Hard-riding, hard-partying Americade succumbed to white nose syndrome. We are talking about the mysterious fungus that’s devastating bat populations, aren’t we? And E-bay watch out: Warrensburg’s World’s Largest Garage Sale discounted, tagged and liquidated another cherished Adirondack icon, the lean-to.

In the third quad, two lopsided pairings in the round of sixteen has cleared the way for a classic showdown between endurance and speed. Moose were overrun by the Northville-Placid Trail, while TR’s Midnight Ride left hunting camp coffee cold. The 25th veep’s lightning-fast buckboard ride from Tahawus to the railhead at North Creek will now face the 133-mile-long recreation trail, which was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in the 1920s. This match-up promises to be a rough ride, much more than a simple walk in the park.

In the final corner of the dance floor, the iconic Adirondack pack basket proved to be more decorative than utilitarian, getting stuffed by popular local hang-out Stewart’s Shops. And finally, nordic-combined golden boy Bill Demong could not find the right combination to defeat Canadian drivers. Work continues on what particular characteristics distinguish Canadian drivers from any other sort.

Coming Monday: The Final Four.


Friday, March 27, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Friday, March 27, 2009

Adirondack Blogging Round-Up


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet Stuff to Do This Adirondack Weekend

Birder, Audubon field editor and field-guide author Kenn Kaufman will speak about our migratory birds at 3 p.m. Friday at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park office, 80 Scout Road in Wilton. It’s outside the Blue Line, but we know some Adirondack birders who are heading south to hear Kaufman. Talk is free but seating is limited, so pre-register by calling Wild Birds Unlimited at 226-0071.

Squeaker, Louie and Squirt are celebrating their birthdays with a party at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake Sunday. At 10:30 the otters will have an Easter egg hunt, and at 2:30 they’ll eat cake. In between there’s cake for people as well as otter-related storytimes, videos and art projects.

There will be good music along the East Branch Ausable River Friday night. Crown Point’s own Silver Family plays bluegrass at the Amos and Julia Ward Theatre in Jay at 7 p.m. (admission $5). And Willsboro’s own Hugh Pool plays bluesy rock and rocking blues at the Recovery Lounge in Upper Jay at 8 p.m. (donations accepted).

Doomers like to have fun too. A new group called Tri-Lakes Transition is launching a Wake Up Film Festival on Friday with The 11th Hour, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. The documentary explores the perilous state of the planet, and how we can change course. 7 p.m. at the Saranac Lake Free Library.

In Blue Mountain Lake, the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts will hold a Ukrainian Easter Egg (Pysanky) workshop with Annette Clarke Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Our friend Betsy, who knows things, says, “It’s not for kids but the real deal with Ukrainian dyes, etc. Like batik with hot wax and cool tools but harder than you’d think.” Cost is $25. Visit the center’s Web site for more information.

It’s Maple Weekend Part II: The Far North. Festivities that began last week expand to reach the top of the state, where the trees are finally waking up. “The goal of Maple Weekend is to share the real taste of the mouth-watering maple syrup with the public while also demonstrating the various ways to make it,” the New York maple producers association says. And it’s free. For a list of participating producers, see mapleweekend.com.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

5 Questions: Old Forge’s Eric Johnson, Northern Logger Editor

Q. How old is The Northern Logger?

A. It started in the 1940s as a newsletter for logging camps in the Adirondacks and around the Northeast. The founder was the Rev. Frank Reed, who wrote Lumberjack Skypilot. He would include things like who’s cooking at what camp, and which camps have TV or radio. It evolved into an independent trade magazine of the Northeastern Loggers Association and today has a paid circulation of 11,000 from Minnesota to Maine and Missouri to Maryland.

Q. How are Adirondack loggers faring in this economy?

A. The forest products industry is a commodities business so it’s always been subject to large ups and downs. People in this industry are accustomed to doing other things when the woods product business goes in the tank. With that said, this is a serious recession; it’s hard to find alternatives. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

High Peaks Ranger Wins Alpine Stewardship Award

The Waterman Fund, whose objective is to strengthen stewardship of open summits, exposed ridgelines, and alpine areas of the Northeast, will present the 2009 Guy Waterman Alpine Steward Award to New York State Forest Ranger C. Peter M. Fish this Saturday, March 28th. The award is given each year to a person or organization that has demonstrated a long-term commitment to protecting the physical and spiritual qualities of the northeast’s mountain wilderness.

Pete Fish, a NYS Forest Ranger for 23 years, has served as a ranger in both the Catskills and the Adirondacks, and as an active member of the Adirondack 46ers and Catskill 3500 Club, where Fish has interacted with thousands of hikers on summits and in valleys. Through these organizations, as well as on his own initiative and time, Fish has educated the public about Leave No Trace, backcountry safety, mountain stewardship, and alpine hiking etiquette. He has assisted in training summit stewards since the early days of the High Peaks Summit Steward Program (a partnership of The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Mountain Club, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation). Fish has also worked on Ed Ketchledge’s (who received the alpine steward award in 2004) summit restoration efforts in the High Peaks Region. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Classic Adirondack Architectural Detail

A friend e-mailed to say he had been visiting with a 94-year-old doctor who had a home in Speculator with rough-cut siding. The two had been trying to remember what those clapboards were called and brainstormed until one of them finally came up with it: “brainstorm.”

Even if you didn’t know the name, if you know the Adirondacks you know what they were talking about: those uneven-edge boards on buildings across the park, also known as wavy-edge, bark-on, pig-pen or just Adirondack siding.

The brainstorm creation myth is that the unplaned, untrimmed siding was invented in 1907 by master builder Ben Muncil when he was building White Pine Camp on Osgood Pond, in Paul Smiths. White Pine director and Adirondack historic preservation expert Howard Kirschenbaum, who co-wrote an article on the subject for Adirondack Life in 2005, offers another theory that would give the credit to architect William Massarene.

“Wavy-edge siding actually dates back several centuries in southern England, where it is called waney-edge or weatherboarding,” Kirschenbaum wrote. “Massarene took the grand tour of Europe after graduating from engineering school, extending his knowledge of architecture and, as he revealed in a later interview, gathering ideas for building projects, such as the soaring asymmetrical rooflines he designed for White Pine Camp.”

Whether Muncil or Massarene conceived the idea, Kirschenbaum says the siding was probably manufactured for the first time in North America in Paul Smiths. “Brainstorm” was a buzzword in 1907 (during the sensational murder trial of another architect, Stanford White, the suspect claimed in his defense that he’d suffered a “brainstorm”), and perhaps excited by the suddenness or force of the notion, the architect and/or builder borrowed the term.

Rustic resort developer Earl Woodward used the style widely in the southeastern Adirondacks, though he didn’t taper the boards and it’s almost always called Adirondack siding down there, Kirschenbaum’s co-author Tom Henry discovered.

To this day it’s still believed that Adirondack sawmills produce more brainstorm or Adirondack siding, tapered or flat, than anyplace else on the continent.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Whiteface-Gore Offer Spring Skiing Deal

For the first time ever, Whiteface and Gore mountains are teaming up to offer the Ultimate Spring Season Pass, good for unlimited skiing and riding at either mountain through the rest of the 2008-09 season. The pass went on sale Sunday, March 22.

Adults (ages 23-69) can purchase the pass for $129; young adult passes (ages 13-22) are $99. The junior (7-12) rate is $69, and kids 6 and under ski and ride, as always, for free.

Whiteface and Gore mountains are holding the season pass rates for next season, 2009-10. All season passes go on sale Sunday for the greatest value. Adult full season passes are $690 if purchased by June 12. A payment plan is available payments due at time of purchase, July 24, and September 8. This is the best value if pass holders ski more that 9 times a season including holidays.

The popular Whiteface only non-holiday returns for $399 if purchased by June 12. This pass includes blackout dates of December 26, 2009-January 2, 2010, January 16-18, 2010, and February 13-20, 2010. The passes must be purchased by June 12 to receive as the pass won’t be available after that date. This is the best value if pass holders ski or ride more that six times at Whiteface only excluding holidays

Both mountains plan to stay open through April 12. Whiteface is hosting a Mini-Park Meltdown March 28, followed by a Retro Deck Party with live music by Ironwood. The Apple Butter Open moguls competition returns April 4, while pond skimming is April 11. Easter Sunday wraps up the festivities at Whiteface and Gore with the mountains hosting Easter services, brunch, egg hunts and more.

Senior (65-69), young adult and junior passes are available at both mountains. For the complete selection of pass offerings, visit www.goremountain.com and www.whiteface.com.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Adirondack Bracket: Round Two Recap


With play complete in the third round, excitement is building toward the crowning of Adirondack Almanack’s first annual all-park bracket champion. This year’s “purty few thirty-two” round jettisoned the third top seed of the tournament, as well as one major Adirondack icon and two—maybe three—of the greatest threats to the region’s ecology. Full coverage after the jump.

The big news in the first quad was the defeat of Senator Elizabeth O’C. Little at the webbed paws of the Wild Center Otters. The distinguished Senator from Queensbury was preoccupied over the weekend deciding whom to endorse in the 20th Congressional District race. In the tough tug-of-war between party loyalty (Republican Jim Tedisco) and family values (cousin-in-law Scott Murphy), party prevailed. In any case, Squeaker, Louie, and Squirt slid easily past Little and into the next measure where they will face the always well-endowed seasonal residents.

Cinderella or EVOO step-sister? You decide: Rachael Ray basted Ausable Forks’ painter/printmaker/dairyman Rockwell Kent. She moves on to meet Samuel de Champlain, who knew how to deal with cluster flies.

In the second quad, in two matches of interest to southern Adirondackers, Americade rolled past dude ranches while the world’s largest garage sale made kindling of Adirondack chairs.

One surprising upset in the third quad: logging trucks just couldn’t seem to get started. Moose trampled them on their way to meet the Northville/Lake Placid trail. And it must have been a bitter defeat for the scenic railways to the hot (and getting stronger by the day) hunting camp coffee. Next dance for the coffee, TR’s midnight ride. Count on this one to go late.

Quad number four. Choose your metaphor. Billy Demong simply capsized, murdered, executed Dreiser’s American Tragedy. Gracelessly. Demong must next negotiate the deceptively slow Canadian drivers. Essential training for next winter’s Olympics in British Columbia.

We should also note here the demise of acid rain and Eurasian watermilfoil in this round. It will now be hard to find something to root against in the sweet sixteen round. Next recap Friday afternoon.

Read the tournament preview here, and the first round recap here.


Monday, March 23, 2009

A New Ski Business Plan for Hickory

While negotiations continue over Big Tupper Ski Area, whose reopening hinges on a 625-lot residential development, a different group of investors is pursuing a condo-free strategy to resurrect Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg.

“My initial interest in Hickory was in its history (founded by a WWII member of the 10th Mountain Division) and reputation as a challenging hill (notwithstanding its small size),” Bill Van Pelt IV said in an e-mail.

Van Pelt, a financial planner from Saratoga now living in Texas, is leading several shareholders and Hickory board members in trying to come up with a new business plan for the old-school mountain, which has 1,200 feet of vertical drop, 17 trails, two Poma lifts, a T-bar and a rope tow.

Operating private ski areas has proven a challenge in the Adirondacks, so the group is trying to come up with a viable game plan.

“Mad River Glen provides an example with which I am personally familiar,” Van Pelt wrote. “I made an early, conscious effort not to tackle the problem with real estate development as a component of the plan. That reflects my personal preference (I don’t like golf courses with houses on them either) and, coincidently, the culture of Hickory and its board.”

Mad River Glen, in Waitsfield, Vermont, is proudly skier-owned and natural — no snowmaking. [Post-deadline correction: there is a modest system with two guns that supplments a fraction of the terrain.] Shareholders are trying to decide whether they should leave Hickory’s snow cover to nature or modernize with a snowmaking system and a chairlift.

Either way, Van Pelt told the Glens Falls Post-Star that the mountain will reopen next season after several years in limbo. He and other board members are receiving enthusiastic e-mails from former Hickory skiers and soliciting their suggestions via skihickory@mccltd.com.

The only other privately owned ski area still running in the Adirondack Park, Royal Mountain in Caroga Lake, hosts motocross races in summer to make ends meet. Big Tupper Ski Area, in Tupper Lake, has been closed for a decade; a consortium of Philadelphia-based investors proposes to make skiing the centerpiece of a vast high-end development and say the slope is otherwise not financially sustainable. Oak Mountain recently went into bankruptcy but was run this winter by the village of Speculator.

Map from New England Lost Ski Areas Project.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tupper Lake History for the People

Two important sources of local history in Tupper Lake are becoming easier to find.

Louis Simmons’s Mostly Spruce and Hemlock, the classic history of the village of Tupper Lake and town of Altamont (also called Tupper Lake since 2004), will be reissued soon. Hungry Bear Publishing is working with Tupper Lake’s Goff-Nelson Memorial Library to produce a new edition of the 1976 book.

“In more than 30 years since it was published, Louis’s book has achieved cult status in Tupper Lake,” Hungry Bear publisher Andy Flynn said in a press release.“I’ve always said that, next to the Bible, Mostly Spruce and Hemlock is the most-read book in Tupper Lake.”

Because only 2,000 copies were printed, Spruce and Hemlock has become collectible and costly. The new edition will be paperback and an index will be added. Proceeds will benefit the library.

Louis Simmons was editor of the Tupper Lake Free Press 1932-1979. He continued to write for the paper and served as Tupper Lake historian until his death in 1995. William C. Frenette, Simmons’s nephew and another Tupper native deeply fascinated by his home region, took over as historian. He also wrote an entertaining column on local life and history for the Free Press.

Frenette died in 2007 but now his “Transitions” columns can be read again at a new Web site, tltransitions.com.

Here are a few words from Bill Frenette, for the season:

“There is an old saying: ‘Spring is the reward for those who live through the winter.’ How do we know that spring has arrived? Let’s count the ways: my neighbors, Jackie and Al Smith, are back from Florida looking trim and healthy; Charlcie Delehanty has reported seeing two immature and one mature bald eagles as the river opens near the sorting gap; Jessie’s Bait Shop has stored their ice augers and hung out their “Maple Syrup For Sale” sign in front of their newly updated fishing equipment; and geese can be seen feeding happily on Mary Burns’ front lawn along the the Raquette River, recently freed of ice.”

Photograph of L.C. Maid, Charles Knox, Howard Brown and unidentified man on a boat ride. Courtesy of Goff-Nelson Memorial Library, Tupper Lake.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hacketts Puts Lake Placid Store on Hold

Friday’s Watertown Times reports that the plans to create a department store in Lake Placid have been put on hold.

Seaway Valley Capital Corp. of Gouverneur, owner of Hacketts Department Stores, has temporarily suspended its plans to establish a new outlet at the Cold Brook Plaza in the space formerly occupied by Tops Supermarket. The loss of a $5 million line of credit from Wells Fargo Bank was cited by Seaway Valley Capital officials as the cause of the suspension.

Since September of last year, Hacketts arrival has been the subject of much anticipation in a region that lost its last large department store in 2002, when Ames closed in neighboring Saranac Lake. Efforts by WalMart Corporation to establish a store in the Town of North Elba (which contains the Village of Lake Placid and a portion of Saranac Lake) were thwarted in 1996 and 2006. A group hoping to establish an independent community department store in the Village of Saranac Lake is approaching its third year of a capital campaign to raise $500,000 for the project.

Calls to Seaway Valley Capital to ascertain a new timeline for the Lake Placid site were not returned Friday. Hacketts also has a store in Tupper Lake.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Climate Change Insight From Historical Birding Records

On Nov. 1, 1933, Mrs. Bruce Reid recorded seeing both a male and female ivory-billed woodpecker in Texas. And on May 28, 1938, Oscar McKinley Bryans observed a ruby-throated hummingbird in Michigan, noting that the birds were most common when apple trees were blooming.

These are just two of more than 6 million personal observations scribbled and preserved on notecards in government files. The cards record more than a century of information about bird migration, a veritable treasure trove for climate-change researchers because they will help them unravel the effects of climate change on bird behavior, according to Jessica Zelt, coordinator of the North American Bird Phenology Program at the USGS.

That is — once the cards are transcribed and put into a scientific database.

And that’s where citizens across the country come in – the program needs help from birders and others across the nation to transcribe those cards into usable scientific information.

“These cards, once transcribed, will provide over 90 years of data, an unprecedented amount of information describing bird distributions, migration timing, and migration pathways and how they are changing,” said Zelt. “There is no other program that has the same historical depth of information that can help us understand the effect that global climate change has on bird populations across the country. When combined with current information, scientists will better understand how birds are responding to climate change and how to develop tools to help manage that change, especially for at-risk species.”

The millions of hand-scribbled cards sit in row upon row of federal green filing cabinets of ancient vintage in a modest and fittingly old office dating from before WWII. The cards contain almost all of what was known of bird distribution and natural history from the Second World War back to the later part of the 19th century, said USGS senior scientist Chan Robbins, who kept track of the cards’ whereabouts in attics and basements during the intervening years.

“When I go through the files, it is just amazing some of the stories that are recorded there,” said Jessica Zelt, who is an avid birder herself. “For example, one of our online participants recently wrote to tell me she had transcribed a migration card on purple martins by American ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice from 1926. It is exciting to see people today being linked to a piece of birding history.”

Participants recorded their name, locality and year, along with arrival and departure dates, date of abundance, and whether it was a species common in that area. Personal observations on the cards often caught the enthusiastic joy of a birder sighting a rare bird.

The collection, said Zelt, includes information on about 900 species, including some sightings of rare, extinct, or nearly extinct birds, such as the giant albatross, ivory-billed woodpecker and Carolina parakeet, birds whose very names make the hearts of avid birders go pitter-patter.

The BPP is joining efforts with the USA National Phenology Network, which has just kicked off a national program to recruit citizen scientists and professional researchers to monitor plant and animal life cycles, or phenology. The two efforts will complement each other flawlessly, with the BPP combining its expertise on historical bird data with the USA-NPN’s ongoing work to document changes in flowering, fruiting, migrations, reproduction, hibernation, and other plant and animal phenological events.

The BPP was started in 1880 by Wells W. Cooke, who wanted to broaden knowledge and understanding of migration. Eventually, famed scientist C. Hart Merriam expanded the volunteer network to include the entire United States, Canada and part of the West Indies. By the late 1880s the program had 3000 volunteers. Although the program was actively maintained by the federal government, in 1970 the program closed, until it re-opened again last year.

This program relies heavily on the participation of citizen scientists, said Zelt. It currently houses 6 million cards, which need to be scanned onto the website and then converted, solely by volunteers, into a database. Birders who want to concentrate on one particular group of birds can select that group or even a particular species.

To date, volunteers have scanned about 184,000 cards on hooded orioles, barred owls, spotted owls, scarlet tanagers, American redstarts, rose-breasted grosbeak and many other species. That leaves about 5,816,000 cards to go.

If you’d like to volunteer, visit the website. Remember that you can follow current sightings by Northern New York birders here.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Adirondack Bracket: Round One Recap

(click image to see full-sized bracket)
Well, the Adirondack Bracket contest is rolling. The first round was not without its moments of suspense (one time the coin we used to determine contest outcomes rolled under the sleeper sofa forcing a Logging truck/French and Indian War re-enactors rematch. An unforgettable moment). A few first-round highlights after the jump.

Few surprises in the first quad. Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) totally schooled the heritage strain brook trout, while our flaming Adirondack foliage fell to the preternaturally red Rockwell Kent. Senator Little will now face the Wild Center otters (will our wildlife creatures ever learn?), while Kent will face Lake Luzerne’s sweetheart of the garbage bowl, Rachael Ray. How good is that?!!

Perhaps reflecting the new hard times, eating bark upset the industrious and ubiquitous Eastern European waitresses in the bracket’s second quad. And in a bit of a turn-around, The Hochschild Award winners swarmed the black flies.

We have yet to discern a compelling narrative in the third quad.

In the fourth, the dreams of Old Forge’s Water Safari Enchanted Forest were invaded by Eurasian watermilfoil. Nineteen-foot-tall standout center Paul Bunyan seemed to just stand there for much of the second half. The second round pits nordic-combined skiing phenom Bill Demong against Theodore Dreiser’s American Tragedy. This one should be a classic.

Stay tuned. . .


Friday, March 20, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


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