The grounds of the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York will become a lively 19th century tent city with an encampment of American Mountain Men interpreting the fur trade and a variety of survival skills this weekend, August 20 and 21, 2010.
The group will interpret the lives and times of traditional mountain men with colorful demonstrations and displays of shooting, tomahawk and knife throwing, furs, fire starting and cooking, clothing of both eastern and western mountain styles, period firearms, and more. This year’s encampment may include blacksmithing as well as a beaver skinning and fleshing demonstration. All of the American Mountain Men activities and demonstrations are included in the price of regular Adirondack Museum admission. There is no charge for museum members. The museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Participants in the museum encampment are from the Brothers of the New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts segment of the national American Mountain Men organization. Participation in the encampment is by invitation only.
Mountain men are powerful symbols of America’s wild frontier. Legends about the mountain man continue to fascinate because many of the tales are true: the life of the mountain man was rough, and despite an amazing ability to survive in the wilderness, it brought him face to face with death on a regular basis.
The American Mountain Men group was founded in 1968. The association researches and studies the history, traditions, tools, and mode of living of the trappers, explorers, and traders known as the mountain men. Members continuously work for mastery of the primitive skills of both the original mountain men and Native Americans. The group prides itself on the accuracy and authenticity of its interpretation and shares the knowledge they have gained with all who are interested.
I know what you’re thinking: Prohibition, rum runners, Uncle Frank and the still out back. In this case, however, Moonshine is merely another name for one of our late summer wildflowers: pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea).
A member of the aster family, as many of our late summer flowers seem to be, pearly everlasting can be found gracing the dry, sunny margins of our roads. Unlike the asters with which most of us are familiar, with their many-petaled flowers that resemble a wheel with many spokes, pearly everlasting looks more like it has small knobs at the ends of its stems. This is because the flowers are much more compact, almost button-like. Up close, they look like strawflowers, those perennial favorites of many a dried flower arrangement, and in fact, like strawflowers, they can be dried and used in decorations, lasting five months or more without any preservatives; hence the name everlasting. One of this plant’s traits that make it stand out among the roadside greenery is its lovely silvery coloration. Not only are the flowers a lovely white, with a yellow center developing as they mature, but the plant itself is nearly white. The long, slender leaves are pale green above, while below they are covered with small white hairs, which give the leaves a somewhat wooly look and feel. Maybe it is for this reason that people used to stuff this plant in mattresses and pillows. Or perhaps it was for the plant’s mild aroma.
Historically, pearly everlasting was an important part of the household pharmacopeia. Many Native American people used it to treat a variety of bumps, bruises, cuts, colds, and asthma. Since the plant is also found naturally in northeastern Asia, we can probably surmise that the ancestors of the inhabitants of those lands also made use of the astringent, pectoral, pain-killing and anti-inflammatory properties of pearly everlasting.
Because pearly everlasting is one of our native wildflowers, it has developed a close relationship with many native insects. One that comes to mind is the American lady butterfly, for whose larvae this plant is a host. Other butterflies make use of this plant, too, as a source for nectar.
For folks who are interested in creating native wildflower gardens, this is a great plant to add to the collection. Not only can it withstand some marginal soils and dry conditions, but it adds visual interest while also attracting butterflies and other insects. To top it all off, it can be harvested for autumnal decorations, provide some emergency medical care, and help one drift to sleep on a pillow in which it is stuffed. And when the sun goes down, it will shine in the moonlight, making your garden (or roadside) still attractive when all other lights have gone out.
Well, the title of this post could lead to controversy — I’m sure every hiker has their favorite route, depending on location, level of fitness and how much climbing (or none at all) they wish to do in a day.
Last weekend I did the infamous Bald Peak-Rocky Peak Ridge-Giant Mountain traverse, a hike of nearly 12 miles that takes those with strong knees and thighs on a grand tour of some of the most exposed peaks in the park. And that’s got my vote. To do this route, you need strength, a relatively early start, and two cars (or one car and a bicycle, if you think you’d feel like pedaling another 8 miles after an all-day hike).
The route begins on Route 9, about four miles north of the “dysfunction junction” intersection with Route 73, at an easy-to-miss DEC parking lot on the left as you head north. From here, you hike four miles to the top of Bald Peak, climb down to a col and steeply ascend to the Rocky Peak ridge. Once you’ve traversed the ridge, you have to descend again for the final climb to Giant, for a total of 5,300 feet of vertical in 8 miles.
I did this hike last Saturday with my friend Jim Close. We parked one car at the base of Giant, then drove to the Bald Peak trailhead eight road-miles away. According to the sign-in sheet, more than 20 people had already signed up to do this traverse. Apparently our 9:30 a.m. departure was tardy by hiking standards.
Bald Peak is just a little over 3,000 feet high, but its exposed ledges and wide-open summit gives it a view that seems like a much larger mountain, especially given that the entire High Peaks range extends west and south from its back door. Be sure to take the side-trail to Blueberry Cobbles on the way up, which affords even more cliffy views.
We reached the summit by noon, and took a short break. So far, we had run into only a few people. The temperature was perfect, mid-70s and little humidity, with the August sun diffused behind a thin cloud layer. This was beginning to look like a stellar day.
It’s a long descent, and even longer climb from Bald to the top of the ridge, which starts out just over 4,000 feet and never gets much lower.
Once on Rocky Peak, we began the ridge proper. From here to the other side, a hiker is afforded almost constant views above treeline. Thanks to a fire on this ridge that got rid of all the trees many years ago, the exposure feels more like a peak in the Rocky Mountains than anything you’d find in New York.
After passing a shallow pond called Lake Mary Louise (you can fill your water bottles here, but bring purification pills or a filter). the ridge continues to the top, where a tall cairn marks the summit. From here, it’s a steady descent to another col and the steepest climb yet to the shoulder of Giant.
At this point, I temporarily left Jim. There was a short slide on Giant, visible from Rocky Peak Ridge, that seemed like it was right off the trail. Still feeling still energetic, I was keen to check it out. A very slight herd path led the way, but I quickly lost it and found myself battling the usual thick summit flora. Eventually, I did reach the slide, but halfway up.
Still, the slide itself was clean and fun to climb, as was battling back to the trail. I met Jim on the summit of Giant, at 4,627 feet. The peak was crowded when we arrived, but soon cleared out, giving us a quiet rest on top of one of the most popular mountains in the park.
Another four miles of steep but fun descent brought us back to our waiting car, a stash of cold beer and a swim in nearby Chapel Pond. The total hike took us a little more than eight hours, including stops of various lengths at all the good view points.
It was nearly 20 years since I had last hiked this route. The next time won’t take so long.
In my last post, I wrote about the risks and rewards of solo climbing. I didn’t expect to write about rock climbing again this week, but I can’t help it.
The death of Dennis Murphy at Upper Washbowl Cliff in Keene Valley deeply affected his friends and colleagues and gives pause to all climbers to reflect on the nature of their chosen sport.
I didn’t know Dennis well, but I often chatted with him at Eastern Mountain Sports in Lake Placid, where he had worked for the past four years. Last Friday, we talked at length about climbing gear and about soloing Chapel Pond Slab, something we both loved doing.
As always, I came away from the conversation thinking this guy is passionate—and knowledgeable—about climbing. The details of Monday’s accident remain a bit fuzzy as I write this. State Police say Dennis and a friend had climbed Hesitation, a classic 5.8 route on Upper Washbowl, and were preparing to rappel when Dennis slipped. When descending, climbers rappel to a ledge halfway down the cliff and then rappel again to the base. What’s not clear is whether Dennis fell from the top of the cliff (more than two hundred feet) or from the ledge (more than one hundred feet).
Perhaps we’ll learn more today. In any case, the fall was great enough that Dennis probably died instantly. He was thirty-five years old.
Whenever a rock climber dies, questions arise about the safety of the sport. Some people even wonder if climbers have a death wish. It does seem like a dangerous pastime, but most climbers are cautious, and they spend a small fortune on gear meant to protect them in case of a fall.
Before this week, the most recent climbing death in the Adirondacks had occurred in 2007, when Dennis Luther fell on Poke-O-Moonshine in a rappelling accident. At the time, Don Mellor, the veteran climber from Lake Placid, pointed out that Luther’s was only the fifth rock-climbing fatality in the region. And technical climbing in the Adirondacks began way back in 1916, when John Case ascended the cliffs on Indian Head overlooking Lower Ausable Lake.
So now we have six climbing fatalities. That’s too many, but six deaths over the span of nearly a century does not suggest that rock climbing is a reckless sport. Far more people are killed in hunting accidents, snowmobile accidents, and ATV accidents.
Did Dennis Murphy make a mistake on Upper Washbowl? Or was he just unlucky?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. His friends will miss him just the same.
The Lake George Association will hold its historic 125th Annual Meeting this Friday, August 20 at 10 am at the Lake George Club. The public is invited to attend and the meeting is free; an optional lunch afterward is $21 per person. Reservations are required.
Ken Wagner, Ph.D. will be the keynote speaker. Ken is editor in chief of Lake and Reservoir Management, the international journal of the North American Lake Management Society. For decades, Ken has played a valuable role in environmental research conducted on Lake George, working with the Lake George Association and other lake organizations. He is owner of Water Resource Services, a lake management consulting firm. Ken has worked for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and has 25 years of experience with northeastern consulting firms, working on a variety of water resources assessment and management projects. Ken holds a B.A. in environmental biology from Dartmouth College and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in natural resource management from Cornell University. The public will also have the opportunity to learn more about the environmental status of Lake George, and to meet others with a passion for its protection. Updates on many environmental initiatives taking place around the Lake will be given. Executive Director Walt Lender will give an update on the West Brook Conservation Initiative, considered the most important lake saving project in the LGA’s 125-year history. Randy Rath, LGA project manager, will provide summaries on the LGA’s other lake saving projects, such as those at English Brook, Hague and Finkle Brook deltas, Indian Brook, and the town of Putnam. Emily DeBolt will speak on the LGA’s educational and outreach initiatives, as well as New York State’s new phosphorus law, and the status of wall lettuce, a new invasive species growing in the watershed. Emily will also provide results from the work of the LGA Lake Stewards and from the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program.
New members, and those who care about the lake and would like to learn more about protecting it, are welcome to attend the meeting to meet the board of directors, staff, volunteers and other members. Members will be voting on new directors for the organization: Thomas Jarrett and Salim Amersi, as well as returning directors Holly de Buys, William Dutcher and John Schaninger.
The New York State Legislature adopted a joint resolution commemorating the LGA’s 125th Anniversary in April of this year. The resolution recognized the LGA’s “long unyielding commitment to excellence,” and commended the “efforts of thousands of LGA members who, over the years, have increased the public’s awareness and understanding of Lake issues and have actively worked to preserve the purity of the Lake George waters for future generations to come.” The resolution also recognized many of the organization’s accomplishments throughout its history, including:
The LGA was “the first to re-stock the Lake with popular fish species.”
The LGA was “the first to provide a non-point source pollution program for the Lake.”
The LGA was “the first to establish a buoy system in the Lake.”
The LGA “advanced proactive management by government to protect the Lake’s water quality and influenced state leaders … to undertake the first series of technical studies of the Lake,” and later “ensured that effective storm water controls and wastewater treatment systems were included in development plans.”
The LGA worked toward “protecting the interests of dock owners, shoreline property owners and those who navigated the lake” by advocating for “a long-awaited and fought for verdict by the New York State Supreme court regarding lake levels, requiring a commission to supervise maintenance of water levels between 4.0 and 2.5 feet at the Roger’s Rock gauge between June 1 and Oct. 1.”
The LGA has “overseen over 100-plus lake-saving projects to stabilize eroding stream banks and shorelines, reclaim ponds for sediment retention, enhance wetlands, install roadside storm water catchments, and dredge deltas.”
The LGA has “expanded its programming to include active and participatory educational programs for lake users, including but not limited to, a Floating Classroom, serving 1,000 students and visitors each year.”
The Warren County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation naming the month of August “Lake George Association Month.” The proclamation recognized that “the members of the Lake George Association have worked together to protect, conserve and improve the beauty and quality of the Lake George Basin for 125 years.”
A special postal cancellation stamp has been designed to commemorate the historic occasion of the LGA’s 125th annual meeting. On the day of the meeting, August 20, all post offices around the Lake will hand stamp any mail posted on that day upon request. Commemorative caches will also be available in limited quantities.
Area Stewart’s Shops have renamed the store’s Birthday Cake ice cream flavor in honor of the LGA for the month of August.
Since 1885, the members of the LGA have been protecting and improving the beauty and quality of the Lake George basin. LGA is a non-profit membership organization of people interested in working together to protect, conserve, and improve the beauty and quality of the Lake George Basin. For more information, contact the LGA at (518) 668-3558 or visit the LGA website at www.lakegeorgeassociation.org.
According to Lonnie Cross, Adirondack Polo Club member, the club is in its fifth season though for the last two years has made Westport its summer home. Previously the club traveled to destinations as far away as New Orleans to participate in matches. When Cross purchased land from a golf facility he did so with the purpose of providing a different local attraction for the community.
“We are polo enthusiasts that are used to traveling. This year we have played matches on the other side of the lake with the Sugerbush Polo Club as well as in Saratoga. Our players come from different backgrounds,” says Cross. “We have careers beyond polo so this is mostly a hobby. We are a grassroots club but it is our decision to bring something different to the community. Our goal is to continue making a difference. I hope we can through our love of our horses.”
It may be a hobby but it is something the club is very willing to share. Though most of us may not have the means to own a thoroughbred polo pony, the Adirondack Polo Club’s events are usually free and open to the public. Those of us that enjoy a fast-paced match can enjoy the benefits of beautiful surroundings and gorgeous horses without the work involved in ownership. The added benefit is that the polo participants welcome questions about their chosen sport and want people to be able to not just watch but be actively involved.
The “polo ponies” aren’t really ponies but beautiful horses carefully selected for speed and stamina. In addition the horses have to be able to maneuver between other horses and riders and not be jittery when the mallet swings around their heads.
Cross would like to eliminate the misconception that polo is only about the high-heeled women replacing divots while holding glasses of champagne or that the animals are mistreated in any fashion.
“We treat our horses with kid gloves because they are the athletes. They are as, if not more, important than the players. We feed and bed our animals, provide grooms to exercise and make sure they get the rest they need. It is at great expense that we provide the best care. I think it’s terrible when other owners mistreat their animals, taking them on rides and then expecting the animal to perform at a match. Traditionally Monday is the day of rest for the horses.”
He does admit that these animals are bred to be fast and require vigorous exercise though he agrees that everything requires balance and the horse’s best interest is always at heart.
For those that may not know the rules here is bit of information. An outdoor polo field is larger than nine football fields (300 yards long and 160 yards wide). It is touted as the largest field in organized sports. A team is made of four players that are assigned positions based on each player’s strength and experience.
A polo match lasts about an hour and a half with six chukkers (periods) of seven minutes each. A bell is rung to announce that last 30 seconds remaining in the chukker while a horn sound indicates the chukker’s ending. There is a three-minute break between each chukker and a five-minute halftime. Halftime is used to replace any divots out in the field. Replacing the divots is just one time-honored tradition of polo.
Though most matches are free this August 21st at 1:00 p.m. The Adirondack Polo Club will play for High Peaks Hospice for an admission of $5 per person and $10 per car. That price certainly encourages you to want to lower your carbon footprint and car pool.
Newcomers and fans are encouraged to come early and bring their own seating (chairs or blankets) and relish a picnic-like setting. Hamburgers, hotdogs and other fare will be available for purchase starting at noon. There will also be miniature donkeys and alpacas for all to enjoy.
If you can’t make this weekend’s event, on September 4th another fundraising polo match will take place that benefits Ronald McDonald House in Burlington, VT.
The Polo Hotline is (518) 572-9391 with a rain date of Sunday, August 22. The polo field is located on Polo Club Way off of Stevenson Road (Route 44) in Westport.
Photo of the Adirondack Polo Club used with permission.
Rita Poirier Chaisson was born in 1914 on Canada’s Gaspe Penninsula. In 1924, her father Paul Poirier, a lumberjack, moved the family to the North Country where logging jobs were more abundant. Her mother agreed to leave Canada with reluctance. The Poirier family spoke French, no English, and she was convinced that New Yorkers “just talk Indian over there.”
The family kept a farm near Tupper Lake, with as many as 85 cows. Rita planted potatoes and turnips, and helped with the haying. She and her siblings attended a local school, where she was two years older than most of her classmates. Although she picked up English quickly, her French accent made integration difficult. She left school at the age of 14, and worked as a live-in maid, cooking and cleaning for local families for three dollars a week. She used her earnings to purchase clothes by mail order for her sisters, mother, and herself. » Continue Reading.
The public is invited to attend the day-long summer field meeting of the Conservation Fund Advisory Board (CFAB), which begins at 9 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010, at Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Lowville Field Office on State Route 812 in Lewis County.
The Conservation Fund Advisory Board was created by New York State law to make recommendations to appropriate state agencies on plans, policies and programs affecting fish and wildlife. The board submits an annual report to the DEC Commissioner and a fiscal report to sportsmen and women and the public. “This year’s CFAB summer field meeting will highlight many of the significant natural resource projects that DEC regional staff is involved in,” DEC Region 5 Regional Director Judy Drabicki said. “We invite hunters, anglers and all who enjoy outdoor recreation to attend the meeting and learn about the efforts of the board and how sporting license fee money is being used throughout New York.”
The field meeting provides an opportunity for the board to hear from people who are unable to travel to Albany to attend the regular monthly meetings. This year’s CFAB field meeting will feature the opportunity to attend the meeting via video conference at many of the DEC regional offices. In addition to an abbreviated board meeting there will be several presentations by region 6 professional staff about the significant projects that have been undertaken locally. Topics currently planned include:
* CFAB Business by CFAB chairman Jason Kemper
* Status of the Lake Ontario Fisheries Current Research/Potential for Deep Water Cisco Reintroduction by Steve LaPan Manager, Cape Vincent Fisheries Station Manager
* Lake Sturgeon Restoration on the St. Lawrence River – Rodger Klindt, Senior Aquatic Biologist
* Fish and Wildlife Management and Sportsman Access Programs on Fort Drum – Raymond Rainbolt, Fish and Wildlife Manager CIV USA IMCOM US Army
* Lands and Forests- Public Outreach – Scott Healy, Senior Forester
* CWD Update and Deer Management Issues in Region 6 – James Farquhar, Sr. Wildlife Biologist
* Region 6 Wind Power Projects – The Land Where the Wind Always Blows – Bill Gordon
The meeting will also be available via video conference at many DEC regional offices. Those who plan to attend at the DEC offices in Ray Brook or Warrensburg should contact David Winchell at 897-1211 or [email protected]
All CFAB members are volunteers who have a longstanding interest, knowledge and experience in fish and wildlife management, including hunting, fishing, trapping and related conservation activities. Additional information about the CFAB and the Conservation Fund can be found on DEC’s website. For more information on the summer field meeting, call DEC’s Fish and Wildlife office at (315) 785-2263.
Michael Foxman invariably exudes confidence in his proposed Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake, and elicits great loyalty from many in the community who have a legitimate interest in reopening the Big Tupper ski center.
For all that, in my five years of observation he is one poor negotiator. Since the first conference between Mr. Foxman, APA and potential parties to a public hearing in April 2007, he has been unable or unwilling to substantively negotiate two major problems with what he wants to do: the lack of a permanent open space protection component in his proposals and his inability to allay concerns for water quality impacts from sewage, stormwater and steep slope development. He blames “the process” for his inability to make much forward progress. From the beginning in 2005, he proved unable to win the trust of his neighbors, including abutters of Oval Wood Dish who happen to provide much of Tupper Lake’s drinking water. His payment in lieu of taxes scheme raised questions about fairness to taxing districts and residents. He paid for independent economic consultants ordered by the Town, and when he didn’t like their concerns, he temporarily stopped paying them. Despite the great recession, he seems supremely confident in his plan, the market value of the properties, resort markets, sales projections, and, ostensibly, the great tax boon this will be for Tupper Lake some day.
Fourteen months of mediation, the process he favored, resulted in useful exchange, yet few results. Overall, in the forty-two months since the hearing was ordered, he is not even close to a permit, or shown through detailed engineering how to get water onto the mountain and waste water off of it, or how he will pay for miles of infrastructure for a second village in Tupper Lake – for second home owners.
Once he exercises his option to acquire the bulk of the land from Oval Wood Liquidating Trust, Mr. Foxman may re-sell the properties to others. He will only exercise the option with that invaluable APA permit in hand. That permit can only be issued based on review of a lengthy public hearing record. That record will be developed at great expense over many months, and rests upon the ten hearing issues raised by the APA in its Feb 2007 decision to go to hearing, but undoubtedly other issues will be shown to be highly relevant, including energy, and wildlife impacts. The Law Judge in the case has to rule on each additional issue. Weeks of discovery, the process by which the parties to the APA hearing gain access to pertinent documents, are likely. Finally, it seems no hearing can start until the APA finds that Foxman and the LA Group have done the necessary engineering studies and completed detailed drawings of the water, stormwater, sewer, electrical and road systems.
Apparently the applicant has now delivered these to the APA, only to raise other impediments to starting the hearing process, principally his alleged future right to access and build on the Moody Pond Tract over lands owned by The Adirondack Conservancy. Meanwhile, the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency and Legislature must rule on the private bonds to pay for the tens of millions in new infrastructure.
ACR is not the biggest threat in the history of the Park. Horizon Corp would have built 10,000 homes in Colton, Ton-da-lay several thousand just north of Tupper Lake. That was all when the APA was brand new. After lengthy legal action, State objections to water supply and quality issues, and economic downturns, these behemoths were never built. Yet, this is the largest project to go to an APA adjudicatory public hearing, and tests the APA’s interpretation of the Act severely when it comes to the purpose of Resource Management lands, energy issues and fiscal and other burdens and benefits on a local community.
Were Mr. Foxman an experienced, well financed and Park-aware negotiator, had the housing bubble not burst into full recession, were the APA less risk averse, the public hearing called in 2007 might be over and a decision already reached.
My hope: a productive community dialogue on the future of these lands would occur. The housing component of the project would be downsized and largely concentrated around the base of Mt. Morris on good soils and with easier access for village services, with a wide protective buffer around Lake Simond and over 2000 acres of the project area, including Cranberry Pond, permanently protected, publicly accessible open space, a mix of conservation easement and Forest Preserve. Certified forestry, and public recreation would be encouraged, skiing started without the need to sell 38 (or whatever the number is now) great camp lots, posted signs few, and full taxes paid. My vision is hardly the right one, and may be unachievable. I do know that we are at least another year away from the APA’s review of any public hearing record.
Photo: View from Mt. Morris looking towards Tupper Lake.
In the early 1900s, woodsman Oliver Lamora of Brandon, New York became somewhat of an Adirondack hero, earning coast-to-coast headlines with his ongoing battle against billionaire William Rockefeller. At the same time, just 20 miles north of Oliver’s homestead, a young man began a career destined to earn him international praise as a hero of two world wars—without ever hoisting a gun to his shoulder.
Darius Alton Davis was born in 1883 in Skerry, New York, and worked on the family farm about ten miles southwest of Malone in Franklin County. The Davis family was devoutly religious, following the lead of Darius’ father, Newton, who took an active role in the local church, Sunday school, and county Bible Society. In 1903, Darius graduated from Franklin Academy in Malone. At the commencement, several students presented papers to the assembly. Darius chose as his subject David Livingstone, the legendary Scottish explorer and medical missionary. The audience heard details on Livingstone’s humble beginnings, hard work, civility, and desire to help others. What young Davis was presenting, in fact, was a blueprint for his own future.
Darius attended Syracuse University (1903–1907), where he studied theology and played a leadership role on campus. “Dri,” as he was known, was a top oarsman, guiding the crew team to many sensational victories, including one world-record effort that stood for five years.
In 1905, he was elected president of the university’s YMCA (recently renamed “the Y”), an event that would determine his life’s direction. Prior to graduation in 1907, Darius accepted a position as religious director for the YMCA in Washington, D.C. After marrying his college sweetheart, he worked three years in Washington while continuing his studies, attending four terms at the Silver Bay YMCA School on Lake George, New York.
His personality, intelligence, and work ethic made Darius a very capable leader, and in 1910, the International Committee of the YMCA assigned him to establish a presence in Constantinople, Turkey. From the position of general secretary of operations, Darius built a membership of nearly 600 in the first year.
In late 1912, the Balkan War broke out, and Davis assumed the organization of Red Cross aid. He also volunteered, serving for six months as an interpreter in a Turkish hospital. His selfless dedication to war victims did not go unnoticed. In appreciation, the Turkish sultan awarded him a medal, the prestigious Star of the Third Order of Medjidieh.
In 1915, within a year after World War I began, Darius was assigned to work with prisoners in France and Italy, both of which were unprepared for the mounting number of captured troops. The YMCA assumed the challenge of caring for the physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs of the men held captive. The organization’s efforts were based on Christian charity, but it mattered not what one’s beliefs were: the YMCA was simply there to help anyone.
Access to prison camps had been largely restricted, but Davis was a great negotiator and spokesman. Dealing with various government officials, he stressed the YMCA’s neutrality, which was a powerful argument.
The French were skeptical. They had recently developed a Foyer du Soldat (Soldiers’ Fireside) program featuring a series of buildings (small to large facilities, but often referred to as “huts”) where French soldiers could go to relax, read, snack, play games, and enjoy entertainment. Sensing an opportunity, Davis offered to support and expand the program while making it available to captives as well as troops. France’s war prisoner department finally relented.
They soon discovered the great value of Davis’ plan. Soldiers and prisoners alike were thrilled with the results, and within two years, 70 huts were established across the country. Eventually, more than 1500 were in place. In early 1917, when America entered the war, General Pershing requested that Davis provide the same program for the huge number of Allied troops destined for service in France. That meant quadrupling their efforts, which required enormous infrastructure.
Undaunted, Davis led the way, and within a year, the YMCA was operating what was once described as “the world’s largest grocery chain.” At a cost of over $50 million, it included more than 40 factories for producing cookies, candies, and other supplies, plus warehouses, banks, hotels, cafes, dorms, and garages for vehicle repair. Their own construction and repair departments built and maintained the facilities.
After the war, Davis was appointed the senior YMCA representative in Europe, and from that position, he organized YMCAs in several countries. In 1925, he became secretary of the National Council of Switzerland (a neutral country), and in 1931 was named associate general secretary of the World YMCA based in Geneva, a position he held as World War II began.
In that capacity, he worked with the War Prisoners’ Aid program, an advancement of the work he had done with prisoners during World War I. In late October 1940, Davis completed a three-week tour of POW camps in Germany. At the time, the YMCA was already providing recreational and educational services to millions of prisoners, but sought to do more.
Though many were well treated by their captors, they often lacked warm clothing, news from home, adequate food, and other daily needs. Books were one of the most desired and requested items in every camp. Many organizations (like the Red Cross) addressed that problem—the YMCA alone had distributed hundreds of thousands of books to prison camps across Europe.
Their aim was to provide the essentials to prisoners held in all countries, and Darius was relentless. By January 1941, negotiations had been conducted on behalf of an estimated 3 million POWs in Australia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Palestine, Rumania, Sweden, and Switzerland. As the war continued, that number kept rising.
In a speech he gave in mid-1942, Davis spoke of the more than 6 million war prisoners they were helping to care for. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it gave the prisoners a voice and a connection to the outside world. It also allowed independent observation of the goings-on inside many prison camps, a comforting fact to both the prisoners and their families back home. One newspaper noted, “The YMCA already is conducting welfare work among the largest number of war prisoners in the history of mankind.”
After the war ended in 1945, Darius spent four years aiding refugees and citizens who had been displaced. In 1953, he was awarded the Officers Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his work with German POWs. Ten other European governments likewise honored Davis for his work on behalf of prisoners. The onetime farm boy from Skerry touched an untold number of lives. Darius Alton Davis died in 1970 at the age of 87.
Photo Top: Darius Alton Davis.
Photo Middle: A Foyer du Soldat in France, 1918.
Photo Bottom: An appreciative WW II prison camp poster.
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.
Smaller party and independent candidates like Green gubernatorial nominee Howie Hawkins feel like they hit the lottery if their names are mentioned even as a footnote in the mainstream press. It’s not surprising, but still enraging, that the corporate media has a bias in favor of the candidates of the two corporate parties.
The common rationalization for such bias is the self-serving claim that people aren’t interested in candidates deemed “fringe” by the media pooh bahs… a catch-22 if there ever was one. When I’ve pointed out this bias of ignoring non-major party candidates to media elites, a typical response has been: “when have we been biased?” Here’s a little educational lesson: if you ignore candidates because they don’t belong to a major party, then you are, by definition, biased against non-major parties. Justify this slant if you think you can, but don’t insult our intelligence by pretending it’s not bias. » Continue Reading.
What do violet variable dancer, Johnny darter, magnolia warbler, peppered moth and painted turtle have in common? Each is among the more than 430 species recently cataloged during a “BioBlitz” event at Follensby Pond. Learn more about this BioBlitz and The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) recent purchase of the historic Follensby Pond property on Friday, August 20th, 2010 from 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.
The day will include a number of events for the whole family, plus a short film on Follensby Pond and a talk by Michael Carr, Executive Director of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy at 1 pm. Carr will discuss Follensby as a unique conservation legacy. In addition to large-scale habitat protection, the tract offers cultural ties to the development of a uniquely American conservation ethos as the site where, in 1858, the leading intellectuals of the day retreated for the “Philosophers’ Camp”. A BioBlitz is a rapid inventory of critters, plants, fungi, dragonflies—you name it. It provides the perfect excuse to look for the wild things—whether common or rare, large or small, in your own backyard or in a vast forest. It’s also a way to call attention to some of the intricate parts of the working ecosystems that give us clean air, fertile soil, and fresh water.
“We usually hear the word “biodiversity” in regard to rainforests with their vast number of species. Yet the diversity of life in our own backyards is phenomenal,” said Jen Kretser, Director of Programs for The Wild Center. “We are excited to host this event.”
The upcoming fun and educational event at The Wild Center will include hands-on activities – starting at 10:30 am with a bird walk – for people of all ages led by experts in various fields including mushroom identification, wildflowers, aquatic insects, moths and butterflies, small mammals and reptiles. It’s an opportunity to ask questions, get some field tips on how to look for and identify wild things, and try out some tools of the trade. Display tables, activities, naturalist walks, demonstrations, and more will be part the day.
A short film of the Follensby Pond BioBlitz will premiere at 12:30 pm as part of this special event. “It was truly inspiring to see scientists, naturalists, and students deeply engaged in discovery at Follensby Pond,” said Michael Carr, Executive Director of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, which purchased the 14,600-acre property in September 2008. “Not only will this film convey the collective enthusiasm shared by the participants, it will also help to introduce people to a very special property that has been capturing the hearts and minds of adventurers and intellectuals alike for more than a century.”
“This event truly epitomizes the goal of the Adirondack All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) to bring scientists and citizens together in sharing their passion for the incredible diversity of life found in the Adirondack Park. I can’t think of another event where you will have some of the State’s experts in so many different groups of organisms all working together in the same place. Whether it’s dragonflies, fungi, or black bears you’re interested in, this event is sure to satisfy and inform,” said David Patrick, Director for the Center of Biodiversity at Paul Smith’s College.
The Wild Center, the Adirondack All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory project at Paul Smith’s College, SUNY ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center at Huntington Forest, and The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter are pleased to offer this event in celebration and recognition of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity.
The Bioblitz movie premiere and Follensby Pond lecture are free and open to the public. All other events and exhibits are free for members or with admission. For a full schedule please visit www.wildcenter.org
Mini-Bioblitz Schedule of Events at The Wild Center
From 10:30 am to 3:00 pm, peruse displays in the Great Hall and outside stations featuring different taxonomic groups surveyed during the June 18th and July 9th BioBlitzes that took place at Follensby Park. Participate in hands-on activities perfect for all ages. Experts on moths, small mammals, plants, and more will share the research and surveying techniques used to assess plant and wildlife diversity within the Follensby Pond property. See live specimens like the ones found during the BioBlitz.
10:30 am Local birding expert Brian McAllister will lead a walk down The Wild Center trails in search of as many different bird species as possible. The walk will result in a list of all birds sighted and heard on the property, using the same methods employed in the Follensby Pond ATBI.
At 11:00 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm, staff-led Animal Encounters in the Great Hall will introduce you to reptiles, a bird, and a mammal that you can find in the wild in the Tupper Lake region. Meet live representatives of Adirondack animals that were counted during the Follensby Pond BioBlitz.
11:30 am Join noted author and naturalist Peter O’Shea for a trail walk highlighting the aspects of the 2010 BioBlitz. Learn some of the plants and animals surveyed in the Follensby area that you can also find on The Wild Center grounds and consider the vast diversity of plant life throughout the region.
12:30 pm Join us in Flammer Theater for the premier of the BioBlitz film shot on location at Follensby Park this summer. Beginning with an introduction by Dr. David Patrick, Director of the Adirondack Center for Biodiversity. See scientists in action as they survey Follensby Pond for particular taxonomic groups and share their contagious enthusiasm, and get a look at this beautiful property currently closed to the public.
1:00 pm (Revised) Join Michael Carr, Executive Director of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy for a talk about Follensby Pond as a unique conservation legacy.
2:00 pm Mushrooms are popping up all over the place at The Wild Center! Mycologist Susan Hopkins will take you on a tour of fungi. Search for mushrooms and other fungi found on-site and then compare these to some specimens found at Follensby Pond.
3:00 pm Naturalist John Sayles will share tips and hints on identifying plants specimens as well as look at natural succession during this walk.
Throughout the day there will be outdoor stations on identifying Adirondack Ferns, Aquatic insects, and Dragonflies.
The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge Junior Waterfowl Hunter Training Program is being offered to young hunters who want to learn more about the sport of waterfowl hunting and experience a high quality waterfowl hunt on Saturday, August 28th, 2010 in St. Albans Vermont. The program is offered to youngsters 12 to 15 years of age who have an adult waterfowl hunter to serve as a mentor. The Junior Waterfowl Hunter Training Program is a joint educational effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, the Vermont Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, and volunteers to teach young hunters about waterfowl hunting. The program instructs beginning hunters in the knowledge and skills necessary to become responsible, respected individuals who strive to learn all they can about the species being hunted and to become knowledgeable in firearms safety, hunter ethics and wildlife conservation.
Mentors and youths who would like to participate in this year’s program must pre-register with the Refuge by Monday, August 23. Participation in the program will be limited to 50 enrollees.
All mentors and young hunters must attend the one-day training session on Saturday, August 28, with instruction beginning at 8:00 AM at the Franklin County (Vermont) Sportsman’s Club on Route 36 (Maquam Shore Road) in St. Albans. The training session will be held rain or shine, so participants should dress appropriately.
Junior Hunters and their mentors, once they complete the training, are awarded exclusive use of several premier hunting areas at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge for the first four weekends of the waterfowl hunting season, however, only the Junior Hunter may shoot. Blind sites and hunting dates for the Jr. Hunters are determined by a lottery conducted at the annual training session.
To register for this year’s program, call refuge headquarters at 802-868-4781. Please include the mentor’s and youth’s name, address and telephone number.
Waterfowl hunters of all ages are welcome to attend the training on Saturday, August 28. It is a great opportunity to improve waterfowl identification and other waterfowl hunting skills for the coming season. Children under the age of 12 are welcome to come for the day to learn about the program but will not be allowed to participate in the hunt until they are 12 years old.
If you have any questions about the program, please contact David Frisque, Park Ranger, at 802-868-4781.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is urging hikers to give their boots a good brushing after each hike to remove any seeds of invasive plant species and help prevent their spread to other wild areas.
“Because of the rapid spread of invasive species such as garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed and wild parsnip, hikers should include a whisk broom or brush as part of their hiking gear,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club. “By giving your boots or shoes a good brushing before leaving the area, you can help prevent seeds from spreading to the next trail you hike.” » Continue Reading.
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