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.


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; one that makes it wilder and more remote.

At least as far as I am concerned.
» 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 people, the satisfaction of owning adequate gear is not enough; instead, the desire for the lightest or flashiest item becomes overwhelming. Whenever a new “superior” piece of equipment comes to their attention, whether it is lighter-weight or just a better way of fulfilling some backcountry need, the desire to own it gnaws at them. They want it. They need it. They must have it.
» 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 it allows for notifying others of the planned destinations and provides a deadline for when others can expect your exodus from the backcountry.
» 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, eat, defecate and work much like other people, but a bushwhacker’s commute is shorter and a lot more pleasant. Of course, any description of a typical day in the Adirondack backcountry fails to include a rain delay, a trail hike, or other out of the ordinary conditions, despite these happening much more often than we care to admit.
» 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 best.
» 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 to the numerous retellings where the events morph into the mythological.

This is how tall tales are born.
» 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 intense windstorms.
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Gear Review: Montbell U.L. Down Jacket

Montbell UL Down Jacket

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 warmer months, with the exception of the extremities, like gloves, hat and socks. Instead, my fleece sweatshirt endures the loneliness of my dresser drawer now, replaced by a jacket that is just as warm, but with a fraction of the weight and eminently more packable.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dan Crane: The Edible Adirondacks

Adirondack wooded gardenSpending 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 the remote backcountry.

One important survival skill is locating edible wild foods in the backcountry. Whether lost and in dire need of sustenance or just curious about sampling the local cuisine, knowing what to eat, when and how is crucial to avoid a mouthful of something disgusting, or worse. Although the dense Adirondack forest may appear devoid of anything remotely resembling nourishment, the backcountry is full of nourishing, if not delicious foods, with only the knowledge of where to look for them lacking.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Thanks For The Adirondack Park

Sitz PondThanksgiving 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 the beauty of the great outdoors are no longer satisfying enough, and hardly a substitute for the newest smart phone, tablet, or new-fangled whatchamacallit.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Getting Lost in the Adirondack Backcountry

Lost in the Five Ponds WildernessA 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 there, the racing heart, the profuse sweating, the difficulty breathing, and the sense of impending doom. Every rock, tree, bird and chipmunk looks threatening. What choice do you have but panic, right?
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dan Crane:
Pssst, I Got A Couple Adirondack Propositions For Ya

The View from the new Jay Mountain Trail (DEC Photo)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 involve land exchanges in the Adirondacks, although under vastly different circumstances.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Making Gear Repairs in the Backcountry

Wet blowdown near unnamed pondExploring the Adirondack backcountry is an arduous activity, demanding as much from the participant as from their equipment. Although this remains true for traditional trail hiking, it is even more so for its less conventional sibling of bushwhacking. Regardless, even the most durable gear can break, fall apart, pop, unravel or disintegrate at the most inappropriate moment, requiring some type of repair job that at the very least allows for a humbling exit from the backcountry.

The best offense is a good defense when it comes to any backcountry gear. Purchasing high quality gear, well made with durable materials, is crucial for reducing the possibility of failure in the field. Simple, yet functional equipment, with as few bells and whistles as possible, further diminishes any chance of catastrophic failure. Less stitching to unravel, less seams to become unsealed and less parts to go kerflooey at an inopportune time are a good thing.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Exploring the Backcountry During Hunting Season

Hunter campsite near Threemile Beaver MeadowThe late summer and early fall weather has been ideal for exploring the Adirondack backcountry. The mostly sunny days and clear cool nights are near-perfect conditions for bushwhacking through remote and wild areas, regardless of the season. With the weather and my hording of vacation time this year, the stars seemed aligned for an interesting late season adventure.

Except for one tiny detail, it is hunting season. That time of the year when bullets and arrows fly, causing wildlife, in addition to a few hikers and bushwhackers, to flee for their lives. In my opinion, a hail of bullets and/or arrows whizzing by one’s head is uniquely qualified as the easiest way to ruin a backcountry trip.
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Adirondack Backcountry Ethics: Building A Fire

Fireplace along the Oswegatchie RiverFire has held great fascination for man ever since Prometheus stole it from the Greek gods and put it in our hands. Or so the myth goes.

This allure for combustion extends to the backcountry, where every popular campsite contains either a well-maintained fireplace or a makeshift fire ring.

Even wilderness enthusiasts loathe abandoning this love of fire, despite all the adverse impacts that accompany it. » Continue Reading.


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