Adirondack Sportsman's Dinner

Last weekend, I traveled south to Schroon Lake to attend the 15th Annual Adirondack Sportsmans Dinner. The event, which is organized and hosted by consortium of local ministries, always draws a large crowd, and this year was no different.

Folks from Wells mixed with easily with others from Chazy, Old Forge or Dresden, and evidently, they all share a similar passion for the outdoor life. It is largely a blue collar audience, and camo baseball caps were the common fashion theme of the day.

Seminar topics included birchbark canoe building, waterfowling, wood carving, wilderness survival, turkey hunting, deer management, bass fishing, small gamme hunting, and many more.

For the keynote address, an appreciative audience of over 500 guests filled the auditorium at the Mountainside Bible Center as featured speaker, Dave Blanton, Executive Producer of Bill Jordan's Realtree Outdoors television series, and the popular Monster Bucks (r) video series, related tales of his hunting experiences with NASCAR legend, the late, Dale Earnhart.

I never fail to be impressed with how effectively the shared passion for an outdoor life serves to foster a commonality among such a diverse group of people. Within minutes of arriving, I always feel as if I am surrounded by a group of old friends, although there's hardly a handfull of familiar faces in the crowd.

The event, which has become a spring ritual, always seems to prompt me to try a new activity. After seeing a bit of Wilmington based woodcarver, Allen Aardsma's seminar on woodcarving, I've begun searching for the woodworking tools that I put away years ago.

Tickets for the annual event, which is free and open to the public, are online at www.sportsmansdinner.com. They are available on a first come basis and unfortunately, there are only 500 tickets available, due to space limitations. Keep tabs on the site, as tickets are usually scooped up within days of being offered. In many respects, the gathering can be a life changing event. Congratulations to the organizing committee for providing another entertaining and engaging event!

New York State guides journey to Lake Placid

By the year 2000, there were a number of indigenous occupations that ceased to exist, all across the Adirondacks.

A century earlier, in 1900, these trades included ice harvesters, loggers, beekeepers and tappers who collected spruce gum. There were also blacksmiths and log drivers, camp cooks, boatbuilders and miners; and a variety of other tradesmen whose occupations were replaced by such modern technologies as internal combustion engines to refrigeration to feller/bunchers.

However, there is one occupation that not only survived the centuries, it has thrived. In 1919, when the NYS Fish and Game Commission for began to register guides, only 176 individuals stepperd forward. By 1924, when the state required all guides to be licensed, their numbers had swelled to over 1,100 individuals.

By the time the old, Adirondack Guides Association disbanded iin 1957, there were fewer than 500 licensed guides.

Most people's image of an Adirondack guide is that of a grizzled, old woodsman dressed in a pair of woolies, stooped shouldered from carrying heavy loads and with a equal chaw of tobacco set in his jaw, to help balance a cranky guideboat.

This characture has been fostered by innumberable writers, ever since guides were first discovered working in the wooded wilderness of the Adirondacks in the mid- 1800's.

The original Adirondack Guides Association was founded in Saranac Lake on June 28, 1891. New York State surveyor, Verplank Colvin, was named the honorarfy presdient of the organization.

Times have changed considerably since then, and the profession has experienced the ups and down of economic turmoil, through two Wold Wars, social upheaval, and the advent of the electronic age.

However, a century later, the profession remains as vital and vibrant today, as it was in 1911, with over 2,000 licensed guides in the state.

In 1982, the New York State Outdoor Guides Association reorganized and incorporated under the charter of the original Adirondack Guides Association and over the wekend of March 25-27, Association member will return to Lake Placid for their 30th Annual Rendezvous. In fact, The Rendezvous will be hosted in the same facility that hosted the original Lake Placid gathering.

An indication of just how much times have changed, is evident in the membership, where female members rank high. About a quarter of all NYS licensed guides are female, and the Guides Association has already elected a woman as its president.

More than a century after the state first began licensing guides, the profession still thrives across the park, and throughout the state.

Today, guides lead whitewater rafting expeditions, rock climbing adventures and wilderness ski tours. But in many cases, guides still function in traditional roles ranging from camp cook, to riflery instructor, to storyteller.

However, the profession has become much more specialized, with guides providing a select type of service, that is their trademark, whether flyfishing or birding, kayak touring or trail running, ice climbing or track interpretation.

Todays guides still function in a variety of traditional roles, from cook, to instructor, to storyteller. Yet, the profession has become much more specialized that ever before, with many guides providing a select type of service, that has become their trademark. Guides specializing in flyfishing have experienced a significant increase in demand, as that sport has blossomed, while others have developed a specific niche for such unique activities as birding, wild flowers, bowhunting, kayak touring, trail running, ice climbing, women-only trips, llama trekking and track interpretation.

Currently, there are at least five North Country colleges that offer degrees in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, Outdoor Recreation or Expeditionary Studies. Adirondack Community College in Glens Falls even offers a DEC accredited training program for licensed whitewater guides. A the profession transitions from traditional 'bait and bullet' activities toward more adventure sports such as whitewater, rock and ice climbing or ecotourism pursuits such as birding and nature studies; I expect the demand for their services will continue to be strong.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net.

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