The Adirondack Council is asking the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to reject a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) proposed snowmobile trail plan saying that it would allow mechanical groomers on Forest Preserve land and also what the council called the “illegal widening of snowmobile trails on state owned land.”
The APA is considering today and tomorrow in Ray Brook whether the plan, known officially as Management Guidance: Snowmobile Trail Siting, Construction and Maintenance on Forest Preserve Lands in the Adirondack Park, is consistent with provisions of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. The proposed changes include the building of mechanically groomed “Community Connector” trails nine feet wide (12 at curves). » Continue Reading.
November often seems like the most barren time of the year. The bright colors of autumn have passed, leaving a world of greys and browns behind. Lawns may still be green, but it’s a dull green that’s slowly turning brown. The days are shorter and more chill, and we reach for our sweaters and blankets. Woodstoves are fired up, and the tang of woodsmoke fills the air. People seem to be preparing for hibernation. But the curious naturalist doesn’t go into hibernation. For many nature nuts, November is the time when secrets are revealed. With leaves off the trees, new woodpecker holes are visible. The line of sight through the forest no longer stops about three inches into the woods. Dens in rocks begin to look lived in, and beaver activity becomes quite pronounced. Signs of feeding, be it bears or squirrels, moose or chickadees, can be found with very little effort.
November is the time to explore. There are fewer distractions now that flowers are not blooming and insects are not buzzing. Everything seems to have been distilled to its essential nature. No more lazing around – it is time to get down to the business of survival, for winter is not far off.
Galls, as mentioned in previous posts, are highly visible in this time between the seasons and make perfect objects for nature studies. Dried flower heads (weeds, to some people) stand out with their own stark beauty and are ideal candidates for winter floral arrangements. In fact, there is at least one book out there to help you identify these ghosts of flowers past: Weeds in Winter, by Lauren Brown.
Many mornings are now kissed with frost. Few things are as beautiful as Jack Frost’s artwork, especially in the early morning light. From spears of ice lining late autumn leaves, to feathers and swirls on frozen puddles, these ephemeral gifts of the season presage the coming winter.
And just when you think it is time to pack away the t-shirts and shorts, Mother Nature throws us a bone with a glorious day of sunshine and warmth. Moths and flies dart around in hopes of finding a pre-winter snack, and last minute outside chores are hastily done. Sure, November can be gloomy if you don’t know how to appreciate it, but take a page from the naturalist’s book, and you will soon find yourself looking forward to the month that hangs in the cusp between autumn and winter.
For advanced skiers who are looking forward to hitting the High Peaks this winter, the Adirondack Ski Touring Council has some good news: There are now fewer opportunities to get skewered by branches or whapped in the face by evergreen boughs when skiing down Mount Marcy.
Tony Goodwin, executive director of the council, joined two other local skiers last September to prune trees along the 7.5 mile trail from Adirondack Loj to the summit of the state’s highest peak. This was their second pruning trip in a year. Long a popular ski route as well as a hiking trail, it’s the only official ski trail to the top of a High Peak.
The route was first built with skiers in mind but has been allowed to grow inward over the years. Recently, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has allowed skiers to go in and clear the trail to the width allowed for skiing – six feet in most places, eight around turns.
The work, which included the use of expandable poles up to 20 feet long – the snow is often five to ten feet deep by March, meaning the dangerous branches are far overhead in summer – drew some curious stares by warm-weather passers-by. “People actually ski this trail?” was a frequent question, Goodwin said.
A week after their work on Marcy, a larger group headed to the Wright Mountain Ski Trail (which stops below the summit), which was also cleared of dangerous branches.
“We’re definitely making a noticeable improvement,” Goodwin said.
Backcountry skiing in the High Peaks has grown into a very popular sport in the past decade, with the advancement of high-tech alpine and telemark gear, a ski festival in March and the release of a photographic guide to skiing slides.
But many serious skiers complain the DEC has refused to consider making the mountains more backcountry ski-friendly, such as creating separate trails for skiers and hikers, allowing the widening of unofficial routes or permitting the pruning of small saplings in areas that would make nice glade skiing.
“They’ve definitely made it clear we can’t go too far beyond the six-foot width for trails,” Goodwin said.
In other ski news, the Town of North Elba has created a small parking lot on McKenzie Pond Road near Saranac Lake for users of the popular Jackrabbit Trail. The parking lot coincides with a new section of trail that takes advantage of an easement purchased by the council to ensure continued access from that point.
This morning a mob of deer casually gather in our yard. My husband makes the comment that the word has gotten out that we are non-hunting household. It seems like one has told another and soon the neighborhood has not gone to the dogs but to the deer. So while the deer spread their news we humans have our own version of meeting places during hunting season.
Since 1989, the Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smiths has offered a safe option during hunting season. The 2,885-acre preserve is owned by Paul Smith’s College and leased by New York State to operate as a public facility. The many trails are available for the enjoyment of children and adults of all ages. The paths are clearly marked, mulched and cleared of debris.
We choose a combination of the Heron Marsh and the Shingle Mill Falls trails. Each trail is about a 0.8-mile loop. Together it forms a 1.5-mile figure eight with easy access and plenty of seating along the way.
My son runs ahead, the guide in our mission to successfully circumnavigate Heron Marsh. My daughter would rather spend a bit more time inside studying the interactive displays, dioramas and touch table.
We continue on another hundred yards to a boardwalk that extends out into the marsh. Signs of beaver surround us and we search for their lodge. I sit to observe the last passing moments of autumn while the rest of the family walks to the observation deck. We come to a crossroads where we can either loop back to the Interpretive Building or continue across the marsh.
We opt to cross the bridge leading over Heron Marsh. The leaves are slick from previous rain so be careful around the shoreline and bridge edge. We cross a bridge, setting leaf boats on the open water to shoot the rapids of the Heron Marsh dam. This was the original site of a gristmill then a shingle mill. It was last used in the 1920s by Paul Smiths Hotel as a source for water.
We loop back and follow the signs to the Interpretive Building because we have yet to identify correctly each birdcall to each bird. Lastly I sit for a bit of the sun while the kids expel any energy they have left on the playground.
Trails are open from dawn to dusk every day. There is no camping or fires allowed. Dogs are only welcome on the trails during the summer months. Located 12 miles north of Saranac Lake on 8023 State Route 30, the VIC building is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m.
Tomorrow, November 11, Historic Saranac Lake will open its exhibit on World War I in Saranac Lake to the public 2 – 4 p.m. to commemorate Veterans Day. The community is invited to a free viewing in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory at 89 Church Street. Light refreshments will be served. Following is a press release from Historic Saranac Lake describing the origins of Veterans Day:
Veterans Day marks the date of the armistice between the Allied nations and Germany. On this date in 1918, WWI, the “War to end all wars” finally came to end. It was a war that took the lives of over 9 million military men, and left an indelible mark on the Village of Saranac Lake. Almost 300 residents of Saranac Lake served in some capacity in World War I.
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words (quoted from the website of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs).
“Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
“Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
“Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday:
“Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”
Photo: WWI officer John Baxter Black, provided to Historic Saranac Lake by his family.
A History Channel documentary will feature an Adirondack veteran of World War Two: Archie Sweeney of Saranac Lake. The 10-hour series WWII in HD, which will air over over five consecutive nights from Sunday through Thursday, November 15-19 will be narrated by Gary Sinise.
Archie Sweeney was a resident of Saranac Lake Village (where one of his sisters still lives; another lives in Glens Falls), who came to the series late in production according to Larry Miller, who did research and character development for most of the men and women in the series. “I had finished preliminary work for six characters when I got a call from the producer who told me that they wanted a character who was killed early in the war, preferably in North Africa,” Miller told me. “That was going to be a problem for several reasons. Men who died early in the war had very little time to write letters or diaries so there would probably be very little material to work with. There would be no oral histories recorded and obviously no book written.” What Miller hoped to find was a man who had surviving family members and who had saved information relating to his experiences. “Almost immediately, my thoughts turned to the Adirondacks,” Miller says. “My chances to find surviving relatives were better if I could find someone from a small town rather than, for example, Manhattan. These families were, at the time, less mobile than those from larger cities. A side benefit would be that I could work and be in the Adirondacks simultaneously.”
Miller began his search by reading the casualty lists published in the New York Times where he found three men from the Adirondack region who had been killed in action in North Africa. A search of their obituaries told Miller that two of the men were survived by only their parents – the third was Archie Sweeney, whose several siblings survived the war. “After several months of researching newspapers, public records, service records and interviewing his surviving relatives, I had gathered enough information about the young man to write a narrative of his short life and brave death,” Miller said.
Larry Miller sent the short biography he wrote about Archie Sweeney to the Almanack. Here it is in its entirety:
Corporal Archie Sweeney was twenty one years old when he graduated from Saranac Lake High School in Saranac Lake, New York. He was not their best student. Once he teasingly told his two little sisters that when you did well in high school they used the word “flunked”, so when he came home one day and told his mother that he had flunked math, the girls greeted him with hugs and congratulated him.
“Polite” was the term most often attached to his name. It helps to be polite when you share your living space with eight brothers and sisters. And it becomes a survival skill when you are separated from your family, Archie to one relative and his two younger sisters to another, because your mother has died and your father is too ill to care for you. (His mother died from cancer and his father has a broken neck that he sustained while digging trenches along the roadside. After his accident, he spent many months in a body case.)
At the time of her death, Archie was working two jobs and attending high school. He loved his days spent on his father’s farm in Lawrenceville, a tiny village in upstate New York almost as much as the times he and his brothers spent at their dad’s hunting camp Floodwood, a speck on the map located in the Adirondack Mountains, where they hunted and fished during the fall and winter when the farming was idle. It was during those frigid winters that his sisters remember Archie bundling them up, seating them in a sleigh, hitching the horse up and driving them to church.
When the war broke out, Archie was the first young man whose number was called in the draft lottery held in nearby Lake Placid. But Archie has enlisted the previous day. On New Years Day, 1941, he told his older brother that this was a good way to start the year. It was time to move on; to see what life had in store for him. Two days later he walked to Lake Placid a few miles away, to report for his physical.
He took a train, the first time he had ever been on one, to Fort Bragg, N.C. where his politeness was put to the test training with the 39th Infantry, 9th Division.
By the middle of March, he had been assigned to Company H and proudly sent his company photograph home. There he stood, right next to the company flag, all 5’ 11”, 145 pounds of him, standing ram-rod straight and looking quite serious.
Early that summer, Archie returned home and stayed at the farm. One of his sisters took a snapshot of him standing proudly in front of their barn. That evening, as she was preparing for bed, she saw Archie, standing as comfortably as if he had been sitting, watching as the sun set. “What are you looking at?” she asked. “I’m just looking. I don’t know if I’ll ever see this again.”
On 25 September 1942 the 39th, the Fighting Falcons, boarded 5 ships and sailed out of New York harbor. On the 6th of October 1942 and about 4,000 miles later, the convoy dropped anchor in Belfast Harbor. The 39th moved to Scotland and awaited the departure of the 47th and 60th Infantry Regiments from the US and their first D-Day.
The 9th Infantry Division saw its first combat in the North African invasion when its elements landed at Algeria in Ain-Taya 15 miles east of the city of Algeria on November 8, 1942. Moving swiftly the 39th defeated the Vichy-French troops and had the city surrounded.
The next three months were spent guarding communications lines along their front.
Company B picked up a new rifle platoon leader during this period, Lieutenant Charles Scheffel.
The war was not going well. The Germans were retreating but we couldn’t face Rommel’s tanks with our big guns. The units that tried that at Kasserine Pass suffered a devastating defeat.
The U.S. plan involved the U.S. 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions, to occupy the hills on opposite sides of the El Guettar Pass which would enable the armored troops to pass through the valley without being fired on from its flanks. This force attacked Hill 369 on the afternoon of 30 March but ran into mines and anti-tank fire, losing 5 tanks. The tanks were removed, and the 1st and 9th attacked again the next day at 06:00, moving up and taking several hundred prisoners. However an Italian counterattack drove them back from their newly gained positions, and by 12:45 they were back where they started with the loss of 9 tanks and 2 tank destroyers. A further attempt the next day on 1 April also failed, after barely getting started.
Captain Scheffel recalled that, “On March 27, 1943, my first wedding anniversary, I took out Ruth’s picture and wished I was back in Enid. I kept thinking what a shitty place to spend an anniversary. At least we weren’t fired on during the first night, and for that, I was grateful.”
On April 1, Archie was writing a letter home. “It’s very quite here this evening. I think the war may be coming to an end.” [see p 7 of my notes-when the skirmish occurred a few days later.]
His older brother, Harold, received a telegram on May 8th, 1943 informing him that Archie was “Missing in Action”. Two days later an Army chaplain arrived at his door to tell them that Archie had been killed the same evening he wrote his letter.
He was twenty five years old; the first Saranac Lake Village soldier to die in action.
Photo: Saranac Lake’s Archie Sweeney during World War Two. Photo provided.
The keynote speaker will be environmental journalist Jeff Goodell, author of Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). I will participate as a panelist in a discussion on blogs. Will Doolittle of the Glens Falls Post-Star, Mike Hill of the Associated Press and Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio will also be there. The conference is open to all. For more information contact the Adirondack Center for Writing, at (518) 327-6278 or [email protected]
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will meet on Thursday and Friday (November 12th and 13th) at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook to consider the temporary re-opening of the Big Tupper Ski Area, reconstruction and widening of Route 28 in Oneida County, and more. Amendments to the park’s land use maps will also be considered, including whether to set a public hearing for the re-classification of about 31,570 acres. » Continue Reading.
It’s time to haul that albino jack-a-lope out of the attic; time to dust off that high quality deer butt door bell, or other animal rump art, and head down to the big city to show ’em how its done. Yes – it’s strange taxidermy time and “Science Geeks, Nature Freaks, and Rogue Geniuses” will be gathering Sunday, November 15th at the 4th Annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest at the Bell House, a 1920’s warehouse converted into a music and events venue in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The event is hosted by the Secret Science Club, which bills itself as a “lecture, arts, and performance series.” “Show off your beloved moose head, stuffed albino squirrel, sinuous snake skeletons, jarred sea slugs, and other specimens,” the event announcement reads, “Compete for prizes and glory!” There will be a “feral taxidermy talk by beast mistress Melissa Milgrom,” author of the forth-coming book, Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy and an appearance by the Grand Master of Taxidermy, Takeshi Yamada. But the highlight of the event will be a juried taxidermy show judged by a panel of “savage taxidermy enthusiasts” that includes Robert Marbury, co-founder of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists, and Secret Science Club co-curator Dorian Devins.
The contest is open to any and all taxidermy (homemade, purchased, and found), preserved and jarred specimens, skeletons, skulls, and gaffs and beyond. The organizers are quick to point out this year that wet specimens must remain in their jars. Prizes will be awarded for categories that include best stuffed creature, most interesting biological oddity, and more.
Entrants need only contact [email protected] to pre-register, and arrive at 7 pm on the night of the contest.
The contest was begun in 2005 by Secret Science Club co-curators Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson as a promotion for this taxidermy-inspired book Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger. “The event has since taken on a life of its own,” the organizers tell us, after first-year winners Andrew Templar and Jim Carden (co-owners of the Bell House) began providing a permanent home for what has been dubbed a “beastly annual smack-down.”
Photo: Mike Zohn of Obscura Antiques received the 2008 Order of Carnivorous Knights Grand Prize for his “shadowbox mise en scene” of albino weasels posing as miniature polar bears.
Scandinavian folklore has described eskers as being formed by large sea serpents crawling inland to die. Celtic lore describes eskers as being formed by monks carrying baskets of sand inland from the sea as a form of penitence. What are eskers? They’re glacial features that kind of look like an up side-down riverbed. As a glacier retreats, it leaves behind outwash deposits of sand, gravel, and stone that may form long, interrupted, undulating ridges. Sometimes, just like a river, they branch off and there may be two or three in a roughly parallel arrangement. Colloquially, they have been called horsebacks, hogbacks, serpent ridges, and sand dunes.
Luckily, these interesting features are commonly encountered while paddling (and carrying) in the Adirondacks. Most Adirondack eskers run in a NE to SW arc, starting near the N. Br. of the Saranac and extending to Stillwater Reservoir, with the highest concentration within the combined St. Regis/Saranac basin. Others are found in the drainages of West Canada Creek and the Schroon, Moose, Hudson, and Cedar Rivers. The Rainbow Lake esker bisects that lake; A. F. Buddington, an early geologist, says this is one of the finer examples of an esker and considers it to extend (in a discontinuous manner) for 85 miles.
There is a long discontinuous esker from Mountain Pond through Keese Mill, passing between Upper St. Regis Lake and the Spectacle Ponds, and continuing to Ochre, Fish, and Lydia Ponds in the St. Regis Canoe Area. Other very interesting eskers are found on the lower Osgood, at Massawepie Lake (you drive on the esker to get to this lake), near Hitchins Pond on the Bog River/Lows Lake trip, and along the Saranac River near its namesake village. An esker in the Five Ponds Wilderness can be paddled to (though is usually hiked to). It bisects theses ponds and, at 150 feet high, is among the tallest.
Examples of twin or double eskers are those at Rainbow and Massawepie Lakes and there are triple ridges near Jenkins Mountain and Cranberry Lake. Eskers make for great hikes. They generally support tall stands of white pines. You can often see related glacial features such as kames, kettle holes, and kettle ponds. If you’re lucky, you might also find some sea serpent scales. If you can’t find these, put on your penitent face and bring along a basket of ocean sand on your next paddling trip.
Map of the Rainbow Lake esker (to come) by A. F. Buddington, 1939-1941. Esker ridges are indicated by yellow shading. Source: Geology of the Saranac Quadrangle, New York, a 1953 New York State Museum bulletin (# 346)
Perhaps November is really not the time of year to try to identify roadside roses. Sure, the hips are lovely, and they certainly look as though they should be distinctive. Lots of trees are easily identified by their fruits alone, so why not roses? How difficult could it be? I confess right up front that while I appreciate roses as much as the next person, I am not a rose aficionado, one of those people for whom roses are the sole reason for existing on this planet. I enjoy their colors, their fragrances, and their abundance of brightly colored fruits in the fall, but I don’t dedicate my life to their propagation. Perhaps if I spent a little more time among the roses, however, I wouldn’t find myself in my current predicament.
Last month I took some nice photos of some of the rosehips I found growing along Route 28N. It was early morning, there had been a crisp frost overnight, and I had my new lens to play with. I ended up with a nice image or two, and all was fine…until today, when I decided to write up an article about our local roadside roses. I mean, if you are going to write about something, you really should be able to identify what it is, beyond the obvious (rose). It turns out that sometimes this is easier said than done.
I started where I always start when trying to identify plants: my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. It listed several species, and had color illustrations of flowers, leaves, and even some of the hips. But since all I had to go by were some photos of the hips, I thought I should try to narrow the field by finding out what species actually grow in New York.
According to the Revised Checklist of New York State Plants, by Richard S. Mitchell and Gordon C. Tucker, New York is home to no less than twenty-eight species of roses, seventeen of which are non-natives, and two of which are endangered. Unfortunately, this checklist is just that: a checklist. It doesn’t give tips for identifying the plants it lists, nor does it provide a list of plant locations.
So, I next turned to the state’s new on-line nature information website: New York Nature Explorer (http://www.dec.ny.gov/natureexplorer/app/). It’s supposed to be your one-stop-shopping location for identifying and learning about the plants and animals of our fair state. I typed in “rose” and hit “search.” It turned up exactly one rose in the entire database (although it also listed things like rose pagonia – an orchid— and rose-breasted grosbeak—a bird). What happened to the other twenty-seven?
Not to be discouraged, I went to Google and ran searches for each rose on the checklist (it’s been a long morning). I found lots of photos of flowers, but few of hips. And none seemed to match mine. The light at the end of the tunnel was getting further and further away.
Turning back to Newcomb’s, I counted nine species of roses, all of which occur in New York. The other eighteen from The Checklist that were not listed are all non-natives, apparently garden types that jumped the garden wall. I figured that I had found my best possible source for ID help. Ironically, it was where I had started about four hours ago.
A couple, like the swamp rose (Rosa palustris), were easy to eliminate from my search – they require wetlands, or at least habitats that are more amenable than the dry, salty side of a highway. Smooth rose (R. blanda), as you might guess from its name, is a relatively thornless species. Looking closely at mine, it didn’t qualify. Not only was the stem covered with thorns both large and small, but so were the stipules at the end of the fruit.
The fruit of Rosa rugosa, a common escapee, look like balls that have been flattened on both ends. The fruits on my specimen do not fit this mold. I was ready to settle on it being a pasture rose (R. carolina), but all photos and drawings I found of this species were nowhere near as thorny as mine. My hopes of success were now pretty well dashed.
But that’s the great thing about being a naturalist—I have an undying curiosity to know the answer. I may not learn the identity of these roses today, tomorrow, or even this year. But you can rest assured that come summer next year, when the roses bloom and fill the air with their perfume, I will be out there with my field guide (and camera) in hand, determined to identify these plants. Even if I have to send specimens to the authors of The Checklist.
A dead zone that re-appeared in Lake George’s south basin for the 23rd consecutive year this past summer is proof, if proof were required, of the need for greener land use practices, lake protection organizations argue.
The zone is an area depleted of oxygen and devoid of life that extends from Lake George Village to Tea Island, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.
“It forms in the south basin rather than in the northern basins, not because land use practices are better in Bolton or Hague, but because more tributaries flow into that basin,” said Bauer. “It’s truly the canary in the mine-shaft, a warning of future water quality trends if we don’t improve our land-use practices.” » Continue Reading.
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