Monday, January 17, 2011

Explorer Creates Legal Defense Fund

The Adirondack Explorer has set up a legal defense fund to raise money to fight a lawsuit filed by private landowners who claim I trespassed when I canoed through their property.

As a small nonprofit publication, we operate on a shoestring and will have to struggle to pay all the costs associated with a court case that could last two or three years. Given the principle at stake, however, it’s imperative that we not back down. We have hired Glens Falls attorney John Caffry, an expert in this field of law, to represent us.

The decision in this case could define paddlers’ rights throughout the Adirondacks and the rest of New York state. If the case reaches the state’s highest court, it may even influence judges in other parts of the country.

The Explorer and the landowners have starkly different views of the common-law right of navigation. In brief, our contention is that the public has an age-old right to paddle through private property on navigable waterways that can be legally accessed and exited. The other side contends that the common law applies only to waterways that have a history of commercial use (such as log drives).

If you’re a paddler, the implications of the landowners’ claims should give you pause. Most rivers in the Adirondacks and elsewhere in the state flow through private land at some point. If you paddle much, you probably have been on some of them. Do you know their commercial history? Should your right to paddle these rivers depend on whether or not logs were floated down them in the 1800s? What if the commercial history of a river is unknown?

Incidentally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation agrees with our interpretation of the law and has told the landowners, in writing, that the waterways in dispute are open to the public.

If you’d like to learn more about the legal arguments, click here to find copies of the landowners’ complaint and our answer. You also will find links to some of the stories we’ve published on navigation rights.

Meantime, if you care about paddlers’ rights, please consider contributing to our legal defense fund. Click here to find out how. Donations are tax-deductible.

We need your support. Please let your friends know too.

Photo: Phil Brown on Shingle Shanty Brook.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Studley Hill Road: The Waterloo of All Cars

There are many well known automobile testing sites—Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats and Colorado’s Pikes Peak come to mind—and some lesser knowns, like Michigan’s Packard Proving Grounds, built in the 1920s. Dozens of official and unofficial testing grounds have been used, and by now, you’ve probably guessed it. Yep … the Adirondacks once had their very own.

While it didn’t have a national profile, Franklin County’s Studley Hill was widely reputed as the most difficult road in the north—unevenly surfaced, extremely steep, and with several sharp curves. Because hill-climbing ability was primary in determining a car’s quality, events and competitions became important to manufacturers and very popular with the public.

Studley Hill is historically significant for many reasons, but the most unusual is the irresistible challenge it presented to some of the top car manufacturers of the early 20th century.

Well, the lure actually was resistible for a while, and for one good reason: fear of failure. Salesmen wished to brag that their product could achieve wonderful things that other cars couldn’t, but it was best to first try Studley on the sly. If you didn’t conquer the hill, you didn’t talk much about it. That made for a lot of quiet car salesmen in the North Country.

The automobile was still a new-fangled contraption that few people could afford, and folks traveling south from Malone on the Duane Road occasionally provided great amusement to those living on or near the hill. Some motored there for the challenge, and others came on joy rides, but from 1910 to around 1920, no one made it up Studley Hill’s steep northern slope. Only horse- or oxen-drawn vehicles could pull it off.

Tradition so often gives way to technology, and that’s what finally happened. Improvements in performance led to the inevitable, and in July, 1920, Studebaker dealer J. Franklin Sharp of Ogdensburg officially became the first to make the climb in an automobile. The real trick was to do it while keeping the car in high gear for the entire run.

It was said that Packards had climbed Studley in the past, and that may have been true. Prohibition had been in effect for nearly a year, and the Packard was a favorite of bootleggers. The Duane Road was a route they commonly used.

Sharp’s feat was easily achieved, but was not without drama. As one reporter put it, “The eyes of the motor world between Utica and the St. Lawrence River were turned this afternoon toward Studley Hill, the steepest grade in the northern country.” This was considered the first official test drive at Studley Hill, and looking at a map of the wilds south of Malone, one might argue that getting 159 people to such a remote location was the biggest accomplishment of the day.

The wagering (men will make a game out of anything and then bet on it) was described as heavy. On the very first attempt, Sharp’s Studebaker Big Six (named for its six cylinders) sped across the flat road to a running start of 55 mph. As quickly as it began the steep ascent, the speedometer plunged. All the while, spectators cheered wildly. Difficult curves slowed the car, but after about a mile, it crested the hill. The car’s lowest speed was said to have been 15 mph.

With Melville Corbett (Sharp’s garage foreman) behind the wheel, the trip was made in high gear four more times, carrying passengers that included Syracuse Post-Standard writers based in Malone and Saranac Lake.

Meanwhile, Frank Sharp wasn’t finished for the day, deciding to attempt the hill in a lighter model, the Studebaker Special Six. Much to the surprise of himself and everyone else, the car climbed ably to the top. It was a great endorsement of the Studebaker brand for dealers across the North Country when headline stories later told the tale.

Just as hiking down a mountain can sometimes be as difficult as climbing up, descending Studley Hill offered its own unique challenges. Many accidents there involving cars or horse-drawn vehicles prompted some unusual signage. Drivers approaching the steep descent to the north were cautioned by roadside warnings, the first of which offered the standard Drive Slow. A second suggested the harrowing drop that awaited: Keep Your Head.

A third and very large sign was unofficially posted by someone with a wonderful sense of humor. And who would dare question its effectiveness? In large, hand-written, red lettering, it said simply, Prepare to Meet Thy God.

In 1921 there were two successful assaults on the hill. A huge touring car, the Paige Lakewood 6-66 (11 feet distance between the centers of the front and rear tires) accomplished the feat to great fanfare. (A Paige had won at Pikes Peak the previous year.)

Paige representatives from Malone and Rochester were on hand, proud to point out that, unlike the climb by Studebaker in 1920, their car did it without aerodynamics—the top and the windshield were up, and two passengers occupied the back seat. The wind drag and extra weight (the car alone weighed 3,500 lbs.) were handled on several successful attempts.

Six months later, an Olds Four climbed the grade in high gear. Successful tries were often touted by the manufacturer as some type of “first.” The Olds people said theirs was the first “closed car carrying three passengers” to climb the hill in high gear.

In 1922, a Durant Touring Car climbed Studley, “ … the steepest and worst hill in the Adirondacks, and considerably harder to climb than the famous Spruce Hill at Elizabethtown on account of the abrupt incline and many turns.” Four men made the trip in what was claimed as the first ascent in high gear at all times under certain conditions (four passengers and much wind).

The driver claimed he was going so fast at the third curve, he was forced to brake hard. The car lost most of its momentum but still completed the run. Again, the story was used in newspapers to advertise the wonders of the Durant.

Technological changes led to even more impressive feats. In April, 1924, a Flint Six (made in Flint, Michigan by a Durant subsidiary) tackled what one writer called “the Waterloo of all cars.” This time there would be no running start. With the car parked at the base of the hill, high gear was engaged, and remained so throughout the climb. Despite sections of tire-sucking mud and slippery snow, the Flint crested Studley Hill without dropping below 15 mph.

Besides the sense of achievement, one other award awaited at the top—a view of the flats to the east, ringed by mountains and featuring several streams leading into the Salmon River. Among those waterways near the base of Studley Hill is Hatch Brook, one of my all-time favorite canoe trips. It twists and winds through the valley for miles, and I paddle upstream until the shores actually brush against both sides of the canoe. The next time I go, I’ll be thinking back to those days of the automobile hill climbs, but content with plenty of peace and quiet.

Photo Top: A Studebaker Big Six.

Photo Middle: Advertisement for Frank Sharp’s Studebaker dealership.

Photo Bottom: The Packard Proving Ground (1925), which did have a hill climb, but nothing the likes of which Studley Hill provided.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, January 17, 2011

‘Salmon in the Classroom’ Programs Offered Locally

Students at Ticonderoga Middle School and Whitehall High School are raising salmon, through a new environmental education program presented by the Lake George Association (LGA) called Salmon in the Classroom.

Kristen Rohne, the LGA’s watershed educator, visited the schools to help set up a 25 gallon tank, chiller and pump, along with testing materials and fish food. Salmon eggs were provided at no cost by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

This winter the students will raise the salmon from eggs to fingerlings. They are expected to learn to monitor tank water quality, study stream habitats, and perform stream-monitoring studies to find the most suitable place to release the salmon in the spring.

“Our goal is to foster a conservation ethic in the students, while increasing their knowledge of fish lifecycles, water quality, aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity,” said Rohne. “By working hands-on with the salmon, we believe the students will gain a greater appreciation for water resources and will be inspired to sustain and protect our natural environment.”

This year’s program was funded by a grant the LGA received from the International Paper Foundation. The Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board and the Adirondack Resource Conservation and Development Council are partners in the project. Trout Unlimited, a national non-profit organization with more than 400 chapters, designed the Salmon in the Classroom program.

Photo: Kristen Rohne, watershed educator for the Lake George Association, works with students at Ticonderoga Middle School to set up a salmon tank, along with testing materials, eggs and food.


Monday, January 17, 2011

John Warren: Teresa Sayward’s Pay Day

Back in 2003, in a classic Glens Falls Post Star puff piece about one of their favorite local politicians, Teresa Sayward pined about moving to Georgia when she retired. “It may be years away, but Sayward said she and Ken have started discussing their retirement, perhaps buying a condo someplace warm for the winter months,” Stacey Morris wrote. Turns out – Sayward retired a few weeks ago.

Well, retired might not be the correct description, because Sayward won’t be leaving her job. She’ll be collecting her retirement AND her salary. That’s about $90,000 in annual salary for a six month job plus her new retirement benefit of about $30,000. From here on out, Teresa Sayward will be collecting about three times the median income per HOUSEHOLD of her constituents, for half their work.

What makes this all the more offensive is that Sayward has claimed to be a big opponent of such pensions. Just three months ago, she completed a questionnaire for the League of Women Voters. “Political appointments and benefits are way too rich, Albany needs to lead by example… retirement benefits are unsustainable,” she said, knowing full well she was about to take advantage of a loophole (along with 11 other state legislators including Janet Duprey) that would would line her own pocket. Her idea of leading by example? Get as much as you can, while you can.

I know, it seems crazy. I mean, how can it be that three months ago Sayward says that the retirement benefits of legislators are unsustainable, and now she takes advantage of a loophole that allows her to collect those same “unsustainable” benefits early? What changed? The answer is nothing. The retirement benefit she started taking now is a loophole. It’s not meant to be the actual retirement benefit, which is why just 11 legislators are taking it and Betty Little is not. It’s not a legitimate benefit as some would argue, it’s an unethical loophole and she’s scamming the system. The state closed this retirement loophole in 2005, but she’s still one of the few who are eligible and thinks they deserve it.

Just a year ago, Sayward was crowing to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise about how she was saving taxpayers money:

Another idea Sayward has is to privatize some of the golf courses, swimming pools and campgrounds. She also said cutting the number of mailings that senators and assembly members send out will save money. And, she said, both the governor’s political appointments and legislative staff could stand to be reduced. Sayward said she is already doing this herself and has one less staffer this year than last.

Did you get that? Sayward laid off one of her staffers to save money – money that is going into her own pocket. Last week Sayward gave the Post Star two reasons she deserved that money more than her employee. The first was that her husband would have to live on social security alone if she died.

“This decision did not come easily for me,” she said. “But my husband and I, as you know, are farmers. And so my husband has nothing for his retirement other than Social Security, which is not a lot.”

The second, was that she drives a lot. “Sayward said she travels a lot of miles on rural roads representing the 113th Assembly District, the largest geographically of any Assembly district in New York,” the Post Star reported, “That places her at a higher risk than average of getting in a car accident, she said.”

These excuses are outrageous – no dairy farmer expects a retirement, that’s why the average age of principal farm operators in Essex County is 54 years old. Like most Americans, local farmers work until they die, or can’t work anymore and are forced onto the public dole by the costs of their own healthcare.

Driving too much Teresa? That’s laughable to folks who live in rural areas like the Adirondack Park. The fact is, despite repeated claims to the contrary, Sayward lives outside the Blue Line in Glens Falls – maybe that’s why she drives so far.

Another item she called for, just three months ago, was term limits: “4 year terms, three terms max.” Forget for a minute that she has just started her fifth term, because she wants to extend the current two-year terms anyway, and has run unopposed the last two times around. Focus instead on the fact that Sayward thinks 12 years is enough for any one politician to be in office.

Sayward was elected to the Assembly in 2002, and before that spent many years as a politician in Willsboro. Now that she’s made her pay day, certainly she must believe her time in the job is over?

I haven’t heard her “this is my last term speech” yet, but I suspect it’s not coming.

“I’m not proud of doing this but I’m not going to hold my head down,” Sayward told WYNT.

So she knows it unethical, she just doesn’t care. The message she sends is that her family is more important than yours.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

DEC Summer Camps Prepare for 2011 Season

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that registration for the 2011 summer camp programs began this week. Applications from sponsors must be postmarked no earlier than Jan. 15. Parents may submit applications postmarked no earlier than Jan. 29.

The Summer Camp Program offers week‑long adventures in conservation education to children ages 12-17. DEC operates four residential camps for children ages 12-14: Camp Colby in Saranac Lake, Franklin County; Camp DeBruce in Livingston Manor, Sullivan County; Camp Rushford in Caneadea, Allegany County; and Pack Forest in Warrensburg, Warren County. Pack Forest also features Teenage Ecology Workshop, a three-week environmental studies program for 15-17 year old campers.

DEC is also encouraging sporting clubs, civic groups and environmental organizations to sponsor a child for a week at camp. Those groups who sponsor six paid campers will receive one free scholarship.

Campers participate in a wide variety of outdoor activities including fishing, bird watching, fly-tying, archery, canoeing, hiking, camping, orienteering and hunter safety education. Campers also learn about fields, forests, streams and ponds through fun, hands-on activities and outdoor exploration. DEC counselors teach youth conservation techniques used by natural resource professionals, such as measuring trees and estimating wildlife populations.

Changes for the 2011 camp season include:

* Camp fee for one week is $350.

* All four camps will run for seven weeks, beginning July 3.

* Children who have attended camp in the past may register for any of the seven weeks.

* Campers may attend for more than one week during the summer. The fee for the total number of weeks must be included with the application. Please note that campers will not be able to stay at camp on Saturday night, so parents should make alternative arrangements if two consecutive weeks are selected.

* Camp Rushford will no longer offer one week for 15 to 17 year olds. Older campers are encouraged to sign up for the Teenage Ecology Workshop at Pack Forest for one of the first three weeks of camp, beginning July 3.

For information and applications visit DEC’s website or call 518‑402‑8014.

Interested parents may also sign up for DEC’s camps listserve or contact DEC in writing at DEC Camps, 2nd Floor, 625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233‑4500.

Photo: A fishing lesson at Camp Colby. Courtesy DEC.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Skating, Skiing in Lake Placid

Skating and skiing are the hot events this week in Lake Placid. Last weekend, speed skaters flocked to the Olympic Speed Skating Oval to participate in the second of the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club Racing series, the Charles Jewtraw All Around.

Named for the first Winter Olympic Games gold medalist Charles Jewtraw, the oval hosted approximately 45 competitors from the US and Canada, competing in four different events throughout the weekend. For complete results, visit www.lakeplacidoval.com.

The Lake Placid Ice Skating Institute (ISI) Championships is taking place this weekend at the Olympic Center. Hosted by Ice Skating Institute, which is “an international industry trade association encompassing all aspects of the ice skating industry”. ISI also promotes the sport of figure skating for recreation and hosts several competitions annually. The event is fun to watch, especially because of certain events such as synchronized skating (several skaters skating in a group together) and artistic, which emphasizes artistry. For more about ISI, visit their website www.skateisi.com. For more information about the Lake Placid ISI Championships, visit www.riverdaleice.com.

Skiing will be taking over Whiteface Mountain January 13th-15th for the St Lawrence University Winter Carnival, in which skiers from the Northeast and Canada compete in cross country skiing. For more information, visit www.whitefacelakeplacid.com.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Kirsten Ullrich at the Lake George Courthouse Gallery

Opening January 29th and running through March 4th, 2011, the Lake George Arts Project’s Courthouse Gallery will present a solo exhibition of new work by Kirsten Ullrich. There will be a reception for the artist on Saturday, January 29th, from 4 – 6 pm. This event is free and open to the public.

Kirsten Ullrich’s work as painter, sculptor and animator stems from free associations that transform images into peculiar personal meaning. She plays with illusion and abstraction to create distortions that are at once comic and exuberant, and brutal and unsettling. The result is an ambiguous mix of cartoon fun ride and journey into deep psychic tension.

She says: “My work’s trajectory is dictated by free association; images often track a chain of short-range logic from element to element but as wholes read as absurdities or impossibilities. My process of making most often begins with drawing because of its speed and immediacy. This allows me to act on mischievous impulses that emerge as a piece emerges, and the result is an idiosyncratic stew of lighthearted and sinister elements which together take on personal significance”.

Kirsten Ullrich received her M.F.A. from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, and B.F.A. from the University of Cincinnati. She has shown at Local Project, in Long Island City, New York; Michael Rosenthal Gallery, in San Francisco; Vox Populi, the Main Line Art Center, and Temple Gallery, all in Philadelphia; ArtSpace at Plant Zero in Richmond, Virginia; the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, in Wilmington; the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, the Hudson D. Walker Gallery, and artSTRAND, all in Provincetown. Ullrich lives in Brattleboro, VT, but is currently completing her 2nd year residency fellowship at the prestigious Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. More images of Kirsten’s work can be seen at www.kirstenullrich.com.

The Courthouse Gallery hours during exhibitions are Tuesday through Friday 12 – 5 pm, Saturday 12 – 4 pm, and all other times by appointment.

The Courthouse Gallery is located at the side entrance of the Old County Courthouse, corner of Canada and Lower Amherst Streets, Lake George, NY. For more information call (518) 668-2616,e-mail mail@lakegeorgearts.org, or visit www.lakegeorgearts.org.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Historic Saranac Lake Receives NEH Preservation Grant

Historic Saranac Lake (HSL) was recently awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Assistance Grant. The grant will support the services of a professional consultant and the purchase of storage materials for the HSL collection.

Eileen Corcoran, of Vergennes Vermont, will conduct a general preservation assessment and to help draft a long-range plan for the care of the HSL collection. She will also provide on site training to staff in methods and materials for the storage of collections, best practices for cataloging collections, and proper methods for the arrangement and description of archival collections.

Historic Saranac Lake houses a collection of letters and manuscripts, photographs and objects pertaining to the early scientific research of tuberculosis and care of TB patients in Saranac Lake, as well as a variety of items relating to the architecture and general history of the community. A number of these items are rare survivors of the many, many examples that once existed, such as an inspection certificate, or a record of patient treatments. They tell the story of a community of healing.

The Historic Saranac Lake collection is used for exhibitions, educational programs and by researchers. Historic Saranac Lake currently maintains two exhibitions at the Saranac Laboratory Museum. The main laboratory space is a model of a very early science lab. Visitors explore and gain an appreciation for the history of science by observing artifacts and letters on display such as early microscopes and laboratory equipment, early scientific journals and photographs of important men in the history of science.

An alcove in the laboratory has been arranged as an exhibit on patient care, another important facet of Saranac Lake’s TB history. Items from the collection are displayed such as a cure chair, photos of cure cottages, letters from patients, sputum cups, a pneumothorax machine for collapsing the lung, and items made by patients in occupational therapy. Visitors gain an understanding of the patient experience taking the fresh air cure in Saranac Lake.

The main floor meeting space contains another exhibition, “The Great War, WWI in Saranac Lake.” This exhibit includes letters from local soldiers, medals, photos, and a complete WWI uniform and supplies such as a gas mask and mess kit. The exhibit interprets this important time period in history and how it impacted Saranac Lake.

Historic Saranac Lake is a not-for-profit architectural preservation organization that captures and presents local history from their center at the Saranac Laboratory Museum. Founded in 1980, Historic Saranac Lake offers professional knowledge and experience to the public in support of Historic Preservation, architectural and historical research and education. HSL operates the Saranac Laboratory Museum and an online museum of local history at hsl.wikispot.org.

NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. Preservation Assistance Grants help small and mid-sized institutions—such as libraries, museums, historical societies, archival repositories, cultural organizations, town and county records offices, and colleges and universities—improve their ability to preserve and care for their humanities collections.


Friday, January 14, 2011

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

On Friday afternoons Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers a collection of the week’s top weblinks. You can find all our weekly web round-ups here.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Lake George Park Commission Supports NYS Invasives Law

The Lake George Park Commission has approved a resolution supporting legislation drafted by the state’s Invasive Species Council that would make it illegal to transport an invasive species from one water body to another.

The proposed law would create regulations stronger than any currently in place on Lake George, said Mike White, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission. » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 14, 2011

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

Each Friday morning Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers the previous week’s top stories. You can find all our weekly news round-ups here.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Jan. 13)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

** indicates new or revised items.

** WINTER CONDITIONS AT ALL ELEVATIONS
Winter conditions exist throughout the area. Expect to encounter one to two feet of snow in the lower elevations with several feet above 2300 feet and ice on summits and other open areas. These conditions will require snowshoes or skis at all elevations and crampons on exposed areas such as summits. Daytime temperatures below freezing can be expected at all elevations, with wind-chill below freezing as well. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 10 inches of new snow has fallen during the past 24 hours for at total of 25 inches of snow at the cabin. Many people are traveling on the ice on Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden but caution is recommended around inlets and outlets.

** Snowmobiles
Gates have been open on all snowmobile trails. Snowmobiles are operating on these and other designated snowmobile trails. Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage.

Thin Ice Safety
Ice has formed on water bodies and people have been observed on the ice at numerous locations. Always check the thickness of ice before crossing. Be cautious of ice near inlets, outlets and over any moving water. Remember, ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person. Each year a number of people fall through thin ice. One has already died. Use extreme caution with ice.

Carry Extra Winter Gear
Snowshoes or skis can prevent injuries and eases travel in heavy snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy trails and mountaintops and other exposed areas. Wear layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!), a winter hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots. Carry a day pack complete with ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.

Know The Latest Weather
Check the weather before entering the woods and be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.

Fire Danger: LOW

** Central Adirondacks Lower Elevation Weather
Friday: Mostly cloudy, high near 18. Wind chill to zero.
Friday Night: Mostly cloudy, low around -1. Light and variable wind.
Saturday: Light snow, cloudy, with a high near 20.
Saturday Night: Light snow, cloudy, with a low around 10.
Sunday: Chance of snow showers, cloudy, with a high near 20.
Sunday Night: Cloudy, with a low around -3.
M.L.King Day: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 16.

The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]

** Snow Cover
This week’s storm contributed mightily to the region’s snow cover. There is one to two feet of snow at lower elevations across most of the Adirondack Park, with the highest amounts in the Northeast part of the park. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 10 inches of new snow has fallen during the past 24 hours for at total of 25 inches of snow at the cabin; snow can drift to a more than several feet deep at higher elevations. These conditions will require snowshoes or skis at all elevations and crampons on exposed areas such as summits. The southeast part of the park, in Northern Warren and Eastern Essex County including the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks, finally received about 8 to 10 inches this week. The latest snow cover map from the National Weather Service provides an estimate of snow cover around the region.

** Downhill Ski Report
All mountains (including Hickory in Warrensburg, and Big Tupper) will be open this weekend with plenty of snow (except at Hickory, where it’s reported that skiing is good on the lower mountain only).

** Cross Country Ski Report
All cross country ski areas will be open this weekend with a six to 10 inch base. The Jackrabbit Trail is skiable its entire length, with about 8 to 15 inches of base [conditions].

** Backcountry Ski Report
Snow cover is suitable for skiing on all backcountry trails, though there are still some rocks to be avoided on narrower trails. Avalanche Pass is now skiable, as is the hiking trail to Marcy Dam, although still somewhat thin. The Marcy Truck trail is the better skiing approach. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 10 inches of new snow has fallen during the past 24 hours for at total of 25 inches of snow at the cabin. Many people are traveling on the ice on Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden but caution is recommended around inlets and outlets. Snowshoes or skis now required for all High Peaks travel.

** Ice Climbing Report
Climbable areas include Chapel Pond (the pond is now frozen), Cascade Pass, and the North side of Pitchoff, Multi-Gulley, and Poke-O-Moonshine. Chillar Pillar and the Mineville Pillar are in, but only for top-roping. There is no report for Roaring Brook Falls. Palisades on Lake Champlain went out in the thaw last week, and was rebuilding at last report (last week). In the backcountry, there is climbing at Underwood Canyon and Elk Pass. It’s believed some climbs must be in at Avalanche Pass, and Pharaoh Mountain, though no reports yet. Nothing yet on the north face of Gothics. NOTE: Mountainfest takes place this weekend in Keene and Keene Valley. Expect heavier than normal use both Saturday and Sunday at the Quarry, Pitch-Off Right, Lions on the Beach and Positive Reinforcement. Additional Adirondack ice climbing conditions are supplied by Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service.

** Municipal Ice Skating Rinks Are Open
Most municipal outdoor skating rinks are now open. Call ahead for specific opening days and times.

** Ice Fishing Report
Ice fishing is officially open, but ice conditions vary widely by location. Anglers have been observed on Rollins Pond, Lake Colby, and Lake Clear and Kings Bay and Catfish Bay on Lake Champlain. Some of the bays in Lake George have iced over but are still very thin. Many smaller local lakes have 6 inches or more of ice. Ice anglers are traveling on foot thus far and motor vehicle traffic is not recommended on the ice at this point. Due to the softness of the road, the gate at the Kings Bay Wildlife Management Area has been closed. Tip-ups may be operated on waters through April 30, 2010. General ice fishing regulations can be found in the in the 2010-11 Fishing Regulations Guide.

** Snowmobile Trails Report
The regions snowmobile trails made major progress with this week’s snow, and grooming has begun, HOWEVER, trails are still fairly fragile in fair to good condition with about a 6 to 8 inch base, across most of the region. DEC has opened the gates to snowmobile trails throughout Franklin County. The exception is in Warren and Eastern Essex County, where many trails have yet to open. Riders everywhere should show restraint and use extreme caution. The connector trails between Newcomb, Long Lake, and Indian Lake are expected to be open this season and links to the east are in the works. Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude. Avoid riding on lakes or ponds, and excessive speed. Ride safely. More Adirondack snowmobiling resources can be found here.

** Nearly All Rivers Running Normal
Waters in the region are running at normal levels for this time of year with the exception of the Raquette River, which is now running just above normal, and the Indian River, which is now running just below normal. Ice has formed on nearly all flat waters and is forming on swift waters as well. Paddlers should use care and consult the latest streamgage data.

Hunting Seasons
Although fall hunting seasons for big game and waterfowl are over in the Adirondack region, some small game hunting is still underway. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to hunt on Forest Preserve lands. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Hikers may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.

Furbearer Trapping Seasons
Some furbearer trapping seasons remain open. This would be a good time to keep pets leased and on the trails. A reminder that body gripping traps set on land can no longer use bait or lure.

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

NORTHVILLE PLACID TRAIL

The Northville Placid Trail (NPT) is the Adirondack Park’s only designated long distance hiking trail. The 133 mile NPT was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, and is now maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Up to date NPT trail condition information can be found online.

Upper Benson to Whitehouse: About 1.8 miles north of the Silver Lake lean-to and just south of the Canary Pond tent camping area, the trail is flooded and may require wading through water and mud. Just north of the Mud Lake lean-to there has been significant blow-down in several areas across the trail that happened sometime in early December that requires several bushwhacks to get around.

West Canada Lakes to Wakely Dam: The bridge over Mud Creek, northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out. Wading the creek is the only option. The water in Mud Creek will vary from ankle deep to knee deep.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About a half mile north of the Lake Durant trailhead at Route 28/30 the trail crosses several flooded boardwalks. Use extreme caution as the boardwalk is not visible and may shift. Expect to get your boots wet and use a stick or hiking pole to feel your way along to avoid falling off the boardwalk.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About 4 miles north of the Tirrell Pond the trail is flooded by beaver activity. The reroute to the east is now also flooded in spots.

Duck Hole to Averyville Rd. and Lake Placid: Beaver activity has flooded the trail about 3 miles south of the Averyville trailhead and will require a sturdy bushwhack.

ADIRONDACK CANOE ROUTE / NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL

Ice: Ice has formed on all waters.

Personal Flotation Devices Required: Users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

HIGH PEAKS

** Snowshoes Required: Snowshoes are required in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness.

Western High Peaks Wilderness: Trails in the Western High Peaks Wilderness are cluttered with blowdown from a storm that occurred December 1st. DEC will be working to clear trails as soon as possible.

Ampersand Mountain Trail: There is heavy blowdown on the Ampersand Mountain Trail as far as the old caretakers cabin – approximately 1.7 miles in. Finding the trail may be difficult after fresh snows. Skiing will be frustrating as there are so many trees down. Past the cabin site the trail is good but snowshoes are needed. There is aprox 3 feet of snow near the summit. (12/23)

Wright Peak: Snow shoes are necessary on Wright Peak and full crampons will be required for the final 1/4 mile approach to the summit as there is thick ice on bare rock.

Jackrabbit Ski Trail: Improvements have been made to the Jackrabbit Trail, a 24-mile cross-country ski trail that runs between Saranac Lake and Keene. There has been a reroute of the popular six mile section between McKenzie Pond Road outside Saranac Lake to Whiteface Inn Road outside Lake Placid. The rerouted trail avoids some hilly terrain at the start of this section and also avoids the ball field, and some private property. Trailhead parking is expected to be expanded in this area later this year.

Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. This adds 2 miles of hiking, plan trips accordingly.

Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

Wilmington Wild Forest: Snowmobiles may be operating on designated snowmobile trails. Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Blue Ridge Wilderness: DEC Forest Rangers and trail crews have been working to clear blowdown from trails. The following trails are cleared and ready for skiing and/or snowshoeing: South Inlet Loop (no bridge at stillwater be cautious crossing ice) and the Sagamore Loop Trail

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: All designated snowmobile trails in the Moose River Plains are now open. DEC Forest Rangers and trail crews have been working to clear blowdown from trails. The following trails are cleared and ready for skiing and/or snowshoeing: Limekiln Lake Ski Routes, Bug Lake Trail (open to snowmobiles, be cautious), the north side of the Black Bear Mountain Loop (blow down still present on south side), the trails to the summits of Rocky Mountain and Black Bear Mountain are also well marked (snowshoes & crampons may be necessary).

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

Pigeon Lake Wilderness: DEC Forest Rangers and trail crew have been working to clear blowdown from trails. The following trails are cleared and ready for skiing and/or snowshoeing: Shallow Lake Trail (well-marked with some minor blow down), West Mountain Trail (well-marked, some blowdown remains on section east of the summit), and Sucker Brook Trail

SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

** Shelving Roack: All gates on snowmobile trails in the Shelving Rock area are now open.

** Tongue Mountain: Tongue Mountain has snow cover from base to summit, snowshoes or skis and ice crampons should be carried and used whenever conditions warrant. There is some minor blowdown on the trail.

** Jabe Pond Road: The Jabe Pond Road gate is open and the road is open to snowmobiles, skiers, and snowshoers.

** Hudson River Recreation Area: Gates on the Buttermilk Road Extension in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area), in the Town of Warrensburg remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic.

Eastern Lake George Wild Forest: The Dacy Clearing Road is a designated snowmobile trail, has been reopened. Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage.

Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: Ice is forming on all waters. Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

NORTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All lands are open to all legal and allowable public recreation activities beginning January 1. The gate to the Pinnacle Trail remains closed until after the spring mud season.

Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands: Due to logging operations the Madawaska Road and Conversation Corners Road will be closed to snowmobiles and the Snowmobile Corridor C8 has been rerouted.

Saranac Lakes Chain: The lower locks on the Saranac Lakes Chain have been shut down for the winter. The locks are closed and made inoperable every winter to avoid unsafe situations for users and to prevent damage to the locks. Operation of the locks in icy conditions in the past was the cause of damage to hoses, hydraulic rams, and the hydraulic control mechanism. The repair of these damages is costly and stops boater traffic in the highly utilized area while the locks are being repaired. DEC does not officially close the upper locks on the Saranac Lakes Chain. They are manually operated and become inoperable when ice forms. Unlike the lower locks, there is no hydraulic equipment that can be damaged. The lower locks will be reopened after the ice goes out in the spring.

Saranac Lakes Wild Forest: Gates have been open on the old D & H railroad bed (Snowmobile Corridor C7B). Skiers and snowshoers using this designated snowmobile trail should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage of snowmobiles. Snowmobilers are required to slow down when passing skiers, snowshoers or other snowmmobiles on trails.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: The gate to the Lake Lila Road is closed. Public motorized access to the road is prohibited until the gate is reopened after the spring mud season. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized access is allowed on the road. Trespassing on lands adjacent to the road is prohibited.

NORTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: Numerous cross country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities exist on the Public Use Areas and Linear Recreation Corridors open to the public. Skiers and snowshoers are asked not to use the groomed snowmobile routes. Signs on the trails and maps of the snowmobile routes instruct snowmobilers on which routes are open this winter. Portions of these routes may be plowed from time to time so riders should be cautious and aware of motor vehicles that may be on the road. These route changes are a result of the cooperation of Chateaugay Woodlands, the landowner of the easement lands, and their willingness to maintain the snowmobile network. The cooperation of snowmobilers will ensure future cooperative reroutes when the need arises.

Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: A parking area has been built on Goldsmith Road for snowmobile tow vehicles and trailers. The southern terminus of Linear Recreation Corridor 8 (Liberty Road) lies several hundred feet to the east of the parking area and connects to the C8A Snowmobile Corridor Trail (Wolf Pond Road) via Linear Recreation Corridor 7 (Wolf Pond Mountain Road). Construction of the parking area was a cooperative effort of the landowner, the Town of Franklin, and DEC. The Town of Franklin donated time, personnel and equipment from their highway department and will be plowing the parking area.

Sable Highlands / Old Liberty Road / Wolf Pond Mountain Road Snowmobile Trail: Due to planned logging operations by the landowner on lands north of Loon Lake, the western portion of the snowmobile trail (Old Liberty Road/Wolf Pond Mountain Road) that connected with the C7 Snowmobile Corridor Trail (the utility corridor) just north of Loon Lake near Drew Pond and lead to the C8A Snowmobile Corridor Trail (Wolf Pond Road) has been closed this winter. The eastern portion of that snowmobile trail (Wolf Pond Mountain Road) now connects to Goldsmith Road near the parking area. Snowmobiles planning to travel between Franklin County and Clinton County using the C8A Snowmobile Corridor Trail must access C8A at the junction with C7 or use Goldsmith Road and the trail from the Goldsmith Road to C8A (Wolf Pond Road).

Sable Highlands / Mullins Road: The Mullins Road has been opened to snowmobiles to connect County Route 26 (Loon Lake Road) to C7. The road is located approximately halfway between the intersections of Route 26 with C8 (Debar Game Farm Road) and Route 26 with C7. (12/23)

Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK NOTICES

Accidents Happen, Be Prepared
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Personal Flotation Devices Required
Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Cave And Mine Closings
White nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across the northeast has spread to at least 32 cave and mine bat hibernation sites across the New York state according to a recent survey. Populations of some bat species are declining in these caves and mines by 90 percent. White nose was first discovered in upstate New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and is now confirmed in at least 11 states. DEC has closed all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population including Norton Peak Cave in Chateuagay Woodlands Easement Lands and also Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Please respect cave and mine closures.

Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles
All backcountry users should learn and practice the Leave No Trace philosophy: Plan ahead and be prepared, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. More information is available online.

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Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

15th Annual Adirondack International Mountainfest

The 15th annual Adirondack International Mountainfest takes place this weekend, January 14-16, 2011. This year’s event will kick off with a slide show by Freddie Wilkinson on Friday night. Saturday’s speaker will be renowned Exum guide and mountaineer Mark Newcomb, and Sunday’s entertainment is Vermont’s star climber Matt McCormick.

Freddie, Mark and Matt will join local guides Chuck Boyd, Emilie Drinkwater, Jeremy Haas, Carl Heilman, Matt Horner, Chad Kennedy, Colin Loher, Don Mellor and Jim Pitarresi to lead instructional clinics on ice climbing, mountaineering, snowshoeing and avalanche awareness on Saturday and Sunday. All Participants must register in advance.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beaver: Bushwhacker’s Boon or Bane?

Beaver are one of the very few mammals in the Adirondacks to transform their physical environment to meet their own needs (man being another more extreme example). These transforms can prove to be either a boon or a bane to a bushwhacker exploring the backcountry without the aid of a trail or path.

The most famous behavior of beavers is their propensity to build dams to pond water for protection from predators and to float wood, their chief source of sustenance. These dams offer the bushwhacker an unmatched resource for crossing wet area with a greatly reduced risk of soaked feet. These structures are so valuable that I have traveled a significant distance out of my way to cross one on more than a few occasions rather than ford across a bone-chilling cold, mucky stream.



After building a dam and flooding an adjacent area, beavers tend to clear most of the hardwood trees in the vicinity of their new home. Often this results in areas clear of most of the understory vegetation since beavers appear to prefer the succulent younger trees. Bushwhacking through these areas is often a welcome relief from fighting one’s way through thick coniferous vegetation.

Additional benefits from these beaver ponds results from the quest these large rodents participate in just to obtain a good meal. Often they journey far from the pond to find the exact type of trees they prefer and in the process they leave significant paths throughout the forest. Although these trails prove of little value within mature forests, they provide unmatched assistance to a backcountry explorer in blow down areas adjacent to beaver constructed water bodies. For such industrious animals the beaver finds the path of least resistance through even the most disorganized jumble of downed trees.

Another benefit these mammals provide to the bushwhacker is the channels of water they often produce at the point where they exit from their beaver ponds. These areas usually provide a narrow and deep canal of undisturbed water ideal for filtering. This is often a great benefit around water bodies with indistinct shorelines where finding a deep enough spot close to shore is virtually impossible.

Not all of the habits of the beaver produce conditions helpful to a backcountry adventurer. When these adverse conditions are encountered the backcountry explorer might very well conclude the beaver is more foe than friend.

The most dangerous of these buck-toothed mammal’s habits is its tendency to leave behind the remnants of the saplings it feasted upon. These Punji sticks are often covered in leaf sprouts and thus difficult to detect until one of these spikes has been embedded into an unprotected knee. And heaven forbid if one should slip and fall backwards in such an area. Now THAT would be a million to one shot, Doc!

Although the area around a recently formed beaver pond can be cleared of a significant amount of woody hardwood vegetation (making it easier to travel through), over time this can result in an area thick in conifers many years after the pond has been long abandoned. For anyone who has ever struggled through these young coniferous forests can attest to the painfully slow progress these areas afford. The scratches, scrapes and nearly poked out eyes hurt too!

Unfortunately beaver dams often result in flooding that is not represented on a bushwhacker’s map or personal GPS. This may require an explorer to make significant changes to their plans when they encounter a flooded area where once their favorite campsite was located.

Finally, one of the beaver’s most shocking habits is its mode of announcing its annoyance with one’s presence. This tail slapping on the surface of the water can be so loud and unsuspecting that it has startled me on more than a single condition even when I knew the beaver was near. Only an air horn could possibly be more disturbing or unsettling.

The beaver by the nature of its habits has shown itself to be both boon and bane to backcountry explorers regardless whether they are a hiker finding his/her favorite trail flooded, a backcountry enthusiast crossing a stream on a dam or a bushwhacker doing his/her best to avoid Punji sticks surrounding the shore of a beaver pond. So depending on your circumstances you may find yourself calling the beaver a friend or foe on your next jaunt into the Adirondack backcountry.

Photos: Beaver dam, beaver activity and beaver tail splash by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


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