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 7:00 am; sunset at 7:08 pm, providing 12 hours and 8 minutes of sunlight. The Moon will rise Saturday at 3:36 pm and set at 5:34 am Sunday. Saturday night’s moon will be Waxing Gibbous, 87% illuminated. There will be a Full Moon on Wednesday at 8:01 am. Sunday, March 20th will be the First Day of Spring (Spring Equinox).
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 carefully before entering the backcountry and always carry a map and compass – and know how to use them.
WINTER CONDITIONS: Winter conditions remain at higher elevations, and trails everywhere in the central Adirondacks remain very icy and traction devices are highly recommended. Trailheads and lower elevation trails are muddy or a mix of mud and ice. Friday is expected to be much colder, with a highs near 30-35, and windy. There will be snow showers in the northern Adirondacks and at higher elevations which could leave an inch or two on the ground, and mixed precipitation or rain showers in the southern Adirondacks through Friday night. Friday expect winds 10 to 15 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Saturday will be mostly sunny but cold, with highs in the teens and 20 at higher elevations, near 30 elsewhere, and near and below zero in the mountains by early Sunday morning. Clouds will begin to move in Sunday afternoon, but it will be warmer with highs in the mid-30s to near 40; upper-20s on summits. Next week, temperatures are expected to remain in the 30s Monday (with strong winds) and Tuesday, 40s on Wednesday, and lower 50s on Thursday.
HIGHER WATERS: Waters remain very cold, with some icing at night expected this weekend, and some stream crossing may be difficult or impassable. Warmer temperatures over the past week has contributed to well above normal rivers and streams in the Central Adirondacks, including in the High Peaks where there remains 1 to 2 inches of water in the snowpack, and along major stem rivers. The following stream gage readings were observed on Thursday afternoon:
Moose River at McKeever – 4.91 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 7.98 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 5.77 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 97.68 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.
PROTECT TRAILS AT THIS TIME OF YEAR: Walk on ice and through mud and water on trails. Do not walk around ice, mud or water as it erodes trails and damages vegetation along the trails. On summits, stay on durable surfaces and avoid trampling sensitive vegetation.
WEAR SNOWSHOES: Hikers planning to hike in the higher elevations above 3,000 feet should bring snowshoes and wear them when warranted to prevent post-holing. The use of snowshoes also prevents injuries and eases travel. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
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 for the first two weeks of March has been about 6-9 inches below normal, and except at higher elevations, only spotty patches of snow remain on the ground. The lower elevation areas of the Adirondack Park have bare ground, but above about 2,500 feet there remains snow and thick ice that may require crampons and ice axes. Expect to encounter a light covering of new snow Friday and Saturday morning. Significant snow will remain for several more weeks at higher elevations.
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Whiteface and Gore remain open. A return of very cold weather will keep surfaces fast and icy in places – use caution. McCauley Mountain was closed this week, but is hoping to open for one last weekend, but call ahead at (315) 369-3225. All other downhill ski areas, including Titus, have closed for the season.
CROSS COUNTRY SKI REPORT: Mt Van Hoevenberg may have a few loops open this weekend to the public, but call ahead at (518) 523-2811. All other cross-country ski facilities have closed their trails, including the Paul Smith’s VIC, the trails at the Lake Placid Ski Jumps, and Lapland Lake.
BACK COUNTRY SKI REPORT: Backcountry skiing can no longer be recommended. If you are headed to the Great Camp Santanoni Open House this weekend in Newcomb, there is about 3-4 inches of very wet snow on the road now. It’s going to be cold Friday night, so bring your skis, but have a back-up plan as well.
SNOWMOBILING REPORT: Snowmobiling in the Adirondacks has ended. All snowmobile trails have closed for the season due to lack of snow. Do not ride on closed trails.
ICE ON WATERS: No ice on water is safe.
SEASONAL ROADS: Seasonal access roads, even those not opened to snowmobiling this winter due to the lack of snow, are closed during the spring mud season. DEC will reopen the roads once any needed maintenance is completed and the roads are dry enough to safely handle motor vehicle traffic. Motor vehicle use during the spring mud season damages roads and results in road opening delays.
PFDs REQUIRED: There is some open water on larger lakes, but water temperatures are near freezing and cold water protection is advised. A person falling into the water could quickly lose the ability to keep their head above water. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required to be worn by all people in watercraft less than 21 feet in length between November 1st and May 1st.
CLIMATE: Record high temperatures were set on March 9, as well as earliest recorded 70 degree temperatures. The high of 81 in Albany was the earliest 80 degree day on record and broke the old record of 68, set in 2000 – it was 40 degrees above the normal March 9 high. Glens Falls reached 77 degrees, breaking the 2002 record of 64, it was the earliest 70 degree day on record. Bolton Landing hit 75 and Newcomb’s high temperature on March 9th was 63. It was the warmest winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) in the lower-48 states on record. February 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded globally, and was 3 to 5 degrees warmer than average in the Adirondacks. Although there was higher than average precipitation in the Adirondacks during February 2016, most of that precipitation fell as rain. As a result, the U.S. Drought Monitor is no longer reporting the Adirondacks as Abnormally Dry. This winter was the warmest on record, following what have now been the hottest December, January and February on record globally. Locally, February snowfall was 9 to 16 inches below normal in the Western Adirondacks, and 3 to 6 inches below average in the High Peaks and Eastern Adirondacks. There has been two to three feet less snowfall than normal in the Adirondacks. 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 since 1999.
WINTER 46ers: Aspiring Winter 46ers have this and two more weekends for hikes that qualify for Winter 46 status. 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
** Don’t Ride Muddy Trails: The Barkeater Trail Alliance is asking the public to avoid riding on mountain bike trails in the BETA region until further notice, including the Hardy Road, Flume, Poor Man’s Downhill, and Lussi Trails, the Craig Wood Golf Course, Dewey Mountain Recreation Area and Mt. Pisgah. Riding in soft, muddy conditions can damage single track trails and create additional work in trail maintenance for volunteers. Please ride responsibly.
** Crow’s Clearing Trailhead / Hurricane Primitive Area: O’Toole’s Lane in Keene, which accesses the Crow’s Clearing Trailhead (the northern access to Hurricane Mountain) is covered with ice and remains closed to motor vehicles beyond the snowplow turn around until the ice melts.
** Snowshoes Required: Snowshoes are required wherever snow depth exceeds 8 inches in the High Peaks Wilderness.
** South Meadow Lane / Marcy truck Trail: South Meadow Lane and the Marcy Truck trail are no longer skiable, skiing is not recommended above Marcy Dam.
Coreys Road: Coreys Road is icy. 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 and sands the road to the bridge over Stoney Creek, but prohibits parking in the area around the bridge and the half mile of road prior to the bridge. Hikers should park at the first pull-off after the end of the pavement and hike the remainder of the plowed road on foot; you 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.
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.
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.
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
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: Skiing can no longer be recommended on the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni.
Lake George Wild Forest (Western): The gate on Long Pond Trail is closed.
Santa Clara, Tupper and Saranac Lakes, St. Regis, Lake Lila
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.