Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Adirondacks: Off the Couch, Out the Door

Severe thunder storms. Stuck in the house. So what else is new this summer in northern New York? Now, nature addicts like me don’t mind a little rain. That’s what Gore-tex is for. But crashing branches and slashing lightning? No way am I hiking or paddling in that, and it’s driving me nuts.

Where comes this craving to be out in the woods in all weathers (except severe thunder storms or maybe freezing rain)? It started when I was just a small kid, maybe 9 or 10, growing up in a boatyard on a lake in Michigan, with a dad who had lots of chores for me and who wasn’t all that nice about getting me to do them. But he had taught me how to paddle. And a winding creek ran between our lake and another, the banks lined with marsh and forest. And canoes were there for the taking. I soon learned that two turns of the creek carried me beyond the sound of my dad shouting about unfinished work. So the woods and the waterways became my refuge, my place to get lost on purpose.

And so they still are. For 15 years I worked as a nursing assistant for Hospice, traveling all over Saratoga County to care for people in their own homes, people dying of every illness the human flesh can fail by. And I couldn’t fix it. Each day I had to walk into the heart of suffering. And stay there. Friends asked me, “How can you stand it?” One way was to go to the river, push off in my little canoe (a 10′ Hornbeck Black Jack, weighing 12 pounds), and as soon as I felt that smooth silken water bearing me up and smelled the sweet scent of mossy banks, I sensed that all was well. I could really believe that some great goodness lay at the core of creation, that death and change were just part of the scheme of things, and that all would be well, indeed.

It’s funny. I thought I’d enjoy such nature magazines as Outside and Backpacker, but when I leafed through a few issues, I found the articles were mostly about surviving nature — enduring thousands of mosquito bites, falling off cliffs, freezing in the mountains, struggling across deserts, that sort of thing: Nature as something that had to be challenged or overcome. Not for me. I preferred to go to nature for its power to heal. During my work for Hospice, I witnessed this power in the lives of others, as well. Let me tell you about two of these folks. While it’s true they both eventually died, I know that their final days were enriched by getting them off the couch and out the door.

Dan, a Polish-American retired paper mill worker, wanted nothing to do with me. No, he didn’t need a shave. No, he could shower without my help. No, he didn’t want to chit-chat. “Just siddown and be quiet. I wanna watch ‘The Price is Right’.” Now, to spend an hour doing nothing was bad enough. But to have to spend it watching “The Price is Right” — torture! So I busied myself making his bed and nosing about for something to read. And there on his bookshelf were several field guides for mushrooms. I interrupted his program: “Dan, do you like to hunt mushrooms? You know, we could go look for some.” It was late autumn. There might be a few late fruiters. Click! The TV went dark. “Could you really take me?”

Indeed I could. We drove to a site where he knew some Late Fall Oyster mushrooms might be found. While he sat in the car, he sent me off into the woods. It must have been angels (plus Dan’s good directions) that led me right to them. A whole bunch. I gathered a gallon or so, and you know, it might have been gold I laid in his lap, he was so delighted. And after that adventure, off we would go nearly every day until the day he died. He’d sit in the car with his oxygen tank (he had terminal heart failure), and we’d drive along the Hudson and Hoosick Rivers, visiting all the haunts of his youth. We found where he used to hide his canoe. We found where wild asparagus grew. He recalled how his father was gassed in the war. He remembered his mother’s struggles to run their tavern. He confessed how he started drinking young and how mean he had been to his wife when he was drunk. And he found at last the courage to ask for his wife’s forgiveness before he died. And he died in her loving arms.

Then there was Eleanor. I’m not sure what Eleanor’s illness was. Terminal crankiness, probably. She lived in an assisted living facility, very nice, lots of social events, classes, good meals. She never left her room. She wanted her meals sent up. She wanted her shades pulled down. The one pleasure she allowed herself was to sit on the porch in her wheelchair on pleasant days. One day I rolled her down the ramp: “Some Blue-eyed Grass is blooming near the parking lot,” I told her. She reluctantly consented. She had never seen (nor ever cared to see) Blue-eyed Grass, but that day her eyes were opened. A sea of radiant blue covered a vacant lot, studded with bright yellow Small Sundrops and snowy Wild Strawberry. “Oh my! How pretty,” she said (in spite of herself).

All summer we walked and rolled, on into the fall. If the day was rainy, she waited for me in her raincoat. She couldn’t get over the beauty of Blue Vervain (“How can that be a weed?”) or the tiny pink blossoms of Northern Willow Herb (“Wouldn’t they make a darling dollhouse bouquet?”) We picked gorgeous bundles of Panicled Dogwood (burgundy leaves, waxy white berries on hot pink pedicels) mixed with the dark maroon seed sprays of Curly Dock. Then we got in trouble for bringing in armloads of Goldenrod. Her daughter threw it all out: “Get those weeds out of here! They’re dropping pollen all over!” I heard that cranky tone and marveled: that’s how Eleanor used to sound. She didn’t anymore.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Anniversary of The Great Adirondack Blowdown of 1995

Today marks the anniversary of one of the worst storms in Upstate New York history. During the early morning hours of July 15, 1995 a series of severe thunderstorms crossed the Adirondacks and much of eastern New York. Meteorologists call the phenomena by the Spanish “Derecho” but locals often refer to the event as the Blowdown of 1995. A similar weather event / blowdown occurred in 1950.

A Derecho is part of a larger family of storms called a Mesoscale Convective System (MCS), a complex of thunderstorms that becomes organized on a scale larger than the individual thunderstorms and which includes phenomenon like lake effect snow. An MCS can sometimes act in ways similar to a hurricane and can produce torrential downpours and high winds. Aside from the remarkable power of the weather event, another unique thing happened – a shift in public policy with regard to salvage logging of public lands. The State’s decision to forgo salvage logging was in stark contrast to federal policies at the time that allowed federal lands to be logged in similar salvage situations. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Adirondack Rain Brings Little Reflief From Drought

As I sit here this morning contemplating my Wednesday post, the rain seems to be at a temporary lull. During the night I awoke to the steady beat of the rain and even as I let the dog out (and later toweled him off), I smiled: we need this rain and it is very welcome.

Rain has always been something we took for granted here in the Northeast. Some years might have been rainier than others, but overall, our rain could be considered moderate. We had no really bad floods and no real droughts.

Until lately.

Since I’ve been living in the Adirondacks (I moved here in 2000), we have been in drought conditions. According to the government hydrologist person who came through the VIC a couple years ago, we’d been in a drought since the late 1990s. Hard to believe! But looking at the precipitation numbers this year, the reality is there to see.

This winter we had an average amount of snow, but it was below average in the amount of moisture in it. As a matter of fact, three of the last four months had the lowest liquid levels in the six years we’ve been a National Weather Service Co-op Station. May seems to be making up for it (closing in on six inches for the month), but one month of rain does not make up for an entire winter’s deficit.

Feast or famine – that’s the phrase that seems to describe the precipitation patterns these days. When it does rain, it often comes in buckets, sometimes up to several inches at a time. And while some people think this signals an end to droughty conditions, in fact it is usually very little help. This is because sudden heavy rains tend to become runoff – the dry ground cannot absorb it and it all heads downhill, filling ditches, streams, ponds, lakes. Flooding happens. Even my hometown, which has NEVER had a flood, found itself 1-2 feet under water a couple years ago – the flood of the century. People were fishing in the streets. Amazing.

So when we get gentle soaking rain, like last night (over half an inch), it is something to rejoice. I spent the last three days working in my vegetable garden and conditions were dry. Even with my dripper lines on four times a day, fifteen minutes at a time, the soil was rather dusty. With all my newly planted seeds, rain was needed, and it arrived just in time.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Saving Fruit Trees from the Frost

The forecast says the low temperature tonight in Saranac Lake will be 22 degrees. The apple tree we share with a neighbor decided to bloom yesterday. What to do?

Since the tree has thrived at an elevation of about 2,000 feet for longer than anyone living in this neighborhood can remember, it must be a pretty cold-hardy variety. But a deep freeze at blossom time really threatens to thin the crop. So we called Bob Rulf, who owns Rulf’s Orchards, in Peru. He said it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to light charcoal in a couple of grills beneath the tree (this is a pretty big tree) and keep the smoke rising. Between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. is the coldest part of the night, Rulf said.

The temperature is only supposed to get down to about 29 degrees in Peru, the more-temperate apple basket of the Adirondacks. Cornell Cooperative Extension advises that when an apple blossom is tight and in the pink it can stand 30 degrees F for an hour; when it’s wide-open white it can stand 28 degrees for an hour, which seems counterintuitive, Rulf said.

His orchard is not equipped with wind machines or any large-scale equipment for dealing with frosts, so he’ll take his chances with the apples. However Rulf does plan to tow a furnace around the strawberry patch tonight with helpers riding along to blow hot air on that crop.

Photograph: Our apple tree in bloom


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Adirondack Gardening Dilemma: Timing Seed Planting

This spring has many of us North Country gardeners in a quandary: do I put in my peas yet or not? The rule of thumb here in Newcomb is not to plant before Memorial Day Weekend, but this year the weather has been so balmy so early that we are itching to get those early veggies started.

Seed packets come with instructions like “Plant after all danger of frost has passed,” or “Plant as soon as the ground can be worked.” The latter applies to peas. And with the scorching weather at the end of April, it was really really hard NOT to plant – I had to keep telling myself, “It’s still April.” And even though peas and spinach are cool weather plants, killer frosts and even snow are not out of the question.

I ran into a neighbor that last weekend in April and we immediately started talking peas. He said that if he could get his tiller going that day, he’d plant his; I heard the tiller rumbling the rest of the morning. And I hear that the doctor over in Long Lake put his peas in, too. I decided to spend the day prepping my veg beds instead, getting ALL of them ready for planting a little later in the season.

Last Sunday, as the weeding continued, I uncovered a whole bowlful of leftover potatoes in one of the beds! Mmmm – fresh potatoes in May! I even have undug onions and last year’s leeks resprouting! We’ll see if they grow into edible bulbs.

Meanwhile, every day the tomatoes are getting a bit taller in the kitchen, and the squashes I started are, eh, doing so-so (I was a bit over-anxious and started them a wee bit too soon). The flower seeds I started a week or so ago are sprouting now, too.

So, we wait and practice patience. Still, there is something appealing in being able to plant the garden BEFORE the blackflies come out!


Monday, April 20, 2009

A Dry White(water) Season

Low snowpack and scarce April showers have led to burn bans around the Adirondack Park. The drought also has river paddlers wandering, searching for streams pushy enough to float their colorful little boats.

“Whitewater kayakers are being forced into summer habits of traveling downstream, unfortunately by car, to seek water levels suitable enough to sink their paddles in,” writes Jason Smith, on Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters blog. “The Hudson River along with the Moose River, in the central Adirondacks, offer reliable spring flow and are popular spring runs. But even these mighty rivers are running lower than usual. . . . [D]on’t be alarmed if you see a vehicle loaded with short, plastic kayaks driving aimlessly around your neighborhood.”

Other Adirondack critters known to crave a good spring rain are amphibians. In Paul Smiths, in the high-elevation north-central Adirondacks where ice was still on ponds as of Thursday, wood frogs and spotted salamanders began to move on a warm rainy night about two weeks ago, observes Curt Stager, professor of biology at Paul Smith’s College. The cold-blooded creatures live buried in the forest floor most of the year, braving exposure to predators and car tires on rainy April nights to travel to the ephemeral ponds where they breed. Peepers, American toads and other frogs and salamanders also congregate at waterholes this time of year.

Showers Saturday gave creeks and rivers a noticeable boost. The last two weeks had brought snow and then unrelenting sun. “They [herps] have been dribbling around. It was an early start and then it got cut off by the dry weather,” says Stager, who studies local phenology. “Every year is a little different in the Adirondacks. You’ve got to watch it for decades to notice a real pattern.”

High/dry kayaker sketch courtesy of Jason Smith


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hybrid Cars and the Adirondacks

In December of 2007 the old Subaru went down for the count and it was time for a new car. We got lucky (likely because it was December, not exactly a banner month for car sales) and found the Honda Civic hybrid we were looking for in Schenectady – it was the only one they had and we bought it on the spot.

At first, many of our friends, relatives, and neighbors showed some skepticism. They asked whether we thought we were jumping in to a new, unproven, technology. Some congratulated us for being ahead of the curve. Others wondered about the pick-up, asked if the batteries would hold-up for long drives in the mountains, questioned the costs of repairs, how it would handle in the ice and snow -you name it, they asked it.

So on the flip are some observations about our Hybrid experience so far.

The four-door Honda Civic that we bought doesn’t look funny – aside from the hybrid label on the back and the more streamlined look, it appears generally like most other current sedans.

Most folks who ride along have no idea it’s a hybrid unless we tell them. The car has the same pick-up as comparable automatics of its size. The only clue it’s a hybrid from the inside are the gauges and the fact that it shuts off when you come to a stop. Once you lift your foot off the brake, it starts right up again and you’re off. If the stereo is on, and you don’t know it’s happening, you can’t tell. On a related note – if we got rid of all the unnecessary stop signs in America and replaced them with yield signs we would save a LOT of gas.

Overall the mileage could be better. Although it’s rated for 45 mpg, we’ve gotten only 36 on average so far. Even so, I’m sure the old Subaru got a lot less then it was rated for – the bottom line is we’ve cut our monthly gas bill about 35 percent. Every car should have a current mpg gauge – just seeing how our driving is wasting gas has offered us as much savings as the hybrid technology.

As we’ve learned to drive the hybrid, we’ve gotten better mileage. We stared with about 32 on average, but since there’s a gauge showing the current mpg and a trip setting, we’ve been making a contest to see who can get the best mileage – I recently got an even 42 mpg on a trip to Albany and back. The trick we’ve learned is to keep the speed down on the highway (69 instead of 72), keep the cruise-control on, and keep the rpms below 3,000 when climbing large hills. We could probably make the 45 mpg average if we drove only 55 on the highway, which is not going to happen. It’s true that the mileage is considerably better in the city, primarily because the speeds are in the 20s, 30s, or 40s.

The way gas prices are rising (our theory is $4 by Labor Day, then it falls off again just before the election and rises considerably afterward) – we’re counting on our hybrid keeping its value enough to allow us to upgrade in two years when hopefully electric cars will be available at a reasonable price – that may be wishful thinking.

As far as the Adirondack conditions, the car climbs hills normally but it’s front wheel drive and does not even closely compare with the Subaru – that’s why we’ve kept our older Legacy wagon. When the weather is bad – like it’s been lately (and the Suuby has made legendary trips lately!) – we take the wagon. When the roads are dry, we take the hybrid. Since we live on a fairly main road, we could probably manage with only the hybrid, otherwise it would have to be one of the four-wheel drive models that naturally get much worse mileage. The combination we have now makes a lot more economic sense.

There you have it – I’d be interested in others comments on the hybrid experiences in the mountains.


Friday, February 29, 2008

Adirondack Snowmobiling: Resources, Conditions, and Controversy

This winter, after a number of years of lackluster snow conditions, Adirondack snowmobiling has once again made a resurgence. Here are a few things about Adirondack snowmobiling you should know:

Snowmobile Trails
The Adirondacks are criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails. A free Adirondack Snowmobile Trail Map is available here. Trailsource is also an excellent resource for New York State snowmobile trails.

Snowmobile Conditions
Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude.

Current Northeast Snow Depths

Snowmobile Online Resources
Snowmobile forums offer sled fanatics discussions of videos, people offering sleds or parts for sale and other classifieds, snow tech, snowmobile politics, vintage snowmobiles, and any number of topics related to sledding. Some of the more popular are:

Trail Conditions.com
Snowmobile Forum
Snowmobile Fanatics
Net Sleds
Snowmobile World

Snowmobile History
Our post on the history of snowmobiling in the Adirondacks tracks the development of the snowmobile (or more generally, motorized snow travel) from the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, through the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. The five part history continues into the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. It concludes with the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region.

Snowmobiling Controversy
The DEC and the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation are developing a Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondack Park. The plan will establish a baseline for creating a comprehensive and integrated Adirondack Park snowmobile trail system. It also establishes standards for developing and maintaining trails on DEC managed lands in the Adirondacks. Despite the excitement of some snowmobile clubs who have misrepresented the plan’s goals and effects by claiming that it will mean no new trails in the Adirondacks, the plan will likely call for the establishment of long-awaited new connector trails between towns.

The DEC press release on the snowmobile plan

Opposition from The New York State Snowmobile Association

Opposition from Winter Wildlands: Snowmobiles Stress Wildlife In Winter

New York Times Article Snowmobilers vs. Hikers in the Adirondacks

The APA is accepting comments on the plan until March 4, 2008.

Snowmobile Safety
Statewide there were nine people were killed on snowmobiles in December 2007. In January 2008 an ATV and two snowmobiles went through the ice on Lake Pleasant in Hamilton County and a snowmobile went through the ice on Lake George in Warren County. Worse news came in February 2008 however, with the tragic deaths of three snowmobilers within five days on Trail 7C connecting Boonville and Forestport.

The winter of 2007-2008 has claimed 18 snowmobilers lives so far (the deadliest sledding season was 2002-2003 when 31 riders died, their were 10 fatalities in New York in the 2006-2007 season and 14 the year before that). Snowmobiling can be dangerous. Use common sense and avoid thin ice on lakes and rivers, and high speeds on trails.

Take a minute to think about snowmobile safety and make others aware of the potential dangers:

Take the Safe Riders Online Quiz


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Adirondack Northway Cell Phone Controversy

When two men died on the Northway in late January and early February, right-wingers, downstaters, and anti-environmentalists offensively used their deaths to go on the attack. Never mind these unfortunate folks were traveling through isolated mountain passes in what was certainly the worst weather of the season, and in one case, the worst ice storm in at least several years – the wing-nuts raised their collective cane in disgust over those of us who they said cared more about the environment than people.

“But it should not have come to this. This could have been prevented,” our State Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said. She failed to mention that she was one of those at the top of the list who could have prevented it. Little and our Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) failed to act decisively to force cell-phone companies to provide adequate cell-coverage, and more importantly, they spent more than four years pretending that having a cell phone on the Northway was a substitute for common sense in considering driving conditions before you set out to cross the largest wilderness in the east.

“You mean we can talk to people on the moon, but we can’t talk to people on Interstate 87?” Abraham Isaac, a Jewish community activist said. His Voz Iz Neias blog has become a center for New York City / New Jersey folks who just can’t seem to understand that the world is not made of high-rises, strip-malls, and unlimited cell service. Maybe they’ve spent too much time talking to people on the moon.

Assemblyman an opportunist Roy McDonald met with people at, get this, the Wilton Mall food court to call the lack of cell service “geographic discrimination” and to say that “people’s live should come first” – “There’s a substantial part and areas throughout New York that don’t have service, and I don’t want the upstate area to turn into a third world country,” he said. Gee Mr. McDonald, ever meet any of the rural poor in our area? Ever consider that South Korea has better broadband penetration than the Untied States?

Senator Martin J. Golden (R-Brooklyn) said “Shame on those that would get in the way of human life, to lose a life for something as simple as not having a cell phone tower … is very telling about priorities.” Now that’s someone with priorities. Forget war, lack of health care or living wages, failure to fund education to such an extent that the courts had to force the state to act, a state legislature that is a laughing stock of the nation and about as un-democratic as it gets – no, the real priorities are cell service. Now that’s telling about priorities, namely Mr. Golden’s re-election prospects.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise said we were being kept in a “dark ages” by “absolute lunacy.” Blog writer Shlomah Shamos exclaimed the following outright lie “The untimely deaths of two beloved family men are on the conscience of the Adirondack Park Agency, who has been ignoring this issue and blocking all efforts” and asked “how many people have to die due to the lack of cell service on the Northway?” We’ll guess that many more will die on the Northway with cell service or without and Shlomah probably won’t give a single sentence to their deaths.

A guy from Jersey calling himself ironically, Right, Wing Nut! made the following assumptions, apparently out of ignorance of the facts (surprise, surprise):

LET ’em die – just don’t mess with our perfect view. That’s the message from New York environmentalists who’ve prevented the construction of cell-phone towers along Interstate 87 in the Adirondacks.

They like to call themselves “progressives”, but the enviorn”mental”ists are hell-bent on sending society careening backwards. Cutting off humanity from help so that a view may be perfectly preserved? Perfectly logical to the Greenies; and the deaths that result from their actions are consequences that they feel are worth the cost. I wonder if anyone has asked the survivors of the deceased their opinions…

And in the meanwhile, the Killer Greens have their way in the Adirondacks, and while folks die all around them, they pat themselves on the back…can’t wait until they can foist their policies upon the rest of us!

Ahhhh… sure… we’re not sure how the quality of life in Old Bridge, NJ is treating the Jersey Wing Nut, but we’re pretty sure the vast majority of folks here in our region would laugh at the thought of living there and our environment is the reason, not their cell phone coverage.

Anyway, here are some things to consider:

The Adirondack Park Agency already approved 32 – count ’em – thirty-two towers along the Northway. Even though they make a mint on out-of-service-area calls, the cell phone companies couldn’t make ENOUGH profit to install the towers.

Economic disparity makes owning a cell phone in Adirondack counties a lot less likely, even if service was available. The cell tower solution leaves the working poor, the elderly, and others who likely don’t have cell phones out of luck. They rely on common sense and avoid making trips across mountain passes during blizzards and ice storms.

Complete cell-phone coverage in the Adirondacks is a pipe-dream, unless there are towers on nearly every mountain in the region. Anyone who lives in the mountains, or even in the hilly suburbs knows they lose service all the time, no matter how close the nearest tower is.

Dependence on cell-phones in the case of emergency is downright stupid. Survival in the wilderness in the depths of winter is not dependent on the battery in your cell-phone or the nearest tower, it depends on your emergency preparation and winter survival skills – a $2 emergency blanket in the glove box might have saved the life of the first stranded motorist. The second died of a heart-attack while tromping through three foot snows.

If lower income people in our region can’t afford their own cell-phone service why should they be required to subsidize the cell service of downstaters? In Saratoga County, there was the plan to spend $12 to $15 million to improve cell service. The first call from Little and Sayward was to demand the state step in and foot the bill. If they were concerned about saving lives (especially of locals), they would fund helicopter rescue services, signs for thin ice, free health screenings, additional health centers, and a thousand other things people in the mountains need. $10 million would save a lot more lives (lost to heart attacks and broken bones) if it were spent on shoveling old folks’ homes out during storms.

Lake George Fire Chief Bruce Kilburn got it right when he said, “Some good preparedness and some prevention can alleviate and prevent a lot.” He suggested:

Having an emergency kit in your car.
Wearing warm clothes in winter in case you break down.
Carrying extra clothes or extra blankets.
Keeping emergency flares in your car.
Carrying an air horn in car.

He forgot to add: don’t cross mountain passes in the depths of a blizzard or ice storm unless you are prepared for the worst.

If there is anyone to blame for these terrible tragedies it’s the cell companies who just couldn’t make enough money – the proof is in the fact that those companies, Verizon, Sprint-Nextel, AT&T and T-Mobil among them, have now (according to Sayward) “committed to engineering [a] plan for the Adirondacks for us.” Unfortunately, Sayward still doesn’t get it, she added “so if we can gather the information, [sic] see if we can get this done over time.”

You keep working on it Theresa, but the next time someone dies on I-87 – take a few minutes to think about why you didn’t demand the cell companies install those long-approved towers. In the meantime, we’ll accept the message of Saranac Lake resident Mark Wilson, who said this week, “Life within the blue line is not easy, and it’s not meant to be easy sometimes.”

True enough.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine’s Day Blizzard of 2007

TourPro has beaten us to the storm round-up here, so we’ll go back to shoveling – it’s time to take Adirondack Musing’s advice and get a Wovel while they are on sale.

Also, while you’re over at Adirondack Musing’s blog, take a look at his recent posts of photos of the 2007 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival’s Ice Palace; Here is our own Adirondack Almanack post about last year’s event (with some Almanack history goodness).

Musing is one of our favorite blogs so here is a list of some recent posts we’ve found interesting:

On Ticonderoga Airport Security:

One can argue that since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, airline and airport security have been improved significantly. It is also clear that “Homeland” security funds are not being spent in the most logical way.

For example, the Ticonderoga, NY airport is getting fenced in to the tune of $800,000 funded by homeland security funds. One reason for the fencing is to keep local drag racers off the runway. But maybe they are worried that terrorists might take over the old fort in Ticonderoga and wage war on the local populace.

Also from Adirondack Musing:

Low Frequency Noise and Wind Turbines

You Are One of the Richest People on Earth

The Past Was Better and I’m Not a Bigot

Michael Moore’s Promises to Conservatives

On Broadband Internet Penetration in The US

Musing’s Favorite Place – Crown Point on Lake Champlain

Adirondack Musing is just one of the region’s great blogs – check out the other Adirondack blogs at the right and the Bloglines Adirondack feeds here.

On a related note, it looks like the Adirondack Boys have left the room.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Commentary: Adirondack Winter Sports Under Threat

If it wasn’t painfully obvious before, weather for this early January week that stretched into the sunny 60’s at some Adirondack locations should serve as a reminder that global warming is going to have serious impacts on the Adirondack region. Unfortunately, few here in the mountains seem to understand the gravity of the situation for our local economies.

Our friends working at Gore Mountain Ski Resort have been hardly working at all and consequently spending a lot less on dinners out, winter gear, and even beer and other important winter supplies. The few trails open on Gore are so crowded (with even the small crowd that’s there) that the die-hards refuse to make runs for fear of being run-over. Whiteface in Lake Placid has been forced to cancel its annual World Cup Freestyle competition (now being held at Deer Valley, Utah) and has virtually no beginner trails open.

Meanwhile, two of the largest developments in Adirondack history are expected to be rammed through the Adirondack Park Agency by pro-development George Pataki appointees. The most bizarre part of these projects is that they, believe it or not, have relied on development of two area ski resorts to appease locals and persuade some that the good they’ll provide for the local economy by way of skiing will outweigh the damage to the park.

Fred LeBrun noted in his column today:

[Tupper Lake project] developer Michael Foxman’s mega-vision to create the high-end Adirondack Club and Resort, which would include 700 expensive units on 6,400 acres, much of it in back country, has been highly controversial since it was proposed three years ago. Part of the plan, a sop to the locals, is reopening Big Tupper Ski Center as an economic engine.

In North Creek (Warren County), local politicos and real estate agents are pushing (with the help of newly appointed APA member, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chair, and Johnsburg Town Supervisor Bill Thomas) a project called – get this – Ski Bowl Village at Gore Mountain that would include exclusive trailside housing, an equestrian facility, retail shops and restaurants, a major hotel, two smaller inns, a spa, a private ski lodge, and a 9-hole golf course, on 430 acres, some of which on what was a town-owned park and before that the historic North Creek Ski Bowl where downhill skiing an early start in New York State.

Folks – skiing in the Adirondacks in the future will be all but dead. If there hasn’t been a proper ski season for Adirondack resorts in at least four years, and the experts agree that the coming year will be the warmest on record (again), it’s time to see the forest for the trees – no project tied to the ski season has a hope of being successful on that basis in the long run.

A recent regional global warming meeting reported that:

In the Northeast, the climate may be changing even more rapidly, particularly in winter. Compared to 1970, there are now 15 to 30 fewer days of snow on the ground in the Northeast, one study found. Some regional models also show an increase in average temperatures of 1.4 degrees over 102 years, but a spike of 2 to 4 degrees over the past 30 years.

“Climate has always been changing, so we can’t talk about climate change as something new,” said Art DeGaetano, director of the Northeast Climate Data Center at Cornell University. “Clearly, the temperatures we’re seeing today … are much warmer than we’ve seen for the last 1,000 years. Clearly, there’s warming almost everywhere.

“Climate change is upon us,” he said. “Climate is going to warm, so we do have to act and we do have to prepare.”

If there are any segments of the Adirondack economy that you can count on to take a nose dive in the next 20 years it’s winter sports. It doesn’t take a genius to understand “15 to 30 fewer days of snow on the ground” means that investing hundreds of millions in Adirondack skiing and snowmobiling industries is not a good idea. Despite the ignorant claim by Mike Halpert, head of forecast operations at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center that there is “No cause for alarm. Enjoy it while you have it,” you might also forget large investments in ice fishing shanties and winter carnival concessions in case you needed to be told.

So why – oh please tell us why – are state and local governments spending so much money on these debacles?

Let’s start with ballsy developers:

The [Tupper Lake] developer is calling for the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency to come up with $50 million to $60 million for infrastructure costs. In essence, that would require the county taxpayers to guarantee the bonds for his private venture. That is a stupefying request. Even more mind-boggling is that there are those in the town and county who are ready to go along with the developer.

And add a dose of misguided Republican cronyism:

Gov. George Pataki, down to his final weeks in office, announced plans Friday for a $7 million expansion of the state-run Gore Mountain Ski Center that will enable the Johnsburg attraction to boast having the eighth-largest vertical drop in the eastern United States.

The state will spend an additional $3 million to complete the railroad line connection between [Republican] Saratoga Springs and [Republican] North Creek.

Skiers from Saratoga Springs, as well as the Albany and New York City areas, will be able to take the train to North Creek and leave their personal vehicles at home, Pataki said.

“You’re not going to have the traffic; you’re not going to have the pollution, and you’re not going to have the congestion. But you are going to have the economic growth,” he said during a press conference at the North Creek train station.

Bill “Snow Is All We Have” Thomas:

When completed, skiers from New York City and elsewhere could take a train up to North Creek, delivered within a half-mile of the ski bowl area, Thomas said. “It’s very important to tourism in Johnsburg,” Thomas said of the resort plans. “I see it as a big catalyst for Main Street businesses.”

Betty “I’m Not Running For Congress” Little:

“Gore Mountain is a tremendous asset for the state and for our region. All of us here today share the desire and realize the importance of making an already great skiing experience at Gore Mountain even better. That requires sizable investments by New York State.”

Ahhh… Betty… New York State doesn’t make “sizable investments,” the people of New York State do.

Since 1995, the state has poured $70 million into the Olympic Regional Development Authority. If we assume about 100,000 year-round residents, that’s $700 per person! And that doesn’t count state and local tax discounts, increased costs of services for local communities serving ski resorts, the higher costs of goods and services priced for the tourist market, county funds (like the Tupper Lake 50 or 60 million), and who knows what else. According to NCPR, “This year, Lake Placid’s sports and tourism venues received more than $40 million in state subsidies. That’s roughly $15 thousand for every man, woman and child living inside the village limits.”

Developers, local politicians, ill-informing media – go outside! See, that there is no snow, and not likely to be regular snow at anything near historic levels in our lifetimes. Stop pushing fantasies that hide your real motive – unlimited development of the last great wilderness area east of the Rockies.

And while we’re at it – we received an e-mail from Bill McKibben today announcing a “a day of demonstrations for April 14” – a great idea (info at Stepitup2007.org).

It’s going to be an unusual day. People will be rallying in many of America’s most iconic places: on the levees in New Orleans, on top of the melting ice sheets on Mt. Hood and in Glacier National Park, even underwater on the endangered coral reefs off Key West and Hawaii. But we need hundreds of rallies outside churches, and in city parks, and in rural fields. It’s not a huge task — assemble as many folks as possible, hoist a banner, take a picture. We’ll link pictures of the protests together electronically via the web—before the day is out, we’ll have a cascade of images to show both local and national media that Americans don’t consider this a secondary issue. That instead they want serious action now.

If you are planning to organize an event, please let us know – we’ll list events as they’re organized – wouldn’t events at local closed ski resorts be something?

UPDATE: Pam Mandrel, over at BlogHer, has linked to this post and included some other posts about global warming’s impact on the American ski industry. Thanks Pam for a great follow-up.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Winter Camping in the Adirondacks

Jim Muller of Holland Patent has been backpacking since the 1960s, but about nine years ago he and a few friends (age 20 to 50) began camping in the Adirondacks in the winter months – no bears, no black flies, no mosquitoes. “We have done a wide range of trips, from simple hikes to lean-tos while pulling a plastic sled to backpacking trips and multi-day dog sledding adventures,” Muller told the Adirondack Almanack in a recent e-mail.

We think that winter camping has advantages over summer camping: You can reach areas that are too wet or overgrown during other seasons, and the clear and open view is unparalleled. Winter camping provides solitude and a feeling of exploration; even heavily traveled trails seem like virgin territory when covered by a fresh blanket of snow. Camping in the winter inspires a feeling of independence and gives people confidence in their survival skills.

Winter camping also relieves some pressure from heavily (over) used High Peaks trails. Check out the Winter Campers web site at www.wintercampers.com. The site includes an Expedition Log, a list of winter Leave No Trace principles, winter camping Tips and Tricks, a comprehensive Gear List, along with Gear Reviews, and even some Poetry, and a Discussion Board.

The Outdoor Action Program of Princeton University also offers an outstanding introductory winter camping manual.


Suggested Reading

Bill Ingersoll’s Snowshoe Routes: Adirondacks & Catskills

Backpacker Magazine’s
Winter Hiking & Camping: Managing Cold for Comfort & Safety

Calvin Rustrum’s Paradise Below Zero: The Classic Guide to Winter Camping

Chris Townshend’s Wilderness Skiing & Winter Camping

AMC’s Guide to Winter Camping: Wilderness Travel and Adventure in the Cold-Weather Months


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Global Warming Fantasies Revisited: Adirondack Edition

Our last post concerning the impacts of global warming in our region drew a lot of comments and discussion – including a comment by the Engineer for the Barton / Gore Mountain Wind Project Jim McAndrew about our opposition to his project which we’ll address in a future post on wind power in our region.

One thing is for sure – the experts are warning. Sadly, as is that case with over-development of the Adirondack Park, expanded roads and trails, and lots of other issues which pose dangers to America’s largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi – many of our local commentators, local media, and local cit zens don’t seem to get it.

Take this tidbit from Ed Shamy at the Burlington Free Press:

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) warned last week that if we don’t take immediate steps to curb global warming, Vermont and the other Northeastern states could face dire consequences by the end of this century.

Our winters could warm by 8 to 12 degrees. The length of the winter snow season could be cut in half. Our growing season could be extended by up to four weeks. We could tack three new summer-like weeks onto May and another three onto September and October. And spring could arrive three weeks earlier than it does now.

Shamy claims he wants to be concerned about “our grotesque automobile and factory emissions,” but really he’s thinking more about himself:

But most of the “perils” seem awfully appealing. If we don’t change our ways, we in Vermont will have winters more like Virginia, you say?

Is that a threat or a promise?

Gee, Shamy, that’s a funny column, but the fact is the threat is a real promise and it’s time people with an “authorized” voice such as yourself started taking it a little more seriously.

Though come to think of it, we only had two 90-degree days this year, so multiply that by three and you have six, which doesn’t sound all that rugged. I could live without more summer heat, but I could live without being a better cribbage player, too. Life is a mixed bag that way.

What exactly is left in your mixed bag when the big lakes no longer freeze, the maple trees are dying, the ski areas are slowly being put out of business, and the tourists move on to more suitable climes?

Here’s a couple of other items:

Almanack Reader and Interim Director of the Center for Environmental Programs at Bowling Green State University Philip G. Terrie has pointed us to the UCS site on local Global Warming impacts – thank you Mr. Terrie.

Ever wonder why the Albany Times Union has such a poor record in elucidating our warmer future? Maybe it has something to do with the big-wigs there, like Associate Editor William M. Dowd, who harbors old right-wing fantasies about global warming. Here’s a gem from a guy who I would guess doesn’t hold a steady interest in, let alone an advanced degree in climatology or environmental science:

I am not a believer in the theory of global warming.

Not that it isn’t getting warmer in some parts of the globe. It is, despite record cold spells and hideous weather across Europe again this year. No, I speak here of the unfortunately widely-promulgated notion that we humans have something to do with climate changes and have the power to influence it to a large extent.

Unfortunately, he’ll probably be long gone when it comes time to eat those words.

And finally from the “just doesn’t get it department,” we have StrikeSlip busy attacking the minds in the country’s most environmentally conscious state for “grandstanding” on global warming.

We know how this ends for the folks who just can’t believe in progress – slavery ends, women get to vote, we stop turning our rivers into sewers, we ban stuff that causes cancer, and we start taking our impacts (personal and otherwise) seriously – at least that the way we hope it happens, old media loudmouths be damned.

Take the time to check out:

The Adirondack Almanack’s complete series of articles on the environment

Groovy Green a really great environmental blog from central new york


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Status of Climate Change in the Adirondacks?

Who knows – few, if any, are bothering to ask – is anyone conducting research in this area? If so we’d like to hear about it. In the meantime this week’s climate news may give us an indication of what we’re in for ecologically (if not economically) and it looks pretty bad:

Temperatures Still Increasing More Than Expected
For more than 25 years Arctic sea ice has slowly diminished in winter by about 1.5 percent per decade. But in the past two years the melting has occurred at rates 10 to 15 times faster. From 2004 to 2005, the amount of ice dropped 2.3 percent; and over the past year, it’s declined by another 1.9 percent, according to Comiso. (Link)

Fluctuations in Sun’s Output Likely Not The Cause
Known variations in the sun’s total energy output cannot explain recent global warming, say researchers who have reviewed the existing evidence. The judgment, which appears in the September 14 Nature, casts doubt on the claims of some global warming skeptics who have argued that long-term changes in solar output, or luminosity, might be driving the current climate pattern. (Link)

Storms Will Be More Powerful
Human production of greenhouse gases is largely responsible for increasing storm severity, scientists say. (Link)

Higher Temperatures and More Droughts Expected
Continental Europe’s extreme summers of recent years, characterized by heavy floods or killer heat waves, could be commonplace by the turn of the century, a climate study says. Its authors believe that changes in the complex relationship between air temperature and land moisture, driven by global warming, will cause European summers to suffer from chronic variability by 2100. (Link)

Plants and Trees at Risk
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew has issued a “position paper” saying that man-made global warming is changing the outlook for plants and trees worldwide. (Link)

Polar Bear Threatened
According to scientists from NASA and the Canadian Wildlife Service, increased Arctic polar bear sightings are related to retreating sea ice triggered by climate warming and not due to population increases as some may believe. (Link)

The English Garden Will Be a Thing of the Past
Britain‘s legion of gardening fanatics were warned Tuesday to get ready for global warming which threatens to spoil the traditional English country garden of legend. The immaculately mown lawns and flourishing flowers found in gardens across the country may become a thing of the past if stereotypically rainy Britain continues to struggle with drought and warmer weather. (Link)

So what does all this mean for us? Warmer temperatures? Less snow and ice? Fewer wetlands? More Hurricanes reaching us? Bigger winter storms? Damage to plant and animal populations?

And what are the financial factors for the Adirondacks, a region that depends on its natural environment for so much of its economic life?

And as important – why is our local media not bothering to ask these questions?

UPDATE 9/18/06: Almanack Reader and Lake Champlain Committee Staff Scientist Mike Winslow points us to his new article (response?) “The Heat is On” published today about the effects of global warming on the lake. Excerpt:

Physical changes mostly involve the temperature of the lake. Higher winter temperatures mean reductions in winter ice cover. Such reductions have already begun. Prior to the 1950’s it was very unusual for Lake Champlain not to freeze in a given year, but of late, an absence of ice cover has become a fairly regular event. Higher temperatures mean the lake will stratify earlier in the spring, setting up a warm layer of water over a colder deeper layer, and stay stratified longer. A 1979 study stated stratification in the Main Lake typically began in early June. Over the last four years however, stratification has begun in early to mid-May. Higher temperatures and a lake of ice cover means increased evaporation from the lake. As a result, there is a general agreement, at least in models of the Great Lakes, that average water levels will fall. However, changes in local precipitation patterns greatly influence any such predictions, and such changes may differ between the Great Lakes region and the Champlain Valley.

UPDATE 9/18/06: Almanack Reader and Interim Director of the Center for Environmental Programs at Bowling Green State University Philip G. Terrie suggests the following studies:

J. Curt Stager and Michael R. Martin, “Global Climate Change and the Adirondacks, AJES: Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies 9 (Spring/Summer 2002), 6-13.

The New England Regional Assessment (NERA) is one of 16 regional assessments, conducted for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), as part of the National Assessment of climate change impacts on the United States. The National Assessment is directed by response to the Congressional Act of 1990

Jerry Jenkins, Adirondack Atlas, p. 244. (At a new lower price!)


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