Posts Tagged ‘Lyon Mountain’

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dannemora Mountain and a Truckload of Carrots:Hills, Speed, and Pioneer Motorcycle, Indy Racer Ralph Hepburn

On a recent drive in Clinton County, I was reminded of a story told to me by my grandfather, James Lagree. Jim was a Churubusco farmer, but he also worked other jobs, including road construction. We both loved fishing, and in my pre-teen years, he took me to all his secret places, including Bradley Pond near Lyon Mountain. As it turned out, he had worked on construction of the Bradley Pond Road.

The conversation that day drifted to other roads, and that’s when he told me the story of a truck losing its brakes on Dannemora Mountain. It was hilarious the way he told it (he was great with jokes and embellishments), but I recently learned just how true the story was.

If you’ve ever driven east over the mountain, you’re familiar with one of the steepest roads and most dramatic speed changes in the Adirondacks. For the sake of all the strictly law-abiding drivers out there, yes, the change is technically no different from many others: a main highway (in this case, Rt. 374) enters a village, where the speed limit drops immediately to 30 mph.

But the difference is this: after a couple of curves during the brisk, mile-and-a-half descent, a final, steep, straight incline ends abruptly at the village limits. The road suddenly flattens, and perhaps not everyone has decelerated to 30 mph by that point. Add snow or ice, and you’ve got hellish road conditions.

But weather wasn’t a factor in two of the most famous incidents linked to that section of highway. One of them occurred in September 1930, when nationally renowned driver Ralph Hepburn visited the region.

Inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998, Hepburn won motorcycling championships and set records during a superb career, and then turned to automobiles. Many more records fell to his skills, and fifteen times he competed in the Indianapolis 500, never winning, but finishing second twice.

As the automobile industry flourished, racing champions were hired to promote and demonstrate the capabilities of different brands. Hepburn was employed by Studebaker in that capacity, and while touring New York State in 1930, he briefly set up headquarters at the dealership in Plattsburgh.

His highest-profile publicity stunt locally was a speedy climb up Dannemora Mountain, accompanied by two newspapermen. Despite the curves, he reached the summit while maintaining the astonishing speed of 50 mph. That was more than eighty years ago, when cars were in their infancy, and I can guarantee, I’ve been stuck going up that grade behind cars that were going much slower.

And consider this: when Hepburn did it, the road surface was composed of dirt and gravel, hardly conducive to high speeds and good traction.

Hepburn made a second run that day, carrying six passengers (some of them on the running boards, which must have been quite the rush). Carrying nearly 1300 pounds, the Studebaker crested the mountain at 41 mph. It was typical of Hepburn’s flare for the dramatic.

After the Dannemora exhibition, he continued promoting and racing for many years. Hepburn died doing what he loved (he was killed during qualifying practice for the 1948 Indy 500, a race he is famed for having led in three different decades―1925, 1937, and 1946).

The second famous incident on that notorious section of Dannemora highway occurred in October 1939. It began when a produce truck, driven by William Coryea of Malone, suffered brake failure while heading down the mountain. The road had been rebuilt with concrete several years earlier, which meant better tire grip and a smoother ride. To a freewheeling vehicle without brakes, it also meant greater velocity.

When Coryea reached the base of the mountain road, his speed was estimated at 60 mph. With the weight of 150 bushels of carrots on board, the truck was sure to coast for some distance. Stopping it would not be easy.

Racing through the village could have been disastrous, and Coryea had little time to think. After about three-tenths of a mile, near the gates of Dannemora Prison, he solidly sideswiped a moving car, and then another, sending carrots flying into the streets.

But the truck slowed only a little, and people were in danger. Coryea then hit a bread truck and two more parked cars. Bread products and carrots scattered everywhere while vehicles bounced aside, but still the truck kept rolling.

Finally, it slowed enough for Coryea to whip sharply onto a side street, where he drove the truck into a brick wall at the back of Lafountain’s store. The reason, as he later told police, was to avoid hitting any more vehicles. It’s amazing that through it all, there were no injuries.

I don’t know if my grandfather actually witnessed the aftermath, and although he was quite the storyteller, it doesn’t seem like he embellished it much after all. The crushed cars, with food scattered everywhere, and nobody hurt, were actually elements of the true story. Unlike many other Dannemora accidents on that stretch of highway, it thankfully lacked tragedy, and has been looked back upon with at least some amusement.

Photos: Ralph Hepburn (courtesy wikipedia); the maps shows Rt. 374 entering at the upper right and plunging into the village on the far left. Clinton Prison is at the bottom left.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Adirondack Mining: George Davies’ Lyon Mountain Stories

Last week’s subject, iron miner George Davies (1892–1983) of Standish and Lyon Mountain, was a kindly gentleman with a powerful work ethic and a can-do, pioneer spirit. Interviews with him in 1981 were key to my second book, Lyon Mountain: The Tragedy of a Mining Town (a convenient plug for the 4th printing, which will be available from Bloated Toe Publishing and The North Country Store in mid-November). Humble and matter of fact, he shared recollections from nearly 80 years earlier.

At one time, Lyon Mountain had a large Swedish population [there is still a section of town referred to as Sweden]. George recalled the great strength and toughness of one of their number who worked at the Standish furnace. “It’s quite a job carrying that pig iron, you know. It [the molten iron] ran down like water, and they had to let it cool, and then throw sand on it. They’d walk on there with wooden shoes with big thick soles and break the iron up with a bar. It’s a pretty hard job, I’ll tell you.

“They had a big Swede come here. He weighed about 225 or 230 when he came here. He used to break the iron. They’d go down to the trestle, and throw them over the trestle. They had a V-block down below, and when it hit that, it would break it right in two. They used to wear a hand leather so that the iron wouldn’t cut their hands up.

“That big Swede, he had what they call a ‘double pig.’ It was two of them together [130 pounds], and when he went to throw it, it caught in his hand leather and it pulled him right over. He struck headfirst into the pile of iron that was sticking up. Well, I came along there and I picked him out of the iron. ‘Aw,’ he said, ‘I guess I’m not hurt much,’ and he was rubbing his head.

“He just had a suit of overalls on and a shirt, and the blood was running out of his pants leg. I said ‘You’re hurt all right,’ and he rubbed the back of his head some more and said ‘I’m not hurt much.’ Well, I took him over to the office and they took him to Plattsburgh, and found out that his skull was fractured [a story I later verified in newspaper accounts].

“That fellow drank a couple of quarts of liquor a day, and you’d never have known he was drinking. He was about six feet six inches tall. He didn’t die from that accident. He was so strong. They used to load the iron by hand at what they called the wharf. It was piled up like cordwood, you know. He carried 106 tons of iron in one day, and he got six cents a ton for carrying it.

“His first name was Nels [Nelson Holt]. He only weighed about one hundred pounds when he died, and he was still carrying iron just before he died. He used to work in the cast house, and I’d see him go down to break a cast of maybe thirty or forty tons, red hot with sand on it.

“I’d see him take a half-pint of liquor and drink it right down. He’d go ahead and break the cast, and you’d never know he’d had a drink. He died because his liver went all to pieces from the liquor. He was a powerful man, but the liquor got the best of him.”

Sudden violence struck the mines almost on a daily basis. More than 160 miners died in mining accidents, but hundreds more suffered terrible, often crippling, injuries. Much of it was connected to workers’ ignorance of the dangers at hand. George: “There were several boarders in town. One time there were three Polish fellows boarding at one place, and they all got killed at the same time. [They died in 1930 in a massive dynamite explosion, one of the few accidents that was never solved.]

“Well, you know, those Polish people came here, and they didn’t know what the mines were in the first place. I remember one time, they used to put the powder [dynamite] together with the caps up on top and then send it down. They weren’t supposed to do it, but they did it anyhow. One fellow saw the stick of dynamite there. He held the stick in his hand and lit the fuse. Well, he didn’t have to let go of it, because when it went off, his hand went with it. It blew half of his hip off at the same time, just because he didn’t know any better.”

George described another accident that is still recalled by some in the village. “One fellow used to be a foreman, and he used to repair the train cars. One end of a car was all bent, and he wanted to straighten it up, so he said to a worker ‘Get a block, hold it against that spot, and I’ll bump it with the electric motor.’ The guy wouldn’t do it, so he went and got the block, and he got somebody to hold it. He was going to give it a hard bump with the motor.

“When he bumped it, the block came right inside the cab where he was working and took his leg right off. He did survive, and he got some money out of it, but he also got a wooden leg out of it. Cliff Cayea was the guy’s name. He’s lucky that he wasn’t killed. [Remarkably, Cayea was 62 years old when the accident occurred in late September 1966, less than a year before the mines closed for good.]

George and many others like him offered hours of candid recollections about life in the mines and in Lyon Mountain village, all of it important to regional history. Besides the books (including Out of the Darkness: In Memory of Lyon Mountain’s Iron Men) on the town’s amazing story, more can be learned by visiting the Lyon Mountain Mining & Railroad Museum. Housed in the former railroad depot building, it is operated by volunteers from June to early October. Look for it again in 2011. It’s well worth the trip.

Photo Top: The furnace at Standish (1930s).

Photo Middle: Rows of pig iron similar to those at Standish (Canadian archives photo taken at Midland, Ontario, 1900).

Photo Bottom: Lyon Mountain village in the 1940s, with company row-houses, main operations, and mountains of ore tailings.

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. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Travails of Lyon Mountain Miner George Davies

The subject of tough ol’ Adirondackers came up recently when I was reworking material for the fourth printing of a book I did in 2004—Lyon Mountain: The Tragedy of a Mining Town. The soul of that book is a series of interviews I conducted around 1980 with a number of folks who were in their 80s and 90s. George Davies (1892–1983) of Standish was among them.

George was a good man. The stories he told me seemed far-fetched at first, but follow-up research in microfilm archives left me amazed at his accuracy recounting events of the early 1900s. His truthfulness was confirmed in articles on items like strikes, riots, injuries, and deaths.

When I last interviewed George in 1981 (he was 88), he proudly showed me a photograph of himself as Machine Shop Supervisor in the iron mines, accepting a prestigious award for safety. I laughed so hard I almost cried as he described the scene. George, you see, had to hold the award just so, hiding the fact that he had far fewer than his originally allotted ten fingers. He figured it wouldn’t look right to reveal his stubs cradling a safety plaque.

In matter-of-fact fashion, he proceeded to tell me what happened. Taken from the book, here are snippets from our conversation as tape recorded in 1981: “I lost one full finger and half of another in a machine, but I still took my early March trapping run to the Springs. I had a camp six miles up the Owl’s Head Road. While I was out there, I slipped in the water and nearly froze the hand. I had to remove the bandages to thaw out my hand, and I was all alone, of course. It was just something I had to do to survive.

“When I lost the end of my second finger in an accident at work, I was back on the job in forty-five minutes. Another time I was hit on the head by a lever on a crane. It knocked me senseless for ten minutes. When I woke up, I went back to work within a few minutes. [George also pointed out that, in those days, there was no sick time, no vacation time, and no holidays. The union was still three decades away, and the furnace’s schedule ran around the clock.]

“When I started working down here, the work day was twelve hours per day, seven days a week, and the pay was $1.80 per day for twelve hours [fifteen cents per hour] around the year 1910. That was poor money back then. When they gave you a raise, it was only one or two cents an hour, and they didn’t give them very often.

“In one month of January I had thirty-nine of the twelve-hour shifts. You had to work thirty-six hours to put an extra shift in, and you still got the fourteen or fifteen cents per hour. It was pretty rough going, but everybody lived through it. Some people did all right back then. Of course, it wasn’t a dollar and a half for cigarettes back then [remember, this was recorded in 1981].

“Two fellows took sick at the same time, two engineers that ran the switches. They sent me out to work, and I worked sixty hours without coming home. Then the boss came out to run it and I went and slept for twelve hours. Then I returned for a thirty-six hour shift. No overtime pay, just the rate of twenty-five cents per hour.” Now THAT’s Lyon Mountain toughness.

The tough man had also been a tough kid. “When I was thirteen years old, I worked cleaning bricks from the kilns at one dollar for one thousand. On July 3rd, 1907, when I was fifteen, I accidentally shot myself in the leg. I stayed in Standish that night, and on the next day I walked to Lyon Mountain, about three miles of rough walking.”

His father was in charge of repairing the trains, and young George climbed aboard as often as he could. “I was running those engines when I was sixteen years old, all alone, and I didn’t even have a fireman. I always wanted to be on the railroad, but I had the pleasure of losing an eye when I was nine years old. I was chopping wood and a stick flew up and hit me in the eye.

“I pulled it out, and I could see all right for a while. Not long after, I lost sight in it. The stick had cut the eyeball and the pupil, and a cataract or something ruined my eye. The doctor wanted to take the eye out, but I’ve still got it. And that’s what kept me off of the railroad. That was seventy-nine years ago, in 1901.”

Next week: A few of George Davies’ remarkable acquaintances.

Photo Top: George Davies.

Photo Middle: A Main Drift in the Lyon Mountain iron mines, 1933.

Photo Bottom: Aerial view of Lyon Mountain’s iron mining operations, with several piles of ore tailings.

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. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, May 31, 2010

1963: A North Country Racehorse Makes Good

In honor of the Belmont Stakes being run this weekend, here’s an item from 1963, when a horse whose name had North Country ties nearly won the coveted Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont). Any idea what the horse’s name was?

The owner was John W. Galbreath, well known nationally, and a frequent visitor to the Adirondacks. While his wealth was notable, it was in the world of sports that Galbreath earned his greatest fame. He owned baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates from 1946–1985 (one of his partners was Bing Crosby), winning the World Series in 1960, 1971, and 1979. He was also a graduate of Ohio State and a longtime supporter of the school’s athletic program, one of the most successful in the nation.

Like Donald Trump did in more recent times, Galbreath became fabulously wealthy as a real estate developer, owning major properties in Columbus, Los Angeles, New York, and Pittsburgh. In 1986, the family fortune was estimated at $400 million.

Despite his substantial fame in baseball and real estate, Galbreath’s favorite subject was horseracing. Perhaps the name of his birthplace (in 1897) was a good omen for a future in the sport: he was born in Derby, Ohio.

Among other things, Galbreath’s great wealth allowed him to indulge his passion. He became involved in horse racing in the 1930s, eventually serving as chairman of Churchill Downs in Louisville (where the Kentucky Derby is run). Near Columbus, Ohio, he developed the famed Darby Dan Farm into a 4,000-acre spread, producing many outstanding racehorses.

He had never won the Kentucky Derby, a goal of all major owners, and in 1963, none of Galbreath’s horses seemed particularly promising. Then, shortly before the Derby, one of his colts captured three straight races, including the Blue Grass Stakes. Suddenly, anything was possible.

The horse’s name was Chateaugay, and despite the sudden success, most of the hype went to several other competitors prior to the Triple Crown races. Never Bend was the leading money-winner, and Candy Spots and No Robbery were the first undefeated horses to face off in the Derby in 88 years. In front of 120,000 fans at the Kentucky Derby, Galbreath’s favorite horse went off at 9-1 odds. There appeared to be little chance for success.

After running at mid-pack for much of the race, Chateaugay moved up to fourth. Near the final stretch, future-hall-of-fame-jockey Braulio Baeza steered his horse through an opening to the inside, where Chateaugay strode to the front, topping all the pre-race stars to win by 1¼ lengths.

In race number two, the Preakness, the same strategy was employed. This time, Chateaugay came roaring to the front but fell just short, finishing 3½ lengths behind winner Candy Spots. In the Belmont, the results were very similar to the Preakness, but this time, Chateaugay’s charge to the lead was successful, overtaking Candy Spots to win by 2½ lengths.

Only a close loss at the Preakness prevented Chateaugay from winning the Triple Crown, but Galbreath’s colt had proven nevertheless to be a great racehorse.

During this time, the excitement in the North Country was fairly palpable, especially in the town of Chateaugay (in the northeast corner of Franklin County). Many were fervent supporters of Galbreath and his horse, and the famed owner expressed his appreciation in a letter that appeared in local newspapers:

Dear Mr. Peacock:

It was certainly nice of you to write me a letter about Chateaugay winning the Kentucky Derby. Several people have asked me how we happened to name this horse as we did.

As you perhaps know, we have some interest in Lyon Mountain and Mineville, New York [the iron mines], and while I was up there several years ago, I saw the name Chateaugay. I made the remark at the time that I thought it was a pretty name for a town, and also thought it would be a good name for a horse.

Since Chateaugay’s older sister, Primonetta, was our best filly to date, we naturally hoped this colt would be a good one, and for that reason, we applied the name to him.

It has been very gratifying indeed to have so many nice letters from people of your town, and I hope you will thank the members of the Chamber of Commerce for their nice telegram which they sent under your name last week. I am going to have some pictures made just as soon as we receive the proofs, and I will eventually send you a picture which you can use for publishing in the paper.

Thank you again for your nice letter and wire.

Sincerely yours,


John W. Galbreath

In honor of the victory, Galbreath named one of Darby Dan’s buildings “Gay Chateau” (well before a new meaning entered the vernacular).

A few years after winning the Derby, Chateaugay was retired to stud service, first at Darby Dan Farm, and later in Japan after his sale to racing interests there. He died in 1985.

Galbreath died in 1988 at the age of 90. Besides a grand legacy in the sporting world, he left behind the John W. Galbreath Company, America’s third-largest real estate developer. A second Darby Dan horse, Proud Clarion, won the Derby in 1967, but it was Chateaugay who first made Galbreath’s long-held dream a reality.

Photo Above: Chateaugay after winning the Kentucky Derby.

Photo Below: Chateaugay after winning the Belmont Stakes.

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, May 24, 2010

Commentary: On Towers in Wilderness Areas

This month the Adirondack Park Agency board authorized its staff to solicit public comment on proposals to save the fire tower on Hurricane Mountain through a bit of legal legerdemain.

I understand the board’s motivation: the public wants the tower to stay. This has been amply demonstrated in letters, petitions, and comments at hearings.

But the solutions on the table are intellectually dishonest and make a mockery of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Phil Brown: Facts of The Domtar-Nature Conservancy Deal

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into the state’s purchase of Lyon Mountain and nearby lands from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy stems from a perception—fostered by the New York Post—that the state overpaid for the property.

It’s easy to see how suspicions might arise. The Nature Conservancy paid $6.3 million for the twenty thousand acres in 2004 and sold it to the state four years later for $9.8 million.

A $3.5 million profit, right?

Well, not so fast. The conservancy says it spent $3.4 million in taxes, interest, and other “carrying costs.” If these are taken into account, the organization made only $100,000 on the deal.

Nevertheless, the conservancy says the state did not factor the carrying costs into the purchase price. Yet Fred Monroe, executive director of the Local Government Review Board, is not so sure. It was Monroe who tipped off the Post to the story.

In an interview with the Adirondack Explorer last week, Monroe suggested that the state could have inflated the price without the conservancy’s knowledge, out of a sense of obligation to its partner in land preservation.

Of course, this would require that one or more of the state’s appraisers were in on the fix. But perhaps it needn’t have been an outright conspiracy. Appraising is not an exact science. As Monroe notes, an appraiser can place an estimate on the low end or high end of a range in accord with his client’s interest. Thus, the appraiser for the homeowner is likely to come up with a higher appraisal for a house than the appraiser for the potential buyer.

The difference in the Nature Conservancy deal is that the buyer (the state) presumably wanted a high appraisal.

If we accept all this, there is still a problem with Monroe’s theory.

As it turns out, the conservancy says it hired Fountain Forestry to appraise the twenty thousand acres in 2004. Since the conservancy was buying the property, we can assume, following Monroe’s own logic, that the appraiser would low-ball the estimate.

Fountain’s appraisal: $9.1 million.

That’s $300,000 higher than LandVest, one of the appraisers hired by the state, valued the property in 2008, four years later. The state’s other appraiser, the Sewall Company, applied different criteria and came up with an estimate of $11 million—or $1.2 million more than the state ended up paying.

So we have three professional appraisals from private companies, ranging from $8.8 million to $11 million.

What’s more, an expert in the state Department of Environmental Conservation critiqued the LandVest and Sewall appraisals and came up with his own estimate of the land’s value: $9.5 million. Then a second DEC expert reviewed the two companies’ appraisals again and his colleague’s critique and came up with yet another estimate: $9.8 million. This is what the state paid.

That gives us five appraisals. The purchase price, though based on the fourth-highest appraisal, falls in the middle of the range.

The question remains: if the property was appraised at $9.1 million in 2004, why did the Nature Conservancy pay only $6.3 million?

There is a simple explanation. The appraisal looked at the property in isolation. In fact, the Nature Conservancy acquired the land as part of a three-way transaction involving 104,000 acres owned by Domtar Industries. The conservancy bought twenty thousand acres, and Lyme Timber bought the rest. Given the scale of the transaction, the conservancy was able to negotiate a lower price—a wholesale price, if you will.

Furthermore, Domtar and Lyme might have been willing to cut the conservancy a good deal as a reward for brokering the transaction.

The New York Post story
that prompted Cuomo’s inquiry didn’t delve into any of these details. It merely assumed, based on the difference between the two selling prices, that the conservancy pocketed a huge profit at taxpayer expense.

The Post‘s assumption seems overly simplistic. Nevertheless, we now have a state investigation. Of course, it will be the taxpayers who will be paying for that.

Photo from Lyon Mountain’s summit taken by Phil Brown.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adirondack Bracket 2010: The Round of Sixteen (UPDATE)

Adirondack Bracket fans, welcome to the Benzene-Toluene-Ephedrine-Iodine-Phenylpropanolamine-Crystal methamphetamine-Sweet-Sixteen. The field is narrowing and the narrative is coming into focus. Chris Kowanko, the Renderer bros. and the whole crowd at Upper Jay Upholstery and Furniture —home to the Recovery Lounge—got the stuffing knocked out of them by a handful of bad mushrooms. They could have benefitted from a class in basic mycology. The mushrooms now face pond hockey, which put those cougar sightings on ice, and is said to be making a real comeback (beats waiting for the peewees to clear out of the rink).

The town of Black Brook, coached by Howard Aubin and LeRoy Douglas, displayed their unique style of environmental sensitivity with a proper burial of Jenks swamp, the state-protected wetland bisected by the Adirondack Northway, that nobody in their right mind would have built on anyway. Their pep squad of attorneys chanted from the sidelines, “make a federal case out of it!”

UPDATE: Black Brook now faces an equally potent wetlands menace in Triclopyr. This APA-sanctioned herbicide will be applied to Eurasian watermilfoil beds in Lake Luzerne. The public has been assured that this chemical will not harm grasses in areas where the lake water is used for irrigation. Studies have yet to be conducted, however, on its effect on municipal commitment to preventing invasive species from entering our lakes in the first place. One thing is for certain, however, in the Adirondack Bracket, it proved toxic to frankenpines. Strong stuff.

The lower left regionals witnessed an upset in the contest between birders and—the latest salvation of struggling hamlet economies and declining school populations—broadband. The unexpected outcome of this mismatch between fast and powerful telecommunications and what by any measure must be considered a rag-tag (though incredibly patient) bunch, turned on a simple miscommunication. The birders turned out in vast numbers, flocking to the Bloomingdale Bog, expecting to catch a rare glimpse of the broadbanded boobyhatch. Their tweets alone crashed the fledgling broadband network.

Birdiers go on to face the very ostrich-like John Brown. The martyr of Harper’s Ferry, perhaps boosted by a New York Senate reprieve on the possible closure of his Historic State Park, took 2009 Final Four contender Northville-Placid Trail in stride on his way home to the Plains of Abraham.

The second match-up in this region features the enduring pate-fluff of the Adirondack high peaks, Krumholtz and Cairns (not to be confused with the legal firm, Crumhorn and Korn) who were just too much for some of this area’s art centers to surmount.

They will face the legendary Yellow-Yellow, vanquisher of bear-proof canisters, and most recently of Moriah Shock and Lyon Mountain correctional facilities. In fairness to Moriah Shock and Lyon Mountain, they were both put on New York State Senate’s endangered species list before being devoured.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Nature Conservancy, State Finalize Domtar Lands

The Domtar land purchase – now known as Sable Highlands and located in Franklin and Clinton Counties near Lyon Mountain – has been finalized with the protection of 104,000 acres, an area seven times the size of Manhattan. New York State purchased a conservation easement from the Lyme Timber Company on December 24, 2008 and that transaction ended four years of efforts to preserve the acreage once owned by Domtar Industries in the northeastern corner of the Adirondacks.

In addition to the continuation of sustainable forestry, the conservation easement also includes access to nearly 30,000 acres that have been off-limits to the public for decades, including Sugarloaf Mountain, the Norton and Plumadore Ranges, and Barnes, Grass, Figure Eight, and Fish Hole Ponds. Combined with the 20,000 acres of new state lands, the public now has access to about 50,000 acres in a part of the park that has had limited opportunities for public recreation in the past. The Sable Highlands includes 220 miles of permanent and seasonal streams, 2,600 acres of wetlands, and 20 lakes and ponds in the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain drainages. Among the lands protected in the Domtar deal are Lyon Mountain (14,400-acre habitat for Bicknell’s thrush), Ellenburg Mountain (1,700-acre tract of roadless forest that adjoining 7,100 acres of Forest Preserve lands), Whistle Pond / Keniston Meadows (920-acre tract adjoining existing state Forest Preserve), and East Chazy Lake.

In December of 2004, Domtar sold all of its Adirondack holdings in Clinton and Franklin Counties to the Lyme Timber Company and The Nature Conservancy. Working in partnership with Lyme, the Conservancy, and local community leaders, New York State has now fulfilled an agreement to secure the permanent protection of those properties.

A few months ago, the state made an outright purchase of 20,000 acres as new public lands from The Nature Conservancy. The purchases help foster the Adirondack Park’s role as a conservation model for the world and is another important investment in the local forest products industry. Last week, the state purchased a conservation easement to protect 84,000 acres owned by Lyme Timber. This “working forest” easement promotes sustainable forest management and timber harvesting, restricts residential development and subdivision, and creates a balance of public recreational access and continued private recreational leasing on the property.

The recent state expenditures were previously budgeted to the Environmental Protection Fund from money provided primarily from a real estate transfer tax. Private contribution to The Nature Conservancy’s Sable Highlands Campaign since 2004 totaled some $4 million and also helped to offset the overall costs of conservation.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Trail Cut on Lyon Mountain

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Professional Trail Crew has completed work on a new hiking trail to the 3,830-foot summit of Lyon Mountain, one of the most popular hiking destinations in the northern Adirondacks.

Lyon Mountain, an isolated peak just west of Chazy Lake in Clinton County, features a fire tower and a spectacular, 360-degree view. On a clear day, hikers can enjoy views of the skyscrapers of Montreal to the north, the Adirondack High Peaks to the south and Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east.

The old, 2.5 mile Lyon Mountain Trail was very steep and difficult. It was also vulnerable to erosion. ADK’s Professional Trail Crew recently completed work cutting a new 3.5 mile trail that takes a more leisurely route, incorporating 11 switchbacks in some of the steepest sections. Two new bridges were also constructed. The new trail section provides a more scenic walk and passes many exposed bedrock outcrops.

The trail took the crew, which averaged five members, 10 weeks to complete. It was the longest trail that the Professional Trail Crew has built since it was created in 1979, Lampman said. ADK’s Professional Trail Crew builds and maintains backcountry hiking trails in the Adirondacks, Catskills and other wild areas of New York under a $217,500 contract with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Scouting and design of the new trail were completed in 2006 with funding from ADK’s Algonquin Chapter.

Lyon Mountain is on property owned by The Nature Conservancy, which eventually plans to sell it to New York state. The trail is currently not marked, but is easy to follow, and there are signs indicating the beginning and end of the trail.

To get to the trailhead from the Northway Exit 38N, take state Route 374 west 23.2 miles to Chazy Lake Road (County Route 8). Drive south 1.8 miles on Chazy Lake Road to an unnamed gravel road on the right. At the beginning of the gravel road is a black and white sign indicating it is a seasonal, limited-use highway with no maintenance from Nov. 1 – May 1. Follow the gravel road about a mile to the parking area.