Posts Tagged ‘High Peaks’

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Adirondack Backcountry Skiing Season Preview

“More monster snowstorms in the Northeast?”

So asks the headline on AccuWeather’s website. And the answer appears to be yes.

AccuWeather says the La Nina effect means the Midwest and much of the Northeast can expect a cold and snowy winter. Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist with the weather-forecasting service, predicts that arctic air blowing across the Great Lakes will generate above-normal lake-effect snowfalls.

“Overall, precipitation is expected to be above normal throughout most of the Northeast from January into February,” according to AccuWeather. “With the exception of northern parts of New York and New England, temperatures are forecast to average near normal for the winter season.”

So if you put any stock in long-range forecasts, this could be a great winter for backcountry skiing.

Even if they don’t believe the weatherman, backcountry skiers have something to look forward to this winter: new terrain.

In August, Tropical Storm Irene created or lengthened more than a dozen slides in the High Peaks, many of which should provide exciting skiing for those with the requisite skills and gear.

A big caveat: slides can and do avalanche. In 2000, a skier died in an avalanche on a slide on Wright Peak. Avalanches have occurred elsewhere in the Adirondacks as well, usually triggered by skiers, snowshoers, or ice climbers. Slide skiers should carry a beacon, probe, and shovel and know how to use them. And they should know how to gauge avalanche potential.

So far, I have climbed only five of the new slides, those on Wright, Cascade, Saddleback, Little Colden, and Colden. Click here to read about them in the new issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

Two slides that are likely to get skied a lot are on Wright Peak and Lower Wolf Jaw.

The one on Wright scoured a streambed that can be followed to a steep headwall. The streambed also will facilitate access to the nearby Angel Slides, where the skier died in 2000. Skiers will be able to bag the Angel Slides and the new slide in one outing. The streambed is reached by a short bushwhack from Marcy Dam. The new slide is a mile long.

Bennies Brook Slide on Lower Wolf Jaw has long been a popular ski destination. In the past, skiers followed a path through the woods to reach the slide. Irene extended the slide all the way to the Southside Trail and Johns Brook. With the easier access and additional terrain, Bennies will be more popular than ever.

Irene also has affected some popular trails used by backcountry skiers. Most noteworthy is that floods caused by the storm washed away the bridge at Marcy Dam.Skiers who started at Adirondak Loj used the bridge en route to Mount Marcy or Avalanche Lake. Thanks to Irene, they will have to cross the frozen pond (now largely a mudflat) or approach the dam via the Marcy Dam Truck Trail instead of the trail from the Loj.

The bridge at the start of the Klondike Notch Trail also was washed away. Skiers can still reach the trail by skiing up the Marcy Dam Truck Trail and turning left onto the Mr. Van Trail.

The Adirondack Ski Touring Council reports that Irene did minimal damage to the Jackrabbit and other ski trails maintained by the council. Repairs are scheduled to be made this fall.

Photo of Bennies Brook Slide by Carl Heilman II.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rebuilding Trails After Hurricane Irene

Trail work calls many a climber but with life getting in the way it’s only a lucky few who actually get to enjoy this dream job. One needs time and energy to spare to fully enjoy climbing a peak all the while trimming, chopping, and tossing. For us stalwarts, trail work is a kind of luxury. Year after year we observe the effects of weather and people on the mountains while marveling at the ever evolving beauty of wild flowers and other vegetation as our slow pace allows us to monitor the progress of spring and fall.

Sometimes we get too close to a branch and drop blood on the trail, or suddenly become a delicious buffet for a hive of Yellow Jackets. Gushing head wounds are the best as patient and caregiver take a break from the trail to partake in murder mystery and general hospital all in one. Obviously the audience is limited but one day when retiring from trail work we will be more than ready for the big screen.

Repellent works nicely thank you against black flies and by the time deer and horse flies abound summer has arrived and trail work pauses. Anyway, we have to admit that but for a handful of spring days black flies do not harass volunteer trail workers since they much prefer “fresh” peak baggers!

Let’s mention the invaluable fringe benefits of a tree hugging job: mud caking, soaking dew showers, balsam needles coating, pitch smears, spruce scratches: all combined to keep one forever young and cute.

There are countless ways to participate in trail work depending on one’s availability. It’s all under DEC governance and rules but mostly via the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), Adirondack Trail Improvement Society (ATIS) and the 46ers. Volunteers can either register for one or several of the trail days organized every year by the ADK and the 46ers or become the steward of a particular section of trail, an agreement renewed on a yearly basis. Being a steward is more of a commitment but it gives the adopter schedule flexibility.

Luckily, as there is much more to do than volunteers can undertake, the DEC, ATIS and ADK have professional trail crews in the field every year for a certain number of weeks depending on projects and funding.

Tony Goodwin has been Director of ATIS (founded in 1897) for 25 years and never lacks for things to be done. As he is known to utter, “Trail work is never done”. In his capacity he takes care of 105 miles of public trails and walks most of them once every year! At the ADK (founded in 1922), from early spring to late fall, Wes Lampman, Director of Field Programs, does not have a minute to himself either. The ADK oversees close to 200 miles of trails.

As for the 46Rs (founded in 1948) volunteers clear 36 miles of trail every year. The toughest job for volunteers is no doubt adopting a herd path as some have been doing since 2004. The relatively high turnover in stewards testifies to the mental and physical fortitude it takes to actually do herd path maintenance. Most herd paths are far from trailheads and often consist of roots, mud and steep ledges galore. One volunteer in particular, Matt Clark, deserves our admiration for his unfailing commitment (8 years and counting) to the Redfield path.

Then the occasional hurricane re-routes trails and brooks not always for the best. Following Irene’s furry, the DEC sent a large and experienced trail crew composed from the various neighboring regions staff to clear trails during most of September allowing the re-opening of the High Peaks in record time.

As a result of Irene’s massive destruction, many a brook and a river found themselves occupied by heavy machinery trying to restore the past in an attempt to temper future flooding. The resulting uniform landscape seen from every bridge is not getting a round of applause and the jury is still out on the efficiency of the work. Below is a picture (A) of the new and improved Roaring Brook bed (New Russia side of the Giant Wilderness) as it goes under Route 9 to enter the Boquet. Photo B shows the same brook 20 yards upstream from the brook work where a house partially collapsed during the tropical storm. Photos C and D are views of the same brook 100 yards upstream!

Irene did have one positive impact. The Orebed Trail ladders had been in need of extensive repairs for years until finally thanks to Kris A. Alberga, District Forester (DEC), Wes Lampman (ADK), Ranger Jim Giglinto and a few generous climbers, rebuilding began in mid-August. The work progressed until Irene decided to take control of the situation. The newly built ladders (E) resisted Irene’s onslaught but the environment was drastically re-organized (F). Consequently, upon close inspection, Ranger Giglinto determined that the new gentle and stair-like slide above would make for an easy enough climb without any further manmade assistance. Unused funds earmarked for this work will be available for other projects.

The numerous bridges and dams which were crushed or pushed aside may make fall and winter travel tougher than usual as it will take time (and money) to re-position and rebuild them (if at all in certain cases). Duck Hole (photos G & H) will no doubt be an ongoing story for months if not years as the debate will rage about the pros and cons of rebuilding the historic dam. However, there seems to be a consensus about the urgency of rebuilding Marcy Dam.

In the meantime, we wish you and ourselves many more years of trail work and all joys and rewards that come with it. Photos (I & J) show Gary Koch and Pete Biesemeyer doing just that along the Upper Range Trail this past spring. Pete has been doing trail work every year since 1954 while Gary adopted his first lean-to in 1986 and became a trail steward in 1989. Both would easily convince any passer-by they are not a day over seventeen!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Phil Brown: Is the Trap Dike a Hike or a Climb?

If you’re rock climbing, you use a rope and wear a helmet (though not everyone does). If you’re hiking, you don’t.

That seems simple enough, but the distinction between a rock climb and a hike isn’t so straightforward. Sadly, this was demonstrated when a hiker died in a fall in the Trap Dike last week. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Adirondack Family Time Guidebook

A new guidebook outlining family activities in the Adirondack Park has been authored by Adirondack Almanack contributor Diane Chase of Bloomingdale. Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes & High Peaks Regions, is a comprehensive guide to over 300 activities perfect for families. The first of four books planned to be published by Hungry Bear Publishing in Saranac Lake, the Tri-Lakes/High Peaks edition targets four seasons of family activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Jay, Upper Jay, Keene, Keene Valley and Wilmington with a foreword by local author Edward Kanze.

Based on Chase’s Adirondack Daily Enterprise weekly “Family Time” column, her Adirondack Family Time blog, and her contributions here at the Almanack, Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes & High Peaks Regions is a guide for anyone wanting to discover ideas on how to entertain family, friends and visitors while in the Adirondack Park. The points of interest also include GPS coordinates.

“This book is designed to be used by everyone, not just those with children,” Chase said. “My family and I have been to each activity listed in this book and walked, skied or snow-shoed each trail. The goal is to give people ideas on the many things to do in the Adirondack Park.”

The 176-page softcover book has maps, photos, trivia, and information to find museums, activity centers, performing arts centers, and farmers’ markets, as well as swimming holes, mini-hikes and mini-snowshoe/ski treks. Further broken down by season, this guide provides ideas on ways to entertain every day of the week, whether the readers are single, a couple or a group.

“Diane is a master at connecting families with fun, exciting and educational opportunities in the Adirondack Park,” said Andy Flynn, owner of Hungry Bear Publishing. “What sets her apart from other guidebook writers is her proximity to the subject; she lives the ‘Family Time’ lifestyle every day. She’s taking experiences with her family and sharing it with others in a useful, easy-to-follow way.”

Chase started searching and writing about Adirondack family activities in 2003 while pregnant with her second child with eldest in tow. She has written for newspapers, magazines, marketing and advertising agencies.

Chase’s first Adirondack Family Time, is a great guide for exploring the Adirondacks with kids in tow. Handy maps and GPS coordinates are combined with insider tips, pricing, and age appropriate ratings for places and activities. The opportunities here have been carefully selected to hold the interest of kids and this guide is written with a real knowledge of what kids (and adults) want out of their nature experiences. No doubt this is one book that’s sure to be passed from parent to parent.

Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes & High Peaks Regions is available at local bookstores and online at the Adirondack Family Time website for $17.95 plus tax and shipping.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

After Irene: Paddling The New Duck Hole

A few days after Hurricane Irene, I hiked to Duck Hole to see how the place looked after the breach of the old logging dam. Although the pond lost most of its water, there were streams running through the resultant mudflats and a pool remained at the base of the waterfall on east shore.

Earlier in the year, I had carried my canoe to Duck Hole and had a ball paddling around and admiring views of High Peaks. Now I wondered if anyone would ever want to bring a canoe to Duck Hole again.

Well, someone already has: Adirondack guide Joe Hackett. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Naj Wikoff: Digging Out in Keene

What follows is a guest essay by Naj Wikoff, a member of the Keene Flood Recovery Fund steering committee.

“The hardest thing I had to do this week was let three employees go today,” said Rob Hastings, owner of Rivermede Farm in Keene Valley. He and I were standing amongst a crowd of over 200 residents attending a pig roast, block party and benefit for the Keene Flood Recovery Fund on Market Street in Keene Valley Friday, September 9.

The event, which raised over $21,000, was further buoyed by the news that Route 73, the hamlet’s vital artery to the Northway that had been closed since Irene’s 11 plus inches of rain washed away major sections, would open on Monday. Just seven days earlier Governor Cuomo, countering DOT estimates that the roadway might be opened by Columbus Day but possibly not till December, stated that unless it was opened within 10 days, “Wheels will roll or heads will roll,” a statement followed by his suspension DOT and DEC restrictions on construction, such as requirements of going out to bid for contracts. Since then in a near 24-hour cycle DOT trucks have poured in with load after load of boulders, gravel and other road foundation materials.

The closure of 73 as well as 9N north to Upper Jay, and DEC media and web announcements that all trails in the eastern High Peaks were off limits to hikers, brought visitor traffic in Keene Valley to a dead stop and caused dozens of cancellations of room reservations during Labor Day weekend, the second busiest holiday of the year for local stores. Thanks to a massive volunteer effort that put hundreds of people at McDonough’s Valley Hardware and elsewhere scraping off mud, pumping out basements, cleaning shelves and merchandise, most stores, B&Bs and restaurants had managed to reopen, but what was missing was the people.

“Road Closed” said the sign to Keene Valley. “Don’t even think of going there” was the message. The hamlet of Keene was hardly better off as it was the center on incoming politicians and state officials, the media, National Guard, DOT trucks and Labor for Your Neighbor volunteers so that what visitors made it through the gauntlet scurried west to the relatively untouched Village of Lake Placid, though a fleet of water ski boats sank during the storm and River Road and Snowslip Farms were certainly torn up.

No question the attention by Governor Cuomo, who visited the hamlets on two successive weekends, and the outpouring of volunteers, the National Guard and DOT transformed the hamlets along with Upper Jay, Jay and Ausable Forks bringing them back from what appeared to be war zones to a somewhat sense of normality, though deep scars and uncertain futures remained.

Knowing this outcome likely to occur, a grass roots effort was launched while the rains were still falling and fields flooding to create the Keene Flood Recovery Fund with perhaps a greater sense of urgency than the media’s scramble to film the unfolding disaster. Jim Herman and Dave Mason, the soon to become president and vice president of the Keene Community Trust, lead the effort. Working in partnership with the Adirondack Community Trust (ACT) a small team was assembled. The goal was simple; raise as much money as fast as possible and begin giving it out in grants to local residents and business to help cover critical needs not met by FEMA, other government sources, insurance or sweat equity.

The process was not unlike the building of the Continental railroad wherein the trains followed the rails as they were built. The public relations and fund raising effort was launched simultaneously with the recruiting of five people to serve on the allocations committee while application and funding guidelines were being written, the Keene Valley Trust board reorganized, agreements with ACT negotiated, and web and Facebook sites created.

The Nature Conservancy provided the forum for committees to form, meet, and stayed energized with hot coffee available morning till night. Critical was the early blessing and support by Keene supervisor Bill Ferebee, agreement by the Keene Community Trust to take on a project of such scope, the talent pool assembled, and the full support of the Adirondack Community Trust, aided in no small measure that their president Vinny McClelland and donor recognitions officer Melissa Eissinger were residents of Keene. Another was the sheer mass of community development knowledge stored in the brain of Henrietta Jordan, who could draft funding guidelines the way some can cast a dry fly into an eddy on their first try.

As of this writing about $100,000 has been raised and the first wave of grants has already been approved, but the amount needed to raise is far, far higher if they are to reduce layoffs like those already done by Hastings. While to the casual observer the hamlets might not look so bad, the damage done has been severe. Over a dozen families are not able to move back to their homes and are in need of temporary housing, just two businesses lost over $200,000 in inventory, the Keene Firehouse has to be relocated and rebuilt, the public skating rink replaced, the Keene Library, which also houses the Food Pantry, needs an aggressive abatement program to keep mold from settling in, and one third of Rivermede Farm’s sugaring lines have to be replaced along with all their storage tanks and two greenhouses. The first 12 applicants’ losses, which does not include many of the previously listed, have totaled over $2.5 million, this before FEMA and insurance are factored it.

Meanwhile a recently constituted Keene Business Committee (aka chamber of commerce) is attempting to stop plummeting income and lure back visitors. Led by Rooster Cob Inn owner, masseuse and rustic furniture salesperson Marie McMahon, they have taken on the DOT, DEC and later the State Police to change their signs that announce the closing of High Peaks trails, detour visitors to Placid via Plattsburgh and other actions that discouraged traffic to local businesses. Plans are underway to host events over Columbus Day and a conference for high school and college geology professors to showcase the wide array of major environmental changes that include the largest landslide in recorded state history, 22 new slides in the high peaks, and the rerouting of streams and waterfalls creating what can be best described as moonscapes in some locales.

“Our goal is to help the community come out stronger,” said Herman. “One benefit of all these landslides, rerouting of streams, and other environmental changes is that there are many new features for hikers, geologists and environmentalists to see and experience. We are trying to get the word out that now is the best time to come see them while they are fresh. We have some new vistas of Giant that didn’t exist before and old streambeds that have been hidden for centuries are now revealed. New growth will cover them up. The time to see them is now.”

Another benefit was the Governor discovering that Keene Valley had no cell phone coverage. “Where can I get cell service?” Cuomo asked Ron Konowitz, a local volunteer fireman and on-the-ground coordinator of volunteers. Konowitz told the governor not only that he would have to travel three miles down the road and stand in the middle of Marcy Field to pick up a signal, but in fact there was a cell tower in place, had been for four months, though had yet to be turned on by Verizon, a consequence that had hampered communication amongst all the various state agencies, volunteers, rescue workers, civic leaders, the media and one governor and the outside word. The piercing brown eyes of the wheels-will-roll governor swiveled and locked on the “Frankenpine” hidden amongst the tall White Pines behind the Neighborhood House. Two days later a frantic Verizon worker stuck his head in the Birch Store asking if anyone could help him locate their cell tower. Pam Gothner did and the next day the hamlet had cell service.

The Keene Flood Recovery Fund can be reached at www.keenerecoveryfund.org

Photo: Keene Valley flooding during Tropical Storm Irene; Volunteers at work.

Naj Wikoff, a member of the Keene Flood Recovery Fund steering committee, is local artist, columnist for the Lake Placid News, president of Creative Healing Connections, which organizes healing retreats for women living with cancer, women veterans, and other special audiences, and arts coordinator for Connecting Youth and Communities of Lake Placid and Wilmington (CYC).


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Phil Brown: Slides Change High Peaks Landscape

The day after Hurricane Irene drenched the Adirondacks, state forester Kris Alberga flew over the High Peaks and saw so many new debris slides that he lost count of them.

Since then reports and photos of new slides—some taken from the air—have been trickling in. A guy who goes by the nickname of Mudrat has started compiling a list on Adirondack High Peaks Forums. In his first post, he listed sixteen that had been created or expanded by the storm, but there probably are many more.

The large slide depicted above, on the north side of Saddleback Mountain, was among those on Mudrat’s list. Brendan Wiltse, who took the photo, climbed it the day after storm before the state Department of Environmental Conservation closed the High Peaks Wilderness. He named the slide Catastrophic Chaos.

Now that DEC has reopened most of the trails in the Wilderness Area, many hikers will be eager to climb the new slides (and in winter, they will get skied). DEC spokesman David Winchell said the department is not prohibiting people from hiking on the slides, but he warned that debris on some slides is unstable.

It’s been estimated that that there are more than four hundred slide scars in the Adirondacks. They are most common in the High Peaks region, where soils are thin and slopes are steep.

Andrew Kozlowski, associate state geologist, said debris slides occur when heavy rains saturate the soil to the point where it starts slipping downward. “Once it starts moving, it starts accelerating,” he said, “and then it rockets down the slope”—taking trees and other vegetation with it.

Since the soils remain wet from Irene, he said, the High Peaks may see more slides if another storm hits, even one less powerful than Irene, which dumped about ten inches of rain.

If a slide strips a slope clean to the bedrock, he said, it can take centuries for vegetation to grow back. First, lichens cling to the bare rock, followed by moss. These pioneers trap bits of organic debris that decompose to form soil. Eventually, small seedlings take root, which in turn trap more debris. If rubble or dirt remain on the slide, the process is speeded up.

Kozlowski, who works for the New York State Museum, said debris slides are very different from the slow-motion mudslide discovered on the side of Little Porter Mountain in Keene this spring.

In that case, some eighty-two acres are slowly creeping down the mountain. The mudslide has destroyed, damaged, or imperiled a number of houses in the Adrian’s Acres subdivision.

The soil in the vicinity of the mudslide has been measured up to 250 feet deep, whereas the soil where debris slides takes place may be only a few yards deep. The speed of the mudslide on Little Porter—or whether it continues at all—depends on the depth of groundwater, Kozlowski said.

Kozlowski said the groundwater depth has dropped six feet since July. Right after Irene, it rose two feet. In the following days, it went up another half-inch. “What we’re anticipating is that the water levels will keep rising,” he said.

At its peak, the mudslide moved up to two feet a day. Although its movement is now “imperceptible,” Kozlowski said, if the groundwater reaches a certain level, the slide could speed up again. But he doesn’t know for sure what that level is.

“If the water levels recover in the in the four-to-six-foot range, things might start happening,” he said.

Click here to read a detailed account of the Keene mudslide on the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine’s website.

Photo of Saddleback slide by Brendan Wiltse.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer. He has been writing about the aftermath of Irene on his Outtakes blog and here at the Adirondack Almanack.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some High Peaks Areas Reopen, NPT Trail Warning

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) have reopened access to several High Peaks wilderness areas and facilities. The Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness and the Giant Mountain Wilderness have reopened, although the Dix Mountain Wilderness and several area trails remain closed. ADK has reopened the Adirondak Loj and Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake and the Johns Brook Lodge in the Johns Brook Valley.

Roads to those facilities were among several that were washed out when the remnants of Tropical Storm Irene slammed into the eastern slopes of the Adirondacks causing widespread damage and destruction, especially along the Ausable and Bouquet Rivers, into the Keene Valley, and the High Peaks. State Route 73 is now open between Lake Placid and Keene Valley, and may be accessed by taking Route 9N from Elizabethtown. Route 73 remains closed between the Hamlet of Keene Valley and the Route 9 intersection, but is expected to open by next weekend. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Phil Brown: DEC on Adirondack Closures, Alternatives

Before Tropical Storm Irene hit, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) closed campgrounds in the Adirondacks and urged people to stay out of the wilderness. In so doing, the department no doubt disappointed hikers and campers as well as the businesses that cater to them, but a spokesman contends that it was the right call. “Based on the damage we’re seeing, we’re confident we saved lives by doing that,” David Winchell said.

Winchell also defended the closure of the eastern High Peaks, Dix Mountain Wilderness, and Giant Mountain Wilderness—perhaps the most popular hiking regions in Adirondack Park. He said the trails are unsafe for hiking.

Many trails have been deeply eroded, and some have been partially buried by landslides. Raging floodwaters washed away bridges, boardwalks, and ladders. There also is a lot of blowdown.

The good news is that the damage appears to have been concentrated in the three Wilderness Areas. “There’s still plenty of opportunities for hiking.” Winchell said.

Just about any place in the central or western Adirondacks probably is safe, Winchell said, but he cautioned that hikers should be prepared to encounter some blowdown and wet sections of trail. He said hikers may experience more difficulties in the eastern Adirondacks, such as in the Lake George Wild Forest and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, but those regions remain open.

Even Forest Preserve tracts near the closed Wilderness Areas seem to have weathered the storm well, Winchell said. As a matter of fact, I hiked seven miles to Duck Hole in the western High Peaks yesterday and encountered only occasional blowdown, easily skirted or stepped over. I went there to take photos of Duck Hole, which is now largely muck, thanks to a breach in its dam. If you want to see the desolation of Duck Hole, you can start, as I did, at the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb.

But given the closure of the three Wilderness Areas, many people may be wondering where they can hike near Lake Placid or Keene regions. Here are ten suggestions:

Haystack Mountain: 3.3-mile hike, with 1,240 feet of ascent. Start on Route 86 between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

Scarface Mountain: 3.2 miles, 1,480 feet of ascent. Start on Ray Brook Road in Ray Brook.

McKenzie Mountain: 3.6 miles, 1,940 feet of ascent. Start on Whiteface Inn Road in Lake Placid.

Whiteface Landing/Whiteface Mountain: 3.0 miles to landing, 7.4 to Whiteface summit, with 3,232 feet of ascent. Start on Route 86 east of Lake Placid.

Copperas Pond: 0.5 miles. Start on Route 86 east of Lake Placid.

Hurricane Mountain: 2.6 miles, 2,000 feet of ascent. Start on Route 9N between Keene and Elizabethtown. (The road to Crow Clearing, the start of another Hurricane trail, is washed out.)

Pitchoff Mountain: 1.6 miles to Balanced Rock or 5.2 miles for one-way traverse of Pitchoff summits, with 1,400 feet of ascent to main summit. Both trailheads on Route 73 between Keene and Lake Placid.

Baker Mountain: 0.9 miles, 900 feet of ascent. Start next to Moody Pond in village of Saranac Lake.

McKenzie Pond: 2.0 miles. Start on McKenzie Pond Road between Saranac Lake and Ray Brook.

Ampersand Mountain: 2.7 miles, 1,775 feet of ascent. Start on Route 3 west of Saranac Lake.

Photo: A closed trailhead in Keene. Courtesy Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine and author of the Explorer’s Outakes blog.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Duck Hole Dam Breech: What Comes Next?

The massive breach in the dam at Duck Hole, which has led to the demise of the picturesque body of water in the western High Peak wilderness, is initially tragic information to anyone that has spent time at this majestic location. Yet, the healing forces of nature are already at work transforming the muddy plain that now covers a good portion of the site into a meadow in a process known as succession.

Open settings are at a premium in the mature woodlands of the Adirondacks, and any site that contains both rich soil and a healthy amount of moisture will never last more than a single growing season before it is overtaken by vegetation. As a general rule, the herbaceous plants, such as grasses, sedges, weeds, wildflowers, ferns and rushes are the first to colonize such a favorable location. Seeds from these plants are able to travel many miles by a variety of methods which allows them to quickly take advantage of any spot that becomes favorable for growth. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dozens of New Landslides Reported in the High Peaks

Dozens of new landslides have been reported in the High Peaks following heavy rains and winds from the remnants of Hurricane Irene which reached the Eastern Adirondacks as a Tropical Storm on Sunday.

Regular Alamanack contributor and Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown snapped a photo of a new slide on Wright Peak, near Angel Slide. Formally two adjoining scars, Angel Slide is a well-known destination for expert backcountry skiers named in honor of Toma Vracarich who was killed in an avalanche there in 2000. The slide now includes a third route, longer than the rest.



NYS Department of Environmental Conservation District (DEC) Forester Kris Alberga flew over the High Peaks on Monday afternoon, August 28, 2011, and reported additional new slides on the Basin, Haystack, Upper and Lower Wolf Jaw, in the Dix Range and on Giant Mountain. “I lost track after a while,” he said in a widely circulated e-mail. DEC later reported that Skylight, Basin, Armstrong, Macomb, and Cascade also have new or expanded slides.

Mount Colden appears to have been heavily affected by new slides to the North and at the Trap Dyke. “The Trap Dike on Colden is dramatically different,” Drew Haas of Jay reported in an e-mail to the Almanack after an overflight Wednesday afternoon, “it has truly been gutted.” There was a massive avalanche at the Colden Trap Dyke this past winter.

Haas is a frequent backcountry slide skier and author of The Adirondack Slide Guide. He confirmed that there are dozens of new slides varying in width and length, some several miles long. “[There are] some very long new slides on The Wolfjaws and Saddleback in the Johns Brook drainage,” Haas noted. He said he didn’t see the Seward or Santanoni Ranges, but his pilot told him there was “nothing significant over that way.”

Published in 2006, the Adirondack Slide Guide includes aerial photos of more than 70 Adirondack landslide areas. When I asked Haas if he now had plans to update the guide he said: “No current plans but this could be a tipping point with all this new terrain – we’ll see.”

Haas has published new pictures from his flight today on his blog Adirondack Backcountry Skiing. The Adirondack Slide Guide is available as a digital download for $10.

Photos: Above, Saddleback Mountain slides in 2006 and today; Middle, the new slide on Wright Peak from Marcy Dam (Phil Brown photo); Below, Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong, Gothics and Saddleback in a photo taken today. Photos courtesy Drew Haas.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DEC Warns About Conditions in the Adirondacks

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a warning Wednesday afternoon that unsafe conditions will remain in much of the backcountry of the Adirondacks through Labor Day Weekend and beyond following the devastating impacts of the remnants of Hurricane Irene. The most seriously affected areas include of some most popular areas in the Eastern Adirondacks. Several trail areas are closed or inaccessible due to Hurricane Irene storm damage include flooding, bridge wash outs, trail wash outs and blow down of trees and other debris.

Citing the extent of the damage and ensuring public safety, DEC has closed the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Giant Mountain Wilderness and Dix Mountain Wilderness through Labor Day Weekend and beyond. Areas in the Western Adirondacks are reported in fairly good condition though some flooding and blowdown can be expected. Most DEC campgrounds in the Adirondacks are expected to be open for Labor Day Weekend with many available sites.



According to long-time Adirondack guide and outdoors writer Joe Hackett this is the first time since the Great Ice Storm of ’98 that the DEC has closed large areas of Forest Preserve lands due to a natural disaster. In 1995 some areas of of DEC Regions 5 and 6 were closed after a major blowdown in 1995, Hackett said. Some sixty years ago The Big Blowdown of 1950 caused a complete shutdown of the roads and trails across large swaths of the park, a historic suspension of the State Constitution, a temporary glut in the spruce market, and a political impact that continues to this day.

Many eastern High Peaks mountain areas have been impacted by landslides. Mt. Colden, Trap Dike, Wright Peak, Skylight, Basin, Armstrong, Upper and Lower Wolf Jaws, Dix, Macomb, Giant and Cascade Mountains and many existing slides widened and/or lengthened. The threat of additional slides exists on these and other mountains remains in effect. Adirondack Almanack will have a report on the new slides this evening.

Although a full assessment of the recreational infrastructure in all areas of the Adirondacks has not been completed, DEC has confirmed the following:

* The footbridge over Marcy Dam has washed away and the flush boards have been damaged;

* Marcy Dam Truck Trail has 4 major washouts;

* The first bridge on the western end of the Klondike Notch Trail washed downstream to South Meadows Trail;

* Washouts on the Van Hoevenberg (Mt. Marcy) trail are 1 to 3 ft deep;

* Along the Avalanche Pass Trail from Marcy Dam, Marcy Brook jumped its banks and caused widespread damage to the trail;

* One side of the Duck Hole Dam has washed away and the pond has dewatered;

* Calamity Trail from Lake Colden is impassible south of McMartin Lean-to.

Lesser amounts of damage can be found on Adirondack Forest Preserve lands south and north of these areas. However, hikers and campers should expect to encounter flooding, bridge wash outs, trail wash outs and blow down when entering the backcountry. Plan accordingly and be prepared to turn back when conditions warrant. Updated information on trail closures and trail conditions in the Eastern Adirondacks can be found at the DEC website and at Adirondack Almanack‘s weekly Conditions Report which will be updated Thursday afternoon:

Over the next several weeks DEC is expecting to evaluate the conditions of all trails in the closed areas, prioritize work to rehabilitate trails and determine what trails may be reopened for public use.

Many DEC Campgrounds in the Adirondacks and the Catskills experienced significant damage from the storm including flooded areas, road destruction, and loss of electric and water service. Despite progress in restoring services, a number of campgrounds may be closed or have limited availability of campsites over Labor Day Weekend.

The following temporary Adirondack campground closures are in effect: Little Sand Point, Poplar Point, Point Comfort, Lake Durant, Ausable Point, Paradox Lake, and Putnam Pond. All other campgrounds are open and operating. A complete, updated list of closed campgrounds can be found on the DEC website.

The public should be aware that many state and local roads may be inaccessible to travel and access to campground areas could be limited. Those planning to visit the Adirondacks this weekend should call ahead or check for road closure information at the Department of Transportation’s webpage.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1), WSLP (93.3) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack also publishes a weekly Adirondack Hunting and Fishing Report.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene Leaves Widespread Damage in the Adirondacks

Following a spring of historic flooding and two minor earthquakes, the Adirondacks has been slammed by the remains of Hurricane Irene leaving behind a changed landscape, isolated communities, disastrous flooding and epic damage to local infrastructure, homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and trails.

Damage from the remnants of Hurricane Irene is widespread across the Eastern Adirondacks from Moriah, which suffered extensive damage during the spring flooding that had still not been repaired, to the entire Keene Valley and into the Lake Placid region. Trails in the Eastern High Peaks, Giant Mountain and Dix Mountain wilderness areas have been closed through the Labor Day weekend. The bridge over Marcy Dam has been washed away and the Duck Hole Dam breached.

Every town in Essex County suffered damage officials say, but Upper Jay, Jay, AuSable Forks, and all hamlets in the town of Keene have been devastated by flooding of the AuSable, which rose to a record 12 feet over flood stage. Essex County Highway Department Tony Lavigne told the Press Republican that “the flooding is way worse than this past spring and much more widespread.” Mountain Health Center in Keene suffered heavy damage and has been closed. In Upper Jay, the historic remains of Arto Monaco’s Land of Make Believe are gone. Flood waters also raged through Lake George Village and closed dozens of roads in Warren, Washington, and Saratoga counties. [Lake George Photos via Lake George Mirror].

Tom Woodman, who reported on the situation in Keene for the Almanack, wrote that “The hamlet of Keene is an astonishing and deeply saddening sight. The fire station has been torn in half by rampaging waters of a tributary of the East Branch of the Ausable. Buildings that house the dreams of merchants and restaurateurs, who have brought new life to Keene, are battered, blanketed in mud, and perched on craters scoured out by the flood waters.” North Country Public Radio‘s Martha Foley posted photos of the devastation in Keene.

Route 73 has been washed out and undermined in several places, closing the main artery into the High Peaks and Lake Placid from the east. Carol Breen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation told Woodman that Route 73 should reopen before winter. Route 9N between Keene and Upper Jay is expected to be reopened in a few days.

Although criticized at the time by many for being premature and unnecessary, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation warned recreationists to stay out of the backcountry and closed its campgrounds and other facilities across the Adirondacks on Saturday. That closure was fortuitous, as damage in some areas has stranded campers and has closed the Giant, Dix, and Eastern High Peaks wilderness areas. More than a dozen DEC campgrounds and day-use areas remain closed. These closures are expected to continue through the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

The historic dam at Duck Hole has been washed away, closing off only recently acquired access by canoe or guideboat into the High Peaks via Henderson Lake and Preston Ponds. Phil Brown has posted DEC photos of Duck Hole draining.

DEC District Forester Kris Alberga, who was among the first to see the widespread destruction in the backcountry during a flyover of the High Peaks Monday afternoon, reported that the bridge over Marcy Dam has been washed away and the dam is leaking seriously. “There are numerous washouts on the Marcy Dam Truck Trail,” Alberga said in a e-mail forwarded to the Almanack, “Marcy Brook between Marcy Dam and Avalanche Camps jumped its banks, carved a new channel and wiped out much of the trail. The Van Hovenberg trail above Marcy Dam is eroded 1-3 ft deep in many places. The handrails on the suspension bridge on the Calamity Pond trail are gone and the trail is not passable.” Phil Brown reported today that the level of Marcy Dam pond has dropped, revealing mud flats. The trails along Lake Colden are reported to be underwater and the trail to Avalanche Pass made impassable.

The bridge on the Adirondack Loj Road south of South Meadows Road has been washed out, cutting off the Loj and stranding some 31 visitors and Adirondack Mountain Club staff there. The access to the Garden Trailhead at Interbrook Road is no longer passable beyond the bridge over Johns Brook.

Phil Brown traveled to Marcy Dam Monday afternoon and snapped a photo of a new slide on Wright Peak, near Angel Slide. Other new slides reported include those on Mount Colden (including at the Trap Dike), Basin, Haystack, Upper and Lower Wolfjaw, in the Dixes, and on Giant Mountain.

Although reports have not been received from the Santanoni and Seward ranges, it appears that the Western and South-Central Adirondacks have not been seriously impacted. Backcountry users in those and other areas of the Adirondack Park should, however, expect blowdown and eroded trails, washed-out bridges and new landslides.

At a press conference held in front of the destroyed Keene Volunteer Fire Department, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency will suspend special permitting requirements to aid in a speedy rebuild.

Photo: Duck Hole Pond is draining after the dam went out. Photo courtesy NYS DEC.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Diane Chase: Hurricane Irene High Peaks Closures

It is difficult to believe that a week ago my husband led two different groups over Marcy Dam bridge to climb into the Adirondack High Peaks backcountry. I joined him on a day hike up Marcy and lingered on the bridge to admire the view of Mt. Colden. Now the iconic bridge has been washed away by residual flooding from Hurricane Irene.

With this backlash from Hurricane Irene Adirondack campgrounds are closed and extensive damage continues to be assessed throughout the High Peaks, Catskills and lower regions of the Adirondack Park.



DEC Region 5 Citizen Participation Specialist David Winchell says, “We closed down the trail systems for the Eastern High Peaks, Giant, and Dix Mountain Wilderness regions and continue to evaluate other areas. We want people to understand that by willingly entering the forest preserve hikers may encounter massive blow-down, washed out foot bridges, and landslides.”

Winchell states that the first bridge on the Klondike trail is gone, the Duck Hole Dam has been breached and the trails along the shoreline at Lake Colden are under water. He admits that at this time the number of new slides are too numerous to count. He does list new slides at Wright, Colden-north, Trap Dike, Haystack, Wolfjaws, Dixes and Giant.

“When hikers encounter a bad situation we encourage people to turn around and not press on over treacherous terrain, says Witchell. “We don’t want to be searching for additional people. Our focus is on helping the communities and existing stranded hikers and backcountry campers.”

According to Winchell, the Western and Central Adirondacks have not been as severely impacted by ramifications of Hurricane Irene. Trail closure and campground information will be updated and posted on the DEC trail website.

Marcy Dam bridge has been a landing point for many backcountry hikers as well as a day hike destination for those just wanting an easy 2.4 mile walk from the Adirondack Loj. Phil Brown of The Adirondack Explorer, filed an extensive High Peaks area damage report, places to hike and pictures of the missing bridge.

Remember the first rule of thumb when venturing into the backcountry is safety. There is so much damage around the towns of Jay, Keene, Keene Valley and AuSable that emergency personnel is needed to pursue the necessary clean-up to aid those communities while the DEC continues to do what is necessary to be able to open Adirondack trails for all.

For those wishing to enjoy a family-friendly wilderness experience there are many smaller hikes not part of the Eastern Adirondack High Peaks that are open.

Photo of Marcy Dam bridge used with permission of Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities including short hikes, swimming holes, historic sites, events, activities and trivia. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Climbing the Nippletop Slide

From the Elk Pass Lycopodium Ponds herdpath to bottom of Nippletop Slide slide is, but for a few short sections, extremely easy to follow. This .75-mile section took us 40 minutes while enjoying the beautiful scenery of this miniature canyon. Starting out and walking around a good size beaver pond it was mostly flat, but turned steep starting from the outlet. In places the numerous and large mossy boulders reminded us of Indian Pass. Walking in the drainage itself never appeared to us a better option; we were able to stay on the same East bank side all the way. Actually it was never enticing, only pretty to look a every step of the way.
» Continue Reading.


Page 20 of 24« First...10...1819202122...Last »