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 7:31 am; sunset at 4:35 pm, providing 9 hours and 1 minutes of sunlight. The Moon will rise Saturday at 6:46 am and set at 4:38 pm. There will be a New Moon on Saturday at 8:30 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 of other trail users and follow a few simple “rules of the road” when sharing the trail with fellow users. When using designated snowmobiles trails, keep to side to allow safe passage of snowmobiles. Snowmobiles should slow down when passing skiers and snowshoers. Snowshoers should stay out of ski tracks and to the side of the trail. Hikers should wear snowshoes when possible and avoid post-holing and bare-booting – which can be dangerous to skiers and other hikers. Respect other trail users.
WINTER CONDITIONS: Although there will be a thaw, with the good possibility of some rain late this weekend, expect to encounter winter conditions in the back-country with snow and ice, blustery winds, and mixed precipitation at all elevations throughout the weekend. A wintry mix will begin late Friday and through Saturday, before changing toward rain and temperatures into the 40s by Sunday. Expect summits to remain near freezing through the weekend. The wettest areas will be in the Southern and Eastern Adirondacks this weekend. Daytime highs will be in the 30s rising to the 40s on Sunday; nighttime lows in the teens and 20s. Expect winds 10 to 15 mph this weekend around the region, higher on Saturday morning when winds could be 35-45 mph along western slopes and summits, with wind chills there in the lower teens.
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: Snowfall in December has been more than a foot below normal in lake-effect areas and higher elevations. Most of the region currently has 4 to 8 inches of snow on the ground with higher amounts in lake effect areas west of Route 28 and above about 2,000 feet. All areas have a frozen crust that should weaken as temperatures warm into the 40s there this weekend. Snowshoes should be worn above Marcy Dam. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 12 inches of snow at the stake (elevation ~ 2750 feet), and a as much as two feet in some spots at higher elevations. Expect a dusting to an inch or two of new snow by noon Saturday, especially in the south-central and southeastern Adirondacks. Rain around the region by Sunday will impact our snow cover, but the most affected areas should be in the eastern and southern Adirondacks.
TRAIL CONDITIONS: Snow depths on trails generally range from 4 to 8 inches at lower elevations with more than a foot near summits and deeper drifts. Snowshoes are recommended to avoid post-holing and required above Marcy Dam in the High Peaks Wilderness where snow depths exceed 8 inches. Carry traction devices and use them when warranted. Expect to find blowdown (fallen trees, limbs and branches) on lesser used secondary trails. Hikes may take longer on unbroken trails, plan accordingly.
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Whiteface and Gore will be open this weekend, with about 35-45 percent of their terrain open, though no slides or glades. Oak Mountain and McCauley will be open with limited terrain. Most municipal hills are open; Big Tupper and Hickory near Warrensburg remain closed. 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, and Garnet Hill in North River are all open, with most all of the terrain open. The best bet this weekend would be to ski Friday, or early Saturday in areas in the western and northern Adirondacks and generally stick to gentler groomed terrain.
BACK COUNTRY SKI REPORT: Recent snow has started to form a base and there has been skiing on most early routes including the Whiteface Toll Road, the Jackrabbit Trail, South Meadow Lane and the Marcy and Hays Brook Truck Trails, the Newcomb Lake Road to Santanoni, the Fern Park trails in Inlet, and the New Land Trust trails in Saranac. Snow is still too thin to generally recommend back country skiing beyond the gentlest terrain at this time, including beyond Marcy Dam. 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 remain the best bets this weekend.
SNOWMOBILING REPORT: Although a few die hards have been out, conditions are poor to fair and so snowmobiling is not yet recommended as there is only a very thin base, thin ice over wet areas, mostly marginal snow cover on trails, and limited grooming. Southern Warren County Trails remain closed as do those in Long Lake. The gates have been opened on DEC snowmobile trails, including those in the Moose River Plains, but trails are in poor condition at this time. If you must ride, try Northern Herkimer and Oneida counties, west of Route 28 for the best snow. Wet weather this weekend is expected to further diminish snowmobiling conditions, although there is a possibility of some lake effect snow early next week.
RIVERS AND STREAMS RISING: Water levels have returned to mostly normal levels for this time of year, although rain falling on frozen ground could lead to significant within bank rises in the southern and southeastern Adirondacks Sunday afternoon if the rain forecast is correct. Until then waters should continue to recede. The following water levels were being reported on Thursday:
Moose River at McKeever – 4.46 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 6.10 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 3.92 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 95.69 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: There is some ice but no ice should be assumed safe. Always check the thickness of ice before traveling across it. 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. Open waters are mostly in the 30s with Lake Champlain about 41 degrees.
LONG RANGE FORECAST: Much colder air will arrive Sunday night and remain through all of next week, possibly setting the stage for significant and long lasting lake effect snow. The first round of lake effect snow will develop Sunday night and Monday. Beginning Tuesday through the rest of the week a series of systems will cross the region and result in oscillating bands of lake effect snow.
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; 13 of the top 14 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 – Newcomb has seen about 10 inches less snow than normal for this time of year. 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.
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
** 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 a foot of snow at the stake (elevation ~ 2750 feet). Two or more feet of snow may be found on the highest summits.
** South Meadow Lane: The Town of North Elba has closed South Meadow Lane for the winter and 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 have reopened, 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 and may not be passable at this time.
Newcomb, Long Lake, Indian Lake, Fulton Chain, Speculator, West Canada Lakes
** Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Gates have been opened for 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. More information about the reroute and maps can be found here.
** 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. 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.
Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co
** Camp Santanoni Historic Area: The 2016 Camp Santanoni Winter Weekends are scheduled for: January 16-18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Weekend); February 13-15 (President’s Day Holiday Weekend); and March 12 and 13, 2016.
** Dacy Clearing Road: Dacy Clearing Road remains open to public motor vehicle traffic from the Hogtown Parking Area to Dacy Clearing.
** Tongue Mountain, Cat and Thomas: There are 3-6 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. Warmer temperatures and rain are expected this weekend, expect trail surfaces to be icy.
** Jabe Pond Road: Jabe Pond Road is closed to motor vehicles until the end of the spring mud season. 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.
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.
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).
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.