Friday, February 5, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene:Winter Carnival, Jam Bands and Orchestras

The first of two very exciting weeks of music starts this Friday in Saranac Lake where Winter Carnival is going to be on in full glory. There will be bands and concerts in town every day or night for the whole two weeks, awe-inspiring!

Other events to check out include a new Open Mic and Hoot, a variety of classical music concerts and local folk musicians.

Thursday, February 4th:

In Canton, there is an Open Mic at the Blackbird Cafe. Sign up is at 6:30, performances start at 7 pm. Writers,readers and musicians of all kinds are encouraged. the winners will be selected for a CD to be released later this year.

Friday, February 5th:

In Wilmington, Eat, Sleep, Funk is playing at Steinhoff’s.

In Ausable Forks, Lucid is at 20 Main.

In Saranac Lake, the Friday Night Dewey Ski Jam is held from 6:30 – 9:30 pm. This Friday Russ Cook and Bard Hurlburt are the musical guests and Nori’s Village Market provides the food. Donations are welcomed.

In Saranac Lake, The Waterhole presents their first in a long series of free Winter Carnival shows. Mecca Bodega kicks it off at 10 pm. These guys are preceeded by a 9 pm cocktail hour.

In Saranac Lake, Roadkill Dog is at Captain Cook’s from 9 pm – 2 am.

In Canton, A first friday Music Jam is being held from 7 – 8:30 pm at the TAUNY Gallery.

Also in Canton, a Hootenanny will be held from 7 – 11:00 pm at the Blackbird Cafe. A variety of local musicians will be passing the hat.

Saturday, February 6th:

In Saranac Lake , the second night of free Winter Carnival shows at The Waterhole gives us the Rev Tor band. Again this band is preceeded by a 9 pm cocktail hour and gets going around 10 pm.

Also in Saranac Lake, Reflections starts at 8 pm at Captain Cook’s.

In St. Regis Falls, Roy Hurd will be performing at 1 pm. It’s going to be held at The St. Regis Falls Fire Station as part of a Winter Fest celebration.

In Potsdam, The Met Live in HD. At the Roxy Theater “Simon Boccanegra” will be feeding from 1 – 4:30 pm

In Elizabethtown, Piano By Nature recital is happening between 7 – 8:30 pm at The Hand House. Soloist Jill Dawe will play works by Chopin, Debussy Ginestera and Part. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

In Tupper Lake at The Wild Center, “Pleasures of the Courts” dinner and dance will be held from 7:30 – 9 pm. The Orchestra of Northern New York will be giving their annual Baroque concert. Tickets are available at the box office.

In Plattsburgh at the Monopole , Capital Zen starting at 9 pm.

Sunday, February 7th:

In Glens Falls, the Lake George Chamber Orchestra will give a concert at The Hyde Collection Art Museum. The concert is form 2 – 4 pm. Call for reservations.

In Elizabethtown, Piano By Nature recital will be held at The Hand House from 3 – 4:30 pm. Soloist Jill Dawe will play works by Chopin, Debussy Ginestera and Part. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

In Potsdam, “Pleasures of the Courts” dinner and dance will be held from 3 – 5 pm. The Orchestra of Northern New York will be giving their annual Baroque concert. It will be held at St. Mary’s Church.

In Saranac Lake, Jamie Notarthomas plays at 3 pm at The Waterhole.

In Saranac Lake, Sarah Bargman will be performing at Will Rogers from 7:30 – 8:30 pm.

Monday, February 8th:

In Saranac lake, Sven Curth gives a free performance at The Waterhole. The show starts around 9 pm.

Tuesday, February 9th:

In Saranac Lake, Joey Driscoll plays a free show at The Waterhole. He starts at 8 pm.

Wednesday, February 10th:

In North Creek, Vinnie Leddick is at barVino. He’s playing from 7 – 9 pm.

In Saranac Lake, E.O.E. live at The Waterhole. Mardi Gras celebration! This band is from New Orleans. Show starts at 10 pm.

Photo: Mecca Bodega


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dannemora Notes: The Clinton Prison

Dannemora Prison (known officially as the Clinton Correctional Facility and the only maximum security prison inside the Blue Line) is the third oldest state prison in New York, and the largest, holding about 3,000 prisoners. According to the Great Wiki, inmates there have included Tupac Shakur, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Beat poet Gregory Corso, mobster Charles “Lucky” Luciano, New York City Club Kid Michael Alig, Robert Chambers (the “preppy murderer”), Jesse Friedman (subject of the documentary Capturing the Friedmans), Ralph “Bucky” Phillips, Joel Rifkin, and a half dozen other serial killers. You can search for prisoners in Clinton, and New York’s other prisons here; there is a map of the state’s prison’s here. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ski Barbecue and Olympic Send-off Sunday

This Sunday Saranac Lakers and their neighbors will gather at Mount Pisgah to celebrate winter carnival, eat barbecue and wish their four local Olympians well. Also, the village-run alpine ski area will host a freestyle skiing and snowboard competition, its first ever.

The BBQ will be held 11:30-2:30 at the Mount Pisgah lodge. The families of Olympians will be special guests. At 1 p.m. photographer Mark Kurtz will take a group photo from a bucket truck, and the gathering will be videotaped and put on YouTube so that local Olympians Billy Demong (Nordic combined), Tim Burke (biathlon), Chris Mazdzer (luge) and Peter Frenette (ski jumping) can see their proud hometown cheering them on.

Everyone is invited. There’s a charge for the barbecue but the Olympic rally is free. People are welcome to bring signs and banners. The vets’ club will provide flags. Organizers are hoping to have more than 250 people in the photograph. There will be an opportunity to send recorded messages to the athletes as well. 

Events begin at 10 a.m. with the annual White Stag Race, one of the oldest continually run ski races in the East, begun in the mid 1940s. The big-air freestyle exhibition will be held throughout the day on the Terrain Park. 

Pisgah is one of the Adirondacks’ awesome little ski areas (here’s a list of the others, including the bigs), and there is a lot of excitement on the mountain this year, not just because of the Olympians. Friends of Mt. Pisgah, a grassroots group, is trying to raise $400,000 to replace the T-bar lift, the tubing area is better than ever, and the terrain park and night-lighting have undergone big improvements.

The 113th Saranac Lake Winter Carnival kicks off Friday night at the Harrietstown Hall with coronation, when the nuclear secret of who will reign as this year’s king and queen is unlocked. Events continue until Sunday February 14.

Photo: Why Saranac Lake skiers are so good. Courtesy of Mark Kurtz Photography


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Adirondack Predators: Owls in Winter

Every winter we have a barred owl that takes up watch just off the back deck here at the VIC, and we remember every visit it makes. Sometimes he (she?) is here off and on for a couple weeks, and sometimes it’s only a quick visit of a day or two. However long, or brief, its stay, it is always a welcome sight.

Barred owls (Strix varia) are fairly common around these parts. With their pale plumage, rounded heads, and big brown eyes, they seem to us mere humans to be a softer, gentler owl than their fiercer-looking cousins the great-horned owls (Bubo virginianus). Like all owls, they have nearly silent flight, thanks to the special fringed edges on their flight feathers and the extra fluffy body feathers that help muffle sound. This stealth coating, so to speak, comes in very handy when you are hunting for nocturnal prey, for food that is out at night tends to have good hearing.

Which brings up a good question. If owls are nocturnal (with some exceptions, like the snowy owl), then why is this particular bird visiting our bird feeders during the day? A couple potential answers come to mind. First, it is not uncommon to see owls active during the day, especially when that day is overcast (like much of this winter has been). A cloudy, gloomy day may seem like nothing more than an extended twilight to a hungry owl.

Second, we have made our bird feeding area a great hunting place for predators interested in small birds and small mammals. One glance at the ground in the winter brings this clearly into focus: fox, squirrel, mouse, and bird tracks are everywhere! Every winter we chuck a conifer tree over the railing to provide shelter for small birds and mammals. Mice and squirrels are particularly appreciative of this gesture, which in turn brings in the predators. When I lead tracking workshops, I can just about guarantee “fresh” fox tracks beelining from the woods towards the feeders.

I’ve watched barred owls hunting during the day along roadsides in winter. One particular time I was cruising into Minerva when a barred owl perched on a speed limit sign caught my attention. I hit the breaks, turned the car around, and parked, watching and waiting along with the bird. Although it was fully aware of my presence, its attention was focused on the snowbank beneath the sign.

After about ten minutes or so, the owl flung itself from the sign and landed with a face- and foot-plant in the snow, its outstretched wings caught on top of the snow above its head. It hopped a bit, shuffled its feet, then struggled to lift off…empty footed. There must’ve been some small rodent beneath the snow that the owl, with its hypersensitive hearing, could detect, but either the bird’s aim was off or the rodent was too fast, for it got away. Many folks don’t realize that predators tend to miss their prey more often than not. It’s a tough thing being a predator, a life full of peril (what if the prey fights back?) and potential starvation (food gets away from you, the snow is too deep for you to hunt successfully, etc.).

This is why I don’t mind too terribly much when a raptor snags a bird at my feeding stations, which invariably happens at least once every winter (and if I’m lucky I get to see it). After all, they are birds, too, and they also need to feed. If they are smart enough to realize that bird feeders are essentially convenience stores, then more power to them. Same goes for foxes and weasels. I’m an equal opportunity feeder.

This is a great time of year to go on an owl prowl, for owl mating season is upon us. Great-horned owls will soon wind down their mating, while barred owls will soon be starting. Now is the time to go out at night to listen for owl calls. The barred owl has the soft “who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-allllll” pattern, while the great-horned is the typical eight-hooter: “hoo-hoohoo-hoo-hoo-hoo” (okay, that was only six, but they can do up to eight or so at a time).

If you are really lucky, you might hear the truck-backing-up “toot-toot-toot-toot” of the northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus). About three years ago we had a couple saw-whets (tiny little owls) hanging out near the golf course and every night for a week or two I would hear them tooting away when I took the dog for his evening stroll. Haven’t heard one since.

If you want to find winter owls, your best bet is to go out at night and listen for their calls. But, if standing out in the cold on a clear winter night isn’t your thing, then put on some snowshoes and go for a walk in the woods on an overcast day. You want to look up in trees, where fairly good-sized branches attach to the trunk. It is here that owls will sit during the day, with their feathers fluffed up and their eyes (did you know they have feathers on their eyelids?) shut. They blend in perfectly with their trees of choice, often looking like just another bump on a limb. They can be difficult to spot.

If you want more of a sure thing, you can keep an eye on the bird hotlines for announcements of recent owl sightings: short-earred owls at the Saratoga Battlefield; snowy owls at Fort Edwards, northern hawk-owls at Bloomingdale bog, great greys in Watertown. Unusual birds get groupies, and all you need to do to find these itinerant birds is find the people with the binoculars and big camera lenses. A group of birdie nerds is a whole lot easier to spot in a snowy field than a single snowy owl, and the chances are that they will be more than happy to help you find the bird they’ve all flocked to see themselves. Birders are like that – they think everyone is a potential bird nut like themselves and they are eager to recruit.

So, find yourself a birding group and keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for the owls of winter. They are out there, and if you want to see them, you have to get out there, too.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Extreme Adirondack Cross-Country Skiing

One of my favorite winter trips is what one might call “extreme cross-country skiing.” That is, skiing on routes that aren’t generally considered by the cross-country community. Routes you won’t find in Tony Goodwin’s Classic Adirondack Ski Tours.

Some of these routes are long and committing. Others require the use of snowshoes or skins (unless you’re a member of the Ski-To-Die Club, a group of locals who took extreme skiing to a new height by taking wooden cross-country skis in the 1970s down mountain descents that would give most people on modern alpine gear pause).
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Adirondack Almanack Welcomes Zoologist Larry Master

Please join me in welcoming zoologist Larry Master to Adirondack Almanack. Larry, who lives in Lake Placid, has been photographing wildlife and natural history subjects for more than 50 years. After receiving a PhD at the University of Michigan, Larry spent 20 years with The Nature Conservancy and 6 years with NatureServe, most of that time as the organization’s Chief Zoologist. Larry oversaw the development of TNC’s and NatureServe’s central zoological databases, and also served on the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. He currently serves on boards of NatureServe, The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter, Northern New York Audubon, the Adirondack Council, and the Adirondack Explorer, as well as on the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Advisory Group and in an advisory role to the Biodiversity Research Institute.

Larry will be writing about wildlife every other Thursday at noon, opposite our birding expert Brian McAllister. The addition of Larry rounds out the Almanack‘s natural-history coverage, which includes regular field reports by Ellen Rathbone.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Good Curling

Curling is a game rooted in history. The name refers to the rotation the game piece or “stone” takes as it spirals along the ice. The “rock” will curve (curl) depending on the direction the rock spins.

Traced back to 16th century Scotland, the game called Curling was brought to North American 200 years later by Scottish soldiers. It is commonly referred to as “chess on ice” due to the subtle finesse and strategy required of its players.

According to Historic Saranac Lake curling got an early start in the Tri-Lakes when the Pontiac Bay and Pines Curling Clubs was formed around 1897. These two clubs later combined to form the Saranac Lake Curling Club.

During its heyday the Saranac Lake Curling Club held numerous competitions on the national and international level. Curling made its first Olympic appearance in Chamonix and was a demonstration sport during the 1932, 1936, 1964, 1988 and 1992 Olympics. It wasn’t until the 1998 Nagano games that curling became an official Olympic sport.

In 1943, due to wartime economic reasons curling waned in popularity and the Saranac Lake Curling Club closed. It wasn’t until Ed and Barbara Brandt came to Lake Placid in 1981 and started the Lake Placid Curling Club that the Adirondack tradition was resurrected. Over twenty-five years later, the Lake Placid Curling Club is going strong and continues to grow and promote the sport.

On Saturday, February 6, the Lake Placid Curling Club will present a demonstration during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival on Lake Flower, near the original site of the 18th century Pontiac Curling Club. A bagpiper will escort the players from the Saranac Lake Free Library to the state boat launch on Lake Flower. Game play is at 11:00 a.m.

According to Amber McKernan, membership secretary for the Lake Placid Curling Club (LPCC) the sport is not only competitive but also social. “We travel to other curling clubs and are always interested in new members. We had a very successful Learn to Curl event in the fall. We recently welcomed two young members, both teenagers, to the club,” she says. The LPCC curls on Sunday evenings at the USA Rink of the Olympic Center.

For those not in the know: skip is not a person’s name, but the captain of the team. The skip is the only team member allowed in the house (the circular scoring area with a bull’s eye center) so he/she can direct the stone’s delivery. One doesn’t throw the stone but deliveries it to the house. A team is known as a rink and consists of four players: lead, second, vice-skip, and skip. A game usually consists of eight ends (similar to an inning in baseball.) The end is completed when all the stones have been delivered to one end. A competitor curls the stone by causing the stone to curve strategically toward the scoring area and gets the closest to the center of the circle. Only one team (rink) can score per end. One point is awarded for each stone closer to the center than the opponent’s.

What was traditionally a smooth rock is now a polished circular-shaped granite “stone” that meets the requirements of the World Curling Federation. Weighing in at 42 pounds, each stone’s path is steered by players sweeping a path in front, reducing the friction and increasing the stone’s peed.

Similar to golf, another Scottish game, curling has as many rules on etiquette as it does on play. For example each bonspiel (tournament) starts and ends with a handshake wishing the opposing team “good curling.”

So whether you choose to watch curling from the comfort of your own home, at the Vancouver Olympics or watch a demonstration of a local club, enjoy a sport formed of good sportsmanship, skill and tradition.

photo of the Lake Placid Curling Club on Lake Flower used with permission of www.adkfamilytime.com


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2010 Lake Placid Ironman Seeks Volunteers

The 2010 Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon is seeking volunteers for the July 25, 2010 race. About 2,000 athletes and nearly 4,000 volunteers take part in what organizers say is Placid’s largest one-day annual event, generating “a direct economic impact of about $8 million for Essex County.” “In addition to the days surrounding the actual race,” a recent press release extolled, “a large number of the participants make multiple pre-race visits in preparation for the event, greatly enhancing the overall revenue generated.” Kathy Pfohl, volunteer director, says that two-thirds of the volunteers are from outside the region.

There is a tiered management system in place in order to organize the large numbers of volunteers. As volunteer director, Pfohl is responsible for overseeing the entire volunteer effort (as part of her job at the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism or ROOST). There are approximately 80 captains who manage their respective “team” of volunteers, which can number from one to 200 individuals. Each captain is responsible for the coordination of the schedules, locations and communication with their team of volunteers, to ensure that they are in their places on race day.

For 2010, there are several captain positions open. “Captains enjoy a number of perks, including the opportunity to earn a monetary donation of $750 for their qualifying group from the Community Fund,” according to the press release.

Those interested in a captain’s position and/or the Community Fund should contact Kathy Pfohl at kpfohl@lakeplacid.com or at the ROOST office at 523.2445 x110. Online registration for all volunteer positions is located at www.ironmanlakeplacid.com.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

An Invasives Barrier for the Champlain Canal

Asian carp are all over the news and will soon be all over Lake Michigan unless the Chicago canal that links the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds is re-engineered. It’s looking unlikely, but if the Obama administration decides to turn this dilemma into a major public works project—keeping a particularly nasty invasive species from upending the remnants of native Great Lakes fish life—there’s a canal on Lake Champlain that could use a lift too. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 1, 2010

A Short History of Adirondack Avalanches

You can see the Angel Slides from Marcy Dam: two adjoining bedrock scars—one wide, one thin—on the southeastern slopes of Wright Peak. They are a well-known destination for expert backcountry skiers.

The slides got their nickname following the death of Toma Vracarich. Ten years ago this month, Vracarich and three other skiers were caught in an avalanche on the wider slide. Vracarich died under the snow. He was twenty-seven. The other skiers were injured.

It remains the only avalanche fatality in the Adirondacks, but it put people on notice that the avalanche risk here is real.

Several years ago, I wrote an article on the history of Adirondack avalanches for the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. I came up with a list of fourteen. Most were triggered by skiers, snowshoers, or ice climbers, usually on steep, open terrain such as a cliff or a slide.

Here are some examples of what I found:

On March 8, 1975, three ice climbers suffered severe injuries when they were caught in an avalanche on a cliff near Chapel Pond. They would have fallen to the bottom if their rope did not get entangled in the rope of a party below them.

A week later, a snowshoer named Roger Harris was on a slide path on Macomb Mountain when an avalanche swept him five hundred feet. He was nearly buried alive. “I was unable to take in a breath due to the snow jammed in my throat and filling my mouth,” he told me, “but I was able to stick two fingers into my mouth and clear the plug.”

In April 1990, Mark Meschinelli, a veteran ice climber, was standing at the bottom of the North Face of Gothics when it avalanched. “I heard this low rumbling,hissing sound,” he said. “I looked up, and the whole face is moving toward me. There was nothing I could do, no place to go. I got buried up to my waist.” Meschinelli dug himself out and climbed the slope.

In March 1997, an avalanche swept two backcountry skiers down a steep slide on Mount Colden. They might have plummeted to the bottom if trees had not stopped their descent. The skiers were bruised but able to ski out.

Avalanches occur most often on slopes between 30 and 50 degrees, and many occur during or soon after a big snowfall. But the business of assessing the risk of an avalanche is complicated. You can find more information online from the American Avalanche Association as well as other websites.

And if you do spend time in avalanche terrain, you should carry the three essentials: beacon, probe, and shovel.

You might also take an avalanche-safety class. The Mountaineer in Keene Valley will teach avalanche safety at the Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival in March. The Mountaineer also offers avalanche instruction at its Mountainfest each January.

Photo of Angel Slides on Wright Peak from Wikipedia.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Can Am Pond Hockey Tournament in Lake Placid

Despite frigid temperatures this weekend, adult hockey players took to the ice in Lake Placid for the Can Am pond hockey tournament. Can Am pond hockey is a relatively new tradition in Lake Placid, introduced in 2005 to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the 1980 Winter Games. Five years later the tournament is still going strong and teams from all over the US and Canada flocked to the Adirondacks to participate in a weekend of hockey and fun in the Olympic Village. With the age categories 21+, 30+, 40+, 50+, and 60+ for men, and 21+ and 30+ for women, there was an opportunity for almost all ages to compete.

Pond hockey is a simpler variation of ice hockey. Obviously meant to be played on natural ice surfaces, pond hockey differs from traditional ice hockey. The ice dimensions are different from NHL hockey regulations, (135 feet by 65 feet compared to the NHL’s 200-by-85), there are no boards and no lines on the playing surface. While the rules might seem less-structured in a game of pond hockey, there are still limits; for example, no slap shots, abusive language, or overly aggressive physical contact.

One of the most unique challenges is weather.; when the weather is too warm, for example, skating can be dangerous on a pond, often pushing the teams onto the alternate venue. In 2008, temperatures in the 40s forced the tournament to relocate to the Olympic Oval. At the extreme opposite of the spectrum, cold weather can be difficult as well. This weekend, the temperatures on Saturday were in the negative double digits in the morning, and in the single digits all afternoon.

For more information on pond hockey in Lake Placid, visit the Can Am website at http://www.canamhockey.com/index.php.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Adirondack History at the NYS Ornithological Association

With a hat tip to the outstanding birding blog The Zen Birdfeeder we point readers to an interesting new online database of 57 years of the New York State Ornithological Association’s (NYSOA) quarterly journal The Kingbird. 229 issues of the journal are currently online, along with 4 ten-year indices; four new issues will be added each year. The journal includes commentary of historic bird lists, natural history field observation reports, an archive of NYSOA development and history, and a lot more.

Here are a few gems I found in the collection – warning – these are all pdfs!

Merriam’s Adirondack List

Stanley Lincoln’s History of the Federation of New York State Bird Clubs

John M.C. Peterson’s Report of the Great 1995 Blowdown from the Bouquet Valley

The Common Loon in New York State


Sunday, January 31, 2010

More on Adirondack Carries and Gauge Readings

Several questions arose after last month’s post regarding carries on private land and interpreting gauge readings. A number of concerns noted situations where paddlers were on a LAKE and then got out of their boats on privately owned shores or docks. From everything I have read or heard, the discussions regarding the public’s rights of passage are focused on RIVERS. If a river is navigable—and it’s not always clear how this is defined—and it flows through private lands, the issue is when and in what manner a paddler can carry around obstructions that are encountered. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

IRS Volunteers Offer Free Tax Return Preparation Program

The Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) offers free tax help to families and individuals whose household income is below $50,000. Trained community volunteers can help with determining your eligibility for special credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, the program also offers free electronic filing (e-filing).

Those who take part in the e-filing program will receive their refunds in half the time it would take through traditional paper filing.

For more information or to make an appointment contact Warren County Head Start at 793-3624.