Although traditional winter weather has largely been AWOL so far this season, I expect it will eventually arrive. And as the North Country goes, winter weather is better late than never. Our regional economy is based on providing opportunities in a land of ice and snow, where lovers of winter can easily go.
Recently, the long journey to the great, white North has become a whole lot easier. Travelers may no longer have to contend with winding mountain roads while dodging the slush, mush, and frost heaves. Skiers will no longer have to suffer through long lines of traffic, which often comes to a standstill as they jockey for a parking space closer to the Ski Lodge.
The historic Gore Mountain ski train first began service in 1934 and by 1936, ski train connections were extended to New York City’s Penn Station, as North Creek boasted the first public ski center in New York State. Eventually, as modern interstate highways provided faster and more convenient access to the region, rail service dwindled and the ski train was eventually discontinued.
The first, Gore Mountain Ski and Snow Train of the modern era, recently departed Saratoga Station on Friday, Dec. 30. It was filled to capacity, without a seat to spare. A variety of new ski/train packages now permit winter enthusiasts to board in Saratoga and enjoy an unhampered journey all the way to North Creek.
One day ski packages include round trip transportation, a ski pass, two complementary drinks and free shuttle service to the mountain. All of this is available for less than the cost of a single day’s lift ticket. The packages are a true bargain, for singles or families, and complete packages are also available which include transportation, meals, lodging, rentals, lessons and lift tickets.
Congratulations to North Creek, for repeatedly refusing to give up despite the trying times. This little community in the shadow of the big mountains has consistently proven it can stage a comeback, and many, loyal visitors are happy they did! Their success should provide encouragement to other small towns, and offer solid evidence that where there is the will, there’s always a way!
Unfortunately, it often seems that whenever there is a slight chance that an appropriate industry or project has the potential to provide a bit of economic vitality to the region; there immediately appears to be an advocacy group, with the threat of a lawsuit to shut the opportunity down. Although I understand, and respect the need to protect against unscrupulous developers, and to fend off the advancement of inappropriate industry, I also wonder what the future will hold.
When there are no opportunities, there will be no workers; and where there are no workers, there will be no communities. I do not favor turning a blind eye to incursions on the Forest Preserve, but an appropriate wink and a nod, may be in order on occasion.
Such was the case when I first learned that Iowa Pacific Holdings, the outfit responsible for restoring the Gore Ski Train, was also interested in revitalizing a 30-mile section of track that connects North Creek to Tahawus.
Inexpensive ski passes won’t be so popular, when the price of gas tops $10 a gallon. Neither will traditional tourist activities as hiking, biking or paddle sports, without reasonable transportation costs.
Although Iowa Pacific’s rail restoration efforts center primarily on the transport of tailings from the National Lead Mines in Tahawus, and the Barton Mines in North River, the company has reportedly petitioned the Surface Transportation Board for a permit to operate as a federally regulated common carrier on the same rail line between Tahawus and North Creek.
This 30-mile section of rails, which spans from the Tahawus Mines to North Creek, was built in 1940, prior to World War II. At the time, federal wartime exemptions trumped New York’s Article 14, the Forest Preserve Act, and trees were removed from the Forest Preserve in order to provide strategic materials for the war effort, and to save the country.
Currently, the materials are hauled out of the area in trucks, which travel over the winding mountain roads. The resulting wear and tear on the highway infrastructure, and the expense of trucking the materials, limits the potential for profit.
With ‘Common Carrier’ designation, Iowa Pacific’s trains would be permitted to haul more than just raw materials. The trains could also provide scenic rail excursions, in addition to transporting hikers, bikers, birders and paddlers to one of the most remote sections of the Adirondacks.
The south sloping wilderness of the Tahawus region holds great tourism potential with Henderson Lake, the Preston Ponds and numerous High Peaks in addition to the proposed wilderness areas of the former Finch and Pruyn parcel near Newcomb, as well as the Essex Chain of Lakes and the Upper Hudson River, which may eventually encompass one of the largest unbroken tracts of wild lands in the Adirondacks.
Going Hog Wild?
In last week’s column, I reported on the presence of feral swine in the North Country. Since that time, I have received numerous emails and letters, many concerning the potential for hog hunting opportunities.
It is important for sportsmen to understand, that the NYSDEC does not intend to promote, nor to provide sporting opportunities for hunting feral swine. The department’s efforts are focused on eradicating the pests, as soon as possible, before they establish viable breeding populations, as they already have in several counties.
Swine have now been found in both Clinton County and St. Lawrence County. Sportsmen are urged to report additional sightings to the NYSDEC.
Jim Rivito, a former North Country resident from Tupper Lake, offered this advice on the potential problem.
“I am an avid hunter here in Florida and I want to comment on your discovery of wild hogs.”
“I lease 1,000 acres of property and the hogs are everywhere…I have shot 12 this year, from 90 to 225 pounds..they breed like rabbits. I see herds of 15-18 all over.”
“A sow can breed at least 3 times a year and usually has 5-8 in a litter, plus they start to breed when they are 6 months old. So, multiply the number of sows, times the number of piglets 2 or 3 times per year every 6 months,” he said. “You can’t keep up with them, they rut up the ground like plows. I see you having a hog problem in a couple of years.”
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.