Thursday, December 17, 2015

Outdoor Conditions in the Adirondacks (Dec 17)

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.

There will be a First Quarter Moon on Friday, December 18, 2015 at 10:14 am. Sunrise Saturday will be at 7:27 am; sunset at 4:19 pm. On Saturday the Moon will rise at 12:37 pm and set at 1:39 am Sunday. On Saturday the Moon will be Waxing Gibbous with 62% of its visible disk illuminated.

The Winter Solstice, marking the shortest day of the year, will take place on December 21, at 9:48 pm. Thereafter amount of daylight each day will lengthen (until the Summer Solstice). Winter Solstice marks the beginning date for Winter 46ers, who must hike the 46 between December 21 and March 21.


LAKE EFFECT SNOW WARNING: Lake Effect Snow Warnings will be in effect from late Friday afternoon through Saturday evening. The National Weather Service has issued Lake Effect Snow warnings that include southern Jefferson, central and southern Lewis, northern and central Oswego counties in central New York; and Oneida County; and lake effect snow watch for Northern Herkimer county – this could possibly extend into northern Hamilton and Eastern Essex County on Saturday. The forecast calls for storm totals ranging up to 15 inches of snow, with heavier snow bands in the most persistent lake effect areas – especially on the Tug Hill Plateau between Lowville and Pulaski – could see up to two to three feet of snow. Localized bands of heavy snow and gusty winds will make driving conditions dangerous due to slick roads, blowing snow, and low visibility around the Western half of the Adirondacks, depending on the location of snow bands.

HEAVY SNOW EXPECTED FOR WESTERN ADIRONDACKS: In the Adirondack Park, lake effect snows Friday afternoon into Saturday evening will be heavy in the Southwestern part of the Park and taper off toward the East. By Saturday night there should be about an inch of snow across the eastern half of Adirondacks, with a few spots in the western slopes of the High Peaks picking up 3 or 4 inches. Some models show the snow bands extending quite far from the Great Lakes, with the Old Forge – Inlet corridor along with McCauley Mountain (near Inlet) seeing 6 to 9 inches by Saturday night. Lake effect snow bands could extend into the Central Adirondacks and northern Hamilton County as well. There will be heavier snows to the west in the Western Black River Wild Forests and Ha-de-ron-dah Wilderness in Herkimer County and the Western edge of the Park which could see a foot or more, including along the Independence River, Otter Creek the Moose River valleys. There should be enough snow to ski or snowshoe some of the smoother trails in the Independence River Wild Forest on Sunday morning, but that opportunity will probably be gone by Wednesday.

COLD AND BLUSTERY WEATHER EVERYWHERE: After unseasonably warm temperatures December’s cold will return with gusty winds, at least for the weekend. Night-time lows will be in the lower 20s – expect overnight ice and fresh snow in the High Peaks each morning through Sunday. High temperatures will be in the lower 30s; teens on summits, where windchill temperatures will be in the lower teens below zero. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods in temperatures well below freezing. Expect winds this weekend 10-20 mph; 25-40 mph on summits.

BE PREPARED: Always carry proper safety equipment – including plenty of food, water, extra clothing, a flashlight, map and compass – inform someone of your itinerary, and be prepared to spend an unplanned night. On waters, wear a pfd and cold water protection. Just before entering the backcountry or launching check the latest weather forecasts for the Adirondack region at Burlington and Albany and the High Elevation, Recreation, or Lake Champlain forecasts.

TRAIL CONDITIONS: Trails are wet and will contain snow and/or ice, particularly at elevations over 2,500 feet – pack traction devices. Summit bedrock, rocks, logs, bog bridging and bridges will be wet and/or icy. Expect to find blowdown (fallen trees, limbs and branches) on lesser used secondary trails. Hikes may take longer, plan accordingly.

DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Whiteface and Gore will be open this weekend, though with limited terrain (about 5 trails at Whiteface; 7 at Gore) thanks to continued warm temperatures and rain; no other mountains are open. McCauley near Inlet could pick up six to nine inches and start building a base with snowmaking as the weather turns colder in January. You can learn more about downhill facility improvements and plans for the upcoming season in Jeff Farbaniec’s 2015-16 Ski Season Preview

BACKCOUNTRY SKI REPORT: There should be enough snow to ski or snowshoe some of the smoother trails in the Independence River Wild Forest by early Sunday morning. Try the trails in the Beach Mill Road and Chase Creek areas. The opportunity will probably be gone by Wednesday.

LONG RANGE FORECAST: It’s been an unusually warm fall. As a consequence of a strong El Nino pattern it has been the warmest November in the U.S. in 14 years and now the warmest first 15 days of December on record at Massena and Burlington. The El Nino is weakening however, and models are now showing the possibility of a shift around the first of the year; there could be some light snow and unsettled weather around or just after Christmas, though it may fall as rain.

SEASONAL ACCESS ROADS: Due to the lack of snow, some seasonal access roads remain open beyond the regular big game hunting season. The roads will be closed when there is an accumulation of snow. Seasonal access roads are rough, dirt or gravel roads. Four wheel drive trucks, SUVs and other high axle vehicles are recommended. See details below for each specific region.

RIVERS AND STREAMS RISING: Water levels will be a little higher than normal for this time of year after recent rains. Expect a further rise, especially in the Western Adirondacks, when warm weather returns next week. The following water levels were being reported on Thursday:

Moose River at McKeever – 3.87 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 5.47 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 4.17 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 94.77 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 / ICE ON WATERS: Ice is forming overnight in smaller ponds, bays and backwaters at higher elevations and will begin to thicken this weekend. No ice should be considered safe however. Open waters are mostly in the lower 30s to lower 40s; Lake Champlain is about 46 degrees. 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.

ABNORMALLY DRY: The US Drought Monitor is reporting that all but the southeast part of the Adirondack Park is ABNORMALLY DRY. The fire danger is currently LOW. Use care with open fires. 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.

HUNTING SEASON UNDERWAY: Hunting seasons are underway in the Adirondacks. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms, bows and crossbows. Hikers may want to wear bright colors and keep pets leased as an extra precaution.

AVOID HIBERNATING BATS: Outdoor adventurers should suspend exploration of cave and mine sites that serve as homes for hibernating bats. Anyone entering a northern long-eared bat hibernation site from October 1 through April 30, the typical period of hibernation for bats, may be subject to prosecution. Learn the rules about exploring caves and mines and protecting fragile bat populations here.

USE BEAR-RESISTANT CANISTERS: The use of bear-resistant canisters is recommended for overnight use 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.

FREE SNOWMOBILING WEEKEND: To encourage out-of-state and Canadian snowmobile enthusiasts to sled in New York State, state snowmobile registration fees will be waived for properly registered and insured out-of-state snowmobiliers on Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend (January 16-18, 2016). Information on snowmobiling, including online registration for out-of-state snowmobilers is available here.

VOLUNTEER FOR TRAIL WORK: Warm weather has extended the trail work season – work has just finished on a four-year project to improve the trails on Mount Colden including 55 steps and 10 new boardwalk sections completed this year that change the look of the climb from Lake Arnold to the Colden Summit. No matter what your sport, if you’re a trail user consider contributing your efforts to one of the many organizations dedicated to maintaining the region’s network of thousands of miles of trails.


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.

Including Wilmington, Keene, Western High Peaks

** South Meadow Lane: The Town of North Elba has closed South Meadow Lane for the winter. Barriers have been placed across the road near the entrance off the Loj Road. Vehicles may park there for access to the Mt. VanHovenberg Trail, the Marcy Truck Trail and the Klondike Trail.

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.

New Lake Placid Trails: The Uihlein Foundation in Lake Placid has opened a four-mile trail system on the 940-acre Heaven Hill Farmhouse property on Bear Cub Lane. The new Heaven Hill Trails augment the popular Henry’s Woods Trail System, of about five miles of trails on the Heaven Hill property that opened in 2009. Both trail networks are open to walking, skiing, mountain biking, snowshoes, but not motorized nor equestrian use. There are three sets of trails in the new Heaven Hill Trails System, each. Most follow long established farm or woods roads and intersect with other trails to add variety. Learn more here.

** Elk Lake Trails To Dix And Marcy: The trails to Mt. Marcy and Dix Mountain that pass through the Elk Lake Conservation Easement Land have reopened, however the gate at Clear Pond will remains close. This will add four miles to any round trip hike – , plan accordingly.

Lake Arnold/Feldspar Lean-to Trail: The trail between Lake Arnold and Feldspar Lean-to is very wet and muddy. 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.

Newcomb, Long Lake, Indian Lake, Fulton Chain, Speculator, West Canada Lakes

** Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The Moose River Plains Road System is closed. The roads designated as snowmobile trails will open for use by snowmobiles when there is enough snow cover but will remain closed to public motor vehicle use until after the spring mud season.

** Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Easements: Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Road System is comprised of seasonal access roads. Four wheel drive trucks, SUVs and other high axle vehicles are recommended. They remain open at this time but will be closed for the winter when there is an accumulation of snow on the ground.

** O’Neill Flow Road: Due to spring like conditions, O’Neill Flow Road is closed to public motor vehicle access. It will reopen for use by snowmobiles when there is enough snow cover but both roads will remain closed to public motor vehicle use until after the spring mud season.

Minerva Club Road, Township 20: Construction of a roadway, parking area and trail which provide access for paddlers to the County Line Flow on the Township 20 Tract is complete and open for public use. Do not go on shore at County Line Flow. Also, the Minerva Club Road, off State Route 28N between Long Lake and Newcomb has been opened to the gate at Sixmile Brook. The lands are owned by Upper Hudson Woodlands ATP. The public use area is from the Minerva Club road west and north of Sixmile Brook and abuts Blue Mountain Wild Forest. Non-motorized uses allowed on entire tract include hunting, fishing, hiking and biking. Visitors are asked to please respect private property and not to pass the gate or cross Sixmile Brook.The road will be closed for the winter when there is an accumulation of snow on the ground.

** Barker Pond Road: Due to spring like conditions, Barker Pond Road is closed to public motor vehicle access.

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 – Cornell Road: DEC has closed Cornell Road. The road will open for use by snowmobiles when there is enough snow cover but will remain closed to motor vehicles until after the spring mud season.

** Essex Chain – Camp Six Road Closed: The gate along the Drakes Mill Road allowing access to one mile of the Camp Six Road (accessed from Newcomb via the Goodnow Flow Road) has been closed until the 2016 regular big game hunting season begins. Chain Lakes Road North and Drakes Mill Road remain open to the Hudson River/Polaris Bridge Parking Area.

** Essex Chain – Chain Lakes Road South: The Chain Lakes Road South has been closed until the after the spring mud season. The Town of Indian Lake plows Chain Lakes Road to the Indian River put-in (the rafter’s parking area).

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: The bridge replacement project on the Perkins Clearing Easement Tract is complete and the Jessup River Road is now open to motor vehicle traffic all the way to the Spruce Lake Trailhead. DEC had closed the bridge over the Jessup River to motor vehicle traffic this past summer due to its poor condition. The new bridge allows access to the Northville Placid Trail, Spruce Lake, and the lands and waters of the West Canada Lakes Wilderness. The 14,300-acre Perkins Clearing Easement Tract is comprised of private timber lands with many public recreational opportunities. The tract is located in Hamilton County on the west side of State Route 30 approximately three miles north of Speculator.

** Spruce Mountain Trail – Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: The Spruce Mountain Trail has reopened to the summit, but the cab on the fire tower will be closed until further notice. Hikers are reminded that the section of the trail just prior to reaching the two acres of forest preserve lands on the summit passes through private lands. An easement allows the public to use the trail but not the nearby lands. The road and trails other than the DEC marked trail that leave the top are on private lands. Do not trespass on private lands.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest / Lake Desolation: The Lake Desolation Road Conservation Easement Tract (Map PDF, 1.58 MB), located in the town of Greenfield, is now open for non-motorized recreational uses including hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, etc. Access is from Lake Desolation Road; roads from the other side are very rough and impassible. The tract can also be accessed by a car-top boat launch at Archer Vly. Camping at Lake Desolation Road Easement Tract is only permitted at designated sites. Two primitive tent sites have been established on Archer Vly. Backcountry camping is permitted but the same rules for state land apply. ATV use is not permitted. No vehicles are permitted past gates or signs. Please respect private property; several inholdings are throughout the property.

Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co

** Lake George Wild Forest (Western): DEC Forest Rangers and others continue searching for 82-year old Thomas E Messick who was last seen on November 15, 2015 in the area of Lily Pond in the town of Horicon. Messick is 5 foot 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds. He is wearing a camouflage jacket, coveralls and a red and black plaid hat. If you have any information, please call the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-897-1300.

Spruce Mountain Trail Opened: DEC and the Adirondack Mountain Club Professional Trail Crew have completed a 1.6-mile trail (3.2 mile round trip) on Spruce Mountain., However, the cab on the fire tower will be closed until further notice. The trail begins at the trailhead at the end of the Spruce Mountain Road and ascends 1,000 feet to the summit of the mountain. The fire tower at the summit has been renovated and rehabilitated by DEC and the Student Conservation Association. The section of the trail just prior to reaching the two acres of forest preserve lands on the summit passes through private lands. An easement allows the public to use the trail but not the nearby lands. The road and trails other than the DEC marked trail that leave the top are on private lands. Do not trespass on private lands. 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.

Chester Challenge Trails Open: More than 20 miles of trails are available in Chester, Northern Warren County, as part of the newly inaugurated Chester Challenge. The Chester Challenge is comprised of 11 newly designated trails that vary from moderate climbs to level terrain. Hikers that visit at least six of the trails can receive a Chester Challenge pin and bragging rights. Learn more here.

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.

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.

Santa Clara, Tupper and Saranac Lakes, St. Regis, Lake Lila

** Saranac Lakes Wild Forest: The Lake Clear Girl Scout Camp Road (aka the St. Germain Pond Road) is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until after the spring mud season.

** Saranac Lakes Chain: The Lower Locks on the Saranac Lakes Chain have closed for the season.

** Kushaqua Tract Conservation Easement Lands: The Mountain Pond Road remains open until there is about six inches of snow on the ground. There is an active logging operation taking place west of the double gates on the North Branch Road. The road is receiving a high use by logging trucks daily and is expected to continue through the winter. Users accessing the Kushaqua Tract using the North Branch Road are advised to exercise caution. Be prepared to encounter logging trucks & equipment and yield to them. Turn on their headlights to be more visible to log truck drivers.

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 closed to public motor vehicle use except for those people with a Motorized Access Program for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD) permit. The road will remain open to MAPPWD permit holders until there is 6 inches or more of snow on the ground. Four wheel drive trucks, SUVs and other high axle vehicles are recommended. The road is closed to other public motor vehicles use until September 2016. Non-motorized use is allowed year-round. The D&H Road remains open to public motor vehicle use. The road will remain open to motor vehicles until there is 6 inches or more of snow on the ground.

Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain: The Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower is closed for the season.

** William C. Whitney Wilderness: The Lake Lila Road is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until after the spring mud season. Hikers, skiers and snowshoers may still use the road to access Lake Lila and Mt. Fredrica. However, the public must stay on the road and not trespass on adjacent lands. DEC’s Whitney Headquarters has shut down for the season. Callers will not be able to leave voice mail messages at the Forest Ranger office number (624-6686).

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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Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at


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