Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Contributor: Tony Hall of the Lake George Mirror

There are big changes happening here at the Adirondack Almanack. In the coming weeks we’ll be rolling out a new design and adding some new contributors. Our first is Anthony F. Hall, editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror, who will be offering news each week from the Lake George basin (on Fridays at noon).

Tony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Tony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall. Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.

Please join me in welcoming Tony to the Almanack.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Book: Adirondack Wildflower Portraits

A post script to our series on wildflower bloom dates: we’ve received a copy of a new book by Chestertown-based photographer Curtiss M. Austin called Adirondack Wildflower Portraits. Last year, over the course of a single spring-to-fall season, he photographed flowers within a mile of his home and organized 60 of them chronologically, by the date he found them in bloom.

The book is more album and almanac than field guide, though Austin provides Latin names and a few facts about each species. It won’t help you key out a flower but it might surprise you. The photographer pays as much attention to the diminutive and ignored blooms of plants like common mullein, cow vetch and curly dock as he does to blue flag irises and day lilies. “Many wildflowers are very small, but close-up they are just as interesting and beautiful as larger flowers,” he writes.

The 130-page 8″ x 8″ paperback will be available soon at Amazon.com and at Austin’s website for $19.95.

Photograph of crooked-stemmed aster taken September 22, 2008 by Curtiss M. Austin, from Adirondack Wildflower Portraits


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Leatherleaf – An Adirondack Heath

The other day I was paddling a peaceful lake with a friend, poking around a pocket wetland along one of its shores, when I came across a lone leatherleaf plant (Chamaedaphne calyculata). It stood out for two reasons: one, it was all by itself, and two, it was knee deep in water.

Leatherleaf, also known as cassandra, or dwarf cassandra, is a classical denizen of bogs, although it is often also found on the edges of wetlands, where the water from a pond or lake starts to turn acidic.

Typically, leatherleaf moves into bogs after sphagnum mosses are established, making it an early pioneer of these wonderful wetlands. One of its functions is to extend the edge of the peat mat, creating more bog habitat as it goes, thereby giving other plants a toehold in the soggy environment. Because it reproduces by sending out new sprouts from specialized roots and branches (as well as by seeds), leatherleaf forms dense colonies of clones, sometimes as dense as 200 stems in a single square meter of space. If you thought witchhobble could trip you up, you should try pressing through a stand of leatherleaf!

In the broadest sense of the term, leatherleaf is an evergreen shrub. Some of its leaves fall off in autumn, but many of them persist for an additional year. None remain on the plant for a second winter. But what really stands out about the leaves is their variation. On most of the plant, the leaves are tough, leathery, and olive-drab, and they have an almost vertical orientation on the plant’s stems and branches. But if you look at the top of an upright stem, a rather droopy horizontal twig arises with much smaller leaves. This stem produces the flowers and fruits of the year. Come fall, the leaves drop, the fruits are eaten, and the stem shrivels up and dies. Right now you can go out and find leatherleaf bedecked with ripening berries on its many horizontal twigs.

In the spring, you will find leatherleaf in its other beautiful form: hung with many delicate white bells along its horizontal branches. If you are lucky, you may see its chief pollinator, the bumblebee, fumbling around each dangling flower.

As the season progresses through summer, other insects visit this plant, although few are considered pests. Look for the foamy blobs of heath spittlebugs, which, like other spittlebugs, have whipped the sap of the plant into a protective frothy coat. You might also find leafhoppers, leaf miners, or even cyphon marsh beetles. This time of year it is easy to find copious spider webs tangling the upper branches; they make for some great early morning photography. The dense stems provide shelter for larger wildlife as well, such as nesting ducks.

Leatherleaf is such an unassuming plant, yet for grouse within its range its berries and buds are an important food source. White-tailed deer and snowshoe hares are also dependent on leatherleaf for food in winter, the former eating the twigs and leaves, the latter the twigs and bark. Not to be outdone by wildlife, humans have also made use of leatherleaf, both as a medicine (febrifuge and topical anti-inflammatory) and as a beverage.

To see leatherleaf, or other equally fascinating bog plants, hie thee to thy nearest wetland. If you are timid about getting your feet wet, or if you are concerned about damaging the fragile wetland ecosystem, you can visit wetlands at both Visitor Interpretive Centers (located in Newcomb and Paul Smiths), where wooden boardwalks will take you right up to many wetland plants safely and dryly.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Restoring Arto Monaco’s Land of Makebelieve

Among theme-park historians Arto Monaco is a legend. The work of Monaco in designing the area’s theme parks has become a central part of the history of tourism in the Adirondacks. His creations have been found in the defunct Old McDonald’s Farm (Lake Placid), The Land of Makebelieve (Upper Jay), Gaslight Village (Pottersville and then Lake George), and Frontier Town (North Hudson), at Storytown (now the corporate Great Escape) and Santa’s Workshop in Wilmington (the last of a breed and a spot that made our Seven Human-Made Wonders of the Adirondacks).

Monaco was a local artist who designed sets for MGM and Warner Brothers, a fake German village in the Arizona desert to train World War II soldiers, and later his own Land of Makebelieve. Monaco died in 2005, but not before the Arto Monaco Historical Society (AMHS) was organized (in 2004) in order to preserve and perpetuate Monaco’s legacy, assemble a collection of his work, and stabilize and restore the Land of Makebelieve which was closed in 1979 after the Ausable River flooded the park for the eleventh time.

Since they first went into the woods with tools in 2006, volunteers of the AMHS have hacked the now overgrown Land of Makebelieve out of the encroaching forests in hopes of saving what’s left of Monaco’s legacy there from the ravages of nature.

On Saturday, September 26, the AMHS will hold its 2009 Annual Meeting followed by a another work session at the former Land of Makebelieve site from 1 to 4 pm. The morning meeting will be held at Paul Johnson’s Bakery, on Route 9N one mile south of the Upper Jay bridge. Lunch is available for those who stay for the afternoon work session. To RSVP, or for information on the upcoming work day or volunteering for the AMHS in general, contact them through their website at http://www.artomonaco.org/.

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


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

18th Annual Whiteface Oktoberfest, Flaming Leaves Announced

Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort will host its 18th Annual Oktoberfest on October 3-4 with vendors, arts and crafts, children’s rides, and Bavarian food, drink and entertainment by die Schlauberger, the Lake Placid Bavarians, and Ed Schenk on the accordion, Schachtelgebirger Musikanten (Scha-Musi is in their fifth year at the Whiteface Oktoberfest), Spitze, The Alpen Trio, and dancing by the Alpenland Taenzer.

Considered one of America’s best German bands, die Schlauberger plays German favorites with a mission of “Keeping the Traditionalists on their Feet and the New Generation Interested.” SPITZE! offers an alpine show that features cowbells, the alpine xylophone, the alphorn and yodeling. The band will host yodel and Schuhplattler (Bavarian Folk Dancing) contests. The Lake Placid Bavarians have been performing traditional Bavarian music in the north country for the last 18 years.

The Cloudsplitter Gondola will be operating for views of the Adirondack foliage as will the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway.

Oktoberfest will be held Saturday from 10 am – 7 pm and Sunday from 10 am – 5 pm. A complimentary shuttle service will be provided both days. Departure from the Olympic Center Box Office in Lake Placid takes place at 11 am, 1 pm and 2:30 pm. The bus will depart Whiteface and return to Lake Placid at 2 pm, 4 pm and 6 pm (Sat. only), 7:30 pm (Sat. only) and 5:30 pm (Sun. only). The shuttle will also service Wilmington with stops at the Candyman, located on the corner of Routes 86 and 431, at 12 pm and 5 pm.

Daily admission for adults is $15 for the festival; $25 for the festival and a scenic gondola ride. The junior and senior price is $8 for the festival and $18 for both. Children six years of age and under are admitted free of charge.

The following weekend (October 10-11) the 9th Annual Flaming Leaves Festival will feature the 2010 U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championships along with live blues bands, barbeque and microbrews, kids’ activities, games, craft vendors and more The Flaming Leaves festival runs from 10 am – 5 pm both days. Admission is $14 for adults, and $8 for juniors/seniors and includes the chairlift and elevator ride to the Sky Deck atop the 120 meter ski jump tower.

Olympic Sites Passports are honored for admission at both the Oktoberfest and the Flaming Leaves Festival.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

DEC Region 5 Invites Public to Deer Management Meetings

Public meetings that focus on the state’s whitetail deer herd management have been scheduled for around the state this fall. The meetings seek public input and an opportunity to participate in New York’s long-range deer management planning. According to a recent press release the goal of the meetings will be, “to identify and prioritize the issues that are most important to hunters and other people concerned with or impacted by deer.”

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Adirondack Public Observatory Lecture Series Announced

The Wild Center will host the Adirondack Public Observatory 2009 Fall Lecture Series begining Friday, September 18th. The equinox, Jupiter and Galileo’s legacy, Pegasus Square and Andromeda constellations, and 2012 “the end of time” will be some of the topics discussed. All lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. in The Flammer Theatre at The Wild Center followed by astronomical viewing outside using telescopes and binoculars (weather permitting). The programs are free and open to the public.

Here are the details from the Adirondack Public Observatory:

The Equinox… Facts and Myths – Friday, Sept. 18

Did you ever hear about being able to stand an egg on end during the equinox? Did you ever try it? This evening’s talk by Jeffrey Miller from St. Lawrence University will provide an explanation of just what the equinox is and how it affects us here on Earth. Jeff is a trustee of the APO, accomplished astronomer and physics instructor at St. Lawrence University.

Jupiter and Galileo’s Legacy – Friday, Sept. 25

Jupiter is now visible in the evening sky and along with the giant planet comes some interesting history. Dr. Aileen O’Donoghue, Associate Professor of Physics at St. Lawrence University, Astronomer and APO trustee, will be talking about Galileo, Jupiter and some of their history as well as a look at the Vatican Observatory.

“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!” – Friday, Oct. 2

What telescopes reveal point to how little we really see. A closer look at the Pegasus Square and Andromeda Constellations, how to identify them and what wonders the telescope can uncover for us. Presented by Dr. Jan Wojcik, Professor Emeritus from Clarkson University

2012…The End of Time – Friday, Oct. 9

You may have heard about the coming of the end of the world in 2012? Marc Staves of the APO will shed some light on this dark topic and provide the facts and history behind 2012. A senior lineman for the local power company, Marc is also president of the APO, and an avid amateur astronomer with his own backyard observatory.

For more information and driving directions please visit . For information on the Adirondack Public Observatory, please visit www.apobervatory.org


Monday, September 14, 2009

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Adirondack Fall Foliage Seen from Space

In the Random Stuff We Like category: NASA has a great satellite photo of the Northern Forest and parts of southeastern Canada taken several years ago at the peak of fall color. You can see the full photo here.

Full disclosure: we saw this photo first in Canadian Geographic and Adirondack Life.


Monday, September 14, 2009

The Last Days of John Brown: The Secret Six

John Brown has often come down to us as a lone nut, bent on an suicidal mission, but this is far from the truth. Brown was part of a larger movement to free slaves that grew with passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (which required the return of escaped slaves to their masters with all its potential for torture and death at their hands) and the large Underground Railroad movement. It’s little understood that Brown was intimate with northern politicians, industrialists, ministers, and folks from all walks of life, including the leading intellectuals of the era – the Transcendentalists. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wild Center Program, Workshop Feature Wildlife Photography

Author and wildlife photographer Eric Dresser will present a wildlife photography program and workshop at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake on September 26th. From 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Dresser will offer Wild About the Adirondacks, a program of photos of Adirondack wildlife throughout the seasons. During the presentation, which is being offered in partnership with The Adirondack Photography Institute, Dresser will discuss his photography techniques. The program will run for about an hour and is free for members or with admission.

During a second event later that day (1-5 pm) Dresser will lead a Wild About the Adirondacks Photography Workshop and Tour from 1-5 pm, also at The Wild Center. This workshop will offer photography techniques to help participants capture unique moments through outdoor wildlife photography and indoors photography utilizing the museum’s exhibits. The field photography part of the program will provide a special focus on equipment. According to the Wild Center’s spokesperson “Eric enjoys working with all levels of photographers however having some familiarity with camera equipment as well as basic photo techniques will make the workshop more enjoyable.”

A biography of Dresser provided by the Wild Center notes that:

Eric Dresser is an internationally published photographer who specializes in wildlife and landscape photography from the northeastern United States and Canada. His credits include Adirondack Life Magazine, National Wildlife Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, US Forest Service, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, L.L. Bean Catalogues and many more. Eric is also an instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. His first book “Adirondack Wildlife” will be available in the 2009. With over 35 years of experience in the field, Eric has developed many strategies for getting up close and personal with his wildlife subjects. His love and passion for our natural world can be seen in his photographs.

The Wild about the Adirondacks workshop cost $63.00 for Wild Center members ($70.00 for non-members). To register (which is both required and limited) for the workshop contact Sally Gross at 518-359-7800 x 116 or email [email protected]

This is the rest of the post


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Invasive in the Adirondack Garden

“What have you got that the deer won’t like?” I asked the dude at the garden place. This was my favorite nursery, and over the years I spent hundreds of dollars there. I liked the people, I loved their display gardens, and their plant selection was terrific. Unfortunately, they included several invasive species in their stock and promoted them for garden plantings.

“The Japanese Barberry would be great – we have two colors, green and rose. The rose-colored one will look great next to your pale yellow house.” » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Take A Child Outside Week Events At The Wild Center

According to a recent announcement, The Wild Center‘s upcoming series of events will help “break down the modern obstacles that keep children from discovering the natural world.” Their Center’s stated goal is to help children across the Adirondacks develop a better understanding and appreciation of the environment in which they live. To those end’s the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks will will host Take A Child Outside Week events from September 26th through October 2nd. On Saturday, September 26th and Sunday, September 27th, the Wild Center will host naturalists for three family activities each day. Throughout the week, Monday, September 28th through Friday, October 2nd there will be activities for kids and families after school from 3:30PM – 4:30 PM. These programs are most appropriate for ages 7-12 yrs. No registration necessary. All programs are free for members or with paid admission.

Here is the complete list of the week’s events from the Wild Center:

SATURDAY, September 26th:

11:00 a.m. Discovering Pondlife: Get your feet wet sifting for aquatic invertebrates in Frog Pond. Learn how to ID the smallest pond life and even check out some of the things you find in the pond under a microscope.

1:00 p.m. Sensory Walk: Explore the pond with a Naturalist and learn how you can use your senses to explore the natural world around you.

2:30 p.m. Fly Fishing: Learn to fly fish with Northern New York Trout Unlimited using yarn casting poles in the tent. Then move out onto Greenleaf Pond with the professionals and catch (and release) fish from pond.

SUNDAY, September 27th:

11:00 a.m. Pond Life: Explore Greenleaf Pond with a naturalist and see all kinds of pond life. Find frogs and turtles and learn how to ID them.

1:00 p.m. Sensory Walk: Take a walk around the pond with a Naturalist and learn how you can use all your senses to explore the natural world around you.

2:30 p.m. Nature Photography: Bring a Digital Camera or borrow one of the Museum’s and take a walk down the Museum trail to take photographs of the sights you see. Then pick your favorite and print it out to take home.

After School Activities

3:30pm – 4:30pm all week – Kids and families, join us afterschool for a Green Hour of fun outdoor activities including nature photography, sensory walks, getting lost and found, fort building and discovering what lies beneath Greenleaf Pond. No registration required.

MONDAY, September 28th: Nature Photography: Grab your digital camera and join a naturalist for and outdoor activity called “Camera” then take a hike down the trail and take photographs of the sights you see. Then pick your favorite and print it out to take home.

TUESDAY, September 29th: Nature Play: Take a walk down the trail with a naturalist and play some outdoor activities. Search or hidden objects, use your nose to find similar scents and other activities along the Museum Trail.

WEDNESDAY, September 30th: Pondlife Discovery: Walk around the pond and search for pond life, learn how you can ID turtles and frogs, then sift for aquatic invertebrates in Frog Pond. Come prepared to step into the water and maybe get your pants a little dirty.

THURSDAY, October 1st: Sensory Walk: Come take a walk with a naturalist and learn about your 5 senses and how different animal uses their senses.

FRIDAY, October 2nd: Fort Building: Take an off-trail hike into the Museum property and build shelters with only what nature supplies.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Adirondack Sawyers: Our Longhorn Beetle

A couple years ago I went out with a local biologist to listen for whippoorwills as part of a census that was being conducted in the Adirondacks. We were assigned some back roads around Bolton, and we had to drive them after sunset. Several times we would stop, get out of the vehicle, and listen for the tell-tale “whip-poor-will” call.

One of our stops found us surrounded by trees in the middle of nowhere (a real backwoods road). It was dark, and it could’ve been creepy, in that way that only dark, strange woods can be at night. As we stood there listening to the silence, we started to hear a strange sound. It’s hard to describe, but overall it could be likened to a quiet, slow sawing sound – like that of a bowsaw being drawn through wood on short strokes. Fortunately, both of us were prepared, for we both have degrees in forest biology. If we hadn’t, this sound might’ve freaked us out. But thanks to our education and a love of the woods, we were pretty confident that what we heard was the chewing sound of a sawyer beetle.

Sawyer beetles are also known as longhorn beetles, and the most common one in the northeastern United States is the whitespotted sawyer (Monochamus scutellatus). This native beetle, recognized by its very long antennae (longer on males than females) and the white spot “between its shoulder blades” (technically at the top of the elytra, or wing covers), makes its living by chewing the bark on the underside of twigs of the balsam fir, assorted spruces, and white pine. This behavior results in flagging: dead twigs, readily noticeable by their reddish color. To some, this damage is merely cosmetic. In fact, many foresters only consider the insect to be a secondary pest, for it often will turn up in trees that are already dead or dying.

The adult female looks for ideal sites for egg-laying: crevices in the bark of weak or recently killed (or cut) trees. After hatching, the larvae start chewing their way into the tree. The youngest instars hang out beneath the bark, while the older ones make their way into the wood, tunnelling towards the heart of the tree. As pupation approaches, the larva turns a 180 and heads back towards the surface. The opening to the world beyond is blocked up with a plug made of wood chips, behind which the larvae pupates. As an adult it emerges from its woody tomb and goes in search of a mate, the cycle beginning once again.

If you want to avoid sawyer beetles on your property, you need to manage the dead and dying timber. Additionally, if you have cut logs lying around, remove the bark and set them in the sun. This will make them less appealing to females looking for egg-laying sites.

The whitespotted sawyer should not be confused with the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), an invasive that is making its way northward, leaving a trail of dead trees in its wake. So far, this beetle has not gotten into the Adirondacks, but that could be only a matter of time. If you find longhorned beetles around your property, learn to identify them; there are only a handful of species in our area and being able to ID them could help save our forests from unwelcome invaders.

By the way, we never did hear any whippoorwills.


Friday, September 11, 2009

APA Protects Lows Lake Wilderness Canoe Route

The APA voted this week to classify Lows Lake as Wilderness. You can read more of the Almanack‘s coverage of Lows Lake here, and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise‘s report here, but the following is a press release issued today by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK):

The Adirondack Park Agency’s landmark decision today to classify Lows Lake as Wilderness will provide added protection to two important wilderness canoe routes. » Continue Reading.



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