In a field bordered by forested hills and rocky ridges, Dan Plumley unfurled a zoning map of the Adirondack Park. The color-coded map was a reminder of how much private land lay before him, and how potentially fleeting the natural views from Marcy Field could be.
He pointed to a bald patch on Corliss Point above the valley, where lights from a house inconspicuous by day blaze into a flying saucer at night, one of many signs that growth in the backcountry is creeping higher.
“Hundreds of thousands of people drive by on this road every year,” said Plumley, gesturing toward Route 73. “They see this view and think it will always be there. I’m here to say that the way this land-use plan is being implemented, the transcendental beauty and ecological integrity of this scene is in jeopardy.” » Continue Reading.
For some time I have been musing about the question of what we call wilderness, how we deem an area to be wilderness, what it means in the Adirondacks and what it means to me. Is Lost Brook Tract really wild? Can I think of something as wilderness when it is possible for me to run from the heart of it to a warm car and a coffee shop in an hour if I have to? This is complicated question.
Several weeks ago when I began these dispatches I resolved to write about the question of wilderness. Then last week came the most recent post from Steve Signell, our resident mapping expert, his topic being Adirondack land classifications. The debate it engendered in the comments section addressed the very subject I was just beginning to write about. Serendipity! » Continue Reading.
In 1997 I was fortunate to receive a Summer Fellowship for Independent Study in the Humanities from the Council for Basic Education, part of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For the next few months I will post excerpts from the research, writing, and painting I did for that project.
The broad, former jeep trail ran straight as an arrow, cutting a path through the massive beech and maples of a mature Adirondack forest. While the trail was clear, the woods were tangled with downed trees from the great “microburst” storm of July ‘95 and huge, scattered boulders, the ancient remnants of the last ice age. Soon the trail narrowed and passed through a grove of evergreens, their rusty brown fallen needles silencing my steady steps. To the right, the forest climbed; to the left, it dropped into a swampy area. Now and again the trail veered from its straight course as it followed the uneven contours of the ascent. The dense shade of the green canopy was occasionally broken where the force of the summer wind storm two years ago had snapped hundred year old trees off like they were toothpicks. It was a hot, humid July day and I had just delivered two of my paintings to the Arts Center in Old Forge. Heading home, since I was in the midst of my Independent Study in the Humanities project, I checked my maps and chose an alternative route, a back road that would perhaps lead to some interesting or scenic place. My study topic was “A Personal Investigation of Contemporary and 19th Century Landscape Painting of the Adirondacks and St. Lawrence Valley”.
The basic question I was seeking an answer to was why had landscape painting suddenly become so popular in 1825, as well as why I have always personally felt so drawn to the land. On that hot July day, with the air conditioner working overtime, I’d actually driven past the small brown trail marker before I skidded to a dusty stop on the gravel road. Backing up, I found the small parking area of the trail head to Black Bear Mountain. While it was only two miles to the summit, it wasn’t even marked on the map in my booklet of short day trips in the Adirondacks.
I’d already made one climb that day, Rondaxe Mountain, but for several reasons, it had been quite uninspiring. It was only a one mile hike, located right alongside a major highway, and it had been crowded. Obviously a popular outing, there were many small groups and families on the trail, and what probably would have been scenic views of the Fulton Chain of Lakes were masked by the haze and humidity of the day. Much of the summit area was barren, open expanses of ancient Adirondack rock, worn down to its current level by eons of glaciers and tens of thousands of years of wind and rain and snow.
It is said the Adirondacks are among the oldest mountains on the planet, once surpassing the Himalayas in altitude. Now, Rondaxe Mountain was not much more than 2000 feet in elevation. The most disturbing part of the hike, however, were the scrapes and skid marks along those bare summit rocks, left by enthusiastic mountain bikers. It just seemed a shame that these rocks had withstood the forces of nature for so many million years, only to be scarred by humanity in less than a generation.
But the trail to Black Bear Mountain was quiet. No other vehicles had been at the trail head, and while it was evident others had used the trail, I met no one. Perhaps it was the threat of afternoon thunderstorms. The easy walk began to climb, twisting around tumbles of boulders and the tangled branches of broken or uprooted trees. Sometimes it went down, always to turn and climb even higher, following now what appeared to be a dry stream bed. I could imagine the rush of torrent crashing over the boulders during the spring run-off season.
Then the trail narrowed further, turned away from the rocks, and climbed steadily through dense spruce and pine. It was now just a foot path, worn through the thin fragile loam of the forest floor to the bedrock below. Gnarled roots grasped tenuously to the rock, and the air was noticeably cooler. Feeling the whispering breeze of open sky, I knew I was nearing the summit area. Is this what it was like for Thomas Cole, the young artist who had hiked into the Catskills in 1825, then returned with sketches to his New York City studio to produce his now famous paintings of the pristine wilderness?
I’d been wondering why it seemed like Americans had waited until then to notice the beauty of the landscape of the New World. My own heart was pounding harder, due to the increased altitude as well as the anticipation of what I would discover at the end of the trail. Winding through small, stunted spruce, I could sense the approach of the summit as there was now nothing but bare rock in front of me. Eagerly climbing it, my breath was taken away by the vast solitude that greeted me.
Directly ahead, across the valley that separated us, was another densely forested mountain, with additional peaks and ridges stretching back, one behind the other, all the way to the horizon. I supposed the tallest, distant ones to be the High Peaks of the central Adirondacks. To the right, the valley and mountains continued unbroken. To the left, the valley spread and opened up to a meandering stream and what appeared to be a beaver meadow. Further on was a second clearing, then mountains once again climbing to the horizon. Nowhere was there evidence of humanity. It was incredible to think this is what Verplanck Colvin had witnessed as he surveyed the Adirondacks for the first time in the 1830’s. A raven glided along the currents above the tree tops in the valley below me, arcing up to circle back towards the rocky cliffs. The silence was only broken by the gentle hissing of the wind in the branches of the pines clinging to the summit rocks. I could have been the only human being in the world.
This was the start of my personal exploration. The painting shown here, “View from Black Bear Mountain,” was based on a second hike up the mountain in late August of 1997.
Linda Cohen and Peg Masters, both descendants of 19th-century pioneer settlers of the Old Forge region, have written Old Forge and The Fulton Chain of Lakes (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99) the latest Adirondack edition in the Images of America series. Together they compiled over 200 images from around the area, many seldom seen.
Old Forge is nestled at the foot of the Middle Branch of the Moose River, more commonly known as the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Year-round accommodations at the Forge House in 1871 and dependable rail service in 1892 led to permanent settlement of the hamlet. Within a decade, Old Forge emerged as the residential and commercial hub of the Central Adirondacks and a popular destination and gathering place for guides, sportsmen, and wilderness tourists. For the sightseer who strolls around Old Forge today or enjoys a cruise up the eight lakes in the Fulton Chain, the landscape is dotted with scores of century-old dwellings, Victorian cottages, rustic camps, and even a few grand old hotels.
Linda Cohen has been an active member of the local historical association and a board member since 2004. Peg Masters has served as the town historian for the past 10 years and conducts historic walking tours every summer.
The Town of Webb Historical Association and Goodsell Museum, located at 2993 State Route 28 in Old Forge, Herkimer County, is currently featuring the exhibit “Floating Letters-The Town of Webb’s Mail Boats-Over 100 Years of Postal Tradition and Summer Fun” through the end of October.
The exhibit presents the history of the delivery of mail by boat in the Town of Webb on the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Big Moose Lake, Twitchell Lake, Rondaxe Lake, Silver Lake, and other locations from the early 1880s until the present. The exhibit includes photographs, certificates, ledgers and maps -as well as a wide assortment of custom leather & canvas/cloth mail pouches donated or on loan for the exhibit. Included in the exhibit is the story of the Railway Postal Office (RPO) – a unique contract issued to Dr. William Seward Webb & the Fulton Chain Navigation Co. in 1901 whereby an official postal clerk rode on the boats to cancel mail, sell stamps & money orders, and perform other postal duties.
Additional exhibits at the Goodsell Museum include those on Adirondack wildlife, the Goodsell Family (George Goodsell was the first ‘mayor’ of the Village of Old Forge in 1903) and the 90th Anniversary of the Thendara Golf Club. The next featured exhibition, on early medicine, will open December 1st. The Webb Historical Association maintains a regular exhibit on early local doctors which will help form the basis the of the new exhibit.
The Goodsell Museum is open year-round; there is no admission charge.
The museum is also participating in Old Forge’s “First Friday Art Walk” events by including special exhibits connecting art with historical themes. On July 1st from 5-8PM they will have one of Lottie Tuttle’s oil paintings on display. Lottie was one of the Adirondack’s first female guides, she and her husband invented the devil bug fishing lure that was manufactured in Old Forge and marketed across the United States in the early 1900’s.
On July 9th the Association will hold its 9th Annual Benefit Auction. Preview and registration starts at 1 pm, bidding at 2 pm with auctioneer June DeLair from Constableville Auction Hall. The auction is held under a tent on the Goodsell Museum grounds and will include antiques, collectibles, new and nearly new items donated from members and friends of the museum.
The Association also has other programs, workshops, and walking tours. More information can be found online or by contacting Gail Murray, Director, via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at Photo: The Steamboat Hunter – Captain Jonathan Meeker delivered mail to hotels and camps as early as 1883.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding campers, hikers and homeowners to take precautions against unwanted encounters with black bears (Ursus americanus). There are approximately 4,000 – 5,000 bears in New York’s northern bear range, primarily in the Adirondacks. Bear populations have been increasing in number and expanding in distribution over the past decade. Ten nuisance bears have been euthanize over the past two years in the Adirondacks, primarily from areas around the Fulton Chain, after be unwittingly fed by visiting campers. » Continue Reading.
Boaters on Adirondack waterways will be a lot more likely to be questioned about whether they are transporting invasive species at local boat launches this year thanks to a boost in funding for two water steward programs. The Watershed Stewardship Program at Paul Smith’s College will nearly quadruple its workforce across the central Adirondacks this year while the Lake George Association is also expanding its coverage at Lake George.
With the help of a grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Paul Smith’s stewards will help protect three major recreational areas: Saratoga Lake; the Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake region; and the Fulton Chain of Lakes in the Old Forge area. The Lake George Association’s Lake Steward Program on Lake George will also significantly expand over last year’s level thanks to new funding provided by the Lake George Park Commission. » Continue Reading.
I love fire towers – and fire wardens. They remind me of my youth and the excitement of finding a firetower and firewarden tending it, and weaving stories around the campfire about the fire warden living on the flanks of a wild mountain.
Interpreting Adirondack cultural and environmental history from a firetower is important work being undertaken by wonderful volunteers and some Forest Rangers in the Adirodnack Park. Our Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) acts in the spirit of an educational and interpretive force for the Park by participating actively in the restoration and educational use of the 20 or so firetowers in Wild Forest areas, such as the Bald Mountain Fire Tower above Old Forge and Inlet, Hadley Mountain in Saratoga County, Azure Mountain in Franklin County, Wakely Mountain firetower in Hamilton County, and many others. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 7:30pm in the Inlet Town Hall to discuss the Town’s proposed amendments to the Official Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map and provide opportunity for the public to comment on these proposals. The town’s proposals could result in a net increase of more than 1,000 buildings according to the APA. The hearing will be preceded at 6:30pm with an informal information session.
The four proposals would reclassify lands into a less restrictive classification which could potentially result in increased development in the areas under consideration. Here is the description from the APA: On June 22, 2009 the Adirondack Park Agency received a completed application from the Town of Inlet, Hamilton County to reclassify approximately 1,913 acres of land on the Official Park Map in four separate areas within the Town of Inlet. The Official Map is the document identified in Section 805 (2) (a) of the Adirondack Park Agency Act (Executive Law, Article 27), and is the primary component of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, which guides land use planning and development of private land in the Park.
Area A involves 203.4+/- acres of land along Uncas Road, between the Pigeon Lake Wilderness on the north and the Fulton Chain Wild Forest on the south. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity.
Area B involves 23.6 +/- acres of land along State Highway 28 which serves as the southwest boundary for this area. This area is adjacent to the hamlet of Inlet and positioned between County Highway 1 and Limekiln Road. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity Use.
Area C involves 1,043.7 +/- acres located along Limekiln Road which intersects with NYS Route 28, to the north, and runs south to Limekiln Lake. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Rural Use to Moderate Intensity Use.
Area D involves 642.6 +/- acres of land south of State Highway 28, which serves as the northern boundary. The area is bordered on the east by the Moose River Plains Wild Forest. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use.
Detailed information and maps related to this proposal may be viewed at the Agency’s website at: www.apa.state.ny.us/_assets/mapamendments/MA200804_DSEIS.pdf
When considering proposed map amendments the Agency must prepare a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS), hold a combined public hearing on both the proposed map amendment and the DSEIS, and incorporate all comments into a Final Supplemental Impact Environmental Statement (FSEIS). The FSEIS includes the hearing summary, public comments, and Agency staff written analysis, as finalized after the public hearing and comments are reviewed. The Agency then decides (a) whether to accept the FSEIS and (b) whether to approve the map amendment request, deny the request or approve an alternative. The Agency’s decision on a map amendment request is a legislative decision based upon the application, public comment, the DSEIS and FSEIS, and staff analysis. The public hearing is for informational purposes and is not conducted in an adversarial or quasi-judicial format.
In addition to the public hearing on August 12 at the Inlet Town Hall the Agency is accepting written comment on these proposals until September 4, 2009.
Written comments may be sent to: Matthew S. Kendall Adirondack Park Agency P.O. Box 99 Ray Brook, NY 12977
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