On the spring equinox of March, 1969, I snowshoed and skied into Bushnell Falls, on the slopes of Mount Marcy, with Sam Lewis and two friends of his from college: Henry, a young English professor, and Doug, who had recently graduated with Sam from Franklin and Marshall. It had been the first of a series of major snowfall winters, and we made our way along the John’s Brook Trail after the usual college kids’ late start in the gloom of another approaching storm. The accumulated snow lay seven feet deep in the pine plantation, as we judged from the height of the telephone line to the ranger cabin that we had to step over periodically as it zigzagged back and forth across the trail. » Continue Reading.
This winter has been a good one for grouse. At least in the tracking sense it has been a good one for grouse. Almost every day I have found fresh grouse tracks in the woods, along the roads, down driveways. I’ve even flushed a couple of the birds, their thunderous take-offs turning a few more hairs white, but mostly it’s their tracks I’ve seen.
The ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is one of two grouse species that call the Adirondacks home. The second is the spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), which is an uncommon boreal species found in only a very few pockets within the Park. Therefore, I will stick to the ruffed grouse in this piece since that is the one most readers are likely to encounter. » Continue Reading.
It was a thrill to watch Andrew Weibrecht nail the Super Giant Slalom today. Superstition prohibited us from saying so, but when we saw the first two skiers skitter over an icy, bumpy, rutted course, we thought, This is Andrew’s day.
Third out of the starting box, Andrew flew down the hill. Own it, Whiteface: You can be one scrapey wind-scoured slope. They say anyone who learns to ski on Whiteface can ski anywhere. None of us can ski like Andrew, but we’re all a little tougher for that mountain.
So, congratulations, Whiteface, NYSEF coaches, Lake Placid and Weibrecht family! Most of all, congratulations Andrew! You earned it.
Not long after my father purchased the Warrensburg News and its old printing plant in 1958, he found in a box of papers a small booklet entitled “Guide to Schroon Lake and Vicinity,” with Marcus E. Granger listed as the author.
The booklet had been printed in the shop eighty years earlier. Although numerous guidebooks to the Adirondacks had been published before Granger’s, his was unique in two respects. His was probably the first guidebook devoted to Schroon Lake. Dr. Durant’s Adirondack Railroad had been completed in 1872, and the station at Riverside, or Riparius, brought Schroon Lake within reach of tourists for the first time. Second, and even more remarkable, was the fact that it was written entirely in heroic couplets. » Continue Reading.
- Wild Center Mourns Loss of Otter
- Survey: Park Residents Support APA
- Lewis Co Mulling Snowmobiling Permits
- Saranac Laker on ‘Millionaire’ Thursday
- North Country Gets Mixed Health Marks
- Traditional Adirondack Signs to Stay
- Bad Year to Bank on Snow
- Bridge Contractors Want Lower Wages
- Few Volunteers Hinders Big Tupper
- APA Approves 129-Foot Tower in Keene Valley
Were I to be in the area this week, I wouldn’t miss Annie and the Hedonists at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center on Saturday. This downstate bluesy folk band makes fantastic song choices and has a fabulous vocalist.
Another performance I would do my best to make is in North Creek, where wonderful vocalist is Maddy Walsh playing with Mike Suave at barVino, where I hear the food and ambiance alone are worth the trip. Here’s what we have to look forward to in the week ahead:
Thursday, February 18th:
In Canton, Open Mic at The Blackbird Cafe. This is a continuing talent contest and it starts at 7 pm.
Friday, February 19th:
Saturday, February 20th:
In Lake Placid, Annie and the Hedonists will be performing at 8 pm. They will be at The Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center. They are a very good band.
In North Creek, Fingerdiddle performs at Laura’s Tavern starting at 9 pm. I know nothing about these folks except that they must have been liked because they’ve been asked back to the same venue within the same month. That’s a good sign.
Sunday, February 21st:
Wednesday, February 24th:
Photo: Annie and Jonny of Annie and the Hedonists.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) 2009 Annual Report documents efforts toward what the agency calls “balancing natural resource protection with the needs of communities.” It is available as a PDF and includes links to key documents and policies.
This year the APA introduced legislation to address the community housing issues, the establishment of a local government planning fund, and efforts to streamline the agency’s administrative process. None of these bills made it through both legislative houses.
The APA also took action over the past year on affordable housing, snowmobile trail guidelines, regulatory matters, and the classification and reclassification of State lands. A Community Spotlight series was initiated this past year and seven town supervisors were special guests at the monthly agency meetings. The local elected officials discussed their communities issues and informed the agency about the uniqueness of their communities.
The Park Agency also welcomed new leadership in 2009. In August, Terry Martino was appointed APA Executive Director. Throughout 2009, the Administration Division continued implementing energy efficiency measures in accordance with Governor Paterson’s Green Procurement and Agency Sustainability Program. This year’s actions resulted in significant decreases in energy consumption and a fiscal savings of $35,363, according to the Agency, who said that staff also met all budget mandates totaling an overall agency budget reduction of 11 percent.
Here are some additional details from the APA Annual Report announcement:
The Economic Services Division participated in the review and approval of 69 economic development projects, including 32 projects to retain or create jobs in the region. In addition to job creation projects, staff assisted in the approval of 37 infrastructure projects critical to stimulating new economic activity in the future.
Regulatory Programs staff issued 375 permits including 31 cellular project and two residential wind project approvals. Staff responded effectively to address the disruptions caused by the sudden closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge. The expedited approval for the Port Henry ferry project established a crucial temporary transportation route across Lake Champlain while construction of a new bridge is planned.
Planning staff worked closely with local government to address community needs through the map amendment process. In the Town of Fine approximately 60 acres were reclassified to accommodate future expansion of the Clifton-Fine hospital. Staff held public hearings for locally proposed amendments from the Towns of Minerva, Johnsburg and Inlet.
Local Government Services staff responded to 680 inquiries from local officials on land use issues and participated in twenty-four meetings with town officials providing information on agency jurisdiction and land use law. In addition, staff developed two computer programs to improve retrieval abilities for local zoning information and enhance mapping abilities for local government officials.
State land staff worked with DEC on management guidance for the siting, construction and maintenance of snowmobile trails on state lands classified Wild Forest. Staff also provided advice on the development of ten draft unit management plans and prepared three state land classification packages.
Resource Analysis and Scientific Services staff completed 347 wetland delineations, advised on 272 wetland jurisdictional determinations, evaluated 246 deep hole test pits, reviewed 155 stormwater management plans and 265 septic system plans. Staff also developed a guidance document for Forestry Use Involving Wetlands to streamline the permitting process.
Regulatory revision continued to be a significant focus for Legal staff. During the year, staff implemented regulatory revisions related to subdivisions involving wetlands and expansion of structures within shoreline setback areas. Other major litigation resulted in a determination that farm worker housing is not subject to agency jurisdiction when associated with an agricultural use, and validation of the agency’s enforcement program in a Federal Court challenge alleging discrimination in the administration of the program.
The Jurisdictional Inquiry Office wrote 954 jurisdictional determinations, handled 920 referrals from other agencies and answered nearly 5,030 general inquiry phone calls. In addition, staff processed 231 Freedom of Information requests.
Enforcement staff closed 104 more cases (548) than it opened (444), reversing the historic trend of an ever-increasing backlog of open enforcement cases. Of the 351 violations resolved in 2009, enforcement staff negotiated 317 settlements – a total of 99 more cases resolved by settlement agreement in 2009 than 2008. Landowners undertook remediation based on informal agreements with enforcement staff for an additional 29 minor violations.
At the Agency’s Visitor Interpretive Centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb, staff continued to deliver quality programs and experiences. More than 80,000 people visited the Visitor Interpretive Centers in 2009: 21,753 at Newcomb and 59,841 at Paul Smiths.
Please join those of us at the Adirondack Almanack (all 15 of us now) in welcoming our newest contributor, Christopher Shaw. In the 1970s and 80s Shaw worked as a ski lift operator, the caretaker of a fishing club, a whitewater guide, an innkeeper and as editor of Adirondack Life. His stories and articles have appeared in Outside, the New England Review, the New York Times and many other publications, and he has received Bread Loaf and New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships. Northern Voices, his program on NCPR in the 1990s, profiled writers of the Adirondacks and northern New York, and his book, Sacred Monkey River: A Canoe Trip with the Gods, about paddling in the Usumacinta River watershed of Chiapas and Guatemala, appeared in 2000. The Washington Post called it “a magnificent achievement.”
Shaw teaches writing at Middlebury College, where he also co-administers the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism. He and his wife Sue Kavanagh salve the wounds of exile by spending as many weeks a year as they can at their one-room cabin on a remote northern lake.
Chris will be offering monthly installments of what he calls “a series of snapshots from my fifty or more years of Adirondack experience.” This first, which takes us back to Bushnell Falls in 1969, will appear this Saturday.
Adirondackers are Winter Olympics junkies to begin with, watching snow and ice sports as enthusiastically as they play them. This year, with a dozen local athletes at the games in Vancouver, people here are all-out Olympic-obsessed.
One of the best ways to keep tabs on local athletes is through the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, which has sent two correspondents to cover the games in Vancouver. Senior sports writer (and great photographer) Lou Reuter is reporting on his second Winter Olympics, and managing editor Peter Crowley is covering his first. Both writers are there for the duration, and they are posting directly to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise web site each day.
Reuter has been reporting on World Cup events in Lake Placid for some 15 years, interviewing top U.S. and world athletes. He knows the local competitors well—he’s been writing about Nordic combined skier Billy Demong since he was in high school, for example, and he’s especially knowledgeable about the sliding sports, since many bobsled and luge athletes and staff are based in Lake Placid.
It is remarkable for such a small newspaper to send such a big proportion of its staff, and it’s good reader-service. The reporters and editors back home are also putting in overtime in Crowley’s and Reuter’s absence and laying out extra pages for a daily four-page special Olympic section. Reuter’s and Crowley’s reporting can also be found in the pages and on the web site of the Lake Placid News, the Enterprise’s sister paper. Both are owned by Ogden Newspapers Inc.
Photograph of Chris Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, by Lou Reuter, courtesy of Adirondack Daily Enterprise
A few weeks ago, I posted a video of my ski descent from Avalanche Pass. In the post, I mentioned that I had taken several short clips of my ski tour to Avalanche Lake and planned to piece them together to make a movie. Well, I’ve done that. It’s eight minutes long, including the descent posted earlier, and features such scenic highlights as Marcy Dam, the slide on Little Colden, the rock walls of the pass, the Trap Dyke, and of course the lake itself. You can watch the movie on my Adirondack Explorer blog.
There’s certainly no finer way to show off for non-climbers. Roaring Brook, a 300-foot waterfall split into an upper and lower falls, is visible in both directions on Route 73, just east of Keene Valley. There’s a parking lot at the base and a pull-off right on the highway, so anyone who sees those dark spots on the ice can pull over and shiver at the thought of someone actually ascending such a route.
Last weekend I finally had the chance to climb this famous line. And, for the first time, I lead an ice route — meaning I was the first to go up, placing screws into the ice at regular intervals to protect me in case of a fall.
Two weeks ago, Roaring Brook was a brown Niagara, teeming with runoff from the late January thaw. But last Sunday it was in fine condition — fat, blue and begging for an ascent.
We were not the only ones to hear the call. The route was a veritable highway of climbers all day long, with their helmets, ropes, ice tools, stiff boots and crampons.
Best of all, the route was so well frozen over that the usual “window” at the top of the falls was sealed. In leaner times, climbers have to gingerly ascend past this open window, nearly 300 feet up, as gushing water splashes only a few feet away. In fact, Don Mellor’s climbing book Blue Lines warns, “A fall into this would be FATAL.”
The route is rated WI3+, which means it wasn’t quite vertical. Still, the first pitch was a bit dicey, with a series of overhanging bulges that made me glad my partner, Steve Goldstein of Latham, was leading. I volunteered to take the lead for the second pitch, a short climb to a flat, snowy spot below the final 170-foot second tier of the falls.
You can never quite forget that you’re climbing a live waterfall. At the base, there was a clear ice tube, about a half-inch thick, that sealed off a section of running water. It flowed silently below the ice until I chipped a hole and the sound of water had a place to escape. Soon after I started the climb, I ascended past a giant black maw where the ice met the bare rock. Part of the waterfall was visible here too, and the icicles that formed looked like the mouth of a giant beast.
When our team of three arrived at the base of the last pitch, Steve aske me:
“You want to keep leading?”
“Why not,” I said. I had been practicing placing screws and have led rock for years in the summer, but never ice before. With its forgivingly gentle terrain — but a steep gulley in the middle to offer a little challenge — the top of Roaring Brook seemed like a good place to start. I was feeling confident and strong, so I loaded up on ice screws and grabbed my axes.
The ice was perfect — thick, solid and soft enough to get a pick in easily. Near the top, the ice turned to snow, and I had to be more careful that my tools were solid. Again, the sound of flowing water was audible through the ice.
When I reached the top — with just enough rope left to anchor myself to nearby trees — I was sorry to see it end.
Interested in climbing ice for yourself? Several guide services offer climbing classes. While you may not be able to start on Roaring Brook your first time out, it wouldn’t take long to develop the skill. Try:
Lake Placid photographer Nancie Battaglia currently has a show of winter sports shots at 7444 Gallery in Saranac Lake. The exhibition is called “In Motion” and coincides with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which Battaglia is covering for Sports Illustrated and other publications.
Battaglia has attended ten Olympics and has been shooting winter sports in Lake Placid since 1980. She regularly phones her observations from Vancouver to NCPR. You can hear her latest report here.
The show will be at 7444 Gallery at 28 Depot Street in Saranac Lake until March 6. Call for an appointment (518) 282-4743.
The Olympic Winter Games are well underway and we are breaking the no television during the school week rule under the guise of educational purposes. I do not personally know anyone participating in the winter games, past or present. I can certainly claim six degrees of separation as can anyone else living in the Tri-Lakes area of the Adirondack Park. Those athletes, like all Olympians, are consumed with their sport. Every walking hour is spent traveling, training, and pursuing perfection.
I have tried to educate my son on how lucky he is to live near a town that hosted the 1932 and 1980 games. He shrugs his shoulders and asks when he can skate on the Olympic Oval or nonchalantly tells our extended family he (yawn) tried a ski jumping clinic at the Whiteface Olympic Jumping Complex. It is hard to describe to a child the privilege of being in an area where athletes are constantly training so that they can represent their country in a quest for the gold. For mine it is an everyday occurrence.
USA Luge Marketing Director Gordy Sheer is no stranger to the Olympics. He and luge partner Chris Thorpe won a silver medal in the Nagano Olympics in 1998. This was the first medal ever won by a US luge competitor.
Sheer says, “We try to host Luge Challenges throughout the season. It’s essentially luge on ski hills. We use a recreational sled that isn’t fiberglass and steel. It doesn’t weigh as much as the regular sled. Basically it is an opportunity to experience the sport in a family-friendly environment. We also keep our eyes open for any kids that show potential.”
According to Sheer another opportunity to achieve this particular Olympic experience is through the Slider Search. These events are conducted on city streets in the summer months with sleds on wheels. The USA Luge Official web site has an up-to-date schedule of events.
The USA Luge team, headquartered in Lake Placid, gives free tours of their facility every weekday at 2:00 p.m. This week the Olympic luge team and most of the staff are in Vancouver supporting their athletes so tours will resume the week of the 22nd.
Considering it is the official headquarters for the US Luge, it is an unassuming structure, more warehouse than office building. It’s a casual tour where athletes may be fine-tuning their sleds or watching videos of individual practice starts.
The tour starts with a 20-minute introduction video that can jump-start anyone’s luge education. The movie is just as fast and furious as the sport. The indoor facility, the only one in the US and one of seven in the world, is quite impressive. Athletes use three refrigerated ramps to improve their start techniques with the latest technology, shaving milliseconds off their time. There is even an opportunity to try out a practice sled (not to slide on) and find out how to steer using your legs to squeeze on the curved part of the runners (kufen), to direct the pod, the custom-formed fiberglass shell.
For those that have tried luge and want to continue sliding the Adirondack Luge Club may be the place for you. The club season starts in January and continues through March. Membership and track fees do apply. Practices take place on the Olympic Sports Complex Slide Track, one of only two refrigerated full-length tracks in the United States. The other one is located in Park City, Utah.
The Luge Rocket Ride is only available Christmas Day for anyone wishing for an opportunity to slide on the official training track without having to join the club. The sled is slightly different than the competitors’ sleds. It contains a shield that covers three-quarters of the slider’s body. Yes, it looks like a small space ship for the 1/4-mile ride. All participants must be 13 years or older.
We will watch the luge team from the comfort of our home. The women’s singles medal round is today, February 16 at 4:00 p.m. EST. The men’s doubles medal round is February 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST. After all, we can build a luge track outside the house. Why not? Last year we had a bobsled run.
Two investigative reports purporting to reveal dubious practices by the Adirondack Park Agency and environmental groups have been called into question themselves. The pieces, which ran on January 9 and 10, were written by Post-Star features’ editor Will Doolittle. Doolittle has written numerous columns expressing hostility to the APA and green groups. Why a journalist who was openly and vehemently hostile to the APA and green groups was assigned to do a purportedly objective investigation into the APA and green groups is something the paper never felt the need to explain. And my skepticism appears to have been validated.
(Note: Part one of the series is available online here. Part two is here) » Continue Reading.
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