Monday, March 10, 2008

Adirondack Hacks

Randomly organized links to ideas for making life in the Adirondacks just a little bit easier – technology tools and tips, do-it-yourself projects, and anything else that offers a more interesting, more convenient, or healthier way of life in our region.

Build A Homemade Maple Syrup Boiler

Find NCPR On The Dial and On The Map

Grow The Perfect Handlebar Mustache

Learn Easy Bar Tricks

Adirondack Hacks is an occasional feature of Adirondack Almanack. Take a look at our Adirondack Hacks archive here.


Friday, February 29, 2008

Adirondack Snowmobiling: Resources, Conditions, and Controversy

This winter, after a number of years of lackluster snow conditions, Adirondack snowmobiling has once again made a resurgence. Here are a few things about Adirondack snowmobiling you should know:

Snowmobile Trails
The Adirondacks are criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails. A free Adirondack Snowmobile Trail Map is available here. Trailsource is also an excellent resource for New York State snowmobile trails.

Snowmobile Conditions
Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude.

Current Northeast Snow Depths

Snowmobile Online Resources
Snowmobile forums offer sled fanatics discussions of videos, people offering sleds or parts for sale and other classifieds, snow tech, snowmobile politics, vintage snowmobiles, and any number of topics related to sledding. Some of the more popular are:

Trail Conditions.com
Snowmobile Forum
Snowmobile Fanatics
Net Sleds
Snowmobile World

Snowmobile History
Our post on the history of snowmobiling in the Adirondacks tracks the development of the snowmobile (or more generally, motorized snow travel) from the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, through the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. The five part history continues into the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. It concludes with the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region.

Snowmobiling Controversy
The DEC and the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation are developing a Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondack Park. The plan will establish a baseline for creating a comprehensive and integrated Adirondack Park snowmobile trail system. It also establishes standards for developing and maintaining trails on DEC managed lands in the Adirondacks. Despite the excitement of some snowmobile clubs who have misrepresented the plan’s goals and effects by claiming that it will mean no new trails in the Adirondacks, the plan will likely call for the establishment of long-awaited new connector trails between towns.

The DEC press release on the snowmobile plan

Opposition from The New York State Snowmobile Association

Opposition from Winter Wildlands: Snowmobiles Stress Wildlife In Winter

New York Times Article Snowmobilers vs. Hikers in the Adirondacks

The APA is accepting comments on the plan until March 4, 2008.

Snowmobile Safety
Statewide there were nine people were killed on snowmobiles in December 2007. In January 2008 an ATV and two snowmobiles went through the ice on Lake Pleasant in Hamilton County and a snowmobile went through the ice on Lake George in Warren County. Worse news came in February 2008 however, with the tragic deaths of three snowmobilers within five days on Trail 7C connecting Boonville and Forestport.

The winter of 2007-2008 has claimed 18 snowmobilers lives so far (the deadliest sledding season was 2002-2003 when 31 riders died, their were 10 fatalities in New York in the 2006-2007 season and 14 the year before that). Snowmobiling can be dangerous. Use common sense and avoid thin ice on lakes and rivers, and high speeds on trails.

Take a minute to think about snowmobile safety and make others aware of the potential dangers:

Take the Safe Riders Online Quiz


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

African American History – Essex County Expulsions?

It’s February and that means a post on some aspect of African American history in the Adirondacks.
Here is last year’s popular list of stories.

I recently discovered that one of the Almanack‘s posts, The Ku Klux Klan in the Adirondacks, had been used for the companion website of the new PBS documentary film Banished: American Ethnic Cleansings. As a result of the attention, I thought I’d dig a little deeper on the issue of racial cleansing and the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Seven Human Made Wonders of the Adirondacks

In no particular order, Adirondack Almanack’s list of Seven Human Made Wonders of the Adirondacks. Our list of the Seven Natural Wonders can be found here. Feel free to add your comments and suggestions.

Whiteface Memorial Highway
Although Lake George’s Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway deserves honorable mention, the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway deserves a spot on our list of wonders. Considered a test case for both the New Deal Works Progress Administration and the constitutional protection of the Forest Preserve, construction began in 1929 (after passage of the necessary amendment) and eventually cost 1.2 million dollars. The completed road, an eight-mile climb (at 8 percent average grade) from the crossroads in Wilmington, comes within 400 feet of the summit of the fifth highest mountain in the Adirondacks. New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt announced at the groundbreaking that a “distinguished French engineer” had driven the road and told him, “I, of course, know all of the great mountain highways of Europe. There is no highway in all of Europe which can compare for its engineering skill, for its perfection of detail, with the White Face Mountain Highway of the State of New York.” When the road was completed, F.D.R. (by then President of the United States) officially opened the route on July 20, 1935 and dedicated it to the “veterans of the Great War.” In his closing remarks F.D.R. said “I wish very much that it were possible for me to walk up the few remaining feet to the actual top of the mountain. Some day they are going to make it possible for people who cannot make the little climb to go up there in a comfortable and easy elevator.” The result of F.D.R’s desire is the 424-foot tunnel into the core of the mountain that ends in a elevator which rises 276 feet (about 27 stories) to the summit.

Fort Ticonderoga
Although the earliest archeological evidence of Indian settlement dates to 8,000 B.C. (and Native Americans were planting crops there as early as 1,000 B.C.), the first fort built there by Europeans was Fort Carillon constructed by the French in 1755-1758 during the French and Indian War. It’s location at the narrow strip of land between Lake Champlain and Lake George meant that the fort, called the “key to the continent,” controlled the northern portion of America‘s most important north-south travel route through the earl 19th century. Its impressive placement atop the cliffs and its European design kept it from being taken by an overwhelming British force under General Abercromby in 1758. It was taken the following year under General Amherst and again on May 10, 1775, when Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys surprised the sleeping British garrison. It was retaken by the British in July 1777 by General Burgoyne who managed to place cannon on Mount Defiance overlooking the fort. In 1820, William Ferris Pell bought the ruins and in 1908 Stephen and Sarah Gibbs Thompson Pell began restoration. The following year it was opened to the public (President Taft was on hand) and in 1931 Fort Ticonderoga was designated a not-for-profit educational historic site managed by the Fort Ticonderoga Association.

The Adirondack Museum
Some day the Wild Center in Tupper Lake may make this list, but until then the Aidirondack Museum owns the title Adirondack wonder. The brainchild of mining baron Harold Hochschild, the museum has recently reached its 50th year preserving the heritage of the Adirondacks. Although it began as a small endeavor it has become a must see attraction of 32 acres and 22 buildings. Nearly 3 million visitors have seen the exhibits on mining, logging, boating, recreation, and the environment and culture of the Adirondacks. It is the single largest collection of Adirondack artifacts, including thousands of books (60 published by the museum), periodicals, manuscripts, maps and government documents, over 2,500 original works of art, 70,000 photographs, 300 boats and wheeled vehicles, and a large collection of rustic furniture, art, and architecture. Highlights include the Marion River Carry Railroad engine passenger car and the carriage that brought Vice President Theodore Roosevelt to North Creek the night President William McKinley was assassinated.

North Country Public Radio
Founded at St. Lawrence University and now celebrating their 40th year, today’s North Country Public Radio is a network of stations broadcast from 30 fm transmitters and translators from the Canadian frontier to Western Vermont and south into Hudson Valley. Its regional and national news, public affairs, and music programs have become a part of Adirondack culture in a way that gives NCPR a place on our list of Adirondack wonders. Whether its a ham dinner in Placid, a lost dog in the Keene Valley, a fire in Pottersville, or a political event in Saranac or Tupper, NCPR reaches over, around, and seemingly through the mountains and into our homes in ways nothing else in the North Country does. That’s a wonder in itself.

Keeseville Stone Arch Bridge
Workers building the historic Stone Arch Bridge over the AuSable River on Main Street in Keeseville had a close call in 1842. The bridge of native stone, believed at the time to be the largest such bridge in the country, was being built to replace the original wooden structure erected in 1805. The men had completed the first course of stone including the keystones and had nearly finished the second course when a violent storm blew in. Just as more then 30 men fled the storm’s heavy rain to a wooden shed on the bank of the river, the entire bridge collapsed into the AuSable with a thunderous crash said to have shaken buildings as far away as Port Kent. Since then it’s done quiet service. Rehabilitated in 2000 and now carrying more than 5,500 vehicles a day, the bridge still stands as a testament to Adirondack engineering. Its total length is over one hundred feet with 90 foot stone arch span.

Santa’s Workshop
Each year more and more of the region’s theme parks fade into oblivion. Those that have been lost include Old McDonald’s Farm (Lake Placid), The Land of Make Believe (Upper Jay), Frontier Town (North Hudson), Storytown (now the corporate Great Escape), Gaslight Village (Lake George), and Time Town (Bolton Landing). Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY seems the last of a breed and some of the remaining (and still operational in its original context) handiwork of Arto Monaco. Monaco was the local artist who designed sets for MGM and Warner Brothers, a fake German village in the Arizona desert to train World War II soldiers, and later his own Land of Make Believe (as well as parts of Storytown, Gaslight Village, and Frontier Town). Lake Placid businessman Julian Reiss’s Santa’s workshop opened July 1, 1949 and included a very early prototype petty zoo; it received its own zip code (12946) in 1953. A record daily attendance occurred in 1951 when 14,000 people walked through the gates. Julian’s son Bob Reiss took over the operation in the early 1970s, but the number of visitors has continued to drop with the park closing in 2001 only to reopen, hopefully for good.

Lake Placid Sports Complex

From the early competitions at the Lake Placid Club to the modern Olympic Training Facility, the sports complexes in and around Lake Placid have been bringing the sports world to our doorsteps for over a hundred years. Most are familiar with the stats: 12 awards in each the 1932 and 1980 games; Jack’s Shea two gold medals (the first American to win two gold medals at the same Olympics); figure skater-turned movie star Sonja Henie’s second of three consecutive Olympic gold medals, speed skater Eric Heiden’s five medal sweep (including one world record); “The Miracle” of 1980. After the 1980 Games, the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) combined under one management Whiteface, the bobsled, luge, cross-country ski and biathlon facilities at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, the Olympic Center, the speed skating oval, and the jumping complex. Since then ORDA has hosted hundreds of major national and international events, including world championships and world cup competitions in bobsled, luge, skeleton, alpine racing, ski jumping, speed skating, freestyle skiing and snowboarding. The Olympic Training facility opened in 1988 (one of only three in the country) and includes a 96-room dormitory that meets the needs of more than 6,000 athletes a year. The Lake Placid facilities are in one of only three communities in the world to have hosted two Winter Olympics, and that alone makes them an Adirondack wonder.

What do you think?

Fire away – let us know which Adirondack human and natural constructed things/places are the most significant, must-see attractions, marvels of engineering, historically important, or have other significance that makes them one of your top seven?

Remember – two lists – one for the human-made wonders, one for natural wonders.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Seven Natural Wonders of the Adirondacks

Here is (in no particular order) Adirondack Almanack’s List of the Seven Natural Wonders of the Adirondacks. The Seven Human-Made Wonders can be found here. Feel free to add your comments and suggestions. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Seven Wonders of the Adirondacks

I’ve posted the Adirondack Almanack’s lists of Seven Natural and Human Made Wonders of the Adirondacks here:

The Seven Natural Wonders of the Adirondacks
The Seven Human Made Wonders of the Adirondacks

The contest winner and a recap of readers’ suggestions can be found here.

I’ve closed the comments on this page, but you can still leave comments and suggestions on the two pages of lists above.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Seven Wonders of the Adirondacks Contest Winner

We had a lot of entries that offered some great suggestions for a final list of the Natural and Human Made Wonders of the Adirondack Region.

For natural wonders folks seem to have generally gone for parts of the Ausable, Hudson, Sacandaga, and Bog rivers. Although the views from various mountains (notably Blue Mountain, Pyramid, and Whiteface) and various waterfalls (Split Rock, Bog River, Buttermilk, and OK Slip falls) also figured prominently in submissions. The St. Regis Canoe Area was also a favorite.

As far as man-made wonders, the Lake Placid Olympic Complex was a obvious favorite. A number of bridges made the submission list, including those at Crown Point, at the head of Tupper, and the Jay Covered Bridge. Various trails made the list as well, including the 10 Waterfall hike from the Ausable Club and the trails around the VIC at Paul Smiths – the Whiteface Memorial Highway was a favorite. A number of old camps such as Foxx Lair, White Pine and the other Great Camps made the list of suggestions and so did a few tourist spots like Lake George’s House of Frankenstien, the Saranac Lake Ice Palace, and Hoss’s Country Corner in Long Lake. One joker suggested a cell tower and another more serious suggestion was “all the various
delicious blogs floating around the region.”

Our contest winner, chosen at random using random.com’s List Randomizer was RonV who wins himself a copy of Rosemary Miner Pelky’s Adirondack Bridgebuilder from Charleston. The book tells the story of Robert Codgell Gilchrist, a Confederate Major who came to the Adirondacks a year after the Civil War ended and built the first suspension bridge over the Hudson River in 1871 at Washburn’s Eddy near Rapairius (then called Riverside). Congratulations!

Adirondack Almanack’s lists of wonders are here:

The Seven Natural Wonders of the Adirondacks
The Seven Human Made Wonders of the Adirondacks

You can still leave comments and suggestions on the two pages above.


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Last Chance: Seven Wonders of the Adirondacks Contest

A quick reminder that this Saturday is the last day to enter our Seven Wonders of the Adirondacks contest.

Which human and natural constructed things/places inside the Adirondack Park’s Blue Line are the most significant, must-see attractions, marvels of engineering, historically important, or have other significance that makes them one of the top seven?

I’ll be offering an Adirondack related gift to one lucky person who puts their choice or choices into the comments. Chosen at random – one entry per person (anonymous comments won’t count for this one).

Remember – two lists – one for the human-made wonders, one for natural wonders.

Submit your entries over here.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Adirondack Hacks

Randomly organized links to ideas for making life in the Adirondacks just a little bit easier – technology tools and tips, do-it-yourself projects, and anything else that offers a more interesting, more convenient, or healthier way of life in our region.

Build Your Own Astronomical Observatory

Make A Floating Pipe Shelf

Properly Align Your Satellite Dish

Do It Yourself Adirondack Chair

BitTorrent For Beginners

Adirondack Hacks is an occasional feature of Adirondack Almanack. Take a look at our Adirondack Hacks archive here.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spitzer’s Budget Proposals: Adirondack Edition

The latest on Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Budget Proposals courtesy of John F. Sheehan
Communications Director of The Adirondack Council:

Below is a summary of the NYS Budget as it relates to the Adirondack Park and the NYS Environmental Protection Fund.

Adirondack Park Agency

Budget same as last year ($6.2 million; $700,000 is federal money)

Staff remains the same at 72

$350,000 increase for computers and cars (located in DEC’s capital projects budget)

Olympic Regional Development Authority

– State Budget would rise to $8.6 million

– Total budget $32 million – they get most of their revenue from lift tickets

– $400,000 increase (benefits, retirement)

– staff level stays the same at 203

Department of Environmental Conservation

– Total budget $1.1 billion

– Decrease of $31 million from last year

– half of that decrease caused by reductions in federal aid

– DEC will eliminate some local and regional initiatives to compensate

– Total employees up by 4 to 3,752 (two of the 4 are likely to be assigned to invasive species control programs)

Environmental Protection Fund

Total of $250 million (guaranteed in statute) – $25 million could be added if the Bigger Better Bottle Bill is approved

Land

$66 million of the $250 is for open space protection statewide – that means purchases of new public lands and parks, conservation easements (development-limiting agreements with private landowners).

The other $184 million will go into the two other broad categories: Municipal recycling and solid waste projects and state parks, historic preservation and zoos/botanical gardens.

Additional Projects/Other Changes

Masten House – $125,000 from the EPF goes to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to purchase and rehabilitate the Masten House, on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus, Town of Newcomb, Essex County. It will become a forestry research facility for the college, which owns nearby Huntington Experimental Forest. The college is based in Syracuse.

There are also three new categories in the EPF from which money may be drawn for specific purposes:

1. Air quality enforcement (only vague details available)

2. Renewable solar energy (community college tech training programs)

3. Farmland protection (plastic-waste and pesticide management programs)

Smart Growth Back at Department of State

This grant program to encourage environmentally sound community planning rises from $2 million to $2.5 million. It was transferred back to the Department of State, where the program started, after spending one year under DEC’s supervision in 2007.

The Sweep-Out

This is the worst news of the day, but not quite unexpected. Due to the $4.5-billion budget shortfall projected by the comptroller, the Governor will “borrow” $100 million of the unspent funds of previous EPFs. This is the largest sweep-out proposed since Governor Pataki started this distasteful practice more than five years ago.

Since the EPF was created in 1993, a total of $322 million in unspent EPF revenue has been diverted to other state purposes. If the Governor’s proposal is accepted, that amount would jump to $422 million in unredeemed IOUs. That would be nearly two years’ worth of missing revenues.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Adirondack Region Martin Luther King Jr Day Events

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is this Monday, January 21, 2008.

According to a press release from Adirondack Progressives: » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Seven Wonders of the Adirondacks Contest Final Days

A quick reminder that there are only a few days left to enter our Seven Wonders of the Adirondacks contest. We’ll be accepting entries until February 1st.

Which human and natural constructed things/places inside the Adirondack Park’s Blue Line are the most significant, must-see attractions, marvels of engineering, historically important, or have other significance that makes them one of the top seven?

I’ll be offering an Adirondack related gift to one lucky person who puts their choice or choices into the comments. Chosen at random – one entry per person (anonymous comments won’t count for this one).

Remember – two lists – one for the human-made wonders, one for natural wonders.

Submit your entries over here.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gaslight Village: Lake George Fun Yesterday

I thought I’d take a look at the history of the one of the more popular Adirondack theme parks – Lake George’s Gaslight Village.

Gaslight Village opened in 1959 and was run by Charley Wood. Charley already owned a number of investments including Holiday House on the shores of Lake George, and Storytown, U.S.A., an amusement park with a Mother Goose rhymes theme (later expanded with Ghost Town, a western boot-hill theme, and Jungle Land, an animal park) which he opened in 1954. He later went on to build the Tiki Resort (now a Howard Johnson’s), a short lived wax museum, Sun Castle resort, and more. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Adirondack Blogs and Local Media: A Comparison

During the recent WAMC-NCPR flap, Adirondack Almanack, Musing of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian, and Adirondack Musing, all covered the story (in our opinion) better then the local mainstream media and with deeper insight. While we might not expect local mainstream media outlets to mention by name any of the blogs’ more in depth coverage and commentary, we also would expect that when they draw directly from blogs for content they would give credit where credit is due.

When WAMC withdrew its offending application, the Times Union’s business reporter Chris Churchill committed a journalistic no-no by claiming “Some observers suggested the fight between the public radio networks was about money. Lake Placid, they said, is a relatively wealthy community that’s potentially fruitful for public radio stations largely dependent on contributions for their survival.” Those “some observers” were Adirondack Almanack and MoFYC who the Times Union didn’t bother to mention by name. That’s some reporting despite the absolute failure of local media to cover one of the larger trends to hit our area in some time. There are now more than 75 blogs in the Adirondack region, and hundreds more in the coverage area of local media. Not only does it show the failure of local mainstream media to do anything other than follow the pack, it also hints at just how scared they are of citizen journalism.

This recalls the Blog-Times long bet. In 2002, Blogger Dave Winer bet New York Times executive Martin Nisenholtz that: “In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times’ Web site.” The results show that the blogs won the bet, but the real winner was Wikipedia – you’ll remember the claims the Almanack made about wikis some time ago. Wikis are another topic ignored by local mainstream media.

I decided to conduct a search of the top Adirondack stories of 2007 and see how blogs show up against local mainstream media. Here are the results:

#10 Nature Conservancy Purchases 161,000 Acres
bldgblog ranked fifth. The Albany Times Union ranked seventh. Winner: blogs

#9 Lake George Workers Exploited
Albany Times Union ranked first. Deacon’s Blog ranked eleventh. Winner: mainstream media

#8 The Failure of Big Sky Airlines
Press Republican ranked thirty third. No blog ranked less than fifty. Winner: mainstream media

#7 Adirondack Hermit Alan Como
Adirondack Base Camp ranked first. The Glens Falls Post Star ranked second. Winner: blogs

#6 The NCPR – WAMC Flap
NCPR ranked first. The Adirondack Almanack ranked third. Winner: mainstream media

#5 Adirondack Global Warming Impacts
Adirondack Almanack ranked fifth. NCPR ranked twenty-fifth. Winner: blogs

#4 Changes in DEC, APA, and ORDA (we used Curt Stiles)
NCPR ranked eighth. Adirondack Almanack ranked seventeenth. Winner: mainstream media

#3 Adirondack Health Care (We used Hudson Headwaters)
The Glens Falls Post Star ranked forty-third. No blogs ranked under fifty. Winner: mainstream media

#2 Adirondacks State Tax Payments
Adirondack Musing ranked first. The Press Republican ranked second. Winner: blogs

#1 Northway Cell Towers
The Press Republican ranked first. Adirondack Almanack ranked tenth. Winner: mainstream media

The overall winner, 6 to 4, is the mainstream media. If NCPR was thrown out of coverage of itself, Adirondack Almanack would have made the overall contest a tie.

Obviously this little exercise is not very scientific but it’s clear that over the past year local blogs have begun to take their place alongside local mainstream media on the Internet. Blogs like Adirondack Almanack and Adirondack Musing have been around for only a few years – the mainstream media players in the Adirondack region have been around for decades, and have paid web experts and a stable of reporters on their staffs. Most local blogs are the work of one or two people.

Clearly something is happening in local media – wouldn’t it be nice if local media took notice?


Thursday, January 10, 2008

State of the State: Adirondack Report

The full text of Eliot Spitzer’s State of the State Address is here. An e-mail today from John Sheehan (Communications Director for the The Adirondack Council) outlined the “three major environmental initiatives” Spitzer announced:

1. A $100 million investment in state park infrastructure including buildings and wastewater treatment/sanitary facilities, as well as an effort to make existing and new buildings accessible to people with disabilities. Many state campgrounds and park buildings are causing water pollution in nearby lakes and rivers due to aging and inadequate facilities. The Adirondack Park has about a dozen state-run campgrounds.

2. Smart Metering: This would change the way power companies bill their customers to allow consumers to take advantage of off-peak power rates when running power-hungry appliances such as dishwashers, laundry machines, irrigation pumps, etc.

3. Net Metering: This would allow power customers to reduce or eliminate their power bills by installing clean power generating equipment (solar panels, small wind turbines, etc.). Power companies would be required to buy back any excess power generated by these private, home- and business-based systems. Several owners of large Adirondack great camps and resort compounds have said they want the ability to control their costs, reduce power outages and help pay for the investment in renewable energy by selling the extra power back to the power company.

I have copies of pdfs that explain each if anyone is interested.