Land classification battles are a common feature of new Forest Preserve acquisitions in the Adirondack Park these days, with the Essex Chain of Lakes property being a prime example. Typically, the disagreement boils down to Wild Forest versus Wilderness, the two most common land classifications in the Adirondacks. While Wilderness remains the more restrictive, Wild Forests are supposed to maintain a wild character despite the presence of dirt roads, snowmobile trails, etc. Unfortunately, this wild character seems to be slowly fading away in many cases, making room for increasing (and often illegal) human uses.
Hiking is often a messy business, especially in the Adirondacks. Beaver flooding, natural seeps and deep, rain-filled ruts are just a few of the reasons for wet and muddy trails. Sometimes, just for a change of pace, a nice hike on a relatively dry upland trail is just what the doctor ordered. On these dry jaunts, a clunky, over the ankle pair of full-grain leather hiking boots is often overkill.
Hiking shoes are a fine alternative for these drier situations. They are lighter weight and dry faster than conventional leather hiking boots, which allows for more miles with less stress on your legs and back. After all, the old adage » Continue Reading.
When the results for Proposition 5 came in last November, I decided I must visit Lot 8 in the Jay Mountain Wilderness. Since the voters of New York State made this area yet another sacrificial lamb at the altar of greed and profitability, I knew it would only be a matter of time before the chainsaws, bulldozers and explosives moved in and converted a living and breathing forest into something akin to a war zone.
It soon became evident this juggernaut of “progress” was unstoppable, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) relinquished their roles of » Continue Reading.
They say variety is the spice of life. This is certainly true of backcountry adventures as anything else. Every few years, I diverge from my comfort area of the Five Ponds and Pepperbox Wilderness and venture out into other parts of the Adirondacks. Recently, I took a six-day sojourn into the Jay Mountain Wilderness, the smallest Wilderness Area in the Adirondacks.
The main impetuous for the trip was my desire to see Lot 8 in all its unspoiled glory, before saw, drill, bulldozer and explosives leave it nothing more than a giant hole in the ground.
The Adirondack State Park is a huge place, encompassing approximately 6.1 million acres. It stretches from Lake Champlain at its eastern end, almost all the way to the Black River valley in the west, and from nearly the Canadian border in the north to the doorstep of the Mohawk River valley in the south. It is the largest state park in the contiguous United States, and, in fact, larger than several states. It is even larger than the combined area of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and Great Smoke Mountains National Parks.
Its size is not the only unique aspect about the Park. Within its borders lies almost unimaginable beauty. Nature’s » Continue Reading.
This scenario is familiar to any backcountry enthusiast, regardless of whether they prefer the well-worn trails of a popular area or the trailless expanses that see more moose and black bear than they do people. Surrounded by forest, a multitude of birds singing in the canopy, a frog’s occasional throaty call emerging from a nearby wetland, it is as if there is not another living soul within miles around, and there may not be. Just as this feeling of remoteness engulfs the mind completely, the unnatural color of something on the ground assaults your senses, dispelling any fanciful notion of being in the only person in an » Continue Reading.
Spending time in the backcountry provides many benefits, from the physical exertion of traveling through a harsh terrain to the spiritual rejuvenation that only the sounds and smells of nature can provide. One important benefit for me personally is the pleasure of being intimately immersed in the sounds of bird life, some unique to the Adirondack region.
Unfortunately, this enjoyment appears to be in jeopardy as some of the most precious Adirondack bird species are in a deadly struggle for life and death. Some of the most iconic species of the north woods appear to be losing.
The Adirondack backcountry is a fascinating place to visit. It provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life, where slow traffic, demanding bosses and other aspects of the daily grind are left far behind for the relaxing solitude that is increasingly rare in the modern world. Tranquility, outstanding photographs and a satiation of peace and quiet are just a few takeaway benefits of spending time in the remote backcountry.
The Northville-Placid Trail is getting a face-lift. The initial 10-mile stretch that started at the west end of the bridge over the Sacandaga River along State Route 30 is no more, or at least soon will be. Instead, the famous trail will soon officially start in the village of Northville and mostly stick to State Forest Preserve for the first ten miles all the way to Upper Benson.
This is not the only recent change for the famous trail. Combined with other alterations over the last few years, the singular long trail of the Adirondacks is going through a transition, giving it a whole new look; » Continue Reading.
Exploring the Adirondack backcountry requires tenacity, perseverance and great deal of fortitude, as climbing over blowdowns, crossing beaver dams and struggling through hobblebush is an arduous way to spend the day. These personal qualities are not the only necessities for enjoying the backcountry however, having the proper gear is equally important. Backpacks, shelters, sleeping bags and numerous other items are tools of the trade for any intrepid soul that leaves societal comforts behind to enjoy some time surrounded by trees, furry animals and all the other creepy-crawlies in the great outdoors.
Sometimes the need for the proper gear quickly becomes a compulsion for owning the latest and greatest equipment on the market. For these » Continue Reading.
Having a plan is always a good idea. From managing finances for retirement to baking a cake, a plan brings structure and allows for measuring progress. Journeying into the Adirondack backcountry is no different. A plan or itinerary is even more crucial when venturing off trail and into the remote wilderness. It often means the difference between a fantastic experience and a miserable nightmare.
The similarities between planning for a bushwhacking and traditional trail hiking trip are surprisingly many. Both require getting past the anxiety of an empty backpack and selecting the proper gear for the trip. Putting together an itinerary is essential, regardless of the nature of the trip, since » Continue Reading.
People often ask me what exactly I do in the Adirondack backcountry during a bushwhacking trip, as if it involves engaging in some arcane art from long ago. I always find this line of questioning a little befuddling, and to this day, I still find myself lacking an adequate response. For the most part, my day remains much the same as any commuter’s, except for the excessive effort involved in struggling through blowdown, hobblebush or other natural impediments, instead of navigating traffic.
A day in the life of a bushwhacker is an interesting one indeed, but not that different from a typical commuter’s. We sleep, » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack backcountry contains a plethora of natural gems, such as ponds, lakes, mountains, bogs and beaver meadows. Although many are reachable by trail, the vast majority are islands of remoteness, surrounded by a sea of near-impenetrable forest, just waiting for a human bold enough to venture away from the marked trails to discover them. Few humans ever visit these gems, which undoubtedly suits both the gems themselves and the meager number of visitors just fine.
One of these gems is a small pond found in the southwest corner of the Five Ponds Wilderness. Sitz Pond is its name, and as attractive backcountry ponds go, it ranks up there with the » Continue Reading.
Some backpacking trips go beyond the ordinary backcountry adventure. Whether due to a single outstanding wildlife sighting, a series of unlikely events, a special chemistry between participants, a scenic location or any combination of these, some trips become legendary, recounted time and time again. These legendary trips eventually develop their own mythology, combining equal amounts of actual events and fictitious hyperbole.
These legendary backcountry trips are not common, but almost anyone who spends enough time in the Adirondack backcountry can expect to experience at least a few during their backpacking career. Typically, these trips involve groups, the dynamics between the participants contributing not only to the memorable trip activities, but also » Continue Reading.
Change is inevitable, constantly working its influence on everything around us, including ourselves. Sometimes it unfolds slowly, like the lines on a person’s face as they age, other times it develops swiftly, like the devastation from a magnitude seven earthquake.
The Adirondack Park has never been immune to change. Whether natural, like the glaciers that once scoured its landscape, or human-induced, like the massive timber extraction of earlier times, the accumulation of these changes made the Adirondacks what we know and love today. This evolution continues today, evident in the gradual wearing down of the mountains, the successional transition of beaver pond to meadow and beyond, and forest flattened by » Continue Reading.
For years, synthetic fleece has been a standard material in almost every backcountry enthusiast’s gear repertoire. Jackets, sweatshirts, hats, gloves, socks, pants, there is almost no piece of clothing safe from the material, except for perhaps underwear briefs.
The popularity of the material is reflected in the multitude of different types of fleece invented, ranging from Polar to Windstopper. That the material is made of polyethylene terephthalate, the same plastic used to make soda bottles, often appears to be lost on almost everyone.
Despite the versatility and popularity of fleece, I have all but abandoned the material in my own backpacking during the » Continue Reading.
Spending time in the Adirondack backcountry requires an entire menagerie of skills, including navigation, endurance and tolerance for being the object of affection for hordes of bloodthirsty flies. Often overlooked are those skills necessary to survive in the wilderness for an extended period without all the convenient gear and compact foods typically carried by most backcountry enthusiasts.
These skills include, but are certainly not limited to, building a shelter, starting a fire and finding something to eat. Although these skills are useful when impressing members of the opposite sex far from civilization, these skills just might mean the difference between life and death when forced to spend a few unexpected days in » Continue Reading.
Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and those fortunate enough are gathering with family and friends to gorge themselves on a hearty meal, giving thanks for the bounty enjoyed throughout the year. Tomorrow, many of us will turn around and venture into the shopping wilderness to forage for the best deal on things few of us need, in celebration of the birth of a man who lived over two thousand years ago when people got by with so little.
Just appreciating what we already have seems to be out of vogue these days. Our appetite for stuff appears more insatiable with each passing year. The simple things in life, such as family, friends, and » Continue Reading.
A pleasant hike in the Adirondack backcountry suddenly turns into a disaster. The heart quickens in the chest, the echo of the frequent beats drowning out the surrounding natural sounds. A thin sheen of sweat covers the skin, producing a clammy feeling and chills. Breathing becomes labored as if just summiting a faraway peak. A frantic feeling overcomes you, as if mortal danger is imminent.
What is going on? Is it a heart attack? A panic attack? Aliens?
Nope. It just means you made a terrifying discovery, as everything around you looks unfamiliar, and you no longer know where you are. You are lost. All the physical indications are » Continue Reading.
This time of the year marks a period of change. With the falling leaves, the coming of cold temperatures and their accompanying snowfall, the change is literally in the air. Along with these natural changes, comes the possibility of political change as well, brought about on the high-holy day of any democracy, voting day. In New York State, voting day often includes a number of propositions to amend the state constitution, two of which just happen to involve the Adirondack Park this time around.
Politics often lacking any semblance of imagination, the two propositions are simply names Proposal #4 and #5. Both of these proposals » Continue Reading.