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John Apperson skate sailing near Dollar Island, the Narrows

John Apperson skate sailing near Dollar Island, the Narrows

Smooth Sailing

By Anthony F. Hall

Saturday, February 18, 2017

 

Skating out into Bolton Bay, Ted Caldwell stops to lift a custom-made, kite-shaped canvas sail rigged to ash spars jointed where the mast and boom cross. He hoists it above his head, then brings it down so that the boom rests on his shoulder. Tilting the sail into the wind, he moves off with a steady glide. Within minutes, Caldwell himself is barely visible, a swiftly moving swatch of white canvas against Dome Island.

This is what we observed a few years ago, when a long, hard freeze and little snow produced 2 ½ weeks of black ice, the ideal conditions for skating, ice boating and skate sailing.

Caldwell is one of several skate sailors on Lake George, all of whom can trace their interest in the sport to one Eskill Berg, a General Electric engineer who brought the sport to upstate New York from his native Sweden in 1895.

From Berg, other GE men acquired an interest in the sport, including John Apperson and Nobel laureate Irving Langmuir, who together purchased Dome Island to protect it from development.

Apperson made his first sail from cotton muslin and bamboo poles in 1904. Within a few years, the GE men were purchasing spars and sail cloth in bulk and making as many as fifty sails a year in Apperson’s apartment.

The railways granted them permission to carry their sails on lines throughout New York, and soon they were coming to Lake George.

For Apperson and Langmuir, skate sailing was not just sport. They also used the sails to power sleds across the ice; the sleds bearing the rocks they needed to rip rap the islands.

Apperson introduced the sport to a younger GE engineer, Bill White, and White and Arthur Newkirk devised plans for skate sails adapted from those developed in Apperson’s apartment and modified by General Electric Test Men for maximum speed and efficiency.

Peter White, Bill White’s son, inherited his father’s love for skate sailing.

He told Caperton Tissot for her book Adirondack Ice, “I pray each year for the opportunity to glide with the wind, to be a part of the ice and the winter breeze.”

Skate sailors on Lake George

Ted Caldwell sent a set of the plans drafted by Newkirk and White to a sail maker, who produced his skate sail. He also passed them on the Bolton Central School teachers John and Deb Gaddy, who also commissioned a sail.

The Gabriels family relies upon its own traditions for their skate sails. They own two skate sails purchased from Abercrombie and Fitch in the 1930s. David Gabriels remembers an early attempt by him and his brother Chris to use them; they were unsuccessful until a skater from nearby Crown Island offered to give them some instruction. The skater was Harry Summerhayes, Irving Langmuir’s son-in-law. Today, David’s nephews are the family’s avid skate sailors.

On one recent winter’s black ice, John Gaddy sailed from Bolton Landing to Sabbath Day Point and back in less than an hour and a half, traveling at a speed of 30 mph.

“On a good windy day, you can take 10 kids,” says Ted Caldwell, who has sailed the length of the lake himself several times. “You can go vast distances with little effort.”

“In mild winds, skate sailing is relaxing,” he says. “In stiff winds, it’s very fast, requiring strong legs and attention to cracks and pressure ridges that come upon you so quickly that you have little time to react. But when conditions are right, the 32 miles of Lake George are your quiet domain. You don’t hear or feel the wind; the only sound is the skates’ blades cutting the ice.”

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George Stark, Dennie Swan-Scott, Patrick O’Keeffe and Michael O’Keeffe in Lake George Village, after completing their record-breaking swim

George Stark, Dennie Swan-Scott, Patrick O’Keeffe and Michael O’Keeffe in Lake George Village, after completing their record-breaking swim

Local Team Sets Record for Length of Lake Swim

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, November 7, 2016

The suspension of this year’s Lake George Swim Marathon a few hours after it started did not deter one local relay team from attempting a length of the lake swim two days later. The team, called the Glens Falls Masters, not only completed the swim, but did it in record time.

George Stark, Dennie Swan-Scott, Michael O’Keeffe and Patrick O’Keeffe left Ticonderoga at 11 pm on September 26and arrived at Lake George Village’s public docks 13 hours later, beating an unofficial record set in 1983 by an hour.

Swan-Scott, the head coach of the Glens Falls Gators and Masters swim teams, said, “I coach by example. I can’t tell swimmers that this is something that can be done if I haven’t done it myself.”

To demonstrate what’s possible once one commits oneself to achieving something: that’s one reason why the team chose to make the length of the lake swim despite the fact that the official marathon was called on account of weather, said Swan=Scott.

“I want to encourage more people to become involved in swimming,” Swan-Scott added, noting that she herself had returned to the sport years after graduating from college, where she swam competitively. She has since gone on to become a nationally ranked, champion long distance swimmer.

Stark and the brothers O’Keeffe have won ther share of titles, trophies and medals, too. “They’re some of the strongest swimmers ever to come out of this region,” said Bob Singer, the organizer of the Lake George Swim Marathon.

Michael O’Keeffe, who lives in Palo Alto, California, trained for the event with Stanford University swimmers. Stark, Patrick O’Keeffe and Swan-Scott began training in the lake itself, swimming from Plum Point to Beach Road and along Cleverdale’s shores.

“We were ready to go; we’d been training, we’d made the commitment. And by the time the event was called, we were passing other swimmers,” said Swan-Scott.

Over dinner at the Algonquin with its support crew Saturday evening, the team decided to make the attempt before Patrick O’Keeffe returned to California.

All four swimmers swam for approximately one hour each before trading places with another. All participated in the final laps, arriving at the Village docks at noon.

“I feel I know the lake really well by now,” said Swan-Scott. “It’s so beautiful, and so different in every part.”

The Lake George Land Conservancy was one of the charities selected by the team to support with its swim.

“Anything to protect the lake,” said Swan-Scott.

The Glens Falls Gators, the YMCA club team, was the members’ other cxhoice.

While Swan-Scott coaches the team, “George, Patrick and Michael all got their start with the Gators long ago,” the team said in a statement. “We would like to help with future Gators.

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Thomas Smith of Chic’s

Thomas Smith of Chic’s

Welcome to the Fun House!

By Buzz Lamb

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Towable Tubes Eclipse Boards and Skis in Water Sports Sales

From water skis and wakeboards to inflatable water toys, watersports products are moving ahead at wide-open throttle. Improved technology, stronger, lighter materials and more models are what you’ll see this year in towable watersports. Let’s take a look at the coolest gear of the up-coming season.

When it comes to enjoying the summer on Lake George, inflatable towable tubes are a hit for people of all ages. They are safe for children who are old enough to hang on tightly. These tubes can be shared with friends as they take turns enjoying being pulled around the water.

Thomas Smith, 36, a manager at Chic’s Marina in Bolton Landing, said inflatable tubes are the most popular water toy on the market. “Towable tubes don’t require any skill other than the ability to hold on,” Smith said. “That’s what makes them so popular.  We sell 50 to 60 tubes every year and just about everybody that rents a boat from us rents a tube as well.”

Towable tubes are available in a wide variety of shapes and styles. You can surely get the one you need when you take the time to do a little research. They also come in a wide range of sizes that can accommodate up to 12 riders.

Dave Armando, 38, from Yankee Marine in Diamond Point said the most popular tube at their facility is a round, fully-covered 1 – 2 person tube. “Big Mable (also a 1 – 2 person tube) is very popular because it provides a unique towable riding experience and it also doubles as a comfortable lounge with a large backrest and cushioned side walls for just relaxing on the water,” Armando said.

When looking for the best tow tube, it is essential for you to do some research. Here are some important factors to consider when picking the perfect towable tubes.

The first thing to consider is the number of people who will ride on a towable tube. Remember, the more the merrier, so you might want to consider picking the one that accommodates the most number of riders. In addition, no one will miss out on the fun and excitement when everybody gets to ride.

It is also essential to consider the level of experience of the riders. This factor is extremely important when it comes to the safety of the riders, most especially the little ones.

You have to pick the tow tube that offers safety features such as a safety harness and the overall strength and durability of the inflatable (30-gauge PVC and 840-denier covers are the industry standards).  As demand for more towable inflatable tubes rises, watersport manufacturers are quickly adding new sizes, shapes and colors.

Over 15 years ago, the big news in water skis was the use of carbon fiber which reduced or eliminated the need for fiberglass. Carbon fiber, also known as graphite, layered around a foam core offers superb rebound abilities.

Today water skiing has moved to second place when it comes to popularity. “Skiing requires a higher level of skill,” Smith at Chic’s Marina said.  “But a lot of younger people are starting to get into it.”  Adirondack Ski School is located at their marina and is available to give skiing lessons for beginners or those who wish to improve their techniques. It’s by appointment only and lessons are available for ½ hour up to three hours.

Dave Armando of Yankee Marine

Jon Brodie, co-owner of Yankee Marine agreed that water skiing has slipped in popularity. “We sell eight times as many tubes as we do water skis,” he said. Brodie said his company added water skis to their line of water toys only about five years ago. “We’re noticing that the young people are choosing knee boards and wake boards over water skis,” he said.

Thomas Smith echoed Brodie’s comments.  “Kneeboards and wakeboards are for the younger crowd.”

To accommodate widely different riding styles, wakeboards are appearing in more variety than since the first compression molded wakeboard was made in 1993.  Some boards are narrow and long for fast acceleration.  Others are short and wide, producing slow acceleration but better “pop” off the wake.  Riders who like to do lots of spins favor a high pop-off factor.  Still, other wakeboards combine both speed and pop.

Armando said Yankee Marine started selling a product called “Water Carpet” about two years ago. “It’s an 18-foot long by 6-foot wide by ¾ inch thick foam that you can sit on, lay on or even walk on,” he said. “This was very popular last summer.”

So, not matter what your choice is, and there are a lot of them, now is the time to start thinking about summer fun on the lake. Stop by your favorite marina and check out the wide variety of water toys available for your enjoyment.  Let the fun begin!

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A Lake George Mirror file photo by Walt Grishkot of the telescope, circa 1971

A Lake George Mirror file photo by Walt Grishkot of the telescope, circa 1971

Lake George Land Conservancy Buys Site of SUNY’s Telescope

By Mirror Staff

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A 130-acre parcel in North Bolton owned by SUNY Albany and once the site of a 100-foot parabolic radio telescope has been purchased by the Lake George Land Conservancy.

According to Sarah Hoffman, the Conservancy’s communications manager, the acquisition is part of an effort to protect Indian Brook, a major tributary of Lake George.

With this acquisition, Hoffman said, hundreds of feet of stream corridors and environmentally significant wetlands will be protected.

“By protecting this important tributary, we’re providing a safeguard against excessive storm water and stream bank erosion, further protecting the lake’s water quality,” said Hoffman.

The telescope was installed in North Bolton in 1971 and dismantled in 1978 after SUNY Albany abolished its astronomy program.

As part of the Indian Brook watershed protection project, other acquisitions will follow, including a 115-acre property on Padanarum Road, said Hoffman.

“The land will become a public preserve, with a 0.6-mile trail that could connect the neighboring state land, the Pole Hill Pond Preserve, and the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Amy’s Park. Named the Isabel La Roche Godwin Preserve by the sellers, the preserve includes views of High Nopit and Pole Hill. The trail system is anticipated to be in place mid-summer,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman said the Conservancy is working with residents of the Indian Brook watershed to find other ways of protecting the stream from erosion and storm water runoff.

“We’ve created a focus group to better understand and appreciate the needs of the community, and to direct its efforts to efficiently address storm water and erosion issues within the Indian Brook watershed, based on recommendations from the group,” Hoffman said.

A recent round-table meeting of the group included Bolton Town Supervisor Ron Conover, Hoffman noted.

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View from Huckleberry Mountain Forest

View from Huckleberry Mountain Forest

Woods Where ‘Miss Lonelyhearts” Author Roamed to be Protected

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, March 7, 2016

John Sanford, the writer who placed a series of novels and stories in Warrensburg, once recalled, “In the spring of 1931, when Nathanael West was writing his second novel, “Miss Lonelyhearts,” I was working on my first. Neither of us was progressing… and when West proposed that we get away from the city, I turned up the right place to go. I’d met an upstate game warden, and through him, we obtained, for $25 a month, a seven-room cabin in the Adirondacks, together with a forest preserve of 1,200 acres and a 50-acre pond – Viele Pond, it was called. There in that private realm, we wrote, fished, swam and shot away the summer.”

That Adirondack Forest Preserve that accommodated West and Sanford so hospitably in the 1930s is about to be enlarged by another 836 acres.

The Open Space Institute has announced that it has purchased a tract just on the other side of Harrington Hill from Viele Pond known as “Huckleberry Mountain Forest,”

 

Viele Pond

Both tracts lie off Alden Avenue in the town of Warrensburg and border the Hudson River.

Until recently, the Huckleberry Mountain property was on the market for $450,000, offered to prospective buyers as a timber-rich investment or for private recreational purposes.

According to the Open Space Institute, the land has been considered “a high priority acquisition in the region for decades” by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and “was secured by OSI at the request of the DEC.”

The land will ultimately be purchased by New York State and added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, OSI stated.

“OSI is delighted to continue our commitment to the Adirondack Park, an international treasure right here in New York State,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “The Huckleberry Mountain Forest property will ensure the preservation of beautiful scenery and buffer the Hudson River, while keeping the land in the hands of the public.”

Nathanael West completed “Miss Lonelyhearts” one year after the two writers spent the summer at Viele Pond.

Nathanael West and John Sanford at Viele Pond

Both moved to California to work in the film industry, and less than ten years later, West died in an automobile accident.

Sanford would live until the age of 98, dying in 2003. He never returned to the area. But in 1997, a Lake George area resident sent him some photos of the pond, which elicited this response: “I actually cried out, ‘My God!’ to an empty room.  West’s biographer has told me that the cabin is gone. (And) the pond has changed, but the woods are as they were, and they evoked memories of a summer now sixty-five years gone.”

Once it is part of the Forest Preserve, the Huckleberry Mountain Forest will be accessible to the public, the DEC stated.

“The Huckleberry Mountain Forest will offer outstanding recreational opportunities for hiking, camping, sightseeing and fishing, and I applaud OSI for their work in preserving such a valuable natural resource, said DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos.

The land will be classified by the Adirondack Park Agency and the DEC as ‘Wild Forest,’ a less restrictive category of state-owned land than Wilderness.

Like the surrounding lands, it will be considered part of the Lake George Wild Forest, which currently consists of more than 71,000 acres in Warren and Washington Counties.

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Kenneth Durant

Kenneth Durant

Adirondack Museum Reissues Guide—Boat Classic

By Anthony F. Hall

Thursday, February 4, 2016

There’s nothing wooden about a tree, a friend who happens to be a poet once remarked. The same could be said about a true Adirondack guide-boat. There’s nothing wooden about it. The offspring of this region’s woods and waters, it is the most elegant rowing boat ever built. Handled properly, an anonymous sportsman once wrote, “it obeys the prompting of every impulse, and is so easily propelled in smooth water you need never tire.”

Easier said than done, of course. But even clumsy rowers, or those who have only rowed a metal clunker, find themselves besotted by the guide-boat’s lines, workmanship and history. Ask any one of the millions of people who have visited the Adirondack Museum, whose guide-boat collection is among its most popular attractions.

That collection was formed largely through the efforts of Kenneth Durant, whose scholarly research was the basis of the first and best book about the region’s native craft, “The Adirondack Guide-Boat.”

Completed by Durant’s wife Helen and published by the Museum in 1980, six years after his death, the book is a mixture of social history, small boat taxonomy and technical instructions. Unfortunately, it has long been out of print. The good news is that it has been reprinted by the Adirondack Museum, just in time for the holidays.

Durant’s curiosity about the guide-boat was rooted in his own experience. His father, Frederick C. Durant, was the developer of the Prospect House on Blue Mountain Lake, the first luxury hotel in the Adirondacks. To accommodate his own family, Durant built a camp on Forked Lake, a tributary of Racquette Lake, in the style made popular by his relative, William West Durant, which they called “Camp Cedars.” Warren Cole, the Long Lake guide-boat builder, was the family’s guide, and Durant spent much of his youth in the guide-boat that Cole built specially for him.

S.R. Stoddard: View from the Stern

Not long after graduating from Harvard, Durant spotted Cole rowing a sleeker version of his own boat, which he purchased from the builder. He would own it until 1957, the year he donated it to the Adirondack Museum.

“I spent a large part of my youth in a guide-boat without ever looking at the boat unless it sprang a leak, and not until it was in the museum and I no longer in the boat did I begin to look at it with attention and curiosity,” Durant once wrote to John Gardner, the noted historian of American boats.

For the next decade, Durant devoted himself to researching the origins and construction of the guide-boat.

Between the 1720s, when a northern traveller observed “very light battoes, which may easily be carried on Men’s shoulders…..” and the 1890s, by which time guide-boat had been perfected, lay “an interval of obscure experimentation,” Durant wrote.

The task he set for himself was to trace the evolution of the guide-boat through that “interval of obscure experimentation. ”

Before Durant began his researches, it was commonly assumed that Mitchell Sabattis, the Native American guide, hunter and all-around “prodigious fellow” invented the guide-boat as a lighter, swifter alternative to canoes.

Durant, however, came to understand that “No individual held a patent… No one hesitated to copy or improve the work of others, to follow the best methods or the best patterns available. Father and son worked together. Thus an art was passed from hand to hand and from generation to generation.”

He also found that the Adirondack guide-boat owed more to a Cornish gig than a Native American canoe, an insight that enabled him to place the boat within its proper context, that of American rowing boats.

Whitehalls, St. Lawrence skiffs, Banks dories, Monomoy surfboats and other boats of that ilk evolved to meet the particular needs of those who would use them. And, as the naval architect Francis Herreshoff once remarked, “out of perfect adaptation to use came beauty.”

A boat light enough to be carried by one man

An Adirondack boat had to be light enough to be carried by one man across portages, yet spacious enough to carry game, gear and luggage.

By the 1890s, when tourists began flocking to the region, they found a craft already suited to their needs.

Those needs could not have been met so perfectly had the appropriate materials not been at hand. Fortunately, the region abounded in old growth pine for planks and spruce roots for knees and light but sturdy ribs.

The wood available to a boat builder may limit his design, but it may also inspire him, Durant believed.

“In an age of plywood, plastic and light metals, the carpenter’s dependence upon the qualities of wood is often forgotten. Spruce gave to the Adirondack builder what he needed, and he built accordingly,” Durant wrote.

The guide-boats full development was contingent upon yet another accident of history: the invention of a machine able to make the thousands of development of brass screws and copper tacks needed to hold the boat’s planks together

Now that the Adirondack Museum has reprinted ‘The Adirondack Guide-Boat,” it should be encouraged to reprint its “Guide Boat Days and Ways,” Durant’s 1963 anthology of historical source materials, ranging from the earliest accounts of boating in the region to the reminiscences of builders such as Dwight Grant and Willard Hanmer.

Someone should also write Durant’s biography. A member of Harvard’s class of 1910, which also included John Reed and T.S. Eliot, he attended the Versailles peace conference as an aide to Woodrow Wilson’s envoy, Colonel House. And before retiring to Jamaica, Vermont, and devoting himself to researching the evolution of the guide-boat, he was the US bureau chief for TASS, the Soviet news agency.

Helen Durant, whom he married after the death of his second wife, a poet and biographer of Emily Dickinson named Genevieve Taggard, was celebrated in her own right as a film editor, having worked with on Joris Ivens’ 1936 Spanish Civil War film, The Spanish Earth, and Robert Flaherty’s “Louisiana Story,” among other seminal documentaries.

Their guide-boat researches occasionally brought them to Lake George to study the bateaux that had just been discovered at the bottom of the lake, and they visited my family often in Warrensburg, usually when traveling from their home in Vermont to Hamilton County, which Durant always called “the woods” and which he believed was the true Adirondacks.

(He once wrote to his friend, canoe authority Paul Jamieson: “When I was half as old as I am now we could say unctuously, ‘There are no venomous snakes in the Adirondacks,’ reciting a bit of nature lore: ‘Rattlesnakes do not advance beyond the oaks.’ Then, when I was not looking, someone moved the Blue Line around Lake George and took in oaks and rattlesnakes–and worse.”)

While he may have been harsh on Lake George, I remember Kenneth as the gentlest of men. And he managed to impart to many, through his books, his conversation and his example, something of his passionate interest in wooden boats and their history on the lakes of the Adirondacks. Those of us who have learned from him had had richer lives as a consequence.

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Buzz Lamb on the summit of the Pinnacle

Buzz Lamb on the summit of the Pinnacle

Buzz Lamb Hikes the Pinnacle

By Buzz Lamb

Monday, December 28, 2015

In August of 2015, the Lake George Land Conservancy staff invited donors and supporters of the recent purchase of the Pinnacle in Bolton Landing to participate in a guided hike up the mountain.  Nineteen people, ranging in age from 14-years-old to folks in their 70’s took them up on the offer.

At one o’clock on a crystal clear day the group, which included yours truly, trudged off from Bolton Conservation Park on Edgecomb Pond Road bound for the trailhead 0.4 miles west of the clubhouse.  Land Conservancy staff member Jordyn Conway led the group and staff member Sarah Hoffman was the “sweep”.  The 19 of us were strung out between the two as we entered the trailhead, eager to reach the summit in anticipation of the view we would encounter.

After passing thru the gate at the base of the mountain we started off on the red trail which follows a dirt road for 0.1 miles before diverting into the woods for a short distance.  The trail on the road is an easy uphill climb and the group was able to stay relatively close together. Jordyn said they moved the trail off the dirt road to protect the privacy of the neighbors whose house borders the dirt road on the west.

The diverted trail is well marked as it meanders through the woods.  There are a few challenges along the way until the trail re-emerges back onto the dirt road.  The most challenging portion being the climb to make the transition back to the dirt road.  The area is somewhat steep but there are small trees along the bank which can be used as aids in making the climb.  Once back on the dirt road, Jordyn stopped for a few minutes to let the stragglers catch up and to let the rest of us catch our breath and get the kinks out of our legs.

The trail on the dirt road then continues on a series of moderately steep switchbacks for 0.5 miles.  We took another welcomed break after hiking to the area where the trail levels off and continues for another 0.4 miles.

Evidence of the fire that ravaged the summit years ago is still visible. Several tall pines that look like uncarved primordial totem poles are still standing and can be easily seen from the back yard of the Conservation Park. Twenty-eight years have passed since two teenage campers accidentally started a fire which burned out of control before they could extinguish it.

At the summit, we made a right turn off of the dirt road onto a short trail to the lookout. The 270 degree breathtaking panorama includes (from north to south) the Tongue Mountain Range, the Narrows, Shelving Rock, Buck Mountain, downtown Bolton Landing, Dome Island, Huddle Bay, Pilot Knob, Basin Bay,  Cleverdale, Rockhurst, Assembly Point and Top ‘O the World.  Saying the view is spectacular doesn’t do it justice.

We sat at the lookout for about 20 minutes drinking in the beauty of Lake George and the surrounding basin before Jordyn rounded us up and we headed back down the trail.  It took us 45 minutes to get from the base to the summit and approximately 30 minutes on the return trip. According to Sarah Hoffman the trail is exactly one mile long, an easy to moderate hike for the beginner or experienced hiker.

On Thursday, August 6, 14-year-old Jahnavi Bhavav, a New York City resident who spends the summer at Bluff Head in Hulett’s Landing, organized a two-part scavenger hunt/hike on the Pinnacle trail for 19 kids.  Three teams of kids, led by Lucinda Bhavsav (Jahnavi’s mother), Jordyn Conway and Helen Barton-Benedict searched for six clues on the way up the mountain.  Each clue identified where the next one could be found.  All participants were awarded prizes.  On the way back down, the kids had to find and identify birds, plants and items found in the forest.

After five years of negotiations, the Pinnacle, a 75-acre mountain that is the second highest peak in Bolton Landing, was able to be protected thanks to a partnership between Lake George Land Conservancy, the Town of Bolton, and the FUND for Lake George, which provided major financial support for its acquisition. In addition, nearly 300 individuals, families, businesses and foundations also contributed to the project. The enormous outpouring of community support was essential to the project’s success, and helped to make this a landmark achievement.

Just a five-minute drive from downtown Bolton Landing, the trail to the Pinnacle summit provides a rewarding introduction to hiking in the Adirondack Park. Jordyn says mountain biking and dogs on leashes are allowed on the trail, “but please be respectful of other hikers.”  The Land Conservancy welcomes your comments and reports of damage or trail maintenance needs. Please contact them at 518-644-9673

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Looking south from Anthony’s Nose. Acquisition of South Mountain creates the potential for interlinked trails along the lake’s east shore. Photo by Veronica Spann

Looking south from Anthony’s Nose. Acquisition of South Mountain creates the potential for interlinked trails along the lake’s east shore. Photo by Veronica Spann

South Mountain: Securing Another Link in Lake Trail Loop

By Anthony F. Hall

Thursday, December 24, 2015

South Mountain, which rises above Black Point on the northeastern shore of Lake George, may provide one of the missing links in a proposed hundred-mile “century trail” that would enable hikers to circle the lake.

The Lake George Land Conservancy intends to purchase a portion of the mountain and acquire easements through adjacent properties to help establish the trail, Board president John Macionis announced at the organization’s annual Land and Water Conservation Celebration, held at the Sagamore of July 29.

The trail would link Mount Defiance with Flat Rock and Anthony’s Nose, Macionis said. Hikers could then proceed south to the Last Great Shoreline, the Gull Bay Preserve and ultimately to Pilot Knob, on the lake’s southeastern shore.

“This one piece is the key to the whole thing,” said Macionis.

According to Jamie Brown, the Conservancy’s executive director, the organization has raised $50,000 to help meet the costs of purchasing the property,

In 2009, towns on Lake George were awarded a $69,000 grant from the state’s Adirondack Park Community Smart Growth Grant Program to create a “Trails Master Plan” for the west shore.
“Creating the plan was a great opportunity to pull together all the information we have about hiking and mountain biking trails as well as bicycle routes,” said Tracey Clothier of the LA Group, who crafted the plan.

On behalf of the Lake George Land Conservancy, Clothier has now submitted an application to the same state program which, if approved, would add east side trails to the master plan.

“Our goal is to inventory all the public hiking, biking, and snowmobile trails on the east side and identify the connections and main gaps between the trail systems, including those between the west and east shores,” said Clothier.

The comprehensive, basin-wide trails plan would chart the 100-mile loop around the lake, said Clothier.

According to the DEC, the Smart Growth grants are designed to help Adirondack communities to develop plans that link sustainable economic development, environmental protection and community livability.

Developing the Lake George region as a destination for bikers and hikers is the perfect example of the kind of economic initiative the grant program seeks to encourage, said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who attended the Conservancy’s Land and Water Conservation Celebration.

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Walden Rising

By Buzz Lamb

Friday, July 24, 2015

New Owner Rebuilding, Revitalizing Summer Camp on Trout Lake              

Eleven years ago Mark and Lauren Bernstein saved Camp Walden from developers.  “The camp was about to go under and we bought it before the bulldozers leveled it to make room for houses and condos,” Mark said.  “We had a vision of what this place could become.”

Camp Walden’s spectacular 105-acre campground is nestled on the shores of Trout Lake, just a short drive from Bolton Landing.  According to Mark, the camp began operation in 1931.  “It was an all-boys camp when it began, but we’re co-ed now,” he said.

Mark said the bought the camp because it was Lauren’s dream to own and operate a camp.  “She has been in camping her whole career as well as an educator and vice-principal.  She’s been a director for other camps as well,” he said.

Each year since they purchased the camp in 2005 the Bernsteins have either re-modeled, renovated or replaced buildings and facilities at the camp.  During this past winter they demolished the camp office building and replaced it with a magnificent Adirondack-style building which serves four functions.  “The new building houses our office, a state-of-the-art health center, a Canteen for indoor activities and an apartment for us,” Mark said.

Mark said the new multi-purpose building cost “well over a million dollars.”  Mark said the new building will be fully operational when the camp opens for the 2015 season on June 25.

According to Mark, the couple straightaway started rehabilitating the cabins and the infrastructure at the camp.  “We replaced 70-year-old wiring and rebuilt the cabins to make them safe for the campers,” he said.  Mark said they could have replaced the office building the first year they bought the place.  “But, we put the needs of the campers first,” he said.

“We had 129 campers that first year.  Now we have over 400 campers each year with a 94 percent repeat rate,” he said.  “We have a 50 to 60 percent return rate on counselors as well.  We only hire them after they complete their freshman year (in college).”  Mark said the counselors receive two weeks of orientation and training prior to the arrival of the campers.  “We have a staff of over 200 people when camp is open,” he said.  Mark said they have three staff members in each cabin.

During the winter of 2013-14 the Bernsteins built a 22-bed facility for staff members and four years ago they rehabilitated the dining hall and kitchen facility.  “We used all local contractors,” he said.

Mark, 51, said the focus of Camp Walden is to teach campers a lot of life-skills.  “Kids today have what I call a nature-deficit disability.  They don’t play outdoors anymore like we did as kids.  Today kids experience ‘helicopter parenting’ where parents don’t let them out of their sight.  We give them a chance to play outdoors.  There are no electronics here… no iPads and no cell phones,” he said.  “We try to teach them how to be better human beings.”

A variety of outdoor activities are available for campers.  There is a Little League Regulation Softball Field, two roller-hockey rinks, five tennis courts, four basketball courts, two volleyball courts, archery range, a brand new go-cart track, a 40-foot climbing wall, an extensive ropes course and zip-line as well as a heated outdoor swimming pool plus 550 feet of linear dock with multiple swimming areas.

Indoor activities include arts and crafts, wood-working, rocketry, a dance studio, a cooking and baking program and an air-conditioned movie theater.  “We want to give the camper a well-rounded experience.  If your child is an exceptional basketball player, for example, and is looking for intensive basketball training, Camp Walden is not for you,” Mark said.  “We offer what you can’t duplicate with a pool in your backyard.”

Mark said Lauren runs the camp.  “Which is kind of unique because most camps are run by men,” he said.  “Her philosophy is to run the camp from an operations standpoint rather than from a budget perspective,” he said.  Mark explained that often times he suggests that an improvement might be done at a lower cost but Lauren is insistent on doing the project with the camper in mind.  “Sometimes it costs more to do it her way but when all is said and done, her way was the right way,” he said.

Campers range in age from 8 to 17 years of age and two three-and-a-half week sessions are offered as well as a full 7-week session.  The camp closes for the season on August 13, 2015.

Mark said tours of the camp are available after the camp closes.  “We have a signed agreement with Bolton Central School that for one dollar a year the school can use our facility in the off-season,” he said.  “The new superintendent found out about us this year and I told him we signed an agreement with them six years ago.  The baseball team practiced on our field this spring.”

Mark said that a few years ago the Town of Bolton held a Bolton Pride Day at the camp.  “I’d like to see them do that again.  We want to be good neighbors.”

Camp Walden is located at 429 Trout Lake Road, Diamond Point, NY.  Phone 518-644-9441 for more information.

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Greg and Patrick Mason at Blue Water Manor

Greg and Patrick Mason at Blue Water Manor

Greg Mason, the Lake George Community Band’s Founder, Finds His Dream Gig

By Anthony F. Hall

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It takes more than a boat and a few rods to become a good Lake George fishing guide.

Greg Mason, who is best known for directing the music programs at the Bolton and Lake George schools and for founding the Lake George Community Band, appears to have precisely what it takes.

Now in his second year as the owner of Lake George Sport Fishing, he’s already a favorite of vacationers and sport fishermen alike.

“We guarantee fish,” says Patrick Mason, who, despite the responsibilities of a professional career with General Electric, has joined his father in the fishing charter business.

“We want to make certain it’s a fishing trip, not an expensive boat ride,” adds Greg.

The Masons dock their boat at Blue Water Manor, where we met them last Sunday to discuss fish and fishing.

Greg Mason has been fishing on the lake since 1975, the year he came to Bolton Landing to teach music.

“To feel the object in opposition to you, to bring in a near record sized fish successfully, is a challenge. We take out saltwater fishermen who think the same techniques apply to lake trout. They don’t. We show them how to fish for lake trout,” said Mason.

“Much of what I know, I learned from old timers like Frank Dagles, who fished the lake his entire life and whose father fished the lake. He had a technique known as ‘tunkin’ the bottom,’ where they’d let a weighted line out from a basket that dropped straight to the bottom. I also learned a lot from Frank Leonbruno, Dave Waters, Jughead Harris, Dave Green, Jamie Ellsworth and Ed Murphy, who sold me his business. I still spend hours with him, talking about fishing,” Mason says.

Greg introduced Patrick to fishing when he was still very young, just as he did the saxophone, his own instrument.

For Patrick, though, the saxophone fell out of favor. Fishing never did.

The winds, water temperature and time of year determine where they’ll go for lake trout, he says.

“If someone wants a trophy fish, we’ll do that. If someone wants to catch seventeen rock bass just to celebrate a 17-year-old’s birthday, we can do that as well,” said Pat.

Unless someone wants to mount a trophy fish, almost all fish are returned to the water quickly, Pat said.

“We have our own territory,’ said Greg. “We go deep. To catch the big fish, you have to.”

But the Masons do more than take their clients to all but unknown fishing holes where lake trout are likely to be found feeding.

“I like thinking of myself as an ambassador for Lake George, for its history in the French and Indian Wars, for its music and especially its science. You should see people’s faces when I tell them ‘Lake George is the smartest lake in the world,” says Mason.

He’s referring, of course, to the Jefferson Project, the collaborative effort of RPI, IBM and The Fund for Lake George to collect and analyze trends in water quality.

“The sensor platforms on the lake excite people, even if they initially find them mystifying. There’s so much on this lake to talk about. And because we get people from all over the world, the conversation is great. Sometimes it becomes so engaging that I have to say, ‘excuse me, but the fish seem to be interrupting us,’” said Mason.

“We’re on a mission; we don’t have to do this for a living.  Just to be with people and on the lake and to be successful getting fish, that’s enjoyable,” said Greg. “We don’t have to compete with other charters. There’s enough fish for everybody.”

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