Monday, March 15, 2010

Phil Brown: Wilderness as a State of Mind

The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposal to remove fire towers from St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains raises some difficult philosophical questions, starting with: what is wilderness?

In calling for the towers’ removal, DEC relies on the definition in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which is taken from the federal Wilderness Act: “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man—where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 15, 2010

2010 US Alpine Championships Preview

March 20th through 23rd, the 2010 US Alpine Championships will be held at Whiteface Mountain. The host town of Lake Placid is prepared to welcome the athletes, including recent Olympians from Vancouver.

Olympians competing at the competition include three-time medalist Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, Calif.), 2006 gold medalist Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) , Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah), Jimmy Cochran (Keene, N.H.), Will Brandenburg (Spokane, Wash.), Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.), Nolan Kasper (Warren, Vt.), Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, Colo.), Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, Calif.), Leanne Smith (Conway, N.H.), Chelsea Marshall (Pittsfield, Vt.), Hailey Duke (Boise, Idaho), Megan McJames (Park City, Utah), Kaylin Richardson (Edina, Minn.) and Sarah Schleper (Vail, Colo.).

A notable name is missing from this line-up- Lake Placid native Andrew Weibrecht. After winning a bronze medal in the Super G event at Vancouver, Weibrecht dislocated his shoulder. Still, he anticipates being at the event to cheer on his teammates- “It would have been perfect to wrap up my competition year at home, but I’ll still be there to support my teammates and the hundreds of racers from across the country gunning for U.S. bragging rights.”

The US Alpine Championships is an opportunity for young racers as well as seasoned veterans to race for National titles. Whiteface Mountain also hosted the event in 2003, when lack of snow in Alyeska, Alaska motivated the Olympic Regional Development Authority to pick up the races.

On Saturday March 20th, an Opening Ceremonies celebration will be held in Lake Placid. For more information, visit http://www.whiteface.com/events/alpine/index.php.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Adirondack Bracket 2010: Selection Day

In limited areas of the Adirondack Park, an understated excitement built gradually throughout the day yesterday as selections were made for the 2010 Adirondack Bracket.

Bracket pairings were made by combining the top 28 randomly selected entrants from two lists (a longer list of general Adirondackiana, and a shorter list of 2009’s Adirondack headliners). Four more slots were reserved for last year’s final four, including 2009 Bracket champion Stewart’s Ice Cream Shops. The remaining slots will be filled later this week by a play-in round which sets four randomly selected entrants from a list suggested by our readers, against the Bracket judges’ “Hand o’ God” choices (our favorites that somehow missed the first cut). A preview of the play-in round follows the jump. . .

So here is how things stack up for this week’s play-in round:

Game one pits late 19th/early 20th Century painter Winslow Homer (who spent time throughout his career at the North Woods Club in Minerva—his last visit to the Adirondacks occurring one hundred years ago this summer, shortly before his death), against the frankenpine: that towering synthesis of artifice and nature, and itself a subject of contemporary Adirondack painting (not to mention inspiration for an excellent band).

Saranac Lake’s doyens of drill. . . the Idas of March. . . those angels of aluminum and mesh—the incomparable Lawnchair Ladies—sashay into the Bracket against an equally formidable lineup of local adirondack ski hills. This squad of impressive topography (talking about the ski hills, now), once thought to be heading downhill, fast, has made a strong comeback this winter led by Big Tupper and Hickory. The list also includes a couple cross country ski mountains, one of which boasts the only ski mountain palindrome in the Adirondacks: “O! Dewey. Aye, we do!” This match up could go either way, but one thing you can count on: Chairs will certainly be lifted, and might be thrown.

Game three features perhaps the most interesting play-in pairing, with Olmstedville’s Pete Hornbeck and his fleet of featherweight canoes taking on Lake George’s Winter Carnival, the village’s annual string of wintertime events held every weekend throughout the month of February. Any other year this would have been no contest as canoes are not much use on a solid lake surface, especially with a lot of cars and snow machines and dog sleds racing around. This year, however, warm weather forced cancellation of some carnival events, premature demolition of the ice palace and relocation of the dog sled races from the slushy lake top to safer ground inland. The Fund for Lake George reports that the lake failed to fully freeze over this winter (the first time since 2002). Though this might be an advantageous climate for a naval assault, Hornbeck will have his work cut out for him if he is to make it to a much anticipated confrontation with Senator Betty Little in the “Upstate Great Eight” round next week.

The final play-in contest throws New York State’s official fish, the brook trout, into the mix with back yard sugarin’. Not a whole lot to say about this one except: that is some mighty fine eating.

Join us later this week for play-in results and a preview of the first round.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Wright Peak Avalanche Survivor Tells His Story

Photo of Angel Slides on Wright PeakThe Adirondack Almanack is pleased to have the unique opportunity to present the first-hand experience of Ian Measeck of Glens Falls, who along with Jamie McNeill of Vergennes, Vermont was caught in an avalanche on Angel Slide, Wright Peak on February 27th. The potentially deadly avalanche occurred just a month after Phil Brown wrote A Short History of Adirondack Avalanches. Phil reported a week ago that Angel Slide was still unsafe.

What follows is Measeck’s story in his own words: » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change

Climate change threatens to further imperil hundreds of species of migratory birds, already under stress from habitat loss, invasive species and other environmental threats, a new report released today by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar concludes.

The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change, follows a comprehensive report released a year ago that argued that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline. The report is available online at http://www.stateofthebirds.org/

“For well over a century, migratory birds have faced stresses such as commercial hunting, loss of forests, the use of DDT and other pesticides, a loss of wetlands and other key habitat, the introduction of invasive species, and other impacts of human development,” Salazar said in a press relase issued last week. “Now they are facing a new threat–climate change–that could dramatically alter their habitat and food supply and push many species towards extinction.”

According to the reports authors, which included the collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and experts from some of the nation’s leading conservation organizations, climate changes will have an increasingly disruptive effect on bird species in all habitats, with oceanic and Hawaiian birds in greatest peril.

Key findings from the “State of the Birds” climate change report included in the media release include:

• Oceanic birds are among the most vulnerable species because they don’t raise many young each year; they face challenges from a rapidly changing marine ecosystem; and they nest on islands that may be flooded as sea levels rise. All 67 oceanic bird species, such as petrels and albatrosses, are among the most vulnerable birds on Earth to climate change.

• Hawaiian birds such as endangered species Puaiohi and ’Akiapōlā’au already face multiple threats and are increasingly challenged by mosquito-borne diseases and invasive species as climate change alters their native habitats.

• Birds in coastal, arctic/alpine, and grassland habitats, as well as those on Caribbean and other Pacific Islands show intermediate levels of vulnerability; most birds in aridlands, wetlands, and forests show relatively low vulnerability to climate change.

• For bird species that are already of conservation concern such as the golden-cheeked warbler, whooping crane, and spectacled eider, the added vulnerability to climate change may hasten declines or prevent recovery.

• The report identified common bird species such as the American oystercatcher, common nighthawk, and northern pintail that are likely to become species of conservation concern as a result of climate change.
White-tailed Tropicbird chick by Elena Babij

Birds are considered indicators of the health of our environment. The reports offers suggestions such as conserving carbon-rich forests and wetlands, and creating incentives to avoid deforestation and reducing emissions.

The report is the product of a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, between federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organizations including partners from American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tests Show Lake George Clearest of 113 NY Lakes

Lake George received the best reading on a measurement for clarity among 113 New York lakes in 2009, according to a press release from the Lake George Association, which follows.

Peter Leyh, an LGA member, was one of several LGA volunteers to participate in the 2009 Citizen Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP), coordinated on Lake George by the Lake George Association.

On September 2, Peter was sampling water near Gull Bay on the north end of the lake, and sank a measuring disk for clarity, called a Secchi disk, into the lake. He was
able to see the disk in the water at a depth of 13.55 meters, or almost 44 and 1/2 feet. No other lake participating in the CSLAP program last year could match it.

“This is great news for Lake George,” said Walt Lender, Executive Director of the Lake George Association, “but by no means does it mean we are free to relax our efforts to protect the Lake and keep it clean. In fact, it is just the opposite. This reading shows what a unique treasure we have in Lake George, and how diligently we must work to keep it that way. People need to know that this reading was taken at the north end of the Lake on a dead calm day. The clarity and cleanliness in the south end of Lake George, near West Brook, is not anywhere close to this. The water in Lake George flows from south to north, and it takes eight years for a drop to flow from the south to the north. Our challenge is to ensure that in eight years at Gull Bay our Secchi disk reading will remain at or beat 13.55 meters.”

Every summer since 2004, the Lake George Association has coordinated volunteers to assess water quality and clarity through the CSLAP program. The data gathered is used to help manage and assess trends in New York’s many lakes. The program is sponsored by the New York Federation of Lake Associations. In addition to CSLAP, the Lake George Association actively encourages adults and children to learn more about lake monitoring and stewardship aboard its Floating Classroom, a specially equipped catamaran which takes groups out on the Lake from May through September.

To learn more about CSLAP or how you can help Lake George, contact the LGA at (518) 668-3558 or visit the website at www.lakegeorgeassociation.org.

Illustration: 2006 graph showing Secchi depths for various locations around Lake George; from the Fund For Lake George website.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Forest Economies: It’s Maple Sugaring Season!

It’s bright sunny days like we’ve had for most of this month that bring maple sugaring to mind. There’s just something about the quality of the light that says it’s sugar season. And sure enough, Wednesday morning I heard the first newscast from a sugar house. So, I thought I’d jump in with the best of ‘em and write a post about the sweetness of spring: maple syrup.

Maple sugaring and natural history go hand-in-hand. At least it has seemed that way to me, for most places where I have worked have operated some sort of sugaring operation. One ran a small scale commercial operation (see photo), but the majority were simple demonstration set-ups, where visitors walked a “sugaring trail”, each stop featuring a different time in the history of sugaring, from the Native hatchet in a tree with a wooden bowl on the ground to catch the dripping sap, to high tech tubing that brought the sap directly to the sugar shack.

My favorite, however, was the final stop on the sugaring trail we had in New Jersey. The guys on the staff built a device called a “lazy man’s balance”, consisting of a long arm (log) balanced across the fork of an upright log, with a kettle suspended from one end and a heavy rock tied to the other end to act as a counter-balance. The kettle was filled with sap and dangled above a fire, which boiled off the water. What made this set-up so fascinating to me, however, was the simplicity of the engineering: as the water evaporated, the kettle lost weight. As the kettle lost weight, it would rise a bit higher from the fire. This ingenious device would allow the syrup to condense without scorching.

One of the best things about visiting a sugar bush is getting to sample the merchandise, so to speak. While commercial outfits provide samples in hopes that you will buy some syrup or sugar to take home, nature centers have a different take on it: they just want you to try the stuff. The best sample tables not only give you a taste of maple syrup, but they also test your tasting skills. For example, one place where I worked had samples from sugar, red and Norway maples, Vermont Maid and Golden Griddle (the former has something like 3% real maple syrup, while the latter has none), and a syrup we made from potatoes. Visitors would spear a chunk of Italian bread on a toothpick and dip it into a cup of syrup to taste it. The goal was to pick out which was the real maple syrup. I grew up on the real stuff, so it always amazed me when people couldn’t pick out the real from the fake. And, just for the record, the potato syrup was often picked as the real McCoy.

Which brings us to sugar versus red versus Norway versus black maple. All maple trees produce a sweet sap that can be tapped and boiled to make a sweet golden syrup. So why the hoopla over sugar maple? Because sugar maple (Acer saccharum) has the greatest quantity of sugar per gallon of sap. In other words, you need a lot less sap from a sugar maple to produce a gallon of syrup than you would from a red, black, or Norway maple. And how much is that? The general rule of thumb is 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to produce one gallon of sugar maple syrup. For red maple, you need upwards of 80 gallons of sap to get that single gallon of syrup. On the other hand, red maples (Acer rubrum) are a lot more common across a larger portion of the US than sugar maples, so for many folks they are the tree of choice.

Sugar production doesn’t start and end with maple trees, however. If one travels to Alaska, or Siberia, one will find syrup produced from birch trees. Birch syrup has a different flavor, so don’t dump a bunch on your pancakes and expect it to taste the same. It is described as being a bit more spicy and reminiscent of sorghum or horehound candy. And if you think maple syrup is expensive, birch syrup is even more so. This is because it requires almost 100 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of syrup, there aren’t many people producing it, and it is therefore considered a gourmet item.

March is the time to visit a sugar bush near you. And you might want to take in more than one, because each sugar operation may offer something a little different. Here in the 21st century you can see the whole spectrum of a sugaring operation from a sugar shack that’s deep in the woods and uses horses and sledges to haul the sap from the trees to the evaporators, to a high tech operation that uses a vacuum set-up to suck the sap out of the trees, and then applies reverse osmosis to remove water before the sap even sees the glint of an evaporator pan. A perusal of maple operations in the Adirondacks will turn up outfits at both ends of the scale. So get out your mud boots, grab a road map, and hit the woods – you won’t want to let this springtime tradition pass you by.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Snofest 2010 in Old Forge this Weekend

Major snowmobile dealers Ski Doo, Yamaha, Polaris and Arctic Cat premier 2011 models this weekend and offer demo rides (weather permitting). Thousands of snowmobile enthusiasts take advantage of this opportunity to be the first to preview next year’s sleds and gear. There will be Freestyle Snocross Shows both days, with a Back-Flip Fireworks Finale on Saturday at 7pm.

Gates to the North Street Recreation Center will be open Saturday 9am–9pm, and Sunday 10am–4pm. Admission is free. Signage will indicate parking and shuttle buses will transport event goers. Snofest 2010 is sponsored by the Central Adirondack Association. » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 12, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, March 12, 2010

Conservationist Picked for Lake George Park Commission

Dr. Dean Cook, a Ticonderoga dentist, has been selected by New York State Governor David Paterson to become the newest member of the Lake George Park Commission.

If confirmed by the State Senate, Cook will replace Tom Morehouse, also of Essex County, whose term has expired.

The Senate’s Committee on Environmental Conservation voted on February 24 to forward Cook’s nomination to the Senate Finance Committee, which must also approve the Governor’s choice before it is brought before the Senate as a whole.

“I’ve devoted forty years to the protection of Lake George and serving as a member of the Lake George Park Commission is an opportunity to continue that work,” said Cook.

“I’ve been heartened by the Commission’s efforts to tackle such important issues as stream corridor protections, and I know it has a great potential to contribute to the health of the lake,” he added.

Cook’s family is one of the oldest on northern Lake George. An ancestor settled in the area in 1796 and the family’s property once extended from Baldwin to Hague.

Today, Cook helps maintain the family’s 250 acres near Heart Bay that were until recently part of a working farm.

That property, which includes eight guest cottages, has been hailed as a model of sustainable development.

Since returning to Lake George to join his father’s dental practice in the 1970s, Cook has served on the boards of the Adirondack Council, the High Peaks Audubon Society, the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and the Lake George Land Conservancy.
“Dean Cook will be an excellent addition to the Lake George Park Commission,” said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George. “He holds Lake George and its communities near and dear to him.”

Walt Lender, the executive director of the Lake George Association, noted, “Dean Cook will be a passionate member of the Lake George Park Commission. He’s a dogged steward of the lake.”

Cook is a 1962 graduate of Ticonderoga Central School. He attended the State University of New York at Buffalo and Seton Hall before entering the University of Pennsylvania, from which he received his degree in Dental Medicine in 1971. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

The Lake George Park Commission is composed of nine members from each of the three counties in the Lake George basin and a representative of the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation.

If his appointment is approved by the Senate, Cook will serve a term that ends in 2017.

Photo: Dr Dean Cook and Terrina Russell-Cook courtesy of the Lake George Land Conservancy.

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


Friday, March 12, 2010

Thurman Maple Days Begin This Weekend

March 13th and 14th begin a three-week celebration of all things maple in the town of Thurman. Pancake breakfasts, free sugarhouse tours, maple shopping, and sawmill demonstrations highlight Thurman Maple Days, and the weekend’s seminal event is the annual Thurman Maple Sugar Party, a dinner which for over fifty years had raised money to fight cancer.

Early birds may begin their outing at Valley Road Maple Farm with pancakes with pure maple syrup at 9 a.m., and the rest of the tour sites open at 10 a.m. and remain open until 4 p.m. Froggy 107.1 will broadcast from Adirondack Gold Maple Farm on Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., and on all days Adirondack Gold will offer maple tours and feature Adirondack Suds and Scents chandler Sally Feihel, who will offer soaps, lotions and soy votives, explain her craft and show a soap-making video. Travel on to Martin’s Lumber to see beautifully grained slabs of maple and watch sawmill demonstrations. Stained glass stepping stones, quilted wares and hand-crafted jewelry will be on display, as well. Toad Hill Maple Farm, Warren County’s largest, will welcome guests on Charles Olds Road.

The Maple Sugar Party, held only March 13th, begins at Thurman Town Hall, 311 Athol Road, Athol, at 4 p.m. with live music and food, topped off by old fashioned “jackwax,” also known as “sugar on snow.” The dinner continues until all have been served and costs $10 for ages 12 to adult and $5 for kids 5 to 11. Children under 5 are served free. Proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.

Thurman tours, demonstrations and breakfasts will be offered again as part of NYS Maple Weekends on March 20-21 and 27-28. Find more information at www.Thurman-NY.com or phone 518-623-9718. Brochures with maps are available around the area and online, you may request that one be emailed ([email protected]), or you may just follow signs through Thurman to the sites. Thurman is just six miles from Adirondack Northway exit 23 by way of routes 9 and 418.

Photo: Listening for the sap to run, photo by Amy Manney.


Friday, March 12, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene:Soul, Folk, Jazz, Country & Bluegrass

The coming week offers a wide variety of live-music options.

Thursday, March 11

Another big show in Albany: Elton John and Billy Joel at the Times Union Center 7pm.

Sirsy is a rock & roll duo with a female vocalist / guitar player and a drummer. They are at Gaffney’s in Saratoga at 9pm.
http://www.sirsy.com/
http://www.gaffneysrestaurant.com/

Solo singer / guitar player Michael LaPoint at Trapper’s Tavern in North Creek from 7-10pm.
http://www.copperfieldinn.com/events.asp

Friday, March 12

Bluegrass mandolin player Sam Bush at the Swyer Theatre in The Egg in Albany at 7pm.
http://www.sambush.com
http://www.theegg.org

The Horseshoe Lounge Playboys describe themselves as “Backwoods Americana Old Timey Country and Bluegrass” and they are at the Waterhole #3 in Saranac Lake at 9pm.
http://www.myspace.com/horseshoeloungeplayboys
http://www.myspace.com/saranacwaterhole

Keyboardist/producer/composer Jeff Bujak is at the Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs at 9pm. This place has 9 bathrooms. I know the owner used to run The Red Square in Albany and the bathroom situation there is always a bottle neck. I guess she wasn’t going to have that at her new place.
http://www.jeffbujak.com
http://www.putnamden.com

Saturday, March 13

One man band Keller Williams at Northern Lights in Clifton Park at 8pm. He plays a combination of bluegrass, folk, alternative rock, reggae, electronica/dance, jazz, and funk.
http://www.kellerwilliams.net
http://www.northernlightslive.com/

Sunday, March 14

Sisters In Soul Tour—Maria Muldaur, Marcia Ball & Bettye LaVette—at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall at 7pm.
http://www.troymusichall.org/

Wednesday, March 17

Steve Herubin, formerly of New Hampshire-based Folk / Jazz band The Buskers, at Trapper’s Tavern in North Creek 7-10pm.
http://www.copperfieldinn.com/events.asp

Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip at barVino in North Creek at 7pm.
http://www.barvino.net

Photograph courtesy of the Horseshoe Lounge Playboys


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Northern Forest Canoe Trail Improvements, New Guide Book

Kayakers and canoeists will find improved portage trails, new and rehabilitated campsites, and new information kiosks for the 2010 paddling season along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) between New York and Maine.

Trail staff and volunteers completed projects last year on the historic 740-mile waterway in New York, Vermont, Québec, Canada; New Hampshire and Maine. The first official guidebook to the trail will be released by the end of the month and will include 320 Pages, 100 black and white and 35 color photos, and six maps. Here are the improvements made for 2010 in New York:

Overgrowth was cleared from the Buttermilk Falls and Deerland portage trails. The trails were signed and a 25-foot stone causeway was built.

A 20-step stone staircase was built on the Permanent Rapids portage trail just south of Franklin Falls Pond. Eight campsites were rehabilitated in the Franklin Falls area, and 100 saplings were planted at locations of impact and erosion in the region.

A dilapidated cabin was removed and two new campsite areas were installed on Upper Saranac Lake.

A kiosk was installed at the Green Street boat launch on the Saranac River in Plattsburgh.

The NFCT now has more than 150 public access points in four states and Canada, and more than 470 individual campsites on public and private land. An interactive online map gives paddlers a detailed look at the 13 sections of the trail and nearby accommodations, services and attractions.

Other resources include the new Official Guidebook to the NFCT and water resistant trail section maps. These can be found on the NFCT Web site, at specialty outdoor retailers, outfitters along the trail, and at booksellers.



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