Posts Tagged ‘Bushwhacking’

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Backcountry Gear Choices: Tent Or Tarp?

Campsite on MacDonough MountainFew backcountry gear decisions seem as daunting as picking a shelter. Some prefer to sleep John Wayne style (under the stars), others prefer lean-tos, but most carry a shelter of some sort on their back – tents or tarps.

Tents are easier to set up (though I’ve seen exceptions), but are often heavier to carry. Compared to tarps tents offer less ventilation, critical when sharing the space with an aromatically challenged companion. Free standing tents are easier to set up and move – an important consideration in locating a good tent site while bushwhacking.  On the other hand, tarps are better in rain. Erecting the tarp over your gear in an emergency can keep you and your gear drier.  An open tarp provides more ventilation, which also allows for quicker drying.

A tarp system reigns supreme in the weight department, but smaller poles and hi-tech fabrics on new tents continue to chip away at the weight differential.

My history with shelters reads like something out of “A Christmas Carol”, with ghosts of shelters past, present and future. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Backcountry Ethics: Leave No Gear Behind

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

Despite the appropriateness of the motto in the backcountry, it rarely has much bearing on most adventures. Although groups separate on occasion, sometimes with disastrous results, this is not a common occurrence for most people. At least, I hope it is not; otherwise, rescuers would be constantly crawling throughout the backcountry, and/or bodies would be more common than deflated Mylar balloons.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Backpacking Gear Choices: Which Knife?

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

In those early days, my pack weighed in at nearly one-half my meager weight. The pack was too big for me, and it was overflowing with overweight gear. Its weight made my first trip an arduous struggle, with my feet blistered and bloodied by its end. Despite all the difficulties with the heavy gear, it took many years for me to replace it with lighter weight alternatives, which hopefully prolonged my hiking career.
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Saturday, October 11, 2014

What’s The Most Difficult Bushwhack in the Adirondacks?

Bushwhack Fallen Spruce and DuffIt was a perfect fall day here in Madison last Monday, the kind of luminous afternoon where it seems nothing can possibly go wrong. I was at the park with my loyal dog Henderson, whose raison d’etre is to chase and catch flying discs (Frisbees, for those of you as old as me).  There we were, surrounded by blazing fall colors and muted green grass, warmed by an Indian summer sun and refreshed by a delightful breeze.  All was bucolic even as I, in a moment of excess enthusiasm, overthrew the disc, launching it into what seemed like the jet stream.  It soared skyward, caught the prevailing westerlies and proceeded well down field like a fat, migrating goose until it shot past a fence and over a thick stand of trees and brush, depositing itself somewhere therein.  “No worries,” I cheerily shouted to Henderson, who had brought himself up short at the fence and was peering beyond with concerned attention.  “I’ll get it.”

I hopped the fence and jogged over to the thicket.  The disc was lodged deep inside so I forged on in.  It was quite dense and I had to bull my way through it.  No matter – everything around me was erupting in fall beauty and my spirits were unassailable.

My scratching, scraping and shoving efforts immediately brought to mind memories of Adirondack bushwhacking, which did nothing but brighten my mood.  I could almost imagine myself plundering along in some great Adirondack fastness, maybe a favorite place like the dense woods between Blue Mountain Lake and the Sargent Ponds.  Oh revel! » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Five Ponds Wilderness: The Wilderness Lakes Tract

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

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

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



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hiking Boots: Change is Good for the Resole

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

However, it is often justifiable to retire gear that is showing its age. Exploring the remote Adirondacks requires subjecting outdoor equipment to an excessive amount of backcountry abuse. Outdoor products are typically well-made, with durable materials, but eventually the constant maltreatment reduces their usefulness. At that point, replacement is inevitable to reduce the chance of a disastrous failure, miles from anywhere.
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gear Review: Merrell Chameleon 5 Hiking Shoe

Merrell Chameleon 5 Hiking ShoeHiking is often a messy business, especially in the Adirondacks. Beaver flooding, natural seeps and deep, rain-filled ruts are just a few of the reasons for wet and muddy trails. Sometimes, just for a change of pace, a nice hike on a relatively dry upland trail is just what the doctor ordered. On these dry jaunts, a clunky, over the ankle pair of full-grain leather hiking boots is often overkill.

Hiking shoes are a fine alternative for these drier situations. They are lighter weight and dry faster than conventional leather hiking boots, which allows for more miles with less stress on your legs and back. After all, the old adage goes, “a pound on your feet is like five on your back.”
» Continue Reading.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Day On Lot 8: A Dan Crane NYCO Commentary

Towering White Ash on Lot 8When the results for Proposition 5 came in last November, I decided I must visit Lot 8 in the Jay Mountain Wilderness. Since the voters of New York State made this area yet another sacrificial lamb at the altar of greed and profitability, I knew it would only be a matter of time before the chainsaws, bulldozers and explosives moved in and converted a living and breathing forest into something akin to a war zone.

It soon became evident this juggernaut of “progress” was unstoppable, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) relinquished their roles of protecting the environment and the Adirondack Park. Instead, these governmental organizations engaged in the complete evisceration of nearly every environmental protection law on the books in an attempt to ensure NYCO Minerals, Inc. destroyed Lot 8 as soon as possible.

This left me little choice but to put hastily together a 6-day bushwhacking trip through the Jay Mountain Wilderness, with an entire day allocated to exploring the condemned Lot 8 in all its natural glory before its destruction. I felt it would ease my conscience somewhat for not doing enough to prevent its impending demise in the first place. Unfortunately, despite getting up-close and personal with Lot 8, I only ended-up feeling worse. In between the joy and wonder of experiencing this property for myself firsthand, was a sense of deep sorrow, bordering on moroseness, as the fate of everything I saw, smelled and heard was never far from my mind.
» Continue Reading.



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Slide Climbing: Mt. Marcy Grand Central Slide

Greg Kadlecik stand on top of the waterfall of Grand Central Slide. Most people who know me are familiar with my fascination with Panther Gorge. Its isolated location draws me annually like a moth to a flame. The site is home to some of the most intriguing and rugged Adirondack terrain—technical cliffs, beaver ponds, tranquil streams, shadowy talus fields and a beautiful slide that sparked my initial curiosity.

If you have climbed Mt. Haystack then you may be familiar with Grand Central slide, at least from a distance. This predominantly southeastern aspect slide delineates the east face slab from the steeper cliffs farther north in the gorge. Its release point begins in a sea of dense evergreens near the crest of Marcy’s southeast ridge. It ends 700 vertical feet below at the top of a cliff split by a right-leaning crevasse with a waterfall. Like nearly all venues in the gorge, the view from its curving track surpasses words. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Jay Mountain Wilderness: Not Exactly A Walk In The Park

Jay Mountain RangeThey say variety is the spice of life. This is certainly true of backcountry adventures as anything else. Every few years, I diverge from my comfort area of the Five Ponds and Pepperbox Wilderness and venture out into other parts of the Adirondacks. Recently, I took a six-day sojourn into the Jay Mountain Wilderness, the smallest Wilderness Area in the Adirondacks.

The main impetuous for the trip was my desire to see Lot 8 in all its unspoiled glory, before saw, drill, bulldozer and explosives leave it nothing more than a giant hole in the ground. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dan Crane On Backcountry Litter

Milky Way wrapper near Middle Branch Oswegatchie RiverThis scenario is familiar to any backcountry enthusiast, regardless of whether they prefer the well-worn trails of a popular area or the trailless expanses that see more moose and black bear than they do people. Surrounded by forest, a multitude of birds singing in the canopy, a frog’s occasional throaty call emerging from a nearby wetland, it is as if there is not another living soul within miles around, and there may not be. Just as this feeling of remoteness engulfs the mind completely, the unnatural color of something on the ground assaults your senses, dispelling any fanciful notion of being in the only person in an unbroken wilderness.

Whether it is a candy bar wrapper, an old glass bottle, or a Mylar balloon, it does not matter. It does not belong here. It is not natural. It is litter. And it just shattered a finely-honed illusion of wilderness.

What is litter anyway? Why does it anger many backcountry enthusiasts so?
» Continue Reading.



Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Backcountry Hitchhikers: When Nature Comes Home

Mucky spot along Upper South Pond TrailThe Adirondack backcountry is a fascinating place to visit. It provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life, where slow traffic, demanding bosses and other aspects of the daily grind are left far behind for the relaxing solitude that is increasingly rare in the modern world. Tranquility, outstanding photographs and a satiation of peace and quiet are just a few takeaway benefits of spending time in the remote backcountry.

It is not all forest bathing and new age communing out there, as these positive aspects of a backcountry adventure are not the only things making their way home with us. There is a whole host of nefarious backcountry things that may show up in your gear, your home, or heaven forbid, yourself.
» Continue Reading.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dan Crane: I’m Addicted To Outdoor Gear

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExploring the Adirondack backcountry requires tenacity, perseverance and great deal of fortitude, as climbing over blowdowns, crossing beaver dams and struggling through hobblebush is an arduous way to spend the day. These personal qualities are not the only necessities for enjoying the backcountry however, having the proper gear is equally important. Backpacks, shelters, sleeping bags and numerous other items are tools of the trade for any intrepid soul that leaves societal comforts behind to enjoy some time surrounded by trees, furry animals and all the other creepy-crawlies in the great outdoors.

Sometimes the need for the proper gear quickly becomes a compulsion for owning the latest and greatest equipment on the market. For these people, the satisfaction of owning adequate gear is not enough; instead, the desire for the lightest or flashiest item becomes overwhelming. Whenever a new “superior” piece of equipment comes to their attention, whether it is lighter-weight or just a better way of fulfilling some backcountry need, the desire to own it gnaws at them. They want it. They need it. They must have it.
» Continue Reading.



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Planning an Adirondack Bushwhack

Crooked LakeHaving a plan is always a good idea. From managing finances for retirement to baking a cake, a plan brings structure and allows for measuring progress. Journeying into the Adirondack backcountry is no different. A plan or itinerary is even more crucial when venturing off trail and into the remote wilderness. It often means the difference between a fantastic experience and a miserable nightmare.

The similarities between planning for a bushwhacking and traditional trail hiking trip are surprisingly many. Both require getting past the anxiety of an empty backpack and selecting the proper gear for the trip. Putting together an itinerary is essential, regardless of the nature of the trip, since it allows for notifying others of the planned destinations and provides a deadline for when others can expect your exodus from the backcountry.
» Continue Reading.



Monday, March 10, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Bushwhacker

Blowdown near Confluence of Middle Branch Oswegatchie RiverPeople often ask me what exactly I do in the Adirondack backcountry during a bushwhacking trip, as if it involves engaging in some arcane art from long ago. I always find this line of questioning a little befuddling, and to this day, I still find myself lacking an adequate response. For the most part, my day remains much the same as any commuter’s, except for the excessive effort involved in struggling through blowdown, hobblebush or other natural impediments, instead of navigating traffic.

A day in the life of a bushwhacker is an interesting one indeed, but not that different from a typical commuter’s. We sleep, eat, defecate and work much like other people, but a bushwhacker’s commute is shorter and a lot more pleasant. Of course, any description of a typical day in the Adirondack backcountry fails to include a rain delay, a trail hike, or other out of the ordinary conditions, despite these happening much more often than we care to admit.
» Continue Reading.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Winter Mountaineering:
Bushwhacking Santanoni Mt. via Twin Slide

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.

» Continue Reading.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sitz Pond In The Five Ponds Wilderness

Sitz PondThe Adirondack backcountry contains a plethora of natural gems, such as ponds, lakes, mountains, bogs and beaver meadows. Although many are reachable by trail, the vast majority are islands of remoteness, surrounded by a sea of near-impenetrable forest, just waiting for a human bold enough to venture away from the marked trails to discover them. Few humans ever visit these gems, which undoubtedly suits both the gems themselves and the meager number of visitors just fine.

One of these gems is a small pond found in the southwest corner of the Five Ponds Wilderness. Sitz Pond is its name, and as attractive backcountry ponds go, it ranks up there with the best.
» Continue Reading.



Monday, December 30, 2013

Winter Mountaineering: Armstrong Mountain’s East Face

Kevin MudRat MacKenzie on the upper-most slide of Armstrong Mountain's East Face.While the Adirondack Mountains may not have the alpine feel of the White Mountains or height of the Alps, they are nothing if not rugged. Armstrong, one of the mountains of the Great Range, is often regarded as just a summit to check of on the 46r list, not particularly challenging in comparison to nearby peaks especially when approached from the Gothics.

Bushwhacking it from the east, however, is an entirely different story. There are no paths, just gullies leading to the precipitous slides and ledges –the recipe for the perfect winter mountaineering adventure. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bill Ingersoll: South Pond

DSCN0444I might have abandoned the idea of reaching South Pond had I not caught a glimpse of it through the trees, right at that critical moment of decision. There it was, right there at the foot of the mountain, a snowy white expanse about a quarter mile away, a remote and lonely retreat with a siren call I could not refuse. Not when I was this close.

I became resolved to continue forward—even though it had taken a full two hours just to come this short distance, and Lexie and I still had the trip back over the mountain to face, too. We had taken our time dealing with the thickets of tangled spruce and the isolated deadfalls that had been dogging us all the way up and over the mountain, one after the other. There had not been much clear walking. Ironically, near the bottom of the mountain we began to encounter a new obstacle: small but steep ledges that again forced us to adjust our course and find yet another way around. Not once since we had started up the mountain had we been able to simply proceed in a straight line. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jason Richards: Iced-In At Hunting Camp

Winter 2013 084 (2)On my way to our hunting camp last week I was disappointed to see that some the nearby lakes were already iced over. Fortunately, or so it seemed, the channel where we put our boats in the water was open. So, with great optimism we loaded the boat with a few provisions and set off for one last trip to our outpost camp.

Since it was to be my last time on open water for the year, and our last trip in to camp, a sort of sadness came over me.  Although the rowing was difficult, it provided plenty of time to just enjoy being there in the moment. Few things bring me more peace than the rhythm of rowing, watching the shoreline go by, one stroke at a time. » Continue Reading.



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