This 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 in Lake Placid will be at 7:17 am; sunset at 5:02 pm, providing 9 hours and 45 minutes of sunlight. The Moon will rise Saturday night at 11:49 pm and set at 10:53 am Sunday morning. There will be a Last Quarter Moon on Sunday at 10:28 pm.
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.
TRAIL COURTESY: Skiers, snowshoers, hikers, and snowmobilers should be courteous to other trail users and follow a few simple “rules of the road” when sharing trails. When using designated snowmobiles trails, keep to side to allow safe passage of snowmobiles. Snowmobilers should slow down when passing other users. Snowshoers should stay out of ski tracks and to the side of ski trails. Hikers should wear snowshoes when possible to avoid post-holing and bare-booting – which can be dangerous to skiers and other hikers. Respect other trail users.
WINTER CONDITIONS: Expect winter conditions with ice and snow at all elevations – in some places more than two feet (details below). Friday will see snow showers with accumulations of a dusting to 3 inches possible. Saturday will be mostly cloudy with a chance of light afternoon snow showers in the northern Adirondacks and some lake effect snows into Saturday night. Saturday will see temperatures rising into the 20s and 30s, possible into the 40s in the warmest locations in the south; overnight lows Saturday will be in the teens and lower 20s. Sunday will see continued cloudiness and warming, with snow or rain showers in the morning and highs mostly in the 30s and low 40s – 20s on summits. Winds will be mostly 5 to 10 mph, 15 to 30 on summits. Always expect high winds 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 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 currently has 6 to 10 inches of snow. There is about 3 to 6 inches of snow near Lake George; about 4 to 8 inches in the Eastern Adirondacks; 6 to 10 inches in Newcomb and most of the Northern Adirondacks, including Lake Placid and Tupper Lake; 6 to 8 in Indian Lake; 10 to 14 inches in Hamilton County from about Speculator west; 12 to 16 inches in the lake effect snow areas of Northern Herikmer County, including the Inlet-Old Forge corridor, McKeever and Big Moose. In the High Peaks there is about 6 to 10 inches of snow at most trailheads, with a hard crust underneath with more than two feet above about 3,000 feet (more in some wind blown areas); snowshoes or skis are required above Marcy Dam. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 16 inches of snow at the stake (elevation ~ 2750 feet).
TRAIL CONDITIONS: Expect mixed conditions depending on elevation, location, aspect, current temperatures, including frozen crust early in the weekend. Early morning and mostly through Saturday night, conditions will be icier with a hard base of frozen snow and some new snow on top. By Sunday afternoon expect more spring-like conditions at lower elevations, especially in the southern Adirondacks as temperatures rise into the 40s and as snow begins to soften. Snow depths on trails generally range from 4-8 inches at lower elevations with more than a two feet near summits in drifts. Traction devices will be necessary and snowshoes are required in the High Peaks Wilderness when snow is more than 8 inches deep.
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Dowhill ski conditions at Whiteface and Gore are reported very good, with most of their terrain open, including the Bobcat Glades at Whiteface. Oak Mountain and McCauley have about 60% their terrain open. Municipal hills are open including Mt. Pisgah but Big Tupper and Hickory near Warrensburg remain closed. You can learn about downhill facility improvements for this season in Jeff Farbaniec’s 2015-16 Ski Season Preview
CROSS COUNTRY SKI REPORT: All the regions cross-country facilities have most of their terrain open and are grooming. Best bets this weekend are the areas that got good recent snow, including Lapland Lake near Northville and Garnet Hill in North Creek.
BACK COUNTRY SKI REPORT: Conditions are generally fast, but there is generally good coverage around the region, although care should be taken as some obstacles remain uncovered, especially in steeper sections. Conditions at Hoffman Notch and in Pharaoh Lake Wilderness are only fair, as snow remains thin there. In the Central Adirondacks, there is good coverage on the Whiteface Toll Road, the Connery Pond Ski Trail, the Jackrabbit Trail, South Meadow Lane and the Marcy, Fish Pond, and Hays Brook Truck Trails, the Newcomb Lake Road to Santanoni, and the New Land Trust trails in Saranac. The Avalanche Pass Trail is reported in fair condition (obstacles are still uncovered) and Avalanche Lake, Lake Colden and the Flowed Lands are frozen. Recently skied and reported in fair condition, but still with plenty of obstacles are The Whales Tail, Wright Peak Ski Trail, and the Marcy Trail.
SNOWMOBILING REPORT: Trails around most of the Adirondacks outside the lake effect areas, are mostly in poor to fair condition, with the worst conditions on village trails and popular routes east of the Inlet-Old Forge corridor. Warren County trails remain closed and Eastern Essex County trails can not be recommended. Franklin County Trails are open, including the C7, but remain in poor to fair condition. Trails between Indian Lake and Long Lake, Indian Lake and Newcomb, and Newcomb to Long Lake are all ridable, but bumpy with minimal cover. Indian Lake and northward has ridible snow, though wooded trails remain in poor to fair condition and ice remains dangerously thin for snowmobiles. Portions of the Moose River Plains are reported shot. There is riding to be had at Perkins Clearing, but the best bet remains in the south west Adirondacks, including Inlet, Old Forge, Thendara, Big Moose and McKeever. Beware of ice over water! Stay off lakes! See reports for some specific snowmobile trails below.
RIVERS AND STREAMS HIGHER: Water levels receded some this week, but remain about normal for this time of year, but will begin to rise by Sunday afternoon as warmer temperatures, and the possibility of rain, enter the forecast – waters could be considerably higher by Wednesday. The following water levels were being reported on Thursday:
Moose River at McKeever – 4.40 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 5.48 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 3.68 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 95.51 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.
ICE ON WATERS: Most waters are now iced over, although larger lakes such as Sacandaga, Lake George, Schroon Lake and Lake Champlain still have large open areas. Additional warming could make some ice dangerous this weekend. Always check the thickness of ice before crossing and frequently while traveling. Avoid ice over running water, near inlets, outlets, near boathouses and docks – especially those with bubblers or other ice prevention devices. Ice with snow on the surface, may not hold a person’s weight.
LONG RANGE FORECAST: The Arctic Oscillation (AO) is expected to become positive this week and that will bring milder temperatures, as the polar vortex relaxes and artic air retreats. Expect a warming trend early in the week with temperatures reaching into the upper 30s and 40s – some unsettled weather, along with some associated snow or rain is possible by mid-week. A negative AO is expected to return in a week to 10 days and in return most of February and into March is expected to see a return of cold weather.
CLIMATE: Snowfall in December was more than a foot below normal in lake-effect areas and higher elevations. 2015 was the warmest year ever recorded; 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average and 10 of 12 months set records; 15 of the top 16 warmest years on record have happened this century. Rich Lake in Newcomb experienced the latest ice-in date on record when it finally iced over on January 4th. The US Drought Monitor is reporting that all but the southeast part of the Adirondack Park is ABNORMALLY DRY.
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.
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.
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
** Snowshoes Required: Snowshoes are required above Marcy Dam, and wherever snow depth exceeds 8 inches in the High Peaks Wilderness.
** Deep Snow: The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 16 inches of snow at the stake (elevation ~ 2750 feet). Two or more feet of snow may be found in drifts on summits.
** South Meadow Lane / Marcy truck Trail: The Town of North Elba has closed South Meadow Lane for the winter and it is now skiable, along with the Marcy Truck Trail. 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 last 3 miles of the road are closed to public motor vehicle traffic for the winter and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. The gate at the Raquette Falls Trailhead is closed. The town of Harrietstown plows the road to the bridge over Stoney Creek, it prohibits parking in the area around the bridge and the half mile of road prior to the bridge. Skiers and snowshoers should park at the first pull-off after the end of the pavement and hike the remainder of the plowed road on foot. Skiers and snowshoers will need to travel road three miles to reach the Seward Trailhead. Logging operations will continue through the winter at Ampersand Park. Watch and listen for logging trucks, move to the side to allow trucks to pass safely.
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 has been flooded by beaver activity just north of the junction with the Northville-Placid Trail. There is no reroute around the water and ice may be thin.
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 skiing and snowshoeing. 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 are open, however the gate at Clear Pond will remains close. This will add four miles to any round trip hike – plan accordingly.
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.
Newcomb, Long Lake, Indian Lake, Fulton Chain, Speculator, West Canada Lakes
** Sargent Ponds Wild Forest: Snowmobilers traveling between Raquette Lake and Forked Lake in the Sargent Ponds Wild Forest must use a new route instead of the traditional route. Snowmobiles can no longer travel on the Raquette Lake Canoe Carry Trail between Outlet Bay of Raquette Lake and North Point Road. Instead snowmobilers must use the designated snowmobile trail between Outlet Bay and the North Point Road which is located 1.2 miles west of the Raquette Lake Canoe Carry and 1.6 miles of North Point Road between the designated snowmobile trail and the Forked Lake Canoe Carry Road. (See attached map) The Forked Lake Canoe Carry Road between North Point Road and Forked Lake remains open to snowmobiles. The Raquette Lake Canoe Carry Trail is on a private driveway and a private road for which DEC has a deeded right of way for non-motorized public passage. The past use of the canoe carry trail by snowmobiles was illegal but not reported as the seasonal homes in the area were not used by their owners in the winter. One or more of the houses in the immediate area are now occupied year round and the owners found snowmobile use of the canoe carry trail disruptive. DEC and the Town of Long Lake agreed that the snowmobiles should not be using the canoe carry trail and are now directing snowmobilers to use the designated snowmobile trail and North Point Road as described above.
** Fourth Lake: The Adirondack Ice Bowl Pond Hockey Festival will be held this weekend, January 29-30, on Fourth Lake in Inlet.
** Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Gates are open for the Moose River Plain Snowmobile Trail System. The roads remain closed to public motor vehicle use until after the spring mud season.
** Jessup River Wild Forest: The Fawn Snowmobile Trail is open, the problems with the flooded bridge has been addressed. The Cedar River Snowmobile Trail connecting Indian Lake and the Moose River Plains is open. Currently snowmobile trail conditions range from fair to good.
** Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Easements: Gates have been opened on many of the Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Snowmobile Trail System and conditions are good. The road system is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until after the spring mud season.
** Snowmobile Connectors Open: Trails between Indian lake and Long Lake, Indian Lake and Newcomb, and Newcomb to Long Lake are all ridable.
** O’Neill Flow Road: O’Neill Flow Road is open to snowmobiles.
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.
** 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.
Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co
** Camp Santanoni Historic Area: Camp Santanoni 2016 Winter Weekends are scheduled for February 13-15 (President’s Day Holiday Weekend) and March 12 and 13, 2016. Learn more about these unique opportunities here.
** Eastern Lake George Wild Forest: Dacy Clearing Road and its gates are open to snowmobiles. Shelving Rock Road beyond Dacy Clearing Road is closed to snowmobiles until snows deepen.
** Tongue Mountain, Cat and Thomas: There are 4-8 inches of snow on the Tongue Mountain Trail System and the Cat and Thomas Mountains Trail System. Snowshoes are not necessary, but spikes or other traction devices are recommended. Expect trail surfaces to be icy.
** Jabe Pond Road: Jabe Pond Road remains closed. When snow depths warrant the road will be opened to snowmobiles.
** Gay & Lily Ponds: Gay Pond and Lily Pond Roads remain open to public motor vehicle use at this time. Be cautious the roads are rough. The use of four wheel drive trucks, SUVs or other high axle vehicles is recommended. When snow depths warrant the roads will be closed to motor vehicles and opened to snowmobiles.
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.
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.
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.
** Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: Some snowmobile trails and associated gates are open. Currently snowmobile trail conditions range from poor to good. Old Liberty Road is open and groomed from Loon Lake to the Goldsmith Road. Wolf Pond Mountain Road, which connects Old Liberty Road to Wolf Pond Road in the north, is open and groomed. Logging operations are ongoing in the Wolf Pond Road area east of the Wolf Pond Mountain Road’s intersection with the Wolf Pond Road. Snowmobilers may encounter plowed roads and log trucks and should exercise caution when traveling on the Wolf Pond Road in the Standish area.
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).
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety webpage and Adirondack Trail Information webpage for more information about where you intend to travel. Check the Adirondack Almanack Outdoor Conditions Reports each Thursday afternoon. A map of the Adirondack Park can be found here.
The NYS 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 help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.