Adirondack Potatoes, in Boston?

Adirondack Red and Blue Potatoes

Writing about the Adirondacks while living outside Boston offers a unique set of challenges. When I want to learn something new about the Adirondacks, it typically involves researching the topic. New information doesn’t often find its way into my everyday life. Imagine my surprise then, when walking through my local farmers market I stumble upon bins of “Adirondack Potatoes”. I grew up in the Adirondacks, and yet I had never heard of there being a regional potato. Why hadn’t I known they existed? Was this some special regional variety? Why did it take moving almost 300 miles away to discover them? The answer to all of these questions was, of course, marketing.

The Adirondack Potato comes in two varieties, the Adirondack Blue and the Adirondack Red. The red variety has a purplish-red outside and vibrant pink inside. They will make a lovely pink mash or a darker red roasted (remember this for next year’s Valentine’s Dinner).  It’s sibling, the blue, has a more purple skin and shows similar color variations based on preparation. The blue has even been chosen to represent Penn State in potato chip form.

So why is marketing partially responsible for my prior potato ignorance? The Adirondack potatoes are not in fact a traditional regional variety as I had assumed. I did not eat them as a kid because simply, they did not exist. The Adirondack Blue was developed by scientists at Cornell University in 2003, with its Red counterpart being released shortly after. “Wait a second!” you say, “Cornell isn’t in the Adirondacks!”. The name was actually chosen as a marketing device to sell more potatoes. Despite my disappointment in hearing this, I find I can forgive them for adopting the Adirondack “brand” since it helps a little bit of the Adirondacks infiltrate farmers markets everywhere and their intent to support local produce practices.

My first thought when I heard about these Red and Blue Adirondack Potatoes was definitely, Red White and Blue potato salad. Lo and behold, the culinary institute of america CIA beat me too it. If you have any other creative ideas for these colorful spuds, I would love to hear them in the comments!

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Lake Placid and the 1932 Winter Olympics

Lake Placid Stadium

February 4th marks a very important day in the history of the Adirondacks. Eighty years ago today, the 3rd Winter Olympic Games opened in Lake Placid, NY. This momentous occasion was the first winter games held in the US and made Lake Placid a household name.

Timing is Everything

Lake Placid Bobsled

Bobsled Run on Mount Van Hoevenberg

Anyone who remembers their history classes can tell you that 1932 was not the happiest of times. The great depression was taking its toll on the public which prevented then President Herbert Hoover from leaving Washington to attend. Facing the difficulty of raising money to host an international event in the face of an economic crisis Dr. Godfrey Dewey of the Lake Placid Club, the man responsible for bringing the games to Lake Placid, donated his own family land for the construction of the bobsled track. To understand the expense of such an event, the indoor skating arena supposedly cost a quarter of a million dollars. The town of Lake Placid got behind the decision and even enacted a tax to support development in preparation of the games.

The Participants

Perhaps the most recognizable name in attendance of the games was Franklin Roosevelt.

Sonja Henie

Sonja Henie, figure skater from Norway

As Governor of New York, he opened the games since the President could not attend. He would go on later in the year to become President himself. His wife Eleanor also made a remarkable appearance by accepting an invitation opening day for a run in the bobsled. Bobsledding can be quite dangerous, and a crash would have left a permanent scar on the games. A main draw to the games came all the way from Norway. Figure skater Sonja Henie revolutionized the sport at the 1928 games with her costumed and choreographed performances. Her performance was so popular that she may have been the reason for the extra attention in the building of the skating arena.

Other prominent athletes participating were William Fiske as bobsled driver and Irving Jaffee on speed skate. Some accounts say that Jaffee leapt across the finish line it was so close a race while others claim he fell from rushing but maintained his lead. My personal favorite has to be Eddie Eagan, who won his second gold medal. What makes Eddie remarkable is the fact that he remains the only athlete to win a gold medal in both the summer and winter games. Eddie’s first metal was at the summer games in Antwerp (1920) as a boxer. Furthering this accomplishment is the fact that Eddie apparently had never been in a bobsled prior to three weeks before the event. I believe that Eagan will likely maintain this honor given that every sport has far more competitors nowadays. Interestingly enough, a hockey team from McGill University defeated both the Canadian and USA national teams, gold and silver medal winners respectively.

George Hicks of NBC at the 1932 Winter Olympics

The real winner of the games was Lake Placid itself. Though the financial cost was profound, the publicity was immense. NBC, just 6 years old, as well as CBS broadcasted accounts of the games by radio. It was even brought to Europe by shortwave radio out of Schenectady, NY. People across America could tune in and hear of exciting winter activities, and Lake Placid where they could be experienced. While the financial cost of the games far outweighed the profits, the long term effect lies not in monetary value.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Hicks image from The Official Report, all others from Don Williams

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Hiking to Auger Falls

When you imagine hiking in the Adirondacks what images come to mind? Likely you are picturing tall mountains with panoramic views of lakes and forests. While it is true that the high peaks are the primary attraction (and for good reason) of hikers there are also a myriad of small trails that make wonderful day trips. A favorite hike of mine happens to be the Auger Falls Trail near Speculator  and just north of Wells on Rt. 30 (detailed directions). This trail is more horizontal than vertical, making it a wonderful option for those less-than-fit adventurers looking to get a taste of the trek. Furthermore, more experienced hikers can enjoy the easy walk and bring along their friends and family.

Auger Falls is a series of falls that has cut a gorge that feeds the Sacandaga River.

Photo by Johnida Dockens (Flickr: gwarcita)

In the past the falls have alternatively been named Augar Falls and Olger Falls, and it once was the site of a power dam that had to be let out by hand courtesy of a caretaker. Numerous deer trails cut through this area, and every time I have taken this hike I have been fortunate enough to see them. It can be easy to wander off the trail, and it is common for groups to get turned around. My grandfather once came across a girl scout troop that had lost its way and had to help them reorient themselves. The trail ends at the edge of the gorge looking down at the falls and is a wonderful site for photos or a picnic lunch. Be careful not to wander too close, and keep your kids by your side. Fall leaves can easily mask crevices in the outcrops and the resulting fall would be anything but pleasant.

The real secret to truly enjoying this trip is in the timing. During the winter months the falls often freeze over and capture the beauty of the spot in time. The trail itself is easily taken by snowshoe and can be a great place to learn. However, ice on the rocks can make the gorge especially dangerous so be wary near the edges. A few year ago I made the hike along with my father and grandfather which he describes in an article found here. You may sense his disappointment in my lack of the traditional wooden snowshoes by Havlik Snowshoe Co. of Mayfield, NY. He makes a good point that the newer snowshoes tend to be louder which should be kept in mind if you are hoping to spot some deer (check out this interesting post on the matter). While I do not believe Havlik still makes wooden snowshoes, it is good to see that his newer models maintain a Made in America standard. Also, something can be said about supporting a local business instead of an impersonal brand.

Anyone passing along Rt. 30 should make the stop for this wonderful little hike. It will take only as long as you’d like it to, and the falls themselves will leave you with that satisfied “power of nature” feeling.

If you have been to the falls, I’d love to hear about it. Tell your story in the comments!

 

P.S. Here is some nice footage taken at the falls:

 


by ScoobieNewBee

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Lily of the Mohawks: Kateri, an Adirondack Saint?

If you find yourself driving down Route 5 near Fonda, NY you may come across the

National Kateri Shrine and Indian Museum by J. Stephen Conn

National Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine. This modest grouping of buildings were named for the 17th century Mohawk Kateri upon her beatification in 1980. Beatification is the second step in the establishment of sainthood, and as such Kateri’s full title is Blessed Kateria Tekakwitha.

Who was this young woman that is honored over 330 years after her death?

Kateri was born near the present site of the shrine in Ossernenon (present day Auriesville) in 1656. When she was just 4 years old she lost her parents and her brother to smallpox. Though she survived the outbreak, it left her face permanently scarred and her vision impaired. Kateri was taken in by her uncle, a Kanienkehaka Chief and moved to a new settlement at age 10. The shrine is built near this settlement, and it is said to represent the only completely excavated Iroquois village.

Despite the fact that Kateri lost her mother, an Algonquin Christian, at such an early age, she retained fond memories of her mother’s prayers. Given that influence, Kateri was very receptive to the appearance of the Jesuit missionary Father de Lamberville. Her uncle reluctantly consented to her pursuit of Christianity but it caused her to become a pariah in her village. Due to the persecution, she left the area to join up with other native Christians at a missionary near Montreal in Canada. The journey there took two months time through the wildnerness but she reached her goal and went on to lead a life of prayer and meditation.

Kateri died at the young age of 24 due to her poor health. It is said that upon her death her face became clear of its scars, and other miracles were said to have happened to those who came to pay their respects. On December 19th, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree that accounts for a miracle that will qualify her for sainthood. In 2006 a young boy who suffered from a flesh eating bacterium that scarred his face recovered after his parents prayed to Kateri for help.

Kateri has often been referred to as a patroness of ecology and nature, a fitting role for the first Native American saint.

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Kane Mountain

The Climb

Trails up Kane Mountain

Trails up Kane Mountain.

In the Southern reaches of the Adirondack park stands the popular destination Kane Mountain. The mountain is nestled between several lakes, including Pine Lake and Canada Lake. The hike itself is moderate in difficulty, and several trail options exist. The most commonly used trail is the East trail departing from Green Lake Road. While this trail is longer, it is an easier climb and a great option for families hiking with children. The alternative South Trail departs from Schoolhouse Road, and while it is shorter the steepness of this trail makes it a better choice for descent instead. In the past, a third trail ran from the Pine Lake Campground but is no longer open to the public. However, those wishing to use this trail can meet up with it via an alternative trail from the Green Lake Road trailhead. For winter hikers, the East Trail provides a nice snowshoeing trail for those looking to try out snowhoeing on an incline. Be aware though that the snow makes the climb more tiring, and children or inexperienced climbers may not be able to complete the hike.

The Geology

If you are observant in your climb up Kane Mountain you will see evidence of the mountains history.

Kane Mountain Erratic

Glacial Erratic on Kane Mountain

Like many other mountains, Kane Mountain was carved by glaciers during the last ice age. A key feature of this is large boulders strewn along the mountainside. These are known as glacial erratics and were dropped on the mountain by the moving ice. Furthermore, you can see in many places glacial striations. These are grooves cut into rock as bit of stone trapped in the ice scoured their surface. These lines reveal not only the presence of the glaciers, but can also give you a sense of their directionality.

The Peak

Kane Mountain Tower

Kane Mountain Fire Tower

For those who make the climb, the peak has several features of note. This peak was once used as a lookout to detect any fires in the Adirondack forest. In order to accomplish this, a fire tower rises above the treeline. Hikers can ascend the tower to witness a fantastic view of the surrounding lakes and forests. Caution should be taken when climbing the tower in rain or wind as the steps become slick and the tower rocks considerably. At the peak their is also the observers cabin built over 50 years ago and a clearing excellently suited for a trail lunch or picnic. For the geocaching fans, a cache near the summit can be a fun mid-hike diversion.

A hike up Kane Mountain is rewarding, educational, and recommended to all who visit the area.

 

 

Have you ever hiked Kane Mountain? Do you have a favorite hike you would recommend? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Map Source.

Photos by Christina Plummer.

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“Adirondack” Evolution: From Epithet to Honor

Adirondack is a name that is known to many, yet understood by few. How the mountains earned their name may surprise you..

The Answer: Racism.

 

As mentioned in the overview, the Mohawk nation inhabited the area prior to European contact.

The Mohawk's Last Arrow

While the Mohawk were members of the Iroquois League, they still had their rivals. The Mohawk people found their rivals in the neighboring Algonquin. The Mohawk and Algonquin competed for land and resources and also spoke different languages. In the typical story of “Us” versus “Them” conflict and, yes, even name calling ensued. When times were rough, the Algonquin people were known to chew the bark of trees for nourishment. Naturally, when looking for a derogatory name the Mohawk conjured up ratirontaks, meaning “they eat trees”.

Over time, the very specific name became the slur of choice for all the foreigners the Mohawk did not favor. When they began to interact with the Dutch, the Mohawk referred to the French and English in such a manner. When the Dutch tried to reproduce the word, it was altered to Aderondackx.

When geologist Ebenezer Emmons wrote about the mountains and his ascent up Mt. Marcy, he chose the term Adirondacks to commemorate the tribe that once lived there. It is assumed from Emmons apparent respect for the tribe that while he knew what they were called, he did not know the derogatory nature of the term. Once the name was established by Emmons, its use was widely adapted and now is the official name for the region.

Through time and translation, a name born of derision came to commemorate a people through their environment.

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An Adirondack Overview

The Land

The Adirondack region consists of a mountainous dome in central New York. This area, some 200 kilometers in diameter, bears the scars of the previous ice age. As the glaciers came and went, they carved out the deep valleys and left behind large boulders and numerous ponds and lakes. The Adirondacks are home to numerous high peaks, the most prominent being Mount Marcy. Mount Marcy peaks at 1623 meters, representing the highest point in the state. It also is home to the highest lake, Lake Tear of the Clouds, which flows into the mighty Hudson River.

The Park

The Adirondack Park is massive in many ways. At 6.1 million acres, the park is comparable to the size of Vermont and could contain “rival” parks Yosemite, Yellowstone, Great Smokies, Grand Canyon, and Glacier. Furthermore, it represents the largest protected wilderness in the contiguous United States. The park is protected by one of the strongest environmental laws, deemed to be kept “forever wild” by the state constitution. The park itself became a National Historic Landmark in 1963.

The People

Long before the arrival of European settlers, the Adirondack region was home to the native Mohawk people. The Mohawk were members of the Iroquois Nation and were deemed the “guardians of the Eastern Door” and as such had direct contact with early settlers of New York. Due to the lack of fertile land the Adirondacks were not settled as quickly as the nearby river valleys. This allowed the park to remain mostly wild long enough to survive to a time when environmental law could be established. Those that did venture into the wilderness developed a unique and rich culture of their own. Today, the park differs greatly from the traditional notion of a park due to the fact that it is comprised of public and private lands. This results in the close association of communities and wilderness that is unfortunately not seen in many other places.

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