Monday, October 12, 2009

The Last Days of John Brown: Harpers Ferry, Day One

Friday, October 16th, will be the 150th anniversary of the anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry that ended in the trial and execution of John Brown of North Elba. An “Anniversary Procession” will take place from the Kennedy Farm, where Brown and his compatriots spent there last weeks before the raid, to Harpers Ferry. Tim Rowland, 46er, author of High Peaks: A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene, and a regular reader of Adirondack Almanack who lives about 10 miles from the Kennedy Farm, sent this anecdote about the annual John Brown procession: » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Remote and Difficult Adirondack Paddle Trips

The Adirondacks have a number of remote, difficult trips suitable for either long, single-day trips or for multi-day trips. One notable trip is the Cold River, starting at Tahawus and on to Duck Hole, paddling the entire length of river down to the Raquette, and then either upstream to Long Lake or down to Axton’s Landing.

Another involves a paddle down the upper East Branch of the Oswegatchie to Inlet starting from the Lower Dam on the Bog River, up Lows Lake , and over to the Oswegatchie via Big Deer Pond. (I know of one party that got to the upper East Branch from Stillwater Reservoir and then north via Salmon, Witchhopple, and Clear Lakes.) » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

APA to Move Forward on Boathouse Regulations

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold public hearings on the APA’s proposed revisions to its boathouse regulations. Following APA meetings in August and September, 2008, the Agency voted of 8 to 3 to submit the proposed revisions for State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA) authorization (in February of this year). Following authorization to proceed (which the agency received on October 8) the APA will be scheduling several public hearings (both in-park and outside the Blue Line) later this fall. Here is the complete notice from the APA:

The APA Boathouse definition was implemented in Regulations adopted in 1979, and revised in 2002. The new 2009 definition proposes specific roof, height and footprint criteria to replace the 2002 “single story” limitation. The revision clarifies design components and continues to prohibit the use of boathouses for anything other than boat storage.

Other uses, if independently built, would be subject to the shoreline setback requirements of the APA Act. For example, other structures such as decks, guest cottages, and recreation rooms are prohibited on the shoreline if greater than 100 square feet in size. In the past, landowners attached these components as part of what would otherwise be a boat berthing structure, and argued these components were part of the “boathouse” because the previous definitions did not specifically exclude them.

The 2002 definition limits boathouses to a “single story.” However, the definition fails to prohibit large “attics,” and extensive rooftop decks, resulting in some very large non-jurisdictional shoreline structures. The lack of clarity requires architect’s plans and time-consuming staff evaluation.

This is a particular problem in towns that do not have their own zoning ordinances. Currently within the Park, local boathouse regulation runs the gamut from no regulation to some towns having limits on size, including square footage and height restrictions. Some town regulations are more restrictive than the present 2009 proposal.

The 2009 proposal retains the 2002 provisions that define “boathouse” to mean “a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind”.

The proposal adds: “(6) has a footprint of 900 square feet or less measured at exterior walls, a height of fifteen feet or less, and a minimum roof pitch of four on twelve for all rigid roof surfaces. Height shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure.”

The change is prospective only; lawful existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelop.

For those who wish to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse, a variance will be required. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional predicates still apply in all cases.

Shorelines are important. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat. Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline causes unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to critical habitat and aesthetics and raises questions of fair treatment of neighboring shoreline properties.

The Statutes and Regulations that the Agency is charged to administer, strive to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. However boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements. The original Adirondack Park Agency Act also allows a higher density of residential development on shoreline lots. Continuing development and redevelopment on the water’s edge, including large dock and boathouse structures, continues to threaten water quality and increase the types of use detrimental to long term protection of the Park’s greatest asset.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Volunteers Needed for Adirondack Fall Trails Day

Adirondack outdoor recreation enthusiasts will have an opportunity to give back to the region’s trail system on Saturday, Oct. 17, when the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Trails Program holds its 17th Annual Fall Trails Day in the High Peaks Region. Participants can stay at the ADK’s Wilderness Campground for free both Friday and Saturday nights; Saturday begins with a basic breakfast at the High Peaks Information Center near the Adirondak Loj (volunteers should pack a lunch). A list of trail projects is available at www.adk.org/trails/Fall_Trails_Day_List.aspx.

According to the ADK announcement of this year’s Fall Trails Day “volunteers, working with trained leaders, will use hand tools to clean drainage, trim overgrown sections of trail and remove downed trees. This maintenance work will help prepare the trails and their existing erosion-control structures for spring. Once debris is cleared from drainage ditches, the trails will be better suited to withstand rainwater and spring snowmelt runoff.” All maintenance work is done in cooperation with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

For more information or to register, contact the ADK Trails Program at (518) 523-3441.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Paddler and Author Don Morris Joins Adirondack Almanack

Adirondack Almanack is pleased to announce that Don Morris is joining the site as paddling contributor. Don’s posts on all things canoeing and kayaking will run monthly, beginning tomorrow.

Don is co-author of Adirondack Canoe Waters, North Flow, the classic canoeing and kayaking guide and just a great book, period. “Don is an experienced kayaker at home in technical waters beyond the skill of the original writer,” Paul Jamieson (the book’s selfsame original writer) wrote in 1994 as he announced the transition in authorship. Jamieson died in 2006 at age 103. Don has added whitewater routes as well as detail about technical runs to the book. But he says he spends just as much time on flatwater in the Adirondacks and on his travels outside the region.

Photograph: Don Morris and friends paddle Ausable Chasm


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Olympic Region Athlete Send-Off Celebration Tonight

There will be a public send-off celebration today to honor the more than 200 athletes from the sports of Biathlon, Bobsled, Cross Country, Freestyle, Luge, Nordic Combined, Skeleton, Ski Jumping, Downhill and others who are in the region training and competing for a spot on the 2010 US Olympic Team that will compete in Vancouver, British Columbia February 12th to February 28th. (The Paralympic Winter Games will be held March 12, to March 21, 2010.)

The event will begin at 6 pm in Mids Park, Main Street, Lake Placid, and will feature live music by former luge Olympian Gordy Sheer and his band Loud & Stupid. An autograph session will kick off the event, which will also include an Olympic Send-Off Ceremony and Torch Lighting.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Blogging Round-Up


Friday, October 9, 2009

Adirondack Initiative to be Unveiled at Health Summit

Warned in 2007 that the entire health care system in Adirondacks was at stake, federal and state officials responded with millions of dollars in funding to create a new initiative that will expand health care services in the Adirondacks and serve as a model for under-served regions throughout the country.

That initiative, a multi-year pilot program called the Adirondack Medical Home Demonstration Project, will be unveiled at a second Adirondack Health Summit, to be held October 13 at 10 am at the Warren County Municipal Center in Lake George.

“In August 2007, the New York State Association of Counties convened an Adirondack Health Summit to call attention to an emerging health care crisis in the Adirondacks, especially with regard to primary care. Since then, the region’s health care providers, together with leading payers, have been meeting with he State Health Department to craft a solution. These efforts address health care reform at the local level, where it can be most effective,” said Stephen J. Acquario, the Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties.

The Adirondack Medical Home Demonstration Project will be launched officially in January, 2010, said Dr. John Rugge, the CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, a consortium of 12 community health care centers Acquario described the Adirondack Medical Home Demonstration Project as a “partnership between health care providers, insurers and government.”

The goal, he said, is to provide “a medical home” for patients in which care is better managed and co-ordinated, especially individuals with complex, chronic conditions that require multiple treatments, medications, and specialty services.

“Primary care clinicians, in collaboration with insurers and the New York State Health Department, are engaged in an initiative to better organize and deliver primary care services while addressing the value and cost of health care services,” said Acquario. “The partnership could reach over 150,000 patients and involve almost 100 physicians and at least seven insurers, including the state. If successful, the model could be replicated in other parts of the state.”

In fact, said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, “This is a program that may just save health care in the North Country and, what’s more, prove to be a pioneer of national significance. Every crisis represents an opportunity and we are fortunate to have the key health care leaders working together before it is too late.”

The project is supported by Governor Paterson, Commissioner Daines and Deborah Bachrach, Director of the NYS Health Department’s Office of Health Insurance Programs, which includes Medicaid and all public and private insurance programs, said Acquario.

According Acquario, the New York State Health Department is participating in the project as an insurer and has agreed to convene the other major payers across northern New York. Participating insurance companies include the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP), Empire BlueCross BlueShield, Excellus, Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, Fidelis Care, MVP, and United HeathCare (through the ‘Empire Plan’).

The summit will include local government, business leaders, service organizations, educational institutions and environmental groups. New York State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, MD will be the keynote speaker.

According to Dr. John Rugge, the initiative is one attempt to address the high costs of providing health care and inadequate rates of reimbursement for primary care services.

“Everybody knows the system is broken; we have to change the way we practice medicine and the insurers have agreed in principle that health care providers have to be reimbursed for the costs of delivering that care in a more effective and efficient manner,” said Rugge.

Like the “Doctors Across New York Program,” an initiative announced by New York State’s Health Commissioner in Glens Falls last year that will give new physicians as much as $150,000 to repay medical school loans if they spend at least five years practicing in underserved areas, the new project will help communities recruit and retain physicians, Rugge said. “Primary care physicians can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Rugge said. “They know the value of their work will be recognized.”

The project will be funded in part through grants that will, for example, increase the use of electronic records which will make co-ordinating care easier, said Rugge.

Last week, Governor David Paterson announced that Adirondack health care centers and hospitals would receive a $7 million grant to finance the increased use of electronic records.

According to Rugge, the success of the program will be seen in cost savings derived from fewer trips to the hospitals and unnecessary tests, lower prescription costs and the patient’s healthier lifestyle.

“The average patient may not see a difference in his care, but the chronically ill patient will,” said Rugge. “For adults, disease management will focus on chronic diseases that account for nearly 80% of health care spending. For children, the focus will be providing preventive services and the long-term management of chronic conditions such as obesity.”

By allowing physicians to spend more time with patients and craft individual health care regimens, “primary care will be hiked up to a new level,” said Rugge.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror


Friday, October 9, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene:Folk Music, Early Music and Coffeehouses

For most of the musical events happening this week – besides JamCrackers at BluSeed tonight – one has to travel a bit. With a little effort you can listen to some interesting music just outside the park. Saratoga, Burlington and Potsdam all have performances this week. Of course, if you’ve been hoping for some down time this might be the weekend. I, for one, will probably be checking out the play Greater Tuna again, this time at LPCA, because the acting was so brilliant.

Thursday October 8th:

In Saranac Lake at BluSeed Studios, Jamcrackers gets going at 7:30 pm. This is an evening of Adirondack folk music featuring Dan Duggan, Peggy Lynn and Dan Berggren. Dan Duggan is a renown dulcimer player and composer you can even hear his work on Paul Simons CD, “You’re The One”. Peggy Lynn and Dan Berggren are both singer/ songwriters. These three have a wonderful time performing together and BluSeed loves them. For reservations call 891 -3799.

Also a reminder that in Jay at the Amos and Julie Ward Theatre every Thursday at 7 pm, the Acoustic Club, sponsored by JEMS, meets. For more information call, Janet Morton at 946-7420.

Friday October 9th:

In Colton -exciting just because they so rarely have any event for me to post – the Zion Episcopal Church is starting their Fall into Fall Coffee House series. This one will feature a Brian Nichols and Keith Galluchi a high school musical duo and Chase Simmons comedian from the 6th grade. Sounds like something wonderful to support. It’s free and you can call (315) 353 – 2427 for more information.

In Saratoga – if you must see professionals – The Gibson Brothers are pretty sweet. They’re playing Lillian’s Restaurant at 8 pm and tickets are $20. Advance sales only. Call (518) 581-1604 to reserve.

Saturday October 10th:

In Potsdam at 1 pm at The Roxy Theater, The Metropolitan Opera will Broadcast Live a performance of Tosca. You can call (315) 267-2277. Tickets prices range from $18 to $12.

In Canton at 2 pm at St. Lawrence University, there will be an Early Music Singers Concert : “Salve Regina”. Here is part of the description I was sent by the Director of Music Ensembles, Barry Torres: Four varied settings of the Salve Regina (Hail, Queen of mercy), the most popular, and arguably the most beautiful of the great anthems to the Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic liturgy. Each of the settings is based on the chant, which is believed by scholars to have been written by Hermann of Reichenau (1013-1054). Interspersed between these works will be songs by Antoine Busnoys (c. 1430-1492) and other instrumentals played by a recorder trio consisting of Laura Rediehs, Lynn Waickman and Barry Torres. For more information call: (315) 229 – 5184.

In Glens Falls at the Charles R. Woods Theater a Tribute to Bette Midler and Barry Manilow called “You Gotta Have Friends” will be performed. There are two shows one at 3 pm and one at 7:30 pm. For more information call (518) 798-9663.

Also in Potsdam at 8 pm, the New Hope Community Church holds it’s Second Saturday Coffeehouse. For more information call (315) 566 – 9413 or email: [email protected]

Tuesday October 13th:

In Burlington, VT at the Fletcher Free Library, Robert Resnik is performing from 11 – 11:30 am. I’ve been reading up on this man and he sounds great. He’s the director of the library and hosts a weekly folk and world music show on VPR. This is for all ages, if I were in Burlington on Tuesday I’d go in a second. Call (802) 865 – 7211 for more information.

In Saranac Lake at 7:30 pm until 9:15 pm, The Adirondack Singers are holding rehearsals for their Holiday Concert on Dec. 4th. The rehearsals are open to anyone who wants to sing. No auditions and any ability is welcome. It’s happening at St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church every Tuesday night. Call 523 – 4213 for more information.

Photo: Dan Berggren, Peggy Lynn and Dan Duggan


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Golden Eagles Over The Adirondacks

Singer John Denver wrote in Rocky Mountain High, “I know he’d be a poor man if he never saw an eagle fly.” These notes ring true for those of us fortunate enough to see a bald eagle effortlessly soaring over some Adirondack mountaintop or sparkling lake. Bald eagles have made quite a recovery over the past several decades in the Adirondacks, but now I’d like to divert your attention to the the bald eagle’s cousin, the golden eagle.

The golden eagle has long been a source of inspiration, power, and mystery to humans and it shows up as the national symbol of many countries. The golden once flew in great numbers across North America but at this point in time it seems to be holding on to a limited western population and a scattered eastern population. The western population is found throughout the mountainous states from Mexico to Canada and into Alaska. East of the Mississippi it can be found in small pockets of the western Appalachian Mountains during winter, with a majority of the eastern eagles spending their summer breeding season in the regions of northeastern Canada and Maritime Islands.

To this day we still wonder if there was ever a healthy breeding population in the Adirondacks. Teddy Roosevelt stated, in an overview of his 1870’s trips to the Adirondacks: “The golden eagle probably occurs here.” It is believed that the last known nesting golden eagles in this area (around 1971) was found in the Moose River Plains area—a wonderful bird and wildlife watching area anytime of the year. There were also scattered reports of a nest around the Tupper Lake region. As previously mentioned, mystery often surrounds this bird of prey.

Well, slowly and methodically science is trying to pull back this veil of mystery. As this proceeds we get a better picture of the eastern population and, lo-and-behold, the Adirondacks often becomes an integral part of this eagle’s migratory pathways!

As late September blends into autumnal October the golden eagles of Northern Canada’s eastern provinces begin a determined southerly migration into the western Appalachian Mountains. These raptors will often complete a day’s journey of 100 miles or more with good tailwinds. As the estimated 200-300 eastern golden eagles come southward they are naturally funneled over the northeastern states and, as luck would have it, many goldens migrate directly over the Adirondacks.

Technology has played a major role in this investigation. Over the years, many golden eagles have been caught, and radio transmitters have been placed on the backs of these eagles. As the signal is given off by the moving transmitters they show up (via satellite) on “listening” computers and the eagle’s flight path is followed. Based on several mapping sites I found (here’s one), there is a distinct pattern of golden eagles flying over Franklin, Clinton, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence Counties during both fall and spring migration.

OK, now that we know they’re out there . . . what do we look for? As fall marches through October into November I would start looking at the sky when the winds are from the north or northwest. Get out into some open field or on a mountaintop that offers a wide, open view. Personally I like Coon Mountain, near Westport, or I’ll climb the accessible fire tower on Belfry Mt outside Mineville. Both offer some nice views of the Champlain Valley. Another good option is Azure Mt, off Blue Mt Road, northwest of Paul Smiths.

While up there I’ll look with my binoculars for migrating raptors and specifically I’ll focus on the many turkey vultures that are lazily soaring on the heated thermals coming off the valley below. Golden eagles can resemble turkey vultures in flight with a slight “V” shape to their up-turned wings. Most bald eagles and other bird of prey will fly with their wings straight (horizontal) out from their bodies. As you focus on these dark-colored birds, look closely at the wings and try to determine if there are white patches on the undersides of the outstretched wings and a black band on tip of the tail. If so then you may be looking at an immature golden eagle! As our only birdwatching president, Teddy Roosevelt, once said, “Bully for you!”

Photo: A golden eagle in flight.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Adirondack Park Disappears from Google Maps

Searching for a map of Beaver River yesterday I noticed that the raggedy roundish green shape that usually defines the Adirondack Park on Google maps had been reduced to a wedge over the Northwest Flow.

The Web site TechCrunch.com explains that Google has been incorporating user input to provide more detailed information, particularly about parks, bodies of water, roads, even bike trails. And there’s a “Report a Problem” link. At least one TechCrunch commenter has already reported the Adirondack Park shrinkage.

Image: Screen capture from Google maps this morning. Adirondack Almanack added the Blue Line for context


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Posted Sign Do’s and Don’ts

Q. May a hunter who has wounded game pursue it onto posted property?
A. Only if permission has been granted by the posting party.

Most hunters know this. But when it comes to the Posted signs themselves, landowners don’t always know there are rules guiding the information they put on them. We didn’t know either, until a friend of the Almanack sent us this link to a handy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation site.

It’s a helpful page for landowners and hunters, with information on trespass law and liability, but as our friend pointed out, the section on navigation rights could be improved. A few word-tweaks would help clarify this widely misunderstood section of state law. First, get rid of references to “mean high water mark,” which have no bearing on the legality of through-travel on a river. And this friend suggests starting the discussion this way:

Q. May a person travel in a boat or canoe on a waterway which is posted?
A. Yes, but it is illegal to post a waterway against specific navigational activities such as canoeing, kayaking, boating, etc. if the waterway is “navigable in fact” under common law criteria.

There are a few unmistakably navigable rivers in the Adirondacks that are still posted, whether by honest mistake or by intent. The sign pictured here is appropriate for most boundary lines, but facing upstream on a navigable river, as it was on the East Branch of the St. Regis River in June, it confuses if not intimidates paddlers. The landowner, contacted this summer, says the sign came with the property when he bought it in the 1990s and he has no intention of replacing it or changing the wording.

For more information on posting in New York, here is the pertinent section of state Environmental Conservation Law. For more information on public rights of navigation, see this brochure by the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.

[Post-publication addition: Flickr has a group called “No Trespassing!” featuring Posted signs. The Almanack has added four Adirondack signs, including historical ones, from Lake George Islands, Tahawus, Whitney Park and the East Branch of the St. Regis River. But we don’t endorse the group manager’s incitement to trespass. UPDATE: We quit that group (see comments). You can now see vintage Adirondack posted signs among this Flickr group of Adirondack signs.]


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Musings on an Adirondack Autumn

“When will the colors be at peak?” Every year, starting in early August, we get asked this question countless times. We are tempted to give answers like “September 26th at 4:43 PM,” but in truth, one can never know. Predicting the fall colors is about as reliable as predicting the weather – you can only know for sure when it is happening.

Around here, colors start to change in July. Many folks gasp when I tell them this. Isn’t that a bit early? No, not for us. The central Adirondacks have a very short growing season, and as such our springs arrive later and our falls arrive earlier. For those who have a hankering for a spot of color early in the season, the central Adirondacks is the place to be. Want to wait for peak color? Then schedule your trip for late September or early October; if you are lucky, you will catch it in time.

From year to year, the fall color show can be a surprise. Some years the colors are simply stunning – reds and oranges set the hillsides a-glow like so many embers fanned by the wind (this is one of those years). Other years the colors are just “okay.” And then there are the years that are complete duds. Fortunately, the latter are few and far between. We had a dud a couple years ago. The colors were not spectacular, and then the leaves dropped suddenly, all at once. It was a real disappointment for the leaf peepers.

Leaf peeping, as you can probably imagine, is one of the big tourist draws for the Adirondacks, and one of the many things I do is provide Fall Foliage reports for the central Adirondacks. Once a week I send in my report, rating color, guessing percentage of change, and trying to select the best viewing spots. It can be tricky, for it often depends on where you stand. It might be only 50% out my window, but two miles to the east the forest could be 90% changed, while two miles to the west it could be only 30%. Not only that, but what may be 20% when I send in my report might be 70% before the week is out!

How can you tell if it is a good year? I think dark, cloudy days are the best indicators: if on these days the mountains still glow, you know you have a great season on hand.

If you are looking for a good leaf peeping experience, you can’t miss right now if you drive through the central part of the Adirondack Park. Most of the hillsides are very colorful, creating some wonderful reflections in our many lakes and ponds. Once you hit the lower elevations, though, colors are not quite “there” yet. Give them a couple more weeks and they should be pretty good.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First of Several Local John Brown Events on Saturday

This year marks the 150th anniversary of abolitionist John Brown’s anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, his subsequent execution and the return of his body to North Elba. I’ve been writing a series of posts – The Last Days of John Brown – to commemorate Brown’s struggle to end slavery in America, and here at the Almanack we’ll be reporting on local events as the anniversary approaches. So far activities include a lecture, a symposium, and a reenactment of the return of Brown’s body to North Elba. It all kicks off with a lecture this Saturday, October 10th, with a lecture by historian Zoe Trodd at 2:00 PM, at John Brown’s Farm.

Here is the event announcement:

A Living Legacy: John Brown in the Anti-Lynching Protest Tradition, a lecture by Zoe Trodd. Protest writers have long pointed to the abolitionist past as central to present and future social change. At the heart was of this living legacy was one figure: John Brown. This lecture will trace the presence of Brown in anti-lynching literature from the Niagara Movement to Langston Hughes. Trodd is the author of Meteor of War: The John Brown Story; American Protest Literature; and The Tribunal: Responses to John Brown and the Harper’s Ferry Raid. This event is presented by John Brown Lives!



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