This weekly report of outdoor recreation conditions in the Adirondacks is issued each Thursday afternoon and can be heard at North Country Public Radio on Friday mornings.
Sunrise Saturday in Lake Placid will be at 7:26 am; sunset at 4:18 pm, providing 8 hours and 50 minutes of sunlight. The Moon will rise at 8:47 pm Saturday and set at 10:53 am, Sunday; it will be Waning Gibbous, 73% illuminated.
WINTER CONDITIONS: The Adirondacks is experiencing some of the coldest weather so far this season, with high winds, dangerous wind chill temperatures, deep snow across most of the region, and up to six inches of additional snow expected Saturday, which will turn to mixed precipitation and possibly rain by Sunday at warmer locations before dropping as much as 20 degrees creating a flash freeze situation. Expect trails to be a combination of ice and deep snow, especially at higher elevations and in the Western Adirondacks. Carry traction devices and snowshoes or skis. Follow local weather reports closely and be prepared for a variety of conditions.
DANGEROUS WIND CHILL TEMPERATURES: A Wind Chill Warning is in effect through Friday morning, for the entire Adirondack Region. Expect dangerously cold wind chills as low as – 35 due to temperatures 15 below to 5 above zero and winds northwest 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 50 mph; summits will have temperatures of -25 to -30 with wind chills of -45 to -50. Frost bite and hypothermia can occur within 15 minutes if precautions are not taken. Extended exposure can lead to death.
SNOWSHOES OR SKIS REQUIRED: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness beyond Marcy Dam and strongly encouraged wherever snow depths exceed 8 inches. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (leaving deep footprints in the snow), avoid injuries, and ease travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
BE PREPARED! Always carry proper safety equipment – including plenty of food, water, extra clothing, a flashlight, and a map and compass – inform someone of your itinerary, and be prepared to spend an unplanned night in freezing temperatures in an emergency. On waters, wear a pfd. Just before entering the backcountry or launching check the latest weather forecasts for the Adirondack region at Burlington and Albany and the High Elevation, Recreation, or Lake Champlain forecasts.
SNOW DEPTH: An additional 3 to 6 inches of snow is expected by Saturday night. There is currently (on Thursday) about 8-12 inches on the ground across most of the region at lower elevations; 8 to 14 inches at Marcy Dam (2,360 ft); about two feet of snow at the Lake Colden Caretaker’s Cabin (2,775 feet); and 3 feet or more above about 3,500 feet.
Snow depths reported Thursday – expect these amounts to increase 3 to 6 inches by Saturday afternoon:
Wanakena – 12 inches
Tupper Lake – 11 inches
Saranac Lake – 14 inches
Wilmington – 12 inches
Lake Placid – 11 inches
Keene Valley – 5 inches
Marcy Dam – 8-14 inches
Lake Colden – 21 inches
Newcomb – 8 inches
Long Lake – 8 inches
Indian Lake – 7 inches
Northville – 7 inches
Speculator – 8 inches
Inlet – 15 inches
Old Forge – 12 inches
Forestport – 14 inches
Olmsteadville – 9 inches
Warrensburg – 5 inches
North Creek – 5 inches
Chestertown – 5 inches
Whitehall – 2 inches
HUNTING SEASON Hunting seasons are open. Hikers should wear bright colors and keep pets leashed as a precaution.
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: The cold and wind aside, downhill conditions are very good, with plenty of fresh snow and more on the way this weekend. Whiteface and Gore will have about 30-40% of their terrain open this weekend, but Titus is reporting 100% of their trails open. Oak Mountain, near Speculator will have a few trails open, as will McCauley near Old Forge. Hickory near Warrensburg remains closed. Big Tupper has announced that it’s unlikely they will open this season.
CROSS-COUNTRY / BACK COUNTRY SKI CONDITIONS: Ski conditions remain very good across the Adirondacks on smoother terrain, although care should be taken on the steeper terrain, as some obstacles may not be fully covered. All cross-country facilities are open and grooming. In the High Peaks, South Meadow Lane and the Marcy Truck Trail are in good condition, though there are snowmobile tracks from the recent search; the tail between the Adirondak Loj and Marcy Dam is in poor to fair condition; trails between Marcy Dam and about 3,000 feet are in good condition and there is plenty of snow above 3,000 feet. Ski conditions for the central Adirondacks are expected to be updated Friday here.
SNOWMOBILE REPORT: Conditions are very good in Northern Herkimer County, especially from Route 28 and Old Forge northward and in Western Hamilton County, especially west of Raquette Lake and North of Route 28 towards Big Moose and Stillwater. The Moose River Plains is in fair to good condition. The Webb and Inlet trail systems are in fair conditions, although the FX Matts trail needs more snow before it can be groomed. Logging in Perkins Clearing will end on Saturday, but many of the roads there have been plowed. The trails out of Indian Lake, and in Newcomb, Long Lake, and east of Raquette Lake remain bony – more snow is needed there before they can be generally recommended. Northern Warren County Trails are not yet recommended; Southern Warren County Trails remain closed. Do not ride on closed trails.
AVOID CAVES WHERE BATS ARE PRESENT: DEC is urging the suspension of cave and mine sites that may serve as homes for bat hibernations at this time of year. Human disturbances are harmful to the State’s bat population since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than 90 percent of bats at most hibernation sites in New York. All posted notices restricting the use of caves and mines should be followed. You encounter hibernating bats while underground at unposted sites, leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible. Anyone entering a northern long-eared bat hibernation site from October 1 through April 30, the typical period of hibernation for bats, may be subject to prosecution.
FIRE DANGER LOW: The fire danger is LOW. The U.S. Drought Monitor is reporting that the eastern half of the Adirondack Park is in a Long Term Moderate Drought (greater than six months), while the western half of the Adirondack Park is Abnormally Dry.
WATERS ABOUT NORMAL: Most waters are beginning to ice over, or have iced over – although no ice should be considered safe. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person. Rivers and streams around the Adirondacks have returned to about normal levels for this time of year. Before heading out check the streamgages on the USGS website for waters where you intend to recreate. The following stream gage readings were observed on Thursday afternoon.
Moose River at McKeever – 5.20 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 5.72 feet
Ausable River at AuSable Forks – 1.46 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 3.14 feet
Schroon River at Riverbank (Route 11) – 2.28 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 94.73feet
DO NOT RELY ON TECHNOLOGY: Do not depend on electronic technology in the backcountry. Cell phone coverage is spotty at best and often non-existent. GPS signal can be poor under heavy tree cover. Batteries expire quickly in cold temperatures. Plan and prepare carefully before entering the backcountry and always carry a map and compass – and know how to use them.
KEEP DOGS LEASHED: Dogs must be leashed in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks when on trails, at primitive tent sites, at lean-to sites, everywhere above 4,000 feet, or at other areas where the public congregates. It is recommended dogs be kept leashed for the safety of your dog, the protection of wildlife and rare plants, and out of courtesy to fellow hikers.
LEAVE NO TRACE / CARRY IN – CARRY OUT: Learn and practice the seven Leave No Trace principles. Carry out what you have carried in. Do not leave gear, food, or other unwanted or unneeded items at lean-tos and campsites. Do not litter. Take the free online Leave No Trace course here.
GROUP SIZE RESTRICTIONS: Large groups have significantly more impact on the trails, natural resources and other users. DEC regulation restricts group size in the High Peaks Wilderness to no more than 15 hikers (day users) or 8 campers (overnight users) and encourages this practice to be followed in other areas. Outside the High Peaks Wilderness, DEC regulation requires a temporary permit be issued to authorize organized events of more than twenty people; camping at the same location for more than three nights; or camping in groups of more than 10 people.
VOLUNTEER FOR TRAIL WORK: No matter what your sport, if you’re a trail user consider contributing your efforts to one of the many organizations dedicated to maintaining the region’s network of thousands of miles of trails.
RECENT CHANGES IN THE ADIRONDACK BACKCOUNTRY
These are recent changes (within the last two weeks) to outdoor recreation roads, trails and facilities around the Adirondacks.
** indicates new or recently revised items for this week.
HIGH PEAKS – LAKE PLACID REGION
Including Wilmington, Keene, Newcomb, Essex Chain
** Extreme Winter Weather Conditions: Extreme winter weather conditions are expected this weekend. See the notices and warnings above.
** Snowshoes Or Skis Required: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness beyond Marcy Dam and strongly encouraged wherever snow depths exceed 8 inches. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (leaving deep footprints in the snow), avoid injuries, and ease travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
** Lake Ice Not Safe: Ice on Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake is thin and not able to bear the weight of people at this time.
** South Meadow Lane: The lane is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the end of spring mud season. Vehicles may park at the barrier at the intersection with the Adirondak Loj Road but should not block the opening to ensure emergency vehicles may access the lane.
** Adirondack Loj Info Center: The Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) is closed through late December for renovations. Parking will not effected, but the flush toilets and shower facilities at the HPIC will not be available (Port-a-Johns will be available). The HPIC is operating 8 am to 4 pm daily out of a heated tent. Micro-spike and snowshoe rentals will be available along with information and some retail merchandise.
** Lake Arnold/Feldspar Brook Trail: The trail is flooded and the bog bridging cannot be crossed. Alternate routes using other trails in the area can be used to avoid the trail. DEC is working to find a permanent solution to this section of trail in the near future.
** Corey’s Road: The town of Harrietstown does not plow the road beyond the bridge over Stony Creek. Plan accordingly. Do not park in the snowplow turnarounds.
** Elk Lake Trails: The trails from the Elk Lake Trailhead through the privately-owned Elk Lake Easement Lands to High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix Mountain Wilderness have reopened, but the Elk Lake Road is closed to public motor vehicle access beyond the Clear Pond Gate. The public may park in the parking area at the Clear Pond Gate and hike, ski, or snowshoe two miles to Elk Lake Trailhead.
Ouluska Brook Bridge: The bridge over Ouluska Brook on the Northville-Placid Trail has collapsed into the brook. Due to low water conditions crossing the brook is still possible.
Garden Trailhead Parking Area: The town of Keene operates the Garden Parking Area and charges a $7/day fee for parking. The attendant is no longer present at the parking area. Hikers should use an envelope and the collection slot to pay.
Cold River Bridge: Some boards are broken on the suspension bridge over the Cold River on the Northville-Placid Trail. Use caution when crossing.
Northville-Placid Trail: The Northville Placid Trail has rerouted around a beaver pond south of Plumley’s Point on the shores of Long Lake. The reroute passes the beaver pond higher up the slope and eliminates having to cross the beaver dam and the wet feet obtained when the water levels were high. Follow the Blue NPT trail markers.
** Whiteface Landing Trail: Construction occurring on the State Route 86 Bridge over the West Branch Ausable River about three miles northeast of Lake Placid has limited parking near the bridge. Those accessing Whiteface Landing are discouraged from using the parking areas near the bridge.
** Boreas Ponds Tract: The lower gate on the Gulf Brook Road near the Blue Ridge Road is closed and lock. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season. The Gulf Brook Road is not plowed. The five exterior parking lots along Blue Ridge Road and Elk Lake Road will be plowed.
Long Lake, Indian Lake, Fulton Chain, Speculator, West Canada Lakes
** Blue Mountain Wild Forest/Township 19 Tract & Township 20 Tract Easement Lands: Gates are closed and public motor vehicle use is prohibited on O’Neil Flow, Pickwickett Pond, and Minerva Club Roads.
** Moose River Plains: The Limekiln Lake Gate and the Cedar River Gate are open for snowmobiling. COnditions in the Moose River Plains are good.
** Essex Chain Lakes: Gates have been closed and locked. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited on all seasonal access roads until the end of the spring mud season. The Cornell Road is a designated snowmobile trail. The gates will be reopened once there is enough snow.
** Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower: The Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower is closed to the public through December 20th.
** Perkins Clearing: Gates have been opened on snowmobile trails. Public motor vehicle use of the road system is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season.
Black River Wild forest: The third bridge on the Otter Lake – Brandy Lake Trail (approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead on State Route 28) has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge and the trail on either side of it are under nearly two feet of water.
Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: East Pond-Lost Creek Trail has been cleared of blowdown and vegetation has been cut back. Blackfoot Pond Trail off of the East-Pond Lost Creek Trail remains rough, grown in and may contain blowdown. The trail is difficult to follow at times. The sign at the junction of the trails is missing, the turn off to Blackfoot Pond is not readily marked or noticeable. DEC will be replace the sign soon.
East Stony Creek Trail: Hikers using the East Stony Creek Trail must park at the new trailhead parking area on Hope Falls Road and walk the 0.4 mile on the road to reach the East Stony Creek Trailhead. It is 5.1 miles from the new trailhead to Wilcox Lake and 6.0 miles from the new trailhead to the Harrisburg Road.
Tenant Creek Falls: A new trail has been built to Tenant Creek Falls from a new trailhead parking area on Hope Falls Road, 0.4 mile before the old trailhead. The old trail across private land is now closed. Hikers must use the new trail to Tenant Creek Falls and not trespass on private lands. The new trail is 0.9 mile from the new trailhead to the first falls, it is 2.1 miles to the second and third falls. The trail was constructed by an Adirondack Mountain Club Volunteer High School Group under DEC contract and direction. An ADA accessible outhouse at the new trailhead was constructed by DEC Northville Operations
** Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: The Spruce Mountain Trail is open for public use. The cab of the Spruce Mountain Fire Tower is closed for the season as is the cab of the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower and the Hadley Mountain Observer’s Cabin.
Round Pond Snowmobile Trail: A section of the Round Pond Snowmobile Trail has been rerouted so that it no longer crosses Round Pond.
Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co
** Ferries Closed For Season: The Fort Ticonderoga Ferry between Shoreham, Vermont and Ticonderoga and the Port Kent to Burlington Ferry have ended their seasons. Champlain crossings are available at the Champlain bridge, or the ferries from Essex to Charlotte; and from Plattsburgh to Grand Isle.
** Dacy Clearing Road – Lake George Wild Forest: Dacy Clearing Road is currently open but contains snow and ice. It is recommended that only 4 wheel drive vehicles with good tires use the road at this time.
** Gay Pond Road – Lake George Wild Forest: Gay Pond Road is open, but the road is heavily rutted from illegal use by four-wheel drive vehicles during the snowmobile season. Only high clearance vehicles should be used to traverse the road and even those should be used with caution.
Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: Barnes Pond Road is open to public motor vehicle use, including access to the six designated primitive campsites along the road. The six designated campsites are marked with “Camp Here” discs and have privies, fire rings, and picnic tables. The campsites are scheduled for routine maintenance, but are in useable condition. Camping is permitted at designated sites only. A new parking area has been built off Franklin County Route 26 (aka Old Route 99) north of Loon Lake which provides access to the northern portion of the Plumadore-Inman Public Use Area. A 0.4-mile foot trail follows an old skid road east from the parking area, through a log landing, and continues on to access the banks of Plumadore Brook – a trout stream. The stream bank access point also provides scenic views of the Loon Lake Mountain Range to the west
Santa Clara, Tupper and Saranac Lakes, St. Regis, Lake Lila
** Loon Lake Mountain Trail: Lyme Adirondack Forest Company, the private landowner of the Kushaqua Tract Conservation Easement, is conducting a timber harvest in the area of the Loon Lake Mountain Trail in accordance with their rights to forest management. DEC has closed public use of the trail and the easement lands in the area around the trail for public safety purposes until timber harvesting operations are completed on December 30, 2016.
Saranac Locks: The Lower Locks on the Saranac Lakes Chain are closed until Spring 2017. Boats upstream of the locks can be removed from the water at the Second Pond Boat Launch along State Route 3. Boats downstream of the locks can be removed from the water at the Lake Flower Boat Launch in Saranac Lake.
** Kushaqua Tract Easement: The main gate next to the parking area and register box on the North Branch Road is closed and locked. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited on Hunter’s Camp Road and Mountain Pond Road until the end of spring mud season.
** Madawaska Road – Santa Clara Tract Easement: Gates on Madawaska Road and Pinnacle Road will remain open through the weekend. The roads are passable to high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles. The gates will be closed and locked on Monday at which time public motor vehicle use is prohibited on the roads until the end of the spring mud season.
Black River Wild Forest: The bridge across the inlet to Little Woodhull Lake on the Little Woodhull Lake Trail is out. The stream may not be passable in times of high water. The third bridge on the Otter Lake – Brandy Lake Trail (approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead on State Route 28) has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge and the trail on either side of it are under nearly two feet of water. Nick’s Lake Outlet Trail to Remsen Falls may be rough and grown in. Nelson Lake Loop Trail has several blowdown trees. The gate at the end of the Wolf Lake Landing Road has been vandalized. Motor vehicle access beyond the gate is prohibited except by permit. Bear Lake Trail is wet and muddy for the first mile from the trailhead on Wolf Lake Landing Road. Chubb Pond Trail east from the new bridge over Gull Lake outlet is muddy to Buck Pond. Most blowdown has been cleared from the first two miles of Twin Lakes Trail from the Farr Road, the trail is in poor shape beyond to the marsh.
Fulton Chain Wild Forest: Safford Pond Trail is flooded by beaver activity near the Safford Pond Inlet. The Scenic Mountain (aka Vista) Trail contains several blown downs.
Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: Brown’s Tract Trail has been flooded by beavers between Tamarack lake and Bare Mountain, the trail is difficult to traverse. A culvert is washed out on the Big Otter Lake East Trail near Indian Brook. Also Big Otter Lake East Trail is flooded at South Inlet Flow but the trail remains passable. Moose River Mountain Trail has heavy blow down and is difficult to follow at times. Middle Settlement Lake Trail is flooded due to beaver activity between the Cedar Pond Trail and Middle Settlement Lake. East Pond-Lost Creek Trail between East Pond and the Big Otter Lake East Trail is rough, grown in and may contain blowdown. The trail is difficult to follow at times.
Independence River Wild Forest: Big Otter Lake Road is in very poor condition. Only 4 wheel drive trucks, SUVs or other high clearance vehicles should attempt to use the road. Little Otter Lake Road is wet, muddy, and thickly vegetated. Only 4 wheel drive trucks, SUVs or other high clearance vehicles should attempt to use the road. DEC plans to make improvements in November 2016. The southern half of McCarthy Road is rocky and muddy in some places. Only 4 wheel drive trucks, SUVs or other high clearance vehicles should attempt to use the road. Florence Pond Road south of Little Otter Creek has some mud holes. Only 4 wheel drive trucks, SUVs or other high clearance vehicles should attempt to use the road. Access to Catspaw Lake Road and Catspaw Lake should be done from the Van Arnum Road not the Patridgeville Road as the road is wet and rutted on that side. There is a mud hole on the east end of the Mt. Tom Trail (old route of both snowmobile and foot trails) near intersect with Silvermine Dam Trail/10 mile Crossing Road. Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower on Big Moose Tract Easement is being renovated and is not open to the public. The fire tower and access trail will be open later in summer 2016. Summer public access on the Big Moose Tract Easement is restricted to the fire tower trail which will open later this summer.
Otter Creek Horse Trail System: The Otter Creek Assembly Area is open for use but the water has been turned off for the season. Some horses will not cross the bridge over Otter Creek on Erie Canal Trail – they may ford the stream parallel to the bridge. The foot trail to Old Hotel campsite along the west side of Big Otter Lake is rutted from illegal vehicle use.
Pigeon Lake Wilderness: Approximately half of the Twitchell Lake Trail (7.5 miles to Beaver River Station) at the Twitchell Lake end has been cleared of blowdown. The bridge crossing over the Oswego Pond Outlet on the Twitchell Lake Trail has washed out. An old beaver den can be used to cross the outlet. Cascade Lake Trail is wet and very muddy on the north-west section of the trail around Cascade Lake. Be alert of trail reroutes. Chub Lake Trail between Constable Pond and Queer Lake Trail is rough and grown in.
Watson’s East: Bear Pond Road is open to public motor vehicle access as are all designated seasonal access road on the Croghan Tract and Oswegatchie Tract Easements. Access to the Oswegatchie Tract Easement via the Bryant Bridge Road is limited to those paddling on the easement lands. All others should use the Bald Mountain Road.
** William C. Whitney Wilderness & Round Lake Wilderness: Whitney Headquarters, including the Forest Ranger’s office is closed for the winter. Contact the Forest Ranger at 518-505-4151.
** Lake Lila Road: The gate has been closed and locked on the Lake Lila Road. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season. The public can hike, snowshoe, and ski on the road but is prohibited from trespassing on adjacent private lands.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety webpage and Adirondack Trail Information webpage for more information about where you intend to travel. Check the Adirondack Almanack Outdoor Conditions Reports each Thursday afternoon. A map of the Adirondack Park can be found here.
The NYS Trails Supporter Patch is available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.