Monday, July 19, 2010

Doris Kenyon: Ausable Forks Movie Star

Ausable Forks was once the favored respite of one of America’s most famed and beloved actresses of her time. During the prime of her career in the 1920s, to escape constant media scrutiny, this lady returned often to the Adirondacks, a quiet, peaceful place filled with the memories of childhood.

Doris Kenyon was born on September 5, 1897, the daughter of James and Margaret Kenyon. James, once a protégé of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was a person of some renown in his own right, achieving widespread fame and praise for his skills as a poet. Many of his works were featured in Harpers, the Atlantic, and other reputable magazines. After writing two books, James remained in the literary world and became a publisher. His position would help open doors for his talented daughter.

The family lived for a time in Chaumont, New York, northwest of Watertown, and then moved to Syracuse, where Doris was born. Her brother, Raymond, nineteen years older than Doris, was a dentist and oral surgeon in both Philadelphia and Syracuse. Health issues and a deep love of hunting and fishing prompted his move to the Adirondacks in pursuit of a less strenuous life.

Ray Kenyon chose Ausable Forks as his new home, immersing himself in local life, business, and politics. He served in several key positions, including many years as chairman of the Essex County Republican Party, and several more as state assemblyman. Due to his great skill as a dentist and his affable nature, Raymond became a fixture in the community.

Young Doris was a frequent visitor and guest at her brother’s home—so frequent, in fact, that she has sometimes been claimed as an Ausable Forks native. She spent many summers at Fern Lake and was well known in the village, particularly for her singing ability.

When Doris was in her teens, her father became head of the publishing department of the National Encyclopedia of Biography. It was a position of prominence and power, earning James close ties with luminaries from many venues, including show business.

By this time, Doris had sung with different choirs and had developed a reputation for the quality of her voice. At a meeting of the Authors Club, which she attended with her father, Doris was invited to sing, delivering a very impressive performance.

Among the attendees was the renowned Victor Herbert, who had been a superb cellist in Europe, having played in the orchestra of Johann Strauss. In America, he worked at the Metropolitan Opera and became a famed composer and conductor. Like many other stars, Victor maintained a home in Lake Placid.

Her performance before the Authors Club wowed Herbert, and though Doris was only sixteen years old, he decided to cast her in the stage musical Princess Pat. The show opened on Broadway in the Cort Theatre, and Doris’ stage debut as the character Coralee Bliss was a big success. The movie industry soon showed an interest in her. (Apparently for her acting skills, and not for her lovely voice. The silent film era wouldn’t give way to talkies for another 14 years.)

Doris couldn’t resist the opportunity. She left a promising stage career to appear as Effie MacKenzie in The Rack (Milton Sills was the leading star), which was released in December 1915. That performance earned her the lead role in Pawn of Fate, released in February 1916. Within a month, Worldwide Film Corporation signed Doris to an exclusive three-year contract at $50,000 a year ($1 million per year in today’s dollars) … and she was still a teenager!

Despite her youth, Doris displayed maturity with her newfound wealth, donating to projects like the Childrens’ Home in Plattsburgh. She supported the troops during World War I, subscribing to $50,000 worth of Liberty Bonds, the highest amount of any actress in show business.

Under her new contract, Doris played the leading role in many movies. In 1917, after making A Hidden Hand for Plathe Films, she formed her own company, De Luxe Pictures. The crew stayed at the Lake Placid Club while filming its first project, The Story of Seven Stars.

As life became more hectic, Doris returned frequently to her childhood roots in Ausable Forks, spending time with Raymond. She and her brother shared an affinity for fox hunting, a very popular pastime in those days. Raymond’s camp on Silver Lake was one of Doris’ favorite places, and there she hosted luminaries from show business and other industries.

Doris went on to star in nearly fifty silent films, including 1924’s Monsieur Bocaire with living legend Rudolph Valentino, and 1925’s A Thief in Paradise with Ronald Colman. During her long career, she played opposite all the great stars of the day, among them Loretta Young, Spencer Tracy, Ralph Bellamy, John Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Robert Young, and Adolph Menjou. Her fame was such that newborn Doris Kappelhoff (born in 1922) was named after Kenyon. Kappelhoff would gain great fame under her stage name, Doris Day.

One of the leading men in several of Kenyon’s movies became the leading man in her personal life. Milton Sills was a major star of the era, and he and Doris had performed together many times. In May 1926, Doris announced she had purchased her brother’s camp, and a few weeks later came an update—she and Milt Sills would soon marry … on the shores of Silver Lake!

The ceremony took place amidst the October splendor of the leaf color change, creating a sensational backdrop at the camp Doris called “Moose Missie.” And, as they honeymooned through the Adirondacks (two days in a suite of rooms in Agora at the Lake Placid Club), plus Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone Park, workmen were completing a beautiful mansion on their sixty-acre estate in Hollywood, California.

The wedding had been announced in May 1926, but was delayed until October due to Doris being ill. (Seven months after the ceremony, she gave birth to a son, Kenyon Clarence Sills.) Following the wedding and lengthy honeymoon, Doris took some time off from acting, but returned soon to star in several movies with her husband. In effect, they were the industry’s “power-couple” of the day, starring in movies and receiving constant media coverage.

In 1929, they passed the summer at Silver Lake, where Milton was recovering from illness. Doris spent several weeks at the camp, but she also did about a month of vaudeville performances before the two of them returned to making movies. And, upon special request, she served in August as a judge for the baby parade and pageant in Lake Placid’s summer carnival.

In 1929, Doris gave a concert performance in New York City, confirming that she still had a great singing voice. At the same time, unlike many other silent-film stars, she smoothly transitioned into the world of “talkies,” remaining one of Hollywood’s top stars.

In September 1930, tragedy struck Doris’ life. Shortly after playing tennis with his family, Milton Sills, 48, suddenly collapsed and died of a heart attack. Doris, just 33 at the time, was devastated by the loss, and buried herself in work to help ease the pain.

She had been recognized in the past for other skills—writing, poetry, and as a pianist—but it was singing that Doris really missed. Plans had already been made for a return to regular concert performances, and after the death of Sills, Doris went on a world tour. After many successful European shows, she returned to the United States with a renewed interest in her film career.

Through the 1930s, Doris remained a major movie star, appearing in at least fourteen more films. She was also quite busy on the marital front. First came Syracuse real estate broker Arthur Hopkins in 1933, a union that lasted only a few months (annulled). Next, Doris was married to Albert Lasker in 1938 for a year (divorced). Finally, she married Bronislav Mlynarski in 1947 (that one lasted twenty-four years, ending with Mlynarski’s death in 1971).

Through the WW II years, Doris again supported the troops by singing with the USO. In the 1950s, she acted in television shows, sang on the radio, and performed two roles in radio soap operas. From silent films to the advent of television, she had done it all.

It was an incredible career spanning the Metropolitan Opera, stage, screen, vaudeville, concerts, radio, poetry, television, and writing. She was a success at everything she tried (even marriage, in the end). One of Hollywood’s lasting stars, Doris Kenyon passed away from heart trouble in September 1979, just a few days shy of her 82nd birthday.

Top Photo: Poster from a Kenyon movie.

Middle Photo: Doris Kenyon in A Thief in Paradise.

Bottom Photo: Doris Kenyon collectible tobacco card.

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, July 19, 2010

Adirondack Harvest Named Conservationist of the Year

The Adirondack Park’s largest environmental organization held its annual Forever Wild Day celebration on July 10 at Hohmeyer’s Lake Clear Lodge, with just over 250 guests in attendance. The Council presented the group Adirondack Harvest with its “Conservationist of the Year” award for 2010, for promoting sustainable local farming.

Part of the celebration was a 100-mile-lunch, in which all ingredients for the meal came from 100 or fewer miles from Lake Clear and the Adirondack Council’s 35th annual members’ meeting. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Free Fishing Event at South Bay of Lake Champlain

A “free fishing” event will be held on Saturday, July 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the South Bay Fishing Pier on Lake Champlain, hosted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) I FISH NY program.

No fishing license will be required for this event, which is free to all participants. DEC fisheries staff and Washington County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs members will provide instruction on the use of gear, fishing techniques, and information on aquatic biology and fish identification.

Fishing rods, bait and other necessary tackle will be provided free of charge. Adaptive fishing equipment will be available to participants who require it. Quantities are limited, however, so attendees are encouraged to bring their own gear if possible.

South Bay Pier is a 300-foot long universally designed, wheelchair accessible fishing pier providing the community with barrier-free access from the parking area to the fishing rail. The pier is designed to provide a variety of places to fish from shallow water, to the deepest channel of the bay. Benches are provided along the pier, and the covered pavilion area over the end of the pier provides shelter from the sun and inclement weather.

South Bay of Lake Champlain has traditionally offered anglers outstanding opportunities for catching popular sportfish species such as northern pike, largemouth bass and chain pickerel. Yellow perch, white perch, crappies, sunfish, brown bullhead and catfish are also common.

The pier is located near an existing DEC boat launch facility, which has additional parking and an accessible privy. Constructed in 2008, South Bay Pier is one of many universally accessible recreation projects DEC has completed statewide over recent years. The pier is just west of the State Route 22 Bridge over South Bay near Whitehall in Washington County.

The free fishing event is one of four DEC sponsored free fishing clinics permitted by law in each DEC Region annually. The Free Fishing Days program began in 1991 to allow all people the opportunity to sample the incredible fishing New York State has to offer.

Everyone is invited to participate in this event, whether they have a fishing license or not. Ordinarily, anyone age 16 or older is required to obtain a license when fishing or helping another person to fish. Participants should note that all applicable fishing laws and regulations are still in effect during the event.

For additional information regarding this event contact Joelle Ernst with DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries at (518) 402-8891 or visit the DEC website for further information on a number of “Free Fishing Events” held in various locations throughout the state: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27123.html


Saturday, July 17, 2010

NCAA Div III Hockey to Return to Lake Placid

The NCAA Division III men’s ice hockey committee recently announced that Lake Placid, N.Y. will host both the 2012 and 2013 Division III men’s ice hockey national championships. The New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and State University of New York College at Plattsburgh (SUNY Plattsburgh) are the co-hosts of the two tournaments.

This year, the nation’s top four teams will vie for the national crown at Ridder Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota before returning to the famed 1980 Herb Brooks Olympic arena, which played host to the last three national championships, teaming with SUNY Plattsburgh to co-host the past two.

The championship weekends in Lake Placid will feature two semi-final games, on the first day, followed by the championship match-up on the second day. Last year, St. Norbert College, Oswego State, Norwich University and SUNY Plattsburgh vied for the Division III men’s ice hockey national championship crown. Norwich University skated away with the title, beating St. Norbert College 2-1 in what was the longest game in NCAA Division III tournament history, 99 minutes, 29 seconds.

Photo: NCAA Hockey courtesy Wikipedia


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Adirondack Vigilantism Lecture in Wilmington

The Wilmington Historical Society will be hosting a program with historian and author Amy Godine entitled “Have You Seen That Vigilante Man?” to be held on Friday, July 30th at 7 pm at the Wilmington Community Center on Springfield Road in Wilmington.

Night riders, white cappers and vigilante strikes; the darker side of American mob justice was not confined to the Deep South or the Far West. Adirondack history is ablaze with flashes of “frontier justice,” from farmers giving chase to horse thieves to “townie” raids on striking immigrant miners to the anti-Catholic rallies of the KKK. Amy Godine’s anecdotal history of Adirondack vigilantism plumbs a regional legacy with deep, enduring roots, and considers what about the North Country made it fertile and forgiving ground for outlaw activity. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Adirondack Serpent: The Northern Watersnake

Monday I was walking along the shores of the Hudson River in search of a particular orchid. The sun was out, the wind was blowing, and lots of flowers were in bloom. A few frogs hopped away from the clumsy thud of my boots, and damselflies darted here and there. There was a sudden rustle in the vegetation and something slithered across my path. I watched as the tail disappeared into the greenery, only to reappear on the other side as the snake slid into the waters of the Hudson: a northern watersnake, Nerodia sipedon.

This is a serpent that, as its name suggests, is equally at home in the water and on land. A rather robust animal, it is described in the literature as being “relatively large and heavy bodied.” In other words, this is no slender slitherer like our common garter snakes, nor is it cute in its tininess, like the red-bellied, brown or green snakes.

Northern watersnakes, to the untrained eye, might make one think immediately of water moccasins, or cottonmouths, both common names for the same venomous snake found in more southerly states. But we live in the Adirondacks where the only aquatic snake we have can be startling, can give a memorable bite, but is completely non-venomous.

Most of the snakes found in the Adirondacks are small to moderate in size, but the northern watersnake can grow upwards of four and a half feet long. Color can vary, but in general these reptiles are brown, or tan, with brown or reddish-brown bands or blotches. The animal I saw had a coloration very much like a milksnake, lighter in shade than I am used to seeing on these animals, although that could have partly been thanks to the water in which it was submerged when I took its photo. The older the animal, the darker its coloration. This is attributed to the tannins of the water in which they reside, which darken their scales over time. Perhaps my snake was fairly young, despite its size.

According to the authors of The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State, many New York specimens have red stripes on their faces. Sadly, I wasn’t close enough to this one’s face to see any such markings.

Found in almost any body of freshwater, northern watersnakes tend to prefer habitats that have some good vegetative cover nearby, like cattails or wet meadows. This explains why it made a run for the water as I blundered along the shoreline looking for my orchid (which I never did find). The Ice Meadows are quite verdant now that high summer is in full swing; between the heat and the rain of recent weeks, the vegetation has become quite lush – perfect for hiding cunning hunters.

Because they are excellent swimmers, it is not surprising to learn that these snakes commonly catch and eat fish and frogs. I remember watching one choke down a rather large sunfish along the banks of the Passaic River down in the Great Swamp in New Jersey. It was an impressive feat, considering the size of the fish, but down it went, leaving a fish-like bulge in the snake’s throat as it slid back into the water to avoid our curious stares.

The rest of this reptile’s diet is filled with birds, small mammals, young turtles, and even insects. In other words, if the snake can catch it and get its mouth around it, anything is fair game; this includes carrion, which occasionally makes it into the diet.

When I was a youngster and just learning about animal classification (back in ’72 it was), we were told that the only animals that gave birth to live young were mammals – it was part of what set us apart from the rest of the critters. Then I learned that there are mammals that lay eggs! And later on, I learned that some snakes have live birth. The world was not as simple as I had been led to believe.

As it turns out, there are quite a few snakes that give birth to live young, and the northern watersnake is among them. While gestating, the female will often bask in the sun, warming up her internal offspring to make them develop faster. When the time comes, she gives birth to 15 to 30 babies. Better her than me!

I hadn’t given it much thought, since northern watersnakes have been a regular part of my outdoor experiences, but it seems that while once commonly found throughout New York State, this hefty reptile has disappeared from part of the St. Lawrence River Valley and from much of the Adirondacks. Southern slopes in the southeastern part of the park (Lakes Champlain and George) seem to be where they hang out these days. Warrensburg fits into this geographical range, so it’s not too surprising that I found this specimen.

Like many a child, I’m not averse to picking up the occasional snake that crosses my path, but I do limit my snake handling to small and more docile species. I’d never attempt to grab a northern watersnake. For one thing, it will put up quite a fight. While striking and biting, it will also release copious amounts of various bodily substances, like feces and musky secretions. All of this stuff smells as bad as it sounds. And even though it is a non-venomous snake, the bite can be nasty. Not only will it hurt when the animal sinks in its teeth, but the wound will bleed like a son-of-a-gun because the animal’s saliva is laced with anticoagulants – all the better to subdue its prey with, eh? In other words, this is a snake better left alone and admired from afar.

So, if you see a northern watersnake on your journeys through or around some of the Park’s wetlands, rest assured that it won’t harm you if left alone. Watch it for a while. Who knows, maybe, like the one I spotted, it will turn its head and watch you back. Interesting animals, snakes are, and well-worth the time to get to know.


Friday, July 16, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, July 16, 2010

A Lake George Clinic for Hudson Headwaters?

Lake George Town officials want the Hudson Headwaters Health Network to establish a clinic in their community, and have initiated discussions with the Network to determine its feasibility, Supervisor Frank McCoy has announced.

A clinic could be housed in a new building constructed for Lake George’s Emergency Medical Services squad, McCoy said at the Town’s monthly board meeting on Monday.
“Land is so expensive in Lake George that it makes sense to buy property for two entities,” said McCoy.

According to town councilwoman Fran Heinrich, Hudson Headwaters’ Tripp Shannon informed the town that a sufficient number of patients from Lake George visit the Network’s other clinics to justify a thorough investigation of the proposal.

Dr. John Rugge, the president and CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, said the Network staff’s meetings with McCoy and Heinrich had been productive. “We’re committed to working with the Town to meet the long term health care needs of Lake George,” said Rugge.

The expense of establishing a new clinic is among the issues that need to be addressed, said Rugge. Typically, municipalities provide a building, equipment and maintenance of a clinic, which Hudson Headwaters then staffs with medical personnel.

The not-for-profit network currently operates health centers in Bolton Landing, Chestertown, Glens Falls, Indian Lake, Moreau, Moriah, North Creek, Queensbury, Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga and Warrensburg.

Other issues to be discussed include the functions of a Lake George clinic within the network as a whole and the development of a program that could be adapted to Lake George’s fluctuating population, Rugge said. “The population is like an accordion,” said Rugge. “It expands ten-fold in the summer. We would have to address that.”

As a federally-certified community health care centers, a Lake George clinic could be eligible for funding under the 2010 federal Health Care Reform act, though it may be at least four years before that money becomes available, Rugge said.

Despite those obstacles, Rugge said, “it’s a pleasure working with such a far-sighted administration. Whenever a community wants to work with Hudson Headwaters Health Network, magic can happen; obstacles can be overcome.”

A new facility for Lake George’s rescue squad, while urgently needed, will also take time to fund and construct, said Bruce Kilburn, the president of the Lake George Emergency Squad.
Founded in 1960, the rescue squad celebrated its 50th anniversary in February with a gala at the Georgian, intended to kick-off a fund raising campaign for the new building.

“We’ve outgrown our building on Gage Road,” said Kilburn. “Training, meetings, every day activities are getting more difficult to co-ordinate.”

With the loss of volunteers and increasing reliance on professional Emergency responders, who are frequently assigned over-night shifts, separate facilities for men and women are needed, Kilburn said.

“Without separate facilities, we could face sexual harassment suits,” said Kilburn. “That’s a big concern to us.”

Town officials anticipate assistance from Lake George Village taxpayers in the fund drive for new EMS headquarters, said McCoy. “We expect Lake George Village to step up to the plate,” said McCoy. “The Town funded fifty percent of the new firehouse.”

A number of locations for the new facility are under consideration, but none have been made public.

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


Friday, July 16, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (July 15)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

Weather
Friday: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy; high near 80.
Friday Night: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; low around 55.
Saturday: Slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy; high near 77.
Saturday Night: Slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy; low around 53.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 78.

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 possibilty 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.

Group Camping Reminder
DEC regulation requires that groups of ten or more persons camping on state land obtain a permit from a forest ranger. DEC does not issue group camping permits on wilderness, primitive or canoe forest preserve areas. Except for the eastern High Peaks Wilderness and the William C. Whitney Wilderness, where the group size is 8, camping groups in wilderness, primitive and canoe area lands are limited to 9 people or less.

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.

Bear-Resistant Canisters: The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear resistant canisters; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

Lake Champlain: This weeks hot and humid weather has produced a number of potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain. Noticeably affected areas include Westport and Port Henry, but there may be other blooms as well. Take the following precautions: Avoid all contact (do not swim, bathe, or drink the water, or use it in cooking or washing) and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water.

Raquette River: The boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, although the floating docks are not expected to be installed until mid-July. The canoe and kayak launch area is not yet open but paddlers can launch at the ramp until that area reopens as well.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge are open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Please use caution if you choose to cross this area.

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.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Histories of Essex County Go Online

Jay (Essex County) author and editor Lee Manchester has published a number of volumes on the history of Essex County and its communities. The free, downloadable PDFs include five volumes compiled from the files of the late Lake Placid historian Mary MacKenzie, a two-volume definitive anthology of 19th and 20th century materials on the McIntyre iron works and the Tahawus Club colony in Newcomb, better known as “the Deserted Village,” and two collections of Lee’s stories about history and historic hikes in and around Essex County.

For complete information, including download instructions, visit the Wagner College website. Print versions of all the volumes can also be ordered, at a cost that includes no markup, with the exception of Mary MacKenzie’s “The Plains of Abraham: A History of Lake Placid and North Elba”; royalties for print copies of “Plains” go to the Lake Placid Public Library, which maintains the Mary MacKenzie Historic Archives.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cattails: A Wetland Favorite’s Useful History

The other evening I was walking along the shoreline of a local wetland, enjoying the songs of the thrushes, the ripples made on the water by insects and small fish, and the rustle of the tall, emergent vegetation in the light breeze. The edges were muddy – sometimes completely barren and squishy, while in other places thick with plants. Life was everywhere.

When we think of wetlands, the plant that most likely comes to mind is the cattail, with its green, sword-like leaves and brown corndog-like flowerheads. It is a plant that is known around much of the world. In some places, like parts of Africa, it is considered a menace, choking waterways and aiding and abetting the spread of malaria. Historically, though, especially in North America, this plant has helped pull humanity through harsh winters where cold and starvation could’ve had the final say.

Cattails are in the grass family, as are many of the plants we now depend upon for food (corn, wheat, rye, millet). Like its modern-day counterparts, the cattail is a highly edible plant. Practically the entire plant is edible at various times of the year. In late spring when the base of the leaves are young and tender, they can be eaten raw or cooked. As summer approaches, the stem, before the flowerheads develop, can be peeled and eaten like asparagus. Soon the male flower is growing, and before it ripens, it can be cooked and eaten like corn on the cob. Once it’s ripe and producing pollen, the pollen can be harvested and added to baked goods as an extender for flour and a thickener for sauces. From late fall until spring, the rhizomes, those horizontal stems that grow underground, can be dug up and eaten like potatoes.

Historical utility didn’t end with food. Throughout the Northeast, native peoples collected cattail leaves to sew into siding for their homes. Wigwams were the housing of choice in the Northeast. These structures were constructed first from poles stuck into the ground and bent into a dome-like shape. More saplings were tied horizontally to the sides, creating a sturdy framework. The outside of this framework was then covered with some sort of mat, or shingles made from bark, depending on what was available. Where wetlands dominated, cattail leaves were sewn into mats that were tied to the wigwam. Early Europeans commented on how weather-proof these homes were – warmer and drier than the structures made by the more “civilized” settlers.

A variety of medicines were made from cattails. The roots were used to treat kidney stones, wounds, whooping cough and sprains. The downy seed fluff was applied to bleeding wounds and burns.

But wait – there’s more! Leaves were bundled together and sculpted into the shape of ducks to be used as decoys. Not only were these decoys used to attract real waterfowl, but also to lure in other animals that considered waterfowl food, like wild canines. Cattail leaves were also made into dolls and other toys, woven into bags, baskets, mats and hats. The dried flowerheads could be dipped in grease or wax and lit to provide a slow-burning light that smoked extensively, effectively keeping insects at bay. The seed fluff was used as tinder, stuffed into bedding and pillows, and during WWII was stuffed into life vests and seats cushions for tanks and airplanes.

The usefulness of this plant is not limited to historic records and a few modern foragers, though. Several scientists are studying the economic viability of converting cattails into ethanol. Currently, about 95% of our country’s ethanol is made from corn, which is an energy intensive crop (it needs a lot of water, and a lot of petroleum is also consumed in its production). Corn yields about 200 gallons of ethanol per acre. Sugar cane is also converted into ethanol, at about 640 gallons per acre.

Cattails, on the other hand, need very little encouragement to grow. In fact, many of the ethanol studies are growing them in sewage lagoons that are the by-products of hog farms. Not only do the cattails clean and purify the water in which they are grown, but when they are converted into ethanol, they can produce up to 1000 gallons per acre. There seems to be a fair amount of promise in this.

Two species of cattails are found in New York (and the Adirondacks): common cattail (Typha latifolia) and narrow-leaved cattail (T. angustifolia). The Revised Checklist of New York State Plants also lists “Cattail”, a hybrid of these two species.

Common, or broad-leaved, cattail is, well, pretty common. Odds are if you see a cattail, this is it. Its brown flowerhead is about an inch thick, and the leaves are also about an inch wide. Narrow-leaved cattail is also fairly common, but more so along coastal areas. Its flowerheads are narrower – about as thick as a finger (about half an inch wide), as are the leaves. From a distance you can usually tell if you are looking at a narrow-leaved cattail if the upper male flower spike is separated from the lower female flower spike by a space (see photo). On common cattails, the male flower spike sits right on top of the female spike.

This highly useful plant is one that everyone should get to know. Once you learn some of the nifty history of this plant, you will want to then study the critters that find it useful. Birds, mammals and insects all have a stake in this plant. It is worthy of our attention. Once the weather cools off a bit, find yourself a patch of wetland and spend some time with the cattails. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Short List of Summer Adirondack Lecture Series

Even for those who don’t get out onto the rivers, lakes and trails, summertime offers great opportunities for learning more about the Adirondack region thanks to several lecture series that are held around the region. Mostly free (or really cheap) local lectures cover current issues, history, art, culture, wildlife, the environment, outdoor recreation.

I’ve noted a few of what I think promise to be the season’s best lectures below, but be sure to check out the links to see all the upcoming events.

The Huntington Lecture Series – This lecture series takes place on Thursday evenings from July 1 through August 19 at the Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center (beginning at 7 pm). The series is sponsored by SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center and is free. LINK.

Paul Smith’s VIC Adirondack Outdoors Lecture Series – The Paul Smiths VIC lecture series will feature six lectures on topics ranging from bears and moose to mountain biking. Co-hosted by the Forest Preserve Education Partnership, the lectures are on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. The July 21st lecture Moose & Bear: Adirondack Charismatic Megafauna, with DEC’s Ed Reed, sounds great. LINK.

Fort William Henry Lecture Series
– Serious students of local history will want to attend this series of lectures offered each year at Fort William Henry. This year’s schedule has not been released yet, but these lectures take place weekly (free and starting at 7 pm) at the Fort William Henry Conference Center (behind the fort) on Canada Street in Lake George. I take in all of these that I can and have yet to be disappointed. LINK.

Fort Ticonderoga Author Series
– Another classic series for fans of local history. Unfortunately, these events are held at 2 in the afternoon and require paying the admission price of $15. Still, they are worth it. this year’s events feature Carl R. Crego, who will focus on the early restoration history of Fort Ticonderoga between 1908 and 1924 with an illustrated talk (August 15th), and popular local historian Russ Bellico, author of several books related to the military history of the Lake Champlain and Lake George areas (July 25th). LINK.

Adirondack Moutain Club (ADK) Lectures – A wide variety of lectures on local environment issues, natural history, backcountry recreation, and Adirondack art, music, and history are offered throughout the summer by the ADK. Lectures are held throughout the summer at the High Peaks Information Center in Lake Placid, at the ADK’s Member Services Center in Lake George, and occasionally at John Brooks Lodge (though none are scheduled there yet for this year). One highlight here is the August 10th lecture The Great Camps: From the Adirondacks to the Rocky Mountains, a slideshow by Dr. Ralph Kylloe, owner of the Ralph Kylloe Gallery in Lake George and author and photographer of 23 coffee table books on rustic design and rustic architecture. LINK.

Adirondack Museum’s Monday Evening Lectures – This lecture series is one of the most popular in the region. This year you won’t want to miss biologist Jerry Jenkins on Climate Change in the Adirondacks on July 26th, and Brian Mann on August 2nd for “Adirondack Park 3.0” billed as a lecture on the “reinvention of the Adirondacks.” All lectures are held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members. LINK

Photo: October 15, 1924. Dedication of Francis Asbury statue, Washington, D.C.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Commentary: APA Almost Never Rejects Projects

This year, the Glens Falls Post-Star has published several pieces detailing activities of the Adirondack Park Agency deemed dubious. All of these investigative works were written by Projects’ Editor Will Doolittle, a controversial choice since he’s been outspoken against the APA for years.

The paper’s agenda has been clear from the beginning, made all the more explicit by their January editorial calling for the abolition of the Agency.

After all the deluge of anti-APA articles and editorials, it was a bit of a surprise that the daily finally got around to providing a little balance by admitting publicly that the Agency has its defenders. Sunday’s paper ran a front page article entitled APA has critics, but also many compliments; it was written by Drew Kerr, not Doolittle.

“Discussion” of the online article was filled with the usual overheated rhetoric, including several who made the obligatory, but still pathetic, comparison of the APA to the Nazis.

But beyond the venom, one-off anecdotes and cheap Hitler references, what stood out for me was that item all too rare in public discourse: actual facts.

According to the report:

Since 1973, the APA has issued nearly 16,808 permits and denied only 136 projects… In addition, agency staff say that 95 percent of permit applications are completed before they are required to do so by law. The agency has between 15 and 90 days to rule on a permit, depending on the nature of the application.

For all the talk of power hungry bureaucrats oppressing the people and single-handedly stifling the Adirondacks’ economy for the mere joy of it, the fact is that the APA has rejected a mere 0.8 percent of proposed projects in the last 37 years.

This doesn’t mean that the APA is perfect, nor that it shouldn’t be required to show increased transparency, streamlined procedures or be subjected to more checks and balances.

What it does mean is that discussion of the APA’s future direction and policies should be based more on the big picture and actual data and less on outliers and “gut feelings.”


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities with Diane Chase: Seagle Music Colony

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities
Jack and the Beanstalk may be considered a children’s story but the undertones of the Seagle Music Colony’s operatic rendition leaves anyone with an appreciation for music with his/her own interpretation. The giant does get his in the end, but it is not the end one is expecting. For adults there is the rich performance of the four gifted students and children listen in awe to a magical story. The bonus is being able to meet the fairytale characters, come-to-life, after the show.

Founded in 1915 by world-renowned baritone Oscar Seagle, Seagle Music Colony draws the most talented singers from around the country for its summer training program. Open to only 32 individuals the auditions are rigorous.

Artist Director Darren Woods says,“ I was a child from a small town with no exposure to opera and went on to perform as a professional. When I started managing various companies it was important to me to incorporate some kind of free children’s offering.”

Woods, currently the General Director of Fort Worth Opera as well as Artistic Director of Seagle Music Colony understands that this select group of gifted singers attending the Seagle Music program will at some point in their careers perform operatic educational outreach.

“We have been doing free children’s operas at Seagle Music Colony for the past twelve years,” says Woods. “ The first year we did Little Red Riding Hood at the Boathouse Theatre (Schroon Lake) and couldn’t have squeezed another person in. We have now branched out to 10 performances around the North Country. Part of our mission is to provide quality entertainment to those living in the Adirondacks and that includes children.”

The children’s performance is not the only offering at Seagle. This year the schedule is full with the staged musical comedies of Hello Dolly and Carousel as well as The Marriage of Figaro performed in Italian with performances of Romeo and Juliet in French. There are also a “Salute to the Tony Awards” and “Vespers” concerts.

The next free performance of Jack in the Beanstalk is slated for July 16th in Bolton Landing. The tour continues to Glens Falls, July 17; North Creek, July 20; Ticonderoga, July 21; Chestertown, July 24; and Lake Placid on July 28.

The Children’s Opera is free but reservations are requested. Please call 518- 532-7875 for more information.

Photo of the Seagle Colony performance of Jack in the Beanstalk at the Boathouse Theatre and 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. 



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