Parks & Trails New York, an Albany-based advocacy group, has joined an effort to develop a rail-trail between North Creek and Tahawus.
The group Friends of the Upper Hudson, which seeks to build a 29-mile multi-use trail along an old railroad bed, recently announced the partnership. Parks & Trails will provide help with technical issues, planning, public outreach, grant writing, fundraising and other activities. The trail would follow the railway formerly used to haul ore from the NL Industries mine, passing through the towns of Johnsburg, Indian Lake, Minerva and Newcomb. The trail would provide easy access to the scenic Upper Hudson and Boreas Rivers, as well as a dramatic crossing of the Hudson over a long trestle.
When complete, the trail could lure tens of thousands of users to a part of the Adirondacks that is not visited by many hikers. But there are concerns about the project. First is the cost, estimated at $4.4 million for a stone-dust trail, or $7.3 million for paved. And there are also access questions, as the right-of-way (across both private and state land) will expire with the removal of the tracks. However, backers say a federal law to encourage the reuse of rail beds may solve the complicated land issue.
The project backers have completed a feasibility study and are working with partners to acquire and preserve the corridor for trail use.
Trains haven’t run on this section of rail for decades. To the south, a tourist line called The Upper Hudson Scenic Railroad operates in warmer weather on the same line between North Creek and Riparius. That railroad faces an uncertain future: the section is owned by Warren County, which is seeking proposals from new operators for a scenic railroad. The rail-trail would ave no impact on the tourist line.
The Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail maintain a website here. To find out more about the Healthy Trails, Healthy People program, contact Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or [email protected] or visit the Parks & Trails New York website here.
I was a Stumpy – a student at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry. While an undergrad, I was enrolled in the Dual Program: Resource Management (forestry) and Environmental and Forest Biology. A required course for forestry majors, as you might well imagine, was dendrology, or the study of trees, and a huge part of dendro was simply learning to identify one species of tree from the next.
Looking back at my dendro class through the lens of time, I am constantly amazed at how difficult I found tree ID. The tree that gave me the worst trouble was the black cherry, which today I could almost identify blindfolded, standing on one foot, and with both hands tied behind my back. I suspect it was the leaves. When most people learn to identify trees, they try to learn the leaves, but for the novice, one lobed leaf looks much the same as the next. Red maple or sugar? Maybe it’s striped maple? A serrated, or toothed, leaf looks like any other serrated (or toothed) leaf. Aspen? Cottonwood? Elm? Hophornbeam? Birch? And then what do you do when fall has wreaked its havoc on the trees, leaving the forest naked? How in the world are you supposed to know which tree is which now?
Over the years I have refined my tree ID skills, and today when I teach tree ID, I may touch on leaf shape and form, but I spend more time looking at those parts of the tree that are visible year round: the bark and branches. In fact, I’ve boiled the whole subject down to a series of simple questions that even kids as young as ten are able to follow.
First, take a look at your tree. Is it a conifer (does it have needles) or a hardwood (does it loose its leaves in the fall)? If it is a conifer, we next address the needles and bark. Do the needles turn yellow and fall off in the fall (larch)? Does the bark have blisters that ooze a sticky aromatic resin when punctured (balsam fir)? Are the needles attached to the tree via small “pegs” (spruces)? Maybe the needles flattened and scale-like and the bark looks like a cat’s been using it for a scratching post – that would be a cedar. If you crush the cedar’s needles, they have a beautiful citrus-y scent that is very distinctive.
If said tree is not a conifer, it must be a hardwood (or deciduous). So we look at how the branches are arranged on the tree: are they opposite (like my arms) or do they alternate (like my left arm and right leg)? Very few species of trees here in the northeast have opposite branching, and they are easily remembered by recalling the phrase MAD Cap Horse. MAD stands for Maple, Ash, Dogwood; Cap refers to the family Caprifoliaceae, which are the honeysuckles; Horse is simply horsechestnut. Since honeysuckles are really more shrub-like than tree-like, I usually ignore them as a category. Here in the central Adirondacks we don’t have horsechestnuts, so I delete them as well. This leaves us with MAD.
Around Newcomb, we have only a few species that we can squeeze into the MAD classification. Maples: red, sugar and striped. Ash: white. Dogwood: grey-stemmed, red-osier, alternate leafed.
The dogwoods we have up here are pretty small trees, barely more than shrubs. Their buds look like onions, or the domes of eastern orthodox churches seen in photos from Russia and the Ukraine (well, sort of; flowering dogwood, which we don’t have, has onion-shaped buds, and red-osier sort of does; with a little imagination, so does the grey-stemmed). If you take a look at their leaves, the veins are curved, or arched (arcuate). But if you’re standing in the woods craning your neck upwards to figure out what the leaves look like, you aren’t looking at a dogwood, and so, like the honeysuckles, we can easily eliminate dogwoods from consideration.
The process of elimination as brought our opposite-branched trees down to two possibilities: maples and ashes. If the leaves are still on the tree, and you can see them, this can be a clue. Ashes have compound leaves: each leaf is composed of multiple leaflets. Maples have simple leaves with three to five lobes. But suppose the leaves have fallen off and all you can see is the bark. Not a problem. Take a good close look. Feel the bark. Is it kind of corky? Can you easily stick your thumbnail into it? Does it look like many small ridges that weave in and out of each other? If so, you are looking at the white ash, the tree that sportsmen love, for its wood has been the primary source of such sports equipment as tennis rackets and baseball bats.
But suppose it’s not a white ash that you are staring at. If the branches are opposite, and you’ve eliminated all but the maples, then it must be a maple. Striped maple is easy to identify, for it rarely gets larger than three or four inches in diameter. I’ve seen some specimens that push a six inch dbh (diameter at breast height, which is measured at 4.5 ft. above the ground), but they are not common. Striped maple, true to its name, has white-ish stripes on its smooth greenish bark. Its leaves are large and look a lot like goose feet.
Red maple, well, that’s a tree that likes to have its feet wet. If you are in a lowland area, near a marsh or other wetland, and you see a tree with opposite branching, it is likely a red maple. Its leaves, if you can find one, have three distinctive lobes, all with sharply pointed teeth. The sinuses, or dips between the lobes, are also pointy, forming a nice sharp “v”.
Sugar maple, that tree adored by leaf peepers and pancake-lovers alike, prefers to live on rocky slopes, with its feet away from the water. The bark on a mature specimen is pale grey and kind of looks like it is made from plate armor (sometimes you need to apply a little imagination). Some of the sides of the plates may be peeled away from the trunk of the tree. If you find a leaf still attached to the tree, you will note that it has five lobes, and instead of sharp pointy teeth, it has gentle swoops. The sinuses between the lobes are u-shaped, as opposed to the v-shape of the red maples.
When it comes to the trees that are alternately branched, we are facing a larger selection of species, and I’ll write about them next time. In the meantime, take the information I’ve given you here, grab a kid or two, and head out into your yard. See if you can find some trees with opposite branches and try your hand at identifying them. The next time you go for a hike, see how many opposites you can find. Do they like each other’s company? Can you ferret out other clues that you can add to your ID arsenal?
Once you start to recognize tree species, you will begin to notice other plants (and animals) that associate with them. Forest communities will become apparent. Before you know it, the trees of the forest will seem like old friends, familiar faces you can recognize in any crowd, and I find that hiking with friends makes being outside that much more pleasurable. Perhaps you will, too.
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.
Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, has been rallying support from around the world to call for a fair global climate treaty. Wildlife biologist Al Hicks trying to prevent the extinction of bats in the Northeast. McKibben (left) will be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust on Saturday, August 15, at the Newcomb Central School in Newcomb, NY. Hicks’s lecture, The End of Bats in the Northeast?, is one of three field trip/educational opportunities being offered before the meeting formally kicks off at 1:00. The event is free and open to the public. Participants are asked to register in advance. McKibben is founder of 350.org, which according to the website, “is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis–the solutions that justice demand.” Their stated mission is to”inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis–to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.” The number 350 refers to parts per million, and represents the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.
The meeting will also feature a conservation update from Michael Carr, delivering the latest news on historic land protection projects involving the former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands and the Follensby Pond tract—175,600 acres in all. Attendees will find out how sustainable forestry fits into part of the conservation plan.
At 11:00 a.m. in the Newcomb Central School Auditorium, state wildlife biologist Al Hicks will give an up-to-the-minute account of “white-nose syndrome,” a mysterious affliction causing bat populations in the Adirondacks and at least nine northeastern states to plummet. Hundreds of thousands of bats, including animals from well-established colonies in the Adirondacks, have already died. Hicks has been on the frontlines of this environmental crisis since the outbreak was first discovered in 2007.
Participants should plan to arrive around noon for the annual meeting, or before 11:00 a.m. to attend the special lecture. Bring a bag lunch or call ahead to reserve an $8 lunch from Newcomb Central School students raising money for their trip abroad.
To register for this event, reserve a bag lunch, or obtain more information, contact Erin Walkow at (518) 576 – 2082 x133 or [email protected]
The history and culture of rocks in the Adirondack Mountains will be celebrated on Saturday, August 15 during the second annual geology festival, Rock Fest 2009, from 10am to 4pm at the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb. The VIC staff has teamed up with the Adirondack Museum and SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center to present lectures, field trips, exhibits, and children’s activities. Free and open to the public, Rock Fest was designed to be a day-long exploration to increase appreciation and understanding of regional geology. Exhibits and lectures at Rock Fest will focus on the geological history of the Adirondack Mountains and man’s relationship with natural resources of the Adirondack Park. Mining history will be presented by Adirondack Museum educators.
Here are the Rock Fest 2009 lectures and field trips:
10am Lecture: Adirondacks- Geology in the Park, with William Kelly, State Geologist, NYS Geological Survey
10:30am Lecture: Rocks as Resource with Steve Potter, Division of Mineral Resources, NYS DEC
11:15am-12:30pm Field Trip: Rocks in Place, with William Kelly and Steve Potter
1:15pm-2:15pm Lecture: Out of the Earth: Mining History of the Adirondacks, with Christine Campeau, Adirondack Museum
2:15pm Field Trip: Of Mines and Men: The McIntyre and Tahawus Mines, with Paul B. Hai, SUNY-ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center
Exhibitors (10am to 2pm) will include: The Adirondack Park Institute, the Adirondack Museum (making sandpaper with kids), Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, High Falls Gorge, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and New York State Geological Survey.
The Newcomb VIC is located 12 miles east of Long Lake on Route 28N. For more information about the VICs, log on to the centers’ Web site at www.adkvic.org.
Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center on Route 28N in Newcomb is hosting the Summer 2009 Huntington Lecture Series. Each lecture on Thursdays at 7:00 PM. Here is the remaining schedule:
July 23 – Wilderness Pioneer Bob Marshall’s Adventures in the Adirondacks Phil Brown – Adirondack Explorer
July 30 – Where, How Fast and How Far do Adirondack Deer Move? Exciting New Insights from GPS Collars Matthew Smith – Graduate Student, SUNY-ESF August 6 – Coyotes, Deer, and the “Landscape of Fear” Dr. Jacqueline Frair – SUNY-ESF Faculty and Robin Holevinski – SUNY ESF Graduate Student
August 13 – Minerals of the Adirondack Highlands Michael Hawkins – New York State Museum
August 20 – Vernal Pools: Teeming with Life and Mystery Mary Beth Kolozsvary – Biodiversity Research Institute at NYS Museum
I’ll be reporting regularly this week beginning Wednesday evening from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York Master Forest Owner (MFO) training at SUNY ESF Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. The program, which is being held in the Adirondacks for the first time, combines classroom and field experience in general forestry. My goal is to simply learn a little more about the variety of local forestry issues we cover here at the Alamanack. Forest ecology, wildlife management, water quality issues, timber harvesting and management, invasive species, sugar bush management, and more are all on the schedule. The MFO website explains why the program is valuable:
Over 14 million acres of woodland in NY State are privately owned by approximately 500,000 nonindustrial forest owners. That’s over 3/4 of New York’s total forest area! It is estimated that less than 1/4 of the state’s private forest holdings are purposefully managed despite the educational programs and technical services available. In order to reap the benefits of this vital resource, sound stewardship is necessary. Stewardship objectives involve management practices that ensure ecologically sound forest productivity. Forests represent a precious commodity that, if wisely managed, can generate a variety of economic, ecological, and aesthetic values to forest owners and their communities, generation after generation.
I’ll regularly report my experiences and some of what I learn here at the Almanack, as I did with the Wild Center’s climate conference in November 2008.
You can find out more about the program and training schedule here.
Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) will kick-off their 2009 educational series Sunday, February 8th with an interpretive cross-country ski into the 19th-century, Adirondack Great Camp, Camp Santanoni. Participants will learn about the history and architectural significance of the camp that make it a National Historic Landmark. The 10-mile round trip ski, along the preserve’s gently sloping historic carriage road, leads us into the majestic wilderness estate. Those taking part will visit the camp’s three complexes (the Gate Lodge, the Farm, and the Main Camp), and view the massive log retreat at the Main Camp, the work of architect Robert Robertson. Skiers will also see first hand, authentic Adirondack rustic interiors and learn about the restoration of the camp. Steven Engelhart, AARCH Executive Director and John Friauf, former AARCH Board Member, will lead the tour. The group will depart Santanoni Preserve parking area, off Route 28N in the hamlet of Newcomb at 10AM, returning around 3 PM. This is a remote site. All participants are encouraged to bring a trail lunch and plenty of hydration. The fee is $10 for members and $15 for non-members. Advance registration is required by calling AARCH at (518) 834-9328.
Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is the private, non-profit, historic preservation organization for the Adirondack Park region. AARCH works in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Town of Newcomb to preserve and interpret Camp Santanoni. This tour is one of over fifty events in our annual series highlighting the region’s vast architectural legacy. For more information on AARCH including membership and a complete 2009 program schedule contact AARCH at (518) 834-9328 or visit their website at www.aarch.org.
NEWCOMB, NY – The history and culture of rocks in the Adirondack Mountains will be celebrated on Saturday, Aug. 9 during the Adirondack Park’s first-ever geology festival, Rock Fest 2008, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb.
The VIC staff is teaming up with the Adirondack Museum and SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center to present this historic event, which will include exhibits, lectures, field trips and children’s activities. Free and open to the public, Rock Fest was designed to be a day-long exploration to increase appreciation and understanding of regional geology. Exhibits and lectures at Rock Fest will focus on the geological history of the Adirondack Mountains and man’s relationship with the natural resources of the Adirondack Park. The human history will be provided by Adirondack Museum educators.
Here are the Rock Fest 2008 lectures and field trips:
-10 a.m. Lecture: Introduction to Geology, with Matt Podniesinski, Division of Mineral Resources, NYS DEC -10:30 a.m. Lecture: Adirondack Geology, with William Kelly, State Geologist, NYS Geological Survey -11:15 a.m. Field trip: Rocks in Place, with Matt Podniesinski and William Kelly -1 p.m. Lecture: Historical Use of Minerals Resources, with Adirondack Museum staff -1:45 p.m. Lecture: Contemporary Use of Mineral Resources, with hris Water, Barton Mines Company -2:30 p.m. Lecture: Shake, Rattle, & Roll: Seismology, Earthquakes and New York State, with Alan Jones, SUNY-Binghamton -3:15 p.m. Lecture: Rocks in Everyday Life, with Matt Podniesinski -4 p.m. Field trip: Of Mines and Men: The McIntyre and Tahawus Mines, with Paul B. Hai, SUNY-ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center
Exhibitors will include: the Adirondack Park Institute, the Adirondack Museum (making sandpaper with kids), Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, High Falls Gorge, the Rock Shop/Waters Edge Cottages (Long Lake) , the Slate Valley Museum, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Adirondack Museum, located in Blue Mountain Lake, tells the story of the Adirondacks through exhibits, special events, classes for schools, and hands-on activities for visitors of all ages. For information about upcoming exhibits and programs, call (518) 352-7311, or visit online at www.adirondackmuseum.org.
The Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC), located in Newcomb, is the leader in ecological sciences in the Adirondack Mountains and a major contributor to the science internationally. Established in 1971 by the State University of New York College of Environmental Forestry in Syracuse, the AEC provides the science that underpins the management of Adirondack Park as one of the world’s foremost experiments in conservation and sustainability.
The New York State Adirondack Park Agency operates two VICs, in Paul Smiths and Newcomb, which are open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas and Thanksgiving. They offer a wide array of educational programs, miles of interpretive trails and visitor information services. Admission is free.
The Newcomb VIC is located 12 miles east of Long Lake on Route 28N. For more information about the VICs, log on to the centers’ Web site at www.adkvic.org.
The DEC has officially announced that the historic Masten House (at left), on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus in Newcomb, Essex County, will be the site of “a new leadership and training institute that focuses on the research and management of northern forests.” Northern forests is intended to mean the area that “extends from Lake Ontario at Tug Hill, across the Adirondacks to northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.”
Regular Almanack readers know that Eliot Spitzer’s budget called for $125,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund to be put toward SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s purchase and rehabilitation of the Masten House – that had apparently fallen through, late in the budget process, but was apparently found somewhere in DEC’s budget.. The DEC’s press release notes:
The project is a cooperative effort that will enhance forest preserve and wildlands management research and contribute to the local economy. ESF will run the Northern Forest Institute (NFI) on a 46-acre portion of a property owned by [Open Space Institute’s] Open Space Conservancy and leased on a long-term basis to the college for $1 a year. Establishment of the institute is being aided by a $1 million grant from Empire State Development to OSI and $125,000 from DEC to ESF. In addition, DEC has committed $1.6 million over the next four years to ESF scientists who will conduct three research projects on visitor demand, experiences, and impacts, as well as a training program for DEC employees responsible for managing recreational visits to New York State forest preserve lands.
The NFI will focus on meeting the educational and research needs of professional audiences, including representatives of state agencies, business leaders, and educators. The institute will also serve the general public, particularly college and secondary school students.
Here is some history of the Masten House from DEC:
Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondack at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club…
The eight-bedroom Masten House was built in 1905 near secluded Henderson Lake and was used as a corporate retreat by NL Industries, which operated a nearby mining site. Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondac at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club. Then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was staying at Tahawus in 1901 when he learned that President William McKinley had been shot. [Actually, as is noted by a commenter below, Roosevelt already knew McKinley was shot, he thought that the President would be OK and so went to Tahawus].
According to a media release we received last week, the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry’s (ESF) Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb will feature a presentation on climate change during the Huntington Lecture Series at 7 p.m. this Thursday, July 10th at the Newcomb VIC.
Colin Beier (that’s him at left) is a research associate at the AEC. He will present a program titled “Changing Climate, Changing Forests: from Alaska to the Adirondacks.” Beier will demonstrate that the impacts of climate change in the far north are much more than disappearing sea ice; the boreal forests are changing dramatically, due to increased fire, insect outbreaks and tree diebacks. These are all are linked to climatic changes in the last century. » Continue Reading.
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