This spring has many of us North Country gardeners in a quandary: do I put in my peas yet or not? The rule of thumb here in Newcomb is not to plant before Memorial Day Weekend, but this year the weather has been so balmy so early that we are itching to get those early veggies started. Seed packets come with instructions like “Plant after all danger of frost has passed,” or “Plant as soon as the ground can be worked.” The latter applies to peas. And with the scorching weather at the end of April, it was really really hard NOT to plant – I had to keep telling myself, “It’s still April.” And even though peas and spinach are cool weather plants, killer frosts and even snow are not out of the question.
I ran into a neighbor that last weekend in April and we immediately started talking peas. He said that if he could get his tiller going that day, he’d plant his; I heard the tiller rumbling the rest of the morning. And I hear that the doctor over in Long Lake put his peas in, too. I decided to spend the day prepping my veg beds instead, getting ALL of them ready for planting a little later in the season.
Last Sunday, as the weeding continued, I uncovered a whole bowlful of leftover potatoes in one of the beds! Mmmm – fresh potatoes in May! I even have undug onions and last year’s leeks resprouting! We’ll see if they grow into edible bulbs.
Meanwhile, every day the tomatoes are getting a bit taller in the kitchen, and the squashes I started are, eh, doing so-so (I was a bit over-anxious and started them a wee bit too soon). The flower seeds I started a week or so ago are sprouting now, too.
So, we wait and practice patience. Still, there is something appealing in being able to plant the garden BEFORE the blackflies come out!
The DEC has announced that under the new plan, it will operate four of six campgrounds previously slated for closure for shortened seasons, from June 26 through Labor Day. In addition, after partnering with local officials, DEC will substitute one Piseco Lake-area campground in Hamilton County on the closure list for another. At the campgrounds that will remain closed, DEC will allow use of its hiking and horse trails and climbing routes. In DEC’s own words:
“New York is facing tough economic times and closing campgrounds was not an easy choice. With the help of local officials, DEC has devised a way to soften the impact,” Commissioner Grannis said in a press relase. “Each of the targeted facilities historically suffered from low occupancy over the course of a full season. By shortening the season, we can open the campgrounds during traditional peak occupancy periods. This plan will help local tourism and provide opportunities for affordable getaways while still reducing our annual operating costs.”
The revisions for the 2009 season are: In the Catskills
Beaverkill, Roscoe, Sullivan County.
The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day. DEC will operate the facility with assistance from Sullivan County, upon adoption of a cooperative agreement.
Bear Spring Mountain, Walton, Delaware County.
The previous decision to close the camping area within this facility remains in effect. However, numerous horse and hiking trails and associated trailhead parking areas at this popular Wildlife Management Area will continue to be available for public use. There will be no fee for parking. In the Adirondacks
Point Comfort, Arietta, Hamilton County.
The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day. However, DEC will not open Poplar Point, which is also in the Piseco Lake area, for 2009. DEC will explore options to work cooperatively with Arietta officials to continue to potentially offer a day-use facility at Poplar Point in future years.
Sharp Bridge, North Hudson, Essex County.
The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day.
Tioga Point, Raquette Lake, Hamilton County.
The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day.
Pok-O-Moonshine, Keeseville, Essex County.
The previous decision to close this facility remains in effect. Hikers, rock climbers and other recreational users will be able to access hiking trails and climbing routes by parking in the entrance area. No fee will be charged for parking.
DEC will work closely with ReserveAmerica, the state’s camping reservation service contractor, to contact visitors whose reservations were previously cancelled, to offer them their original reservations and to re-open the camping site inventory to them before it is made available to the general public. DEC will cover the cost of the reservation fees to lessen the impact to the visitors that will be affected.
DEC is responsible for managing 52 campgrounds and 7 day-use areas in New York’s Adirondack Park and Catskill Park.
It’s human nature to get excited about the “charismatic megafauna” around us. Let’s face it: polar bears, elephants and eagles are impressive. But what about the other 99% of life on this planet? Where is the cheering section for sea slugs? Is there a “Hug a Millipede” campaign? What about bladderworts? As a naturalist, many people ask me what my favorite animal is, or they want to know my area of expertise. It’s a difficult question to answer because the more I learn about my fellow beings on this chunk of space debris, the more fascinating I find each to be. » Continue Reading.
Eager boaters have been on the water since ice-out, but the Adirondack canoe-and-kayak social season really gets cruising this month. We offer a chronological calendar:
The first two get-togethers are really commercial affairs, aimed at selling canoes and kayaks, but hey we enjoy new gear as much as anyone: Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters holds Demo Days this weekend, May 9–10, by the state boat launch on Lake Flower, in Saranac Lake, (518) 891-7450. And Adirondack Paddlefest is May 15–17 at Mountainman Outdoor Supply Co., in Old Forge. The Fest is billed as “America’s largest on-water sale.” $5 admission for adults, (315) 369-6672 » Continue Reading.
A musical battle in Indian Lake , three Bunnies and two Long Hares in Saranac Lake, jazz in North Creek and late night dancing at The Waterhole.
Not quite a feast . . . more of a nice spread.
On Friday May 8th at 8 pm The Battle of The Bands sponsored by ALCA will be held at the Indian Lake Theater. There is $20 registration fee and the winner takes it all home. Tupper Lake’s Fat River Kings will be one of the competing groups. A show I shamelessly recommend is: The Dust Bunnies and Long Hares at BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake. It starts at 7:30 pm, Saturday night. Yours truly is one of the troupe so I’m biased, but honestly we write great songs. Love, loss and laundry contemplated in three part harmony AND backed up by a fabulous rhythm section — it promises to be a fun evening. Call for reservations: (518) 891- 9402 or take your chances and just show up at 24 Cedar Street. We’d love to see you!
Even more on Saturday at 7:30 pm, the Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip will be playing at Tannery Pond Community Center, 222 Main Street, in North Creek. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Call (518) 251-2505 for more information.
A correction: The open mic at Station Street I posted about last week is not a weekly event yet. They are still working out which night is most appropriate and how many times a month. As soon as I learn when the next open mic is scheduled, it will be posted.
Photo: Two Hares (Colin Dehond and Kyle Murray) and Two Buns (Tracy Poszditch and Mary Lou Reid) on way to record their upcoming CD
On Lake Placid, the era of the big public tour boat is over. At least for the time being. According to Brian Bliss, Manager of the Lake Placid Marina, a fully covered, thirty-foot aluminum pontoon boat has been purchased to replace the sixty-foot, one hundred-passenger Doris II, which was retired from service on April 16th. The new boat will handle sixteen passengers. Bliss says there are no plans to find a larger or more distinctive vessel to accommodate the sightseeing trade. This is the second loss in as many years to Lake Placid’s once proud tour fleet. Lady of the Lake was removed from service before the start of last summer’s season. Lake Placid Marina sold the sleek vessel—built in 1929 by Hutchinson’s Boatworks of Alexandria Bay—to Brian Arico, former owner of Camp Minnowbrook on the lake.
Attempts to resell the boat for private use on nearby water were unsuccessful, and a prospective sale to an individual from Lake Eustis, Florida fell through at the last minute. Lady of the Lake spent the winter months alongside Route 86 in Ray Brook. Late last month she was finally sold to a private classic boat collector who transfered her to a flat bed trailer and hauled her away to Wisconsin.
The loss of Doris II and Lady of the Lake, along with the retirement to private ownership some years ago of the smaller Anna, ends a streak of large boat excursion service on Lake Placid dating back to 1882. Mattie (1882), Water Lily (1884), Ida (1886) and Nereid (1893) were all propelled by steam, as was the original Doris (1898) until her conversion to a gasoline engine in 1907. In March 1950, when Doris II was assembled on the shores of Lake Placid, she inherited the original 30″ by 36″ propeller from her namesake. Asked if Doris II might still have that same propeller, Brian Bliss said that logs and maintenance records were not retained over the years.
Photo of Nereid courtesy of Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Assn.
Health care reform has been promised by President Obama for this year (here is a pdf of his plan). According to a new map created by Jim Gimpel of the political blog The Monkey Cage, the Adirondack region, particularly Essex and Hamilton counties, has the most to gain from health care reform. The numbers are drawn from the 2005 US Census and represent the percentage of uninsured in each county (under age 65, those older are eligible for Medicare). The map is remarkable because it shows that the liberal northeast has the lowest rate of uninsured. New York however, has the highest rate of uninsured in our region, and Hamilton County, one of the lowest rates of insured in all of New York.
Spring arrives in fits and starts. For many it is the longer days and warmer temps that say “spring is here,” while for others the signs are more subtle: the first flowers that bloom (around here that is usually coltsfoot), the first robin in the yard, the first thunderstorm echoing across the mountains. For me, each “first” is another stepping stone bridging the gap between winter and summer, and one of my favorites is the flight of the woodcock. Woodcocks are odd-looking birds, resembling something that may have been desiged by a committee: the body is squat and compact with a dinky head, an impossibly long beak, and large eyes placed in such a way that the bird almost appears cross-eyed. In fairness, the eye placement really is to the woodcock’s best advantage, since it gives the bird nearly 360 degrees of vision, allowing it to see above its head, in front of its face, and along both sides. I suspect its periferal vision picks up movement from behind as well. And that beak, well, it may look goofy (like a bird with a straw stuck to its face), but it also has some marvelous adaptations: the end is highly flexible and has a sensitive tip that is able to sense worms underground, worms being the woodcock’s preferred food.
But the characteristic that makes this game bird near and dear to the hearts of many a naturalist is the male’s courtship display. You just know that spring is here when you head outside in the evening, right after sunset, and your ears pick up the unmistakable buzzy nasal peent coming from the ball field, golf course, or yard. That would be the male woodcock out strutting his stuff in an open area, hoping to win the heart of a nearby female. But, wait! There’s more! After a few peents, the bird takes off for the sky, twittering away in an almost musical way, ascending the heights in ever-increasing spirals. And when you can no longer see his silhouette agaist the darkening sky, the sound changes to chirping, popping noise as the bird plummets back towards earth in a series of death-defying zigzags. The sounds stop suddenly (the bird is now 50-100 feet aloft), and he lands, only to start strutting and peent-ing once more. As if this weren’t enough to grab one’s attention, note this: the sounds made as he is airborne are not vocalizaions; they are created by the wind created by his flight interacting with his feathers!
I urge you to step out some evening this spring, when the temperature is above freezing, and find yourself a good open space near some woods. Dress warmly and tune your ears for the insect-like peent near the ground. Locate the bird if you can and wait for an aerial display that will impress even the youngest members of your family. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Adirondack Almanack is happy to welcome Ellen Rathbone to the ranks of our contributors. Ellen, posting as NatureGirl, is by her own admission a “certified nature nut.” She lives in Newcomb and has been working as a naturalist or environmental educator almost steadily since she graduated from SUNY ESF in 1988 with a BS in forestry and biology. Her work has taken her from NY to NJ to VT and finally back to what she calls her “beloved Adirondacks,” where she has been an environmental educator for the Adirondack Park Agency’s Visitor Interpretive Centers for nearly ten years. “I consider myself a generalist, since almost any natural history subject is bound to catch my attention,” Ellen told me. “That said, I tend to drift towards plants and ethnobotany (plants are easy to study because they stand still), and I am quite fond of bats (which were the topic for my master’s degree work) and snakes. The more I learn about nature, the more fascinated I become with the complexities that keep our world in balance; it’s an amazing place, this planet we call home.”
Please join us in welcoming Ellen. Her natural history posts will appear regularly on Wednesday afternoons (starting today at 3 pm) and Saturday mornings. On Sunday morning, another treat — Ellen will be providing a local gardening piece! We’re hoping she’ll be adding her naturalist insights at other times as well.
There is still time left to enter to win a copy of the new, expanded Adirondack Reader. Thanks to a donation from the Adirondack Mountain Club, which published the latest edition of the Reader, Adirondack Almanack is giving away a copy of what Mary Thill called in her review a collection of “pivotal and perceptive accounts of how people have experienced these woods since the arrival of Europeans 400 years ago.”
Here’s how you can win: 1. Follow Adirondack Almanack on Twitter.
2. Tweet the following:
Just entered to win a copy of The Adirondack Reader. Just follow @adkalmanack and retweet – www.adirondackalmanack.com
We’ll be drawing at random on June 1, 2009. You must tweet by May 31, 2009. Good luck.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will host a “Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball” on Saturday, May 30. The gala and auction is the largest fund-raising event of the year for the club, with proceeds supporting ADK programs such as maintaining hiking trails and connecting children with the outdoors. Recommended attire for the event is semi-formal dress (black tie) and hiking boots, although the dress code will not be strictly enforced. The Black Fly Affair will be held from 7 p.m. till midnight at the Fort William Henry Resort and Conference Center in Lake George. Selected regional food and drink vendors, including The Boathouse, Villa Napoli and the Fort William Henry Resort, will provide their specialties for sampling. Wine and champagne tasting is courtesy of Frederick Wildman & Sons Wine Distributors and beer sampling courtesy of Cooperstown Brewing Co. There will also be dancing to the music of the Frank Conti Band.
ADK boasts one of the largest silent auctions in the region in addition to its very lively live auction, where guests will bid on original artwork, outdoor gear, weekend getaways, jewelry, cultural events and more. The auction will be conducted by Jim and Danielle Carter of Acorn Estates & Appraisals. A preview of auction items is available at the ADK Web site, www.adk.org.
Dr. John Rugge, CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, is chairman of the event. Dr. Rugge is an avid paddler and author of two books about wilderness paddling. Longtime ADK leader Bob Wilcox will serve as master of ceremonies. Corporate support for the event has been provided by the Times Union, Jaeger & Flynn Associates, Cool Insuring Agency, Price Chopper Golub Foundation, TD Banknorth, The Chazen Companies and LEKI USA.
Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. To make reservations, visit www.adk.org or call (800) 395-8080, Ext. 25. To donate an auction item or to become a corporate sponsor, contact Deb Zack at (800) 395-8080, Ext. 42.
The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.
The Adirondack Museum will open for its 52nd season on Friday, May 22, 2009. The Adirondack Museum once again extends an invitation to year-round residents of the Adirondack Park to visit free of charge in May, June, and October. Through this annual gift to close friends and neighbors, the museum welcomes visitors from all corners of the Park. Proof of residency is required. The Adirondack Museum is open daily from May 22 through October 18, 2009 from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Friday, September 4 and Friday, September 18 are exceptions to the schedule, as the museum will be closed to prepare for special events. All paid admissions are valid for a second visit within a one-week period.
On Saturday, May 23 the Museum Store will host a book signing from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. as part of the opening weekend festivities. Elizabeth Folwell, Creative Director of Adirondack Life will sign copies of her new book Short Carries – Essays from Adirondack Life. Betsy Folwell joined the staff of Adirondack Life in 1989. Since then she has written scores of articles and essays on the politics, nature, history and culture of the six million acres Adirondack Park. She has won eight writing awards from the International Regional Magazine Association.
The twenty-two exhibits, historic buildings, outstanding collections, lovely gardens, and pristine views that are the Adirondack Museum tell stories of life, work, and play in the Adirondack Park of northern New York State.
“Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts & Comforters” is one of two exhibits to debut in 2009. The exceptionally beautiful exhibition will include historic quilts from the Adirondack Museum’s textile collection, as well as contemporary quilts, comforters, and pieced wall hangings on loan from quilters in communities throughout the region. The exhibit illustrates a vibrant pieced-textile tradition nurtured by the Adirondack region for over a century and a half. From bedcovers, plain or fancy, meant to keep families warm through long Adirondack winters, to stunning art quilts of the twenty-first century, the quilts and comforters of the North Country mirror national trends and also tell a unique story of life in the mountains.
The second new exhibit, “A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks” will include paintings, maps, prints, and photographs that illuminate the untamed Adirondack wilderness discovered by early cartographers, artists, and photographers. The exhibit will showcase more than forty paintings from the museum’s exceptional collection, including works by Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, William Havell, and James David Smillie. Also featured are fifty of the engravings and lithographs of Adirondack landscape paintings that brought these images to a wider audience and provided many Americans with their first glimpse of the “howling wilds” that were the Adirondack Mountains. A dozen rare and significant maps from the collection of the museum’s research library demonstrate the growth of knowledge about the Adirondacks.
“A ‘Wild Unsettled Country'” will feature photographs sold as tourist souvenirs and to “armchair travelers.” The first photographic landscape studies made in the Adirondacks by William James Stillman in 1859 have never been exhibited before. Photos by Seneca Ray Stoddard will also be included. The exhibit will include special labels and text just for kids in addition to the traditional presentation. The Adirondack Museum encourages parents and children to explore and discover together.
The Adirondack Museum’s 2009 Photobelt exhibition will feature rarely-seen images from the extensive postcard collection. “Wish Your Were Here” will showcase Adirondack views of hotels, campsites, tally-ho rides, scenery, boat trips, restaurants, and roadside attractions – sent home to friends and relatives from 1900 to 1960. Postcards have always been treasured souvenirs and the perfect way to say, “Wish you were here!”
Five newly acquired boats will be displayed in the exhibition “Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks.” These include a very rare 1918 Moxley launch, a Hickman Sea Sled (forerunner of the Boston Whaler), a Grumman canoe, a Theodore Hanmer guideboat, a Grant Raider, and a 1910 William Vassar guideboat.
Those traveling on the Adirondack Northway (I-87) between Exits 26 and 27 probably don’t realize they are passing literally over Pottersville, the northern Warren County hamlet that borders lower Schroon Lake. From the 1870s into the early 1960s the tiny village was home to amusements that drew thousands. The most remarkable of them, the Pottersville Fair, drew 7,000 on a single day in 1913. Later it hosted a large dance hall, roller skating rink, and the Glendale Drive-in, while nearby Under the Maples on Echo Lake was host to circus acts and an amusement park that was a forerunner of Gaslight Village. Today only the long abandoned Drive-in screen remains, a silent sentinel to Pottersville’s past as an amusement Mecca. It’s no surprise that the tiny hamlet could host such remarkable amusements. The Town of Chester was on the early stage coach road north of Warrensburgh and Caldwell (as Lake George was then known). It was home to two main villages, Chestertown and Pottersville, and several smaller ones (Starbuckville, Darrowsville, Igerna, Riverside – now Riparius, and Haysburg). In the years after the Civil War Chester became a center for summer visitors and hotels and boarding houses sprung up to welcome them. Early travelers made their way from the D & H Railroad to Riverside (where the first suspension bridge across the Hudson River was built) and then by coach to Chestertown, Pottersville, and Schroon Lake. From a dock at the south end of Schroon small steamers plied the lake. Numerous summer camps were established for children and adults in and around Pottersville. Cottages, colonies, and motels were added with the coming of motor transportation – until recently the Wells’ House was a stop on the Adirondack Trailways bus line. It was all ended with the construction of the Adirondack Northway which diverted traffic over the historic hamlet.
Undoubtedly early religious camp meetings were held at the grove where The Pottersville Fair was established by the Faxon family in 1877. The Faxons were the town’s leading industrial family, owner of Chester’s largest employer, a tannery. The fair was immediately popular, not so much for its agricultural exhibits – there generally weren’t any – but for its gambling opportunities. For thirty years gambling was the main attraction at the fair, and horse racing the main event. In 1897, the fair advertised “a fine program of races consisting of trotting and pacing, running, bicycle, and foot races in which liberal purses and prizes are offered.”
By 1906 anti-gambling forces were applying pressure and the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported that year that “The fair in Pottersville drew good crowds, the feature being the horse races. There were no exhibits made.” “It is the purpose of the management,” the paper suggested “to reorganize the Glendale Union Agricultural Society and devote the exhibition entirely to sports, giving large purses for the racing events.”
The anti-gambling crusade was part of a larger backlash against the free-spirited Gay Nineties. Throughout the country society’s moral guardians railed against the liberties and license of the period and chief among them was drinking and gambling. The heaviest attacks were leveled at the racetracks like the Glendale. Newspapers depicted horse bettors as dupes of a crooked alliance of track management, bookmakers, owners and politicians who continued to allow horse racing. Across the country state after state made tracks like the Glendale illegal. Only Kentucky, Maryland, and New York refused to join them in outlawing the popular sport. That was until the anti-gambling forces secured one of our own local boys Charles Evans Hughes, born in Glens Falls in 1859, as Governor of New York.
Soon after taking office in 1907 Hughes began pushing a bill to eliminate gambling at the state’s racetracks. Although resistance was formidable, the Agnew-Hart Bill [pdf] passed in June 1908 and it became illegal to openly quote odds, solicit gambling, or stand in a fixed place and record bets. Police detectives worked themselves into the crowds at the tracks and arrested those violating the law, the penalty for which was jail. The result was the near death of horse-racing in New York – including at the Pottersville Fair, although gaming and horsebetting continued there underground. In 1914, for example, it was reported to members of the state legislature that the Pottersville Fair “has long been famous… for the great variety of wide open gambling and lottery schemes.” If you want to read how the whole thing affected the horse racing stock, and more about how horseracing survived, take a look at the Thoroughbred Times “Racing Through the Century: 1911-1920.”
As local citizens and summer tourists began fearing arrest and imprisonment for gambling – they weren’t really there for the horses – gate receipts dropped and the Glendale Union Agricultural Society went bankrupt. In 1910, the Pottersville Fair Association took over the fair. The Ticonderoga Sentinel described the newly reopened fair grounds of 1910:
The Pottersville Fair, it is frankly admitted, is conducted solely for the amusement of its patrons. The exhibits of products of farm and factory, beautiful specimens of feminine handiwork, art subjects and curios found at other fairs are her conspicuous by their absence. The association makes no effort to get them and does not believe that the majority of people who go to the fair want them. Nobody would want them anyhow, for all over the grounds, in the midway, on the race track, on the stage in front of the grandstand, and in the dance hall, there is every minute something doing to amuse and interest the crowd.
In addition to the racing, gaming, dancing, and carnival and stage acts the renewed fair in 1910 featured “an areoplane flight, which is positively guaranteed, and which will mark the first appearance in these parts of an airship.”
In the 1920s the dance hall at what was then called Glendale Park featured dancing every Thursday, 9 pm to 1 am (later expanded to Friday and Saturday as well). Among the bands who played there were Val Jean and His Orchestra, Domino Orchestra, Guy LaPell’s Orchestra, and the James Healey Band. The park’s skating rink was reported in 1945 to be “almost too crowded to skate.” Eventually a drive-in movie theater would be installed. A neighbor of mine who worked in the kitchen at the Glendale reported that the bar there was staffed by seven bartenders at once.
A legacy of the Pottersville Fair was its stable of acrobats and stage shows. Under The Maples, an emerging resort of sorts on Echo Lake just south of the Wells House, carried on the carnival atmosphere with acrobats and tightrope walkers. General amusements were installed at Echo Lake and the new amusement park operated late into the 1950s, eventually under the name Gaslight Village as it still retained much of its Gay Nineties theme. In about 1958 Charley Woods purchased the whole kit and kaboodle and moved it to Lake George where the 1890s were relived until about 1990 at his own Gaslight Village. You can read about that here.
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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