Thursday, April 14, 2011

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (April 14)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.

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

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.

** WINTER CONDITIONS AT ELEVATION
Spring conditions and the Mud Season have arrived at lower elevations across the Adirondacks, but winter conditions still exist in the High Peaks where there is 6 inches to two feet of snow on the ground and more in higher elevations. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reported just over two feet of snow on the ground at the cabin. Expect temperatures below freezing at night at all elevations and below freezing during the day at high elevations. Ice may be found on summits and other open areas. These conditions still will require snowshoes or skis in the High Peaks Trails they are still required above Marcy Dam. Snow cover is still mostly good on trails above Marcy Dam, though they are soft, outside the High Peaks trails are wet and muddy. Higher elevations waters are beginning to open-up. As of Thursday afternoon Avalanche Lake remains passable however the outlets are open and the lake surface is deteriorating rapidly. Brooks and streams are running high and crossings without bridges may not be passable at this time. Lower elevation waters mostly now open, with what little ice there is disappearing fast. Use extreme caution with the thickness of ice.

** HIGH WATERS
All waters in the region are running well above normal for this time of year and there have been scattered flooding incidents and closed roads. Crossings may not be possible where trails cross streams and brooks except on bridges. Low water crossings may not be accessible and paddlers should use care and consult the latest streamgages data. Many of the regions rivers and streams are well over 90% of their capacity. Paddlers and other boaters should be prepared for high waters that may contain logs, limbs and other debris. The potential for additional flooding this spring is generally above normal due to this winter’s deep snow pack. River ice and thickness has diminished to the point that the threat of ice jams has ended. Reservoir and lake levels are normal to slightly above normal for this time of year. Use care and consult the latest streamgage data.

** WET AND MUDDY CONDITIONS
Lower and mid-elevation trails are wet and muddy. Be prepared by wearing waterproof footwear and gaiters, and remember to walk through – not around – mud and water on trails.

** ROADS CLOSED FOR MUD SEASON
DEC has closed the gates to roads typically closed during mud season.

BEAR CANISTERS NOW REQUIRED IN HIGH PEAKS
The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, and recommended throughout the Adirondacks, between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear-resistant canisters.

SNOWSHOES OR SKIS
The use of snowshoe or skis is required in the Eastern High Peaks where ever snow depths exceed 8 inches, as is currently the case, and is recommended elsewhere in the Adirondacks. Using snowshoes or skis prevents “post-holing”, avoids injuries, and eases travel through snow.

EXPECT BLOWDOWN
Recent storms and strong winds have caused blowdown – trees, limbs, and branches may be found on and over trails, especially lesser used trails which have not yet been cleared.

** AVALANCHE CONDITIONS
The potential for avalanches on slides and other areas prone to avalanche still exists and several have occurred. Although the danger of avalanches is highest shortly after a significant snowfall, and avalanches can occur anytime there is a deep snow cover made up of multiple layers of snow, as there is now. The risk of avalanche depends on a number of factors and can not only change from day to day, but also change over the period of the day as temperatures, humidity and solar warming all influence the character of the snowpack. Avoid traveling on open areas with slopes between 25 & 50 degrees and no vegetation. Never travel alone, carry proper safety equipment; and inform someone where you will be traveling.

MIGRATING BIRDS
Thousands of birds are currently undertaking their seasonal journey along the Atlantic Flyway from their southern wintering grounds. Flocks of migratory waterfowl like geese, ducks and swans are among the first to arrive, as songbirds like the red-winged blackbird, Eastern bluebird, Eastern meadowlark and American robin take up residence and build their nests. Over the next few weeks, grab your binoculars to watch the spectacle of birds arriving this spring. Visit DEC’s Watchable Wildlife site to find a place near you for great bird and wildlife viewing opportunities.

** THIN ICE SAFETY
Lower elevation ice is generally unsafe. The ice that remains at higher elevations may consist of alternating layers of hard ice and frozen slush which is not as strong as clear hard ice. Always check the thickness of ice before crossing and at several points along the way. Inlets, outlets and moving water are all open. If you must travel on ice, use extreme caution.

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
NOTE: We’re entering the state’s historically high fire risk period from mid-March until mid-May.

** Central Adirondacks LOWER Elevation Weather

Friday: Sunny, Highs in the lower 30s.
Friday Night: Clear and cold, lows around 18.
Saturday: Rain likely. Windy with highs in the upper 40s.
Saturday Night: Rain or snow likely. Breezy, lows in the lower 30s.
Sunday: Partly sunny, chance of rain showers. Highs in the upper 40s.
Sunday Night: Mostly cloudy, a chance of rain or snow showers. Lows in the upper 20s.

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]

** Snow Cover
Snow is all but gone outside the High Peaks where there is still 6 inches to two feet of snow on the ground and more in higher elevations. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reported just over two feet of snow on the ground at the cabin. Conditions there still require snowshoes or skis at higher elevations and crampons on exposed areas such as summits.

** Downhill Ski Report
Aside from Gore and Whiteface, all downhill mountains are now closed for the season. Whiteface and Gore will open Friday through Sunday, April 15-17. At Gore, some novice-level trails are growing bare but there is plenty of skiing on intermediate and expert trails. Whiteface is planning to run the Face Lift, Summit Quad and Mountain Run chair so no beginner terrain will be available. The suggestion from Gore officials that they may re-open for Easter Weekend (April 24th), seems possible, but unlikely. Snowfall at Gore was about 150 inches, (the level of their long-term average) and 30 inches over last year’s total. Snowfall at Whiteface has been above average, with about 250 inches this year (their average is 200).

** Cross Country Ski Report
The region’s cross-country ski areas have all closed. There may still be some isolated skiing on the wooded section of the Jack Rabbit Trail, but open areas like the Golf course and River Road sections are no longer skiable.

** Backcountry Ski Report
Snow cover is no longer suitable for skiing below Marcy Dam, but above snow cover is still mostly good, and though they are soft, there remains about 10 inches to two feet and more at higher elevations. Despite the rains this week, there will likely be skiing for a couple more weeks on the upper reaches of Mount Marcy. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports there is just over two feet of snow on the ground at the cabin. These conditions still will require snowshoes or skis in the High Peaks Trails they are still required above Marcy Dam. As of Thursday afternoon Avalanche Lake remains passable however the outlets are open and the lake surface is deteriorating rapidly. The bridge is out on the trail to Marcy, see below for details. Snows have accumulated to sufficient depths on Adirondack Mountain slopes to create conditions conducive to avalanches and DEC has issued an Avalanche Warning. The Avalanche Pass Slide is closed to skiing and snowshoeing during the winter months.

** Ice Climbing Report
Anything facing south or east is gone or dangerous. There may still be some top-ropeable ice in the northern facing areas but for all intents and purposes the season has ended for ice climbers.

Rock Climbing Closures
All rock climbing routes on Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs in the Giant Mountain Wilderness, on Moss Cliff in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness, and on the Main Face of Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain are closed, except for the routes between “Opposition” and “Womb with a View” at Pok-O-Moonshine, to allow for peregrine falcon nesting. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.

** Ice Fishing Report
Ice fishing is officially open, but recent warm weather have left very little solid ice at lower elevations. Higher elevation waters (above 2500 feet) are still covered with ice , but that ice is also going out and even there inlets, outlets, and shoreline seeps have opened up. This will likely be the last weekend for the possibility of any ice fishing at all. Tip-ups may be used on waters through April 30, 2010. General ice fishing regulations can be found in the in the 2010-11 Fishing Regulations Guide.

** Snowmobile Trails Report
Snowmobile trails around the region have closed. Now is the time to show restraint to keep from tearing up fragile trails. More Adirondack snowmobiling resources can be found here.

** Whitewater Rafting Season Has Begun
The whitewater rafting season has begun on the Moose, Black and Sacandaga rivers. The Hudson River Whitewater Derby will run May 7-8 2011. The event includes novice slalom, giant slalom, and more.

** Trout Season Opened April 1st
Trout (brook, rainbow, brown and hybrids, and splake) and landlocked Salmon season open April 1st, but is off to a slow start with so much snow and ice on the banks of local streams, and this weekend waters will be high and cold. Stocking has been delayed in the ADirondacks but has begun in southern counties bordering the region. For catch and size limits view the freshwater fishing regulations online.

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: Just north of the Mud Lake lean-to there has been significant blow-down in several areas across the trail that happened sometime in early December that requires several bushwhacks to get around.

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.

ADIRONDACK CANOE ROUTE / NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL

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.

HIGH PEAKS

Bear Resistant Canister Now Required: The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, and recommended throughout the Adirondacks, between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear-resistant canisters.

Giant Mountain Wilderness: All rock climbing routes on Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs are closed to allow for peregrine falcon nesting. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.

McKenzie Mountain Wilderness: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff are closed to allow for peregrine falcon nesting. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.

Snowshoes or Skis: The use of snowshoe or skis is required in the Eastern High Peaks when snows are at least 8 inches deep. Using snowshoes or skis prevents “post-holing”, avoids injuries, and eases travel through snow.

Avalanche Conditions: Everywhere snows have accumulated to sufficient depths to create conditions conducive to avalanches. Avoid traveling on open areas with slopes between 25 & 50 degrees and no vegetation. Never travel alone, carry proper safety equipment; and inform someone where you will be traveling. DEC has issued an Avalanche Warning.

Opalescent River Flooding: Due to ice from previous flooding incidents of the Opalescent River, the Day Glow South camping area below the Lake Colden Dam, including the Opalescent and McMartin lean-tos, remains unusable. Campers are advised to use other campsites at this time

Marcy Brook Bridge: The Marcy Brook Bridge, below the junction of the Avalanche Pass and Lake Arnold trails, was damaged by ice during the recent thaw. The bridge is still usable but one of the railings is bent making the path over the bridge narrow. Skiers may have some problems crossing.

Johns Brook Valley: Lean2Rescue, in cooperation with DEC, will be undertaking several lean-to projects in the Johns Brook Valley over the course of the next several months. DEC will post notifications at the Garden trailhead prior to work being started. Beginning the weekend of March 18-20 the Deer Brook will be moved and the Bear Brook lean-to will be removed.

Western High Peaks Wilderness: The unpaved section of Corey’s Road, the main entrance to the Western High Peaks Wilderness, is closed for mud season.

Western High Peaks Wilderness: Trails in the Western High Peaks Wilderness are cluttered with blowdown from a storm that occurred December 1st. DEC has cleared blow down along the Corey’s Road, and in most areas accessed from the that road, including the Seward Trail, although not along the Northville-Placid Trail.

Ampersand Mountain Trail: There is heavy blowdown on the Ampersand Mountain Trail as far as the old caretakers cabin – approximately 1.7 miles in. Finding the trail may be difficult after fresh snows. Skiing will be frustrating as there are so many trees down. Past the cabin site the trail is good but snowshoes and crampon are needed.

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.

Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high 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.

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.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS

** Great Sacandaga Lake: The section of North Shore Road in Hadley, which runs along the Great Sacandaga Lake, has reopened to traffic following repairs made by Saratoga County Public Works crews.

Pigeon Lake Wilderness: DEC Forest Rangers and trail crew have been working to clear blowdown from trails. The following trails are cleared and ready for skiing and/or snowshoeing: Shallow Lake Trail (well-marked with some minor blow down), West Mountain Trail (well-marked, some blowdown remains on section east of the summit), and Sucker Brook Trail

SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Eastern Lake George Wild Forest: The Town of Fort Ann has closed the Shelving Rock Road for mud season.

** Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area: The DEC is holding a public meeting to discuss the proposed Unit Management Plan for the 38,500 acre Hoffman Notch Wilderness in the Towns of North Hudson, Minerva and Schroon Lake in Essex County. The plan includes an analysis of the features of the area and the ability of the land to accommodate public use. The meeting will start at 6:30 on April 26 at the Schroon Lake Town Hall. For directions and more details on the draft management plan, read the DEC press release.

Hudson River Recreation Area: Gates on the Buttermilk Road Extension in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area), in the Town of Warrensburg remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic.

Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: 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.

NORTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All lands are open to all legal and allowable public recreation activities beginning January 1. The gate to the Pinnacle Trail remains closed until after the spring mud season.

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.

NORTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Taylor Pond Wild Forest: All of the rock climbing routes on the Main Face of Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain are closed, except for the routes between “Opposition” and “Womb with a View”, to allow for peregrine falcon nesting. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.

Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: Numerous cross country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities exist on the Public Use Areas and Linear Recreation Corridors open to the public. Skiers and snowshoers are asked not to use the groomed snowmobile routes. Signs on the trails and maps of the snowmobile routes instruct snowmobilers on which routes are open this winter. Portions of these routes may be plowed from time to time so riders should be cautious and aware of motor vehicles that may be on the road. These route changes are a result of the cooperation of Chateaugay Woodlands, the landowner of the easement lands, and their willingness to maintain the snowmobile network. The cooperation of snowmobilers will ensure future cooperative reroutes when the need arises.

** Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave has been reopened to the public following the expiration of the cave closing order on March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. DEC is considering whether to close all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population. It’s best to stay out of caves at this time.

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.

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.

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. More information is available online.

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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.

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