Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bicycling Around Great Sacandaga Lake

I’ve always thought of the Great Sacandaga Lake as a poor man’s Lake George.

It’s not meant to be an insult. Quite the opposite. When folks from New York City and New Jersey and around the northeast drive up to Lake George and their 20-foot-wide lake frontage and million-dollar neighbors, they pass right by the Sacandaga and don’t even know it. Outsiders come to Lake George; locals stay at the Sacandaga.

Its shores are never crowded. Tasteful, discreet summer homes dot the shores, both south and north, but never overwhelmingly so. Chicken-wire cages that protect garbage pails bespeak of wildlife (mainly raccoons) that you’ll rarely see in Lake George Village. And bisecting the middle is the wondrous, 3,000-foot-long Batchellerville Bridge.

Last week we explored both sides of the lake on a 65-mile bicycle ride. Though the leaves had only just begun to change, it was a scenic, two-wheeled view into a part of the Adirondacks usually left out of outdoor guides.

Our journey began and ended at the West Mountain parking lot, where my cycling partner Steve and I saddled up. In no time we were climbing hard as we headed west. But once we reached the south shore of the lake, the road was fairly level, with occasional views of the water.

The lake was created in 1930 with the building of the Conkingville Dam, for the purpose of controlling flooding downstream on the Hudson River. The dam flooded a handful of Adirondack valley towns, turning hundreds out of their homes — but created one of the park’s largest lakes.

Our ride brought us past buildings both historic and modern. Halfway through, we reached the general store in Batchellerville, a historic building well over a hundred years old. From there, we crossed the bridge.

The bridge itself is as old as the lake. The state Department of Transportation is spending $56 million on a replacement bridge, now under construction only a few yards to the west of the existing one.

Cycling along the older bridge is far better than driving. Due to safety concerns, it’s now down to one lane of traffic, giving drivers a long wait at either end if they time it wrong. In the meantime, bikers have two huge shoulders to choose from, and can stop and admire the construction of the new bridge.

The north shore of the Sacandaga is even nicer than the south. We left the main road heading east, choosing instead to climb a steep hill on Military Road, a charming lane that parallels the shore. Here we got treated to a brief sample of local heavy-metal — a band was practicing in a nearby garage with the doors open, and the screams of the singer serenaded us as we pedaled by.

From there, we headed further east, eventually crossing the bridge over the Hudson’s Rockwell Falls at Hadley. It was a few days after that massive rainstorm we had, and the water was roiling in a way I’d never seen it before. The falls itself was entirely covered by the swollen river, creating massive standing waves over rock shelves where sunbathers lay in the summertime.

Steve, an avid white-water kayaker, stared at the aquatic apocalypse and considered possible lines.

Eventually, we wound up riding down one of the steepest, twistiest roads I’ve ever taken on a road bike — made even scarier by the fact that my brake cable was about to snap — before bringing us back to West Mountain. The Sacandaga may be the poor man’s Lake George, but we felt ever the richer for having explored it.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Climate Change: What We Owe The Pine Martin

I saw my first Adirondack pine marten (Martes Americana) the other day in Newcomb. I was on a marked state trail through Wild Forest, and came to a sizable stream fresh from the recent rains. A log seemed conveniently placed for me, but I hesitated. Knowing I would have wet feet, how badly did I wish to go on? Then I looked up. The marten was staring back at me from the opposite bank.

Give way! Hadn’t I seen the marten crossing sign, he seemed to be saying? The marten loped downstream, and took the next log across, paused and vanished. The animal was larger than I had imagined, redder, too, like my face flushed with excitement. The photo above is not of this animal. It is one of the many fine photos in the public domain provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

When I got home I remembered reading in Jerry Jenkins’ Climate Change in the Adirondacks (2010, Wildlife Conservation Society) that Adirondack martens are isolated by a hundred miles and more from cousins in New England and Canada; and that they can outcompete the larger fisher only by having an advantage in deeper snow. When the number of days with snowpack decline, as they are doing, the fisher may gain a competitive . There is already a 15-30% decline in the number of days with snowpack since I was in grade school c. 1970.

Do we have obligations to ensure Adirondack martens survive, because of their intrinsic worth, and so that our successors experience the same excitement I felt? Many might agree on the moral obligations. Fewer might agree on whether we have legal obligations. Fewer still might agree that those obligations, moral and legal, apply to our leaving the legacy of a planet at least as healthy as the one we now live on.

The hard realities and impacts of the warming oceans and shrinking ice which are already turning so many societies, human and more than human, to survival mode all over the world does challenge a boundary between moral and legal justice concerning future generations. This is because the global science is uniformly advising us that today’s pace of warming is the result of emissions in the 1950s and 60s and 70s.

Given the lag between greenhouse gas emissions and impacts of atmospheric change, we make climate decisions today that are likely to make life support systems much less functional for people – and martens – 100 years hence. This is a debt we are piling up far more ominous for society than fiscal imbalance.

Many philosophers have thought about current debts to future generations, and more than one has lived in the Adirondacks. One who did, and who regularly acted on his thinking, was the Reverend Woody Cole, Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency from 1984-1992, and a resident of Jay. Woody died recently. He spoke to an Adirondack audience in St. Huberts (Ausable Club) in 1991 about his view that we have an intrinsic duty to protect life forms built into our evolutionary past. Here is an excerpt of what he said:

“In nature, each organism has its own uniqueness in the way it finds to procreate, to endure, and to associate with its habitat. Each organism has evolved its complex way of capturing the energy of the sun and of maintaining its species population, building up its genome or genetic code so that it can adapt, keep going; and keep struggling in a universe that is supposed to be running down.

These millions of organisms evolved from symbiotically derived relationships with other species within ecological systems both over space and time. Contemplating this billion year old record is awesome; biota helped to produce the thin layer on this planet known as the living biosphere. …it is unique in this universe, and of value intrinsically, in and of itself, beyond mere utility for human satisfaction….

Thus it is that the conservation of ecosystems can be seen as an ultimate good, a moral obligation for observers who have been nurtured and sustained by the diverse biomes that up Earth’s biosphere. As creatures capable of appreciating inherent values, we now have a moral imperative as human organisms to protect the rich biotic ecosystems that perpetuate the life systems of the planet.

As suggested by the anthropological – cosmological principle, we have a duty to insure that complex life will be available for eventual transmission into the universe itself. But first we must conserve our own planet’s diverse ecosystems.”

Photo: Pine Marten, Erwin and Peggy Bauer, USFWS.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Puppet People at LARAC

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™

Puppetry combines elements of problem solving and creativity. It can also segue children from watching television to seeing a live performance. According to Puppet People co-founder, Mark Carrigan, puppetry can spark the imagination where watching television can not.

“I got into puppetry as a small child. I remember watching a puppet show when I was in third grade, running home and making my own puppets,” says Carrigan. “After receiving a degree in sculpture, I worked with Bennington Marionettes sculpting the marionettes’ faces. I met my wife there.”

He and his wife Michelle are the sole owners and employees of Puppet People. They create, design and build all their puppets and shows. Sometimes each puppet can take up to a month to complete. Each show is distinct and the puppets are not reused for various performances.

This Saturday at the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council’s (LARAC) Lapham Place Gallery in Glens Falls, children and adults will have an opportunity to participate in a puppet-making workshop as well as see a performance.

“I now want to share with kids how we make things,” says Carrigan. “The challenge is kids are programmed now after watching a show to just want their parents to buy them something. I tell them to go to the library and find out how to make something. I find that to be very important. After seeing a puppet show, kids discover its something they can do themselves. They can build and create and even put on their own show.”

It will also get children away from watching TV or videos. Carrigan remembers watching TV as a child but using imaginative play much more than children do currently. When his wife, a trained actor, as a child used to put on neighborhood shows. Carrigan wants children to be creative. He can’t stress enough the importance of teaching children to problem solve and role-play for strengthening social skills. He believes it can all start with puppets.

“I think seeing a puppet show is the first step to seeing live theatre,” say Carrigan. “There are a lot of different puppet companies so children gain that live experience through puppets first. I find children to be fascinated by its similarity to TV. Since it’s live performance, it also sparks their (the children’s) imagination.”

So there is not only the aspect of a fun afternoon there are even educational elements involved as well. LARAC is sponsoring the one day workshop along with funding provided by Stewarts Shops. The Saturday performance is $10 for adults and $5.00 for children. The 11:30 a.m. workshop is a separate fee of $12 with each participant leaving with his or her own rod puppet.

This 50-minute production is inspired by the classic Russian folk tale and ballet, The Firebird. The mythical bird comes to life and with the help of Ivan and Princess Yelena attempts to break the enchantment of the evil sorcerer. The Firebird focuses on the story’s elements of friendship, teamwork, responsibility and courage. Different types of puppets are incorporated into each show and is appropriate for grades K-6. The Firebird uses rod puppets, marionettes and body puppets.

Jenny Hutchinson, LARAC Gallery program coordinator says, “We haven’t had this workshop since 2006 so we are excited to bring the Puppet People back. For the workshop we will have about 20 people so a lot of individual attention can be given. As a nonprofit organization LARAC is proud to continue to enrich the quality of life for Warren, Saratoga and Washington counties”

Registration is requested for both the workshop and production as space is limited. Please call Ms. Hutchinson at 798-1144, ext. 2 for more information.

Photo used with permission from The Puppet People.


content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back At The Almanack:Winter Sports Writer Christie Sousa

It’s that time of year – time to welcome back Almanack winter sports contributor Christie Sausa of Lake Placid. Christie is a member of the historic figure and speed skating culture in the Olympic Village, and writes about those sports for the Lake Placid News and on her own blog, the popular Lake Placid Skater, which she founded in 2007.

As the winter sports season gets rolling Sausa, who attends North Country Community College, will begin covering local competitions and local athletes and the broader winter sports experience from popular sports like ski-jumping, downhill, snowboarding, and cross country, to the sliding sports (luge, skeleton, and bobsledding), as well as the more obscure winter pastimes of biathlon, skijoring, and dogsledding.

Sausa is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Lake Placid, the Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition, the Skating Club of Lake Placid, and the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club. When she is not on the ice herself, or writing about what happens there, Sausa and her mom run the Lake Placid Skate Shop.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You might be an Adirondacker if . . .

Jeff Foxworthy has made millions making fun of rednecks. He’s famous for one-liners that start off, “You might be a redneck if …”

Example: “You might be a redneck if you ever lost a tooth opening a beer bottle.”

The other day my son and I were wondering if we could come up with similar one-liners for Adirondackers. So I made a list of ten below.

I’m no Jeff Foxworthy, but you might be. I’m hoping my ten will inspire you to come up with your own one-liners. Please add them in the comments section.

You might be an Adirondacker if …

1. Your all-season tires are snow tires.

2. When your marriage goes bad, you blame the APA.

3. You think Glens Falls is downstate.

4. Your snowmobile cost more than your truck.

5. You’ve seen a mountain lion.

6. The family car has a plow.

7. Your kid has a firewood stand.

8. You’ve tasted bear.

9. You create art with a chainsaw.

10. Your ice shanty is better furnished than your living room.

Photo of Jeff Foxworthy from Wikipedia.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Whiteface Mountain Cog Railway?

In 1935, after years of planning, debate, and construction, the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway was completed. It was named in honor of America’s veterans of the so-called “Great War” (World War I), and was expected to be a major tourist attraction.

Automobiles were becoming commonplace in the North Country at that time, and travelers to the region now had a thrilling view available to them at the press of a gas pedal. Seventy-five years later, it remains a spectacular drive and a great family excursion. But the macadam highway to the summit almost never came to be. New Hampshire’s Mount Washington nearly had a New York counterpart.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Free Admission to Adirondack Museum For Locals

The Adirondack Museum is once again extending an invitation to year-round residents of the Adirondack Park to visit free of charge from October 1 – 18, 2010. Through this annual gift to close friends and neighbors, the museum welcomes visitors from all corners of the Adirondack Park. Proof of residency – such as a driver’s license, passport, or voter registration card – is required.

The museum is open daily, 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., through October 18, 2010. There is still plenty of time to enjoy the museum’s three special exhibits: “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters,” “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions,” and “A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks.”

In addition to “Common Threads” visitors can see contemporary quilts on display in the “Great Adirondack Quilt Show” through October 18. The special show features nearly fifty quilts inspired by or used in the Adirondack Mountains.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

APA Meeting: Wind, FireTowers, Mine Expansion, New Campground

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting this Thursday, October 14, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The October meeting is one day only.

Among the issues to be addressed will be water quality and shoreline protection measures, a change in the reclassification proposals related to fire towers on St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains, the Watson’s East Triangle Wild Forest Unit Management Plan, the expansion of Cold Spring Granite Company’s mine in Jay, a new 510 campsite campground in Fort Ann, and Barton Wind Partners will request a second renewal for wind monitoring masts located on Pete Gay Mountain near North Creek. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fort Ticonderoga Hosts Garrison Ghost Tours

Discover the unexplained past at Fort Ticonderoga during evening Garrison Ghost Tours, Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 22 and 23 and Oct. 29 and 30. The lantern-lit tours, offered from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., will highlight Fort Ticonderoga’s haunted history and recount stories featured on Syfy Channel’s Ghost Hunters.

Garrison Ghost Tours, led by costumed historic interpreters carrying lanterns, allow guests to enter areas of the Fort where unexplained events have occurred. The forty-five minute walking tour in and around the Fort offers historical context to the many ghostly stories that are part of Fort Ticonderoga’s epic history. The evening tours allow guests to experience the magic of Fort Ticonderoga at night. Guests can also take their own self-guided walk to the historic American Cemetery where a costumed interpreter will share the many stories related to its interesting past.

Fort Ticonderoga has a long and often violent history. Constructed in 1755, the Fort was the scene of the bloodiest day of battle in American history prior to the Civil War when on July 8, 1758 nearly 2,000 British and Provincial soldiers were killed or wounded during a day-long battle attempting to capture the Fort from the French army. During the American Revolution nearly twenty years later thousands of American soldiers died of sickness while defending the United States from British invasion from the north.

Tickets for the Garrison Ghost Tours are $10 each and reservations are required. Call 518-585-2821 for reservations. No exchanges and refunds allowed. The Garrison Ghost Tours are a rain or shine event. Beverages and concessions are available for purchase. Garrison Ghost Tour dinner packages are available through Best Western Ticonderoga Inn & Suites. Visit www.fort-ticonderoga.org for package details.

Photo: Twilight at Fort Ticonderoga


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Whiteface Ranked #1 in East by SKI Magazine

The votes are in, they’ve all been counted and SKI Magazine readers named Whiteface, as the number-one ski resort in the eastern United States, second overall in eastern North America. The independent survey of 7,000 readers put the Olympic mountain back on top for the first time since 2003. In 2009-10, the mountain was ranked fifth. Only Mont Tremblant, Quebec stood atop Whiteface in the SKI survey.

Whiteface, which boasts the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies, 283 skiable acres and 86 trails, received high marks for its Après-Ski (#2), Dining (#2), Family Programs (#2), Scenery (#2), Terrain/Challenge (#2), Lodging (#4) and Overall Satisfaction (#5). And for the 18th consecutive year, Whiteface/Lake Placid was chosen number-one for its Off-Hill activities, thanks to its array of Olympic-style sports including bobsledding, ice skating, cross country skiing, ski jumping, as well events such as World Cup racing, shows and concerts.

Over the past 10 years, Whiteface has invested in a gondola, chairlifts, parking, improved and increased snowmaking and grooming, terrain parks, upgrades to the base lodge and dining areas and expansion of the Kids Kampus, to name a few. Most recently, Whiteface opened Lookout Mountain in January 2009 and last season added 25 additional acres of glade skiing with the opening of the Sugar Glades.

For a complete look at the “Top 50 Resort Guide,” visit www.skinet.com.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Flights of Fancy: Featuring Feathers

Consider the bird, in all its glorious forms: from the minute hummingbird to the land-bound ostrich; from the brilliantly-colored parrot, to the monochromatic crow; from the predatory raptor to the fruit-eating waxwing. For 135 million years they have walked and flown about the planet. A pretty good-sized portion of the human population has taken to birds like a fish to water, and it is easy to see why – their colors and ability to fly have captured our imaginations.

When you page through almost any field guide to birds, you find that it is arranged in a particular order: from the most ancient species (loons, waterfowl) to the most modern/advanced (the finches). The ancestors of loons and geese paddled around the same waters as many of the last dinosaurs. When the reign of the dinosaurs came to its firey end, many of the birds of that time perished as well, but not the loons and geese, ducks and other shorebirds. These animals lived on and are still with us today. Perhaps this is one reason why we find the call of the loon so haunting. One can almost imagine it calling out through the mists of a tropical world where giant reptiles still roamed.

Feathers seem to be the big thing that sets birds apart from the rest of life on this planet, not flight. After all, birds are not the only things that fly; so do insects. At one point in time, there were reptiles that also flew. Today, some lizards and snakes still take to the air, but they no longer can fly, they merely glide. Still, it is more than you or I can do without the aid of mechanical devices, so we will grant them this point.

It is currently believed that feathers initially evolved not for flight, but as a means of keeping warm. To this day, there are few natural fibers that insulate quite as well as feathers. Birds have six basic types of feathers: flight feathers, contour feathers, filoplumes, semiplumes, bristle feathers, and down. Of course, there is also a substance known as powder down, but it isn’t really a feather, so for now we will ignore it.

Flight feathers are, as you might have guessed, the long, sturdy feathers that make up the working part of the wing. They are asymmetrical: the leading edge, or anterior vane, is narrower than the trailing edge, or posterior vane. Between the two vanes runs the rachis, or shaft, of the feather. These are the real workhorses of the feathers, and they are incredibly stiff because they take quite a beating (no pun intended). When Thomas Jefferson sought a feather for a quill with which to write the Declaration of Independence, it is a flight feather that he used.

Contour feathers are the ones that give the bird’s body its basic shape. Most of the feathers that you see when you are looking at a bird are contour feathers. Like flight feathers (which technically are also contour feathers), they have a pretty rigid shaft, but unlike flight feathers, they are symmetrical. The tip of each contour feather is neat and tidy, but the bottom half is fluffy. This part is closest to the body, where it works to keep the bird warm. Contour feathers are attached to the bird in a way similar to shingles on a roof – each overlapping its predecessor, creating a interlocking, aerodynamic form.

Semiplumes are my favorites. These are the feathers that are made up of long, fluffy strands. Unlike the feathers mentioned above, semiplumes are wild, they don’t lie all neat and tidy. If you were to take a flight or contour feather and rough it up a bit, you would find that you could straighten it easily enough by running y our fingers up the barbs (the individual strands that make up each vane). They “zip” together with little trouble, thanks to the hooks that line their edges. Semiplumes don’t have these hooks, so their “strands” stick out all over the place. Their purpose? Insulation. You’ll find the semiplumes located just beneath the contour feathers.

As you can see, layering is what it is all about. Birds knew this long before we humans picked up on it. Layering, as we all know today, is the best way to keep warm when the weather turns cold, and down is the way to go. Down feathers are naught but tufts of fluff. They trap the most amount of air, creating the best insulating layer. These are the feathers that lie closest to the body, trapping the body’s heat where it can do the most good. Similar to the semiplume, down is wild and untamed in its appearance. Unlike the other feathers, it has no (or nearly no) shaft – it is, as I said, naught but fluff.

Probably of the coolest of the feathers, however, are the fliloplumes. These feathers look like a wand with a bit of fluff stuck to the tip. Filoplumes are located just below, and sometimes sticking out from, the contour feathers. It is believed that they fulfill the same function as whiskers do on a cat: they detect movement and vibrations. It is possible that these feathers help the bird know when it is time to groom – the bird can feel when things are out of place. Another thought is that they might help the bird gauge its speed when in flight.

Bristle feathers are just the opposite of filoplumes in appearance: a bit of fluff near the base and a stiff, tapered shaft at the tip. You will only find bristle feathers on the heads and necks of birds. On some birds they protect they eyes (eyelashes?), and on others they form an insect-catching mesh around the mouth. They are quite prominent around the mouths of whippoorwills, nighthawks and flycatchers.

When it comes to birds, feathers are but the tip of the iceberg of what makes them fascinating. I recently added a new book to my collection of field guides (pretty soon I’ll have to hire a Sherpa just to carry my field guides into the field with me). It is a guide to the feathers of many North American birds. I don’t know about you, but I often find feathers when I go out for a walk in the woods, or even a paddle on the water. Some feathers are pretty easy to identify, but others can sure be a puzzle. With the help of this book I hope to be able to add one more proverbial feather to my naturalist’s cap.


Friday, October 8, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

On Friday afternoons Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers a collection of the week’s top weblinks. You can find all our weekly web round-ups here.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Preserving Arto Monaco’s Theme Park Legacy

While the child-sized buildings at Land of Make Believe may be deteriorating, the legacy of Arto Monaco, the visionary who created the theme park in 1954, will be preserved.

According to Laura Rice, a curator at the Adirondack Museum, hundreds of items documenting Monaco’s career as a toymaker and theme park designer and developer are in the process of being acquired by the Adirondack Museum.

To be housed in the Museum’s Collections Storage and Study Center, where the material will be catalogued and made accessible to scholars, the Monaco collection will ultimately be seen by the public, said Rice.

“We will definitely display items, but no exhibition has been scheduled,” she said adding that the collection consists of “a little bit of everything, from art work to the toys he created to souvenirs and the uniforms employees wore at Land of Make Believe.”

Born in Ausable Forks in 1913, Monaco designed not only the Land of Make Believe but Santa’s Workshop and Charley Wood’s Story Town and Gaslight Village.

A $50,000 grant from the Charles R. Wood Foundation helped the Arto Monaco Historical Society acquire the collection from Monaco’s family, said Anne Mackinnon, a founder of the society.

The Arto Monaco Historical Society, which was created after Monaco’s death in 2003 to preserve his legacy, arranged for the transfer of the collection to the Adirondack Museum, according to Mackinnon. “Arto had been talking to people at the Adirondack Museum before he died; he had identified it as wonderful repository for his legacy,” Mackinnon said.

According to Laura Rice, roadside attractions like the Land of Make Believe, Stanta’s Workshop and Story Town, “are now recognized as integral to the development of the Adirondack Park as a resort area in the 1950s.”

Rice added, “Museums are often a generation behind in recognizing the significance of a piece of popular culture; we now have enough distance to have a proper perspective.”

The Arto Monaco Historical Society also acquired the site of Land of Make Believe in Upper Jay and hopes to transform it into a park, said Mackinnon. While many of the buildings are beyond repair, the society hopes to preserve the park’s castle in some form, she said.

“The castle is not only iconic; castles played an enormous role in Arto’s imagination,” Mackinnon said. “One of the last sketches he made before he died was of one more castle.”

Photo: The Land of Makebelieve in 2006 before volunteers began work on the abandoned theme park.

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


Friday, October 8, 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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