Thursday, October 15, 2015

Outdoor Conditions in the Adirondacks (Oct 15)

CompassThis weekly report of outdoor recreation conditions in the Adirondacks is issued each Thursday afternoon and can be heard at North Country Public Radio on Friday mornings.

Sunrise Saturday will be at 7:13 am; sunset at 6:09 pm. On Saturday the Moon will rise at 11:25 am and set at 9:18 pm; it will be Waxing Crescent with 19% of its visible disk illuminated. See below for information about upcoming meteor showers.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

FALL FOLIAGE REPORT: The Adirondacks are at or just past peak leaf color. The best color will be found on the periphery of the Adirondack Park, especially along the Southern Adirondacks and the warmer lake valleys such as Sacandaga, Lake George, and Lake Champlain.

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 the Adirondack region at Burlington and Albany, and the High Elevation, Recreation, or Lake Champlain forecasts.

EXPECT WINTER CONDITIONS: Be prepared for early-winter conditions. A mixture rain and snow is forecast for Friday night, with snow showers for Saturday and Saturday night, and very gusty winds throughout the weekend. Temperatures are expected to be below normal for this time of year, a fairly dramatic departure from the warm autumn we’ve been having. The first snow of the season was reported this week on the summit of Whiteface and rime ice has been appearing in the early mornings on and near summits – carry traction devices and expect to encounter ice and snow this weekend. Forecasts are calling for a coating to an inch or two at lower elevations, with perhaps as much as five inches across higher elevations. There is a risk for tree damage and power outages, especially in the Western and Northwestern Adirondacks which will see the most snow and highest winds. Trees there still have leaves and even a small accumulation of wet snow could bring down limbs.  Forecasts are calling for high temperatures below freezing on summits and only barely reaching into the 40s in the warmest areas. Nighttime low temperatures will be in the 20s on Friday night, and into the teens to near zero in the High Peaks on Saturday and Sunday nights. Expect gusty winds through the weekend, 10 to 20 mph (gusts to 25), and 25 to 35 mph (with higher gusts) on and near summits. Days are much shorter now. Plan hikes accordingly and always be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods.

TRAIL CONDITIONS: Trails will have a mix of water, mud, snow and ice, particularly in the morning and in higher elevations. Summit bedrock, rocks, logs, bog bridging and bridges may be icy in the morning and at higher elevations – pack footwear traction devices as a precaution. Wet leaves, which make for slippery footing, will be present on many sections of trails – use caution. Wear waterproof footwear and gaiters, walk through – not around – mud and water on trails to avoid further eroding trails. Low water crossings should be passable, but water levels will likely rise some through Saturday.

ORIONID METEOR SHOWER: The Orionid shower, resulting from Halley’s Comet, will be active from October 4 to November 14, peaking on October 21-22. The best viewing is from midnight to dawn. The Leonid shower peaks November 17-18, and the best viewing will before dawn.

FIRE DANGER LOW: The fire danger is currently LOW. Use care with open fires this weekend across the region. The US Drought Monitor is reporting the northwestern half of the Adirondack Park 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.

RIVERS AND STREAMS NORMAL: Waters remain at mostly normal levels for this time of year, but there could be some rise through the weekend. On Thursday afternoon, the Raquette River at Piercefield was about average at 3.70 feet (just below normal). The Hudson River was running at about 3.18 feet on Thursday afternoon at the North Creek streamgage (about normal); the Lake Champlain gage at Whitehall is at 95.76 feet. These 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.

WATER TEMPERATURES: Water temperatures are cold – mostly in the upper 40s. Cold water protection is recommended for paddlers. 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 in the lower-40s
Lake Champlain is about 58 degrees
Upper Hudson River near the High Peaks is about 50 degrees
Arbutus Lake in Newcomb is about 47 degrees
Warner Bay on Lake George is about 56 degrees

MOST DEC CAMPGROUNDS CLOSED: With the exception of Fish Creek Campground, all of DEC campgrounds in the Adirondacks are now closed. Fish Creek Campground will close October 25th.

DEC BOAT LAUNCH DOCKS BEING REMOVED: Removal of the state’s boat launch docks has begun and will continue through mid-November. Generally, docks located more inland and at smaller sites are removed first. All DEC launches remain open to the public after docks are removed. To inquire about a specific dock location call (518) 897-1200 or email [email protected] To view details about DEC’s boat launch docks, visit the DEC Boat Launch Sites Webpage.

HUNTING SEASON UNDERWAY: 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.

USE BEAR-RESISTANT CANISTERS: The use of bear-resistant canisters is recommended for overnight users in the Adirondacks. All food, toiletries and garbage should be stored in bear-resistant canisters.

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: Large groups have significantly more impact on the trails, natural resources and other users. DEC regulation restricts group size in the High Peaks Wilderness to no more than 15 hikers (day users) or 8 campers (overnight users) and encourages this practice to be followed in other areas. Outside the High Peaks Wilderness, DEC regulation requires a temporary permit be issued to authorize organized events of more than twenty people; camping at the same location for more than three nights; or camping in groups of more than 10 people.

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

** Interior Outposts: The DEC Interior Outposts at John’s Brook, the Raquette River, and Marcy Dam are no longer be manned. The Lake Colden Interior Outpost remains manned through the winter.

** Table Top Mountain Herd Path: The start of the Tabletop Mountain Herd Path on the Van Hovenberg Trail to Mt. Marcy has been moved 150 feet closer to Indian Falls. Signs have been erected at the new junction and flagging has been placed along the new section until the tread is clearly visible. The old section of trail will be brushed in.

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.

** Whiteface Memorial Highway: The Whiteface memorial Highway is closed for the season.

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 shuttle from the overflow parking area at Marcy Field has ended for the season.

** Dix Mountain Wilderness: The gate to the Hunter’s Pass trailhead at Elk Lake into the Dix Mountain Wilderness has closed until after the mud season 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.

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.

** Northville -Placid Trail – Ouluska Pass: The log bridge over Ouluska Pass Brook on the Northville -Placid Trail (about 1/10 of a mile south of Ouluska Lean-to) has been washed out. The brook will need to be waded which may be difficult for some hikers.

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

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.

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.

** Essex Chain – New Universal Access Campsites: DEC and the Student Conservation Association recently completed the construction of motor vehicle, camping and waterway access for people with disabilities at Fifth Lake of the Essex Chain Lakes, accessed from Newcomb, NY. This is open for holders of a DEC Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD). Visitors must call the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb (518.582.2000) to reserve a parking space.

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

** Spruce Mountain Trail Opened: Spruce Mountain’s rehabilitated fire tower and new trail in the town of Corinth, Saratoga County are open for public use. From the top of the fire tower, the view includes Vermont, Gore Mountain and the Southern Adirondacks. The 2.4-mile round-trip trail traverses through wooded gentle terrain with an elevation change of approximately 1,000 feet. The Adirondack Mountain Club Professional Trail Crew recently finished a reroute of the trail from private land onto Wilcox Lake Wild Forest and then onto Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature (PLAN) property. Student Conservation Association (SCA) Adirondack members began restoration work on the fire tower in 2014 and DEC completed the remainder of the work this year. The state reached a cooperative agreement with Lyme Adirondack Timberlands II, LLC to cross its land just below the fire tower. The 73-foot Steel Aermotor LS-40 fire tower on the 2005 ft. summit of Spruce Mountain was built in 1928 and manned until 1988. The Spruce Mountain trailhead/parking area is located at the end of Fire Tower Rd in the hamlet of South Corinth. From Corinth, take 9N south for approximately three miles, take a right onto Wells Rd and proceed for two miles. At the “T” take a right onto Fire Tower Rd.

** Route 74 Paving: Paving work on Route 74 in Ticonderoga and Schroon will begin Tuesday from just east of Letsonville Road to just west of the causeway at Eagle Lake (about 2.5 miles). Motorists will encounter alternating single closures controlled by flaggers from 6:30 am to 5 pm. The work is expected to be completed by Oct. 23.

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

Lake George Village Boat Launch: The newly refurbished boat launching ramp next to Lake George Beach (Million Dollar Beach) is open year round. However, from Memorial Day through Labor Day parking is limited to 26 boat trailer spaces and there is a day use fee. From Labor Day through Memorial Day parking is unlimited and there is no free.

** Loon Lake: The Loon Lake Park District-Town of Chester Boat launch has closed for the season. The Loon Lake Marina Boat Launch remains open Monday through Friday, from 8 am until 4 pm, but is closed on weekends.

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.

Lyon Mountain Fire Tower: A 35-foot fire tower was erected on Lyon Mountain in 1917, and remained in operation until 1988. Restoration of the tower began in 2005 and is now complete. A new trail was also built to access the tower.

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 have restored the fire tower and it is now open to the public.

** 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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