Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dave Gibson: Lessons in Adirondack Activism

Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer was a pied piper for young people in search of a cause, just as John Apperson had been for him when Schaefer was in his early 20s. By the 1970s and 80s, Paul was approaching 80 years of age, and scouts, teens, and earth activists of all ages found their way to Paul’s doorstep. I want to share a few of the lessons he conveyed.

One spring day in 1990 I met with Paul to discuss Governor Mario Cuomo’s Commission on the Adirondacks (Berle Commission) report which was about to be made public. Paul mentioned that on Earth Day, a group of “idealistic” young people had come down to pay him a visit. He had planned to show his award-winning film, The Adirondack: The Land Nobody Knows, but his Bell and Howell 16-mm projector could not be found (I had borrowed it). Instead, Paul invited the students into his living room. “I’ve never had a better time in my life,” Schaefer told me. “These kids were idealists, and we need them.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Local Economics: Confessions of a Granola-Eater

Yes, I eat granola.

Ergo, I am a granola-eater, and in the view of some people, that makes me a cheapskate hiker.

Over the years I’ve heard a few local politicians complain about “granola-eaters” who gas up their cars outside the Park, drive to the Adirondacks for a hike or canoe trip, and return home without spending a dime.

I’ve always been puzzled by this attitude.

First, it’s wrong. OK, many hikers and paddlers are not lavish spenders, but some of them are and most of them do spend money during their Adirondack sojourns. And there are a lot of them. Their dollars add up. How do you think EMS in Lake Placid, Mountainman in Old Forge, the Mountaineer in Keene Valley, and Hornbeck Boats in Olmstedville stay in business?

Second, it’s wrongheaded. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that hikers, paddlers, and other backcountry enthusiasts don’t spend money in the Adirondacks. Whose fault is that? Isn’t it up to entrepreneurs in the Park to figure out how to pry cash from their tight fists? If these people aren’t spending money, I assume it’s because businesses are not offering goods and services they desire.

In fact, as already noted, there are many businesses and outfitters in the Park that cater to backcountry enthusiasts. I can’t help noticing that many of them are run by transplants. John Nemjo, for example, grew up in New Jersey and started Mountainman after moving to the Adirondacks in 1993. It’s now one of the largest canoe-and-kayak dealers in the Northeast.

Money can be made off hikers and paddlers, but first you have to see them as potential customers, not as tightwads.

If nothing else, you can sell them granola.

Photo of a granola-eater by Susan Bibeau.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Lake Desolation’s Early Media Experimental Station

In late 1932, on a dark mountainside in the far southern Adirondacks, a group of scientists prepared for a groundbreaking effort in communications. The plan was to conduct a long-distance, telephone-style conversation with their counterparts stationed 24 miles away on the roof of the General Electric Company in Schenectady. No wires were involved. The voices of those on GE’s rooftop would be carried by a searchlight beam aimed directly at a concave, 30-inch mirror on a hillside near Lake Desolation.

This particular effort was the brainchild of GE research engineer John Bellamy Taylor. It involved a unique process he called “narrow-casting” because the tight focus of the beam differed substantially from the growing technology known widely as “broadcasting.”
Earlier in the year, Taylor had likewise communicated from the navy blimp Los Angeles floating high above the GE buildings. The effect was accomplished by making a light source flicker in unison with voice fluctuations. A photoelectric cell received the flickers, or pulsations, and converted them to electrical impulses, which were then amplified by a loudspeaker. The term narrow-casting was apt—any interruption of the narrow light beam halted the transmission.

This new attempt in the Adirondacks challenged Taylor’s abilities, covering more than ten times the distance of the dirigible effort and spanning some rough terrain. While trying to place the mirror in the Lake Desolation area, engineering crews twice buried their vehicles in the mud. Another technology—the short wave radio— was used to effect a rescue.

A second issue arose involving the visibility of the large light beam. From 24 miles away, the searchlight blended among the stars on the horizon. Instructions were radioed to blink the light, which immediately solved the problem. Further communications by radio allowed the proper alignment of the light and mirror. With everything in place, the big moment was at hand.

A member of the extensive news media of the time took part in the experiment. As Taylor waited on the distant hillside, famed newspaper columnist Heywood Broun began to interview him from atop the GE roof in Schenectady: “Do you suppose it might be possible in 50 or 100 years to communicate with Mars over a light ray?” Taylor’s reply included a bit of humor. “It might be within the range of possibility, but one difficulty would be how to inform the Martians what apparatus to set up.”

While Broun’s voice rode the light beam, Taylor’s end of the conversation was sent by shortwave radio back to Broun at Schenectady, where it was received and then rebroadcast on AM radio stations. The two-way conversation was the first ever of its kind.

In an area where few people had ever used or even seen a telephone, locals were suddenly talking across a beam of light. Old trapper James Link of Lake Desolation shared that “it’s getting mighty cold up here,” and two young women also spoke with Broun. It was a public relations coup for GE, and a powerful advertisement for Taylor’s wonderful innovation. The experiment was a resounding success, followed soon by other intriguing demonstrations.

A few months later, an orchestra played before a sole microphone high in New York City’s Chrysler Building. Pointing a beam of light at a lens in the window of a broadcast studio half a mile away, Taylor transmitted the performance to an audience of shocked listeners. Stunning successes like that would influence all future communications efforts in a variety of fields.

Among his many achievements, John Bellamy Taylor is credited with being the first ever to make light audible and sound visible, and with developing the first portable radio. Just how important was his work? The effects his discoveries had on radio, television, telephone, and other technologies are immeasurable. Due to the work of Taylor, Thomas Edison, and their contemporaries, the world was forever changed.

Top Photo: John Bellamy Taylor in Popular Mechanics magazine, 1931.

Middle Photo: Map of the historic “narrow-cast” area.

Bottom Photo: Taylor’s New York City experiment transmitting music.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, July 26, 2010

PSC: National Grid’s Rates Should Come Down

Earlier this year, I published a piece arguing that the National Grid power company gouges upstate New Yorkers.

A piece in The Post-Standard offers some fresh evidence in that regard.

The Syracuse daily reports that the monopoly power deliverer is charging its Upstate New York electric customers for computers in New England, software licenses on Long Island and other corporate costs that have nothing to do with Upstate utility operations, auditors at the state Public Service Commission (PSC) say.

PSC investigators came across this information while looking at the multinational’s plan to raise electric rates on New Yorkers by $369 million a year, including $25 million a year in bonuses (apparently without any requirement that the employees reduce costs to pay for them).

So questionable are the power company’s procedures that PSC auditors concluded: “Transactions between the former Niagara Mohawk and other companies owned by National Grid are so loosely documented that Upstate utility customers likely are subsidizing other parts of National Grid’s business.”

The paper reported that in recent years, National Grid has justified purchasing several other utilities by arguing that the company would save money via efficiencies and consolidation. But PSC staff noted that such the cost of the shared services actually increased, far higher than the rate of inflation.

A PSC panel said the company’s plan to raise rates had “a number of serious problems” and had so many objections that it actually recommended National Grid DECREASE rates by $14 million a year.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

DEC: Burn Ban Resulted in 33% Fewer Wildfires

The number of wildfires during New York’s traditional high-fire period declined 33 percent in 2010, following the enactment of new restrictions on open burning, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). DEC forest rangers responded to 34 wildfires from March 15 to May 15 in 2010 compared to 51 during the same period in 2009.

New York enacted tighter restrictions on open burning in 2009 in an effort to reduce the impacts of airborne pollutants and to limit the risks of wildfires. While the new regulation allows residential brush burning for most of the year in towns with a population of less than 20,000, it prohibits open burning in all communities during early spring (March 15 – May 15) when the bulk of New York’s wildfires typically occur. Among the factors that enable wildfires to start easily and spread quickly at this time of year are warm temperatures, wind, the lack of green vegetation and the abundance of available fuels such as dry grass and leaves. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Adk Theatre Fest Offers Comedy-Murder-Mystery

Murder, mystery, music and mayhem abound in the latest offering from Adirondack Theatre Festival. Murder for Two, the new musical comedy by Kellen Blair (lyrics/book) and Joe Kinosian (music/book) will receive its first full production as a part of ATF’s 16th season. The show will be performed at the Charles R. Wood Theater, 207 Glen Street in downtown Glens Falls. Performances run July 22 – July 31. Official opening night is Friday, July 9 at 8pm. Tickets and more information can be found by calling 518-874-0800 or visiting www.ATFestival.org.

This fast-paced musical comedy/mystery features two actors– one playing a detective and the other portraying all suspects in the murder of a well-known novelist – and one piano (on which they both share the piano playing duties). Along the way, audiences meet a distraught but ditzy widow, a comely ballerina, the town psychiatrist, a grad student aspiring to become a detective, a 12-member boys’ choir, a squabbling middle-aged couple, and more.

Under the direction of Scott Weinstein, the cast is composed of New York City stage actors Adam Overett as Officer Marcus and Joe Kinosian as the wacky suspects. The show’s design team includes Kina Park (sets); Jason Kantrowitz (lighting); Lydia Dawson (costumes); and Ken Goodwin (sound). The production is sponsored by Stewart’s Shops.

This will be the first full production of Murder for Two. ATF Producing Artistic Director, Mark Fleischer, first saw the show as a staged reading in New York City last year. “I was so impressed with the humor and versatility of this show. This writing team is exploring ways to present a full scale musical comedy with only two performers. Their talent as songwriters is very impressive and their comedy very sophisticated. Most importantly Murder for Two offers audiences a fun evening at the theatre.” Fleischer has followed the development of the piece by attending readings at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor NY and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. The production at ATF will be the first time the show is fully staged with actors not holding scripts and with the addition of sets, lights and sound design. The show has already caught the attention of theatres across the country and future productions are already in negotiation at theatres in large cities across the country. However, audiences in our area will be the first to see this musical. As Fleischer states, “ATF is reversing the trend of summer theatres producing NYC approved shows. ATF audiences in the Adirondacks give the approval before shows head to NYC.” ATF has a 16 year tradition of developing new works for the theatre. Last summer ATF produced Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days. The show was then produced at NYC’s Roundabout Theatre. The creators and ATF hope that Murder for Two will follow in this tradition.

Photo: Adam Overett and Joe Kinosian in Murder for Two


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Daddy-Longlegs Myths Explained

You’ve got to love Urban Legends. Some of them are just so ridiculous that it is hard to believe that people actually believe them. Others, however, are understandable because they are based on misinformation that could be true but simply isn’t. Take for example the lowly daddy-longlegs, or harvestman.

To begin with, this animal, while it is an arachinid, is not a spider. I know, it looks like a spider, and spiders are arachnids, but so are scorpions, and they are not spiders either. In other words, not all arachnids are spiders.

So, how is a harvestman different from a spider? Let’s consider some spider basics. What do we usually associate with spiders? Webs! Most spiders have some sort of silk-spinning apparatus, even if they don’t spin those classic webs that immediately spring to mind. Harvestmen, however, do not. They have no spinnerettes; they have no silk glands.

How about biting? Spider bites are often attributed to any small bite-like thing that appears on arms and legs while one’s been asleep (most spiders are more likely to get squished when you roll over and are therefore not likely to bite you). Then there are spiders like black widows, brown recluses, and tarantulas—all seen as highly dangerous biters (in fact, tarantulas don’t even belong in this category, but that’s fodder for another blog). I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard that harvestmen have the most venomous bites, but because their mouths are too small, they can’t bite people. (Sound the buzzer here.) This is Urban Legend #2.

Harvestmen do not have venom! No venom means no venomous bites. This myth is further laid to rest when one takes a good close look at the mouthparts. Harvestmen do not have fangs, hollow or otherwise. Instead, their mouths look more like grasping claws, which is what they are, and they are too small and weak to damage our tough hides. Spiders need venom to immobilize their prey; harvestmen do not (see below).

Now, I don’t know if this next one is an Urban Legend or not, but it sure sounds like it should be. If detached from the body, a harvestman’s leg will continue to twitch. This is actually true, and it is a defensive mechanism. Harvestmen, like almost all critters in the world, have to constantly be on the lookout for predators. To avoid becoming someone else’s happy meal, these arachnids have a few strategies up their proverbial sleeves, one of which is to detach a leg and then dash away. The twitching, abandoned appendage often distracts the predator long enough to allow for a safe exit.

Other defensive actions include the secretion of foul-smelling liquid from scent glands, playing dead, or even, in some species, gluing debris to their bodies to serve as camouflage.

Daddy-longlegs are actually rather beneficial animals to have around. For one thing, they help keep the world tidy. Most species are omnivores, consuming small insects and plant material, including fungi. Other species are scavengers and as such they clean up after other things have died or pooped. It may not be the food of choice for you or me, but we should be grateful that there are animals out there that like this stuff; otherwise, we’d be up to our eyeballs in, well, corpses and scat.

This brings up another difference between spiders and harvestmen. Spiders liquefy all their meals and slurp them up. Harvestmen, however, are capable of eating chunks of food. Remember those grasping claws they have for mouthparts? Thanks to these claws, they are able to exploit a whole realm of food that spiders, which are strictly predators (although one herbivorous species was recently discovered), can not.

Do you need further convincing that harvestmen are not spiders? Then take a look at the bodies of these two animals. Let’s back up for a moment and start with insects. How many body parts do insects have? Three: head, thorax and abdomen. How many body parts does a spider have? Two: cephalothorax and abdomen. How many body parts does a harvestman have? Two—but they look like one. This is because on the harvestman the joint between the cephalothorax (head) and the abdomen is so broad that the two body pieces look like a single, oval-shaped part.

If you want to get really technical, you can look at the structures these animals use for breathing. You and I have lungs. Spiders and scorpions have book lungs, rather complicated structures that involve alternating layers of air pockets and tissues filled with hemolymph, which is the equivalent of blood. Harvestmen, on the other hand, breathe through spiracles located near their legs, and the air is transported through trachea into the body for gas exchange. This system is much like that found on insects, like grasshoppers.

Most daddy-longlegs are nocturnal, and their drab coloration reflects this. Some, however, are brightly colored and decorated with striking patterns. These individuals are active during the day, and perhaps these colors serve to communicate their presence to prospective mates, or to warn predators away.

So, the next time you see a daddy-longlegs, resist the urge to squash it, or to call it a spider. Instead, take a good look at it. Watch what it does. Is it patrolling your garden for tasty morsels? What color is it? Is it out during the day or night? It’s kind of nice to get to know your neighbors, and knowing your garden neighbors is equally pleasing. And like any good neighbor, these arachnids help look after your property for you. Give them a silent thanks and let them live to see another day.


Friday, July 23, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, July 23, 2010

Hague’s Rick Bolton: A Life in Music

“As a young man, I was chasing a dream. As I got older, I realized the ultimate gig was a mile down the road, playing with and for my friends and then going home to my wife and kids. That’s really making it.”

That’s local legend Rick Bolton’s idea of a successful career in music, and by that definition, he’s made it.

From playing in garage bands on northern Lake George, where he traveled to gigs by boat because he was too young to drive, to touring out west, only to return home and help launch a thriving music scene in Saratoga, Rick Bolton has led a life in music and found the music that reflects his life.

“I grew up in Hague,” he recounts. “When summer hit, we got some culture, but not not enough to hurt us. I buried myself in my room in winters and learned to play guitar. I listened to the Beatles and the Stones, and I worked backward toward the music’s roots. I got lucky. I was exposed to old time guitar players, banjo players and fiddlers, here and in northeastern Vermont where I went to college. That’s the music that makes sense to me.”

Those traditions have found their way into the music he’s been playing for the last forty years, with bands like the T-Bones, northern Lake George’s favorite dance band, Rick Bolton and the Dwyer Sisters (which includes his wife Sharon and her sister Molly) and Big Medicine, which will perform in Lake George Village’s Shepard Park on July 28.

“I’m a tavern singer, I make no bones about that, but I love playing town concert series,” said Bolton. “You have a chance to mix it up with towns people and tourists; they’re better venues than taverns for playing original tunes and trying different takes on cover material. They’re always a lot of fun.”

Bolton characterizes Big Medicine, which consists of Jeff and Becky Walton, Tim Wechgelaer, Arlin Greene, Mike Lomaestro and Bolton on guitar, as “classic Americana; we cover a lot of bases – swing, rhythm and blues, rock, folk.”

Musicians younger than Bolton and from such unlikely places as Brooklyn and Somerville have re-discovered the acoustic roots music that Bolton has been playing for most of his life. In fact, they’re popular draws at the concert series in Shepard Park.

Rather than disparaging the young bands’ grasp of the traditions or resenting their intrusion upon fields he’s tilled for decades, Bolton welcomes their enthusiasm.

“It’s awesome, they’re bringing they’re own influences to bear on the music, just as we did, and they’re taking the music back to the garage, where it started,” says Bolton.

Although Bolton still has his day job with Warren County, he’s performing nearly every night with one band or another.

“We had 27 or 28 gigs scheduled for July, and June was just as busy,” he said. Bolton has lived in Saratoga for the past twenty years. In the last six years, he says, “the music scene has just taken off.”

“Sooner or later, a place just gets touched,” he says. “It happened to Austin, Texas, it happened to San Francisco. I can envision the same thing happening to Saratoga. Within blocks, you can hear jazz, acoustic folk, blues or rock. There are a lot of influences, conducive to vibrant original music. There’s a definitive Saratoga style, and there’s an audience for it.”

A sampling of that Saratoga style can be heard soon on “Saratoga Pie,” a compilation of Saratoga bands that Bolton has helped produce as a benefit for the Saratoga Center for the Family.

“There’s a lot of money for the arts in Saratoga, but often places that serve people don’t get the attention they need. There are battered women and abused children in every town in the Adirondack Park, but people never talk about that,” he says, explaining the purpose of the album. “They need our help.”

As Bolton describes it, Saratoga’s music scene is not that different from Hague, where, he says, everyone knew everyone else’s business, but everyone looked out for one another.

That’s probably why Bolton’s happier there than if he had stayed out west. He may be “only in it for the beer,” as the title of a recent CD puts it, but he’s made a full, rich life out of it.

Photo: Rick Bolton (left) with Big Medicine.

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


Friday, July 23, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (July 22)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

Weather
Friday: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; high near 74.
Friday Night: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; ow around 60.
Saturday: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; high near 81.
Saturday Night: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; low around 59.
Sunday: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; high near 72.

Thunderstorm Safety Reminder
With the frequent possibility of encountering thunderstorms at this time of year it’s a good time to review lighting safety. There is NO safe place outside in a thunderstorm, your biggest defense is to follow local weather and avoid storms. Hundreds of people are killed or permanently injured each year by being struck by lightening. If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance. Seek safe shelter immediately. If you are caught outdoors away from safe cars or buildings avoid open fields, hill-tops, isolated trees, and stay away from water. Hikers should never be above the treeline when there is lightning. If caught in a small boat drop anchor and get as low as possible. There’s more information about lightning safety here.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Biting Insects
It is “Bug Season” in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

Bear-Resistant Canisters
The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear resistant canisters; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

Northville Placid Trail: The Damn Wakely Dam Ultra footrace will take place this Saturday, July 24th. Expect heavy use along the section of the Northville Placid Trial between Piseco Lake and Wakely Dam.

Northern Forest Canoe Trail: Expect higher than usual traffic on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail this Saturday, July 24th, as kayakers and canoeists paddling on any waterway of the 740-mile trail can contribute to “740 Miles in One Day,” with the goal to paddle the total mileage of the trail between sunrise and 5:00 p.m. on that day. The New York section of the trail begins at Old Forge, following the Moose River, the Fulton Chain, Raquette Lake, the Raquette River, Forked and Long lakes, and by way of Stoney Creek Ponds and the Indian Carry to Upper Saranac. The route proceeds across Bartletts Carry to Middle and Lower Saranac and Lake Flower and then out of the mountains by way of the Saranac River to Franklin Falls Pond and Union Falls Pond and finally Lake Champlain.

Lake Placid, Jay, Ausable Forks, Wilmington: Ironman Lake Placid will take place this Sunday, July 25. A changed route this year will impact residents of Jay and Ausable Forks. Due to the bridge project over the Ausable River on Haselton Road in Wilmington, Route 9N from Jay to Ausable Forks will now comprise a 10.2 mile portion of the 56 mile bike circuit that racers will travel twice. Both lanes of Route 9N will be closed to non-essential vehicle traffic on race day between 8 am and 4:30 pm. The rest of the Ironman route includes the 7 am start on Mirror Lake, the village of Lake Placid, and routes 86 and 73.

Lake Champlain: This weeks hot and humid weather has produced a number of potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain. Noticeably affected areas include Westport and Port Henry, but there may be other blooms as well. Take the following precautions: Avoid all contact (do not swim, bathe, or drink the water, or use it in cooking or washing) and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water.

Raquette River: The boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, although the floating docks are not expected to be installed until late-July. The canoe and kayak launch area is not yet open but paddlers can launch at the ramp until that area reopens as well.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge are open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Please use caution if you choose to cross this area.

Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: Climbing routes on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain have reopened.

Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

Wilmington Wild Forest: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch have reopened.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Adirondack Conservation Group Announced

An advocacy and educational organization with historic roots in the 1940s will re-launch on Friday according to a press release issued today.

Organizers for the group Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, originally founded in 1945 by Adirondack wilderness advocate Paul Schaefer, say it will focus on the benefits of wild lands across the state, including Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondacks and Catskills. “Adirondack Wild will advocate when wild lands are threatened, be a strong partner to protect them, and train stewards to care for them,” according to today’s announcement. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lake George Conservancy to Hold Field Day Event

The Lake George Land Conservancy is holding an Annual Meeting and Field Day event, this Saturday July 24, 2010. The public is invited to participate in a themed hike or presentation around the lake in the morning, then join the group for a picnic lunch in Hague, listen to brief remarks on LGLC’s recent conservation efforts, and family games and activities. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adirondack Forum Will Consider Invasive Species

Registration is now open for a free Adirondack Forum on Invasive Species. The Forum, a one-and-a-half day event, will be held August 10-11 at Paul Smith’s College. You will learn how you and your community can be prepared for harmful invasive species invading Adirondack lands and waters.

The Forum will highlight initiatives underway in the region; showcase local successes and challenges as told by community members; feature up-to-date information about new invasive species; and identify important next steps that groups must collectively take to have a real and lasting impact on this challenging environmental and economic issue. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Second Glance: Mimicry and Speckled Alder Syndrome

Nature is full of little tricks. Just when you think you know something, it turns out that the one you are looking at is something else. It’s enough to drive a naturalist nutty, but it’s also the driving influence that will force a naturalist to hone his/her observation skills.

Back in my undergraduate days, we had a professor who described the whole look-at-only-one-characteristic-and-draw-a-conclusion scenario as Speckled Alder Syndrome, stated with one’s hand open, palm facing one’s face about an inch from one’s nose. In other words, you are only seeing one thing and ignoring everything else that will help you make a correct identification.

I admit it: I suffer from Speckled Alder Syndrome.

In all fairness, however, Mother Nature does conspire against us. And by “us” I mean all living things in general. From plants to reptiles, butterflies to parasites, the world is full of mimicry – living things that copy the looks of other living things all in an effort to deceive.

Mimicry comes in a variety of flavors: Batesian, Mullerian, Emsleyan, Wasmannina, Gilbertian, Browerian…and more. Most of us learn the basics of mimicry in high school biology, and usually by graduation we’ve forgotten all of it, except perhaps some of the examples, like monarch and viceroy butterflies.

What American child hasn’t grown up knowing about monarch butterflies? These large orange and black flappers are easy to identify and are the stuff of many an elementary school lesson on metamorphosis. Almost any child can recognize a monarch caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly at a hundred paces. Well, maybe ten paces, but you get the idea.

Enter the viceroy. This is the butterfly we all learn about in biology as the one that mimics the monarch. There are a few differences that the trained eye can pick up, such as the smaller size, the extra black line across the hind wings, and the row of white spots that dot the black border band of those hind wings.

To the untrained eye, however, they look the same. This is mimicry at its best. Up until only a few years ago (the 1990s), everyone believed that the viceroy, thought to be a tasty morsel, was mimicking the monarch. We knew that monarch caterpillars ate milkweed, and that the sap from the milkweed made them taste bad. As adults, the bright orange and black coloration served to warn predators to leave them alone or suffer an upset stomach, or maybe even death.

What tasty morsel wouldn’t want to copy this? Why, if I taste good to predators, I’d want to make them think I taste bad so they would leave me alone. What better way to do so than to copy something that tastes bad? This is known as Batesian mimicry: something harmless mimicking something harmful.

As it turns out, however, viceroys also taste bad! As larvae, they feed on trees in the willow family (willows, poplars, cottonwoods). These trees contain salicylic acid, the stuff from which aspirin is made. Birds, or other predators, that eat a viceroy get the same reaction that some people get when taking regular aspirin: it tastes bitter and can cause an upset stomach. There are no buffered viceroys out there. One taste, and the predator will never again eat something that is orange and black. Mission accomplished.

This kind of mimicry, where you have two harmful species that look similar, is called Mullerian mimicry.

The viceroy’s mimicry doesn’t end here, though. As a caterpillar, and as a pupa, it takes on the appearance of a bird dropping. That’s right. The caterpillars are green and white, while the pupae are brown and white. What bird is going to snack on the previously digested remains of some other bird?

Then you have Emsleyan mimicry, where something deadly looks like something that is slightly less harmful. How can we be sure this isn’t just another case of Batesian, where something harmless looks like something dangerous? It all comes down to learning. If I eat something deadly and thus perish, how will I ever learn not to eat that thing? On the other hand, if I eat something that only makes me sick, I am likely to avoid anything that looks like the offending food. Therefore, by mimicking something less harmful, the deadly species increases its chance of being left alone.

Some forms of mimicry apply only to plants, some apply only within a single species. It’s enough to make the mind whirl.

I am learning not to take everything at face value. Most of the time I am not in such a hurry that I cannot take the time to take a second glance. Good observation skills are worth their weight in gold. You never know – you might just discover something new, even if it is only new to you.