Friday, October 10, 2008

Black Mountain - The Eleventh Tower...

...And something to think about

On September 27th, Sister and I decided that we'd go by ourselves up Black Mountain to the tower, the 11th fire tower we've completed in the Fire Tower challenge. The original plan was to do the Sun Set hike on the mountain with the ADK group but between evening plans and the weather, it wasn't looking like a sun set hike was possible.

It was one of those drizzly days, a fog making the visibility only about 2 feet away. The hike up from Pine Brook Rd seemed fairly easy, no steep spots of note, just some loose rocks making my ankle roll all around. The distance of this trail is 2.5 miles, but there is a loop that you can take back a different way. In the interest of time, as apple picking was on our itinerary, we did the same route both in and out.

Fall foliage time in the Adirondacks

Somewhere along the trail we were startled by a grouse, rigorously flapping its wings and making a lot of noise, typical of that bird. What we didn't know at the time is that it was not only bear hunting season, but also grouse hunting season in the Adirondacks. A little further down the trail came what spooked me more than the grouse was the face appearing to float in mid air. It was not really a bodiless face, but a hunter dressed in complete camouflage. I didn't even notice that he was cradling a gun at first. Clearly getting a kick out of startling two young women, he sinisterly informed us not to worry... "he saw us coming." We were too spooked to take a picture - that's bad! We continued on our way, making loud human-like noises to make our presence known amongst other potential hunters.

The 'view' from the summit.

At the summit, the supposedly beautiful views were blocked by the dense fog. The tower was nearly blocked by the foggy mist as well. It took a few minutes to realize that the tower we saw was really the old fire tower, which had been converted into a public service radio antenna! The steel tower was built in 1918, but is now obviously closed to the public. Looking at the tower, you can make out the old cab, and the stairs leading up to it. The tower is now surrounded by a locked fence and barbed wire.

The Frankentower

There was a windmill built around 1996 to provide power to one of the radio installations, making lots of noise and eventually rattled itself dead within a year. The windmill had been repaired, and according to many resources, it still stands. Fellow hikers that had hiked Black Mountain before had mentioned a noisy windmill at the summit, and all the books and websites that we had looked at prior to our trip discussed the noisy windmill as well. We were surprised that there was no windmill to be found at the summit on the day that we hiked Black Mountain. I have since done some research trying to figure out what happened to the structure. There is not much information out there about it, but according to one article, a group of hikers discovered the 60-ft structure, which was owned by the State Police, laying on the ground in the snow in early November of 2006. Apparently the collapse of the turbine has lead to some discussions on the controversy of creating wind energy in the Adirondacks.

There is a group called Adirondack Wind Partners seeking to build a wind farm on Pete Gay and Gore Mountains. The AWP is made up of the Barton Group mining operation and Reunion Power LLC. Their website has links to news updates that are from the spring of 2006, which is before the turbine even collapsed on Black Mountain. Their website does not appear to have been updated in a while, and lacks recent information. According the not-so-recent information that I can find, the group is seeking lawmakers' approval on the issue, but have met some opposition from certain Adirondack groups. An article from the Post-Star in February of 2008 states that the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council say they oppose the wind farms for reasons ranging from aesthetic concerns to setting a poor precedent. Meanwhile, James McAndrew, the project manager for the Barton Group argues that the quality-of-life issues that these environmental groups bring up are human centered, as the deer and other wildlife do not care if they have to look at a windmill. The Barton Group would like to install ten wind turbines on the 1,700 acres that they own on the northern side of Gore, and is collecting weather data, as well as data on the birds and bats that populate the area. These ten windmills could provide enough energy to power 10,000-12,000 homes. The Adirondack Wind Partners website says it has the potential of producing 30MW of power, supplying over half of the 26,000 homes in Warren County, which is equivalent of removing 11,000 cars from the road, and bringing New York closer to its goal of having 25% renewable energy generation.

A patient, photogenic, little red eft

My thoughts? I couldn't find enough information to really present an educated argument, but I know our nation is in trouble. Gas prices are out of control, we have a large dependency on other countries for oil, and we are heading into an economic down spiral. Families have serious concerns this year as to whether or not they will be able to afford heating their homes during the winter. Global warming is a big issue, but it might be put on our nation's back burner with the economic, health care coverage, and social security concerns at hand - issues which are at the center of the 2008 Presidential Election. I love the beauty of the Adirondacks as much as anyone, but should aesthetics outweigh the benefits of renewable energy? Are chair lifts on Gore pleasing to the eye? Should we worry more about what the burning of fossil fuels is doing to the environment, and the effects of pollution and global warming on our wildlife, or the effects of the windmills on birds? What about things as simple as hiking, hunting, boating, and fishing, and their effects on the Adirondacks?

"Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world made new for the chosen."

~ from Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver


Pamela Baker said...

What a beautiful, enthralling story. I couldn't stop reading it. As I came towards the end, my first thought (before I even read yours) was how can anyone retify the need to know how many birds, deer, wildlife etc, are affected in the Adirondacks, when people are losing jobs, houses. Children going hungry. Wall Street in turmoil. Where are the people who should be blocking this study at a time like this? Thank you for such a powerful story. I have been through the Adironacks a few times, esp this time of year the beauty is without question. But with the turmoil our country is in right now; they need to rethink their priorities!

Live, Love, Laugh, Write! said...

sounds like you had a lot of fun!

Anonymous said...

Love what I read so far, will have to come back to read the rest. I am totally wishing I was there!

storybeader said...

I'm surprised they have people hunting in an area were people are hiking. A bit dangerous, you think?!

There's a wind farm in the Wichita Mts., just north of Lawton.
It's majestic! I get a warm feeling inside, knowing that people are using the wind to gain energy. The one problem I've heard about wind farms are the danger to migrating birds. But that may be a cop-out for opponents.

A Keeper's Jackpot said...

Hunting on mountain trails is pretty common this time of year in our area I guess. I gotta buy more orange I guess!

The danger to birds is a good point.I actually hit a bird with my car on accident today on my way home from work.... I felt terrible :( I went right out in front of me, there was no avoiding it.

But, I guess it's something that happens all the time. If it's not a windmill, its a car, or something else... You've seen the Windex commercial, even having too clean of a window can be a bird hazard I guess :(