The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.
SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND
** indicates new or revised items.
SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN IN HIGH PEAKS
DEC Forest Rangers and others continue to search 22 year-old Wesley ‘Wes’ Wamsganz, missing since Saturday, November 20, and believed to be in the High Peaks Wilderness. He is 6’3″ 180 lbs, has buzz cut short blond hair, and blue eyes. He is believed to wearing a Black Bob Marley zip up hoodie, jeans or tan Carhart pants, basketball sneakers and a yellow, red and green striped brimmed beanie. The search was scaled back to “limited continuous status” Sunday. Wamsganz, of Saranac Lake, is believed to have been spotted by hikers at Marcy Dam last Saturday evening. Between Marcy Dam and Lake Colden Wamsganz’s green Carhartt jacket was found last Sunday. If you encounter Mr. Wamsganz or evidence of his whereabouts notify DEC Forest Rangers at (518-897-1300).
** WINTER CONDITIONS AT ALL ELEVATIONS
Winter conditions exist throughout the area. Expect to encounter snow and especially ice on trails. Prepare accordingly, pack snowshoes or skis and crampons and use them when conditions warrant. Daytime temperatures below freezing can be expected at all elevations, with wind-chill below freezing as well. Snow cover is now prominent across the Adirondacks. Snow can be up to one to two feet deep across the central Adirondacks and up to a few feet deep at higher elevations.
** Thin Ice Safety
Waters have begun freezing over, but except for some smaller lakes and ponds are generally not safe to access. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person. Each year a number of people fall through thin ice, use extreme caution with ice.
Carry Extra Winter Gear
Snowshoes or skis can prevent injuries and eases travel in heavy snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy trails and mountaintops and other exposed areas. Wear layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!), a winter hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots. Carry a day pack complete with ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.
Know The Latest Weather
Check the weather before entering the woods and be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.
Fire Danger: LOW
** Central Adirondacks Lower Elevation Weather
Friday: Chance of snow showers, mostly cloudy; high near 20
Friday Night: Chance of snow showers, cloudy, with a low around 5.
Saturday: Chance of snow showers, cloudy, with a high near 27.
Saturday Night: Chance of snow showers, coudy, with a low around 8.
Sunday: Chance of snow, cloudy, with a high near 19.
The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]
** Christmas Bird Count Underway
The 111th Annual Christmas Bird Count will take place December 14th to January 6th. The longest running citizen science survey in the US, each year during this time volunteers help document bird population trends used in a wide array of research and conservation efforts. For more information and to find out how to participate as a bird counter this winter, visit birds.audubon.org/faq/cbc.
** Snow Cover
A warm front that came through the Adirondacks on Sunday, December 12, took much of the snow in the central Adirondacks. Since Sunday the temperatures have stayed low so that a frozen 2-inch base is now supporting additional accumulation of about 4 to 6 inches, except in the northern and western parts of the park and in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Lewis counties which is seeing continued substantial snow. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 6 inches of powdery snow at the cabin. The exception is the lower southeast part of the park. There is still little snow on the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks or in Warren County and eastern Essex County, which has yet to see any substantial natural snow. Snow can be up to a few feet deep at higher elevations. The latest snow cover map from the National Weather Service provides an estimate of snow cover around the region.
** Downhill Ski Report
Thanks to snow-making Whiteface and Gore are already open with a limited number of trails, about one-third. McCauley, Mount Pisgah, and Oak Mountain are all expected to open this weekend. The Big Tupper Ski Area had planned to open, but has postponed those plans for now. Cross country ski areas are beginning to open including Cascade in Lake Placid, Mt. Van Hoevenberg, and Lapland near Northville.
** Cross Country / Backcountry Ski Report
There is little snow on the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks including the Keene end of the Jackrabbit Trail. There is 4-6 inches of new snow on 1-2 inches of residual base in the Lake Placid area [conditions]. Skiers should limit themselves to gentler terrain with smooth surfaces. It’s recommended to avoid the steeper, rougher wilderness sections of the Jackrabbit Trail. The backcountry is still in iffy shape after the warm front and high winds took their toll last week. Skiing is generally possible only on trucks trails and maintained trails. There is still no skiing beyond Marcy Dam, but the Truck trail to Marcy Dam again reported skiable, as is the Hays Brook Truck Trail, and the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni, and Burn Road in the Whitney Wilderness. Fish Pond is limited by thin snow about two miles in. Connery Pond is reported “not quite ready.” Ausable Lake Road probably not yet skiable.
** Snowmobile Trails Report
Except in parts of the Tug Hill plateau where snow continues to fall, last weeks warm front, wind and rain took a toll on the regions snowmobile trails. They are still very fragile with just an inch or two of base, and most trails around the region remain closed, including those on state land. Riders everywhere should show restraint and wait for trails to be officially opened and sufficiently snow-covered. Around the region volunteers are still installing signs and protective snow fencing. There has been little or no grooming, and some trails have blowdown from the recent windstorms. Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude. Avoid riding on lakes or ponds, and excessive speed. Ride safely. More Adirondack snowmobiling resources can be found here.
** Ice Climbing Report
Ice has been rebuilding with cold weather that followed last Sunday’s melt. Climbable areas including Chapel Pond, Cascade Pass, the North side of Pitchoff. The Mineville Pillar, Roaring Brook Falls, are reported not yet climbable. There is ice at Multiplication Gulley, and Chillar Pillar, but it’s reported thin. In the backcountry Avalanche and Elk passes are climbable, as is Big Blue at Underwood Canyon. See additional detailed and up to date Ice Climbing Conditions here.
** Most Rivers Running Above Normal
Waters in the region are again running above normal for this time of year, the Hudson, Bouquet, Raquette, and Au Sable are running well above normal. Paddlers should use care and consult the latest streamgages data. Overnight paddlers should be aware that ice is beginning to form on some local waters.
Special Blowdown Notice
Fall storms caused blowdown throughout the Adirondacks. Trees, limbs, and branches may be found over and in trails, especially lesser used side trails.
Motorists Alert: Whitetail Deer
The peak period for deer-vehicle collisions is October through December, with the highest incidences occurring in November. This corresponds with the peak of the annual deer breeding cycle when deer are more active and less cautious in their movements. Approximately 65,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur throughout NYS each year and two-thirds of the annual collisions occur during this three month period. Most of the collisions occur between 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Motorists are advised that the best way to avoid a collision with a deer is to reduce speed and be alert for their presence on or near the highway.
Motorists Alert: Moose
There are upwards of 800 Moose in the Adirondack region, up from 500 in 2007. Motorists should be alert for moose on the roadways at this time of year especially at dawn and dusk, which are times of poor visibility when Moose are most active. Much larger than deer, moose-car collisions can be very dangerous. Last year ten accidents involving moose were reported. DEC is working to identify areas where moose are present and post warning signs.
** Hunting Seasons
Although fall hunting seasons for big game and waterfowl are over in the Adirondack region, some small game seasons are still underway. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to hunt on Forest Preserve lands. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Hikers may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.
** Furbearer Trapping Seasons
Some furbearer trapping seasons remain open. This would be a good time to keep pets leased and on the trails. A reminder that body gripping traps set on land can no longer use bait or lure.
Ice Fishing Tip-Ups Can Now Be Used
Tip-ups may be operated on waters of New York State starting November 15, 2010 and continuing through April 30, 2010. General ice fishing regulations can be found in the in the 2010-11 Fishing Regulations Guide.
ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS
NORTHVILLE PLACID TRAIL
The Northville Placid Trail (NPT) is the Adirondack Park’s only designated long distance hiking trail. The 133 mile NPT was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, and is now maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Up to date NPT trail condition information can be found online.
Upper Benson to Whitehouse: About 1.8 miles north of the Silver Lake lean-to and just south of the Canary Pond tent camping area, the trail is flooded and may require wading through water and mud.
West Canada Lakes to Wakely Dam: The bridge over Mud Creek, northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out. Wading the creek is the only option. The water in Mud Creek will vary from ankle deep to knee deep.
Lake Durant to Long Lake: About a half mile north of the Lake Durant trailhead at Route 28/30 the trail crosses several flooded boardwalks. Use extreme caution as the boardwalk is not visible and may shift. Expect to get your boots wet and use a stick or hiking pole to feel your way along to avoid falling off the boardwalk.
Lake Durant to Long Lake: About 4 miles north of the Tirrell Pond the trail is flooded by beaver activity. The reroute to the east is now also flooded in spots.
Duck Hole to Averyville Rd. and Lake Placid: Beaver activity has flooded the trail about 3 miles south of the Averyville trailhead and will require a sturdy bushwhack.
ADIRONDACK CANOE ROUTE / NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL
** Ice: Ice has begun to form on all waters.
Personal Flotation Devices Required: Users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.
Eighth Lake Takeout: Northern Forest Canoe Trail volunteers rehabilitated the takeout at the north end of Eighth Lake. The 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail celebrates its tenth year this summer. Winding its way from Maine through New Hampshire, Quebec, Vermont, and into New York ending at Old Forge.
** Western high Peaks Wilderness: Trails in the Western High Peaks Wilderness are cluttered with blowdown from a storm that occurred December 1st. DEC will be working to clear trails as soon as possible.
Jackrabbit Ski Trail: Improvements have been made to the Jackrabbit Trail, a 24-mile cross-country ski trail that runs between Saranac Lake and Keene. There has been a reroute of the popular six mile section between McKenzie Pond Road outside Saranac Lake to Whiteface Inn Road outside Lake Placid. The rerouted trail avoids some hilly terrain at the start of this section and also avoids the ball field, and some private property. Trailhead parking is expected to be expanded in this area later this year.
Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: Big game hunting seasons are closed. Public trails in the Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands have reopened to the public.
Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. This adds 2 miles of hiking, plan trips accordingly.
Lake Arnold Trail: A section of the Lake Arnold Trail just north of the Feldspar Lean-to may be impassable due to mud and water resulting from past beaver activity.
Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.
Newcomb Lake – Moose Pond: A bridge on the Newcomb Lake to Moose Pond Trail has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge is intact, but surrounded by water.
Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.
Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been replaced.
Wilmington Wild Forest: Snowmobiles may be operating on designated snowmobile trails. Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage.
Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.
Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.
Bear Canisters: From now until April 1 bear resistant canisters are not required to be used in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS
Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Gates have been closed on the Moose River Plains Road. Motor vehicle traffic is prohibited until after the spring mud season. Currently snow accumulations are not enough to warrant opening the snowmobile trails.
Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement: Camping is limited to designated campsites, 8 campsites have been designated at this time.
Forest Ranger Greg George: Ranger George has retired after 33 years of service. If you had contacted Ranger George in the past for camping permits, backcountry conditions or for any other purpose, you should now contact Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer at 518-648-5246. For matters regarding Tirrell Pond contact Forest Ranger Jay Scott at 315-354-4611.
Ferris Lake Wild Forest / West Lake Boat Launch (Fulton County): The boat launch was impacted by August rains and floods. DEC staff have made repairs to the roadway, parking lot and ramps, however, be aware that the waters off the boat launch are more shallow than before.
Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: The lean-to on the south shore of Chase Lake has been removed, and a new one is now been built on the lake’s north shore (See photos). A new trail spur leading off the old trail and approaching the new lean-to from the west has been marked. The site of the old lean-to is now a designated tent site.
Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.
Wilcox Lake Forest: Trails to Wilcox Lake and Tenant Falls beginning at the end of the Hope Falls Road, cross private property. While DEC does have a trail easement for the East Stony Creek Trail to Wilcox Lake, there is no formal agreement with the landowner for access to the Tenant Falls Trail. DEC is working on a resolution to this matter. In the meanwhile, hikers and day uses must respect the private driveway at the trailhead and not block it. Also respect the landowner’s privacy – stay on the trail, do not enter the private property.
Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is affecting the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.
Siamese Pond Wilderness: The bridge over Diamond Brook on the East Branch Sacandaga Trail near Eleventh Mt. Trailhead has been replaced.
Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: Ice is forming on all waters. Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.
Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Jabe Pond Road, and Buttermilk Road Extension. Although also closed, Scofield Flats, Bear Slides Access, and Pikes Beach Access roads may be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding a Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD).
Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.
** Lake George Wild Forest: The snow cover has experienced a melting/freezing pattern. Some of the trails on the east side of the mountains have icy sections. Hikers should carry and use crampons on those icy sections of trail.
Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All All lands, including the trail to The Pinnacle, are closed to all public recreational access until December 31st. Access corridors have been designated to allow hunters to reach forest preserve lands through the conservation easement lands. Contact Senior Forest Rob Daley for information on access corridors at 518-897-1291.
St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required. DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working through mid-October to move 8 campsites, closed 23 campsites and created 21 new campsites [online map]. This week they are rebuilding a lean-to on Fish Pond. Please respect closure signs.
Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.
Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: The gate to the Lake Lila Road is closed. Public motorized access to the road is prohibited until the gate is reopened after the spring mud season. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized access is allowed on the road. Trespassing on lands adjacent to the road is prohibited.
Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: There have been important developments; see new information here. Paddlers may want to avoid paddling through private land until the matter is resolved. Although DEC has sided with paddlers in the dispute over the public’s right to canoe through private land on Shingle Shanty Brook and two adjacent waterways and has sent adjacent landowners a letter asking them to remove the cables, no-trespassing signs, and cameras put in place to deter the public from using the canoe route, the landowners have recently sued Phil Brown, editor of Adirondack Explorer, for trespass. DEC has warned them that failure to comply would require them to refer the matter to the state attorney general for legal action. “The Department has concluded that Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet and Shingle Shanty Brook are subject to a public right of navigation, and that members of the public are therefore legally entitled to travel on those waters,” the letter dated September 24th said.
Chazy Highlands Wild Forest: The newly acquired Forest Preserve lands on the Standish and Chazy Lake Roads in the Lyon Mountain area, and on the Smith and Carter Roads in the Ellenburg Mountain area, are open for public use. State boundary lines are not yet marked, contact the DEC Region 5 Natural Resources office (518-891-1291) to obtain a property map. Be aware of your location at all times, do not trespass.
Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.
GENERAL ADIRONDACK NOTICES
Accidents Happen, Be Prepared
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.
Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas
The use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe is prohibited. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected by this regulation.
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.
Personal Flotation Devices Required
Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.
Cave And Mine Closings
White nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across the northeast has spread to at least 32 cave and mine bat hibernation sites across the New York state according to a recent survey. Populations of some bat species are declining in these caves and mines by 90 percent. White nose was first discovered in upstate New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and is now confirmed in at least 11 states. DEC has closed all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population including Norton Peak Cave in Chateuagay Woodlands Easement Lands and also Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Please respect cave and mine closures.
Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].
Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles
All backcountry users should learn and practice the Leave No Trace philosophy: Plan ahead and be prepared, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. For more information is available online.
Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].
The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.