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 7:09 am; sunset at 5:12 pm, providing 10 hours and 3 minutes of sunlight. We’re in a time of dark nights, with little moonlight; there will be a New Moon on Monday. The Moon will rise Saturday morning at 5:23 am and set at 3:23 pm Sunday afternoon. The Moon will be Waning Crescent with 5% of the Moon visible portion illuminated.
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.
WINTER CONDITIONS: After a considerable thaw, cold weather will return beginning Friday. Expect very icy winter conditions, higher waters, and a chance of snow showers throughout the weekend and at all elevations. A partly sunny weekend mostly in the 20s 30s is in the forecasts, with nighttime lows in the lower 20s and teens in the coldest areas. Beginning Saturday afternoon, and continuing through Sunday morning, there expect snow showers – especially in the western Adirondacks and in the northern Adirondacks, where temperatures will be a bit colder as well; nearer to 20. Accumulations could range from a dusting to a few inches. Winds will be mostly 5 to 10 mph, 10 to 20 at higher elevations, though 10-15 on Saturday. 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: Considerable rain this week destroyed most of the snow pack except in the southwestern Adirondacks where there remains about 8 to 12 inches in lake effect areas. Elsewhere there are large pockets of bare ground in open areas, and about 3 to 6 inches of patchy snow at lower elevations in the woods. From 1,000 to about 2,500 feet expect about 6 to 10 inches of snow. There is 14 inches of snow at Lake Colden (2,750 feet) with 18 or more inches of snow on the summits.
TRAIL CONDITIONS: Trails will turn very icy with the return of below freezing temperatures after the recent warm weather and rain. The use of crampons or spikes is strongly encouraged. Snowshoes will be needed off trail, lesser used trails, and in some soft spots on higher-use trails. Snowshoes should be carried on all hikes planned for above 3,000 feet or if you plan to hike off trail, and worn when required to prevent post-holing. The use of snowshoes prevents injuries, eases travel through snow, and avoids “post-holing”. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
LONG RANGE FORECAST: A large mass of cold air will descend into the Eastern United States along with an Alberta Clipper system that may provide some snow (perhaps 1-3 inches in the valleys, 4 to 8 inches at higher elevations) by mid-week to help rebuild the snowpack. As a result, Presidents Day Weekend is expected to be considerably colder, with highs only in the lower 20s. However, models are showing a return to warm, possibly warm enough to get the sap flowing, by the weekend of the 20th.
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Whiteface and Gore remain open and colder weather in the forecast will boost their snow-making. Oak Mountain and McCauley also remain open with limited terrain. Municipal hills are open, but Big Tupper and Hickory near Warrensburg remain closed. On Wednesday, Big Tupper announced that they will not open this season.
CROSS COUNTRY SKI REPORT: Trails at Tupper Lake, Paul Smiths, Dewey, Cascade, Mt. Van Hoevenberg and Garnet Hill are all closed. There is limited terrain open at Lapland Lake, but you should call ahead to be sure (518) 863-4974.
BACK COUNTRY SKI REPORT: Backcountry skiing can no longer be recommended. DEC is reporting that skiing conditions in the High Peaks are “poor or non-existent.”
SNOWMOBILING REPORT: No snowmobiling can be recommended at this time and although the Webb and Inlet trail systems are open, they are marginal and no grooming is possible. Most other trails are officially closed – do not ride on closed trails. Beware of ice over water! Stay off lakes!
RIVERS AND STREAMS HIGHER: As a result of the warmer weather and snowmelt, rivers and streams rose considerably Wednesday and Thursday to well above normal levels for this time of year, but stayed within bankfull, and should begin to very slowly recede this weekend and through at least Wednesday next week. The following water levels were being reported on Thursday afternoon:
Moose River at McKeever – 5.54 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 6.06 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 4.20 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 95.93 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 remain iced over, but many remain dangerously thin, or covered in water and slush, after extended record warmth, rains, and wind. Larger lakes such as Sacandaga, Lake George, Schroon Lake and Lake Champlain still have large open areas. The average date that Lake Champlain freezes over is February 5, but it seems unlikely that will occur this year. 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.
CLIMATE: Burlington had daily high temperature records on Wednesday and Thursday (54 degrees both days). This has been an “unprecedented warm winter” according to the National Weather Service, with Burlington having set five new record highs from December 1st through Thursday. January snowfall was 6 to 12 inches below normal for most of the Adirondacks, and 12 to 18 inches below normal for the Southeastern Adirondacks. Snowfall in December was more than a foot below normal in lake-effect areas and higher elevations. Rich Lake in Newcomb experienced the latest ice-in date on record when it finally iced over on January 4th. 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. 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.
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: 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 wherever snow depth exceeds 8 inches in the High Peaks Wilderness.
** Deep Snow: The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 14 inches of snow at the stake (elevation ~ 2750 feet)and about 18 inches on and near summits.
** South Meadow Lane / Marcy truck Trail: South Meadow Lane is in poor condition for skiing as is the Marcy Truck 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.
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.
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.
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. Currently there is thin and icy conditions on the Newcomb Lake Road.
** Lake George Wild Forest (Western): The gate on Long Pond Trail is closed, it will be reopened for snowmobiles when snow depths warrant.
** 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.
**Dacy Clearing Road: Dacy Clearing Road has little to no snow and is icy.
** Shelving Rock Road: Shelving Rock Road beyond Dacy Clearing Road is closed to snowmobiles until snows deepen.
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.
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.