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.
SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN IN HIGH PEAKS
DEC Forest Rangers and others continue to search 22 year-old Wesley ‘Wes’ Wamsganz, missing since Saturday, November 20, and believed to be in the High Peaks Wilderness. He is 6’3″ 180 lbs, has buzz cut short blond hair, and blue eyes. He is believed to wearing a Black Bob Marley zip up hoodie, jeans or tan Carhart pants, basketball sneakers and a yellow, red and green striped brimmed beanie. The search was scaled back to “limited continuous status” Sunday. Wamsganz, of Saranac Lake, is believed to have been spotted by hikers at Marcy Dam last Saturday evening. Between Marcy Dam and Lake Colden Wamsganz’s green Carhartt jacket was found last Sunday. If you encounter Mr. Wamsganz or evidence of his whereabouts notify DEC Forest Rangers at (518-897-1300).
** WINTER CONDITIONS AT ALL ELEVATIONS
Winter conditions exist throughout the area. Expect to encounter snow and especially ice on trails. Currently ice and frozen ground are covered by a foot or more of snow. Prepare accordingly, pack snowshoes or skis and crampons and use them when conditions warrant. Daytime temperatures below freezing can be expected at all elevations, with wind-chill below freezing as well. Snow cover is now prominent across the Adirondacks. Although a lot of the snow cover was lost with the past weekends warm temperatures and rain, there is a 4 to 8 inches of snow in the lower elevations with a foot or more above 2300 feet and ice on summits and other open areas. The snow cover is mostly new, light and fluffy snow on top of a hard base or frozen ground. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 18 inches of snow at the cabin. Ice on Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are thick enough for crossing, thinner at inlet and outlets. There are some bare rocks still present in Avalanche Pass.
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: Chance of light snow. Cloudy, high near 25. Southeast wind around 6 mph.
Friday Night: Light snow likely. Cloudy, low around 9. East wind around 5 mph.
Saturday: Light snow likely. Cloudy, high near 24. North wind around 6 mph.
Saturday Night: Chance of light snow. Cloudy, low around 6.
Sunday: Chance of light snow. Cloudy, high near 21.
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]
Christmas Bird Count Underway
The 111th Annual Christmas Bird Count will take place December 14th to January 6th. The longest running citizen science survey in the US, each year during this time volunteers help document bird population trends used in a wide array of research and conservation efforts. For more information and to find out how to participate as a bird counter this winter, visit birds.audubon.org/faq/cbc.
** Snow Cover
A snow drought continues across the Adirondacks, especially in the east and southeast. A lot of the snow cover was lost with the past weekends warm temperatures and rain, but there remains 4 to 8 inches of snow at lower elevations with a foot or more above 2300 feet and ice on summits and other open areas. The snow cover is mostly new, light and fluffy snow on top of a hard base or frozen ground. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 18 inches of snow at the cabin; snow can drift up to a couple feet deep at higher elevations. The lower southeast part of the park, in Northern Warren and Eastern Essex County including the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks, still has not seen significant snowfall and much of the lower elevation areas remain bare, with just a few inches even at higher elevations. The latest snow cover map from the National Weather Service provides an estimate of snow cover around the region.
** Downhill Ski Report
Mountains with snow-making capabilities are the only bet. Whiteface and Gore are open with some terrain; Whiteface has retreated to 57% of its terrain open, and Gore is back to 50%. McCauley, Mount Pisgah, Titus, and Oak Mountain are all open with limited terrain. Big Tupper and Hickory in Warrensburg remain closed waiting on mother nature.
** Cross Country Ski Report
Most cross country ski areas are currently closed with the exception of Cascade and Mt. Van Hoevenberg. Lapland near Northville, Cunninghams and Garnet Hill near North Creek are all currently closed, bubt may reopen some trails – call for information. The Jackrabbit Trail is no longer skiable its entire length. The Keene and Saranac Lake ends are now unskiable. Sections on either side of River Road, the Peninsula and Paul Smiths section are skiable, with caution.
** Backcountry Ski Report
There is still little snow on the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks and the Keene end of the JackRabbit trail is no longer skiable [conditions]. Elsewhere in the backcountry, even trucks trails and maintained trails have retreated some, although a few remain skiable. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 18 inches of snow at the cabin. Ice on Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are thick enough for crossing. Avalanche Pass is no longer skiable. There are no trails skiable beyond Marcy Dam. Most brooks thawed last weekend so crossing without bridges could be difficult. Good cover is reported at the Toll House on the Whiteface Highway, but bare areas higher up. Truck trail to Marcy Dam no longer considered worth the effort, and the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni, Fish Pond Truck Trail, Hays Brook Truck Trail are all reported “barely skiable.” Some snow on the Connery Pond Trail makes that a good opportunity. The Ausable Lake Road is no longer skiable.
** Ice Climbing Report
Areas at lower elevations continue to be the best bet, with higher elevation areas generally regarded as claimable but just average conditions. Climbable areas including Chapel Pond (the pond is now frozen), Cascade Pass, and the North side of Pitchoff, and Multi-Gulley – no report on Chillar Pillar or the Mineville Pillar. Poke-O Moonshine, Roaring Brook Falls, and Palisades on Lake Champlain went out in the thaw and are now rebuilding. There have been no recent reports, but Avalanche and Elk passes are believed to still be climbable, as is Big Blue and the Stooges at Underwood Canyon, but The Fang may not be. See additional detailed and up to date Ice Climbing Conditions here.
Municipal Ice Skating Rinks Are Open
Most municipal outdoor skating rinks are now open or about to open including those at Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake. Call ahead for specific opening days and times.
** Ice Fishing Report
Ice fishing is officially open, but ice conditions vary widely by location. This week’s thaw caused some ice to deteriorate, waters with thicker cover have refrozen. Anglers have been observed on Rollins Pond, Lake Colby, and Lake Clear and Kings Bay and Catfish Bay on Lake Champlain. 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 are still very fragile with almost no base. Most trails around the region remain closed. There are trails now open in the Wilmington Wild Forest, Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, and the Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands. Riders everywhere should show restraint and wait for trails to be officially opened and sufficiently snow-covered. OThe 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 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.
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.
** Snowshoes Required: Snowshoes are required above Marcy Dam.
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
** 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.
Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Jabe Pond Road, and Buttermilk Road Extension. Although also closed, Scofield Flats, Bear Slides Access, and Pikes Beach Access roads may be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding a Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD).
Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.
** 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.
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. For more information is available online.
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.