The recent exploits of Nik Wallenda at Niagara Falls call to mind North Country folks who once performed daredevil stunts and amazing feats, some of them more than a century ago. One who secured his place in history was Robert Emmet Odlum, a St. Lawrence County native whose most famous effort earned him footnote status in the story of one of America’s most famous landmarks.
While Odlum’s origins (he was born August 31, 1851) have been reported as Washington, DC, and Memphis, Tennessee, he was born in St. Lawrence County, New York. That information is in stone, literally―Ogdensburg is the birthplace that is carved into the obelisk atop Odlum’s grave. (He was buried in Washington, which may account for some of the confusion.)
Robert’s entire life was linked to water, beginning with the St. Lawrence River, where it is said that he learned to swim as a very young child. That information comes from his mother, who wrote Robert’s life story after he died. » Continue Reading.
I’m sure there’s been plenty of people in my life who wanted to tell me to go jump in a lake. Well, for the last two days, I’ve had to do just that. The temperatures have been well into the nineties, hot, hazy and humid. It’s exactly the type of weather I left Florida to avoid.
Around ten last night, I took Pico down for a swim. As hot as I was, I can’t imagine how hot a dog could be in weather like this. After throwing a stick a few times, I let Pico chew on his temporary toy and I just sat in the water. The lake was calm, with no breeze to speak of. Even though it was hazy, some stars were out and lights from Vermont were reflecting on the almost-glass surface of the lake. The mosquitoes were bad, so I sat in water up my neck and was glad that the horseflies had at least taken the night off. » Continue Reading.
One of the greatest privileges in visiting and living in the Adirondack Park is being able to swim in all the natural swimming holes, pools and ponds.
Swimming in ponds and streams can be tricky with small children but not impossible. Being able to go for a refreshing dip in a natural setting is worth a few precautions. Though it is a fun family activity there are a few things to remember before you go. The first rule is to never swim in springtime when the water is at its swiftest from recent snow-melt and mountain runoff. Each year there are incidences where people of all ages believe that they can outwit Mother Nature and battle the strong currents. Even expert swimmers have been known to drown during these rough, unpredictable times.
Never swim alone and remind children we are never too old for the buddy system. It worked when we were all in summer camp for a reason. In a wilderness setting it is always a good idea for a friend to be there to help.
Depending on your comfort zone, you may want to wear water shoes. Stones can be sharp on tender feet or slippery from algae. We always encourage children to crawl like a crab when crossing a riverbed unless rocks are dry and close together. Keep your body weight low and take your time. Let children explore the area and develop a love for nature.
Bring a swim top. Adirondack lakes and streams can be cold so tuck in that swim top to ward off the chill.
Always have the strongest swimmer perform an underwater sweep of any swimming hole. Just because you jumped off a rock into a wilderness pool last week, doesn’t mean that a tree branch didn’t break off in the mean time. A sunken branch or log can cause serious injury.
If children and adults are used to the clear waters of a chlorinated pool, swimming in the tannin-tinged Adirondack waters can be frightening. One of the largest concerns I find when we guide families is “monsters under the water.” Bring a mask and let children explore underwater. It won’t be as clear as a pool but they will still be able to see enough to stymie the fear factor and be able to explore the underwater native life.
If your child is not a strong swimmer or the current is stronger than usual, bring out that lifejacket. You can always take it off once children are comfortable.
Never push this or any experience. There is certainly enough adventures to be found just exploring along any Adirondack shoreline. Of course, with any wilderness experience swim at your own risk, use common sense and please carry in what you carry out. Enjoy your wilderness experience.
This weekend, approximately 2,000 competitors will swim, run, and bike through the Adirondack region for the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon. The Lake Placid event is the second oldest race location in the Ironman series, and one of the most popular. Contestants participating will undergo a grueling competition; the triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run. » Continue Reading.
Saying the agency was “acting to protect natural resources and to curtail illegal and unsafe activities,” the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced it has relocated six campsites closer to main roads and will not reopen the gates at the Hudson River Special Management Area (HRSMA) of the Lake George Wild Forest. The gates, only recently installed to limit the area’s roads during spring mud season, will remain closed until further notice. “Unfortunately, due to funding reductions resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall, DEC is, as previously announced, unable to maintain many of the roads in HRSMA and must keep the gates closed until the budget situation changes,” a DEC statement said. Also known as the “Hudson River Rec Area” or the “Buttermilk Area,” the HRSMA is a 5,500-acre section of forest preserve located on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, straddling the boundary of the towns of Lake Luzerne and Warrensburg in Warren County. Designated “Wild Forest” under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, HRSMA is a popular location for camping, swimming, picnicking, boating, tubing, horseback riding, hiking, hunting and fishing. The Hudson River Rec Area has been a popular spot for late-night parties, littering, and other abuses.
Six campsites (# 6-11) have been relocated due to vandalism and overuse. Campsites #6, 7, 8, and 10 and 11 are relocated in the vicinity of the old sites and just a short walk from the parking areas. Parking for each of these sites is provided off Buttermilk Road. Site 9 has been relocated to the Bear Slide Access Road providing an additional accessible campsite in the HRSMA for visitors with mobility disabilities. Site 11 is located off Gay Pond Road, which is currently closed to motor vehicle traffic.
Signs have been posted identifying parking locations for the sites and markers have been hung to direct campers to the new campsite locations. Camping is permitted at designated sites only – which are marked with “Camp Here” disks.
Gay Pond Road (3.8 mi.) and Buttermilk Road Extension (2.1 mi.) are temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access. Pikes Beach Access Road (0.3 mi.) and Scofield Flats Access Road (0.1 mi.) may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits. As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road and Darlings Ford are closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open for non-motorized access by the general public and motorized access by people with disabilities holding a CP-3 permit.
Currently eight campsites designed and managed for accessibility remain available to people with mobility disabilities. All of the designated sites are available to visitors who park in the designated parking areas and arrive by foot or arrive by canoe.
DEC Forest Rangers will continue to educate users, enforce violations of the law, ensure the proper and safe use of the area, and remind visitors that:
* Camping and fires are permitted at designated sites only;
* Cutting of standing trees, dead or alive, is prohibited;
* Motor vehicles are only permitted on open roads and at designated parking areas;
* “Pack it in, pack it out” – take all garbage and possessions with you when you leave; and
* A permit is required from the DEC Forest Ranger if you are camping more than 3 nights or have 10 or more people in your group.
Additional information, and a map of the Hudson River Special Management Area, may be found on the DEC website.
With all the news about Michael Phelps medal wins at the Olympics, some Adirondack Almanack readers may have missed the two tragedies that occurred on Schroon Lake last week.
On Sunday night, two boats (both running without navigation lights) collided just before 11 p.m. A Boston Whaler operated by 17-year old Gerald Smith turned in front of a Hydrostream Vector (operated by Brett D. Bernhard, 20, of Horicon). Daniel Miller, 20, also of Horicon and a passenger on the Hydrostream, was hit in the head during the collision and knocked unconscious. He was taken by ambulance to Moses-Ludington Hospital in Ticonderoga and then transferred to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington – he was in critical condition with a severe head injury.
Then on Tuesday night, Elizabeth A. Weiner, 81, of Cazenovia, drowned behind the Davis Motel, near where her family has a summer camp: “Investigators said Mrs. Weiner left her camp to go wading by herself in Schroon Lake. She was a seasonal resident of Schroon Lake, police said, and known to be a non-swimmer.”
Visitors and locals alike fall from shore, docks, and out of boats of all sorts. In the days of closer connection to lakes and waterways for drinking, washing, ice, work, transportation, and entertainment, drownings were far more common. “Many Drowned Sunday” reads one report from 1910 that gives accounts of “several accidental drownings” in Connecticut; three drowned in the Delaware River near Philadelphia; a man and woman in the Ohio River and another near Scranton; the bodies of Eddie Hammond and Harold Driscoll (both nine) discovered in the Varnick Canal in Oswego, NY; John Whalen and Francis Forti drowned in a creek near Albany. That same Sunday Frank Namo was drowned bathing in the Black River, and the Brooklynite superintendent of the Lake Placid Yacht Club, Oscar C. Nicholas, was also drowned while bathing. Swimming has taken the largest toll by far. I thought I’d take a closer look at drownings in Schroon Lake to get an indication of what the overall historic statistics may look like. In the twenty years between 1924 and 1944 – a time when the resort area was in its heyday – at least 14 people drowned, plus two more in nearby Gull Pond, and at least one in Trout Brook which runs into Schroon, a number of other drowned in the Schroon River.
Of the fourteen, two were women (both servants), the rest were all males, including two boys. The vast majority were under the age of 30. Two, in different incidents, were men on their honeymoons (both were staying at Moon Hill Camp). Two were employed by the Little Club and two by Scaroon Manor. Three were laborers. Five of the fourteen were locals.
What follows is a look at all the drowning deaths I could locate in local papers for Schroon Lake between about 1875 and 1950:
On September 15, 1884, 80-year old Hiram Jenks, described in a local paper as “the best known fisherman and guide in Essex county,” was found drowned in Schroon Lake near the Grove Point House. He had left home on a fishing expedition the night before.
A 1906 newspaper article “A nurse had a cramp while bathing and sank,” described the death of a Miss White, who drowned while swimming with her employers children in Schroon Lake.
In October of 1908 alcohol appeared to be a factor in the drowning of Frank DuBois, employed building a road nearby. According to a local newspaper report DuBois had, “left his boarding place to go to the village for supplies. He left the village to return and the next day the empty boat was found together with his coat and a bottle nearly filled with alcohol.” His body was found nearly a month later on a sandy beach about a mile and a half south of Schroon Lake Village.
William Brandies, a waiter at the Leland house was drowned in Schroon Lake in July 1920. Brandies had gone out in a canoe and not returned; the empty boat and his body were recovered later. He was about 35 years old and had lost two brothers in World War One.
In July of 1924, Esmond Smith of Adirondack (on the east side of Schroon Lake) and David Middleton loaded a quantity of tile and brick into a flat bottom boat with a small motor. They set out in rough waters to a cottage a few miles distant from Adirondack but were soon swamped. Middleton, 70, swam to shore, but Smith, 40, apparently could not swim and drowned.
In July of 1928, two employees of Scaroon Manor were drowned when one, Erma Treppow, 22, of Brooklyn, slipped off a submerged ledge into deep water. She could not swim so Edward Maggiogino of Long Island jumped in to save her. Treppow panicked and grabbed her would-be rescuer, dragging them both under while two other women watched helplessly from shore.
In September of 1929, Edwin Buchman, a wealthy Troy manufacturer and a summer resident of Schroon Lake, was believed to have had a heart attack or stroke and to have fallen into Schroon Lake near the former O’Neill property which he owned. He had planned to take a swim before breakfast but never returned. His body was found in shallow water.
In October of 1929, Fred McKee of Pottersville, Elmer Liberty of Olmsteadville, and Angus Montayne of Schenectady were transported a 50-gallon drum of gasoline in their motorboat from Charles Bogle’s boathouse to Isola Bella Island on Schroon Lake. The lake was rough and when the motor stalled the barrel rolled forward and capsized the boat throwing all three men into the water. McKee and Montayne, who could not swim, attempted to hold onto the barrel. They soon disappeared as Elmer Liberty watched; he survived by clinging to the overturned boat. Forty men, under the supervision of John Flannigan, began dragging the lake for the bodies. They were recovered the same day.
In June 1933, Brooklyn newlyweds Louis and Elsie Gerber left their honeymoon digs at Moon Hill Camp on Schroon Lake in a canoe with Mrs. Robert Epstein of the Bronx. They got about 150 feet from shore when the canoe capsized. A man driving by saw the three clinging to the sides of the canoe, stopped his car, and rowed out to them in a rowboat. According to the Ticonderoga Sentinel, Louis Gerber told the man that he alright and to take the women ashore first – when the men returned Louis was gone. “A searching party was quickly organized,” the Sentinel reported, “but it was not until evening that the body was recovered. The body was taken to Brooklyn by the broken-hearted bride whose honeymoon was so tragically ended.”
Just one month later, in July of 1933, Paulding Foote Sellers, recent graduate of Hamilton College and captain of the college’s football team (and nephew of Admiral David Foote Sellers, died after diving into Schroon Lake – “he sank without a struggle.” It was surmised by the local coroner that he “had a weak heart.”
Parry Lee Shivers, 25, an African American maid, was drowned in Schroon Lake in August of 1937. Shivers was in a boat with another African American maid, 18-year-old Carrie William who later told a newspaper what had happened: “She spoke to Miss Shivers as they were returning to the shore, and there was no response. She turned and was amazed to discover that her friend was not in the boat. Hastily scanning the water in the vicinity of the boat, she saw Miss Shivers swimming about sixty feet away. According to her story, she called to her, but gained no response. A few seconds later Miss Shivers sank beneath the surface and failed to reappear.”
In 1926, a thirteen-year-old George Plumley of Minerva fell from a dock and drowned. In 1938, an eight-year old Schenectady boy, Robert Crossman, was drowned near his parent’s camp opposite Moon Hill Camp. His eleven-year-old sister found his body; he had been last seen just a few minutes before on the camp dock but failed to show for lunch.
In June of 1940 Louis Kankewitz, 30, of New York City was drowned when the canoe he was paddling alone capsized near Eagle Point. He and his new bride were staying at Moon Hill Camp – it took a week to find his body.
Another Brooklynite drowned in July of 1944. Melvin Leon, 16, had jumped into the water at the Leland Hotel’s beach to save George Solow, 17 (also of Brooklyn). The boys were employed at the Little Club, They had been fooling around in a row boat when Solow jumped into the water with the oars; when he lost the oars and couldn’t get back into the boat, Leon jumped in to help him. A third young man in the boat tried in vain to paddle the boat against the wind with his hands. Another boater eventually rescued Solow, but it was too late for Leon.
Almost one year to the day, another young man employed by the Little Club drowned while trying to retrieve an errant boat. Schroon Lake native Glenn Cramer, 16, went out towards Keppler’s Point when his own rowboat overturned; he could not swim. A passerby yelled to him to hold onto the overturned boat but Cramer panicked and was gone by the time his would-be rescuer arrived.
In case you haven’t seen it, a piece by Adirondack Life editor Galen Crane in the December 2006 mentions the Adirondack Almanack.
The idea of falling through ice—certainly the possibility of it— probably occurs to you when you step onto a frozen lake. At the very least, you make a quick assessment of conditions. If such thoughts don’t enter your mind, they should. Last winter, a rash of incidents on Adirondack lakes—mostly the big ones—made headlines here and as far away as Long Island. And now the ice is on its way back in.
Falling through is, as the wife of a repeat winter swimmer put it, a fact of life up here. Some stories are almost comical. In the late 1800s, a general store was being moved across Brant Lake’s frozen surface to a new location when it dropped through. There’s the occasional account of ice fishermen adrift in Lake Champlain on a huge sheet of ice that the wind and waves have broken off, floating slowly toward the Richelieu River and Canada before being rescued. Cars, log trucks and bulldozers have all failed to make shortcuts over big lakes.
Sound familiar? Regular readers know how obsessed we are here at the Almanack about falling through.
We’d also like to welcome Mr. Crane to our long list of movers and shakers in our region who read the Almanack regularly. Remember this story covered by NCPR’s Brian Mann?
Though the season is all but over, it’s not too late to try out your own climbing iceberg! That is if you can swing the $2,500. It may be a great way to get the kids into climbing and once global warming comes into full effect you may have a fantastic relic of a time when icebergs actually existed.
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