Thursday, December 31, 2015

Outdoor Conditions in the Adirondacks (Dec 31)

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 7:32 am; sunset at 4:28 pm, providing 9 hours and 8 minutes of sunlight. On Saturday the Moon will rise at 12:06 am and set at 11:54 am. On Saturday night there will be a Last Quarter Moon with 25% of its visible disk illuminated.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

LAKE EFFECT SNOW WARNING: Starting tonight there is a strong potential for significant lake effect snow downwind of Lake Ontario, including portions of the Western and South Western Adirondacks. The amount of snow will be dependent on the length of time and positions snow bands take as they are expected to oscillate significantly. At this time exact amounts and locations for the heaviest snow is still uncertain – however, Northern Herkimer and Oneida counties, and Lewis County will receive the most snow, including at Big Moose, Eagle Bay, McKeever and Old forge – as much as 12 to 16 inches by Saturday in the northern part of the warning area, and 6 to 10 inches by Saturday evening toward the south. Expect very dangerous travel conditions from heavy snow, near zero visibility at times, and some blowing and drifting snow. The Tug Hill region could see as much as two feet of snow.

WINTER CONDITIONS: Winter has finally arrived in the Adirondacks and snow and ice should be expected at all elevations throughout the weekend. Expect scattered snow showers with occasional localized snow squalls, sometimes limited visibility, icy roads throughout the weekend, but generally light snow accumulation – 1 to 3 inches – each day this weekend outside the lake effect areas and higher elevations of the High Peaks, where snow depths will be somewhat higher (see lake effect warning above and snow cover report below). Daytime highs will be in the 20s to near freezing; nighttime lows in the teens to lower 20s. Expect winds 10 to 15 mph hour this weekend around the region; 20 to 35 mph on summits, with wind chills in the single digits below zero.

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 in temperatures well below freezing. 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.

SNOW COVER: Most of the region has 4 to 8 inches of snow on the ground already and the entire region should expect an additional 3 to 6 inches of snow by Sunday. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 8 inches of snow at the stake (elevation ~ 2750 feet). Snow depths on trails in the High Peaks generally range from 6 to 10 inches. There will be considerably more snow in the lake effect areas of the Western and Southwestern Adirondacks, especially on Friday. Just to the west of the Adirondack Park in Lowville east to Old Forge can expect a foot of snow on the ground by Sunday evening; Indian Lake and areas to the north could see about 6 to 10 inches on the ground by Sunday, more under the ends of lake effect snow bands.

TRAIL CONDITIONS: Snow depths on trails generally range from 6 to 10 inches, with deeper drifts at higher elevations. Snowshoes are not generally required, but snowshoes and traction devices should be carried and used when warranted. Exposed Summit bedrock, rocks, logs, bog bridging and bridges will be icy. Expect to find blowdown (fallen trees, limbs and branches) on lesser used secondary trails. Hikes may take longer, plan accordingly.

DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Snowguns will be running around the region tonight and through the weekend. Whiteface and Gore will be open this weekend, with about 15-20 percent of their terrain open. Oak Mountain will be open with limited terrain, and McCauley near old forge will open Sunday. Titus is also open, with about 15 trails. Many of the small town hills are open, or will be open this weekend. You can learn more about downhill facility improvements for this season in Jeff Farbaniec’s 2015-16 Ski Season Preview

CROSS COUNTRY SKI REPORT: The Tupper Lake trails between the Country Club and Big Tupper Ski Area, Paul’s Smith VIC, Dewey Mountain, Cascade and Mt. Van Hoevenberg, Lapland Lake, the Inlet trails, Garnet Hill in North River, and local golf courses all have some skiable terrain, and should be in much better shape by Sunday morning. The best bet this weekend would be to the west on Sunday, including Lapland Lake and Inlet’s Fern Park Trails.

BACK COUNTRY SKI REPORT: While recent snow has started to form a base and there has been skiing on the Whiteface Toll Road, the Peninsula section of the Jackrabbit Trail, and the Truck Trail to Marcy Dam, it’s still too early to generally recommend back country skiing at this time except gentler terrain in the Western Adirondacks. No ice is safe to cross at this time including Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake. Snow is thin and roots, rocks and other obstacles are not covered. The McKeever Truck Trail in the Black River Wild Forest, or the Pine Lake, Big Otter Lake, or Middle Settlement Lake Trails in the Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness off Route 28, West of the Fulton Chain would be the best bets this weekend.

SNOWMOBILING REPORT: Although a few die hards have been out, snowmobiling is not yet recommended as there is no base, plenty of unfrozen wet spots, many areas of marginal cover, and grooming is not yet possible. Gates have been opened on many of the Moose River Plain Snowmobile Trail System, but trails are in poor condition at this time. By Sunday, there should be good some ridable terrain in Northern Herkimer and Oneida counties, west of Route 28.

SEASONAL ROADS: Most seasonal roads have now been closed.

RIVERS AND STREAMS RISING: Water levels are mostly well above normal for this time of year, although colder temperatures will allow for the rivers and streams to slowly recede through the weekend to nearer normal levels. The following water levels were being reported on Thursday:

Moose River at McKeever – 4.27 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 6.79 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 4.79 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 95.78 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. Remember stream gage readings at this time of year can be affected by snow and ice.

WATER TEMPERATURES / ICE ON WATERS: There is almost no ice and what ice there is is not safe. Snow covered ice will not hold the weight of a person at this time. Ice will be continuing to form overnight in smaller ponds, bays and backwaters at higher elevations this weekend, however. Open waters are mostly in the 30s with Lake Champlain about 43 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.

CLIMATE: 2015 is the warmest year ever recorded. Thirteen of the top 14 warmest years on the books have happened this century.

WINTER 46ers: Hikes at this time of year are eligible for Winter 46 status. Winter Solstice marks the date when prospective Winter 46ers can begin hiking the 46. The winter 46er period is from December 21 to March 21.

HUNTING SEASON UNDERWAY: Small game and waterfowl hunting seasons are open 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.

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 off the Loj Road. Vehicles may park there to access the trail to Mt. VanHovenberg, the Marcy Truck Trail, and the Klondike Trail.

** Coreys Road: The southern end of Corey’s Road is closed to public motor vehicle traffic due to logging operations at Ampersand Park. The gate at the Raquette Falls Trailhead is closed. Do not pass through the gate if it is unlocked, you may be locked in behind the gate when you attempt to leave. Hikers, snowshoers and skiers will need to travel on the road three miles to reach the Seward Trailhead. Watch and listen for logging trucks, move to the side to allow trucks to pass safely. This portion of the road will remain closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the spring mud season ends.

** Connery Pond Road – McKenzie Mountain Wilderness: The Connery Pond Road is closed to public motor vehicle traffic. The road will reopen to motor vehicles once the spring mud season ends.

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.

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

** Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Gates have been opened on many of the Moose River Plain Snowmobile Trail System. Currently snowmobile trail conditions range from poor to fair. The roads remain closed to public motor vehicle use until after the spring mud season.

** Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Easements: Gates have been opened on many of the Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Snowmobile Trail System, but conditions are poor. The road system is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until after the spring mud season.

** O’Neill Flow Road: 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: The Minerva Club Road, off State Route 28N between Long Lake and Newcomb has been closed until after mud season.

** Barker Pond Road: Barker Pond Road is closed to public motor vehicle access until after mud season.

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: All seasonal access roads in the Essex Chain are closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the spring mud season ends, including Cornell Road, Chain Lakes Road North and Drakes Mill Road, Camp Six Road, and Chain Lakes Road South. The Town of Indian Lake only plows the Chain Lakes Road to the Rafter’s Parking Area.

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.

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

** Eastern Lake George Wild Forest: Dacy Clearing Road remains open to public motor vehicle traffic from the Hogtown Parking Area to Dacy Clearing.

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.

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.

NORTHERN-NORTHWESTERN ADIRONDACKS
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 is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the spring mud season ends.

** Franklin County Snowmobile Trail System: Gates have been opened on the Franklin County Snowmobile Trail System. Currently snowmobile trail conditions range from poor to fair.

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: The D&H Road is closed to public motor vehicle use. The road will reopen to motor vehicle use once the spring mud season ends. Barnes Pond Road is closed to all public motor vehicle use. The road will reopen to motor vehicle use for those people with a Motorized Access Program for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD) permit once the spring mud season ends. It will reopen to all public motor vehicles in September 2016. Non-motorized use is allowed year-round.

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

Lake Lila Road – 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).
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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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