The Nature Conservancy has announced what it calls “a historic land agreement with New York State that supports timber industry jobs, boosts the State’s recreation and tourism economy and, at the same time, preserves 89,000 forested acres concentrated in the geographic heart of the Adirondacks.” The agreement transfers a conservation easement of commercial working forest in the Adirondacks once owned by Finch, Pruyn to New York State.
New York State paid $30 million for the conservation easement, which includes specific recreation rights to the land, with money allocated for this purpose in last year’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Twenty seven local towns where the properties lie have all approved the purchase which secures new public access to lands and waterways, including permanent snowmobile trails. The easement opens key access to the approaches to the Santanoni Range, Allen Mountain and the Hanging Spear Falls. » Continue Reading.
But for people with more than a casual interest in things Adirondack, one of the most fascinating things about Durant is his biography. A member of Harvard’s class of 1910, which also included John Reed and T.S. Eliot, he attended the Versailles peace conference as an aide to Woodrow Wilson’s envoy, Colonel House. And before retiring to Jamaica, Vermont, and devoting himself to researching the evolution of the guide-boat, he was the US bureau chief for TASS, the Soviet news agency.
I don’t know whether that was common knowledge before Durant’s death in 1972. I once asked my mother whether it would be a violation of trust to write about that aspect of his career. She advised against publishing anything locally about Kenneth’s time with TASS, on the grounds that it was not something he would have wished discussed in public. In 2003, however, Amy Godine wrote a meticulously researched article for Adirondack Life titled “The Red Woods,” about leftists with Adirondack associations, Kenneth Durant included.
Godine also wrote about my father, Rob Hall, a Daily Worker editor who left the Communist party in 1956 and moved to the Adirondacks. In last week’s post, I was somewhat disingenuous when implying that my family’s friendship with Kenneth and his wife Helen was based on a shared interest in the history of wood boats.
To be sure, my father was interested in Kenneth’s work on guide-boats, and published excerpts from the work in progress in his weekly newspapers and later in the Conservationist magazine.
Kenneth also solicited my father’s help in publicizing Tom Bissell’s fiberglass guide-boats, which Bissell manufactured in Long Lake in the early 1960s.
But my parents’ relationship with the Durants began well before they moved to the Adirondacks, and it was much more complex than most of their Adirondack friendships.
Genevieve Taggard, a poet and biographer of Emily Dickinson, was a teacher of my mother’s at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1940s; Taggard was also Kenneth’s second wife.
After my mother graduated from Sarah Lawrence, she went to work for TASS, presumably upon the advice or at least with the consent of Kenneth, who had retired from TASS in 1944.
Kenneth, in fact, became something of a paternal figure in my mother’s life, a substitute, perhaps, for her own father, who publicly disavowed her in the early 1950s.
A Cleveland manufacturer, my grandfather was serving as an assistant to Averell Harriman, Harry Truman’s Secretary of Commerce, when a midwestern Congressman revealed that the daughter of an administration official was working for TASS. My grandfather resigned and returned to Cleveland.
When my parents were married in 1950, they drove to the Durants’ home in southern Vermont for their honeymoon, listening to the Weavers’ ‘Good Night Irene’ on the car radio all the way from Washington. (Reds at the top of the pop charts! Perhaps they were on the right side of history after all.)
Thereafter, my parents spent most, if not all their holidays at the Durants’ house in Vermont, called Gilfeather after the farmer who once owned it, or in a nearby farmhouse called Potter Place, which the Durants also owned.
When, for instance, my father was covering the trial of Emmett Till’s killers in Mississippi for the Communist newspapers, my mother stayed behind at Potter Place.
By then, Genevieve Taggard had died and Kenneth had married Helen Van Dongen, celebrated in her own right as the editor of Joris Ivens’ 1936 Spanish Civil War film, The Spanish Earth.
Written and narrated by Ernest Hemingway, the film remains highly valued as a documentary about war as well as for its innovative technique.
A few years ago, in a book about American writers and the Spanish Civil War (The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos and the Murder of Jose Robles), writer Stephen Koch claimed that Joris Ivens and Helen were not independent film makers with leftist sympathies, as they represented themselves, but, rather, Soviet agents. According to Koch, their assignment was to persuade Hemingway, Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish and others to work, however inadvertently or unknowingly, for the Soviet cause.
I once asked Craig Gilborn, the former director of the Adirondack Museum who had come to know Helen well in her final years (she died in Vermont at the age of 97 in 2006), what he thought of Koch’s claims; fanciful at best, scurrilous at worst, he replied.
Why do I write about these things? In part, because I’ve always been struck by the words of a character in Russell Banks’ Adirondack novel, The Sweet Hereafter: “To love a place, you have to know it.”
Our appreciation of the Adirondacks only deepens the better we come to know the characters who have populated the region, and Kenneth Durant was a true Adirondack character.
As I noted in last week’s post, Kenneth had a legitimate claim upon the Adirondacks.
His father, Frederick C. Durant, was the developer of the Prospect House on Blue Mountain Lake, the first luxury hotel in the Adirondacks. To accommodate his own family, Durant built a camp on Forked Lake, a tributary of Racquette Lake, in the style made popular by his father’s cousin, William West Durant, which they called “Camp Cedars.”
Browsing through a Vermont antique shop a few years ago, I saw hanging near the rafters a large photo, badly framed, which the dealer had labeled, “Fisherman in rowboat on Vermont Lake.”
It was, in fact, none of those things. It was a photo of Kenneth, taken by Helen, rowing his guide-boat in Blue Mountain Lake. The photo was taken to commemorate Kenneth’s last row in the boat before donating it to the Adirondack Museum. I recognized it from the book on the guide-boat, and, needless to say, I bought it.
We’ve also had hanging in the house a large embroidered tapestry of a richly imagined Dutch village, which Helen made for us.
These things remind me how profoundly people from the past shaped us, our assumptions, our choices, our aspirations. For me, connections with those long gone are ties that bind me to the Adirondacks today.
Photos: Kenneth Durant in Vermont; Helen Van Dongen with documentary film maker Robert Flaherty, whose Louisiana Story and The Land she edited.
The New York State Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced three public hearings to discuss changes proposed for the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.
Located in the central and southwestern portion of the Adirondack Park, the Moose River Plains Wild Forest offers many year-round recreational opportunities including hiking, fishing, canoeing, skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, hunting and camping, making it an ideal destination for recreationists with varied interests and abilities. You can read more a short history of the Plains by the Almanack’s John Warren here; all our coverage is located here. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Common Ground Alliance will hold its fourth annual summer conference at the Sabattis Pavilion in Long Lake on Wednesday (July 14) in an effort to hammer out a strategy for building long-lasting, private-sector employment in the 103 towns and villages that comprise the Adirondack Park.
The Common Ground Alliance is a forum for public-private collaboration. State and local governments, nonprofit organizations, business owners, stakeholders, and residents of the Park participate as equals. The Alliance works to promote the common good of the communities, residents, and resources of the Adirondack Park, not to further specific organizational, institutional, or individual agendas. » Continue Reading.
If you ever wanted to plan a multi-day paddling trip on some of the Adirondack’s best water routes, the next few weeks are a prime time. Only fall-foliage season beats early spring for sheer perfection.
You’ve got long, sunny days. Even the most popular lakes around, such as Long and Lower Saranac lakes, are mostly free of power boats. And the bugs won’t come out in earnest for another two to three weeks.
After multiple canoe trips this time of year, I’ve found the only thing I miss are the leaves, which had not yet budded during an early-May trip to Long Lake. Having done a trip a few weeks later, where we had leaves but also black flies, I think I’d take the bare trees. However, know that even if it’s the heart of black-fly season, if temperatures are cool enough the bugs will not be a problem. » Continue Reading.
Then on Saturday, I think the Natalia Zuckerman and Andy Friedman concert looks like a very good bet. They both have strong guitar and vocal styles. I’m also intrigued by Gordon Stone‘s banjo playing – having checked some of it out on line – his music is complex and can get really exciting. If one is feeling ambitious it should be possible to catch both of those shows, missing only an hour of one.
Another thing I’ve noticed while looking around the Park schedules this week, are the number of orchestras giving performances, surely an indication of the warmer weather to come. Thursday, April 22nd:
In Saranac Lake, Open Minded Mic Night at BluSeed Studios. Sign up at 7 and starts at 7:30pm. There is a $3 cover. Fantastic audience and fantastic talent.
In Saranac Lake, “An Evening of Operetta and Broadway” will be presented by the High Peaks Opera Studio. This concert will be held at Saranac Village at Will Rogers at 7:30 pm. A donation of $5 is suggested. Call Debbie Kanze at (518) 901 – 7117 for more information.
In Saranac Lake, a new Chamber Musical “At Saranac” will be performed for the first time by Phil Greenland and Tyler Nye. The show starts at 8 pm in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory and a $5 donation is suggested. For more information, call (518) 891 – 4585.
In Lake Placid, a Open Mic will be held from 8 – 10 pm at the Cabin of The Northwoods Inn. Special guests are poets; Paul Pines and Theo Hummer. For more information call (518) 523 – 1312.
In Lake Placid, David Knopfler at LPCA. Concert starts at 8 pm and tickets are $16. Call (518) 891 – 2512 for reservations.
In Queensbury, Coffee House & Open Mic will be held at the UU’s Church on 21 Weeks Road. a $4 donation includes fruit, desserts, tea and coffee.
In Lowville, The Black River Valley Concert Series presents “Zen Is For Primates”. Doors open at 7:45 and the concert starts at 8 pm and will be held at the Lewis County Historical Society. For more information email; [email protected] .
Sunday, April 25th:
In Long Lake, the 19th Annual Spring Blossom Fiddle Jam starts back up at noon. The event is held at the Long Lake Town Hall.
In Lake George, a benefit “Spring Fling” will be held at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery. Tickets are $20, for more information call (518) 668 -2616.
In Canton, The Best of The Classics: String Orchestra will be held at the Gunnison Chapel from 2 – 3:30 pm. Free admission.
Long Lake is gearing up to host its first Antique and Classic Boat Show on Saturday, July 10th, 2010 at the Long Lake Waterfront from 10am – 5pm. With so many antique and classic wooden boats hiding along the shorelines of Long Lake a group of wooden boat aficionados have decided to showcase these treasures of yesteryear.
Organizers have scoped out a diverse group of boats including: an original 1945 Garwood, having only graced the waters of Long Lake, a 1949 Chriscraft and a 1958 Speedster. These are just a sampling of the few boats slated to be on display. Other boats on the lake that will hopefully be on scene include Chris Craft’s from 1924, 1962, 1947 as well as original handcrafted guideboats. The day’s festivities kick off at 10am and run until 5pm with a Boat Parade “at speed” leaving the town beach at 4pm. A cocktail reception and cash bar will be held at the Adirondack Hotel at 5pm and a trophy will be awarded to “Spectator’s Choice” by fans visiting and touring the boats.
Photo: The “Best Garwood” Winner at the 2007 Clayton Boat Show (Provided).
In 2010 the Adirondack Museum will celebrate the food, traditions, and recipes of Adirondack residents, visitors, sportsmen, and tourists with a new exhibition called “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.” One of the hundreds of objects featured in the exhibit is a list of supplies for a camping trip made by two New Jersey fishermen. William Pollack Meigs, Jr. and his cousin Edwin Oscar Perrin took yearly fishing trips in the Adirondacks from 1914 until 1947. Endion, on Long Lake, served as base camp. Over the years, they were accompanied by an assortment of friends and family, and left amusing handwritten accounts and photographs of their adventures. In 2009, Jonathan Murray donated his uncles’ photo album and documents to the Adirondack Museum.
Getting in and out of the woods for an extended fishing trip required careful planning. Meigs and Perrin prepared detailed lists of supplies. Food was a particular preoccupation—what to take and how much were carefully documented for each trip on the “Grub List,” which included Borden’s Milk Powder, Knorr’s Oxtail Soup, bread, chipped beef, bacon, cheese, dried apricots, onions, beans, sugar, tea, rice, prunes, oatmeal, salt, flour, dried potatoes, and—always–curry powder, whiskey, and chocolate.
The men strategically stored food and other supplies in caches along planned routes. Items in their 1946 “Calkins Cache” were “1 can beans, 1 bottle syrup…1 pt Red Eye, 1 lb Sugar—glass jar—screw top, 1 can Hygrade Sausage, 1 batch oatmeal—Tobacco tin—paraffin seal…3 lb salt—In heavy waxed cardboard…and 2 old unidentified cans paraffin sealed.”
At the end of their 1942 trip, taken with friends Ole Olsen and Albert Graff, Ed Perrin tallied up the costs for each member of the party: “You will note that the total amount paid for food was $9.17. That was the only expense we had in camp. That amounts to $2.29 per man per week, or 32 cents per day. We all agreed that we had enough grub for two weeks (or to have gotten along with half as much food), which brings the cost down to 16 cents per day per man….Actually, such a vacation is a lot less expensive than staying at home so, if business gets any worse, we will have to take a lot of trips like this just to save money.”
The men exercised some culinary imagination on that trip with ingredients on hand, making a meal of “Lobster Puree a la Calkins”:
1 can (15 ½ ) old fashioned K beans
1 fried onion
1 cup “Klim” (1/2 cup water, 4 tablespoons Borden’s Milk Powder)
2 good slices cheese, diced
1 ½ oz (about 1 jigger) Bourbon, added last
Pour on cupful [of] fried croutons
There is no record of how well this peculiar recipe tasted.
Laura Rice is Chief Curator at the Adirondack Museum. For more recipes, and Meigs and Perrin’s list, visit “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Open for the season on May 28, 2010.
Photo: “Looking crestfallen after hard day of slash thrashing and rock garden crotch splitting”: William Meigs, Edwin Perrin, Ole Olsen, Albert Graff, 1942.
Yesterday, Almanack contributor (and Adirondack Explorer editor) Phil Brown pointed out the existence of Special Management Areas at the back of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (pdf). The areas are broken into Scenic, Geographical, Historic, and Natural “Illustrative Special Interest Areas”. The historic list includes a sometimes strange selection of 14 places of special historic interest on state forest lands.
The state budget presented by Governor Paterson on Tuesday would cut 5% from New York’s Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) program to Adirondack towns and villages. Since 2005, money from AIM has been used by local governments across the state for a range of purposes including programs to consolidate government services.
Municipalities lying either wholly or partially within the Adirondack Park stand to lose a combined $123,371. Tupper Lake tops the list of communities hardest hit by cuts to AIM with combined revenue losses to village and town of $9,341. The Town of Newcomb—where the APA’s Visitor Interpretive Center is at risk, along with snowmobile trail links that depend on transfer of former Finch Pruyn land to the state—would suffer an excision of $9,149 in AIM revenues.
Communities that have recently moved to consolidate services are also among the hardest hit by the proposed AIM cuts: Harrietstown/Saranac Lake would lose $5,826; Moriah/Port Henry, $4,033; and North Elba/Lake Placid, $3,039. Long Lake completes the list of towns with the most to lose with a potential cut of $5,451. UPDATE: The town and village of Dannemora combined stand to lose $6,530 as well.
The Almanack compiled the following full list of AIM cuts to Adirondack localities (click to enlarge):
Lawrence P. Gooley has published another outstanding chronicle of Adirondack history, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow. The book chronicles the story of Garrow, an abused Dannemora child, turned thief, serial rapist and killer who admitted to seven rapes and four murders, although police believed there were many more. Among his victims were campers near Speculator where Garrow escaped a police dragnet and traveled up Route 30 through Indian Lake and Long Lake and eventually made his way to Witherbee where he was tracked down and shot in the foot. Claiming he was partially paralyzed, Garrow sued the State of New York for $10 million for negligence in his medical care. In exchange for dropping the suit, Garrow was moved to a medium security prison. He was shot and killed during a prison escape in September 1978 – he had faked his paralysis. » Continue Reading.
The towns of Newcomb, Long Lake, and Indian Lake are all developing plans to purchase parts of the Nature Conservancy’s Finch Pruyn lands according to the just-released annual report of the conservation organization’s Adirondack Chapter & Adirondack Land Trust.
Newcomb plans to purchase about 970 acres of the Finch Pruyn lands within its hamlet to expand the High Peaks Golf Course and provide housing for student teachers. Long Lake is planning the purchase of about 50 acres for a municipal well and Indian Lake is looking at the purchase of approximately 75 acres near its downtown for “community purposes,” according to the Conservancy’s annual report. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondacks have a number of remote, difficult trips suitable for either long, single-day trips or for multi-day trips. One notable trip is the Cold River, starting at Tahawus and on to Duck Hole, paddling the entire length of river down to the Raquette, and then either upstream to Long Lake or down to Axton’s Landing.
Another involves a paddle down the upper East Branch of the Oswegatchie to Inlet starting from the Lower Dam on the Bog River, up Lows Lake , and over to the Oswegatchie via Big Deer Pond. (I know of one party that got to the upper East Branch from Stillwater Reservoir and then north via Salmon, Witchhopple, and Clear Lakes.) » Continue Reading.
As summer is winding down the music scene is still hopping. This weekend the big event is the Mountain Music Meltdown. However, there are bunches of good musical events taking place all over — everything from free outdoor concerts to a documentary about the origins of the banjo — starting tonight.
Tonight at LPCA the movie Throw Down your Heart will be shown at 7:30 pm. Banjo player extraordinaire Bela Fleck took a trip through Africa to explore the origins of the banjo. Director Sascha Paladino captured the journey. Also tonight in Raquette Lake at 7 pm, Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen will be performing at St. Williams Church on Long Point. This is only accessible by boat so call (315) 354-4265 to find out how to get there. These two are wonderful musicians who’ve been performing together for years.
On Friday the 28th there will be a bagpipe and fiddle concert in Keene. This free concert will be held at The Keene Community Center Pavilion starting at 7 pm. Tim Cummings plays the pipes and Pete Sutherland plays the fiddle. Both are extremely accomplished and Keene is very lucky to have them. There will be hotdogs, hamburgers, soda and baked goods for sale starting at 6 pm. For more information about this and upcoming events check out East Branch Friends of The Arts.
So here we are, Saturday’s Mountain Music Meltdown day. The festival takes place near Saranac Lake off of Rt. 3 on the way to Bloomingdale. Featuring nine bands, this all-day event is sure to be worth the $25+ it’ll cost you to get in. Here are just a few of the acts that are going to be there; the day starts at 11 am with Roy Hurd, and ends with Leon Russell who takes the stage at 8 pm. In between you have Raisinhead and my favorite “not to be missed” act is Joe Costa and his band Kikazaru who will be playing at 2 pm. Joe is a resident of Rainbow Lake. He plays banjo and sings traditional songs with a contemporary flair. You can pick up their excellent CD at Ampersound in Saranac Lake, the only music store left in the Tri-Lakes region. If you buy the CD there not only are you giving yourself great music but you’re supporting a local business as well. Also a cool bit of local trivia is that the cover of the CD was created by resident photographer Aaron Hobson.
On Saturday at the Village Green in Jay locals Drew and Annie Sprague are giving a free concert with their friends Suave and Maddy from The Blindspots. It starts at 6:30 pm. Drew is a great guitarist and singer who’s been performing in and around the Adirondacks for years. He was with The South Catherine Street Jug Band and is now with The Stoneman Blues Band. Annie plays the violin beautifully and enhances any music project she participates in. This is a JEMS production.
Later, at the Waterhole in Saranac Lake, Mike Suave and The Blindspots ride again. Doors open at 9 pm for cocktails and the show usually starts at 10 pm. You might recognize Mike from The South Catherine Street Jug Band and The Nitecrawlers, both North Country favorites. Their female vocalist Maddy Walsh is a native of Ithaca, NY.
Open Mic at Quackenbush’s Long View Wilderness Lodge in Long Lake this Saturday starts around 8-8:30pm. This is a great opportunity to get together with musicians who live way out there and don’t usually make it in for the regular open mics in the larger towns.
Other open mic news: the open jam that I speak so highly of at The Shamrock is taking a break for the next two weeks as the Shamrock does some renovating to their kitchen. If all goes well the jam will resume on the 16th of September.
We have no set standard for musical appreciation in our family. We have always run the gamut from Broadway soundtracks to jazz, classical to rock. We are (thankfully) well past the refrains that require an “oink, oink here and an oink, oink there.” Though each childlike step through those mind numbing repetitive refrains did serve its purpose whether to learn what happens as the wheels turn on a bus or learn all the sounds the animals at Old MacDonald’s Farm.
As parents of young children we do have ultimate control of the car stereo and able to intersperse nursery rhymes with an eclectic mix of music. From The Grateful Dead to Marcia Ball and Cole Porter to Pavarotti, our kids are being exposed to a variety of musical tastes. I’ve always used music as a means to set the mood whether we are dancing around the house, quietly working or keeping the peace.
My daughter knows our wedding song while I am, much to my chagrin, prolific at singing and performing the Hannah/Miley “Hoe-down/Throw-down.” Listening to classical music is one thing but going to the opera is not an everyday occurrence for this family. Perhaps it should be.
George Cordes, an operatic bass, has performed a variety of roles while with the New York City Opera, Metropolitan Opera and other operatic companies. He will be accompanied by his wife and pianist Elizabeth as they perform at the Long Lake Town Hall at 7:00 p.m. this Saturday. The husband and wife team are of the newly formed High Peaks Opera Studio of Tupper Lake. The Cordeses will perform musical cocktail ranging from the Great American Songbook to scores from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Operettas.
Admission for the event is only $5.00 while children 12 and under are free. If the low cost doesn’t get you to come then the offer of dessert and refreshments should. My children are excited to see someone who performed on stage. I’m glad to oblige.