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.
Two years from now, the use of phosphorus-heavy fertilizers will be prohibited not only in the Town and Village of Lake George, but throughout the Adirondack Park and, in fact, the entire state.
Governor David A.Paterson has approved a measure that prohibits homeowners and landscape contractors from applying fertilizer containing phosphorus on any lawns within the state.
The Town and the Village of Lake George adopted regulations limiting the use of fertilizers with phosphorus earlier this summer.
The only exceptions to the state law will be for property owners who are installing a new lawn, or if a soil test shows a phosphorus deficiency. Retailers can still sell phosphorus fertilizer for consumers who fall into those categories, provided signs about the dangers of phosphorus are posted. The new law, which takes effect January 1, 2012, also prohibits the application of any fertilizer whatsoever within 20 feet of a water body. Fertilizers can be used within ten feet of water if a vegetative buffer has been established along a shore.
“We think this is a great step forward,” said an official with New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Phosphorus has been shown to contribute to the spread of aquatic weeds and the growth of algae, robbing water of oxygen that fish need to survive and limiting the recreational use of lakes and ponds.
“In time, we’ll see a marked difference in plant growth in Lake George once the full effect of the phosphorus ban is achieved,” said Walt Lender, executive director of the Lake George Association.
According to Lender, the bill also bans phosphorus in dishwashing detergent.
“This will keep additional phosphorus out of septic systems and municipal wastewater treatment systems,” Lender said.
“We’re very pleased Governor Paterson signed the bill into law,” said Lender. “It’s a huge step in the right direction, not least because it has generated a lot of discussion about the effects of phosphorus on water quality.”
New York State Senator Betty Little said she voted in favor of the bill after it was amended to allow retailers more time to rid their shelves of phosphorus fertilizers.
She also noted that the New York State Farm Bureau had withdrawn its objections to the bill.
According to Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, the ban on phosphorus-based fertilizers should be followed by a ban on the use of all fertilizers.
A fertlizer ban would reduce pollution by another nutrient, nitrogen, which can be just as harmful to water quality, Bauer said.
“Phosphorus free fertilizers are like low tar and nicotine cigarettes – they’re just as dangerous as the originals,” said Bauer. “We don’t need any of these products for healthy lawns.”
Illustration courtesy the Lake Champlain Basin Program’s Lawn to Lake initiative.
This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf]. Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and on the stations of North Country Public Radio.
Fire Danger: MODERATE
Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.
Weather Friday: Mostly sunny; high near upper 60s lower 70s. Friday Night: Mostly clear and cold; lows in upper 30s and lower 40s. Saturday: Sunny; high near 73. Saturday Night: Slight chance of showers; low in upper 40s. Sunday: Chance of morning showers; mostly cloudy, high near 76.
General Backcountry Conditions
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.
Biting Insects It is “Bug Season” in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.
Firewood Ban Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.
Bear-Resistant Canisters The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear resistant canisters; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.
Local Adirondack Conditions
Raquette Lake: Raquette Lake will be busy this weekend during Durant Days, the annual celebration honoring William West Durant. The event features the only opportunity all year to tour Camp Pine Knot.
North Central Essex County: The Au Sable Forks Annual “Forks Pride Century Ride” will take place on Saturday. There will be heavier than usual bicycle traffic in Au Sable Forks, Jay, Upper Jay, Keene, Port Kent and Elizabethtown.
Old Forge R/C Fly-In: Expect larger crowd and crowded skies over the North Street Airfield in Old Forge during the Mountain Radio Controlled Club’s annual air show.
Lake Champlain: Potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain are still a concern. Affected areas could include Westport, Port Henry, and Crown Point, and near St. Albans on the Vermont side, but there may be other blooms as well. Take the following precautions: Avoid all contact (do not swim, bathe, or drink the water, or use it in cooking or washing) and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water.
Raquette River: Raquette River Awareness Week begins Saturday, focusing on the Raquette River corridor from its origin at Blue Mountain Lake to its mouth on the St. Lawrence River at Akwesasne (near Massena, NY). Events include canoe/kayak paddles, naturalist walks, stewardship information kiosks, letter-boxing treasure hunts, presentations on the history of the river, and clean-up activities along the entire 174-mile-long watercourse and shoreline.
Raquette River: The boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, and the floating docks have been installed.
Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge are open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.
Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.
Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.
St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required.
St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.
Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Please use caution if you choose to cross this area.
Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: Climbing routes on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain have reopened.
Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.
Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.
Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.
High Peaks/Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.
Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.
Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.
Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.
Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.
Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.
Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.
Wilmington Wild Forest: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch have reopened.
——————– Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.
The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program, Adirondack residents and visitors, and other partners have successfully conducted the 10th Annual New York Loon Census.
More than 300 lakes and ponds were surveyed by more than 500 volunteers during this year’s census—up from 200 lakes and ponds last year. The data obtained during the census will be added and compared to those collected in years prior to gauge the status of the breeding loon population in and around the Adirondack Park and across New York State. » Continue Reading.
Lake Placid photographer and regular Adirondack Almanack contributor Larry Master will show images of the diverse wildlife that can be seen through the cycle of an Adirondack year. Mammals, birds, and amphibians of the Adirondacks will be featured.
This special presentation of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will be held on Saturday, July 31, at 8:00 PM at the ADK’s High Peaks Information Center, located at Heart Lake in Lake Placid. This presentation is free and open to the public. This presentation is part of ADK’s Saturday Evening Lecture Series which offer presentations on natural history, backcountry recreation, Adirondack history, art, and music.
The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.
For more information about programs, directions or questions about membership, contact ADK North Country office in Lake Placid (518) 523-3441 or visit our Web site at www.adk.org.
Who among us hasn’t been enchanted by dewdrops on a spider’s web or raindrops clinging to the tips of fir needles? A garden after rain is filled with pools of quicksilver as droplets merge together on leaves and glisten in the sunlight. It’s magical, and it draws the eye of many a naturalist and photographer. The perfectly round shapes, clearer than the finest crystal, reflecting the world in perfect (if upside-down) miniature…what isn’t there to love? I’ve been thinking about raindrops recently, wondering why some are flattened blobs while others maintain their spherical figures. I was also wondering why they make such wonderful lenses, even if they reflect a topsy-turvy world. These are really very elementary questions, to which we all learned the answers back in high school physics, but sometimes these lessons are forgotten in the fog of time. Perhaps now, when rainy summer days provide us with ideal laboratories for study, is the time to revisit them.
First, why are some droplets round and others flat? Water is composed of molecules that have a positive charge on one end and a negative charge on the other. As we all know, opposites attract. This attraction means that the water molecules within a raindrop or a dewdrop cling tightly to each other. In the absence of any outside influences (gravity or a container), the droplet wants to assume the smallest possible shape with the least amount of surface tension, and that shape is a sphere. Spheres have the smallest amount of surface area for any given volume. A sphere is a conservative shape and the easiest shape to maintain.
Now, take your droplet, and put it on a flat surface, like a leaf or a tabletop. Depending on the texture and composition of the flat surface, your droplet is likely to lose its perfectly round shape (unless it is a very tiny droplet). Gravity is working against it, flattening it out, leaving something that resembles a dome more than a sphere. If your surface is something that produces great adhesion, like a paper towel, your droplet will disappear as gravity pulls it completely into the surface.
On the other hand, if your surface of choice is broken up (say, really bumpy or hairy), and if it has water repellant (hydrophobic) material on it (like waxes), your droplet will retain its shape. Lotus leaves are classic examples of perfectly waterproof surfaces; water droplets roll off them like so many ball bearings. This is because the surface of a lotus leaf, when seen beneath a powerful microscope, has more bumps than a sheet of sandpaper. These bumps are topped with waxes. The end result is that the water droplets are able to maintain their spherical shapes and just roll along the surface.
Water drops are extremely popular with photographers because they are tiny little lenses. Almost anyone with a camera has at one time or another taken a photograph of a droplet and noticed that inside the globe of water was a tiny upside-down world. This is a property of convex lenses, which is essentially what a droplet is. Whatever is behind it appears to be captured, upside-down within its sphere – almost like a snow globe. Some photographers stage their images, to capture a perfect rose within the droplet, or the surrounding landscape as though shot with a fisheye lens. It can be very dramatic. The trick, however, is to focus on the reflection, not on the droplet itself. This is sometimes more difficult to do than you would think.
The next time it rains, or we have a good and dewy morning, go outside as the sun rises and search for the perfect droplets. A wee crystal ball perched on a milkweed leaf; a spider web sparkling with watery beads. Knowing the science behind the magic will not diminish your experience; it should make it all the more marvelous. Now, if you see a perfect ball of water, you know to look closely at the leaf on which it is perched: is it hairy or lumpy? You might just need to use a hand lens to know for sure.
As bike rides go, the loop around Lake George isn’t perfect. It’s got traffic, a tedious, 25-mile straightaway between Ticonderoga and Whitehall, and a challenging hill climb after Bolton Landing.
But it’s also almost exactly 100 miles from point to point, a distance known as a “century” in biking parlance, and a sort of Holy Grail for bike-tourers looking to up the ante of a day-ride.
I hadn’t biked a century in more than 20 years, and I was looking for a challenge before undertaking a three-week bike tour of Colorado. So in early July I recruited my friend Steve, a surgeon from Latham, to join me on a day-long circumnavigation of the Adirondacks’ most famous lake. We parked the car in Lake George Village, not far from the water, and began pedaling before 8 a.m. The village was just waking up and the air was cool and still. It was the Saturday of July 4th weekend, and we knew it would be a busy day, but the heavy traffic gave us no trouble as we rode north on the narrow shoulder of Route 9N.
The loop is a pretty simple design, and you don’t need a map for most of it — Route 9N north for 40-odd miles to Ticonderoga, then Route 22 south for another 25 miles to Whitehall. From here, you can either take busy roads back to Glens Falls before getting on the bike path back to Lake George, or you can follow beautiful but hilly back roads to avoid the traffic.
Two hours after starting, Steve and I had left the traffic of Lake George Village behind, as we climbed the steep shoulder of Tongue Mountain and ripped down the other side. This was the best part of the ride — a shaded road, few cars, tantalizing views of the lake and charming communities like Hague and Sabbath Day Point to pedal through.
We reached Ticonderoga in a little more than three hours. I’ve been to this historic village at least a half-dozen times, and finding downtown is always a challenge. Would a sign — “This way to village” — be such a bad idea? Even an un-staffed tourist information booth left no clue about which direction to take.
The idea was to stop and buy some food, but somehow we missed downtown completely. We had to satisfy ourselves with the shade of a tree on Route 22. Sorry, Ti.
From here, it was a long, steady plod down to Whitehall on Route 22. This is not the best part of the ride, although the rolling farmland of the Champlain Valley has a certain charm. The route is wide and shadeless, more like a highway than a country road. But the hills are easy to climb, and it took less than two hours to traverse the route.
After another long break in Whitehall, we looked at a borrowed map and made a choice. The fastest route would be to take Route 22 down to Fort Ann, and then traverse over on Route 249 to Glens Falls. But these are busy roads, and we wanted something a little more relaxing.
So we made up our own route, using a variety of county and town roads, including one that was gravel. This gave us one more big hill to climb, but it was worth it — we found ample shade, no cars and some of the best views of the trip.
By now we were both feeling the mileage. Especially Steve, who hadn’t been drinking enough to stay hydrated on this hot, cloudless day. But one final rest and a bottle of Gatorade at a small general store in Oneida Corners fueled us up for the final few miles. We biked past Glen Lake, found the entrance to the bike path, and enjoyed the final, breezy miles back to our car.
There, a hundred miles and about 10 hours after we started, we washed away our sweat in the cool waters of Lake George and celebrated a successful century.
* * *
Interested in biking Lake George but don’t want to commit to a full century? On Sunday, Aug. 8, local cyclists organize a 42-mile ride from Lake George north to a small dock outside Ticonderoga. There, they are picked up by the cruise ship Mohican at 11:30 a.m., which brings cyclists back to Lake George on a 2 1/2-hour scenic journey.
The trip costs about $20, and tickets must be purchased in advance. And, of course, if you don’t make the boat or can’t find the dock (it’s not well marked and harder than it sounds — get directions) you’re on your own.
For more information, call the Lake George Steamboat Company at (518) 668-5777.
The New York State Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced three public hearings to discuss changes proposed for the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.
Located in the central and southwestern portion of the Adirondack Park, the Moose River Plains Wild Forest offers many year-round recreational opportunities including hiking, fishing, canoeing, skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, hunting and camping, making it an ideal destination for recreationists with varied interests and abilities. You can read more a short history of the Plains by the Almanack’s John Warren here; all our coverage is located here. » Continue Reading.
Saranac Lake is celebrating one of its most famous former residents, Robert Louis Stevenson, with a showing of the 1931 production of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” as well as a public reading of Stevenson’s awesome and spooky poem “Ticonderoga.”
At 7 p.m. Saturday August 7 the Stevenson Society will show a film adaption of the novel “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” at Historic Saranac Lake’s Trudeau Laboratory building at 89 Church Street. Fredric March earned an Academy Award for his dual portrayal of Jekyll and Hyde. Stevenson scholar Martin Danahay will say a few words about the film. Admission is free. Popcorn, juice and water will be available. On Sunday, August 8, at 1:30 p.m., the Stevenson Society will hold a festive Annual Meeting at the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage and Museum, at 44 Stevenson Lane, in Saranac Lake. The event will feature a bagpiper and an entertaining recitation of Stevenson’s famous poem “Ticonderoga” by Peter Fish of the St. Andrew’s Society. Martin Danahay will also speak on the adaptation of Stevenson’s work to stage and screen. The Annual Meeting will follow these events. The public is invited at no charge. Chairs and tents and light refreshments will be provided.
For more information call the Stevenson Cottage: (518) 891-1462
Between long residencies in Scotland and the South Pacific, Stevenson stayed in Saranac Lake the winter of 1887–88, writing and convalescing from a lung ailment. Another local landmark paying tribute to the Scotsman is the Robert Louis Stevenson Tea Room, which serves lunch, tea and dinner.
Raquette Lake will be a buzz of activity as community and guests enjoy the annual celebration honoring William West Durant. Tours, boat rides, fireworks and concerts are just a few of the activities everyone can enjoy this weekend.
William W. Durant is most commonly known as the founder of the Adirondack Great Camp. The most recognizable elements of the Great Camp style are rough hewed log construction, local stonework and decorative work using twigs, bark and branches. The camps were self-sufficient mega complexes that provided all means of entertainment for its guests from teahouses to bowling alleys. In the 1800s his father, Thomas C. Durant, had owned thousands of acres of Adirondack property turning the Raquette Lake acreage over to William to manage. William West Durant first built the Great Camp Pine Knot that would eventually be owned by Collis Huntington and other properties including Camp Uncas (owned by J.P. Morgan 1895) and Sagamore Lodge (built in 1897 and purchased by Alfred G. Vanderbilt in 1901). Durant supervised the building of over 100 buildings on the properties, a town, a railway and two churches (St. Williams and St. Huberts) and was responsible for hundreds of workers while spearheading these Great Camp endeavors. The rampant development of these large-scaled projects eventually led to his bankruptcy. These three camps are now National Historic Landmarks as advocates of history have worked hard to preserve this golden Adirondack era.
Currently Pine Knot is owned by SUNY Cortland and not open for public tours except on July 30th during Durant Days. Not only is Durant known for the founding of a classic architectural style but also for creating a town named in his honor that provided employees and families a place to congregate. The town of Durant no longer exists. The renovated store and St. William’s Church are all that remains of a once thriving waterway community on the north shore of Long Point.
With the opening of the railway line in 1900, the post office was moved from Durant to what is now the hamlet of Raquette Lake.
Event coordinator and caretaker of St. Williams’s On Long Point Andrea Monhollen says, “On Thursday nights we have free concerts here and the Raquette Lake Boys’ Camp and Girls’ Camp meet people at the dock and offer free boat rides to the events. It is a wonderful way to bring the community together.”
A special event will take place on Saturday on St. William’s on Long Point with a free water taxi from the town dock with a free afternoon concert from “Wide Variety” billed as Jersey’s premier A Cappella Group. Other activities commence throughout the day culminating with a band on the village green, boat parade and fireworks.
The Great Camp experience is also available through a free 10:00 a.m. tour of Camp Sagamore on Sunday, August 1st. All other guided tours are fee-based. The planned activities end with free vester service at St. Hubert’s.
Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer was a pied piper for young people in search of a cause, just as John Apperson had been for him when Schaefer was in his early 20s. By the 1970s and 80s, Paul was approaching 80 years of age, and scouts, teens, and earth activists of all ages found their way to Paul’s doorstep. I want to share a few of the lessons he conveyed.
One spring day in 1990 I met with Paul to discuss Governor Mario Cuomo’s Commission on the Adirondacks (Berle Commission) report which was about to be made public. Paul mentioned that on Earth Day, a group of “idealistic” young people had come down to pay him a visit. He had planned to show his award-winning film, The Adirondack: The Land Nobody Knows, but his Bell and Howell 16-mm projector could not be found (I had borrowed it). Instead, Paul invited the students into his living room. “I’ve never had a better time in my life,” Schaefer told me. “These kids were idealists, and we need them.” » Continue Reading.
Ergo, I am a granola-eater, and in the view of some people, that makes me a cheapskate hiker.
Over the years I’ve heard a few local politicians complain about “granola-eaters” who gas up their cars outside the Park, drive to the Adirondacks for a hike or canoe trip, and return home without spending a dime.
I’ve always been puzzled by this attitude. First, it’s wrong. OK, many hikers and paddlers are not lavish spenders, but some of them are and most of them do spend money during their Adirondack sojourns. And there are a lot of them. Their dollars add up. How do you think EMS in Lake Placid, Mountainman in Old Forge, the Mountaineer in Keene Valley, and Hornbeck Boats in Olmstedville stay in business?
Second, it’s wrongheaded. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that hikers, paddlers, and other backcountry enthusiasts don’t spend money in the Adirondacks. Whose fault is that? Isn’t it up to entrepreneurs in the Park to figure out how to pry cash from their tight fists? If these people aren’t spending money, I assume it’s because businesses are not offering goods and services they desire.
In fact, as already noted, there are many businesses and outfitters in the Park that cater to backcountry enthusiasts. I can’t help noticing that many of them are run by transplants. John Nemjo, for example, grew up in New Jersey and started Mountainman after moving to the Adirondacks in 1993. It’s now one of the largest canoe-and-kayak dealers in the Northeast.
Money can be made off hikers and paddlers, but first you have to see them as potential customers, not as tightwads.
In late 1932, on a dark mountainside in the far southern Adirondacks, a group of scientists prepared for a groundbreaking effort in communications. The plan was to conduct a long-distance, telephone-style conversation with their counterparts stationed 24 miles away on the roof of the General Electric Company in Schenectady. No wires were involved. The voices of those on GE’s rooftop would be carried by a searchlight beam aimed directly at a concave, 30-inch mirror on a hillside near Lake Desolation.
This particular effort was the brainchild of GE research engineer John Bellamy Taylor. It involved a unique process he called “narrow-casting” because the tight focus of the beam differed substantially from the growing technology known widely as “broadcasting.” Earlier in the year, Taylor had likewise communicated from the navy blimp Los Angeles floating high above the GE buildings. The effect was accomplished by making a light source flicker in unison with voice fluctuations. A photoelectric cell received the flickers, or pulsations, and converted them to electrical impulses, which were then amplified by a loudspeaker. The term narrow-casting was apt—any interruption of the narrow light beam halted the transmission.
This new attempt in the Adirondacks challenged Taylor’s abilities, covering more than ten times the distance of the dirigible effort and spanning some rough terrain. While trying to place the mirror in the Lake Desolation area, engineering crews twice buried their vehicles in the mud. Another technology—the short wave radio— was used to effect a rescue.
A second issue arose involving the visibility of the large light beam. From 24 miles away, the searchlight blended among the stars on the horizon. Instructions were radioed to blink the light, which immediately solved the problem. Further communications by radio allowed the proper alignment of the light and mirror. With everything in place, the big moment was at hand.
A member of the extensive news media of the time took part in the experiment. As Taylor waited on the distant hillside, famed newspaper columnist Heywood Broun began to interview him from atop the GE roof in Schenectady: “Do you suppose it might be possible in 50 or 100 years to communicate with Mars over a light ray?” Taylor’s reply included a bit of humor. “It might be within the range of possibility, but one difficulty would be how to inform the Martians what apparatus to set up.”
While Broun’s voice rode the light beam, Taylor’s end of the conversation was sent by shortwave radio back to Broun at Schenectady, where it was received and then rebroadcast on AM radio stations. The two-way conversation was the first ever of its kind.
In an area where few people had ever used or even seen a telephone, locals were suddenly talking across a beam of light. Old trapper James Link of Lake Desolation shared that “it’s getting mighty cold up here,” and two young women also spoke with Broun. It was a public relations coup for GE, and a powerful advertisement for Taylor’s wonderful innovation. The experiment was a resounding success, followed soon by other intriguing demonstrations.
A few months later, an orchestra played before a sole microphone high in New York City’s Chrysler Building. Pointing a beam of light at a lens in the window of a broadcast studio half a mile away, Taylor transmitted the performance to an audience of shocked listeners. Stunning successes like that would influence all future communications efforts in a variety of fields.
Among his many achievements, John Bellamy Taylor is credited with being the first ever to make light audible and sound visible, and with developing the first portable radio. Just how important was his work? The effects his discoveries had on radio, television, telephone, and other technologies are immeasurable. Due to the work of Taylor, Thomas Edison, and their contemporaries, the world was forever changed.
Top Photo: John Bellamy Taylor in Popular Mechanics magazine, 1931.
Middle Photo: Map of the historic “narrow-cast” area.
Bottom Photo: Taylor’s New York City experiment transmitting music.
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.