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 7:21 am; sunset at 4:17 pm, providing 8 hours and 56 minutes of sunlight. The Moon will rise at 2:15 pm Saturday and set at 4:04 am, Sunday; it will be Waxing Gibbous, 84% illuminated. There will be a Full Moon on Tuesday.
WINTER CONDITIONS: Expect trails to be a combination of ice and sometimes deep snow, especially at higher elevations and in the Western Adirondacks. Traction devices are recommended and those headed to summits will need snowshoes. Wind chill temperatures on summits will be near -20 Friday and Saturday, and in single digits below zero Sunday. Snow showers Thursday and Thursday night could leave 4 to 8 inches of snow across the higher terrain of the High Peaks by Friday morning, along with as much as a foot through late Friday in persistent lake effect snow areas north of Old Forge and Route 28 and West of Raquette Lake in Western Hamilton, Northern Herkimer, Lewis and Jefferson counties. Winds Thursday through Saturday are expected to be 10 to 15 mph hour, with gusts to 20-25. Friday and Friday Night is expected to be mostly cloudy with scattered snow showers in the Mountains. Daytime highs Friday will be in the 20s to near 30; nighttime lows in the single digits. Saturday will see more sun, but still a few clouds, and scattered snow showers in the mountains and highs only in the mid-20s. Saturday night lows are expected to be in the single digits. More clouds will move in Sunday with a chance of snow, especially in the Southern and Western Adirondacks. Monday through Wednesday could see several inches of snow or ice and freezing rain, depending on how far the system tracks to our south.
SNOW DEPTH: This weekend expect to see about 3-5 inches on the ground across Southeastern and Eastern Adirondacks, including Eastern Essex and into the Keene Valley, along with Warren and Eastern Hamilton counties. Expect 6 to 10 inches at lower elevations in the Central Adirondacks. There is about two feet of snow at the Lake Colden Caretaker’s Cabin (2,775 feet) and higher elevations in the High Peaks and Northern Adirondacks are expected to have 1 to 2 feet, as much as 3 feet in some locations. In addition to the lake effect snows to the west outlined above, higher elevations areas in the High Peaks could see as much as 3 to 6 inches of new snow by Saturday afternoon. Snow accumulation of 8 to 12 inches is expected across Northern Herkimer County, with the highest amounts from Route 28 and Old Forge northward. Some isolated areas could see more than a foot. Snow accumulation of 8 to 12 inches is expected in Western Hamilton County, especially west of Raquette Lake and North of Route 28.
Snow depths recorded Thursday – expect these amounts to increase:
Saranac Lake – 4 inches
Wilmington – 8 inches
Lake Placid – 6 inches
Keene Valley – 2 inches
Newcomb – 5 inches
Lake Colden – 23 inches
Indian Lake – 4 inches
Inlet – 8 inches
Hinkley Reservoir – 4 inches
Forestport – 8 inches
Olmsteadville – 3 inches
Warrensburg – 2 inches
North Creek – 1 inch
BE PREPARED! Always carry proper safety equipment – including plenty of food, water, extra clothing, a flashlight, and a map and compass – inform someone of your itinerary, and be prepared to spend an unplanned night in freezing temperatures in an emergency. On waters, wear a pfd. 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.
HUNTING SEASON Hunting seasons are open. Hikers should wear bright colors and keep pets leashed as a precaution.
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Downhill conditions improved this week with an additional nearly two feet of snow falling at Whiteface, which will have good conditions and a variety of terrain open this weekend. Considerably less snow fell at Gore Mountain near North Creek, but they also have good conditions on more than a half dozen trails of varying ability. Titus is now reporting about half of their terrain open. Oak Mountain, near Speculator will open Saturday. McCauley near Old Forge has postponed their planned opening until early next week. Hickory near Warrensburg remains closed. Big Tupper has announced that it’s unlikely they will open this season.
CROSS-COUNTRY / BACK COUNTRY SKI CONDITIONS: Ski conditions are excellent in and around the Central and Western Adirondacks, although care should be taken on the steeps, as some obstacles may not be fully covered. The Whiteface Mountain Highway is being skied, as are the Connery Pond, Hayes Brook, and Fish Pond Trails. Most smoother terrain, golf courses, and access roads around the Central Adirondacks are skiabl along with Mount Van Houvenberg, and the Cascade Ski Area. The Jackrabbitt Trail from Keene to Cascade is not recommended; from Cascade to Lake Placid Village, including the Pennisula Trails, the trail is reported in excellent condition; the route from between Saranac Lake and Whiteface Inn Road is not yet recommended and Dewey Mountain has thin cover. Paul Smith’s VIC will have at least some skiing this weekend, and the Cranberry Pond Loop at Tupper Lake is skiable. The New Land Trust Trails and those at Fern Park near Inlet have thin cover, but are skiable. Lapland Lake will be open this weekend, but there is no report from Garnet Hill. Additional ski conditions are expected to be reported Friday here.
SNOWMOBILE REPORT: There will be good riding this weekend in Northern Herkimer County, especially from Route 28 and Old Forge northward and in Western Hamilton County, especially west of Raquette Lake and North of Route 28 towards Big Moose and Stillwater. The Webb and Inlet trail systems are open, but call ahead to see if they got the forecast amount of snow. Northern Warren County Trails are not yet recommended; Southern Warren County Trails remain closed. Do not ride on closed trails.
AVOID CAVES WHERE BATS ARE PRESENT: DEC is urging the suspension of cave and mine sites that may serve as homes for bat hibernations at this time of year. Human disturbances are harmful to the State’s bat population since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than 90 percent of bats at most hibernation sites in New York. All posted notices restricting the use of caves and mines should be followed. You encounter hibernating bats while underground at unposted sites, leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible. 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.
FIRE DANGER LOW: The fire danger is LOW. The U.S. Drought Monitor is reporting that the eastern half of the Adirondack Park is in a Long Term Moderate Drought (greater than six months), while the western half of the Adirondack Park is Abnormally Dry.
WATERS ABOUT NORMAL: Most waters are beginning to ice over, or have iced over – although no ice should be considered safe. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person. Rivers and streams around the Adirondacks have returned to about normal levels for this time of year. Before heading out check the streamgages on the USGS website for waters where you intend to recreate. The following stream gage readings were observed on Thursday afternoon.
Moose River at McKeever – 3.76 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 6.85 feet
Ausable River at AuSable Forks – 1.75 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 3.77 feet
Schroon River at Riverbank (Route 11) – 2.53 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 94.44 feet
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.
KEEP DOGS LEASHED: 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 for the safety of your dog, the protection of wildlife and rare plants, and out of 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. Take the free online Leave No Trace course here.
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, Newcomb, Essex Chain
** South Meadow Lane: The lane is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the end of spring mud season. Vehicles may park at the barrier at the intersection with the Adirondak Loj Road but should not block the opening to ensure emergency vehicles may access the lane.
** Adirondack Loj Info Center: The Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) is closed through late December for renovations. Parking will not effected, but the flush toilets and shower facilities at the HPIC will not be available (Port-a-Johns will be available). The HPIC is operating 8 am to 4 pm daily out of a heated tent. Micro-spike and snowshoe rentals will be available along with information and some retail merchandise.
** Lake Arnold/Feldspar Brook Trail: The trail is flooded and the bog bridging cannot be crossed. Alternate routes using other trails in the area can be used to avoid the trail. DEC is working to find a permanent solution to this section of trail in the near future.
** Elk Lake Trails: The trails from the Elk Lake Trailhead through the privately-owned Elk Lake Easement Lands to High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix Mountain Wilderness have reopened, but the Elk Lake Road is closed to public motor vehicle access beyond the Clear Pond Gate. The public may park in the parking area at the Clear Pond Gate and hike, ski, or snowshoe two miles to Elk Lake Trailhead.
Ouluska Brook Bridge: The bridge over Ouluska Brook on the Northville-Placid Trail has collapsed into the brook. Due to low water conditions crossing the brook is still possible.
Garden Trailhead Parking Area: The town of Keene operates the Garden Parking Area and charges a $7/day fee for parking. The attendant is no longer present at the parking area. Hikers should use an envelope and the collection slot to pay.
Cold River Bridge: Some boards are broken on the suspension bridge over the Cold River on the Northville-Placid Trail. Use caution when crossing.
Northville-Placid Trail: The Northville Placid Trail has rerouted around a beaver pond south of Plumley’s Point on the shores of Long Lake. The reroute passes the beaver pond higher up the slope and eliminates having to cross the beaver dam and the wet feet obtained when the water levels were high. Follow the Blue NPT trail markers.
** Route 73 Bridge Work Ended For Season: Bridge work on several bridges in Keene and Keene Valley has mostly ended for the season.
** Whiteface Landing Trail: Construction occurring on the State Route 86 Bridge over the West Branch Ausable River about three miles northeast of Lake Placid has limited parking near the bridge. Those accessing Whiteface Landing are discouraged from using the parking areas near the bridge.
** Boreas Ponds Tract: The Gulf Brook Road is not plowed. The road and the three interior parking lots will not be plowed this winter. The five exterior parking lots along Blue Ridge Road and Elk Lake Road will be plowed.
Long Lake, Indian Lake, Fulton Chain, Speculator, West Canada Lakes
** Moose River Plains: The Limekiln Lake Gate and the Cedar River Gate are closed and public motor vehicle use on the Moose River Plains Road System is prohibited. The gates will be reopened for snowmobiling when there is enough snow on the ground.
** Essex Chain Lakes: The additional 1.5 miles of the Chain Lakes Road South (accessed from Indian Lake) and 1.0 mile of the Camp Six Road (accessed from Newcomb) which opened to motor vehicles for hunting season has now been closed.
** Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower: The Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower is closed to the public through December 20th.
Black River Wild forest: The third bridge on the Otter Lake – Brandy Lake Trail (approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead on State Route 28) has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge and the trail on either side of it are under nearly two feet of water.
Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: East Pond-Lost Creek Trail has been cleared of blowdown and vegetation has been cut back. Blackfoot Pond Trail off of the East-Pond Lost Creek Trail remains rough, grown in and may contain blowdown. The trail is difficult to follow at times. The sign at the junction of the trails is missing, the turn off to Blackfoot Pond is not readily marked or noticeable. DEC will be replace the sign soon.
East Stony Creek Trail: Hikers using the East Stony Creek Trail must park at the new trailhead parking area on Hope Falls Road and walk the 0.4 mile on the road to reach the East Stony Creek Trailhead. It is 5.1 miles from the new trailhead to Wilcox Lake and 6.0 miles from the new trailhead to the Harrisburg Road.
Tenant Creek Falls: A new trail has been built to Tenant Creek Falls from a new trailhead parking area on Hope Falls Road, 0.4 mile before the old trailhead. The old trail across private land is now closed. Hikers must use the new trail to Tenant Creek Falls and not trespass on private lands. The new trail is 0.9 mile from the new trailhead to the first falls, it is 2.1 miles to the second and third falls. The trail was constructed by an Adirondack Mountain Club Volunteer High School Group under DEC contract and direction. An ADA accessible outhouse at the new trailhead was constructed by DEC Northville Operations
Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: The cab of the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower and the Hadley Mountain Observer’s Cabin are closed for the season. Volunteers from the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower Committee maintain the trail and undertake minor maintenance projects on the fire tower and the observer’s cabin. The Committee also provides a summer summit steward to do maintenance work, monitor the trails and structures, and educate the public. Hikers may still climb the stairs of the Fire Tower.
Round Pond Snowmobile Trail: A section of the Round Pond Snowmobile Trail has been rerouted so that it no longer crosses Round Pond.
Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co
** Lake Champlain Ferry Service: The Lake Champlain Ferry is reporting that its crossing from Essex to Charlotte will be closed from January 9 – 21 for work on the Essex dock. The Fort Ticonderoga Ferry between Shoreham, Vermont and Ticonderoga and the Port Kent to Burlington Ferry have ended their seasons. Champlain crossings are available at the Champlain bridge, or the ferries from Essex to Charlotte (with the exception of January 9-21, see above); and from Plattsburgh to Grand Isle.
Gay Pond Road – Lake George Wild Forest: Gay Pond Road is open, but the road is heavily rutted from illegal use by four-wheel drive vehicles during the snowmobile season. Only high clearance vehicles should be used to traverse the road and even those should be used with caution.
Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: Barnes Pond Road is open to public motor vehicle use, including access to the six designated primitive campsites along the road. The six designated campsites are marked with “Camp Here” discs and have privies, fire rings, and picnic tables. The campsites are scheduled for routine maintenance, but are in useable condition. Camping is permitted at designated sites only. A new parking area has been built off Franklin County Route 26 (aka Old Route 99) north of Loon Lake which provides access to the northern portion of the Plumadore-Inman Public Use Area. A 0.4-mile foot trail follows an old skid road east from the parking area, through a log landing, and continues on to access the banks of Plumadore Brook – a trout stream. The stream bank access point also provides scenic views of the Loon Lake Mountain Range to the west
Santa Clara, Tupper and Saranac Lakes, St. Regis, Lake Lila
** Loon Lake Mountain Trail: Lyme Adirondack Forest Company, the private landowner of the Kushaqua Tract Conservation Easement, is conducting a timber harvest in the area of the Loon Lake Mountain Trail in accordance with their rights to forest management. DEC has closed public use of the trail and the easement lands in the area around the trail for public safety purposes until timber harvesting operations are completed on December 30, 2016.
Saranac Locks: The Lower Locks on the Saranac Lakes Chain are closed until Spring 2017. Boats upstream of the locks can be removed from the water at the Second Pond Boat Launch along State Route 3. Boats downstream of the locks can be removed from the water at the Lake Flower Boat Launch in Saranac Lake.
Kushaqua Tract Easement: 2.3 miles of Hunter’s Camp Road is newly open for public motor vehicle use. The road provides public access to the southern-most reaches of the tract for outdoor recreation. A designated parking area has been constructed at the end of section of road. A newly opened 115-foot path to a dock on the upper reaches of the North Branch of the Saranac River provides access for non-motorized watercraft to this trout stream. The path is located off the southern shoulder of the North Branch Road approximately 460 feet west of the North Branch Road Parking Area near intersection of Mountain Pond Road.
Madawaska Road -Santa Clara Tract Easement: Madawaska Road to Madawaska Pond from State Route 458 is once again open to public use by motor vehicle and bicycles. The road provides access to Madwaska Pond, Quebec Brook and the thousands of acres of surrounding forest preserve and conservation easement lands. The entrance to the road is on the south side of State Route 458, 1.25 miles west of the intersection with State Route 30. Currently, there is no sign to identify the road.
Black River Wild Forest: The bridge across the inlet to Little Woodhull Lake on the Little Woodhull Lake Trail is out. The stream may not be passable in times of high water. The third bridge on the Otter Lake – Brandy Lake Trail (approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead on State Route 28) has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge and the trail on either side of it are under nearly two feet of water. Nick’s Lake Outlet Trail to Remsen Falls may be rough and grown in. Nelson Lake Loop Trail has several blowdown trees. The gate at the end of the Wolf Lake Landing Road has been vandalized. Motor vehicle access beyond the gate is prohibited except by permit. Bear Lake Trail is wet and muddy for the first mile from the trailhead on Wolf Lake Landing Road. Chubb Pond Trail east from the new bridge over Gull Lake outlet is muddy to Buck Pond. Most blowdown has been cleared from the first two miles of Twin Lakes Trail from the Farr Road, the trail is in poor shape beyond to the marsh.
Fulton Chain Wild Forest: Safford Pond Trail is flooded by beaver activity near the Safford Pond Inlet. The Scenic Mountain (aka Vista) Trail contains several blown downs.
Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: Brown’s Tract Trail has been flooded by beavers between Tamarack lake and Bare Mountain, the trail is difficult to traverse. A culvert is washed out on the Big Otter Lake East Trail near Indian Brook. Also Big Otter Lake East Trail is flooded at South Inlet Flow but the trail remains passable. Moose River Mountain Trail has heavy blow down and is difficult to follow at times. Middle Settlement Lake Trail is flooded due to beaver activity between the Cedar Pond Trail and Middle Settlement Lake. East Pond-Lost Creek Trail between East Pond and the Big Otter Lake East Trail is rough, grown in and may contain blowdown. The trail is difficult to follow at times.
Independence River Wild Forest: Big Otter Lake Road is in very poor condition. Only 4 wheel drive trucks, SUVs or other high clearance vehicles should attempt to use the road. Little Otter Lake Road is wet, muddy, and thickly vegetated. Only 4 wheel drive trucks, SUVs or other high clearance vehicles should attempt to use the road. DEC plans to make improvements in November 2016. The southern half of McCarthy Road is rocky and muddy in some places. Only 4 wheel drive trucks, SUVs or other high clearance vehicles should attempt to use the road. Florence Pond Road south of Little Otter Creek has some mud holes. Only 4 wheel drive trucks, SUVs or other high clearance vehicles should attempt to use the road. Access to Catspaw Lake Road and Catspaw Lake should be done from the Van Arnum Road not the Patridgeville Road as the road is wet and rutted on that side. There is a mud hole on the east end of the Mt. Tom Trail (old route of both snowmobile and foot trails) near intersect with Silvermine Dam Trail/10 mile Crossing Road.
Otter Creek Horse Trail System: The Otter Creek Assembly Area is open for use but the water has been turned off for the season. Some horses will not cross the bridge over Otter Creek on Erie Canal Trail – they may ford the stream parallel to the bridge. The foot trail to Old Hotel campsite along the west side of Big Otter Lake is rutted from illegal vehicle use.
Pigeon Lake Wilderness: Approximately half of the Twitchell Lake Trail (7.5 miles to Beaver River Station) at the Twitchell Lake end has been cleared of blowdown. The bridge crossing over the Oswego Pond Outlet on the Twitchell Lake Trail has washed out. An old beaver den can be used to cross the outlet. Cascade Lake Trail is wet and very muddy on the north-west section of the trail around Cascade Lake. Be alert of trail reroutes. Chub Lake Trail between Constable Pond and Queer Lake Trail is rough and grown in.
Watson’s East: Bear Pond Road is open to public motor vehicle access as are all designated seasonal access road on the Croghan Tract and Oswegatchie Tract Easements. Access to the Oswegatchie Tract Easement via the Bryant Bridge Road is limited to those paddling on the easement lands. All others should use the Bald Mountain Road.
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.