Thursday, December 3, 2015

Outdoor Conditions in the Adirondacks (Dec 3)

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 7:15 am; sunset at 4:17 pm. On Saturday the Moon will rise at 1:20 am and set at 1:25 pm; it will be Waning Crescent with 28% of its visible disk illuminated.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

ENTER THE BACKCOUNTRY 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 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.

COLD WEATHER: Expect 1 to 3 inches of snow tonight into mid-day Friday in the Central Adirondacks and at higher elevations before the clouds move out and it turns warmer and drier this weekend. Expect high temperatures in the upper 40s to near 50 Saturday and Sunday; colder on summits, where winds 15 to 30 mph will produce wind chill temperatures near zero Saturday morning. Nighttime lows will be in the 20s this weekend. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods in temperatures below freezing. The long-range forecast is calling for dry and warm conditions in the 40s this week, with the next chance of precipitation next weekend.

TRAIL CONDITIONS: After recent rain and snow showers, especially in the Northern and Western Adirondacks, trails are wet and muddy and may contain snow and/or ice, particularly in the morning and in higher elevations – pack traction devices. Summit bedrock, rocks, logs, bog bridging and bridges may be wet and/or icy. Wear waterproof footwear and gaiters, walk through – not around – mud and water on trails to avoid further eroding trails.

BLOWDOWN: Due to recent heavy winds in the Adirondacks over the past several weeks expect to find blowdown (fallen trees, limbs and branches) on lesser used secondary trails. Hikes may take longer, plan accordingly.

SNOW COVER REPORT: It’s been an unusually warm year fall without any major snowfalls. It has been the warmest November in the U.S. in 14 years and despite being the wettest in 11 years, national snowfall is 23% below average. While there will be an inch or two around in a few spots around the region this weekend, there is not enough snow for snowshoeing or cross country skiing. We’ll need to see considerably more snow before there is natural snow skiing or snowmobiling in the Adirondacks, although downhill facilities with the largest snow-making operations – Gore and Whiteface – are already open. The long-range forecast is calling for dry and warm conditions in the 40s this week, with the next chance of precipitation next weekend. So it could be near the end of December before we see any significant snow this year. We’ve been experiencing El Nino conditions; arctic air remains far to our north and storms are tracking more to our north than is typical for this time of year.

DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Whiteface and Gore are open; no other mountains are open. Whiteface Ski Area opened for the season last Thursday morning on mostly machine made snow with six trails; they have since added Essex and Lower Northway. Gore Mountain open for the season last Friday with the Showcase trail serviced by Adirondack Express II. They have since added 2B and Arena. Oak Mountain, near Speculator is hoping to open December 11, but warm weather this week may delay that date. Oak will host a snowmobile hill climb on Saturday. There is no report from McCauley Ski Area in Old Forge, or from Titus, but they are unlikely to open this weekend. West Mountain in Queensbury will be unveiling their new “West Express” triple chair lift with a ribbon cutting ceremony on at 4:30 pm (no skiing yet). You can learn more about downhill facility improvements and plans for the upcoming season in Jeff Farbaniec’s 2015-16 Ski Season Preview

SEASONAL ACCESS ROADS: Due to the lack of snow, most seasonal access roads will 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.

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 remains 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: Water levels rose slightly this week but remain about normal for this time of year. The following water levels were being reported on Thursday:

Moose River at McKeever – 4.90 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 5.18 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 4.66 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 94.79 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 lower 30s, and some skim ice is forming overnight. 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:

Lake Champlain is about 47 degrees
Upper Hudson River near the High Peaks is about 34 degrees
Arbutus Lake in Newcomb is about 36 degrees

DEC BOAT LAUNCH DOCKS REMOVED: The state’s boat launch docks have been removed. All DEC launches remain open to the public after docks are removed. For details about DEC’s boat launches, 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, 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 users in the Adirondacks. All food, toiletries and garbage should be stored in bear-resistant canisters. The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness until November 30.

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.

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

** 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 at the Loj Road. Vehicles may park there for access to the Mt. VanHovenberg Trail, the Marcy Truck Trail and the Klondike Trail.

Whiteface Memorial Highway: The Whiteface memorial Highway is closed for the season. In October someone skied some first tracks up high, but the snow has melted.

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 remain closed through the weekend for the regular big game hunting season. The trails will reopen for public use on Monday, December 7, 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.

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

** Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The Moose River Plains 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.

** 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 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. The road will be closed for the winter when there is an accumulation of snow on the ground.

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: The Barker Pond Road is open and motor vehicles may access the Barker Pond Parking Area. Use caution a the road remains rough and muddy where it had been previously flooded. Four wheel drive trucks, SUVs and other high axle vehicles are recommended. The road will be closed for the winter when there is an accumulation of snow on the ground.

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 – Camp Six Road Closing: 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) by motor vehicle will close on Monday, December 7. Four wheel drive, high clearance vehicles strongly recommended.

** Essex Chain – Outer Gooley Gate: The gate at the Outer Gooley Parking Area allowing access to 1.5 additional miles of the Chain Lakes Road South (accessed from Indian Lake via Route 28) by motor vehicle will close on Monday, December 7. Four wheel drive, high clearance vehicles strongly recommended.

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 will reopen to the summit on Monday, December 7, however, 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.

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

** Lake George Wild Forest (Western): DEC Forest Rangers and others are still 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 was last seen 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. 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 and is open to the public. 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 easement agreement with the landowner also calls for closure of that portion of the trail during the regular big game hunting season. The upper section of the trail will be closed beginning Saturday, October 24 through Sunday, December 6. During the trail closure the Fire Tower will not be accessible. Hunters and others may still use the trail to access the state lands east of the trail. The full length of the trail and the fire tower will once again be accessible to the public beginning Monday, December 7 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.

Prospect Mountain Memorial Highway Now Closed. The Prospect Mountain Memorial Highway is now closed for the season. The footpath up Prospect Mountain remains open.

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.

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, DEc. 7. Four wheel drive trucks, SUVs and other high axle vehicles are recommended.

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

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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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Stories written under the Almanack's Editorial Staff byline are drawn from press releases and other notices.

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