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 7:32 am; sunset at 4:27 pm, providing 8 hours and 55 minutes of sunlight. The Moon will rise at 8:54 am Saturday and set at 7:05 pm; it will be Waxing Crescent, 6% illuminated.
WINTER CONDITIONS: Winter conditions are the rule in the Adirondacks with nighttime temperatures well below freezing, and daytime temperatures this weekend mostly in the 20s and 30s. Expect colder temperatures and wind chills on summits from -15 to -25 Friday and in the single digits Saturday and Sunday. About 4 to 8 inches of fresh snow fell Thursday, and there is deep snow across most of the region, with an additional 1 to 4 inches expected Saturday. Expect trails to be a combination of ice and snow, with deep snow at higher elevations. Traction devices and snowshoes or skis are recommended. Follow local weather reports closely and be prepared for a variety of conditions. Rain is expected Monday-Tuesday.
SNOWSHOES OR SKIS REQUIRED: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness and strongly encouraged wherever snow depths exceed eight inches. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (leaving deep footprints in the snow), avoid injuries, and ease travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY: A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 1 am Friday for the entire Adirondack region, including the Champlain and Saint Lawrence valleys. Expect 4 to 8 inches of snow in the Southern Adirondacks, 3 to 6 inches in the Northern Adirondacks, and 2 to 5 inches in the Champlain and Saint Lawrence valleys.
LAKE EFFECT SNOW WARNING: Lake Effect Snow Warning is in effect through 10 pm Friday for Jefferson and Lewis counties. Greatest snow amounts will be focused across the higher terrain of the Tug Hill Plateau and the Western Adirondacks. In the Western Adirondacks expect 3 to 7 inches and an additional 3 to 6 inches in most persistent lake effect snow bands. In Lewis and Jefferson counties expect 4 to 8 inches Thursday night, 4 to 6 inches Friday, and another inch or so Friday evening producing storm totals of 9 to 15 inches in the most persistent lake snow areas. Winds will be from the west, 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph producing blowing and drifting snow.
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 well below freezing temperatures in an emergency. 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 DEPTH: Most of the region picked up 4 to 6 inches Thursday, with an additional 1 to 3 inches of snow is expected Saturday. There is currently (on Thursday) about 6-12 inches on the ground across most of the region at lower elevations; about two feet of snow at the Lake Colden Caretaker’s Cabin (2,775 feet); and more than three feet above about 3,500 feet.
Snow depths reported Thursday – expect these amounts to increase 4 to 8 inches by Saturday:
Tupper Lake – 5 inches
Saranac Lake – 10 inches
Lake Placid – 11 inches
Keene Valley – 2 inches
Lake Colden – 24 inches (2,775 feet)
Newcomb – 10 inches
Indian Lake – 8 inches
Speculator – 10 inches
Inlet – 12 inches
Old Forge – 10 inches
Northville – 10 inches
Chestertown – 5 inches
Warrensburg – 5 inches
North Creek – 5 inches
Forestport – 18 inches
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: With fresh snow on the ground, downhill conditions this weekend will be excellent. Whiteface and Gore will have about 50% of their terrain open this weekend (including the Forever Wild Glades at Gore; no glades or slides at Whiteface); Titus is reporting about 90% of their trails open. Oak Mountain, near Speculator is reporting about half of their trails open, as is McCauley near Old Forge. Hickory near Warrensburg remains closed. Big Tupper has announced that it’s unlikely they will open this season.
CROSS-COUNTRY / BACK COUNTRY SKI CONDITIONS: Although popular trails are well-packed, frozen and crusty with several inches of fresh powder on top. Ski conditions a very good across the Adirondacks on smoother terrain, although care should be still be taken on the steeper terrain, as some obstacles may not be fully covered. The Connery Pond – Whiteface Landing Trail is reported in excellent condition. All cross-country facilities are open and grooming with excellent conditions. In the High Peaks, Most trails in the High Peaks are in good to excellent condition and should improve with the forecast snow. South Meadow Lane and the Marcy Truck Trail are in excellent condition; the Mr Van and Avalanche Pass Trails is in good condition. There are several feet of snow above 3,000 feet and Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake are being crossed; use caution near inlets and outlets. Ski conditions for the central Adirondacks may be updated Friday here.
SNOWMOBILE REPORT: Stay off lakes – ice is not safe for snowmobiles! Conditions remain good 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 Moose River Plains is in good condition. Elsewhere there is a base developing, but a few wet spots remain, and trails are generally thin and icy. The Webb and Inlet trail systems are in good condition with about five inches of base. The trails out of Indian Lake, and in Newcomb, Long Lake, and east of Raquette Lake and in Northern Warren County are ridable, but remain bony, with some wet spots – more snow is needed there before they can be generally 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.
DROUGHT MONITOR: 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.
ICE ON WATERS: Most smaller lakes and ponds are iced over, and the bays of larger waterbodies are beginning to ice over. Ice fishing season has begun on smaller lakes – although use extreme caution on lake ice. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.
South Bay, Lake Champlain – 5 inches
Lake George – bays are beginning to freeze
Brant Lake – 4 inches
Loon Lake – 5 inches
Schroon Lake- beginning to freeze
*Great Sacandaga Lake – 8 inches
*Mirror Lake – 6 inches
Lake Colby – 6 inches
Lake Eaton – 6 inches
RIVERS AND STREAMS ABOVE NORMAL: Rivers and streams around the Adirondacks are above normal levels for this time of year, and the waters in the High Peaks are high enough to make crossings more difficult. 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 – 5.07 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 6.29 feet
Ausable River at AuSable Forks – 2.36 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 4.34 feet
Schroon River at Riverbank (Route 11) – 2.35 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 94.81 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
** Snowshoes Or Skis Required: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (leaving deep footprints in the snow), avoid injuries, and ease travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
** Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake: Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake are being crossed; use caution near inlets and outlets.
** 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. Respect other users and do not bare-boot / post-hole.
** Adirondack Loj Info Center: The Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) remains closed for renovations but is expected to reopen in the next week or two. 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.
** Corey’s Road: Corey’s Road is reported to be very icy and nearly impassable. The town of Harrietstown does not plow the road beyond the bridge over Stony Creek. Plan accordingly. Do not park in the snowplow turnarounds.
** 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 are open 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.
** 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 lower gate on the Gulf Brook Road near the Blue Ridge Road is closed and lock. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season. The Gulf Brook Road is not plowed. 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
** Blue Mountain Wild Forest/Township 19 Tract & Township 20 Tract Easement Lands: Gates are closed and public motor vehicle use is prohibited on O’Neil Flow, Pickwickett Pond, and Minerva Club Roads.
** Moose River Plains: The Limekiln Lake Gate and the Cedar River Gate are open for snowmobiling. Conditions in the Moose River Plains are good.
** Essex Chain Lakes: Gates have been closed and locked. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited on all seasonal access roads until the end of the spring mud season. The Cornell Road is a designated snowmobile trail. The gates will be reopened once there is enough snow.
** Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower: The Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower is closed to the public through December 20th.
** Perkins Clearing: Gates have been opened on snowmobile trails. Public motor vehicle use of the road system is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season.
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 Spruce Mountain Trail is open for public use. The cab of the Spruce Mountain Fire Tower is closed for the season as is the cab of the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower and the Hadley Mountain Observer’s Cabin.
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
** Ferries Closed For Season: 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; and from Plattsburgh to Grand Isle.
** Dacy Clearing Road – Lake George Wild Forest: Dacy Clearing Road is currently open but contains snow and ice. It is recommended that only 4 wheel drive vehicles with good tires use the road at this time.
** 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: The main gate next to the parking area and register box on the North Branch Road is closed and locked. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited on Hunter’s Camp Road and Mountain Pond Road until the end of spring mud season.
** Madawaska Road – Santa Clara Tract Easement: Gates on Madawaska Road and Pinnacle Road will remain open through the weekend. The roads are passable to high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles. The gates will be closed and locked on Monday at which time public motor vehicle use is prohibited on the roads until the end of the spring mud season.
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. Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower on Big Moose Tract Easement is being renovated and is not open to the public. The fire tower and access trail will be open later in summer 2016. Summer public access on the Big Moose Tract Easement is restricted to the fire tower trail which will open later this summer.
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.
** William C. Whitney Wilderness & Round Lake Wilderness: Whitney Headquarters, including the Forest Ranger’s office is closed for the winter. Contact the Forest Ranger at 518-505-4151.
** Lake Lila Road: The gate has been closed and locked on the Lake Lila Road. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season. The public can hike, snowshoe, and ski on the road but is prohibited from trespassing on adjacent private lands.
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.