For the first time in many years Amy and I are not spending our winter break in the Adirondacks. We are busy here in Madison and we have spent lots of money on making the house ready to sell, so this decision feels like the right one. But it is not easy. Lost Brook Tract issues a nearly irresistible call to us. The feel of Adirondack winter, which I was lucky enough to briefly enjoy just two weeks ago, is a physical sensation in our bones. Most of all, we miss you three. The times in our lives that have most powerfully bonded us to everything it is to be a parent are those Adirondack winter adventures we shared together. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘camping’
Few 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.
Last weekend the people of New York State lost a leading citizen, the children of Albany lost a dear friend and the Adirondacks lost a trailblazer. On Friday, December 5th, Brother Yusuf Abdul-Wasi passed away unexpectedly at the age of sixty four. His substantial contributions to the Adirondack region were only a small part of his many undertakings. But from the perspective of the ongoing work to make the Adirondack Park a more inclusive, welcoming and life-changing place for everyone, we have suffered an incalculable setback.
Brother Yusuf was a tireless doer, a walker of the walk who gave the experience of the outdoors to countless urban children. He was also a man of courage and staying power who struggled through war and personal adversity and emerged as a voice of dignity, commitment and wisdom. His story is a great American story and his accomplishments were many (you can read a brief article about his life here). » Continue Reading.
Abbreviations and acronyms continue to mushroom in popularity with each passing day. As an increasingly face-paced world collides with new and ubiquitous technologies, these short cuts will likely become more invasive in our language. Their burgeoning use coincides with the development of many modern means of communication, such as text messaging and social networking, which may eventually prove as the death knell to clear and concise communication.
What does this have to do with the Adirondacks?
Despite the prominence of these short cuts in popular culture, one annoying Adirondack abbreviation predates this social media trend. My first encounter with it goes back as far as the 1990’s, but it most likely was in use well before then. Although it does not appear to be in widespread use yet, I still hear it from time to time, and it never gets less annoying. Finding a more demeaning abbreviation would be a difficult task, especially when applying to such a beautiful place as the Adirondack Park.
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Youth, 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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Areas 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.
Last time Amy and I were at Lost Brook Tract we were talking about how to promote the Adirondack Region to people who know little or nothing about it. The default approach for decades has been to promote it as something like Vermont, the Berkshires or the Poconos: cozy resorts, Adirondack chairs, pretty scenery, shopping, tourist sites and an overriding rustic chic. That’s all well and good, but in a time when more and more people crave mountains and wild places, when camping and hiking are the leading recreational pursuits, I have wondered why we don’t try to promote the Adirondacks in a different way. » Continue Reading.
Sometimes my choice of canoe-camping adventure in the Adirondack Park is based on the lowest chance of family mutiny. My husband Jack and our three teens, Parker, Dom, and Zoe, still reeled from the memory of a 1.25-mile carry around Raquette Falls during a two-nighter down the Raquette River a year ago.
Loaded down with heavy boats and an overabundance of unorganized gear, we had grossly underestimated the portage distance and the ferocity of welt-inducing mosquitos. I was loath to ask my clan to ever portage again, but when the opportunity arose to paddle from Hoel Pond to Long Pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area, the desire to introduce my family to this eighteen-thousand-acre, motorboat-free canoeist’s Eden was too great. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is advising homeowners and tourists about ways to discourage bears from becoming a nuisance. Black bears will take advantage of almost any readily available food source. Once bears learn about human food sources, it is not easy to recondition them to the wild and this can lead to conflicts between bears and people. It is against the law to feed bear, deer and moose.
During midsummer and dry conditions, the black bear’s natural foods are much more difficult to find. DEC Wildlife and Law Enforcement staff respond with technical advice as quickly as possible but local residents and visitors are responsible for preventing bears from gaining access to food items such as bird food, garbage and unattended coolers. » Continue Reading.
I don’t know about you, but I really look forward to those sticky evenings around a campfire. Not the sweltering, sweaty kind of sticky nights, mind you. I’m thinking of those outdoor-fire evenings spent with family and friends, dodging mosquitoes and smoke, and trying to find the perfect marshmallow stick. I realize campers roast other things on sticks, such as hot dogs and fish (helpful hint: don’t eat the fish sticks). For our purposes, though, we’ll stick—so to speak—to marshmallow.
A caller recently asked what kind of tree yields the best marshmallow sticks. It seemed like a silly question since the scientific method for finding the right stick historically involved two criteria: It must be 1) close at hand, and 2) long enough to avoid burning oneself. However, it occurred to me if it’s a fresh-cut green branch, the species of tree is important. » Continue Reading.
When 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.
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Events are free, but pre-registration may be requested. The line-up of events in the Adirondack region includes an aquatic invasive plant interpretive paddle at Fish Creek Campground, a Japanese knotweed identification and mapping session in the Town of Bolton and a hemlock and balsam woolly adelgid symposium in Indian Lake.
There are also Ask-an-Expert sessions at the Farmers Markets in Old Forge, Paul Smiths and Plattsburgh. Experts will also be at the Visitor Centers in Paul Smiths and Lake George to help with invasive species identification in addition to regular boat launch stewards stationed across the region. » Continue Reading.
They 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.
The Adirondack State Park is a huge place, encompassing approximately 6.1 million acres. It stretches from Lake Champlain at its eastern end, almost all the way to the Black River valley in the west, and from nearly the Canadian border in the north to the doorstep of the Mohawk River valley in the south. It is the largest state park in the contiguous United States, and, in fact, larger than several states. It is even larger than the combined area of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and Great Smoke Mountains National Parks.
Its size is not the only unique aspect about the Park. Within its borders lies almost unimaginable beauty. Nature’s bountiful gifts take many different forms, including a near infinite number of lakes and ponds, more swamps than one can shake a stick at, acres upon acres of dense primeval forests, and of course, more than a few majestic mountains.
Yet there are those that would reduce the Park to a mere fraction of its size. These are not those people who routinely decry the restrictions and regulations, who seem to want to cut, build and pave their way across this beautiful park; these individuals love the natural beauty of the Park, although apparently, only a small portion of it. » Continue Reading.
Following a week of training, a group of 40 backcountry stewards and assistant forest rangers are now deployed on state lands and wildlife management areas across New York to protect the state’s natural resources and help visitors enjoy a safe and rewarding outdoor experience according to state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens.
The training was conducted through the Backcountry Stewardship Program, a long running partnership between DEC and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) that began more than a decade ago. The majority of backcountry stewards and assistant forest rangers were in the field starting Memorial Day weekend and will serve through Labor Day, with some working through Columbus Day. » Continue Reading.
I’ll never forget the last few yards of my five-day fiftieth birthday mega-hike in late May of 2011. I had just come through the worst conditions I have ever experienced: six to seven feet of snow above Slant Rock on the way out and a nearly impossible slog up to the Four Corners on the loop back, with torrents of water rushing beneath unconsolidated snow, post-holing up to my armpits, my boots getting sucked and dragged down slope; and in between, three days of rain, drizzle, fog, frost and slush… in short, a brutal trek over a massive Adirondack dome of deteriorating snow pack the likes of which I’d never seen. And on top of the snow? Black files, hovering and swarming. Of course. » Continue Reading.
The 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.
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Late one June afternoon in the Year of Our Lord 1995 I checked into the Lake Placid Econo Lodge with my brother, spent a comfortable night and left in the morning. I have not been back since (through no fault of Econo Lodge). It’s just as well – if Econo Lodge has any sort of institutional memory I will never again get another room.
In the summer of 1995 I took a long –and long awaited – backpacking trip with my nephew Michael. Michael and I are roughly the same age and we are close, so “brother” serves us as a more proper salutation. By the mid 1990’s I was an experienced backpacker but Michael was a novice. Like me he had been going to the Adirondacks all his life and adored them, but he was relatively new to the High Peaks region and its glories. We planned a six day trip in order to really take it in.
Michael remembers the details for the trip much better than I do, so I will liberally quote from the reminiscences he recently shared with me. » Continue Reading.
Exploring 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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