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Adirondack Explorer

May, 2009

The Hudson: America’s River
Author: Frances F. Dunwell

Review by: PHILIP TERRIE

In the summer of 1894, in the midst of a frightening drought, New York State convened a constitutional convention. Along with such issues as judicial and civilservice reform, education, and home rule for cities and villages, the delegates considered the future of the Adirondacks. They were meeting in Albany, near the banks of the Hudson River, acutely aware that two years of drought had left the water level ominously low and equally mindful that human activity—chiefly a frenzy of ruthless logging in the Adirondacks—had made a bad situation even worse. Anxiety about the streams flowing off Adirondack slopes—mainly the Hudson—and >>More


March, 2009

The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State
Author: Kevin J. McGowan and Kimberly Corwin

Review by: EDWARD KANZE

In 1988, Cornell University Press published The Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State. The book, which sits before me, filled 552 pages with maps, text and elegant line drawings of every bird found courting prospective mates, hatching eggs or raising young in the Empire State. The culmination of more than 200,000 hours of skilled volunteer fieldwork beginning in 1980 and ending at the end of 1985, the book was a knockout. It contained a wealth of information, including first-ever range maps showing the meticulously documented distribution of every grebe, heron, blackbird and sparrow. I still refer to my >>More


November, 2008

Adirondack Birding
Author: John M.C. Peterson & Gary N. Lee

Review by: ALAN PISTORIUS

Adirondack Birding: 60 Great Places to Find Birds is just what the title suggests—a guide to birding hot spots within (in a couple of cases just outside) the Blue Line, written by veteran birder-naturalists John M.C. (“Mike”) Peterson and Gary N. Lee. The selected sites range from the Four Brothers Islands and Ticonderoga Marsh in the Champlain lowlands to the Five Ponds Wilderness and the Tug Hill Wildlife Management Area in the west, from Lyon Mountain and Debar Pond in the north to Powley-Piseco Road and the Washington County Grasslands in the south. Each site treatment features a map and >>More


May, 2008

The Bill McKibben Reader
Author: Bill McKibben

Review by: PHILIP TERRIE

Bill McKibben, fresh out of Harvard, where he was editor of the Harvard Crimson newspaper, landed a job as a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1982. Early in his career, while grinding out pieces for “The Talk of the Town” section of the magazine, he began to emphasize the “physicalness of the world,” the fact that everything “depended on nature and consumed it for its existence.” Awarded a six-week fellowship at a writers’ retreat in Blue Mountain Lake, he “fell in love with winter and with wilderness.” His attachment to our “wild mountains was so intense and instant” >>More


March, 2008

The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State
Author: James P. Gibbs, Alvin R. Breisch, Peter K. Ducey, Glenn Johnson, John L. Behler, and Richard C. Bothner

Review by: EDWARD KANZE

On my mother’s side I trace my Adirondack ancestry back seven generations. That’s hardly a big deal. American toads, red-backed salamanders, garter snakes and their cousin reptiles and amphibians have been breeding, feeding and dying here, with interruptions for ice ages, for untold thousands of generations. They’re the real Adirondack natives. By comparison, bears, moose, martens and humans are Johnny-come-latelies. To enthusiasts, these slimy and scaly oldtimers are known as “herps.” Herp derives from herpetology and herpetofauna, which in turn arise from an ancient Greek term for “creeping thing.” One hears little about Adirondack herps partly because they tend to >>More


July, 2007

Adirondack Alpine Summits: An Ecological Field Guide
Author: Nancy G. Slack and Allison W. Bell

Review by: EDWARD KANZE

Anyone who thinks the world’s going to hell in a hand basket can take heart. Nancy G. Slack and Allison W. Bell’s Adirondack Alpine Summits: An Ecological Field Guide, recently published by the Adirondack Mountain Club, demonstrates that some things are getting better, and even excellence can be improved upon. This handy and remarkably thorough introduction to the lichens, plants and animals of fragile Adirondack summit environments breathes new life and vivid color into its distinguished 1993 forebear, 85 Acres: A Field Guide to the Adirondack Alpine Summits, by the same authors. One admirable thing about this book, in addition >>More


May, 2007

Adirondacks Alive
Author: Photography by Olaf Soot Essays by Don Mellor

Review by: MIKE VIRTANEN

The crowded field of Adirondack photography is filled with magnificent vistas and stunning details of the natural world. In a way, that’s the problem. Any fool with a disposable point-and-shoot can’t help but return from an outing to the old North Woods with some fetching images. I’ve done it, and there’s the proof. The professionals elevate the game, with better composition, superior equipment and technical precision. But they usually don’t have much to say about their photographs, except the place, time, weather, exposure, etc. One thing that sets Adirondacks Alive apart is the text. Writer Don Mellor, a longtime Adirondack >>More


May, 2007

The Outside Story
Author: Chuck Wooster

Review by: EDWARD KANZE

If you’ve ever stood on an Adirondack summit on a clear day and gazed eastward, you’ve seen the ghostly shapes of Vermont’s Green Mountains haunting the far horizon. Beyond them, hidden from view, lie New Hampshire’s higher and more rugged White Mountains, “white” because they hold snow much of the year. Those ranges and the valleys they cradle represent a world apart. Every time I skim Lake Champlain on an eastbound ferry, I feel as though I’m crossing Lake Geneva, bound for Switzerland. Still, as alien as the territory on the far side appears at a distance, you don’t need >>More


March, 2007

The Songs of Wild Birds
Author: Lang Elliott

Review by: JOHN THAXTON

As the owner of several CD collections of bird songs, I have tried, tediously often, and with negative results, to sharpen my birding-by-ear skills sufficiently to identify the most common birds in my backyard. The scenario unfolds the same way every time: After getting frustrated by spending 40 minutes trying to see an embarrassingly common backyard warbler whose song I couldn’t identify, I storm into the house, grab a field guide and listen to the songs of the warblers. I study a picture of each warbler as I listen to its song, its call and perhaps its distress call; then >>More


March, 2007

Oswegatchie: A North Country River
Author: Christopher Angus

Review by: BRIAN MANN

Afew years ago, a friend and I made the long carry from Lows Lake to the upper reaches of the Oswegatchie River. Neither of us had hiked the trail before, so we had no idea how long it would take. Humping our dry bags and my big fiberglass canoe through endless blowdown, witchhobble and slash, we felt like a couple of big-city suckers tricked into a snipe hunt. We eventually found the black, shining thread of the river and were rewarded with a couple of ripe summer days spent swimming, hiking, and scuttling gleefully across moss-slick beaver dams. I’ve been >>More