Over the past few months, I’ve been having some conversations with various people about an Adirondack Park Agency regulation that caught me by surprise when I heard about it. What is it? It’s that all new wilderness camping sites must be at least 150 feet from a water front or trail, and any existing site must be relocated to that distance if it requires reconstruction. Considering that my job does mean keeping up with regulations, it was the first I’d heard of it, hence part of my shock. The other part was being incredulous that it was thought to be a good idea.
One of the things that many people have come to expect in their visiting here is “free camping.” There are spots called “wilderness camping sites” which offer a convenient stopping point for those on hiking or canoe trips, and in various wilderness areas. They’re not much for amenities. They consist of a pit privy (an outhouse), a fire ring, and depending on the particular site, a clear spot to pitch a tent or a lean-to. They’re popular with a set of people, particularly those who want to “get away from it all” or those who just want to camp “for free.” What none of them ever consider is the cost of those sites.
One of the sights you see in spring here in the Adirondacks is that some of the fir trees have big square holes dug into them. The explanation for them is that woodpeckers make them. The question I often had was: Why? You see, it’d be understandable if they were digging out a nesting hole, except that the holes aren’t high up, they’re usually waist level or lower. They’re also not obviously going after something like a grub which would be nearer the bark of the tree. This spring, I finally got my answer as to what was happening.
One of the fond memories I have about my childhood in the Adirondacks was when my parents would decide to take us to a movie at a small theater in a nearby town. It also served as a performance venue for various bands, stage shows, and the community theater. It was always a special treat to go, and to this day, I still love to go to a movie, buy a bucket of popcorn, and watch a movie in the theater. When I moved back here, the theater was still going, until 2006, when the owner decided to close it. After two years of effort and organization, it was taken over by a community group and reopened, to everyone’s delight. But recently, another threat loomed on the horizon, and it wasn’t just this theater that is facing it.
Every year a large number of tourists come to the Adirondack Mountains. One of the popular things to do is to take a canoe trip. There are a number of canoe routes, parts of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Some people choose a section to be done in a day or two, while others choose longer journeys. It’s a chance to enjoy nature, to paddle through the lakes and streams, to see nature. Most of them do this without problems, beyond the usual insect bites, sore muscles, and occasional rain. Every now and then, someone runs into serious problems.
At long last, it looks like Spring has come to the Adirondacks to stay. While the snow has (finally) melted, a week ago that was in doubt as a snowstorm hit the area with temperatures falling into the upper 20’s. The leaves are appearing, the birds have returned and are starting to build nests, flowers are starting to appear, and in general things look to be warming. The tourist season starts next week, although trout season is already on us with various enthusiasts lining the local streams trying to catch some nice brook trout or brown trout.
I’m often told by various visitors to the Adirondacks how lucky I am to live here year-round. Yes, there are a lot of good things about living here. I know most of the people in the area, we’re very much “small town” in both population and attitude. I don’t have to lock my doors or my car, and it’s not uncommon to see a car left running while someone goes in to check their mail or grab something from one of the convenience stores. Having lived in cities, the difference in noise and attitudes is remarkable. Those are the upsides, but there’s a downside: I live in a desert.
Recently, there was an opinion piece about how a certain area of state land should be classified. The author, who works for an environmental advocacy group, was arguing for the strictest classification, and then went on to discuss how to limit access as well as what facilities should be constructed and where. My reply comment was “Great, and just who do you think is going to do this?” This isn’t the only time something like this has happened. I had a similar response to another group a few years ago that was trying to advocate for the creation of a new national park. Why would I make these responses? Because I’m for parks.
The latest winter storm, or as The Weather Channel calls it, winter storm “Nemo,” is moving off. While we were under a winter storm warning, the actual brunt of it was off to the southeast of us. Around here, we weren’t all that concerned, it’s stuff we’re used to handling. A few years ago, we had a lot of snow fall, and while we’ve had more than last year – which was a very mild winter – we’re still not even in the ballpark of “heavy snows.”
One of the interesting – or annoying – things about living in the Adirondacks is that you get a perspective on how many things have become “taken for granted,” when in reality, there’s nothing “granted” about it. In fact, just two or three decades ago, they didn’t exist or were only available to a limited few. I realized this the morning when my internet connection started having problems because of the weather. It was annoying, to put it mildly. You see, I take it “for granted” that my connection will be working, and will have a reasonably high speed. But less than a decade ago (7 years, to be precise), my internet connection here would have been a dial-up, and that would have been “iffy.” But it was what was available. A decade before that? I would have been (and did) paying for that same connection “by the minute,” and if I’d lived here, I wouldn’t have had it at all.