Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lows Lake to The Upper Oswegatchie River

It’s been exactly two years since I paddled the Lows Lake-Oswegatchie River traverse with my friend Dan Higgins. So by now the bug bites have healed.

That is, of course, the danger of doing the Adirondack’s greatest canoe trip in the middle of black fly season. But with a bit of perseverance, some luck as to the weather (lower temperatures and wind keep the flies down), bug dope and a head net, and the trip this time of year can be not only tolerable but even grand. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Commentary: Climate Change in the Champlain Basin

Over the past several hundred thousand years, global atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have remained relatively stable, averaging 280 parts per million (ppm) and varying between 180 and 300 ppm through several ice ages. But over the past 60 years, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmospheric has risen steadicly, at an accelerating rate from decade to decade, to the current level of 392 ppm.

Why should we care? There is a strong causal link (shown by ice core and other scientific studies) between atmospheric concentrations of “greenhouse gases” such as carbon dioxide and global surface temperatures. Moreover, scientists who study the earth’s history have discovered periods in the Earth’s history, tens and hundreds of millions of years ago, when high concentrations of greenhouse gases apparently led to global warming and mass extinctions of the earth’s biota as much of the planet became uninhabitable. In the current period of rapidly rising atmospheric CO2, we are already seeing dramatic evidence of ecosystem change. Among many recent examples of climate-caused ecosystem change, two widely publicized ones include coral reefs bleaching and dying as the oceans warm and become more acidic, and dramatic losses of summer ice cover on the Arctic Ocean as the poles warm.

Why should we care? Well, if you live in the Arctic, or if you live on a low-lying island in the ocean, or if you live in an area suffering from climate-caused drought, or if you live an an area where the forests are dead all around you (e.g., southern British Columbia and many areas in the Rocky Mountains), or if you fish for salmon in Alaskan rivers, you care. But for those of us living in temperate regions it is often hard to perceive, and thus to care about, the relatively slow incremental changes that are occurring due to rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and a changing climate. Scientists have only recently started to focus on impacts of climate change on a regional or local level in the temperate parts of the world.

A new study by Dr. Curt Stager and Mary Thill sheds light on climate impacts that have already occurred in the Lake Champlain Basin and what impacts are to be expected in the near future. Funded by The Nature Conservancy, the research was an effort to find out how climate change might affect the aquatic habitat in one relatively small region. Their research showed that average temperatures have risen 2°F in just the past 30 years and that winter ice cover is significantly less extensive than in the past. For example, in the 19th century the lake failed to freeze over only three times, while between 1970 and 2007 it failed to freeze over 18 times.

No one can precisely predict future climates, but a host of climate models do a demonstrably and increasingly good job of doing so. An on-line tool is available, Climate Wizard, which allows anyone to easily access leading climate change information from 16 leading climate models and visualize the impacts anywhere on the planet. Report authors Stager and Thill applied Climate Wizard to the Champlain basin to develop a deeper understanding of how climate change might impact the basin and what resource managers could do. The good news is that many of their recommendations are things that we are already doing or should be doing: reduce pollution inputs, monitor environmental conditions and vulnerable species, be flexible and adaptive and prepared for varying lake levels, and prevent alien species invasions. As the authors state, dealing proactively with potential climate change impacts in the basin will be less costly and more effective than trying to respond after the fact.

The same thought process applies at the global level where I began this commentary. Climate change is real. It is going to get much warmer within the next 50-100 years. There is strong scientific consensus (e.g., Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports) that the primary cause of the dramatically rising atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases are human emissions. But this is good news, in a sense, as it means that unlike past episodes of climate change linked to volcanic eruptions and meteor impacts, we can control our future – if we take steps soon to reduce greenhouse gases before large areas of the planet become uninhabitable.

The steps we should be taking – reducing our dependence on foreign oil, eliminating the burning of coal until its combustion is clean and non-polluting, using renewable energy sources, eating locally grown food, driving hybrid and electric cars, and reducing our heating and electric bills – are things that we should do regardless, even if all the climate scientists are all wrong (inconceivable to me). These steps amount to taking out relatively cheap insurance to ensure that our grandchildren inherit a healthy planet – just in case the scientists are correct.

Curt Stager and Mary Thill’s full report is available here.

Graph: Lake Champlain ice dates, courtesy Curt Stager.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Let’s Eat: Adirondack Spruce Gum

In the late 19th century, a new fad swept the nation. Chewing gum was decried by newspaper editors and public pundits as “an essentially vulgar indulgence that not only shows bad breeding, but spoils a pretty countenance.” Nevertheless, the June 14, 1894 edition of the Malone Palladium commented, “No observant person can have failed to note the marked growth of the habit of chewing gum…in all parts of the country and among all classes.” The paper noted that even the “late Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York was a firm believer in spruce gum chewing.”

The gum-chewing craze began in the conifer forests of Maine and the Adirondacks. Made from the dried and crystallized sap of spruce trees, spruce gum was an important commercial crop in the Adirondack region during the 19th and early 20th centuries. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

APA Seeks Public Comment on General Tower Permitting

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is proposing a new general permit entitled “Installation of New or Replacement Telecommunications Towers at Existing Agency Approved Sites.” According to APA press materials, this will be a General Permit which “will allow for an expedited review of certain types of telecommunications projects at sites where the Agency has previously issued telecommunications permits and where the Agency has reviewed visual analyses prepared for the approved projects.”

The general permit would cover the following types of proposed projects park wide:

1) the installation of one new telecommunications tower in the immediate proximity of an existing telecommunications structure approved by the Agency and where the existing access drive and utility infrastructure are used to the greatest extent practicable; and

2) the replacement of a pre-existing telecommunications tower or a telecommunications tower previously approved by the Agency to address structural deficiencies of the existing tower in order to accommodate co-location of an additional telecommunications provider on said structure; with potential for some de-minimus increase in height.

According to APA staff, the concept for this general permit came about after consultations with cellular companies, elected officials and agency staff. Projects eligible under this General Permit would not result in significant adverse changes in the overall visibility of the tower site as seen from public viewing points, according to the APA.

This action is a SEQRA, Type 1 action. A negative declaration and Full Environmental Assessment Form has been prepared by the Agency and is on file at its offices in Ray Brook, New York. The proposed General Permit, application and certificate forms are available for review on the Agency’s website at www.apa.state.ny.us/.

All persons and agencies are invited to comment on this proposed project in writing or by phone no later than June 28, 2010.

Please address written comments to:

Holly Kneeshaw, Acting Deputy Director Regulatory Programs

NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
1133 NYS Route 86
Ray Brook, NY 12977

Photo: A Mass of communication towers atop Prospect Mountain overlooking Lake George. Photo by John Warren.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Governor George Clinton and Pok-O-Rushmore?

Untouched scenic vistas and natural landscapes are treasured in the Adirondacks. Seventy years ago, a popular landmark, since admired by millions, was nearly transformed into something far different from its present appearance.

It all began in 1937 with the editor of the Essex County Republican-News, C. F. Peterson. Formerly a Port Henry newspaperman, active in multiple civic organizations, and clearly pro-development and pro-North Country, Peterson was a force to be reckoned with. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Almanack Welcomes Local Author, Historian, Lawrence Gooley

Please join me in welcoming Adirondack Almanack‘s newest contributor Lawrence Gooley. Gooley is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 40 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored eight books and several articles on the region’s past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area. His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. His most recent effort is Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow.

Gooley’s fascination with area history serves his readers well and he’s not afraid to get away from his desk an onto the ground where that history happened. He once researched a brief history of each bay on the Lake Champlain shoreline for example, prepared it in a binder with protective plastic sheets, laid it open on the bench seat of his canoe, and “lived history” for a week while paddling from Whitehall to Plattsburgh.

Gooley is a strong supporter of the Lyon Mountain Mining & Railroad Museum, where a 6-foot-long wall plaque hangs with the names of 162 men who died in accidents in Lyon Mountain’s iron mines. The plaque is based on information from his book Out of the Darkness.

With his partner, Jill McKee, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. They especially enjoy helping organizations and new authors navigate all the pitfalls of getting their work published, and seeing authors earn profits from their books. Besides Bloated Toe Publishing, they also operate an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.

Lawrence Gooley’s regular contributions to Adirondack Almanack will appear on Mondays.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Commentary: On Towers in Wilderness Areas

This month the Adirondack Park Agency board authorized its staff to solicit public comment on proposals to save the fire tower on Hurricane Mountain through a bit of legal legerdemain.

I understand the board’s motivation: the public wants the tower to stay. This has been amply demonstrated in letters, petitions, and comments at hearings.

But the solutions on the table are intellectually dishonest and make a mockery of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fur, Fortune, and Empire: A History of American Fur Trade

“The fur trade was a powerful force in shaping the course of American history from the early 1600s through the late 1800s,” Eric Jay Dolin writes in his new comprehensive history Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. “Millions of animals were killed for their pelts, which were used according to the dictates of fashion — and human vanity,” Dolin writes. “This relentless pursuit of furs left in its wake a dramatic, often tragic tale of clashing cultures, fluctuating fortunes, and bloody wars.”

The fur trade spurred imperial power struggles that eventually led to the expulsions of the Swedes, the Dutch, and the French from North America. Dolin’s history of the American fur trade is a workmanlike retelling of those struggles that sits well on the shelf beside Hiram Martin Chittenden’s 1902 two-volume classic The American Fur Trade of the Far West, and The Fur Trade in Colonial New York, 1686-1776., the only attempt to tell the story of the fur trade in New York. The latter volume, written by Thomas Elliot Norton, leaves no room for the Dutch period or the early national period which saw the fur trade drive American expansion west.

Dolin’s Fur Fortune, and Empire, is not as academic as last year’s Rethinking the Fur Trade: Cultures of Exchange in an Atlantic World by Susan Sleeper-Smith. It’s readable, and entertaining, ranging from Europe, following the westward march of the fur frontier across America, and beyond to China. Dolin shows how trappers, White and Indian, set the stage for the American colonialism to follow and pushed several species to the brink of extinction. Among the characters in this history are those who were killed in their millions; beaver, mink, otter, and buffalo.

Eric Jay Dolin’s focus, as it was with his last book Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, is the intersection of American history and natural history. Readers interested in the history of the New York fur trade will find this book enlightening for it’s connection of the state’s fur business with the larger world as the first third deals with the period before the American Revolution, when New York fur merchants and traders were still a dominate factor. Yet, like last year’s Sleeper-Smith book, Dolin’s newest volume is simply outlines the wider ground on which the still necessary volume on the fur trade in New York might be built.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Butterfly Behavior: What is Puddling?

While watching a couple hawks the other day, something smaller flew past me – a tiger swallowtail butterfly. Is it possible it is already that time of year? Later on, while walking along the road, I saw two more. This time they were on the ground, steadfastly holding their place along the roadside, regardless of how close I stalked them. They were focused on the ground – they were puddling.

Puddling is a behavior many butterflies (and a few moths) engage in. Puddling sites can be any of a number of places: mud, dung, fermenting fruit, carrion, urine. The key is the chemical make-up of the site, for these butterflies are looking for something specific: salt (sodium) and minerals. The two I saw the other day were benefiting from the road salt that no doubt saturated the sandy shoulder of the road.

Mostly when we think of butterflies, delicate, colorful creatures come to mind, like flower petals drifting on a gentle summer breeze. We picture them flitting from flower to flower, sipping nectar here, sipping nectar there. And while nectar sipping is certainly part of a butterfly’s repertoire, it isn’t necessarily enough.

Flower nectar is a high-sugar liquid that provides limited nutrition to those who partake. If all you are looking for is quick energy, it might be enough, but butterflies have something else on their minds. They need to reproduce, and let’s face it, sugar water isn’t going to give you everything you need to produce viable offspring.

So off to a puddling site the butterflies flutter. Most of the puddlers are males, who ingest the salts, minerals and amino acids that the liquefied source provides. These nutrients are then stored in the sperm. When the time comes to mate, the male passes these goodies along to the female as a nuptial gift in his spermatophore. The female is now in possession of the “extra boost”, which she then passes along to her eggs. Eggs that receive this extra nutrient gift have a greater chance of success than those that do not.

The first time I saw puddling butterflies, I was a child walking along a dirt road with my grandmother. Along the way we passed a puddle that was loaded with small yellow sulfur butterflies. The looked like little sailboats, rocking gently from side to side as the wind caught their folded wings. It was enchanting.

Years later, I attended a butterfly program at which the presenter told us the best way to attract butterflies to your property was by putting out carcasses (roadkill being a good source) and piles of manure. This wasn’t quite as enchanting.

I recently read that if a butterfly cannot find a moist site, it will regurgitate onto the soil and then drink, hopefully gaining some nutrients that dissolved in the, uh, saliva. Also not quite so enchanting, but any port in a storm, eh?

While most of us are not likely to schlep a flattened rabbit home to sling into the back yard on the off-chance the butterflies might like it, there are plenty of other ways we can provide puddling opportunities. We can put out trays of fruit that has seen better days (beware, though, for it will also attract bees). We can put out shallow basins of water into which we’ve mixed a pinch or two of salt. We can keep a patch of lawn or garden free of plants and keep it well-watered.

Here at the VIC we sort of combine these. We take a bird bath and fill it with sand. To this we add some water, just enough to keep the sand moist. Then we add some stale beer, or maybe some juice and a pinch of salt. Again, it may attract bees, but that’s okay because this artificial puddling site is located in our butterfly garden, which is full of plants and flowers that butterflies and bees alike enjoy. Some plants are ideal for nectaring, while others are host plants for larvae. The addition of a puddling site makes the garden an all-around great place to watch butterflies and observe butterfly behavior.

As the seasons progress, keep your eyes peeled for butterflies in low, damp areas. Tiger swallowtails are champion puddlers, but don’t be surprised if you see some sulfurs or even a cabbage white or two. The imbibers will be so engrossed in their meals that you can sneak up quite close for a good look. Bring your binoculars along and a child. This is a great experience to share as you watch the insects uncoil their long tongues and push them into the substrate to drink. Then go home, make a fruit smoothie, stick in a straw and share with the child as you pretend to be butterflies.


Friday, May 21, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, May 21, 2010

Hacker Builds Luxury Boat Factory to Meet Global Demand

The factory was humming, despite the fact that it was Sunday morning.

A busy factory would be an unusual sight almost anywhere in America today, but in the Adirondack Park, where unemployment exceeds 20% and manufacturing has all but disappeared, it’s a true rarity.

The fact that this plant manufactures a Lake George product that is shipped around the globe makes the factory not only a rarity, but unique.

Located in a former palette plant in Ticonderoga, the 32,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility produces Hacker boats, from start to finish.

“Our former facility, housed in several buildings, was not efficient enough. Our new facility makes it easier for us to build boats with the extraordinary craftsmanship that defines every Hacker,” said Lynn Wagemann, Hacker-Craft’s president and CEO.

According to Wagemann, the new plant has enabled Hacker-Craft to shift every aspect of production to one, central location.

Since opening the new plant in April, Hacker-Craft has hired 12 new employees and expects to hire more workers as orders for the luxury mahaogany boats increase. Hacker-Craft now provides comprehensive health insurance to all qualified employees, said George Badcock, a Hacker-Craft owner.

That kind of investment will enable Hacker-Craft to recruit and retain the employees it needs to become a global company, said Badcock. “Hacker-Craft had to expand its market beyond Lake George, the Adirondacks and even the US if it’s to be the success it deserves to be,” said Badcock, a Lake George summer resident who is also president of an international leasing company.

Among the boats nearing completion was a 26-ft runabout, which, according to Dan Gilman, Hacker’s vice-president for sales, is the first new runabout model to be designed and produced by the company since 1995. “This is on its way to France,” said Badcock, who explained that Hacker has entered into an agreement with a European investment group that will market the boats throughout Europe and Asia. “This group has access to new luxury markets, where the demand for a classic Hacker is only growing,” said Badcock.

Hacker now has similar arrangements with groups in the mid-west and in Canada, said Badcock.
Building a single runabout requires as many as 1,500 hours of labor before it’s completed, said Gilman. “This factory is organized according to the same principles used by John Hacker, Chris Smith and Gar Wood,” said Gilman. “The only difference is that we now have power tools.”
Every successive stage of production is visible through the length of the factory, from framing to planking and finishing.

“The boats are now built completely of mahogany; in the past, oak, spruce and ash were used, which worked less with the most advanced expoxies,” said Gilman. The Honduran mahogany, Gilman said, is also harvested from forests certified as sustainable. “That’s something we’re very proud of,” he said.

Some employees are specialists, others can do practically any job required to build a boat. “These are master boat builders,” said Gilman. “We’re apprenticing new employees with the experienced builders, trying to make certain that the craft is passed along.”

Approximately 16 boats were under construction at the factory last week. This number will rise to 25 this year; operating at full capacity, the factory can produce as many as 35 or 40 boats a year, said Badcock.

“Lynn Wagemann has put together a great crew; they take tremendous pride in their work,” said Badcock. According to Wagemann, Hacker Boat Company’s Silver Bay location is now used as a boat yard, for administration and as a show room for the company’s boats.
Hacker also has a facility for restoring and repairing boats in downtown Ticonderoga and storage facilities for 240 boats in Hague, Wagemann said.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, May 21, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, May 20, 2010

5th Annual Adirondack Literary Awards Ceremony June 6

The 5th Annual Adirondack Center For Writing (ACW) Literary Awards Ceremony will be held June 6, 3-5 pm at the Blue Mountain Center. The Adirondack Literary Awards is a juried awards program that honors books published in or about the Adirondacks in the previous year. Now one of the most popular annual events of the Adirondack Center for Writing, the event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to Nathalie at ACW (phone or email) if you plan to attend, as a count is needed. She can also provide directions.


In addition to juried awards in each category (fiction, poetry, children’s literature, and nonfiction), there is a People’s Choice Award at this festive program (one vote per member please). ACW members are encouraged to send in their votes for their favorite book of the year via email, phone, or mail. A complete list of submissions by category follows.

Voting is also permitted at the awards ceremony itself. Most of the books considered for awards are made available for purchase at the ceremony by the authors, and they are happy to sign their books. Questions may be directed to ACW at 518-327-6278, acwevents@gmail.com.

Immediately following the ceremony, all are welcome to join us for dinner and great conversation at The Hedges. The cost is $35 per person and all proceeds benefit ACW. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting the ACW office at 518-327-6278, acwevents@gmail.com.

POETRY

Lucifer, A Hagiography, Philip Memmer, Lost Horse Press; Cold Earth Wanderers and other Adirondack Writings, Various Authors, RA Press; 12993, Judith Dow Moore, RA Press; Sunrise, Sunset, Nadine McLaughlin, Graphics North; American Cool, George Drew, Tamarack Editions; Two Heads, David Parkinson and Judith D. Moore, RA Press; Seven Storms, Chuck Gibson, RA Press; Blue Mountain Rider, Mary Benson and Hedy Strauss, Xlibris

FICTION

Saying Goodbye to Port Davis High, Dave Donohue, RA Press; Adirondack Detective, The Years Pass, John H. Briant, Chalet Publishing; Rehabilitation, Timothy J. Brearton, Illegal Dog Press

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

Adirondack Mouse and the Mysterious Disappearance, Irene Uttendorfsky, Spruce Gulch Press; Adirondack Kids #9: Legend of the Lake Monster, Justin and Gary VanRiper, Adirondack Press; My Little Book of Bald Eagles, Hope I. Marston, Windward Publishing; Bug Boy, Eric Luper, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Adirondack ABCs, Joyce B. Snavlin, North Country Books, Inc.

MEMOIR

The Adirondacks that are the Other Half of Me, Mary A. Paladin, Booksurge; American by Choice, Walter Kroner, Shires Press; Adirondack Retreat: My Midlife Journey to Wholeness, Kathleen S. McPhillips, Booksurge

NON-FICTION

Terror in the Adirondacks, Lawrence P. Gooley, Bloated Toe Publishing; The Adirondack Reader, Edited by Paul Jamieson with Neal Burdick, Adirondack Mountain Club; Kaddish in Wood, Herbert Savel, M.D., Florida Holocaust Museum; Adirondack Stories II, Marty Podskoch, Podskoch Press; Warren County (New York): Its People and Their History over Time, Various Authors, The Donning Company Publishers; The Great Experiment in Conservation: Voices from the Adirondack Park, Edited by William F. Porter, Jon d. Erickson and Ross S. Whaley, Syracuse University Press; Ghosts of Clinton County, Gordie Little, North Country Books, Inc.; Short Carries, Essays from the Adirondack Life, Elizabeth Folwell, Adirondack Life, Inc.; Historic Tales from the Adirondack Almanack, John Warren, The History Press; The Young Poets of Port Henry High School, Various Authors, RA Press; Dog Hikes in the Adirondacks, Edited by Annie Stoltie and Elisabeth Ward, Shaggy Dog Press

PHOTOGRAPHY

The Adirondacks In Celebration of the Seasons, Mark Bowie, North Country Books, Inc.; Lake George, Carl Heilman, North Country Books, Inc.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Northern Forest Canoe Trail Celebrates 10 Years

The 740-mile paddling route known as the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) celebrates its tenth year this summer. Winding its way from Maine through New Hampshire, Quebec, Vermont, and into New York ending at Old Forge, the NFCT was just an idea in the late 1990s when two executives retiring from Mad River Canoe founded the nonprofit to establish the trail.

Kay Henry and Rob Center have spent their retirement bringing to life the long distance paddle route which opened June 3, 2006. The trail is marked with NFCT’s yellow diamond with blue lettering trail markers and includes 56 lakes and ponds, 22 rivers and streams, and 62 carries (totaling 55 miles). Portages, campsites, and access areas are marked on some sections of the trail. The NFCT includes more than 150 public access points, and more than 470 individual campsites on public and private land. » Continue Reading.