I love fire towers – and fire wardens. They remind me of my youth and the excitement of finding a firetower and firewarden tending it, and weaving stories around the campfire about the fire warden living on the flanks of a wild mountain.
Interpreting Adirondack cultural and environmental history from a firetower is important work being undertaken by wonderful volunteers and some Forest Rangers in the Adirodnack Park. Our Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) acts in the spirit of an educational and interpretive force for the Park by participating actively in the restoration and educational use of the 20 or so firetowers in Wild Forest areas, such as the Bald Mountain Fire Tower above Old Forge and Inlet, Hadley Mountain in Saratoga County, Azure Mountain in Franklin County, Wakely Mountain firetower in Hamilton County, and many others. » Continue Reading.
White Pine Camp, originally built in 1907, became the Summer White House in 1926 for President Calvin Coolidge. Situated among 35 acres of land, White Pine Camp houses 18 buildings and an interesting architectural history. We walk past the single story guest cottages with asymmetrical rooflines and marvel over the trees growing through the covered decks.
My children run outside the cottages and then back in to confirm that the trees are indeed alive. They are not as interested in the brainstorm siding (rough-hewed clapboards) as in the bowling alley, boathouse and footbridge to the Japanese teahouse. Stuffed animals have a different connotation at White Pine Camp than at our house. Our guide urges us to the Great Room. My daughter wonders about a “great room” full of toys. She quickly returns to us to report her discovery that animals at White Pine are not only stuffed but mounted.
My son tests his navigational skills by returning to the tennis court unattended while I stay at the New Boathouse and review the historical exhibit. Soon after we reunite and start the return trek, passing the Fred Huette Alpine Rock Garden.
Guided tours are available on Saturdays through Labor Day Weekend at 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; adults are $10 and children $5. Though White Pine Camp is privately owned, the tours are organized through the Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH). Please call 518-834-9328 for additional information.
“At Adirondack Architectural Heritage, we provide a tour guide as part of our mission to educate people on the history, architecture and the historic buildings of the Adirondack Park. White Pine Camp is an important part of heritage,” says Program Director Susan Area. “White Pine Camp, having been host to President Calvin Coolidge, is a wonderful example of a Great Camp. We appreciate that the owners of White Pine Camp allow us to continue to expose people to this privately owned camp. The funds we do raise go back to our organization to further our mission to educate the public on Adirondack buildings. White Pine Camp is a unique set-up to our other tours.”
Adirondack Architectural Heritage conducts over 30 daylong tours all summer to sites of historical and architectural interest that range from downtown walking tours to planned cottage communities to great camps to industrial and agricultural sites that are all relative to the development of the Adirondack Park.
The historical tour is not the only option. A free guided nature walk is available on Tuesday mornings by calling White Pine Camp directly at 518-327-3030 to reserve a spot.
Edward Kanze leads the free walks. Kanze is a licensed guide and proprietor of the Adirondack Naturalist Company as well as a renowned wildlife photographer. He has authored five books and has written for numerous magazines. He brings his extensive knowledge of the Adirondack wilderness to each interpretive walk. This walk covers the vast lands around White Pine Camp and adds another element to the history of the property. Though the walk is free, reservations are recommended due to the popularity of the event.
To get to White Pine Camp take Route 30 north to the Route 86 junction at Paul Smith’s College. Turn NE onto Route 86 for ½ mile. White Pine Road will be on the left.
In 1916, the New York Commissioner of Agriculture reported that Essex County is “by far the most broken and mountainous section of the state.” In spite of the fact that “only about one-third of the area of the county is in farms and only about one-eighth improved farms, yet there is a remarkably good report of agricultural production.” County farmers produced 96,383 bushels of corn in 1915, along with barley, oats, buckwheat, potatoes, and hay and forage.
Corn has long been a staple food in the Americas. It is a domesticated plant, bred from a wild grass native to southern Mexico nearly 7,000 years ago. Its use as a cultivated food plant in the northeastern United States began about 1,000 years ago. Although the Adirondack climate is not generally conducive to agriculture, there are pockets in the valleys and surrounding areas where the growing season is long enough, and the soil rich enough, to grow corn. The vegetable was one of the staples of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) diet. European settlers in the region grew corn where they could, not only to feed themselves, but to feed their livestock as well. As settlement and tourism in the region grew, Adirondack hotels and resorts kept kitchen gardens to feed guests. Adirondack families grew their own vegetables, preserving what they did not eat in season for the long winter months. Locally grown corn was featured on the menu for human and animal consumption.
Although the Commissioner’s 1916 report indicating that most crops grown in Essex County were produced “for the supply of camps, cottages, hotels, and summer tourists,” by the late 1800s, some northern New York farms were growing enough corn to export to wholesale dealers in cities like Boston, Syracuse, Rochester, Watertown and New York City.
During the Depression, newspapers like the Malone Farmer offered advice on creating healthy and inexpensive meals. In October, 1931, readers were advised that “as for cost, corn preparations are among the more economical of the common foods. Two pounds for five cents is the average price per pound by bulk for both corn meal and hominy.”
A regular column, called the “Market Basket,” offered readers tips on shopping, canning, cooking, and sample menus. The May 20th, 1931 edition also included a recipe for corn soup:
2 cups canned crushed corn 1 cup water 1 quart milk 1 onion, cut in halves 1 tablespoon flour 4 tablespoons butter Salt to taste Pepper
Combine the corn and the water, cook for 10 minutes, and stir constantly to keep from sticking to the pan. Press the corn through a strainer. Heat the milk and the onion in the double boiler and thicken with the flour and fat, which have been well blended. Add the corn pulp, salt, and pepper, Heat, remove the onion, and serve. Buttered popcorn makes an interesting substitute for croutons to serve with corn soup.
Adirondack farmers hosted “husking bees” during harvest. Families and neighbors gathered together to remove cornhusks before cooking for a crowd. In Willsboro, an unidentified farmer or family member used a small wooden peg, pointed on one end and held with a strap of leather to the thumb as an aid in removing husks from many ears of corn. Made by hand near the turn of the 20th century, it would have made such a repetitive task easier.
Come see the corn husker (76.163.12), and other corn-relates artifacts in ‘Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, on exhibit this season through October 18, 2010.
Corn Husker Found in Willsboro, NY ca. 1890-1930 76.163.12 Gift of Dennis Wells
Outdoor enthusiasts have a new tool to help plan their trip to visit any of the 2,500 miles of recreational trails throughout New York, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials have announced. DEC’s Mapping Gateway has been expanded with information that enables the public to use Google Earth and other mapping tools to find trails and learn more about the state lands that surround them.
DEC’s Mapping Gateway combines existing web mapping applications and map collections with new offerings, such as a full-featured, interactive data inventory and map viewer. DEC continues to expand the availability of “Virtual Globe” data (http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/42978.html) to provide a variety of interactive aerial map representations using virtual globe software such as Google Earth. In addition, some data has been incorporated into Google Maps – which does not require any software downloads – to provide an even more accessible way for people to obtain DEC’s information.
The Mapping Gateway now includes information about 2,446 miles of recreational trails that DEC manages, including:
* Hiking Trails. * Cross-Country Ski Trails. * Horse Trails. * Trails open to motor vehicle use by people with “Motorized Access Program for People With Disabilities” (MAPPWD) permits. * Mountain Bike Trails. * Snowmobile Trails.
In addition to the trail information, visitors can click on the trail and find out the location, features and regional contact information for the forest, wildlife management area, or other state land on which the trail is located. DEC advises the public to check with the regional office covering the destination being visited to make sure trails and roads are open and if any advisories are in effect.
The new features announced today are in addition to Mapping Gateway enhancements rolled out last year for fishing, boating, bird watching and more. Other map offerings that can be used with Google Earth include the locations of ecological zones, brownfields, dams, and bulk storage facilities.
Instructions are available on the DEC website for those needing information about how to download and use the Google Earth software. By using Google and leveraging existing technology that many people are already familiar with, DEC is able to reduce software development costs. In addition, the available data is compatible with other virtual globe software like ArcGIS Explorer and NASA’s WorldWind, enabling the public to use the data in many different contexts.
Several months ago, I confessed here on Adirondack Almanack that I once saw a cougar—or thought I did. I say “confessed,” because if you tell people you saw a cougar in the Adirondacks, some of them will look at you funny.
Others will tell you about their own cougar sighting.
I’m bringing up cougars again because the Adirondack Explorer recently received an interesting letter from Don Leadley, a longtime outdoorsman from Lake Pleasant. Leadley responded to an Explorer column written by our publisher, Tom Woodman, discussing our endless fascination with the possibility that cougars may be living in our midst. » Continue Reading.
On May 9, 1903, a seemingly minor error led to a terrible catastrophe near Old Forge in the southwestern Adirondacks. About seven miles south on Route 28 was Nelson Lake siding (a side rail, or pullover) on the Mohawk & Malone Railroad (an Adirondack branch of the New York Central). A little farther down the line from Nelson Lake was the village of McKeever.
That fateful day started like any other. From Malone, New York, about 90 miles northeast of Nelson Lake, train No. 650 (six cars) was heading south on its route that eventually led to Utica. At around 8:00 that morning and some 340 miles south of Malone, train No. 651 of the Adirondack and Montreal Express departed New York City. At 1:05 pm, it passed Utica, beginning the scenic run north through the mountains. The original plan called for the northbound 651 to pass through McKeever and pull off on the siding at Nelson Lake, allowing the southbound 650 to continue on its way. It was a routine maneuver. On this particular trip, the 651 northbound (normally a single train) was divided into two parts. The intent was to pull both parts aside simultaneously at Nelson Lake siding.
However, the 2nd unit heading north was traveling much slower than the nine cars of the 1st unit, prompting a change in plans. Because of the distance between the two units, it was ordered that the train from Malone (the 650) would meet the 1st section of 651 at Nelson Lake. Three miles down the line, it would meet the 2nd section at McKeever.
The actual written order said “2nd 651 at McKeever.” An official investigation later determined that the order was read to the engineman and then handed to him. But, when later reviewing the note, his thumb had covered the “2nd” on the order. All he saw was “651 at McKeever.” As far as he knew, he would pass both parts of the 651 at the McKeever side rail.
When the southbound 650 train approached Nelson Lake, the engineer believed there was no reason to reduce speed. He passed the Nelson siding at between 50 and 60 miles per hour. Just 1,000 feet past the side rail, the 650 suddenly encountered Unit 1 of the northbound 651. It was traveling at about 10 to 15 miles per hour, slowing for the upcoming turn onto the side rail at Nelson Lake. It didn’t make it.
The 650’s whistle blew and the emergency brake was engaged, slowing the train slightly before the tremendous collision. A newspaper report described “a roaring crash, a rending of iron and wood, a cloud of dust and splinters, and the trains were a shattered mass. The locomotives reared and plunged into the ditch on either side of the track.”
The impact had the least effect on the last occupied car of each train, but even those passengers were thrown from their seats, suffering minor injuries. The two trains had a total of 16 cars, half of which were splintered and piled atop each other.
While all the cars were badly damaged, it was the front of both trains that suffered most. Several of the lead cars were completely destroyed. Others telescoped within each other, causing horrific injuries. Screams of pain drew help from those who were less impaired.
The two trains carried more than 200 passengers. Nearly everyone suffered some type of injury from flying bits of glass and metal. Some victims were pinned within the wreckage, and a few were thrown through windows. Thirty-seven (mostly from the 650) required hospitalization.
Three passengers suffered critical injuries, including at least one amputation. There were dozens of broken bones and dangerous cuts. When some of the damaged cars ignited, passengers and railroad employees joined forces to extinguish the flames. Others performed rescue missions, removing victims and lining them up side-by-side near the tracks for treatment.
Three men were killed in the accident. Frank Foulkes, conductor of the northbound train (651), was later found in a standing position, crushed to death by the baggage that surged forward from the suddenness of the impact. John Glen, Union News Company agent on the southbound train (650), was killed when he was caught between two cars. William Yordon, fireman on the 650, died in his engine, scalded to death by the steam, like the hero of the song “Wreck of the Old 97.” Another report said that Yordon’s head was crushed.
A surgeon and a few doctors arrived from Old Forge, tending to the wounded. Trains were dispatched from Malone and Utica to haul the injured passengers both north and south. Another train set forth from Utica, carrying several more doctors to the scene.
The northbound 651 wasn’t only carrying human passengers that day. A theatrical company, performing A Texas Steer at various theaters and opera houses, was on board, including a variety of animals. Identified as the Bandit King Company, the troupe had a special horse car for animals belonging to the show.
When the collision forced the door open, a horse leaped out and ran off. Others weren’t so lucky. A passenger reported that the trained donkey, the pigs, and most of the other animals were killed. Amidst the chaos and their own losses, the men and women performers provided first aid for the injured until doctors arrived. They were later praised effusively for their efforts.
It took a 40-man crew four days to clear the wreckage from the massive pileup. The official report to the New York State Senate by the superintendent of the Grade Crossing Bureau in 1904 cited the engineman’s finger as the probable cause of the accident.
Top Photo: 1912 map of the Nelson Lake area 7 miles southwest of Old Forge. The extra tracks at Nelson Lake indicate the siding.
Bottom Photo: Unfortunate thumb placement inadvertently led to tragedy.
Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is encouraging New Yorkers to participate in the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey, which kicks off in August.
Since 1996, DEC has conducted the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey to estimate the average number of wild turkey poults (young of the year) per hen statewide and among major geographic regions of the state. This index allows DEC to gauge turkey populations and enables wildlife managers to predict fall harvest potential. Weather, predation and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival. During the month of August, survey participants record the sex and age composition of all flocks of wild turkeys observed during normal travel. Those who want to participate can download a Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey form from the DEC website to record your observations. Detailed instructions can be found with the data sheet. Survey cards can also be obtained by contacting your regional DEC office, by calling (518) 402-8886, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org (type “Turkey Survey” in the subject line).
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold three public hearings regarding the assessment of alternatives to amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP)related to the fire towers in the St. Regis Canoe Area and Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area. The APA is also accepting written comments on this matter until August 25, 2010.
The past decade has been one of rapid transformation in the Adirondack Park according to North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann, who will discuss this phenomenon and its implications for the future in a program entitled “Adirondack Park 3.0” on Monday, August 2, 2010 at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.
Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members. NCPR’s Adirondack Bureau Chief, Mann has been on the front lines during ten years of change in the Park. He will lead a discussion of how environmental stewardship and community sustainability are being changed by new technology, new ecological threats, and a new political landscape.
Brian Mann has covered rural America for twenty years, working for public radio stations and networks from Alaska to New York. His award winning stories appear regularly on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. In 2005 and 2006, Mann won four separate Edward R. Murrow Awards.
In addition to his work for NCPR, Mann is a commentator for Mountain Lake Public Television. He is the author of Welcome to the Homeland: A Journey to the Rural Heart of America’s Conservative Revolution. He lives in Saranac Lake, N.Y. with his wife and son.
Governor David Paterson has proclaimed August as Forest Pest Awareness Month in New York State. Working with their northeast neighboring states, officials in New York are hoping to take the opportunity to educate citizens throughout the State about the risks associated with forest pests and pathogens, and the actions they can take to help safeguard New York’s valuable and abundant forests.
Throughout the month of August, Agriculture and Markets officials will be providing training for children and citizen groups to share information detection and identification, as well as reporting procedures for forest pests. Information will be focused on the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB), the State’s two highest profile and most serious forest pest threats that have a confirmed presence in New York State. » Continue Reading.
The Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway, in Wilmington, N.Y., celebrated its 75th birthday on July 20th. At a cost of $1.2 million, construction of the winding roadway began in 1929 and was a part of the Depression Era public works projects. The highway opened to automobile traffic July 20, 1935 and the official opening ceremony took place later that year, in September.
During the opening ceremony celebration, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was New York’s Governor when ground was broken for the eight-mile long stretch of roadway, dedicated it to the veterans of World War I. In 1985, then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo re-dedicated the highway to all veterans. Today, from mid-May to early-October, visitors to the area can take a drive or cycle up the five-mile long scenic highway, from the toll booth to the top. Along the way there are scenic lookout points and picnic areas where visitors can stop and enjoy views of the Adirondack region.
Once at the top of the 4,867-foot high Whiteface Mountain, guests can enjoy a 360-degree, panoramic view of the region, spanning hundreds of square miles of wild land reaching out to Vermont and Canada. Guests can also visit the castle, built from native stone, where they will find a gift shop and restaurant. For those who are unable to reach the summit on foot, an elevator is available that will take guests the final 26-stories to the summit’s observation deck.
Admission to the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway is $10 for vehicle and driver, $6 for each additional passenger. Bicycles can enjoy the more than 2,300-foot climb for only $5. Photo: President Franklin D. Roosevelt attends the official opening of the Whiteface highway, Sept. 1935, and dedicates it to all veterans of World War I. Courtesy 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum.
The more I learn about bees, the more interesting they become. This morning I was out photographing the insects and flowers in our butterfly garden, and a large portion of the insects I saw were bumblebees, which were mobbing the globe thistles. When the bumbles are this plentiful, it makes studying them a bit easier, for space is at a premium. When they find a good spot to feed and collect pollen, they stay there until the resource is exhausted. So armed with my macro lens, I started stalking the bees. One busy little lady was well-laden with pollen, her pollen sacs bright orange bulges on her hind legs. This got me to wondering about pollen sacs. What exactly are they? Are they actually pockets in which the bees stuff pollen, or are they just sections of leg around which pollen is piled? I had to know more.
As it turns out, bumble bees have a very interesting system for storing pollen, which begins with pollen collection. Because they are extremely fuzzy animals, pollen sticks to them every time they visit flowers. It sticks to their antennae, their legs, their faces, their bodies. They become one giant pollen magnet.
One of the really neat things I learned about bumble bees (and apparently beetles and ants), is that they actually have a special structure just for cleaning their antennae. Located on their front legs is a special notch. The inside curve of this notch is lined with a fringe of hairs that work like a comb. Have you ever watched a beetle, ant or bee wash itself? It will draw its antennae through this notch, and the comb-like hairs brush off pollen and any other debris that might be there. Pretty nifty.
Meanwhile, the middle legs are also equipped with brush- (or comb-) like hairs. These are run over the body, scraping off the collected pollen. From here the pollen is transferred to the pollen presses located on the hind legs.
At this point we have to take a good look at those back legs. Just like us, the bee’s legs have a tibia, which is the lower leg (think of your calf). On bumble bees the tibia is flat, somewhat convex, shiny and surrounded by hairs, some of which are rather long and stiff. This forms what is called the pollen basket. Located at the lower end of the tibia (think of your ankle) is a comb-like structure, and on the metatarsus (think of your heel or foot) is the press. These two structures work together kind of like levers.
So, the pollen (which has been moistened with nectar to make it sticky) is transferred to the press and the bee manipulates the press and comb to press the pollen onto the bottom part of the flattened tibia. Each new batch of pollen is pressed onto the bottom of the basket, pushing the previous batches further up. When the basket is full, it will bulge with upwards of one million grains of pollen. The hairs that surround the tibia hold the pollen in place while the bee flies from place to place, either collecting more pollen, drinking nectar, or flying back home to stock the nest with this carefully gathered food, which is what her offspring will eat when they hatch.
Bee pollen is considered one of the all-time great foods. Of course, the information I found on the nutritional content of bee pollen is specifically for honey bee pollen, but bumble bee pollen is probably very similar. So, here are some statistics on honey bee pollen:
• It is a complete protein; • It is the only known food to contain all 22 amino acids that the human body needs but cannot produce for itself; • It contains more protein than any meat or fish; • It takes a honey bee about an hour to collect one pellet (basketful) of pollen; • A teaspoon of honey bee pollen contains about 1200 of these pellets.
(Honey bees, by the way, have crevices on the backs of their knees, and it is into these that the gathered pollen is stuffed.)
It is now clouding up and the bees have probably left the garden. I know, however, that the next sunny day we have, I will be out in the garden watching the bees. I want to see if I can actually witness a pollen press in action. Perhaps some of you will do the same. If you get to see a bee pressing pollen onto its pollen basket, I hope you will let me know.
On Thursday regional chefs competed in a trial by campfire at the Adirondack Museum as part of “The Adirondacks Are Cookin’ Out.” Each chef selected his own menu; all cooked over an open fire. Tony Zazula, Sally Longo, and Suvir Saran judged the competition. The cook-off resulted in a tie between Chef Tom Morris, Chef De Cuisine at the Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Chef Stephen Topper, Lorenzo’s al Forno in the Copperfield Inn, North Creek, N.Y. Photo: Back row, left to right: Chef Tom Pollack and Chef Kevin McCarthy, Paul Smith’s College; Chef Tom Morris, Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid, N.Y.; Chef Stephen Topper, Lorenzo’s al Forno, North Creek, N.Y.; Sous Chef Kevin Gardner, barVino, North Creek, N.Y.
Front row, left to right: Chef Luke Bowers, barVino, North Creek, N.Y.; Tony Zazula, co-owner of Commerce, New York, N.Y.; Sally Longo, a chef and owner of Aunt Sally’s Catering, Glens Falls, N.Y.; Suvir Saran, a respected food authority, television personality and consultant worldwide, and Chef Eric Hample, The Cellar Restaurant, Long Lake, N.Y.
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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