I’ve been writing about the central role our Eureka Wind River 4 tent played in our family’s life. One reason for its prominence in our stories is its longevity. That sucker was the most resilient tent I’ve ever owned. I mean we beat the hell out of it for more than twenty years and it never failed us. It survived every extreme of Adirondack weather you can imagine plus a couple of doozy storms out west. It survived five people (sometimes six), a dog and various gear crowded in, often sardined up against the walls. It survived inexperienced winter campers learning the hard way that you bivouac tents, not pitch them directly on snow. Even during that vicious final foray on Marble Mountain, it held together. But there was one night in July of 1993 that it survived only by the narrowest of luck. » Continue Reading.
“This is one of my favorite trails. It’s just beautiful,” she remarked as we headed into the woods next to the Schroon River. “And you never see people.”
Kim and her husband, Ethan Rouen, joined me in early January for an eight-mile round trip from the Sharp Bridge State Campground to Round Pond in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest. Although she and Ethan had hiked the trail in other seasons, neither of them had skied it, and both were curious to see if it would be as satisfying in winter. » Continue Reading.
Whiteface Mountain enthusiasts James Hunter, Jeff Tompkins, Brian Winfield and Jack Yanchitis each helped to name the glade when the mountain held a Facebook trail naming contest last August. The 4.7 acre and 1,500 foot long expert glade, named for former Whiteface Mountain general manager and 1968 Olympic ski jumper Jay Rand Jr., is located half-way down Hoyt’s High and connects skiers and riders to both the Summit Chair lift and Lookout Mountain chair lift. » Continue Reading.
Better late than never. I had wanted to ski the Irishtown Trail on St. Patrick’s Day because, well, it just seemed appropriate. But as Robert Burns observed, the best laid schemes of mice and men don’t always go as planned. My trip was postponed by a few days, but the delay was a blessing in disguise, since the trail was now topped by a few inches of fresh dry powder from a post-St. Patty’s snow shower.
Starting on Route 28N, the trail traverses Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest for six miles, passing several ponds, and terminating at Irishtown. My goal, though, was to turn around at Stony Pond, a four-mile round trip that climbs about 700 feet. Beyond the pond, the trail is frequented by snowmobilers who access it from Irishtown, and skiers are advised not to compete with them for the trail. For a longer trip, a better option is to ski on the frozen surface of Stony Pond, circumnavigating its shoreline. » Continue Reading.
My first marriage was a troubled one. There were good moments but it seems that each day held pain and conflict. The ups and downs finally led to a violent dissolution in 1992. But for a brief time in the mid 1980’s there was hope and even some progress. Two acquisitions, one for Christmas of 1984 and one in the following summer, marked that progress. The summer purchase, a Eureka Wind River 4 tent, was an emblem of that progress. The Christmas purchase, a puppy we named Henry, was the very cause.
Anyone who ever met Henry would tell you that he was an extraordinary dog. He was half Golden Retriever, half Irish Setter and he got the best of both breeds. As a puppy he looked indistinguishable from a purebred Golden – in other words, irresistibly adorable – but as he grew, the color, strength and stature of his father, an unusually large Setter, became his. He eventually filled out at nearly a hundred pounds, no fat, in height nearly a head above any Golden I’d ever seen. Physically he was simply a stunning animal, burnished red-gold, strong nose, rippling muscles under his coat, a head-turner everywhere he went. » 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 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.
Amy and I are putting a lot of resources into fixing up our house these days in order to get it on the market. As part of that we have begun to wade into the accumulated years of clutter that have accreted to us. The walk-in cedar closet in which we store all our camping gear is packed from floor to ceiling with an ungainly array of equipment ranging from our current go-to gear to remnants of bug spray untouched for a decade and random utensils we have not taken on a trip since before the millennium (apropos of nothing, I have a powerful urge to have a contest with Dan Crane to see who has the most miscellaneous backpacking stuff).
I tried to thin the inventory once before using a clever strategy of assembling camping kits and giving them to our three boys as gifts, along with good stuff like new tents. But somehow that had little effect; if anything the collection is bigger than before. Soon I will have a second go around, this time with a vengeance: we are going to come to a new life in the Adirondacks in a fresh, Spartan manner, come hell or high water. » Continue Reading.
I’d say we got at least a foot in Saranac Lake. That would be in line with North Country snowfall totals reported by the National Weather Service: 16 inches in Duane Center (northern Franklin County), 14 inches in Malone, and 13 inches in Tupper Lake.
Michael Muccilli, a meteorologist with the service, said the northern parts of Herkimer and Hamilton counties got 6 to 12 inches.
It was suggested to me recently that “if God wanted us to climb ice, He wouldn’t have made it so slippery.” Theology aside, there’s probably some inverse truth here: we want to climb ice precisely because it’s so slippery. We shouldn’t be doing it. It defies everything fundamental about the world as we learned it. It breaks some heavy rules.
Still, we put nasty spikes on our boots and grab tight to a razor pair of ice claws—and there we are, halfway up a hundred-foot icicle. Right where we aren’t supposed to be. And the bliss defies words.
This is a piece about the ice-climbing prospects of OK Slip Falls, jewel of a long-awaited land acquisition, one that has gotten a fair amount of coverage in this publication. Just to see this waterfall once took either connections, patience—or stealth. » 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, 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.
The early-bird registration period is now open for the Lake George Land Conservancy’s (LGLC) annual Hike-A-Thon, set for Saturday, July 5, 2014. The public is invited to register as participants of the Hike-A-Thon, free of charge. Early-bird registrations made until April 30 also come with free event t-shirts for each registered participant.
The Lake George Hike-A-Thon is a one-day event on July 5th, created to showcase LGLC’s parks and preserves around Lake George as free public resources, and to promote a healthy, active lifestyle and appreciation for the outdoors. » Continue Reading.
I skied Mount Marcy from Adirondak Loj on Friday. Conditions were very good below tree line; above, there was a lot of wind slab and ice. Bring MicroSpikes or crampons if you are headed to the actual summit. The last signpost was about six feet above the snow. In a good winter it’s buried, or nearly so. Thanks to Ron Konowitz and his helpers for removing blowdown on the ski trail below Indian Falls and shoveling snow to improve conditions. Ron is the president of the Adirondack Powder Skier Association.
The Adirondack Recreation Web Portal was released at the end of January with much back-slapping and horn-tooting from Governor Cuomo and other involved parties. Upon closer inspection, however, it is clear that this web ‘portal’ falls far short of expectations.
In an Almanack post last October I described the project and outlined some of the expected functionality of the new site, including what I described as “a strong mapping component, rather than the menu/catalog driven approach used by most Adirondack recreation sites.” The opportunities afforded by modern online search and mapping technologies presented an incredible chance to build a truly useful, fun-to-use, map-based virtual gateway to the Adirondacks.
The title of this post could also be called “Santanoni Snow Slog” or “Snow Swimming up Santanoni”. Conditions were not good, but those are the chances you take when planning this type of outing. The avalanche probability had been high for a few weeks which delayed plans over and again for this trip. I can’t really complain since conditions were stellar during several of my outings over the past couple months. I secretly hoped to find frozen cascades and at least a bit of ice-entombed slab during this trip as well—inside I knew better.
Alan Wechsler and I decided to explore Twin Slide on February 22nd with the foreknowledge that we might be turned back if conditions seemed too avalanche prone. He hoped to add another peak to his winter list while I simply needed an adventure.
Neil Luckhurst (age 58), vice president of the ADKHighpeaks Foundation, embarked upon an ambitious 1-man fundraiser on February 18, 2014. His goal was to climb each of the 46 High Peaks in just 12 days—a quest he dubbed “Project 46”. Dedicated friends and family members supported Neil in a variety of fashions ranging from company on the trail to preparing hot meals and snacks. Meanwhile, others watched his progress on their computer via Neil’s SPOT tracking beacon.
He showed no signs of slowing and by Thursday, February 27th; he’d completed the goal in a staggering 10 days—two days ahead of schedule. When all was said and done, he’d hiked 213.6 miles (344 km) with 69,500 feet (21,184 m) of elevation gain while braving a mixed bag of winter weather conditions. » Continue Reading.
“I really like the sensation of flying through the air,” said Will Rhoads, winner of the Art Devlin Cup. “There is nothing better than having a really good jump and having the feeling you are never going to come down.”
Rhoads was in Lake Placid for the U.S. Ski Jumping Cup, held on the 90 meter at Intervale on Wednesday, February 12 that included a Juniors and Open class. In addition, he an a number of the competitors were in the running for the Art Devlin Cup that combines the results of three meets, the US Cup, the Flaming Leaves, and the July 4th competition. The U.S. Cup was the next to last of nine meets held across the country with the final scheduled for Park City, Utah.
While the twin towers on the 90 and 120 (aka 100 HS and 134 HS) jumps in Placid remain icons of the village and the most dramatic emblem of the 1980 Games, they are sadly out of date and the 120 no longer meets FIS regulations. “Jumps are being designed flatter to make it harder to jump further,” said Blake Hughes, assistant coach for the US Ski Jumping team. “Because of changes in the equipment and the way the sport has progressed jumping here is easier than in Sochi.” » Continue Reading.
Yesterday I complained about the deterioration of backcountry-skiing conditions caused by last week’s rain and thaw. But what has happened to ice-climbing conditions?
I am a novice ice climber. In my mind, I figured a little rain and a little melting followed by subfreezing temperatures would improve conditions. More water means more ice, right?
Not necessarily, according to Don Mellor, author of Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber’s Guide.
Mellor has been climbing and studying ice for more than thirty-five years and has found that it is frustratingly unpredictable. Just because one route has good ice doesn’t mean another route will.
That said, Mellor thinks certain routes—particularly those in gullies, which hold a lot of ice—may have been helped by last week’s thaw. “Gullies have enough substance to weather a lot of abuse. I climbed Chouinard’s [above Chapel Pond] with my daughter on Saturday and found it fine. As I would have predicted,” Mellor told me yesterday.
I had lots to do on Saturday, but just couldn’t say ‘no.’ The blue sky and 40 degree weather was too much of a siren call, so I grabbed my skis and headed to the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area. This may be my last chance to ski for the season, so the errands will just have to wait.
The Siamese Ponds area is deservedly one of the most popular spots in the southern Adirondacks for backcountry skiing, containing routes for skiers of all abilities. My late start and the impending darkness meant that today’s choice would have to be short and fast, so I picked Botheration Pond as my destination. I started at the Old Farm Clearing parking lot, where skiers compete each weekend for the 30 or so parking spaces, but today there are only a few other cars. I won’t see any of their occupants though – for the next two hours, I’ll share the trails with only chickadees and an occasional squirrel. » Continue Reading.
Unfortunately, there are no sizable snowstorms in this week’s forecast. We got a dusting of snow last night, and we may get a total of an inch or so over the next few days. Small snow showers also are predicted later in the week.
The Adirondack Ski Touring Council is recommending that skiers stick to groomed trails until we get more snow. “The only exception is that it never warmed up all that much at the elevation of Lake Colden, so skiing there is still pretty good—just not so good getting there,” the council says on its website.
I went skiing both Saturday and Sunday to check out the post-thaw conditions.
I put the Pomalift disc between my thighs and waited. Within a second, I was airborne and launched six feet forward, then settled back to Earth. At Hickory Ski Center, sliding up the mountain can be as exciting as the trip down.
The first thing you’ll notice about Hickory is the large percentage of skiers with telemark gear or powder planks. Snowboarders are welcome, but you’ll rarely see them. This is a skier’s mountain. No matter what they have on their feet, almost everyone here is an expert or aspires to be one. That’s a hint. Hickory is for those that have developed their skills at lesser venues, not for neophytes. » Continue Reading.