Fast on the tail end of a long, hot, mostly pleasant and nearly rain-free summer, the rains finally arrived. However, it does not appear that the rain is here to stay.
A drenching downpour that visited the region last weekend provided little relief following the near drought conditions of the past two months. While the rain was certainly welcome, it simply did not last long enough to make a difference.
The heavy showers produced a quick runoff that raised river levels and kept the creeks swollen for a few hours. However, the forest floor remains as crispy as a bowl of cereal, the ground is dry and boaters are still banging on rocks between the buoys on the local lakes. What is needed now is a steady, three-day soaking rain.
Adirondack guide Dean Lavigne of Tupper Lake hauls a full load of supplies into camp
rowing along a route that guides have traveled for over a century.
(Photo — Joe Hackett)
However brief, the weekend storm served to alter the weather patterns somewhat, as it ushered in cooler, more autumn-like temperatures. The accompanying winds that howled in the valleys delivered a fresh carpet of leaves that disguised late summer's sorry looking lawns that were old, brown and matted from a lack of water.
Although it is still mostly summer, dreams of autumn's splendors have already begun to clutter my mind. Thoughts of big brook trout, wandering bucks and snow-sprinkled peaks have conjured up emotions that had remained buried deep in the hard, dark woods. And while the storm proved to be just a flash in the pan and the cool weather merely a harbinger of days to come, the system had a pronounced affect on my system. It got to me and I've been stirring ever since.
Before long, geese will be barking overhead and woodsmoke will again whisper from the woods. Packbaskets will be filled with woolies and the long, slow trudge to camp will begin again. Lord knows, I love the summer days, but like most sportsmen I can never get enough of the autumn months.
Brief news about briefs
Over the past few months, my desk has become cluttered with a collection of clippings, press releases and an assortment of outdoor news items that have never seen the light of day.
In an attempt to reclaim my keyboard from under the tall piles of papered debris, I have resolved to publish some of the notes and clipping that I've received over the last few months.
Annie, get your gun
One clipping involves a promising outdoor trend that may provide the balm necessary to save sport hunting. According to a new survey by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), women's participation in hunting has increased by over 75 percent in just the last five years. It is estimated that three million women now hunt, and as many as five million regularly shoot. It appears that Barbie is rapidly replacing Bubba.
The overall number of licensed hunters in the country has dropped steadily, from 14.1 million in 1996 to 12.5 million today.
However, the fastest growing demographic in the industry is women, who now account for about 15 percent of the shooting, hunting and firearms marketplace.
Growth areas for women included muzzleloading (up 134.6 percent), bowhunting (up 30.7 percent) and hunting with firearms (up 3.5 percent).
"Shooting is one of the most fun and empowering things you can teach a young girl or a grown woman," explained Corey Cogdell, 23, a lifelong hunter and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in trap shooting.
It is also interesting to note that teenage girls are now the fastest growing market in sport shooting. According to research, 72 percent more women are hunting with firearms today than just five years ago, while 50 percent more women are now target shooting.
Data also shows that women outpaced men among net newcomers to target shooting with a rifle, where female participation grew by 4.1 percent.
Participation among women is no surprise to Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
"Over the past several years, our industry has worked hard to help build this segment of our market," he said. "We've developed shooting and hunting products especially for women, reached out and encouraged existing hunters and shooters to introduce their spouses, daughters and other newcomers to shooting sports and outdoor lifestyles."
In fact, several gun companies now manufacture firearms that feature pink stocks and smaller-sized pistol grips that are fashioned for a woman's hand.
Overall, women's hunting has jumped by 75 percent. The dramatic increase is attributed to the numerous programs intended to introduce women to hunting, such as the Becoming An Outdoors-Woman program, as well as more manufacturers producing clothing and gear designed for women.
It's still a guide's life
I'm not quite certain where it came from, but I found the note on a yellowed piece of paper under the stack. Titled, "Times haven't changed the job!" this interesting quote was attributed to Joseph Bernier, who wrote "The Sportsman and his Guide" in 1924. Obviously, Mr. Bernier spent more than a few days on the Upper AuSable Lake.
"Guiding at Saint Huberts consists of a number of duties of which the following are a few: it is the duty of the guide to get the food ready, tote it along and be sure that there is enough; row all members of the party to and from wherever they wish to go; act as the cook, waiter, chambermaid and nurse; bough up the lean-tos; keep the fires burning in the evening and act as a storyteller. The remainder of the time is his own. If you doubt me, try it."
Ride of a lifetime
I don't know how it slipped by me, but I'm likely in much better health for the slight.
For many years, I have wondered why the Olympic Regional Development Authority had kept the Whiteface Mountain toll road closed to bicycles. With a 2,300 foot climb from the Toll House on the way up and a promising, and likely death-defying 3,500-foot descent on the way back, the Toll House Run has long been on my bucket list of Adirondack thrills.
Years ago, I organized a program for Camp Dudley's Counselor Training that incorporated elements of the ride. The event had one group of counselors paddling war canoes across Lake Placid to Whiteface Landing, followed by a climb up Whiteface and a thrilling, and surely chilling, bike ride down the big hill to the valley floor.
The other group arrived atop the peak in similar style, riding bikes up from Wilmington and continuing along the toll road to the summit castle. They then switched from pedaling to paddling, after a brisk downhill jaunt and later met up with their camp companions to complete the day with a grand Tyrolean Traverse of The Flume Pool.
I've always believed that the series of strenuous events would make a wonderful and entertaining endurance race, a sort of an Ironman of the woods and waters.
Yet, my feeble attempts to organize such an event were stubbornly denied by the masters of the mountain at the Olympic Authority, who steadfastly claimed that the real authority of the toll road rested with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC would not permit bikes or any other non-motorized traffic on the highway. I couldn't believe my ears. DEC was denying non-motorized traffic on an Adirondack mountain? End of discussion.
Now, much to my chagrin, I have discovered that ORDA has reclaimed authority over the highway by ripping up the sacred old Conservation Department memo that had forever perplexed tourist and local bikers alike. They have finally opened the toll road to bikers. We no longer have to take our chances at sneaking a ride after the gates are closed.
The ride up and back will cost thrill-seeking enthusiasts a bit more than just a gallon of sweat, a million calories and a pair of burning thighs. It'll cost 'em five, bucks that is, which is cheaper than a car and slower than a speeding train.
For those of us over 50, the bikes ride uphill much more smoothly in the back of a pickup truck. And after the chill of a downhill thrill, our parts and pieces are much easier to assemble in the same pickup bed.
All that is required are safe brakes, a good helmet and a five-spot and you can rediscover the thrill of a teenager in full flight.