By Katie Dolan
[Note: This is the second of three blogs about Cycle Adirondacks, which runs from August 23-29. ]
For the past few days, Cycle Adirondacks participants have seen beautiful biking habitats, rolling hills, green-hued farm fields, and quiet back roads of the Tug Hill Plateau, just west of the Adirondacks. As we rode into Camden, N.Y., I even saw a tree full of birdhouses and a bird motel.
Our merry band on the Riders for the Wild team enjoyed all the special touches on this cycling adventure: the rest stop bananas; a wifi and recharging center; carefully marked recycling containers; free admission to the Maple Museum in Croghan, N.Y.; special adventure tours for companions who are not riding; nightly concerts; and a unique riders field guide to the ecology of the places we pedal through. My husband had four flats in a single day so quickly made friends with the helpful volunteers in a van. He earned a new nickname: “Pssssssssssssst Peter” before a worn tire was diagnosed.
During a lunch break yesterday, Dr. Heidi Kretser, Conservation Coordinator for WCS’s North America Program, mentioned that the Adirondack’s 500-1,000 moose are closely related to the Vermont and New Hampshire populations and first reappeared in the area around Whitehall, N.Y. about 30 years ago. She also told us about a healthy male mountain lion killed on a Connecticut road several years ago. DNA analysis of scat and hairs indicate he traveled over 1,200 miles from South Dakota, through Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Adirondacks, and down to Connecticut.
A recent study of local attitudes towards mountain lions found that 70 percent of residents in the Adirondacks support the idea of cougars returning to the park naturally but are less enthusiastic about a planned reintroduction. Visitors were more likely to favor efforts to restore mountain lions to the park – up to 84 percent support a natural reintroduction of mountain lions, according to the study co-authored by Dr. Kretser.
Our cougar sightings occurred only at the nightly beer garden gatherings. About 40 percent of the riders are women, and the average age is 57, according to Jim Moore, Cycle Adirondacks’ event director.
We’re on the lookout for moose as we head back into Adirondack Park. Instead, we find a moose of a hill that caused many riders (including me) to dismount and walk up. The end of our long day in the saddle yesterday was sweetened by a caramel-covered marshmallow-strawberry concoction on a stick. Finally we fall into our tents, excited by the prospect of what natural wonders the next day will bring.
Katie Dolan is a WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) Trustee and environmental writer.