“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line” – Archimedes
The early Greek mathematician posed this rule for flat surfaces, which the Adirondacks are anything but. Yet this was the scheme for our first mountain trails – hardly layouts, but ad hoc routes to get hikers and particularly Fire Observers, to the summits ASAP. After twisting past down trees, boulders, cliffs, or water, their lines would straighten right back out. Trails out West more gently curve along the contours and switchback to ease their ascents, but not those here. Most of our old direct goat paths are still in place.
Elizabeth W. Little was born in 1884, probably in the grand home that her grandparents built in Menands on the south side of the Menand Road in the 1860’s.
She was the daughter of Charles W. Little and Edith Elizabeth Herbert. Elizabeth was the youngest of three daughters born to the C.W. Little family. Elizabeth’s grandfather was Weare C. Little, who was born in Bangor, Maine but moved to the Albany area and established a very successful book publishing and selling business on State Street in Albany by 1828. By 1868, Weare C. Little’s name appears in the Albany City Directories as residing at Menands. Tax records of 1870-71 show that he owned 46 acres of land with buildings in Menands.
The W.C. Little’s publishing company was very profitable, enabling him to purchase the 46 acres of very desirable land on the south side of the Old Menand Road just west of the present day entrance to the Sage Estate. His land continued westward up the old Menand Road to a point about opposite of the present day intersection with Schuyler Road.
In 1921, nearly a hundred years ago, a few dozen people met with the idea of forming an organization that would help facilitate public access to the Adirondack wilderness through trail building. A year later the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) was formed and, soon thereafter, ADK completed the Northville-Placid Trail. In the years that followed, ADK has not only worked to educate the public on how to steward public lands but also advocated for their protection at the highest levels, including in the various New York State courts. And, as other advocacy groups came into the picture, it became the norm to join forces in our collective strength to litigate against anything that ran afoul of Article 14 of the NYS Constitution, the Forest Preserve’s “forever wild” provision.
In response to impending construction on the proposed Class II Community Connector Snowmobile Trails—the center of today’s controversy—ADK went out and began counting trees along the intended corridor to assess the legality of this work and in anticipation of reconvening with the other Adirondack groups on how best to proceed. However, before we could, a lawsuit was singularly commenced. From the perspective of our traditional cooperation, this challenge was not off to a good start. Sadly, the arguments presented went well beyond challenging the proposed construction under the existing standard (3 inch dbh) that had served us well in balancing the Park’s wild nature with “facilitating meaningful public access and enjoyment.”
Instead, petitioners advocated for a new standard that will actually do considerable harm to the natural resources of the Forest Preserve.
A few weeks ago, Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) submitted an amicus brief in Protect the Adirondacks! Inc. v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency, wherein Protect challenged the constitutionality of the state’s decision to cut down thousands of trees while building new snowmobile trails in the Forest Preserve. (I am on the Board of Protect the Adirondacks! and testified as an expert witness in the trial for this litigation. What I am saying here is not endorsed by Protect.)
This litigation began in the Supreme Court in Albany and was appealed to the Appellate Division, where a crucial element of Protect’s interpretation of Article 14, section 1, of the NY Constitution, was upheld. Then the state appealed to the NY Court of Appeals, our highest court, where oral arguments will be heard on March 23. The ruling there will be final and cannot be appealed further, although it’s possible the Court of Appeals could return the matter to the lower courts. This is a historic case and will determine the future of state policy with respect to the Forest Preserve and the viability of wilderness in the Adirondacks.
Changes reflect new zoning, recent additions to the High Peaks Wilderness
The brand-new 15th edition of High Peaks Trails, the flagship of ADK’s (Adirondack Mountain Club’s) comprehensive Forest Preserve Series of guidebooks, has just been released. The volume is edited by longtime Adirondack adventurer Tony Goodwin, who has been writing and updating guidebooks for over 30 years.
Since the 14th edition was published in 2012, 47,000 acres of Forest Preserve have been added to the High Peaks Wilderness Area. Its boundaries have been redrawn, and new regulations governing use of these areas are anticipated. The new 15th edition addresses the significant zone changes that have been implemented by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as new acquisitions, new trails, reroutes, restored and altered trailheads, and parking regulations.
The first known ascent of Mount Marcy occurred on August 5, 1837 when a team of New York State Geologists, led by Ebenezer Emmons, spent a glorious five hours on top of the peak.
But it was not Emmons that best described what his team saw that day. Instead, it was his intrepid guide, John Cheney, that historians most often quote. Looking out over the vast range of mountains and lakes below them, Cheney observed, “It makes a man feel what it is to have all creation placed beneath his feet.” What Emmons did make note of on that brilliant August day was the presence of ice patches up to a half-inch thick scattered about the summit. Still, the lead geologist for the New York State Survey could not comprehend the existence of huge boulders, or erratics, that were left behind by glaciers. Emmons thought at the time that they were there as a result of a biblical-type flood.
Dedicated trail volunteers Norm Kuchar and Walt Hayes were recently honored with the North Country Trail Association ADK Affiliate Honor Award. For the past 12 years, these two members of the Schenectady Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club have taken more than 120 trips to scout and GPS routes for the eastern Adirondack section of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Norm and Walt have been critical partners to DEC planners and foresters as they’ve helped define the best route for this trail in the Adirondacks. Congratulations to Norm and Walt on this well-deserved honor!
When completed, the North Country National Scenic Trail will stretch approximately 4,700 miles from North Dakota to Vermont, with about 160 miles passing through the central Adirondacks from Black River Wild Forest to Crown Point State Historic Site.
Fall at Heart Lake is usually accompanied by the sounds and sights of fourth graders exploring Mt. Jo as participants in ADK’s (Adirondack Mountain Club’s) Marie L. Haberl School Outreach Program: Three Seasons at Heart Lake. As foliage shifts from green to shades of red, orange, and yellow, ADK educators use this time of year to show fourth graders the natural processes behind seasonal changes. But this year, with many students learning remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, ADK is bringing outdoor learning online to continue inspiring a love for nature in the next generation.
The ADK Iroquois Chapter has created a unique challenge that requires participants to camp in 18 of the 21 designated wilderness areas within the Adirondack Park.
Statement from ADK: Ideally, these types of initiatives would undergo wider scrutiny, not just by the ADK Board, relevant committees and staff, but also by partner organizations, such as the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Regrettably, this challenge was not. We are hoping that the Iroquois Chapter will delay a launch so the challenge can be discussed in more detail.
ADK’s long-popular Kids on the Trail! Hiking with Children in the Adirondacks, by Rose Rivezzi and David Trithart, has been released in a second edition. Seventy-one hike descriptions are accompanied by distance and elevation data, color maps, and color photos.
Almost 40 percent of the hikes are new to the book, and nine descriptions have been added since the first edition.
Representing a variety of destinations across the Adirondacks, this guide encourages readers to visit lesser known locations as they enjoy the beauty of the Park. Anecdotal asides, observations, and logistical advice are interspersed.
The ADK Mountain Club will be hosting their 2020 Ididaride, the organization’s largest annual fundraiser created in support of education and advocacy programs.
This year, in order to ensure the safety of its participants the Ididaride has transitioned to a virtual event. Now, riders can go on a ride and log their experience by uploading their route and distance using the RideWithGPS app, or via email by 5 pm on Monday, Sept. 7.
The ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) Board of Directors voted last week to confirm the organization’s official position on when limits on recreational use, such as a permit system, are appropriate. ADK’s official position is summarized as the following:
It is the position of the Adirondack Mountain Club that before the state seeks to impose restraints on the freedom of the public to use and enjoy the forest preserve, such as a permit system, it must first make the appropriate investments to mitigate the effects on the resource by educating the public, increasing the Forest Ranger force, building sustainable trails, facilitating the spread of use throughout the Forest Preserve, and making determinations of high use based on the ongoing collection of objective data.
In recognition of Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) — which wraps up today — the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has this profile about Brazilian elodea (Egeria densa):
Also known as Brazilian Waterweed, Brazilian Elodea is a popular aquarium and water garden plant that is often sold under the generic name “Anacharis.” A submerged invasive perennial plant that looks very similar to some native species, Brazilian elodea is characterized by its bright green coloration and minutely serrated leaves that are1-3 centimeters long and up to 5 millimeterswide. Brazilian elodea has four (sometimes eight) leaves per whorl; whereas hydrilla, another invasive species, has five leaves per whorl; and the native American elodea waterweed, has only three.
Brazilian elodea also has small white flowers in the spring and fall. The flowers have three petals and either float on the water or above the surface on threadlike stems.Only male flowers have been found in North America so far, so seed production does not occur in its introduced range.
Amidst the global pandemic, and the resulting shortage of NYS funding, the Adirondack 46ers, (A group of people who have hiked all 46 mountains in the Adirondacks) have stepped up to provide financial support for the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program.
They have given $10,000 in 2020 and made a commitment to providing $75,000 of additional support over the next three years. The 46ers have been long time supporters of the stewardship program and have donated a total of $45,000 over the last three years as part of a joint commitment with the ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club).
ADK is offering free one-year memberships to frontline, essential workers in recognition of the risks that they have taken to save lives and keep essential services available to the general public. Based on the definition provided by New York State, the following industries qualify as essential work:
Membership benefits include a digital subscription to Adirondac magazine and discounts on outdoor skills workshops, wilderness Adirondack lodging and camping, and parking at the Heart Lake Program Center, which hosts numerous trailheads that lead into the High Peaks Wilderness. (Pictured here: Johns Brook Lodge)
If you are a frontline worker, please contact ADK’s membership department at [email protected].
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