More than a year after Tropical Storm Irene wreaked havoc in the Adirondacks, two trails in the High Peaks Wilderness remain closed and several bridges are still out. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has no immediate plans to reopen the trails, but hikers can continue using them at their own risk, according to DEC spokesman David Winchell.
The trails in question are the Southside Trail along Johns Brook and the Cold Brook Pass Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass. Neither was ever especially well traveled.
“We’re not looking at doing anything with them right now,” Winchell said. “They’re on the back burner.” He added that DEC has not decided whether to permanently abandon the trails.
The 2.5-mile Southside Trail offers an alternate route to Johns Brook Lodge from the Garden parking lot in Keene Valley. Most hikers take the more direct Phelps Trail to reach the lodge. The Southside Trail starts about a half-mile from the Garden. It departs the Phelps Trail, crosses Johns Brook on boulders, and then parallels the stream. Its main virtues are that it provides access to Tenderfoot Pools, a swimming hole, and Bennies Brook Slide.
When Johns Brook flooded during Irene, it washed away sections of the trail. When I hiked it last summer, I spent part of the time rock-hopping in the brook. In high water, I imagine hikers would have to take to the woods.
The 3.3-mile Cold Brook Pass Trail provides a route for hikers who want to go to Lake Colden after visiting Indian Pass. Occasionally hikers bushwhack to the summit of Mount Marshall from the top of the pass. The trail never saw much use. It’s steep and rough, and after Irene felled a number of trees, it became an even tougher slog.
Part of the Deer Brook Trail, the shortest approach to Snow Mountain near Keene Valley, also remains closed. This trail, which crosses private land, parallels the brook, passing scenic flumes and cascades. Although a section was washed out during Irene, hikers can avoid it by taking the trail’s high-water route, which follows a driveway. The high-water route rejoins the trail above the damaged section. Repairing the damaged trail is not a priority, since hikers have an alternative (albeit not as scenic), Winchell said.
Irene also wiped out a number of bridges in the High Peaks Wilderness. Some were replaced, but bridges on the following trails have not been.
Marcy Dam. Irene’s floodwaters breached the dam at Marcy Dam Pond and swept away the bridge over the outlet of the now largely drained pond. DEC built a new bridge downstream from the dam but has not decided whether to rebuild the dam and its bridge.
Klondike Trail. The bridge over South Meadow Brook at the start of the trail to Klondike Notch also was washed away during Irene. Winchell said DEC has no plans to replace the bridge, since hikers can still reach the Klondike Trail by the Mr. Van Ski Trail.
Henderson Lake-Duck Hole Trail. The bridge over Roaring Brook is gone. It’s possible to rock-hop across the brook, but caution is needed. In winter, it’s best to avoid the crossing until the brook is frozen solid. DEC plans to replace this bridge, but it doesn’t know when.
Calkins Creek Horse Trail. Hikers who use this trail to approach the Seward Range will find two bridges out. The trail is impassable for wagons and difficult for horses. Equestrians should take the Raquette River Horse Trail instead. The bridges may be fixed in a few years.
Hanging Spear Falls Trail. With the loss of a suspension bridge over the Hudson at Tahawus, hikers must cross the river via a nearby ford (which is flagged). DEC plans to replace the bridge next year. Warning: the river at the ford does not freeze in winter. Wading through frigid water can be dangerous.
Calamity Brook Trail. This trail was rerouted after the storm to avoid two stream crossings where bridges were wiped out. DEC has no plans to replace the bridges.
Photo by Phil Brown: The closure of Adirondak Loj Road after Irene.