Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Commentary: Hard-Learned Local Media Lessons

Last week, The Post-Star announced that its free weekly publication ADK Talk would cease publication (naturally, the blurb was buried in the middle of its local section).

This was the Glens Falls daily’s latest failed attempt to compete with the region’s independent weekly The Chronicle. ADK Talk had replaced two separate but nearly identical Post-Star weeklies called The Glens Falls Leader and The Queensbury Citizen, an experiment which also failed. The Lee Enterprises-owned paper announced that it had abandoned the weekly experiment to “pursue initiatives online” with its website.

The demise of ADK Talk and its predecessors revealed some interesting lessons about the local media landscape.

Identity Matters
The Chronicle is celebrating its 30th birthday because it’s distinctive. The independent weekly has a very strong identity in the community. Many people swear by it. Some people people swear at it. But everyone knows what The Chronicle is all about. Personally, I used to view it with disdain but have to come appreciate the value of a venue for independent voices in a corporate media dominated culture; and a lot of other people apparently do too.

ADK Talk and its predecessors were never able to develop that identity because they were seen as just another Post-Star/Lee Enterprises vehicle. It’s certainly reassuring for outlets like Adirondack Almanack that people still place value on the concept of locally-driven, independent media.

Content Matters

ADK Talk and its predecessors ran almost exclusively light feature stories. Sources tell me that the purpose of The Post-Star‘s weeklies was to entice non-subscribers to purchase the daily product.

But stories about middle school kids going on field trips and the like may be mildly interesting but are a poor hook to convince the undecided that the daily product would provide information essential to their lives. The structure of the weeklies seemed poorly thought out.

Free Isn’t Evil
Newspaper pooh-bahs are possibly the only business people who go out of their way to publicly insult their customers. People who want/expect their news for free are regularly treated as leeches by newspaper big wigs.

“How can newspapers make money (survive) if the end user refuses to pay for the content?” they sniff, ignoring the fact that the terrestrial broadcast media (over the air radio and television) make money even though the content is free to the end user. Most weeklies are for profit businesses and are also free to the reader. Websites like Pro Publica are offering top quality journalism free to the end user.

ADK Talk and its predecessors were not merely distributed (free to the end user) at places like supermarkets and libraries. They were also mailed to thousands of local households that didn’t subscribe to the daily product. So Lee Enterprises put forth the significant expense of not only publishing the weeklies and having them trucked to public venues but also the postage of having them sent via the USPS.

When you spend that much time, energy and money to give your product away, how can you criticize or be surprised at the expectation that news be free?

Ultimately, the region will barely notice the disappearance of this advertising vehicle. Lee Enterprises was recently ranked as the most inefficient company in the publishing industry. One can only hope that the trend will be bucked here and that the money formerly poured into ADK Talk will be used to slow the precipitous demise of quality in The Post-Star‘s main product: the daily newspaper itself.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Wildlife Habitat Awareness Day

Not so long ago my children discovered a baby robin out of its nest and floundering near our front stoop. The mother robin circled nervously. It was a difficult decision to stand back and let nature take its course. My husband and I were operating with a barrage of opinions, a few old wives tales, two crying children and a curious dog. The baby was a fledgling and managed to seek refuge under the deck while its mother continued to feed it. We assume that it flew away one morning like it was supposed to, with no help from us. The most challenging part of those few days was keeping overzealous children from creating a bird sanctuary as the dog whined for a nibble of Robin Red-Breast Tartare.

This Saturday children and adults will be able to ask about all the right ways to help make sure baby animals stay in the wild where they belong. One rule is to remember that these animals are wild and should remain so, so the best course of action is to leave the baby and let its mother do what it does best. That is always better said than done when it comes to children so I can always use a few more talking points.

Wendy and Steve Hall of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington have provided a full day of events to inform humans about when it is right to intervene on behalf of wildlife and when it is best to ignore.

The Wildlife Refuge is 60 acres on the western branch of the Ausable River. There is a one-mile guided nature trail, animal exhibits and experts from organic gardeners to naturalists that will explain how plants and animals play a vital role in nature.

“The important idea we want to get across is sustainability,” says Wendy. “We are involved with a coalition of people that are focusing on sustainability. We have someone from the Ausable River Association talking about invasive species, an organic blueberry farmer and my good friend Nancy VanWie from the Nature Conservancy.”

Wendy says that Nancy plays many roles in educating the public about conservation and sustainability. In addition to her role with the Nature Conservancy, Nancy is also part of the Westport Community Garden project and along with Eddie Mrozik co-founded the Crane Mountain Valley Horse Rescue.

Steve Hall agrees, “ We mainly want people to have a chance to meet wildlife up close and gain an understanding of how everything fits together. Zeebie and Cree, our two wolves, are pets to us but are used as a vehicle to educate how such animals hunt and investigate their property. Zeebie came to us as a baby in July 2009 and is now over 100 lbs. With the bird of prey, like the Great Horned Owl, we bring these raptors up close so people can learn about them.”

According to Steve Hall the main hope is that people will gain a better understanding of wildlife and how it fits into the ecosystem. He hopes that people will see that wildlife is an integral part of the natural world. The role wildlife plays is more beneficial to humans than we know. He brings up the term, “indicator species.”

According to the Nature Conservancy indicator species are animals high on the food chain that indicate the health of the environment. Loons are a prime example as researchers continue to collect data on the mercury accumulation in the loon’s food source.

I am looking forward to finding out when it is time to call in the experts at the Rehabilitation Center and when it is best to leave nature alone.

The Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center is located at 977 Springfield Road in Wilmington. The event is on Saturday, September 4th from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. This event is free but donations are accepted and used to build enclosures for disabled raptors.

Photo courtesy Diane Chase. 


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Let’s Eat! Lucelia Mills Clark’s Farm Journal

Lucelia Arvilla Mills Clark, a farm wife in Cranberry Lake, New York kept a journal throughout her adult life recording daily activities, neighborhood news, weather observations, illnesses, deaths, and births. The entries are short and factual, but together they offer a window into the life of a farm family in the Adirondack Mountains during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and in particular record the business of keeping everyone fed.

Lucelia was born in Gouverneur in St. Lawrence County in 1852, daughter of blacksmith John R. Mills and his wife Jane Aldous Mills. In 1873, Lucelia married Henry M. Clark. The couple had nine children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. In 1884, the family moved to Maple Grove Farm, built by Lucelia’s father, near Cranberry Lake. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dave Gibson: Return to the Moose River Plains

A summer day. The road to the Moose River Plains from Limekiln Lake is free of traffic this morning, the sun’s rays have not yet turned the evening dew to dust. As I drive down the shaded road I think about the work of local people from Inlet who dug and placed sand on these roads to give the heavy logging trucks enough traction on the steep sections.

Dick Payne, former Inlet Police Chief, left me memorable impressions of working the Plains in the “old days.” Since 1964 when the Gould Paper Company sold this land to the people of the State, the land is Forest Preserve. As the cicadas begin to whine from the trees, I try to remember another group who hiked in via the Red River valley to discover what was at risk from the Higley and Panther Mountain Dams on the South Branch of the Moose River. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Commentary: Uplands Need More Protection

Politicians often complain that the Adirondack Park is over-regulated, but a case can be made that in some respects the Park is under-regulated.

All it takes is one house on a mountaintop or ridge to spoil a wild vista, and yet the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), which was created to safeguard the region’s natural resources, has no regulations aimed at protecting the uplands from unsightly development.

The uplands are clearly at risk. Given that most of the Park’s private waterfront has been developed, people with money are turning to the next best thing: a big home on a hill with a commanding view.

An article by George Earl in the September/October issue of the Adirondack Explorer reveals that dozens of conspicuous homes—visible from roads and trails—have been built in the uplands of Keene over the past few decades. And that’s just one town. The same kind of development is occurring in other parts of the Park, most notably around Lake George.

The APA does have tools to protect uplands when it has jurisdiction over a project. For example, it can require that a house be screened by trees or situated to minimize its visual impact.

The problem is that the APA often lacks jurisdiction. The agency does have the authority to review projects above the 2,500-foot contour, but this is essentially meaningless. APA spokesman Keith McKeever could not think of a single house built above that elevation, not even in Keene (“The Home of the High Peaks”). Near Lake George, Black Mountain is the only summit that exceeds 2,500 feet, and it lies within the state-owned Forest Preserve. In short, all the development around Lake George and the rest of the Park takes place below the 2,500-foot contour.

The APA also has jurisdiction when a house is built on property classified as Resource Management—the strictest of the agency’s six zoning categories for private land. Much of the Park’s uplands fall within this classification, but many stick-out homes are built on less-regulated lands where the APA does not automatically have jurisdiction.

Finally, the APA lacks jurisdiction even in Resource Management lands (as well as other lands) if a home is built in a subdivision approved before the agency’s creation.

Most of the Park’s towns lack zoning rules or the expertise to deal with upland development. So it’s up to the APA to address the problem. It will be difficult politically and technically. Even the definition of “upland” is tricky in a region where the elevation ranges from 95 feet at Lake Champlain to 5,344 feet at the top of Mount Marcy.

If nothing is done, however, we’ll continue to see a degradation of the Park’s wild character. It’s said that you can’t eat the scenery, but this isn’t true. Natural beauty is an economic asset that has been drawing tourists to the region for well over a century. For this reason, too, the uplands should be protected.

Photo by George Earl: Upland home in Keene.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Wilmington’s Henry Markham, California Governor

The section of Wilmington referred to as Haselton was once known as Markhamville. The name came from settlers who arrived prior to 1800, and it was more than a century before the change was made to Haselton. Among the early-nineteenth-century residents was Nathan Markham, who earned a living in iron manufacturing before turning to farming. He and wife Susan raised six sons and four daughters. The Markham work ethic served them well.

Three daughters and two sons were teachers in area schools. Several sons became prominent businessmen in different cities, and four of them were successful attorneys. George became the president of Northwest Mutual Life, an insurance company that is now 153 years old and holds more than $1 trillion in individual policies. And Henry became the governor of California.

Henry Harrison Markham was born in Wilmington on November 16, 1840. At the age of 19, he was still working on the family farm, but extended his education by attending Vermont’s Wheeler Academy, from which he graduated in 1862. Shortly after, he moved to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on the western shore of Lake Michigan.

An overriding concern at the time was the war, and just as his young father (only 18) had fought in the Battle of Plattsburgh, 23-year-old Henry enlisted, joining the North’s Civil War forces in December 1863. Tracking the movements of Company G, 32nd Wisconsin Infantry reveals their role in Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea. Henry survived that campaign, but for him, the war ended soon after.

In January 1865 in South Carolina, the troops of the 32nd had slogged their way for days through the muddy morass of Whippy Swamp, sometimes waste deep in cold water. At a place known as River’s Bridge, the Confederates released a hellfire in defense of their position, but a relentless push forward by Union troops forced the rebels to fall back.

Dozens died in the battle, and Henry was badly wounded. After a period of recovery at Beaufort, S.C., he was mustered out in May 1865 as a 2nd Lieutenant. Returning to Wisconsin, Henry took up the study of law with a well-known firm, and within a few short years, he was admitted to legal practice at various levels, including the US Supreme Court.

When his brother Charles arrived, they formed a very successful law partnership in Milwaukee. Henry was joined in marriage with Mary Dana at Waukesha, Wisconsin, in May 1876, and from outward appearances, life was good.

But illness and the nagging effects of his war injuries took an increasing toll, compelling Henry to seek a more healthful climate. Catching his eye was a magazine advertisement: “To Health Seekers—A Beautiful Home in a Beautiful Land—A Fruit Farm in Southern California.” With 22 acres, 750 fruit trees, and a vineyard, Henry was sold. In the late 1870s, Pasadena, California, became the new Markham homestead.

In addition to operating his fruit orchard, Henry kept busy pursing civic and business interests in California. Besides investing in various mines, he helped found the Pasadena Public Library and served on the school board, assuming a position of prominence in the community.

In 1884, the Republican Party in southern California was searching for a strategy to defeat the Democrats, who had long wielded power. A few interested candidates seemed lackluster at best, and Henry was approached as a dark horse possibility. He consented, and then did what he had always done in any endeavor: worked hard. Success followed, and for the next two years, the interests of southern California were looked after in Washington by Congressman Markham.

At re-election time in 1886, he seemed a sure bet to win again. But, just as he had reluctantly surrendered his law practice in Wisconsin, Henry said “Thanks, but no thanks” in declining the opportunity. The east-coast climate had again diminished his health, and he opted for civilian life in Pasadena rather than another term in Washington.

Aware of his leadership capabilities and his interest in the plight of war veterans, Congress elected him as a manager of the National Homes for Disabled Soldiers. The position was unpaid, and Henry frequently used his own money to finance related expenditures. In that regard, the home in Santa Monica greatly benefited from his largesse.

In 1887, Henry commissioned a magnificent three-story home to be built on his property (the cost in 2010 translates to well over $1 million). The huge mansion would easily accommodate his growing family (three young daughters), but Henry wanted more for them. He began building a playhouse, specially constructed to also accommodate Dad, who was 6 feet 2 inches tall. It was a beloved structure that the children shared for years with many friends.

Markham expanded his business connections beyond the area’s mines. He was president of the Los Angeles Furniture Company, and a director on the boards of two banks and the Southern California Oil Supply Company. Others like him led a surge of financial prosperity and population growth in southern California. In the upcoming political campaign, the south was hoping to wrest control from the northern power base at San Francisco.

Once again, the party turned to Markham, nominating him as the candidate for governor to avoid a party split. In a bitter, hard-fought battle, he defeated San Francisco Mayor E. B. Pond by 8,000 votes to become California’s 18th governor. The victory was attributed partly to Henry’s manner of personally greeting thousands of voters who became well acquainted with the “Markham Glad-hand.” It was his signature move—a firm, hearty handshake evoking sincerity.

While holding office from Jan. 1891–Jan. 1895, Markham did much to advance business in the state. When the Panic of 1893 struck (considered second-worst only to the Great Depression of the 1930s), he backed the idea for the California Midwinter International Exposition (a World’s Fair). With San Francisco as the host city, a massive parade was held. Represented were many businesses, civic organizations, and military groups. A work-holiday was imposed by the governor, to great effect. On the first day alone, more than 72,000 people attended.

During his tenure, Markham also handled the effects of a national railroad strike; led the second-largest fundraising effort among states represented at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893; secured military facilities that brought millions of dollars to California; forced a railroad company to pay $1.3 million it owed the state; helped bring trolley service to Pasadena; backed the building of the Santa Fe Railroad; and worked towards establishing a harbor facility in southern California.

Early in his tenure, an interesting meeting occurred when Governor Markham welcomed President Benjamin Harrison on a tour of California. The president was the grandson of another president, William Henry Harrison, and during the trip, California’s new governor revealed a personal connection to the First Family.

The elder Harrison’s election platform in 1840 had included tariffs that were meant to protect American businesses. Nathan Markham, an iron manufacturer at Wilmington, was so delighted when William Henry Harrison won the election in 1840, he named his newborn son Henry Harrison Markham. (Unfortunately, the president died after a month in office, the shortest term of any US chief executive.)

After a successful four-year stint as governor, Henry Markham decided not to run for a second term, returning to private life and the world of business, where he did well for more than two decades. He died of a stroke in 1923 at the age of 83, but was certainly not forgotten.

His impressive home was torn down in 1939, but through the years the Markham Mansion had played host to many grand social occasions, both during his tenure and after his death. The family name also remained a fixture on streets, buildings, and other locations in Pasadena.

In 1963, forty years after the governor’s death, Markham Place was honored by the Pasadena Beautiful Foundation as its first Banner Block. The neighborhood was near Henry’s former mansion and orchard, where many old, beautiful homes had been restored. In 2010, popular tourist destinations include the Governor Markham Victorian District.

Was the old neighborhood really that impressive? Next door to Markham was Adolphus Busch (Budweiser, etc.). Nearby was the Gamble family (Procter & Gamble) and Bill Wrigley (Wrigley’s gum). Others locating in that vicinity over the years include the Maxwells (coffee), the Cox family (communications), and the Spaldings (sporting goods). The area was once known as “Millionaire’s Row” in the days when a million dollars suggested exclusivity.

And what of that wonderful playhouse so lovingly built by Henry Markham for his daughters? In 1970, the California State Historical Society became aware that after 85 years, it still existed. The family had passed it down so that subsequent generations of children could enjoy it.

Wishing to do the same, the owner contacted Governor Markham’s fourth daughter, Hildreth, 81 (born in 1889), seeking her consent for donating it to the Pacific Oaks Children’s School. Soon after, the house (which had been refurbished regularly in the past), was placed in a corner of the children’s play yard at the school, a memento of California’s governor from New York.

Photo Top: Henry Harrison Markham.

Photo Middle: Civil War photo of 2nd Lieutenant Henry H. Markham.

Photo Bottom: California Midwinter International Exposition, 1894.

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.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Loon Lake History Subject of Talk Friday

Northern New York history buffs will enjoy the upcoming discussion of the history of Loon Lake in Franklin County, on Friday September 3 at 6:30 pm. The presentation and discussion of Loon Lake history, especially the era of the famous Loon Lake House hotel and resort, will feature Joseph LeMay, who is writing a book on the subject. Admission is free and the public is encouraged to attend. Members of the greater Loon Lake community are invited to share their memories and photographs and participate in the discussion, which will be held at the Schryer Center at the Franklin County Historical & Museum Society, 51 Milwaukee St., Malone.

The House of History museum is housed in an 1864 Italianate style building, most recently the home of the F. Roy and Elizabeth Crooks Kirk family. A museum since 1973, the House of History is home to the headquarters of the Franklin County Historical & Museum Society and its historic collections pertaining to the history of Franklin County. The recently renovated carriage house behind the museum is the beautiful Schryer Center for Historical & Genealogical Research, which opened in 2006. The Schryer Center contains archival materials and a library of family history information and is open to the public. FCHMS is supported by its members and donors and the generous support of Franklin County.

The House of History is open for tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4pm through December 31, 2010; admission is $5/adults, $3/seniors, $2/children, and free for members. The Schryer Center for Historical & Genealogical Reseach is open for research Tuesday-Friday from 1-4pm through October 8, 2010 and Wednesday-Friday from 1-4pm October 13-May 1, weather permitting. The fee to use the research library is $10/day and free to members.

Information about Franklin County History, the collections of the museum and links to interesting historical information can be found on the Society’s blog.

Contact the Historical Society with questions at 518-483-2750 or [email protected]

Photo: Loon Lake Hotel Staff, ca. 1896. From the collection of the Franklin County Historical & Museum Society.


Monday, August 30, 2010

APA Announces New Regulatory Chief

The Adirondack Park Agency has announced the promotion of Richard E. Weber to serve as the Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs. Mr. Weber fills the position vacated by the retirement of long serving Deputy Director Mark Sengenberger. Mr. Weber’s appointment is effective immediately.

As Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs, Mr. Weber will supervise a staff of 12 who are responsible for implementing the statutory and regulatory provisions of the Adirondack Park Agency Act, the Freshwater Wetlands Act, and the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act.

Regulatory Program Division responsibilities include pre-application project guidance and assessment, application completeness determinations, applying review standards and preparing permits, variances or denial orders. From January 1st, through August 12, 2010, the Regulatory Program Division received 257 project applications and issued 244 permits. In addition, staff participated in 112 pre-application meetings.

Mr. Weber was originally hired by the Adirondack Park Agency in November, 2002 and served in the Planning Division as Supervisor for Regional Planning. He was promoted to Assistant Director for Planning in April, 2008.

Prior to joining the APA, Mr. Weber directed multi-disciplinary design teams for professional consulting firms. His responsibilities included site plan design, environmental planning, contract administration, visual impact assessment, land use planning, permit application preparation and development of Geographic Information Systems.

Mr. Weber became a registered Landscape Architect in November 1980 and served as a Planning Board member for the Town of Galway, Saratoga County in July 2002. He graduated from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry and received a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.

In a statement for the media, Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs Richard Weber said, “The Adirondack Park always represented to me an opportunity to get it right. I see the Park as a place where open space and community intersect to the benefit of people and nature. It is a great responsibility and honor to serve as the Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs. I will strive to do my best to achieve the legislative mandate of the Adirondack Park Agency Act to balance natural resource protection with the sustainability of the Park’s 103 municipalities.”


Sunday, August 29, 2010

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

A New Guide Answers: “What Are We Looking At?

How many times have you reached the top of mountain only to wonder what exactly you’re seeing? Thatcher Hogan, designer of Thatcher’s Peak Finders may have the answer in the form of a sturdy plastic deck of line drawings that identify the views from popular peaks in the Northern Adirondacks.

Standing at the top of one of the ten mountains included, it’s clear that Thatcher is on to something. Included in his first Peak Finder are popular day-hikes like Ampersand, Azure, baker, Cascade, Haystack, Mount Arab, Jenkins, Owls Head, St. Regis, and Whiteface. Helpful tips – standing too close to a fire tower can mess with your compass – and interesting historical and geological facts are peppered throughout this tidy, easily pocket-able three ounce deck of views.

Each laminated card contains a detailed line drawing created from original photography shot specifically for each peak, so they represent what hikers actually see without binoculars. Over 210 peaks and landmarks are identified in this first edition, including 40 High Peaks, an area totaling 10,000 square miles, according to Thatcher. High Peaks are highlighted with their rank and elevation, lakes and rivers are identified, as are some 200 other peaks outside the biggies. The cards are riveted together with a study plastic rivet, just turn open the card showing the view you’re looking at and line the features up.

You can learn more about Thatcher’s Peak Finder at www.AdirondackPeakFinders.com, or just pick one up at Eastern Mountain Sports or the Adirondack Museum for $16.95.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Adirondack Bovidae: Bison or Buffalo?

“So, Pat,” I said, “got any burning natural history questions you’d like answered?” She stared at me. “What?” “I need a topic for an up-coming article and I’m fresh out of ideas.” She pondered for a while and then asked “what are those animals at the Buffalo Farm?”

“Ah!” I said. “Those would be bison, scientific name Bison bison bison, commonly called buffalo by most people because they don’t know they are actually bison. The buffalo,” I continued, “is actually a wholly different animal, native to Africa and parts of Asia, like the water buffalo (Asia), and the Cape buffalo (Africa).”

“Then why do they call bison buffalo?” Good question.

Not too many years ago, in geologic time, New York used to be home to one of the largest land mammals to call North America home, the eastern wood bison (Bison bison pennsylvanicus). [Note: some authorities claim that this is an invalid subspecies.] According to the literature, these animals were larger than the plains bison of Western fame, with darker, almost black, fur (wool? hair?), grizzled around the eyes and nose, and an almost negligible hump over the shoulders. The last wild herd was slaughtered over 200 years ago down in Pennsylvania (winter 1799-1800), and the last individuals were wiped out in West Virginia twenty-five years later. Not too long after that the plains bison would be headed down the same path (although, fortunately their total annihilation was prevented).

Another subspecies of wood bison, Bison bison athabasca, called western Canada home. This animal is also larger than the plains bison, and its large hump rises forward of the front legs, making it easily distinguishable from its plains cousin, whose hump rises above the front legs. Probably because western Canada was settled more slowly than the American west, these wood bison held out longer. 1900 is usually given as the date by which they were considered to be extremely rare, but, like the plains bison, they avoided extinction. Today about 3000 still roam wild.

So, how does this tie in to the Adirondacks? Well, we do have that bison farm. Some folks have speculated that the bison on this farm are hybrids, a bison-beef combo known as a beefalo. According to their website, however, these animals are 100% plains bison – the same animals (well, the same species) that Buffalo Bill would’ve eyeballed when he roamed the plains. Bison meat is really quite good – it has a fine flavor and is very lean. The animals, however, apparently have a less-than-amenable disposition.

Is it possible that the eastern wood bison, which populated New York and points south (as far south as Georgia), made its way up to the Adirondacks? I posed this question to a friend of mine who has a fondness for extinct megafauna. He speculates that an Adirondack presence was probably unlikely since these animals were grazers, and let’s face it, until the last hundred years or so, there wasn’t a whole lot of open space for grazing in these here mountains. The rugged terrain and dense forests, not to mention all the wetlands, would probably have been a great deterrent to these mighty animals.

Still, it is fun to speculate on “what might have been” back when the glaciers started to retreat. All sorts of giant mammals roamed North America: giant ground sloths, the stag-moose (or elk-moose), mastodons, woolly mammoths. Then there were the carnivores, like the dire wolf – the name alone almost makes one shudder. Might any of these wondrous animals have tromped the trails to our backcountry lakes and ponds? Maybe not, but just because we’ve found no bones, doesn’t mean that one or two didn’t pass this way.

Now, as to why bison are called buffalo, here’s what I found out. Going back linguistically to the Greek, we have “bison,” which referred to a large, ox-like animal. The French called oxen “les boeuf”. It seems that French fur trappers called the animals they found here “les boeuf” because they reminded them of they oxen back home, and, as will happen with languages, the word stuck and was corrupted, eventually becoming “buffalo.”

Finally, just in case there are some folks out there who will insist that a bison by any other name will still smell the same, here are some buffalo vs. bison factoids:

Buffalo: 13 pairs of ribs; no hump
Bison: 14 pairs of ribs; big ol’ hump at the shoulders

Also, bison are considered to be more like mountain goats, muskoxen, and big horn sheep than buffalo, although all are in the same family, Bovidae. And, just for the record, there is a European bison, too, which is smaller than the American version, and is mostly found today in Poland, although there are some small herds living in neighboring countries.

In the meantime, there are some modern day bison that call the Adirondacks home, and they can be found not too far from Newcomb: down the Blue Ridge Road, just off exit 29 from the Northway in North Hudson. Because these are wild animals (don’t let the word “farm” deceive you), visitors cannot get up close to them (a wise precaution – bison can be snarky animals). But, there is a great viewing platform right there where one can gaze down into the pastures and almost picture what it might have been like 500 years ago…just outside the Park.

Photo courtesy The Adirondack Buffalo Company


Friday, August 27, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Lake George Comeback For A Once Famed Sailboat

Led by Lake George’s John Kelly and Reuben Smith of Hall’s Boat Corp., the Mystic Seaport maritime museum in Mystic, Connecticut, is documenting a once-famous class of sail boat that has slipped into obscurity.

The boats, Sound Interclubs, were sailed on Lake George from the 1930s through the 1950s, when the Lake George Club replaced its racing fleet with Stars and Rainbows.

Two of the surviving sail boats have been acquired by John Kelly, the Assembly Point resident whose 1936 Lake George Gar Wood was restored by Reuben Smith and the crew at Hall’s earlier this year. Hall’s is now restoring Kelly’s Sound Interclubs.

Of Kelly’s two boats, one was in relatively good condition, but even that one had been disfigured by the force of the 42 foot mast and the weight of the lead keel, said Smith. So before he could begin the work of restoring the boats, he needed an accurate set of plans.

Smith said he called Mystic Seaport in search of plans, photos and any additional information that might be in the museum’s extensive archives, and while dozens of classic photos had been taken of the boats racing in Long Island Sound in the 1920s and 30s, no plans survived.

That inquiry led Mystic Seaport’s staff to start researching the Sound Interclub, said Luisa Watrous, the museum’s Intellectual Property Manager.

“Mystic Seaport is delighted that Reuben Smith and John Kelly are doing this work, because the museum maintains a representative collection of American sailboats, and there’s too little information about the Sound Interclubs,” said Watrous. “The Museum doesn’t have a boat of this type in the collection, and the restoration at Hall’s offers us an opportunity to clarify and update the photographic and vessel records.”

In the absence of the designer’s original plans (believed to have been lost in a fire), Smith is drafting a new set of plans as he restores Kelly’s first Sound Interclub; his plans, notes and photos of the restoration will guide the restoration of the other four Sound Interclubs.

Mystic Seaport will be one of the beneficiaries of Smith’s work, says Luisa Watrous,

Watrous, however, is not merely collecting the information gathered by Smith and Kelly; she’s heavily involved in co-ordinating research on the boats, enlisting the aid of people like Rik Alexanderson, whose grandfather, E.F. Alexanderson, was among those who brought one-design racing to Lake George.

Alexanderson is conducting oral interviews about the boats’ history on Lake George, said Watrous. Others, like David Warren, have contributed photos of the boats being sailed on Lake George. “I tend to feel that stories preserve themselves; they’re waiting to be told and will be told when the time is right,” said Watrous. The oral histories and photos are not only valuable additions to Mystic Seaport’s archives, but can assist Reuben Smith and John Kelly in their work, he said.

For Watrous, researching the Sound Interclubs is not merely a professional obligation; it’s a way for her to rediscover her links to the lake. “I have personal ties to the lake through my family, and I even sailed on Sound Interclubs in the 1970s,” he said. “After the Lake George Club switched to racing Stars and Rainbows, two Sound Interclubs were sold to Canoe Island Lodge, where I worked as a college student in the 1970s.”

John Kelly says he hopes to take his first sail in his Sound Interclub sometime this fall. “I became interested in the boats when I was researching the history of my Gar Wood, which was owned by a Lake George summer resident, Dan Winchester. A member of his family showed me an album that included some photos of a sailboat I’d never seen before. I showed them to Reuben, who immediately identified them as Sound Interclubs,” he said.

Designed by Charles Mower in 1926, the boats were famous in the 1930s as the fastest boats in the Westchester and Connecticut waters of Long Island Sound. “The whole idea behind one-design racing is that it’s a test of skills; it has nothing to do with who has the most money or the best technology,” said Reuben Smith.

By 1935, however, the boats began to feel dated to the Long Island skippers, many of whom were America’s Cup yachtsmen, and they replaced the boats with International One Designs, said Michael Kelly. Once the boats were no longer used for racing in Long Island Sound, they were brought to Lake George.

Reuben Smith says he knows of at least three other Sound Interclubs: one on Lake George, another in Texas and one on City Island in New York. He hopes they’ll be brought to Hall’s or to another Lake George boat shop and restored.

As does John Kelly. At the very least, he’ll get some competition. What’s the fun of owning a fast sail boat if there’s no one to compete with?

Photos: Above, Sound Interclubs racing on Lake George from the files of Lake George Mirror. Below, Sound Interclubs racing off Long Island. Photo by Morris Rosenfeld, courtesy of Mystic Seaport.

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


Friday, August 27, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

Each Friday morning Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers the previous week’s top stories. You can find all our weekly news round-ups here.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (August 26)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change.

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.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Rangers incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

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.

Adirondack Regional Weather Report
Friday: Sunny, high near 65.
Friday Night: Clear, low around 42.
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 77.
Saturday Night: Clear, with a low around 45.
Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 82.

The National Weather Service has begun providing a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]

SPORTSMEN LICENSES NOW ON SALE

The 2010-2011 hunting, trapping and freshwater fishing sporting license year will begin on October 1, 2010 and all sporting licenses are now available for purchase. Find out how to purchase a sporting license on the DEC website. Information about the 2010 Hunting Seasons is also available online [pdf]. All first-time hunters, bowhunters and trappers are required to take and pass one or more education courses. Visit the DEC website to get more information on the Sportsman Education Program and find an upcoming course near you.

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.

High Waters / Recent Heavy Rains
Although the upcoming weekend weather is generally forecast to be dry and sunny, the region experienced heavy rains this week, especially in Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Franklin counties. Heavy rain has raised water levels of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes throughout the Adirondacks. Trails along waterways may be flooded in spots and low water crossings may not be accessible. Trails may have mud and/or puddles in some locations. Wear appropriate footwear and to stay on the trail – hike through muddy areas and puddles to avoid widening the trails or creating “herd paths” around those areas.

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.

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

LOCAL ADIRONDACK CONDITIONS

All Climbing Routes Have Reopened: Thanks to the cooperation of the rock climbing community and their efforts in monitoring Peregrine Falcon nest sites and refrain from climbing closed routes, in 2010 eight successful nests of Peregrine Falcons in the Adirondacks produced a total of 20 fledglings. DEC thanks rock climbers for their cooperation in protecting peregrine falcon nests near closed climbing routes, and for reporting their peregrine falcon observations at these and other locations.

Bolt Only When Necessary: DEC has observed an increase in fixed anchor bolts at several cliffs in the Adirondacks, including new bolts placed in close proximity to the eyrie ledge at two locations. DEC urges rock climbers to exercise discretion in placing new anchor bolts.

Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area: The Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area between the Grasse River and the Oswegatchie River, about three miles west of the village of Canton, is one of three areas in Jefferson and St. Lawrence County that are typically closed to provide feeding and resting areas for migratory waterfowl during. DEC is opening these areas to visitors from Saturday, Aug. 14 through Sunday, Aug. 29 now that most nesting and brooding seasons are complete and the fall migration has not yet begun. A map of the area can be found online.

Blue Mountain Wild Forest: The Blue Mountain Fire Tower is open the public including the cab. The fire tower, which was restored a few years ago, has an intern present during August to greet the public and educate them about fire towers and the forest preserve.

Ausable River: There is no public access to area of the East Branch of the Ausable River known as Champagne Falls, where a young boy recently drowned. No swimming is permitted and dangerous rocks and currents are found there. Heed the additional “No Trespassing” and “No Swimming” signs that have been posted. This covers both the Grist Mill and Hulls Falls sides of the River. Parking is being restricted. Law enforcement officers have added this area to their patrols and will be enforcing the law.

Raquette River Boat Launch: Rehabilitation of the Raquette River Boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake, also known as “The Crusher”, is complete. DEC expended approximately $190,00 from 2009 EPF Parks Capital Fund to upgrade the parking lots, install a new concrete boat ramp and floating dock, construct a separate launch area for canoes and kayaks and the improve the site so it is accessible for people with mobility disabilities. Paddlers are encouraged to use the canoe and kayak launch and retrieval area which is located just 50 feet upstream of the boat launch ramp.

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.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: DEC will removing culverts over a 2-3 week period on the main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) at Sumner Stream and Bradley Brook and replace them with bridges shortly after Labor Day Weekend. The work will be done one culvert/bridge at a time so as not to prevent the public from accessing any location within the Moose River Plains. However, the recreational users will only be able to access locations from one of the two entrances. DEC will post information at both ends of the road. Each project will take about a week to complete.

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. Also, DEC and Student Conservation Association crews have been working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites [online map]. Please respect closure signs. Work is occuring 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. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.

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.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is also affecting the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, particularly the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.

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Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

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.



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