Almanack Contributor Dan Crane

Dan Crane

Dan Crane writes regularly about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. He has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry for almost two decades. He is also life-long naturalist with a Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He is also the creator of the blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Commentary: It Ain’t The ‘Dacks, Dude!

Paper birch forest on Jay Mountain's northern slopeAbbreviations and acronyms continue to mushroom in popularity with each passing day. As an increasingly face-paced world collides with new and ubiquitous technologies, these short cuts will likely become more invasive in our language. Their burgeoning use coincides with the development of many modern means of communication, such as text messaging and social networking, which may eventually prove as the death knell to clear and concise communication.

What does this have to do with the Adirondacks?

Despite the prominence of these short cuts in popular culture, one annoying Adirondack abbreviation predates this social media trend. My first encounter with it goes back as far as the 1990’s, » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Backcountry Ethics: Leave No Gear Behind

Left Behind Tent StakeNever leaving a man behind is a common motto in the military world; it is even incorporated into the U.S. Army’s Soldier’s Creed. The saying is equally apropos for Adirondack backcountry adventurers, whose hobby has some commonality with the military way of life, except for the lack of gravitas. Although the prospect of leaving behind a comrade is unmatched in seriousness, it is not the only situation where leaving something behind in the backcountry arouses feelings of loss and guilt.

Despite the appropriateness of the motto in the backcountry, it rarely has much bearing on most adventures. Although groups separate on occasion, sometimes with disastrous results, this is not » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Backpacking Gear Choices: Which Knife?

Small jackknifeYouth, inexperience and ignorance were in abundance when I first started backpacking in the Adirondacks many years ago. My knowledge of the proper gear and foods was seriously lacking, not to mention the total ignorance of how to pack effectively all that stuff for a multi-day backpacking adventure. I was not completely clueless though, as I could hike and identify birds. So there was that.

In those early days, my pack weighed in at nearly one-half my meager weight. The pack was too big for me, and it was overflowing with overweight gear. Its weight made my first trip an arduous struggle, with my feet blistered and bloodied by its end. Despite all » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Five Ponds Wilderness: The Wilderness Lakes Tract

Small island on Evergreen LakeAreas ideally suitable for a novice bushwhacker are not common in the northwestern Adirondacks. Plentiful blowdowns, extensive wetland complexes and thousands of acres of unbroken forests can appear insurmountable to the uninitiated.

Typically, the best areas for an inexperienced bushwhacker contain many prominent features, such as trail networks, old logging roads, lakes, ponds and small wetlands, which increase the opportunities to orient oneself in the landscape.

One such area is the Wilderness Lakes Tract in the southwest corner of the Five Ponds Wilderness, just north of Stillwater Reservoir.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hiking Boots: Change is Good for the Resole

Gouge in hiking bootWe live in a throwaway society. Most purchases come with an expectation of ephemerality, regardless of whether it is a small novelty item or a durable good, like a car or refrigerator. When these manufactured goods meet our low expectations, we toss them in the trash and buy new ones. At least this is the norm for those with disposable income, a term that reinforces our throwaway thinking. The outdoor community has no immunity to this mindset, where gear is often retired well before its time because of small signs of wear and tear.

However, it is often justifiable to retire gear that is showing its age. Exploring the remote Adirondacks » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dan Crane: What’s So Wild About Wild Forest Areas?

ATV Trail Damage in the Black River Wild ForestLand 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.

According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master » Continue Reading.



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gear Review: Merrell Chameleon 5 Hiking Shoe

Merrell Chameleon 5 Hiking ShoeHiking 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.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Day On Lot 8: A Dan Crane NYCO Commentary

Towering White Ash on Lot 8When 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.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Jay Mountain Wilderness: Not Exactly A Walk In The Park

Jay Mountain RangeThey 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.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Adirondacks Are More Than Just The High Peaks

View from Cat MountainThe 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.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dan Crane On Backcountry Litter

Milky Way wrapper near Middle Branch Oswegatchie RiverThis 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.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bushwhacking for Boreal Birds

Bog south of Crooked LakeSpending 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.



Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Backcountry Hitchhikers: When Nature Comes Home

Mucky spot along Upper South Pond TrailThe 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.

It is not all forest bathing and new age communing out there, as these positive aspects of a backcountry adventure are not the only things making their way home with us. There » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dan Crane: The Northville-Placid Trail Experience

Bushwhacking Fool near South PondThe 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.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dan Crane: I’m Addicted To Outdoor Gear

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExploring 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.



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Planning an Adirondack Bushwhack

Crooked LakeHaving 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.



Monday, March 10, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Bushwhacker

Blowdown near Confluence of Middle Branch Oswegatchie RiverPeople 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.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sitz Pond In The Five Ponds Wilderness

Sitz PondThe 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.



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mythical Backcountry Adventures

View from Cat MountainSome 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.



Monday, January 27, 2014

The Adirondack Park: Changes In The Air

Winter view from Marcy DamChange 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.



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