Posts Tagged ‘ice’

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wanakena Footbridge Replacement Fundraising Underway

Wanakena Ice Jam BridgeSeveral nonprofits from across the Adirondack region have partnered to raise  funds to rebuild the historic and iconic Wanakena Footbridge in the Clifton-Fine community. The suspension bridge was destroyed in January, 2014 when an ice jam on the Oswegatchie River broke and slammed into its side.

Built in 1902 by the Rich Lumber Company, the footbridge provided pedestrian access to residential and commercial areas of Wanakena. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Estimates put the full cost of construction at $250,000.

The Wanakena Historical Association has already raised nearly $38,000, but to extend the campaign’s, reach the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) has partnered with other local nonprofits to establish an online Adirondack Gives crowdfunding effort.   The Wanakena Footbridge campaign can be found on the Adirondack Gives website. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Don Mellor: Climbing OK Slip Falls

Don Mellor on ok slip fallsIt was suggested to me recently that “if God wanted us to climb ice, He wouldn’t have made it so slippery.” Theology aside, there’s probably some inverse truth here: we want to climb ice precisely because it’s so slippery. We shouldn’t be doing it. It defies everything fundamental about the world as we learned it. It breaks some heavy rules.

Still, we put nasty spikes on our boots and grab tight to a razor pair of ice claws—and there we are, halfway up a hundred-foot icicle. Right where we aren’t supposed to be. And the bliss defies words.

This is a piece about the ice-climbing prospects of OK Slip Falls, jewel of a long-awaited land acquisition, one that has gotten a fair amount of coverage in this publication. Just to see this waterfall once took either connections, patience—or stealth. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Don Mellor On Post-Thaw Ice Climbing Conditions

Don first pitchYesterday I complained about the deterioration of backcountry-skiing conditions caused by last week’s rain and thaw. But what has happened to ice-climbing conditions?

I am a novice ice climber. In my mind, I figured a little rain and a little melting followed by subfreezing temperatures would improve conditions. More water means more ice, right?

Not necessarily, according to Don Mellor, author of Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber’s Guide.

Mellor has been climbing and studying ice for more than thirty-five years and has found that it is frustratingly unpredictable. Just because one route has good ice doesn’t mean another route will.

That said, Mellor thinks certain routes—particularly those in gullies, which hold a lot of ice—may have been helped by last week’s thaw. “Gullies have enough substance to weather a lot of abuse. I climbed Chouinard’s [above Chapel Pond] with my daughter on Saturday and found it fine. As I would have predicted,” Mellor told me yesterday.

» Continue Reading.



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ice Skating In The Wild

dellicechase2-600x388Skating off the beaten track brings a sense of freedom to my soul. No matter how cold it is outside, I will haul my family to frozen ponds to lash skates to their feet. I know the Adirondack chill will be driven out with a few swift glides on the ice.

I often go far afield from Saranac Lake in search of places to skate, such as along the shores of Lake Champlain and Lake George, and I always ask people to share their favorite skating spots. More often, though, I am drawn to a stretch of Route 73 between Lake Placid and Keene Valley known for its consistent ice. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Can’t Backcountry Ski? Try Ice Climbing

Dan Plumley climbs a route at Dipper Brook. Photo by Phil Brown.I don’t need to remind you how bad the backcountry skiing has been this year. As of this morning, the Adirondack Ski Touring Council wouldn’t even recommend skiing on the Marcy Dam Truck Trail.

But it has been cold this winter, so I figured the ice climbing must be good. Just over a week ago, in fact, there were ice climbers crawling all over Keene and Keene Valley during the Mountaineer’s annual Mountainfest.

Nevertheless, Don Mellor, author of Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber’s Guide, says the climbing this winter has been only so-so. » Continue Reading.



Friday, January 10, 2014

Adirondack Weather: Rain, Sleet or Snow?

sleetsnowiceMany years ago, I lived in San José, California where the weather forecast went something like this: Sunny for three weeks, one day of rain, followed by many more weeks of sun. There was a sameness to the weather that bordered on the banal and never made me wonder what was going on.

Not so here in the Northeast. The mercurial nature of our weather keeps us wondering from day to day – often hour to hour – when it’s going to change. The uncertainty is never more present than in the winter, when at times we’re blessed with that trifecta of miserable driving conditions: snow, sleet, and freezing rain.

Why is it that a day could start with a delicate snowfall and suddenly shift to a clattering sleet and end in an icy glaze – but the mercury doesn’t move? Or the temperature will be 30 degrees in both Elizabethtown and Plattsburgh, but snow will fall in one and freezing rain in the other? Clearly the thermometer is telling only part of the story. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Adirondack Ice: When The Lake Goes Boom, Boom, Boom

Andy Coney Lake PhotoIt started on the Eve before Christmas Eve, if a natural process can ever be said to have started.  Better said it was a turning point in continuing events.  Despite an early ice-in and mounds of lake effect snow only recently, for the weekend we’d had wet days with heavy rain and overnights above freezing.

Jokes at the Fire Department were that Santa Claus would arrive across the ice on water skis pulled by snowmobile to Sunday’s annual kids’ party.  (Instead he came by fire engine as he always does.)  But Monday as the afternoon ebbed, the slow drizzle grew slower and flecked into tiny snow.  Soggy-bottomed tracks left skiing one way were glazed coming back.  Wet, black roads are suddenly white. » Continue Reading.



Friday, January 3, 2014

Coping With Trees and Landscape Winter And Salt Damage

20131223BPWIcyPines4003crop(1)Each year the Northern New York region gets a half-dozen or more freezing rain events, and every few years we might see an actual ice storm (technically at least 0.25 inches ice accumulation). But the storm that froze the North Country in up to two inches of glaze between December 21 and 23, 2013, was exceptional.

It didn’t have quite the punch of “The Great Ice Storm of 1998” in which freezing rain tumbled for 80 solid hours, but in some locations damage was extensive.

Ice storms happen when a warm, moisture-laden front slides up and over a cold air mass, and then lets loose the water works. Cumulus clouds billow up (occasionally spawning winter lightning), and when cloud air temperature is between 25 and 30F, the resulting subcooled rain freezes to cold surfaces. Warmer than 30, it rains; colder than 25, it sleets. If the warm front is slow-moving—or worse yet, stalls—the ice really builds up. » Continue Reading.



Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cabin Life: The Wet Firewood

The Little StreamAs is my new custom, I’m sitting at the table looking out the big window at the winter weather, and I’m sweating.  The new stove is amazing, but way too large for my little cabin.  A wealth of heat is not necessarily a bad thing, but having the cabin feel like a too-hot summer is a little disconcerting.

I open one of the windows a little more, since all the windows that can open, are already open.  I’m greeted with sounds that are both welcome and unwelcome at the same time.  The sound of snow and ice dripping off of the roof is nice, but the sound of freezing rain is unpleasant.  I woke to a half-inch of ice covering everything.  I can also hear the small rushing stream out back.  It typically only flows in the spring, but now it sounds like constant traffic.  It’s eerily out of place.

Around noon I went out and started my car.  I wanted to get as much ice off as possible before the second round of sleet and freezing rain began.  It was only a little below freezing, but because it was thick and took me most of an hour with the defroster and an ice scraper.  The radio playing in the car told me to stay off the roads for unnecessary travel, but I was out of beer. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Arctic Cold And The Frost Line

frost line depth map New YorkWinter seems to have come early to the Adirondacks, as below zero temperatures and periodic bouts of measureable snowfall have been a part of our weather pattern since the last few weeks of November. The arctic air that has regularly swept across the region has made a sizeable dent in everyone’s wood pile, placed a strain on car batteries and forced many to wear Christmas sweaters on a daily basis.

The intense cold has also pushed the frost line down in numerous spots, which greatly impacts the existence of those creatures that attempt to survive this season by burrowing into the soil. It is difficult to determine how deep the frost line has advanced, as this critical feature of the winter environment varies greatly from one spot to another. » 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.



Monday, March 25, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Mink

768px-Mink_-_Lower_Saranac_LakeThe persistent cold weather pattern that has prevented regular thaws from occurring this March has kept a covering of ice on most Adirondack waterways, including the edges of many streams and rivers. Returning waterfowl, like the black duck and mallard, are now forced to concentrate their activities to those scattered stretches of water where the current keeps ice from forming.

It is around these limited settings that a sleek and resourceful member of the weasel family lurks in an attempt to ambush one of these meaty game birds. While it is possible during the warmer months of the year to notice this shoreline demon prowling the boundary of any aquatic environment, the open waters that attract wild ducks are now a prime hunting haunt of the mink. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Adirondack Family Activities: Long Lake Ice Carving

Ice Sculptor Stan Kolonko will be in Long Lake for the second year as part of the Long Lake/Raquette Lake Ice Fest January 11-12 and bringing a special brand of art to area businesses.

According to Long Lake Director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Alexandra Roalsvig, Stan Kolonko is providing just one part to the many activities over the course of the two-day event. » Continue Reading.



Monday, January 7, 2013

Ice Fishing: Yellow Perch in Winter

In the middle and lower depths of our lakes in winter, a region of 39 degree water prevails, providing a haven for those fishes that remain active throughout this season. (A noteworthy physical property of water is that it becomes most dense at 39 degrees and sinks to the bottom. As water cools further, it becomes less dense or lighter in weight and rises to the surface. As a given mass solidifies, its density decreases even further, which is why ice floats on the surface rather than sinks.) While 39 degree water causes rapid hypothermia in humans, it is within the lower range of thermal acceptability for various species of cold-blooded organisms, including a favorite of winter anglers– the yellow perch.

The yellow perch, known to most as simply a perch, is a thick-scaled fish with noticeable vertical streaks on its sides and two separate dorsal fins. The first dorsal fin is supported by sharp-pointed spines that make the perch a challenge to handle without experiencing a painful poke to the hand. The perch also has a relatively small mouth. This limits its intake of food to aquatic invertebrates, the eggs from other fishes, and very small fish, like the fry of larger fish, dace, and smaller strains of minnows and shiners.
» Continue Reading.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

Outside Story: How Do Trees Survive Winter Cold?

Trees are about half water, maybe a little less in winter. And if the temperature drops low enough, the water in even the most cold-hardy tree will freeze.

So how do trees survive below-freezing temperatures? They can’t move south or generate heat like a mammal. Sure, the below-ground parts of a tree are kept insulated by a layer of snow, and that is important to winter survival, but the exposed parts of a tree are not so protected. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities:
Public Ice Skating Indoor Arenas

Once the weather gets a bit more consistent outside it will be time to hit the many outdoor Adirondack skating rinks. Until that time my family makes time for ice-skating at the indoor arenas. That is fine, too. Inside we have the opportunity to take off our skates, warm up our toes and listen to the music piped in over the sound system. It’s a great way to work off the holiday desserts!

Most of the indoor rinks cater to the hockey and figure skating crowd. We’ve found that even if the schedule is posted online, it is best to call first just to make sure a make-up game hasn’t altered the free skate time. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Study On Local Impacts of Climate Change

In the northern hardwood forest, climate change is expected to reduce the viability of the maple syrup industry, encourage the spread of wildlife diseases and invasive species, and impact timber resources and the winter sports economy.

Accurately gauging the pace of change in the Adirondacks has been challenging, owing to the relative dearth of long-term local data. Now, a new study published by 21 scientists that reviews 50 years of data from Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire concludes that our current models of climate change don’t account well for surprising real world changes taking place in local forests.
» Continue Reading.



Monday, February 20, 2012

Ice Fishing: Lake Champlain Shanty Stories

The centuries-old tradition of ice fishing in the North Country has taken a real hit this winter, what with remarkably mild weather dominating the news. In an already terrible economy, the incomes of businesses and individuals alike have been deeply affected by the unusual conditions. There’s little that can be done, but perhaps a few interesting shanty stories from the past will provide a little distraction.

Wind has always been a factor in the lives of ice-fishermen, occasionally turning shanties into moving vehicles. A Plattsburgh fisherman, Frank Herwerth (caretaker at Clinton Community College) discovered just that in 1928 when a stiff March wind sent him sliding a couple of miles to near the middle of Lake Champlain.

The following year, in the narrows at Putnam, south of Ticonderoga, strong winds pushed a shanty across the lake, smashing it against the opposite shore. There were many similar cases over the years where even tethered structures broke free and slid for considerable distance on the open lake.

During the freakishly warm winters of the early 1930s, fishermen got an early start on the task of removing shanties dotting the few frozen sections of Lake Champlain. As conditions deteriorated at Bluff Point near Plattsburgh, one man in a group of five friends drove across the ice and successfully towed his shanty to shore.

Encouraged, his pals followed suit. One of them asked to borrow a car, and the owner lacked the wisdom to say no. Less than 100 feet from shore, the car began to settle in the soft surface. The passengers made a quick exit, and a short time later, another Dodge was on the lake’s bottom. (Not funny for the environment, of course, but a real head-shaker that someone would loan a car in that situation.)

One of the strangest sights ever to grace the surface of Lake Champlain (or any other lake, for that matter) occurred in late March 1911, during a terrific gale. Toppled shanties blew across the lake at speeds estimated between 20 and 30 mph, but that was only a prelude to the star attraction.

On Willsboro Point, a two-story home on the eastern shore was being moved about a half mile to a new location on the point. The easiest way was to deposit it on the ice and slide it, rather than cut a number of trees and attempt the move on land.

The sight of a two-story house sitting on the lake would have been enough, but the gale winds that arrived that day turned the situation into one of high drama. The house began to move to the southwest, slowly at first, but gained momentum, and was soon hurtling down the lake at an estimated speed of 40 mph.

Anomalies in the ice surface caused the house to spin and lurch at times as it sped along. At one point, it was headed towards a community of ice-fishing shanties. Finally, the house struck a prominent crack in the ice, which sent it twirling and slowed its progress. It eventually came to a halt in the vicinity of Split Rock Point, ten miles from its origin. When the wind died down, a team of horses hauled the house back to Willsboro Point.

Finally, here’s one of the many pranks ice fishermen engaged in, as reported in the Ticonderoga Sentinel seven decades ago: “Del Dumas thought his Champlain fishing shanty was afire when he awakened from a nap in the tiny shack the other day—but it developed that a jokester had plugged Mister Dumas’ stovepipe from the exterior, and you could have smoked a ham inside the hut.”

Photo: Headline from January 1928.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.



Monday, February 13, 2012

Natural History: Climate Change and the Winter of ’32

“Is our climate changing? This is a question heard often these days. Some are inclined to believe it is, but others are inclined to believe it is just one of those unusual open winters. The weather has been so mild that pussy willows are showing buds, woodchucks are out, and caterpillars were found crawling on the ground.” Those aren’t my words. They’re from the Norwood News, January 20, 1932.

On my way to the mailbox four times in the past week, I stepped between different types of insects on the sidewalk, a reminder of how unusual our weather has been. While reading about years past, it struck me how this mild winter parallels those of 1932 and 1933.

In both instances, ice fishing was drastically curtailed by the open waters of Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. Fishermen were successful back then by using motorboats from Whitehall to Rouses Point, in the dead of winter, to access the best fishing spots.

Temperatures were often in the 50s, pleasant for sure, but not so much for business. Logging, a mainstay of the region’s economy, was months behind schedule. Even when brief cold snaps allowed construction of the required ice roads, balmy weather quickly turned them to slush and mud. Cut timber, ready to haul, lay in the woods until cold weather returned, which wasn’t often.

It was feared the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid would be cancelled due to a lack of snow: January’s temperatures averaged nearly 13 degrees above normal. At one point, the entire bobrun was washed out by heavy rain. Snow was hauled in by train to ensure the games would be held. A storm just days before the opening ceremonies helped, but warm temperatures caused problems throughout the Games.

In 1932 and 1933, events normally associated with summer occurred throughout the winter, grabbing everyone’s attention. In January: outdoor picnics; bicycling; ducks and geese flying north; the picking of wildflowers; and, in Whitehall, using the village street-sprinkler to suppress road dust.

In February: fishing from rafts at Port Henry; boating on Lake George and Lake Champlain; woodchucks, chipmunks, and other mammals out and about; blackbirds, robins, and other songbirds sighted regularly; and snakes (some of them hit by cars) seen on area roadways.

Both months saw golfers on area courses, interrupted only by occasional cold―and thunderstorms! Baseball players couldn’t resist the opportunity to play, although the effort was often better characterized as mudball. Still, in most any year, even playing catch in winter wasn’t even a consideration.

Experience tells us we’ll still get slammed this season, but just as folks did back then, we can marvel for now at how far into the new year the weather has remained so warm. It’s been a pleasure, and for me, a back-saver as well.

Photo: Headline from January, 1933.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.



Thursday, January 5, 2012

Adirondack Ice Fishing Gets Underway

One of the great traditional Adirondack wintertime pastimes kicked of this past week – ice fishing. The stalled winter has had hard-water anglers itching to hit the ice, although a few hardy (some would say fool-hardy) early adventurers found just enough ice here and there to safely fish two weekends ago. All that is behind us now, as many smaller lakes have the minimum of three to four inches considered safe to travel ice on foot. The ice shanties are being readied, tip-ups and jig poles tested, new lines and leaders in place. This weekend will see small congregations of anglers sprinkled across the frozen surface of local lakes. According to a recent DEC survey, ice fishing participation has doubled over the past 10 years.

“Everyone is anxious to get out, as early ice often produces some of the best fishing opportunities of the season,” local guide Joe Hackett told me last week. Joe said he saw anglers on Lake Colby, Rollins Pond, Connery Pond and most of the smaller waters in the Tri-Lakes region last weekend. “I’d stay off the big lakes for a while yet,” he cautioned, “especially around the inlets and outlets”.

This year, there will be an expanded opportunity to improve the catch. In waters where a full compliment of ice fishing gear is permitted, anglers are now allowed up to three lines and five tip-ups. The previous limit was two lines and five tip-ups.

DEC reminds anglers to take these important guidelines when ice fishing:

Follow the bait fish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species. Bait fish may be used in most but not all waters that are open to ice fishing.

Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same waterbody in which they were caught.

Check for sufficient ice thickness before venturing onto the ice and frequently as you travel to new areas.

Remember, ice thickness varies on every body of water and anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks/houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. Snowmobile tracks or footprints should not be taken as evidence of safe ice – always check ice conditions for yourself and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk.

More information on ice fishing, ice safety, and places to ice fish can be found online. Read all of the Almanack‘s stories about ice here.

Photo: Above, Mike Todriff of Chestertown shows off a salmon caught last year on Lake George; below, Shannon Houlihan of Chestertown tries her luck with a jig pole in 2011.


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