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 6:25 am; sunset at 5:50 pm, providing 11 hours and 25 minutes of sunlight. The Moon will rise Saturday night at 10:36 pm and set at 9:25 am Sunday. Saturday’s moon will be Waning Crescent with 15% of its visible portion illuminated. There will be a New Moon on Wednesday and consequently dark skies through the coming week to view the Milky Way, which is high in the sky. On March 9th, the New Moon will totally eclipse the sun (the totality will be visible across Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean).
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: Trail conditions remain extremely icy and traction devices are highly recommended. There is still deep snow at higher elevations and waters remain high. Cold temperatures Friday, with highs in the teens and 20s will persist into a clear and cold Friday night (near zero to near 20). Saturday will slowly begin a warming trend that will eventually bring temperatures into the 30s on Sunday, with increased cloud cover. Saturday highs will be in the upper 20s to mid 30s, with lows near the teens Saturday night.
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 periphery of the Adirondack park now has bare ground. Toward the interior of the park, at 1,000-1,500 feet there is about 4-6 inches of patchy snow in the woods, with open areas mostly bare ground. There is about 6 to 10 inches of snow on the ground at about 2,500 feet, with about 18 inches at Lake Colden (about 2,700) and 2-3 feet on and near summits in the High Peaks. Expect a light covering of new snow Friday morning in the High Peaks. Much warmer air will move in early next week and will eventually bring humidity higher as temperatures reach into the 50s and possibly 60s by Wednesday, possibly with some rain.
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Downhill conditions everywhere are fast, and may be icy in places – use caution. A return to cold temperatures have keep snow-makers busy – expect machine groomed frozen granular surfaces. Whiteface and Gore still have most of their terrain open, though no slides or glades. Oak Mountain and McCauley remain open as well, with more limited terrain. Hickory near Warrensburg and Big Tupper did not open this season.
CROSS COUNTRY SKI REPORT: There is some public skiing on machine made snow at the Lake Placid Ski Jumps, but other cross-country ski facilities have closed their trails.
BACK COUNTRY SKI REPORT: Backcountry conditions are marginal and icy and limited to the smoothest, sheltered, higher terrain. The first mile of South Meadow Lane is bare and the Marcy Dam Truck Trail is thin and icy, but skiing conditions are better in at higher elevations. The Newcomb Lake Road is skiable and has a 4 to 8 inch frozen granular base and the OK Slip Falls Trail is also reported skiable. The Mountaineer Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival has been canceled for this weekend fir the first time in its history, due to inadequate snow cover; the Lake Placid Nordic Festival and Loppet was cancelled, as was the Avalanche Pass Key-Swap Ski.
SNOWMOBILING REPORT: Snowmobiling in the Adirondacks can no longer be recommended. Do not ride on closed trails. DEC, with agreement from the towns of Indian Lake and Inlet, has closed the gates on the Moose River Plains Snowmobile Trail System as of March 1.
RIVERS AND STREAMS HIGH: Rivers and streams remain well above normal for this time of year, which will make some stream crossings more difficult:
Moose River at McKeever – 4.48 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 7.29 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 4.54 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 97.42 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 iced over but have varied conditions due to the unusually warm winter, recent heavy rains, and several thaws and refreezes this winter. Many waters still have open areas or large areas of very thin ice – so use extreme caution. 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.
CLIMATE: February 2016 has broken global temperature records and it 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 is on track to be one of the warmest on record, following what have now been the hottest 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 this century.
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
** 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 skiable, but icy and thin; conditions are only marginally better above Marcy Dam.
** Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake: Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake are frozen but rough from rain, snow, and thaws.
** Coreys Road: Coreys Road is very 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. 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.
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
** Moose River Plains: DEC, with agreement from the towns of Indian Lake and Inlet, has closed the gates on the Moose River Plains Snowmobile Trail System as of March 1. The lack of snow has made the trails dangerous to ride and damage to the roads and trails has been observed in places snowmobiles have recently been driven.
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: The road to Camp Santanoni is skiable, though icy in spots. The next Camp Santanoni 2016 Winter Weekend open house is planned for March 12 and 13, 2016. Learn more about these unique opportunities here.
Lake George Wild Forest (Western): The gate on Long Pond Trail is closed.
Jabe Pond Road: Jabe Pond Road remains closed.
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.
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.
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.