Posts Tagged ‘Bushwhacking’

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Thanks For The Adirondack Park

Sitz PondThanksgiving Day is upon us, and those fortunate enough are gathering with family and friends to gorge themselves on a hearty meal, giving thanks for the bounty enjoyed throughout the year. Tomorrow, many of us will turn around and venture  into the shopping wilderness to forage for the best deal on things few of us need, in celebration of the birth of a man who lived over two thousand years ago when people got by with so little.

Just appreciating what we already have seems to be out of vogue these days. Our appetite for stuff appears more insatiable with each passing year. The simple things in life, such as family, friends, and the beauty of the great outdoors are no longer satisfying enough, and hardly a substitute for the newest smart phone, tablet, or new-fangled whatchamacallit.
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Getting Lost in the Adirondack Backcountry

Lost in the Five Ponds WildernessA pleasant hike in the Adirondack backcountry suddenly turns into a disaster. The heart quickens in the chest, the echo of the frequent beats drowning out the surrounding natural sounds. A thin sheen of sweat covers the skin, producing a clammy feeling and chills. Breathing becomes labored as if just summiting a faraway peak. A frantic feeling overcomes you, as if mortal danger is imminent.

What is going on? Is it a heart attack? A panic attack? Aliens?

Nope. It just means you made a terrifying discovery, as everything around you looks unfamiliar, and you no longer know where you are. You are lost. All the physical indications are there, the racing heart, the profuse sweating, the difficulty breathing, and the sense of impending doom. Every rock, tree, bird and chipmunk looks threatening. What choice do you have but panic, right?
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Making Gear Repairs in the Backcountry

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

The best offense is a good defense when it comes to any backcountry gear. Purchasing high quality gear, well made with durable materials, is crucial for reducing the possibility of failure in the field. Simple, yet functional equipment, with as few bells and whistles as possible, further diminishes any chance of catastrophic failure. Less stitching to unravel, less seams to become unsealed and less parts to go kerflooey at an inopportune time are a good thing.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slide Climbing: Santanoni Mountain’s East (Twin) Slide

twin_headwall_chiarenzelli_NIK_5402Santanoni Mountain’s Twin Slide (aka East Slide per Drew Haas’ The Adirondack Slide Guide) is a fitting match to the Ermine Brook Slide on the opposite side of the ridge.

The nearly mile long track is filled with diverse and beautiful characteristics including open slab, boulders, overhanging outcrops, double-fall lines and cascades.

All good things come with a price. In this case challenging bushwhacks guard the slide at both the top and bottom. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, October 3, 2013

Exploring the Backcountry During Hunting Season

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

Except for one tiny detail, it is hunting season. That time of the year when bullets and arrows fly, causing wildlife, in addition to a few hikers and bushwhackers, to flee for their lives. In my opinion, a hail of bullets and/or arrows whizzing by one’s head is uniquely qualified as the easiest way to ruin a backcountry trip.
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Adirondack Backcountry Ethics: Building A Fire

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

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

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



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dan Crane: Where Have All The Good Campsites Gone?

Not a good campsite along Crooked LakeWoolgathering is a frequent activity while I bushwhack through the Adirondack backcountry. My recent trip exploring between the South Ponds and Crooked Lake was no exception in this regard. My thoughts often revolved around how this area may be the loneliest part of the Five Ponds Wilderness, as evidence of recent visitors was scarce to non-existent. Instead of enjoying the seclusion, some nagging concern kept intruding upon my thoughts; I could not quite put my finger on its exact nature other than it involved an absence of some feature in the backcountry. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

People Not Welcome: A New Land Classification?

Forest near Middle South PondSome recent events started me thinking about land classifications in the Adirondacks, and their possible inadequacy to preserve biological diversity in the future. With the twin threats of climate change and invasive exotic species, new strategies may be necessary. One such strategy is a new land classification, one where human beings will no longer be welcome.

I started thinking about the necessity of a new land classification when I read recent articles by Bill Ingersoll and Pete Nelson proposing their own new classification categories. Where their proposals were for a new category wedged between the current Wilderness and Wild Forest classes, mine would be the most restrictive land class in the Adirondacks, essentially preserving the land exclusively for the use of the other living organisms. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dan Crane: Classify New State Lands Wilderness

Essex ChainLast Friday was the deadline for submitting comments on the classification of the former Finch, Pruyn properties that New York State recently purchased from the Nature Conservancy. Fortunately, I got my email off to the Adirondack Park Agency with a couple hours to spare. For me, deciding between the seven proposed alternative classification plans was a no-brainer.

Can you guess my recommendation? Come on, I know you can!

True to form, I recommended implementation of Alternative Plan 1B, the plan calling for the largest Wilderness area among all seven proposed alternatives. I realize this puts me in the minority, as even the majority of environmental groups within the Adirondacks do not support this position.
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Oswegatchie River’s Carpet Spruce Swamp

P6189641 Middle Branch Oswegatchie River confluenceTrying something new is often rewarding, although potentially anxiety producing as well. Unfortunately, finding a new area to explore within the northwestern Adirondacks is swiftly becoming more difficult, forcing me further and further off the beaten track. Even months-long injuries have failed to slow this trend.

Although difficult, there remain a few places yet for me to explore. Recently, I narrowed the number of places when I explored a remote portion of the Five Ponds Wilderness where I only had limited experience. This overlooked backcountry gem is bordered by the South Ponds to the west, Riley Ponds to the north, the odd-shaped Crooked Lake to the east and the Middle Branch of the Oswegatchie River to the south.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dan Crane: Returning To The Adirondack Backcountry

Cropsey PondReuniting with an old friend is usually a fulfilling experience. Today, social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and the like, make it easier than ever to keep in contact with people regardless of their location. Unfortunately, I fell out of touch with a close friend of a different nature entirely, and it does not use a phone, have access to the Internet or have the ability to come see me for a quick drop-in.

As regular readers of my contributions to the Adirondack Almamack know, I endured a year-long separation from the Adirondack backcountry due to a mysterious knee injury. During that time I did my share of woolgathering, staring into space wondering how bad the biting insects were, whether the morning bird chorus remained as intense, or how many new dams the beavers erected. Thankfully, I recently discovered the answer to those and so many other questions when I reunited with the Pepperbox Wilderness for the first time in two years.
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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Drinking The Water: Is Beaver Fever A Myth?

Giardia Free Rill on Lost BrookIn exactly one month Amy and I will hike into Lost Brook Tract laden with food and supplies for a few weeks of glorious wilderness living.  Our initial pack loads will be heavy and the four-mile ascent will be a beautiful toil.  At about the halfway point we will reach Lost Brook for the first time, crossing it just before we begin the steep part of the ascent.  There we will refill our bottles and drink the glorious, bracing water of a perfect Adirondack stream, a pleasure every back country hiker knows.

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