It’s time to haul that albino jack-a-lope out of the attic; time to dust off that high quality deer butt door bell, or other animal rump art, and head down to the big city to show ’em how its done. Yes – it’s strange taxidermy time and “Science Geeks, Nature Freaks, and Rogue Geniuses” will be gathering Sunday, November 15th at the 4th Annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest at the Bell House, a 1920’s warehouse converted into a music and events venue in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The event is hosted by the Secret Science Club, which bills itself as a “lecture, arts, and performance series.” “Show off your beloved moose head, stuffed albino squirrel, sinuous snake skeletons, jarred sea slugs, and other specimens,” the event announcement reads, “Compete for prizes and glory!” There will be a “feral taxidermy talk by beast mistress Melissa Milgrom,” author of the forth-coming book, Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy and an appearance by the Grand Master of Taxidermy, Takeshi Yamada. But the highlight of the event will be a juried taxidermy show judged by a panel of “savage taxidermy enthusiasts” that includes Robert Marbury, co-founder of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists, and Secret Science Club co-curator Dorian Devins.
The contest is open to any and all taxidermy (homemade, purchased, and found), preserved and jarred specimens, skeletons, skulls, and gaffs and beyond. The organizers are quick to point out this year that wet specimens must remain in their jars. Prizes will be awarded for categories that include best stuffed creature, most interesting biological oddity, and more.
Entrants need only contact email@example.com to pre-register, and arrive at 7 pm on the night of the contest.
The contest was begun in 2005 by Secret Science Club co-curators Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson as a promotion for this taxidermy-inspired book Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger. “The event has since taken on a life of its own,” the organizers tell us, after first-year winners Andrew Templar and Jim Carden (co-owners of the Bell House) began providing a permanent home for what has been dubbed a “beastly annual smack-down.”
Photo: Mike Zohn of Obscura Antiques received the 2008 Order of Carnivorous Knights Grand Prize for his “shadowbox mise en scene” of albino weasels posing as miniature polar bears.
Scandinavian folklore has described eskers as being formed by large sea serpents crawling inland to die. Celtic lore describes eskers as being formed by monks carrying baskets of sand inland from the sea as a form of penitence. What are eskers? They’re glacial features that kind of look like an up side-down riverbed. As a glacier retreats, it leaves behind outwash deposits of sand, gravel, and stone that may form long, interrupted, undulating ridges. Sometimes, just like a river, they branch off and there may be two or three in a roughly parallel arrangement. Colloquially, they have been called horsebacks, hogbacks, serpent ridges, and sand dunes.
Luckily, these interesting features are commonly encountered while paddling (and carrying) in the Adirondacks. Most Adirondack eskers run in a NE to SW arc, starting near the N. Br. of the Saranac and extending to Stillwater Reservoir, with the highest concentration within the combined St. Regis/Saranac basin. Others are found in the drainages of West Canada Creek and the Schroon, Moose, Hudson, and Cedar Rivers. The Rainbow Lake esker bisects that lake; A. F. Buddington, an early geologist, says this is one of the finer examples of an esker and considers it to extend (in a discontinuous manner) for 85 miles.
There is a long discontinuous esker from Mountain Pond through Keese Mill, passing between Upper St. Regis Lake and the Spectacle Ponds, and continuing to Ochre, Fish, and Lydia Ponds in the St. Regis Canoe Area. Other very interesting eskers are found on the lower Osgood, at Massawepie Lake (you drive on the esker to get to this lake), near Hitchins Pond on the Bog River/Lows Lake trip, and along the Saranac River near its namesake village. An esker in the Five Ponds Wilderness can be paddled to (though is usually hiked to). It bisects theses ponds and, at 150 feet high, is among the tallest.
Examples of twin or double eskers are those at Rainbow and Massawepie Lakes and there are triple ridges near Jenkins Mountain and Cranberry Lake. Eskers make for great hikes. They generally support tall stands of white pines. You can often see related glacial features such as kames, kettle holes, and kettle ponds. If you’re lucky, you might also find some sea serpent scales. If you can’t find these, put on your penitent face and bring along a basket of ocean sand on your next paddling trip.
Map of the Rainbow Lake esker (to come) by A. F. Buddington, 1939-1941. Esker ridges are indicated by yellow shading. Source: Geology of the Saranac Quadrangle, New York, a 1953 New York State Museum bulletin (# 346)
Perhaps November is really not the time of year to try to identify roadside roses. Sure, the hips are lovely, and they certainly look as though they should be distinctive. Lots of trees are easily identified by their fruits alone, so why not roses? How difficult could it be? I confess right up front that while I appreciate roses as much as the next person, I am not a rose aficionado, one of those people for whom roses are the sole reason for existing on this planet. I enjoy their colors, their fragrances, and their abundance of brightly colored fruits in the fall, but I don’t dedicate my life to their propagation. Perhaps if I spent a little more time among the roses, however, I wouldn’t find myself in my current predicament.
Last month I took some nice photos of some of the rosehips I found growing along Route 28N. It was early morning, there had been a crisp frost overnight, and I had my new lens to play with. I ended up with a nice image or two, and all was fine…until today, when I decided to write up an article about our local roadside roses. I mean, if you are going to write about something, you really should be able to identify what it is, beyond the obvious (rose). It turns out that sometimes this is easier said than done.
I started where I always start when trying to identify plants: my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. It listed several species, and had color illustrations of flowers, leaves, and even some of the hips. But since all I had to go by were some photos of the hips, I thought I should try to narrow the field by finding out what species actually grow in New York.
According to the Revised Checklist of New York State Plants, by Richard S. Mitchell and Gordon C. Tucker, New York is home to no less than twenty-eight species of roses, seventeen of which are non-natives, and two of which are endangered. Unfortunately, this checklist is just that: a checklist. It doesn’t give tips for identifying the plants it lists, nor does it provide a list of plant locations.
So, I next turned to the state’s new on-line nature information website: New York Nature Explorer (http://www.dec.ny.gov/natureexplorer/app/). It’s supposed to be your one-stop-shopping location for identifying and learning about the plants and animals of our fair state. I typed in “rose” and hit “search.” It turned up exactly one rose in the entire database (although it also listed things like rose pagonia – an orchid— and rose-breasted grosbeak—a bird). What happened to the other twenty-seven?
Not to be discouraged, I went to Google and ran searches for each rose on the checklist (it’s been a long morning). I found lots of photos of flowers, but few of hips. And none seemed to match mine. The light at the end of the tunnel was getting further and further away.
Turning back to Newcomb’s, I counted nine species of roses, all of which occur in New York. The other eighteen from The Checklist that were not listed are all non-natives, apparently garden types that jumped the garden wall. I figured that I had found my best possible source for ID help. Ironically, it was where I had started about four hours ago.
A couple, like the swamp rose (Rosa palustris), were easy to eliminate from my search – they require wetlands, or at least habitats that are more amenable than the dry, salty side of a highway. Smooth rose (R. blanda), as you might guess from its name, is a relatively thornless species. Looking closely at mine, it didn’t qualify. Not only was the stem covered with thorns both large and small, but so were the stipules at the end of the fruit.
The fruit of Rosa rugosa, a common escapee, look like balls that have been flattened on both ends. The fruits on my specimen do not fit this mold. I was ready to settle on it being a pasture rose (R. carolina), but all photos and drawings I found of this species were nowhere near as thorny as mine. My hopes of success were now pretty well dashed.
But that’s the great thing about being a naturalist—I have an undying curiosity to know the answer. I may not learn the identity of these roses today, tomorrow, or even this year. But you can rest assured that come summer next year, when the roses bloom and fill the air with their perfume, I will be out there with my field guide (and camera) in hand, determined to identify these plants. Even if I have to send specimens to the authors of The Checklist.
A dead zone that re-appeared in Lake George’s south basin for the 23rd consecutive year this past summer is proof, if proof were required, of the need for greener land use practices, lake protection organizations argue.
The zone is an area depleted of oxygen and devoid of life that extends from Lake George Village to Tea Island, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.
“It forms in the south basin rather than in the northern basins, not because land use practices are better in Bolton or Hague, but because more tributaries flow into that basin,” said Bauer. “It’s truly the canary in the mine-shaft, a warning of future water quality trends if we don’t improve our land-use practices.” » Continue Reading.
Music can be heard this week in Lowville, Potsdam, Saratoga, Thurman, and Saranac Lake (of course). Everything from a cappella to reggae to bluegrass. Quite a few events for the slowest month in the Adirondacks. Thursday, November 5
There is a big show tonight in Lowville. The Lewis County Historical Society is hosting the last scheduled US performance of Tanglefoot,a Folk Roots Band from Ontario that has been performing together for 25 years. They have quite a following, so get there early if you don’t already have tickets. This concert is part of the Black River Valley Concert Series and starts at 8pm. Call 315-376-8957 to reserve tickets or for more info. http://www.tanglefootmusic.com
Friday, November 6
In Jay, the Jay Entertainment & Music Society (JEMS) is hosting Ballroom Dancing Instruction from 7-9pm. Cost is $5 per person or $8 per couple. JEMS website: http://www.jemsgroup.com
The Putnam Den in Saratoga has The Breakfast playing from 10pm-2am. The Breakfast used to be called Psychedelic Breakfast and have played in the Adirondacks several times. We had them at Wiseguy’s in Lake Placid back in 2004 and they more recently headlined a night at The Backwoods Pondfest in Peru. They are a combination of Jazz and Rock. The Putnam Den is a relatively new venue and they have quite a few bigger bands on their schedule. I wish them luck, Saratoga has been in need of a good bar venue since Aiko’s closed down a few years ago. http://www.putnamden.com
Saturday, November 7
Potsdam area residents have some choices Saturday night. The band Shwa is playing at Clarkson University in The Cheel Commons at 8pm. Folk, Pop, and Rock influences can be heard here: http://www.shwamusic.com
Sweet Honey in the Rock will be performing in the Helen Hosmer Concert Hall at SUNY Potsdam. They are an a cappella group that has been performing together for 36 years. Show starts at 7:30pm. Listen here: http://www.sweethoney.com
Also at SUNY Potsdam, Ithaca-based Funk-Rock band Revision will play Hurley’s Nightclub at 7:30pm. This venue is operated by SUNY Potsdam students. The show is free for students and only $3 for the general public. http://www.revisionmusic.com
Sunday the party moves to Thurman. Hickory Ski Center is reopening this winter and Sunday is their Open House. The Stony Creek Band will be playing in their Base Lodge from 1-4pm, there will be food on site, and there will be a job fair. The Stony Creek Band is a group of very talented musicians playing mostly bluegrass originals and covers. I especially enjoy the mandolin and sometimes dobro. Band website: http://www.stonycreekband.com Hickory Ski Center: http://www.hickoryskicenter.com
Just a few miles away at The Stony Creek Inn, The Rock Brothers are playing at 7pm. They have live music every Sunday and it is very popular. People usually show up for dinner around 4-6pm and stick around for some dance music. This is also the home of The Stony Creek Band, who plays here about once per month.
If I were going to travel out of the area for a show this week it would be to Ithaca to see Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. http://www.giantpandadub.com
With a full, November “beaver” moon overhead we plodded along on the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center trails. The crisp leaves of maple, birch, and beech that crunch underfoot seamlessly drowned out all sounds. We need to periodically stop and listen. I give a hooting call mimicking our native Barred Owl. Nothing on this first try. We walk through the woods some more, onto the other trail. “I heard something that time!” one of our listeners calls out. Just a distant dog barking. I move us farther down the trail to my lucky spot. Lucky because this is where I always find the owl we seek tonight. Who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-allll is what my hoot sounds like as it echos off the frosty forest that is as still as the inside of a church. The bright moonlight allows for somewhat easier watching of the silhouetted trees as we look up at them after every hoot is given. Finally a response. But it’s not the normal barred owl call that I expect. It’s higher in pitch and squeaky. I run through the archives of owl calls in my head but nothing clicks. » Continue Reading.
Our regular Adirondack Music Scene contributor Shamim Allen is over in Europe for the next six weeks, so North Creek’s Nate Pelton has graciously accepted the role of guest contributor while Shamim’s gone. I’ve been trying to get Nate to contribute for some time – he knows the music scene in the southern and eastern Adirondacks well, and would be an outstanding addition to our music coverage here at the Almanack, which tends to focus on the northern and western parts of the region. It’s my hope, this short foray into the world of the Almanack will become a permanent feature, but we’ll have to wait and see. Like most of us around these parts, Nate has a lot of irons in the fire. After more than ten years as a raft guide and manager at Hudson River Rafting Company, Nate and his wife established the North Creek Rafting Company in 2006. During the “other” North Creek season, Nate is a trail groomer at Gore Mountain and runs the North Creek Tuning Shop. Nate also does web design and development as Grateful Design, and is the man behind ADK Music Event Production. Nate has been handling the arrangements for North Creek’s Music by the River concert series.
Nate has dabbled in a variety of music styles. He says the first concert he can remember attending was Michael Jackson’s 1988 Bad tour with parents and sister. Nate has since seen such legendary bands as The Who, The Rolling Stones, Supertramp, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John. He’s seen about 40 Grateful Dead shows in the early 1990s, and also wouldn’t miss a chance to see South Catherine Street Jug Band, Donna the Buffalo, or Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.
Any stroll along a damp patch of land, be it river or stream, canal or marsh, is bound to yield discoveries to delight the senses of any curious person. One of my favorite finds, and one that is gloriously obvious at this time of year, is Old Man’s Beard, or Wild Clematis (Clamatis virginiana). Perhaps this fluffy tufted plant has a warm place in my heart because it was one of the first plants I learned as a naturalist intern fresh out of college. Or maybe it’s because the seedhead resembles, in miniature, a Truffula Tree. A Truffula Tree? Could it be that you don’t know about Truffula Trees? Horrors! Should your literary knowledge be lacking in this respect, then you must immediately get to a library and read a copy of Dr. Seuss’s classic book The Lorax. To quote but one passage: “Those trees! Those Truffula Trees! All my life I’d been searching for trees such as these. The touch of their tufts was much softer than silk. And they had the sweet smell of fresh butterfly milk.” Those in the know will probably nod their heads sagely, immediately seeing the similarity between the feathery grey-white seedheads of the wild clematis and the puffy, colorful tufts of Seuss’s fictional trees.
Wild clematis, also known as Virgin’s Bower and Devil’s Darning Needles (among many other names in a rather long list), is one of our native vines. While I never saw it while growing up, I find it is quite common up here in the North Country, where it clambers and sprawls over trees and shrubs along many of our waterways. I’ve encountered it along roadsides while strolling with the dog, and I’ve paddled wetlands where it looked like it was choking out all the other vegetation as it groped its way heavenwards reaching for the sun.
To the novice, and when not in bloom or holding forth its seedheads, wild clematis looks a lot like poison ivy. It’s the leaves. Like poison ivy, it has three leaflets making up each leaf, and they are a bit on the toothy side. Unlike poison ivy, however, wild clematis leaves are opposite: they are arranged in pairs as you look at the stem of the vine. Poison ivy leaves alternate up the vine: left, right, left, right, left, etc.
If you encounter wild clematis in bloom, you will likely be surprised to learn that it has essentially no petals. What nonsense, you might say, as you point to the four white “petals” that surround each bloom. Sadly, you are mistaken, for like bunchberry and poinsettias, these are the sepals, not petals, of the flower. Sepals are modified leaves, usually green and seen at the base of flowers (picture a rose, for example). Some flowers, like the aforementioned bunchberry, poinsettia and clematis, have colored sepals (red, white, pink) that look to the average Joe like petals. It may be only a technical thing, but it’s always nice to have your terminology correct.
I have frankly never noticed the flowers of the wild clematis. I’ve seen photographs that show the vines so loaded with blooms that you’d have to be practically blind to miss them, and based on the number of seedheads I see in the fall, it seems that my vision must indeed be turned inwards when I walk by the vines between July and September when they bloom. Nope, I rarely see the plants until fall, when the wispy, feathery seed tufts appear. And when the sunlight of early morning or late afternoon strikes the tufts and lights them up with a blinding glow, my mind clambers “Those seeds! Those clematis seeds! All my life I’d been searching for seeds such as these.”
While contemplating this article, I searched high and low for interesting tidbits and morsels of folklore that would tantalize even the most laidback of readers, but to no avail. How is it possible that such a visually fascinating plant, which climbs its neighbors by wrapping its leafstalks around them, has no “background color” for the eager nature-writer? The only thing I could find was the warning that the plant is toxic. It contains glycosides, which can cause a severe irritation to the skin (it is in the buttercup family, after all, and this is a trait of most, if not all, buttercups). Even so, many native peoples did use the plant for assorted medicines and ceremonial functions.
Like many native plants, wild clematis has beneficiaries among the local wildlife. Because it blooms late in the season, its blossoms are welcome food sources for many critters, including hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. Bees also find it a good source of late season pollen.
Now that November is here, and our world has turned from the fires of autumn to the greys that presage winter, we can find some solace in the whimsical seeds of clematis, especially in the low slanting light of early morning or late afternoon. If the sun is out and you find your spirits in need of a lift, seek out these plants at the ends of the day, and I guarantee that you will find yourself smiling.
Downhill skiing and riding in the Adirondacks could begin as early as November 27 at both Whiteface and Gore mountains, if freezing conditions allow for making snow this month. But the biggest news in snow sports this winter is the return of two long dormant ski areas (reported here at the Almanack last month), Hickory Ski Center and Big Tupper. Hickory Ski Center, a 1,200-foot resort for expert skiers outside Warrensburg, will reopen this winter for the first time in four years. The legendary Adirondack slope has only a dozen trails, mostly black diamond, and a T-bar and two Poma lifts (famous for breaking down regularly). But the sixty-year-old resort is beloved by hundreds of hard-core skiers. Last year, William Van Pelt, a Saratoga native who now lives in Houston, decided to invest in the property. He’s added some snowmaking and plans to add grooming. Visitors can expect the usual old-fashioned atmosphere of a tiny resort, combined with a few nods to the 21st Century – such as WiFi in the homey base lodge, and a $45 lift ticket.
Meanwhile, in Tupper Lake efforts are under way to open the long-dormant Big Tupper Ski Area. The resort, with about 30 trails and more than a thousand feet of vertical, closed around a decade ago. More recently, developers included the resort in the massive Adirondack Club and Resort, a plan for 600 high-end vacation homes and a hotel. But with the controversial project held up in the permitting process, some locals under the name ARISE, or Area Residents Intent on Saving their Economy, pushed to open at least part of the ski resort on their own this year. According to the web site, lift tickets will be a mind-blowing $15, although that’s subject to change. Plans are to open the resort Dec. 26 on Friday-Sunday as natural snow permits.
Further to the south, McCauley Mountain in Old Forge plans to open on December 12th and another troubled ski resort, Oak Mountain in Speculator, will open the day after Christmas (though tubing begins a month earlier). Oak Mountain, run by the Germain family for five decades, was taken over by the village three years ago. Now owned by the local Industrial Development Agency, the resort is staffed mostly by volunteers. The IDA still hopes to sell it to a private operator – asking price two years ago was $2.4 million. It’s a terrible market now, admits Mayor Neil McGovern. “But a tremendous value.”
Adirondack Ski Resort Details:
Gore Mountain, North Creek Phone: 518-251-2411 Cost for adult: $71 weekend/$64 weekday Vertical drop: 2,300 feet Trails: 82
Best deal: Coke Wednesdays ($38 lift ticket with a can).
What’s new: Gore’s Burnt Ridge opened last year to mixed reviews (their chairlift can be awfully windy and the base lodge access trail is rather flat and tough for snowboarders) — but new terrain is always welcome. This year, the mountain has expanded its Cirque Glade trail and will be running a shuttle bus from the North Creek Ski Bowl to the resort (which means adventurous skiers can ski from the Gore summit all the way down to the bowl, and then catch a ride back). It’s a prequel to an interconnect between the two areas that should be open next winter, and which will vastly increase Gore’s vertical drop.
Best deal: Same as Gore, plus $35 Sundays on Dec. 13, Jan. 10, Feb. 7, March 14 and April 4.
What’s new: Lookout Mountain, open for the second year this winter, will have a new glades area. Look for the National Alpine Championships, here for the first time sine 2003, from March 20 to 23, with men’s and women’s slalom, giant slalom and super G competition.
I’m pleased to announce the addition of Alan Wechsler to the Adirondack Almanack. Alan will be covering the outdoor recreation beat and his regular posts will run on Wednesdays at noon. Alan has been coming to the Adirondacks since his uncle took him on his first backpacking trip—with wet snow, followed by temperatures down to zero degrees—at age 15. He says he still hasn’t learned his lesson. Today, his frequent adventures into the park include mountain-biking, skiing (cross-country and downhill), hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and climbing (both rock and ice). A long-time newspaper reporter and avid outdoor photographer, he also writes for a number of regional and national magazines about the outdoors and other issues. Alan’s recent piece for Adirondack Life, Ski to Die, is an International Regional Magazine Association first-place feature-writing winner.
Got an Adirondack outdoor recreation story idea? Contact him at alwechs at juno dot com.
Doug Hoffman conceded at 12:10 a.m., thanking “every single person out there who joined my team and fought for America. This was the biggest hill I’ve ever faced, and I’m a 46er, so I’ve faced plenty of them.”
The crowd at the Hotel Saranac had thinned but was enthusiastic, especially when the Conservative talked about an unlikely campaign that grew into a phenomenon. They cheered lines like, “We have to remember that a government that serves us everything takes away our freedoms.” “We gotta fight back!’” members of the audience yelled. And they might, in a year, but Hoffman did not get into that tonight.
Hoffman said he called to congratulate Congressman Elect Bill Owens, who will be the first non-Republican to represent the district since the 1850s, and offered to help him to bring jobs to the area. “Let’s work with him together, but let’s make sure we get the message out there: we can’t spend money we don’t have.”
He closed with, “You don’t have to be polished, you don’t have to be poised, you don’t have to be a rock star to be a politician, so let’s all step up to the plate.”
11:00. High hopes of Hoffman supporters have been eroding all evening. Campaign spokesman Rob Ryan has had to alter his vision from sprint to marathon, as the campaigns prepare to unleash the lawyers. There is much talk about absentee ballots. Campaign staff say they might have to spend the night at Hotel Saranac and get results tomorrow, if then. Hangers on wait for an appearance by Doug Hoffman that they expect will be neither concession nor victory speech.
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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