This weekly report of outdoor recreation conditions in the Adirondacks is published each Thursday afternoon and can be heard Friday mornings on WSLP Lake Placid, and the stations of North Country Public Radio.
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SUN AND MOON SATURDAY: Sunrise Saturday in Lake Placid will be at 7:02 am; sunset at 7:06 pm, providing 12 hours and 3 minutes of sunlight. On Saturday, the Moon will rise at 12:12 am and set at 10:23 am. It will be Waning Gibbous, 71% illuminated. The Spring Equinox (Vernal Equinox) is on Monday, March 20, 2017.
WINTER CONDITIONS – DEEP SNOW: After what appeared to be the end of winter, a substantial blizzard struck the Adirondacks this week dropping two to three feet around the region at lower elevations, and several feet more at higher elevations. Parking may be more difficult as large crowds are expected and snow removal has limited trailhead parking areas. There remains 1.5 to 2.5 feet of snow at lower elevations; there is 4.5 feet of snow at Lake Colden, and several feet more at higher elevations. Snowshoes or skis will be required everywhere. Trails to less popular areas remain unbroken, and will require significant extra time and energy. Summit wind chill temperatures will be in the single digits to teens this weekend. Most rivers and stream remain open, at early spring-time levels; some stream crossing may be difficult. Ice will continue to slowly increase on area lakes, rivers and streams through the end of this week – but no ice should be considered safe. Friday is expected to be sunny with temperatures in the 20s, followed by a dip to near zero Friday night. Saturday is forecast to include a chance of snow showers, with highs in the upper 20s to mid-30s; low Saturday night will be in the teens. Sunday will have highs in the 30s with a chance of snow showers.
AVALANCHE ADVISORY: Recent snowstorms have left a layered snowpack that has increased the chance for avalanches. Use caution when traveling on open areas with slopes between 25 and 50 degrees and no vegetation. If you are going to travel into avalanche terrain be aware of the risk of avalanches: Have a basic knowledge of avalanche risk, prediction, avoidance and rescue; carry beacons, shovels and probes; and check for avalanche conditions before skiing. Always obtain your own data about avalanche risks, and remember that the presence of ski tracks on a slope doesn’t eliminate the risk of avalanche. Remember safe travel techniques, know how to self-rescue, and have a rescue plan. If you are unsure, don’t go. Avalanches occur often in the Adirondacks and they can have deadly consequences.
EXPECT SUBSTANTIAL BLOWDOWN: Expect to encounter substantial blowdown on trails this weekend (fallen or leaning trees, limbs, and branches) due to two weeks of very windy conditions followed by a blizzard.
SNOWSHOES OR SKIS REQUIRED: Snowshoes or skis are required in the High Peaks Wilderness beyond Marcy Dam and will be necessary for backcountry travel everywhere. Trails to less popular areas remain unbroken, and will require significant extra time and energy. 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 well below freezing temperatures in an emergency. 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. See the latest NWS watches, warnings, and advisories here.
DOWNHILL SKIING OUTSTANDING: Downhill ski conditions are outstanding everywhere around the Adirondacks, with 90% of the region’s downhill terrain open, including the region’s glades. Oak Mountain will reopen Saturday, after having already announced the end of their season. Oak, McCauley, and Titus all have outstanding conditions. Hickory and Big Tupper remain closed.
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING OUTSTANDING: There is outstanding conditions at all the Adirondack cross-country ski facilities, including at the New Land Trust, Dewey, Paul Smiths, Tupper Lake, Inlet, Cascade, Mt. Van Ho, Garnet Hill, and Lapland Lake.
BACK-COUNTRY SKIING OUTSTANDING: Back-country skiing is outstanding. All trails are skiable, although there may remain a few open streams that may be more difficult to cross. Trails to less popular areas remain unbroken, and will require significant extra time and energy. Expect to encounter blowdown – especially on less popular trails. Parking may be more difficult as large crowds are expected and snow removal has limited trailhead parking areas.
SNOWMOBILE TRAILS REPORT: Snowmobiling conditions are good, although there no ice should be considered safe. Most trails systems had closed, but are now reopening their gates, including in Warren and St. Lawrence counties. More than a dozen snowmobile deaths have occurred in Northern New York this winter, including 8 riders who died falling through thin ice. Do not attempt to cross frozen waterbodies, ice conditions are very poor.
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.
DROUGHT MONITOR: The U.S. Drought Monitor has removed the Abnormally Dry warning from the entire Adirondack region, with the exception of the Eastern Adirondacks including Eastern Essex and Warren counties.
ICE ON WATERS UNSAFE: Lake George and Lake Champlain did not freeze this year. The region’s lakes and ponds are iced over, but no ice is considered safe. There has been substantial melting along shorelines, channels, inlets and outlets. There are dangerously thin areas that were recently open water but do not now appear any different from surrounding thicker ice. Ice will continue to slowly increase on area lakes, rivers and streams through the end of this week – but no ice should be considered safe this weekend.
RIVERS AND STREAMS: Most rivers and stream remain open, at early spring-time levels; some stream crossing may be difficult. Ice will continue to slowly increase on area lakes, rivers and streams through the end of this week – but no ice should be considered safe. Before heading out check the streamgages on the USGS website for waters where you intend to recreate. Stream gage readings may be affected by ice.
The following stream gage readings were observed on Thursday afternoon.
Moose River at McKeever – 7.61 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 7.69 feet
Ausable River at AuSable Forks – 2.19 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 4.26 feet
Schroon River at Riverbank (Route 11) – 3.84 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 97.08 feet
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.
BURN BAN IN EFFECT BEGINNING MARCH 16: Residential brush burning is prohibited March 16 through May 14 across New York State. Due to the lack of snow cover over much of the state and with rising temperatures forecast for the coming weeks, conditions for wildfires could be heightened and a wildlife has already occurred in Washington County this spring. Open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in New York State. When temperatures are warmer and the past fall’s debris and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation. In the seven-year period since the ban was established, the average number of spring fires per year decreased by 35.5 percent, from 2,925 in 2009 to 1,886 in 2016. Campfires using charcoal or untreated wood are allowed, but people should never leave such fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round. Towns in and around the Adirondack Park are designated “fire towns”. Open burning is prohibited year-round in these municipalities without a written permit from DEC. To obtain a permit, contact the appropriate DEC regional office.
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
** Protect Sensitive and Rare Alpine Vegetation: Alpine vegetation becomes exposed as the snow pack melts and consolidates above the tree line. Protect sensitive and rare alpine vegetation by wearing snowshoes and skis above the summits and staying on the packed trails. Carry and wear crampons when trails are icy and conditions warrant. Stay on the trail.
** Snowshoes Or Skis Required: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness. 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.
** Hiking Ski Trails Prohibited: Trails designated as Ski Trails can only be used by people wearing skis. Snowshoeing or walking on Ski Trails is prohibited. This includes: Whale’s Tail Notch Ski Trail; Mr. Van Ski Trail; Avalanche Pass Ski Trail; Wright Peak Ski Trail; and Van Hovenberg Ski Trail.
** Lake Colden – Cold Brook Trail: The Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and the Indian Pass Trail is reported impassable due to blowdown.
** Calamity Brook Trail: The high water bridge on the Calamity Trail is unsafe and unusable and should not be crossed. Crossing Calamity Brook, which is completely open at this time, without using the bridge will be difficult especially during high water. On warm and rainy days water levels in the brook will be higher in the afternoon, plan accordingly. The East River Trail (aka the Opalescent River/Hanging Spear Falls Trail) can be used to access the Flowed Lands and Lake Colden. It is an additional 3.7 miles one-way to reach the Flowed Lands using this route. DEC will work to stabilize and repair the high water bridge in the spring.
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. Respect other users and do not bare-boot / post-hole on this traditional ski route.
** Adirondack Loj Info Center Re-Opened: The Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) has re-opened. Although the store is not fully stocked at this time flush toilets; snowshoe and microspike rentals; and some retail merchandise are available.
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.
** Corey’s Road: Due to weather conditions the gate on Corey’s Road has been closed for the mud season. The gate and access to the summer parking lot will reopen on May 15th unless the weather prevents the road from drying and hardening.
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 are open 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.
** Mount Adams Fire Tower: The retaining rail has been blown off the top landing of the Mount Adams Fire Tower – use extreme caution if proceeding above the third landing. Work will be planned to fix this in 2017.
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.
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.
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.
Wakely Mountain Fire Tower: Wakely Mountain Fire Tower has been found to be structurally unsound and has been closed to the public until further notice.
Perkins Clearing: The south entrance of Perkins Clearing Road is open and plowed to Mud Lake Road for log trucks and other vehicles and equipment related to ongoing logging operations. Snowmobilers can access Perkins Clearing from the south entrance via a trail bypass on the west side of the road.
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.
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.
Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co
** Great Camp Santanoni Open House: The final Winter Weekend at Great Camp Santanoni in Newcomb will take place this weekend, March 18-19, and ski conditions are outstanding. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers will have access to the restored 19th-century great camp. The 10-mile round trip on gently rolling terrain will take you past the Santanoni Farm and through the Forest Preserve on a wide, old road (no vehicle access). Visitors can Walk through the Main Lodge, boathouse and other buildings and volunteers from Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) will lead tours and talk about the history, design, and family life at the state-owned historic site. Visitors may warm up by the wood stove in the Artist’s Studio on the shores of Newcomb Lake, and enjoy complimentary hot beverages (please, bring your own cup). Camp Santanoni Winter Weekends are free.
** Lake George Wild Forest: Dacy Clearing Road and all other DEC gates in the Shelving Rock/Buck Mountain Area are closed. Dacy Clearing road is closed to snowmobiles and motor vehicles for the spring mud season. The road will be reopened when it has dried and hardened. Gates are also closed on Notch Lane in the Mount Tom State Forest (town of White Creek, Washington County) for mud season. The road will be reopened when it has dried and hardened.
Siamese Ponds Wilderness: Two foot bridges have collapsed. The 55-foot bridge over the East Branch Sacandaga River on the Botheration Pond Loop Trail has collapsed and cannot be crossed. Do not attempt to scramble over it. During low water, rock hopping is possible. A 30-foot bridge on the Puffer Pond Trail over a tributary to the Thirteenth Lake south of the lake collapsed earlier this year and cannot be crossed.
Santa Clara, Tupper and Saranac Lakes, St. Regis, Lake Lila
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 are closed until the end of the spring mud season.
Independence River Wild Forest: A temporary bridge as been installed over Fourth Creek on the C8 Snowmobile Corridor in Three Lakes Conservation Easement in Herkimer County.
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.
Stillwater Mountain: Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower and the trail to the summit of Stillwater Mountain are open for public use.
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.