Thursday, September 24, 2015

Outdoor Conditions in the Adirondacks (Sept 24)

CompassThis weekly report of outdoor recreation conditions in the Adirondacks is issued each Thursday afternoon.

Sunrise Saturday will be at 6:47 am; sunset at 6:46 pm. The Moon will rise on Saturday at 5:59 pm and set at 6:01 am, Sunday morning. There will be a Full Moon on Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 10:50 pm, and a total eclipse of the Moon at 10:11 pm (see below for details).

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

FALL FOLIAGE REPORT: Leaves are just beginning to change in most of the lower elevation areas, but leaf change is well-underway in the upper elevations. Expect very little change in the Southern Adirondacks, and along the Sacandaga, Lake George, and Lake Champlain valleys; about 15 to 20% change in other lower elevation areas; and 40 to 50% change underway in the High Peaks.

ENTER THE BACKCOUNTRY PREPARED: Always carry proper safety equipment – including plenty of food, water, extra clothing, and a map and compass – inform someone of your itinerary, and be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods. Just before entering the backcountry check the latest weather forecasts for Adirondack region at Burlington and Albany, and the High Elevation, Recreation, or Lake Champlain forecasts.

DAYS SHORTER, WEATHER COOLER: Days are shorter and temperatures are cooler particularly in the morning and evening hours and at higher elevations. Plan hikes accordingly. Carry a flashlight or headlamp. Pack extra non-cotton clothes, including a hat, in addition to your usual equipment. Take off and put on layers of clothing to regulate body heat.

CONDITIONS OVERVIEW: Trails remain dry, waters very low, and the threat of fire elevated. Forecasts are calling a continued dry and sunny weekend with highs remaining above normal in the 60s and lower 70s. Expect morning fog Saturday and Sunday. Nighttime low temperatures will be in the lower 40s to upper 30s in the mountain valleys. Expect winds mostly 0 to 5 mph, rising to 5 to 10 on Sunday, and 5 to 10 mph higher across summits. With the slight possibility for an exception on Tuesday, warm and dry air is expected to continue through all of next week.

FIRE DANGER MODERATE: The fire danger is currently MODERATE. Use extreme care with open fires this weekend across the region. The US Drought Monitor is reporting the entire Adirondack region is ABNORMALLY DRY. It is illegal to leave an even smoldering fire unattended. Fires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks, in the Essex Chain, and at other locations in the Adirondack Park. Check local fire regulations.

TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MOON SUNDAY: A total eclipse of the Full (Harvest) Moon will begin at 9:07 pm Sunday evening; the eclipse will be total at 10:11 pm; at the same time the Moon will be its closest to Earth for this year with its nearest surface 216,000 miles from the nearest surface of the Earth. The totality ends at 11:23 pm, and eclipse will end at 12:27 am.

RIVERS AND STREAMS ARE LOW: Waters are very low, even for this time of year. In August, the Adirondacks was 2 to 3 inches below normal precipitation. Low water could pose a danger to watercraft operating in shallow areas. On Thursday afternoon, the Raquette River at Piercefield was about average at 3.31 feet. The Hudson River was running about 2.64 feet on Thursday afternoon (well below normal for this time of year) at the North Creek streamgage; the Lake Champlain gage at Whitehall is at 95.60 feet. This values are only an estimation of current conditions – before heading out check the streamgages on the USGS website for waters where you intend to recreate.

BOATERS BEWARE: Water levels are very low, even for this time of year. Rocks, logs and other obstacles normally covered by water may now be exposed or just below the water surface. Use caution and stay observant when boating or paddling, especially in shallow areas.

WATER TEMPERATURES: Water temperatures have fallen into the 60s. A properly worn life jacket will likely keep a person’s head above water and support their body should swimming ability fail or they become unconscious due to unexpected immersion in cold water (any water below 70 degrees). The Coast Guard estimates that 80% of all boating deaths might have been prevented had a life jacket been worn.

The following water temperatures were reported on Thursday:

Ausable River is about 60 degrees
Lake Champlain is about 68 degrees
Upper Hudson River near the High Peaks is about 60 degrees
Arbutus Lake in Newcomb is about 60 degrees
Warner Bay on Lake George is about 69 degrees

DEC CAMPGROUND CLOSING DATES: The following DEC campgrounds remain open until October 12th: Ausable Point, Cranberry Lake, Eighth Lake, the Lake George Narrows, the Indian Lake Islands, Lake Durant, Lake Eaton, Lake George Battleground, Lewey Lake, Meacham Lake, Moffitt Beach, Nick’s Lake, Northampton Beach, Putnam Pond, Rogers Rock, Saranac Lake Islands, and Wilmington Notch. Fish Creek campground will close October 25th.

HUNTING SEASON: Hunting seasons are underway in the Adirondacks. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or other hunting implements while hiking on trails. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare but hikers may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.

FIRE TOWER WORK UNDERWAY: DEC has also transported materials to three mountains and will be working on three fire towers over the next several weeks – St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower, Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower and Lyon Mountain Fire Tower.

BITING INSECTS: Mosquitos, Deer Flies and No-see-ums (biting gnats) are still present but in much lower numbers. Follow these steps to minimize the nuisance of biting insects: wear light-colored loosing-fitting clothing, long sleeve shirts, and long pants.

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

DO NOT RELY ON TECHNOLOGY: Do not depend on electronic technology in the backcountry. Cell phone coverage is spotty at best and often non-existent. GPS signal can be poor under heavy tree cover. Batteries expire quickly in cold temperatures. Plan and prepare before entering the backcountry and always carry a map and compass for navigation or at least as a backup – and know how to use them.

KEEP DOGS LEASHED: Dog owners are reminded that dogs must be leashed in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks when on trails, at primitive tent sites, at lean-to sites, everywhere above 4,000 feet, or at other areas where the public congregates. It is recommended dogs be kept leashed in most areas for the safety of your dog, the protection of wildlife and as a courtesy to fellow hikers.

LEAVE NO TRACE – CARRY IN – CARRY OUT: Learn and practice the seven Leave No Trace principles. Carry out what you have carried in. Do not leave gear, food, or other unwanted or unneeded items at lean-tos and campsites. Do not litter.

GROUP SIZE RESTRICTIONS: DEC regulation limits organized events of more than twenty people, camping in the same spot for more than three days, or in groups of more than ten people, unless authorized under a temporary permit.

RECENT CHANGES IN THE ADIRONDACK BACKCOUNTRY

These are recent changes (within the last two weeks) to outdoor recreation roads, trails and facilities around the Adirondacks.

** indicates new or recently revised items for this week.

HIGH PEAKS – LAKE PLACID REGION
Including Wilmington, Keene, Western High Peaks

** Ward Brook Truck Trail: The Ward Brook Truck Trail remains flooded due to beaver activity just north of the junction with the Northville-Placid Trail. There is no reroute around the water. Hikers will need to walk through shin to knee deep waters.

** Marcy Dam Removal: Work on the first stage of removal of Marcy Dam, including the removal of the splash boards, top rocks for the first tier, first tier crib pieces and the vertical side boards from the walls of the dam downstream of the spillway has been completed for this year.

High Peaks Parking: The overflow parking area at Marcy Field is open. The shuttle will be running between the parking area and the Garden Trailhead from 7 am to 7 pm each day every weekend and holiday through October 18th. The Town of Keene is charging for parking at The Garden Trailhead.

** Dix Mountain Wilderness: The gate to the Hunter’s Pass trailhead at Elk Lake into the Dix Mountain Wilderness will close October 18 and reopen in the spring.

** Elk Lake: From October 24 through December 6, trails on the Elk Lake Lodge Easement Lands are closed to general public for regular deer hunting season.

** Whiteface Memorial Highway:The Whiteface Memorial Highway will close for the season on October 12th.

Lake Arnold/Feldspar Lean-to Trail: The trail between Lake Arnold and Feldspar Lean-to is very wet and muddy but passable. The trail has dried up enough that the bog bridging is usable – immediately after heavy rains flooding may occur that makes the bridging difficult to use. Expect to get your feet wet and muddy when traversing some portions of the trail where bog bridging is not present. Use Avalanche Pass/Lake Colden Trail or Mt. Colden Trail to travel between Lake Arnold and Feldspar Lean-to if you want to avoid this trail.

Opalescent River – Uphill Lean-To: A 10-foot section of trail near Uphill Lean-to along the Opalescent River above Lake Colden was washed out during heavy rains last weekend. Hikers can get around it by going through the trees but should use caution when doing so.

Hurricane Mountain Firetower: DEC, Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program members and volunteers from the Friends of Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower are working to restore and rehabilitate the Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower.

CENTRAL-SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS
Newcomb, Long Lake, Indian Lake, Fulton Chain, Speculator, West Canada Lakes

** Northville-Placid Trail Reroute: See details under Shaker Mountain Wild Forest below.

** O’Neill Flow Road Access Extended: The portion of the O’Neill Flow Road open to public motor vehicles has been extended to the gate at Dun Brook – do not drive past the gate (a map is available online). Four wheel drive trucks, SUVs and other high axle vehicles are recommended. Expect to encounter logging trucks on the road. Drive slowly, be observant and cautious. Logging trucks do not have the ability to slow down quickly. Access and parking are only available on the south side of the road – the right side as you drive in. Please respect private property on the north side and do not trespass. Non-motorized uses (hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, biking, etc.) are allowed on the lands south of the road only.

** Township 20 Tract Easement Lands: The Minerva Club Road off State Route 28N on the Township 20 Tract is open to the gate at Sixmile Brook – do not drive past the gate. The lands to the west of the road are open to non-motorized public access and abut forest preserve lands. Do not cross Sixmile Brook and trespass on private property.

** Lake Durant Campground / West Canada Lakes Wilderness: The Sucker Brook Trail which connects the Northville-Placid Trail and the DEC Lake Durant Campground is closed until further notice. Blowdown, wet stretches of trail, and beaver activity make the trail impassable and difficult to follow. DEC is developing plans to restore the trail corridor and allow safe passage for hikers. The Colvin Brook Lean-to at the western end of the trail remains open but can only be accessed from the Northville-Placid Trail.

** Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: An 8.6 mile reroute of the Northville-Placid Trail has been completed. The trail traverses between trailheads on the Collins-Gifford Valley Road in the Town of Northampton and the Benson Road in the Town of Benson. The reroute eliminates 7.6 miles of walking along State Route 30 and the Benson Road. Hikers will need to ford West Stony Creek until a footbridge over the creek is completed. While this can be done by rock hopping during low water, it will not be passable during high water. Hikers wishing to hike the full length of the trail will still need to walk 3.5 miles between the Gifford Valley Road Trailhead and the official southern terminus trailhead in Waterfront Park, Northville. This section includes travel along South Main Street, Bridge Street, County Routes 152 & 152A, Mountain Road and Gifford Valley Road. More information about the reroute and maps can be found here.

Essex Chain: The public should not travel on the Goodnow Flow Road beyond the intersection with the Chain Lakes Road North. The Goodnow Flow Road becomes a private road shortly after the DEC sign for “Essex Chain Lakes and Hudson River Access” sign at the intersection with the Chain Lakes Road North. Motorists, bicyclists and others should turn left at the sign on to the Chain Lakes Road North.

New Mountain Biking In Essex Chain Complex: DEC has opened nearly 20 miles of dirt roads in the Essex Chain Lakes Area to mountain bikers. The roads provide access to Deer Pond, Jackson Pond, Pine Lake, and take you past Third and Fourth lakes. Also accessible via mountain bike is the Cedar River at the location of a proposed bridge, and the Polaris Bridge (the Iron Bridge) over the Hudson River (though no biking is allowed across the river). The routes offer two loops, one a 2.5 mile ride around Deer Pond and the other about a 15 mile ride utilizing Essex Chain Road North through the middle of the Essex Chain of Lakes, Deer Pond, Cornell, Woody’s, and Goodnow Flow roads. More information, including a map, can be found here.

Northville-Placid Trail – Jessup River Road: A bridge on the Jessup River Road, approximately 0.5 mile before the Spruce Lake Trailhead, is damaged and closed to motor vehicle traffic. Hikers seeking to access the Northville-Placid Trail and Spruce Lake can park along the road before the bridge provided they don’t block traffic and walk across the bridge using caution. This will add approximately one mile for a round trip. This section of the Jessup River Road is soft.

EASTERN-SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS
Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co

** Lake Champlain Algae Blooms: Suspected blue-green algae blooms were reported this week around St. Albans and Missisquoi bays. Do not swim, bathe, or drink algae contaminated water, or use it in cooking or washing, and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water. Blooms can move quickly with currents and winds and may be found in other locations.

** Paradox Lake Launch Closing: The DEC Paradox Lake Campground and the Paradox Lake Boat Launch will close from October 1 through October 18. Boaters and lake camp owners should be aware the boat launch will be closed on Columbus Day Weekend. More information can be found here.

Eastern Lake George Wild Forest: There has been an increase number of sightings of timber rattlesnakes on the eastern side of Lake George by hikers and other recreationist. Be alert, pay attention to the trail ahead of you and areas adjacent to the trail. Rattlesnakes do not always rattle just because you are close. If you spot a rattlesnake keep away or move slowly away. The snake will likely want to move away from you don’t block its escape. Do not harass or harm the snake – it is unsafe and illegal to do so.

** Prospect Mountain Memorial Highway: The Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway in Lake George will close October 25.

** Lake George Village Boat Launch: The boat launching ramp at the Lake George Beach (Million Dollar Beach) is now operational to accommodate fall and winter fishermen. It will close the Monday before Memorial Day.

Lake George Wild Forest (Western): Buttermilk Road Extension is washed out and remains closed to all motor vehicle traffic.

Shelving Rock Trails: Heavy blowdown is present above 1,200 feet on Erebus Mountain Trail, Fishbrook Pond to Lake George Trail and other lesser used trails in the area.

** Great Sacandaga Lake: Great Sacandaga Lake is the lowest it’s been in recent memory. There is a lot of beach showing. Sand Island is very large, and the sand bar near Northampton is out of the water. Stay in the channels.

** Lyon Mountain Fire Tower: Restoration and rehabilitation of the Lyon Mountain Fire Tower has been completed by DEC and Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program.

NORTHERN-NORTHWESTERN ADIRONDACKS
Santa Clara, Tupper and Saranac Lakes, St. Regis, Lake Lila

St. Regis Canoe Area: Campers on Little Green Pond no longer are required to get a permit from the Adirondack Fish Hatchery. Regular state land camping regulations now apply – a permit is only required if campers will be camping four or more nights. This permit can be obtained from the local forest ranger.

** St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower: DEC, Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program members and volunteers from the Friends of St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower continue to work to restore and rehabilitate the fire tower.

** Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: Barnes Pond Road is now open to public motor vehicles through the end of the northern zone regular big game hunting season. Four wheel drive trucks, SUVs and other high axle vehicles are recommended.

Taylor Pond Wild Forest: Crews are working on improvements to the Ranger Trail on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain for the next several weeks. That is the “old” Poke-O-Moonshine trail. Hikers may encounter work operations, especially during the week. Please be respectful of the crew’s work and cooperate with directions given regarding safe passage through the work area.

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General warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Additional detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation information can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

The DEC Trails Supporter Patch is 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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