I learned that Emily wanted to do a big hike, something spectacular. It didn’t take me long to hit on the idea of climbing Algonquin Peak and Iroquois Peak and returning by way of Avalanche Lake.
We would go over the summit of the second-highest mountain in the state, follow a mile-long open ridge with breathtaking views, descend a steep but beautiful trail, and scramble along the shore of a lake whose sublimity never fails to astound. » Continue Reading.
Pay a visit to the Adirondack Research Library (ARL, operated by Union College’s Kelly Adirondack Center) sometime. The Library is located at the former home of wilderness champion Paul Schaefer, where he and Carolyn Schaefer raised their family beginning in 1934. Reading in that library offers me a healthy reminder of the tight rope walked by former defenders of “forever wild.” When it came to standing up for wild country, our predecessors were often up against a wall, just as we sometimes feel today.
I recently visited the ARL to reacquaint myself with the federal government’s 1942 condemnation of a 100-ft Right of Way “for the rail transportation of strategic materials vital to the successful prosecution of the War” from the soon-to be built mine at Tahawus, Newcomb. In the ARL archives, the name Marshall McLean frequently crops up. He was the attorney representing the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks in court in 1942-43. » Continue Reading.
It’s springtime! Well, according to the calendar. The snow may be slowly disappearing from the lower elevations, but there were full-on winter conditions during a climb up Mt. Colden’s Wine Bottle Slide on Saturday.
The slide lies 800 feet southwest of the Trap Dike and overlooks both Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden. As the name implies, its shape resembles a bottle of wine. The appeal of the slide lies in its location as well as the technical footwall and cliffs about halfway up the 2,000 foot long swath. If you want to test your winter mountaineering skills, this is a good place. » Continue Reading.
In 1935, New York State held a large celebration commemorating 50 years of its Forest Preserve. The jubilee, with parades and the unveiling of a new monument, centered in Lake Placid and the list of attendees included Conservation Commissioner Lithgow Osborne, Governor Herbert Lehman and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt. New York had much to be proud of, having preserved “wild forest lands” for the previous 50 years with the promise of forever ahead.
A similar celebration would be held for the centennial, but the 50th anniversary resonates in a different way. It was still close enough to the actual events, and many remembered them, along with the decades of debate over the appropriateness of forest lands to fend for themselves, remaining uncut and wild. » Continue Reading.
Since the big storm last week, I’ve been skiing a lot in the backcountry. Generally, I found the conditions very good, but skiers need to be mindful that we had little or no base before the snowfall. You may encounter exposed boulders on trails. If you’re skiing off trail, you must be wary of logs and rocks lurking within the powder.
On New Year’s Day, I skied from Adirondak Loj to Lake Colden. At the outset, I wondered if the cover would be adequate on the trail from the Loj to Marcy Dam, a section with a lot of large boulders. Although I did encounter some exposed rocks, they were easily avoided. » Continue Reading.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has decided against rebuilding the dam at Duck Hole, but the future of Marcy Dam in the High Peaks Wilderness remains up in the air.
The decision won’t be made until after engineers inspect the dam, and it will be based in part on the condition of the dam and how much it would cost to fix it.
Aside from these practical considerations, there is a philosophical question: do dams belong in Wilderness Areas at all? In the January/February issue of the Adirondack Explorer, I report that there are at least four other dams in Wilderness Areas: at Lake Colden and Henderson Lake in the High Peaks Wilderness, at Cedar Lakes in the West Canada Lake Wilderness, and at Pharaoh Lake in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness. That was based on DEC’s inventory of dams in the Forest Preserve, but there may be more. For example, someone e-mailed me recently that there is a dam at Moose Pond in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness.
The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan defines a Wilderness Area as a region “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.” The document forbids the construction of new dams but does permit existing dams to be rebuilt with natural materials.
A DEC policy manual seems to take a stronger position against dams in Wilderness Areas, asserting that in most cases they should be removed when they become unsafe or need to be replaced or reconstructed. Nevertheless, policy provides several loopholes for keeping a dam, such as maintaining a fishery, preserving a view, or providing recreation.
The view of the surrounding mountains from Marcy Dam is one of the iconic vistas in the Adirondacks. Clearly, DEC could justify rebuilding the dam under its policy. But should it?
Christopher Amato, who until recently had been DEC’s assistant commissioner for natural resources, contends that no dams should be rebuilt in Wilderness Areas.
“Either you be true to the definition of Wilderness and not rebuild the dam or if the dam is that important you reclassify the area as something else,” Amato told the Adirondack Explorer.
But Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, told the Explorer that he thinks Marcy Dam should be repaired. “For many New Yorkers, that classic beauty at Marcy Dam is their Adirondacks,” he said. “It serves so many New Yorkers that I feel it is justified.”
Regardless of whether DEC rebuilds Marcy Dam, it does intend to build a bridge across Marcy Brook, either at the dam or another location.
Tropical Storm Irene damaged the dams at the Duck Hole and Marcy Dam Pond and forced DEC to confront these questions now. But the same questions eventually will arise when other dams in Wilderness Areas fall into disrepair. Indeed, the questions can be raised about dams in Wild Forest Areas as well. After all, the state constitution requires that the entire Preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” Altogether, there are about fifty dams on the Forest Preserve, according to DEC’s inventory.
Click here to read the full story on dams in the Preserve. Then let us know what you think: should Marcy Dam be repaired? What should be done with other dams in the Forest Preserve?
Incidentally, the photo above is from the 1930s. It shows what Duck Hole looked like before the dam was built and presumably what it might look like again in a few years.
One of my favorite winter trips is what one might call “extreme cross-country skiing.” That is, skiing on routes that aren’t generally considered by the cross-country community. Routes you won’t find in Tony Goodwin’s Classic Adirondack Ski Tours.
Some of these routes are long and committing. Others require the use of snowshoes or skins (unless you’re a member of the Ski-To-Die Club, a group of locals who took extreme skiing to a new height by taking wooden cross-country skis in the 1970s down mountain descents that would give most people on modern alpine gear pause). » Continue Reading.
The 2009 Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Calendar: With Wilderness at Heart has been published and is available for purchase here. You can still get the 2008 calendar at Amazon here. The 2009 calendar features photographers Nancie Battaglia, Mark Bowie, Joanne Kennedy, Mark Meschinelli, and Hardie Truesdale and includes views of Lake Placid, Mount Marcy, the Shawangunks, Lake Champlain, Lake George, Lake Colden, and the Catskills. There are also smaller spore-print images created by Sam Ristich and Carol Shaw produced by placing mushrooms or woody fungus on paper. The late Sam Ristich, known as “the mushroom guru of Sligo Road,” was a well known teacher and speaker on things mycological.
ADK Publications staff Ann Hough of Keene, N.Y.; Andrea Masters, of Ballston Spa, N.Y.; and John Kettlewell of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., produced the calendar. Buying the calendar or other publications helps support ADK’s programs in conservation, education, and recreation. Also available are hiking, canoeing, rock-climbing, and cross-country skiing guides; natural history guides; and cultural and literary histories of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to Almanack founder and editor John Warren.
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