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Adirondack Explorer

October, 2017

The Snake and the Salamander: Reptiles and Amphibians from Maine to Virginia
Author: Alvin R. Breisch

Review by: Ed Kanze

Once I had the pleasure of meeting Al Breisch, then New York State DEC’s de facto Herpetologist-in-Chief, at a lecture he gave for the Wild Center before it had even been built. Breisch impressed me. He was precise and as armed with accurate information about “herps” (a catch-all nickname for reptiles and amphibians) as a porcupine is charged with quills. Yet Breisch, then director of DEC’s Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project, did not strike me that day as someone inclined to write a warm, accessible, popular book about anything. It was plain he was a man of science, speaking the >>More


September, 2017

Big, Wild, and Connected: Scouting an Eastern Wildway from the Everglades to Quebec
Author: John Davis

Review by: Tim Rowland

The mission of John Davis is not entirely dissimilar to that of the biblical Noah. Davis is out to protect a broad platform of species in an unconventional way that faces both long odds and more than a few arched eyebrows. The central idea is that up and down the lands that parallel the Eastern Seaboard there are insular swatches of wilderness large enough to serve as habitats for big predators, such as cougars and wolves. Davis, and conservationists like him, would see these parks and forests connected in a way that would sustain a population of wolves and allow >>More


August, 2017

Western Trails
Author: Norman Landis and Bradley A. Pendergraft

Review by: Phil Brown

With this year’s publication of Western Trails, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) completed the most recent overhaul of its Forest Preserve Series of hiking guidebooks—and the club is already hard at work on the next edition of the series. ADK’s hiking guidebooks used to divide the Adirondack Park into six regions. The club has pared that down to four regions (still covering the entire Park). In addition, ADK continues to publish a separate guidebook for the Northville-Placid Trail. The regions have been reconfigured to coincide with National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated maps for the Adirondacks. Western Trails, for example, describes the trails in the >>More


July, 2017

Bogs and Fens
Author: Ronald B. Davis

Review by: Ed Kanze

Bogs and fens are wetlands. At least they are if you can call a wet place with nothing but peat, or sphagnum moss, underfoot “land.” Such features, not quite land and not quite water, dot the Adirondack landscape. Whenever and wherever we hike, we march around and over them, sometimes on boardwalks, planks, or corduroy. Botanists, birdwatchers, and naturalists in general tend to go ape over patches of peat. If you’ve ever wondered what’s the big deal or wanted to distinguish a bog from a fen and comprehend the physical factors that make such places different from each other and >>More


July, 2017

John Apperson’s Lake George
Author: Ellen Apperson Brown

Review by: Neal Burdick

In the pantheon of Adirondack conservation greats, the name of John Apperson Jr. (1878-1963) is not as well-known as it deserves to be. His great-niece, independent scholar and historian Ellen Apperson Brown, has taken a major stride toward correcting that deficiency with publication of John Apperson’s Lake George, a new addition to the Images of America series from Arcadia Publishing. Apperson was an early and ardent proponent of muscle-powered winter recreation and a pioneer in the protection of Lake George’s islands and shoreline. He launched or became involved from the ground up in a number of conservation organizations, some that >>More


June, 2017

Escape from Dannemora
Author: Michael Benson

Review by: Brian Mann

In the summer of 2015, while driving my beat-up Toyota truck through the back roads of northern Clinton and Franklin counties documenting the Great Dannemora Prison Break, I kept thinking that I had been swallowed whole by a tabloid news story, or maybe a trashy pulp novel, that refused to end. The setting was the rainy, gloomy Gothic woods of the northern Adirondack foothills. The characters all seemed to come straight from central casting. There were the two brutal killers, David Sweat and Richard Matt, who had pulled off an escape that instantly drew comparisons with the film The Shawshank Redemption, >>More


May, 2017

American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of New York
Author: Corey Finger

Review by: John Thaxton

High praise for bird book   Beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated, the American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of New York covers 285 of the 485 bird species recorded in the state, and it includes a complete checklist of all the species ever seen, including those that have gone extinct or are sighted extremely rarely. The book strikes me as an excellent guide for beginning and moderately experienced birders, a casual, well-written hybrid of a field/where-to-see-birds guide. Born in Saugerties and now living in Queens, Corey Finger knows New York State well. His book includes thirty-eight pages of introductory >>More


April, 2017

New York’s Broken Constitution
Author: Peter J. Galie, Christopher Bopst & Gerald Benjamin

Review by: Philip Terrie

The New York State Constitution is a mess. So it’s no surprise that New York’s machinery of governance—legislation, the judiciary, the formulation and enforcement of policy, state finances, the separation of powers, and so much more—is also a mess. In New York’s Broken Constitution, a (mostly) well-researched and well-written book, ten experts (a good mix of lawyers and political scientists) lay out the almost countless ways in which the New York Constitution is anachronistic and incoherent—and thus almost hopelessly divorced from the day-to-day realities of governing in a complex, twenty-first-century state. On the flaws of our constitution and on how >>More


April, 2017

Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering
Author: Maurice Isserman

Review by: Phil Brown

In 1642, Darby Field, a resident of what is now New Hampshire, climbed White Hill, known by local Indians as Agiocochook and by moderns as Mount Washington, the highest mountain in New England. Others in the Massachusetts Bay Colony thought Field daft for climbing a mountain. It just wasn’t something people did. “Following his death in 1649, it was remarked that his was a life of ‘merriness marred by insanity,’” writes Maurice Isserman in Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering, a scholarly work that covers the exploits of mountain climbers from Field’s unusual adventure on Agiocochook to an American >>More


March, 2017

Murder in the Adirondacks
Author: Craig Brandon

Review by: Betsy Kepes

Infamous murder revisited By Betsy Kepes It’s been over one hundred years since a search party found Grace Brown’s body in the bottom of Big Moose Lake, an overturned rowboat floating nearby. In 1906 the face of the man who walked away from that remote bay would become familiar to many Americans as he sat slouched in a chair at his murder trial in Herkimer. The local and national press wrote front-page stories about Chester Gillette, the handsome young man who murdered his pregnant girlfriend so he could rise up the social ladder. Craig Brandon has a section in the >>More