Thursday, February 2, 2017

Excellent Ski Conditions; Bitter Cold On Summits This Weekend

CompassThis 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 7:10 am; sunset at 5:10 pm, providing 10 hours of sunlight. There will be a First Quarter Moon on Friday. On Saturday, the Moon will rise at 11:30 am and set at 1:55 am Sunday; it will be Waxing Gibbous, 56% illuminated.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

WINTER WEATHER The entire Adirondack Region picked-up at least a few inches of additional snow this week, on top of heavier snow that arrived last weekend. There is deep snow at higher elevations, especially on Northern and Western slopes above about 1,500 feet, with the possibility of continued light snow throughout the weekend. It will be colder, with daytime highs in the teens to lower 20s and nighttime lows this weekend near zero. Summit windchills this weekend will be in the teens to near 30 below zero. Unsettled weather is expected to return around Wednesday, possibly producing some additional snow.

TRAIL AND SUMMIT CONDITIONS: Conditions at the trailhead will be dramatically different than those above about 2,000 feet. At lower elevations expect trails there to be icy with a light covering of new snow (wear traction devices). Be prepared to encounter deep snow above about 2,000 feet, with 4 to 6 feet of total snow pack at higher elevations and off trail. Summit temperatures are expected to be mostly near zero this weekend, with 30-40 mph winds Friday and Saturday that will bring wind chills down to the teens to near 30 below zero. Summit winds will be 20-30 mph Sunday, with wind chills near -10.

TRACTION DEVICES NEEDED: Lower elevation trailheads and trails, and drainages, may be icy. The ice may be covered by a layer of snow in some locations. Summits, exposed bedrock and other open areas may have considerable ice. Traction devices/foot spikes may be necessary on lower elevations trails and crampons may be necessary on and near summits. Carry both and use when conditions warrant.

SNOWSHOES OR SKIS REQUIRED: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness and strongly encouraged wherever snow depths exceed eight inches – currently most of the Adirondack Park (see snow depths below). 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.

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: Much of the Adirondack Park picked up several inches of new snow this week and some light snow is expected this weekend. There is currently (on Thursday afternoon) about 12-18 inches on the ground across most of the Adirondacks; with 8-12 inches in the Southeastern Adirondacks; there is 38 inches at the Lake Colden Caretaker’s Cabin (2,775 feet); 30 inches at the Whiteface Mountain snow stake (4,400 feet) and five feet or more at higher elevations and summits.

Approximate snow depths reported early Thursday:

*Tupper Lake – 11 inches
*Gabriels – 10 inches
* Paul Smiths – 13 inches
Saranac Lake – 12
*Keene Valley (1,966 Ft) – 13 inches
*Lake Placid (1,890 Ft) – 18 inches
*Wilmington (2,020 Ft) – 14 inches
*Whiteface Mtn (4,400 Ft) – 30 inches
Lake Colden (2,775 Ft) – 38 inches
* Newcomb – 14 inches
*Olmsteadville – 18 inches
*Indian Lake – 18 inches
Raquette Lake – no report (send snow depth reports to adkalmanack@gmail.com)
*Northville – 8 inches
* Inlet – 20 inches
* Old Forge – 19 inches
*Chestertown – 8 inches
*Warrensburg – 8 inches
*North Creek – 8 inches

DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: With recent snow this week and daily fresh snowfall expected this weekend, conditions at downhill ski areas will continue to be excellent. Whiteface will have about 95% of their terrain open this weekend (including their glades and possibly some slides – see their uphill policy); Gore is expected to be operating with about 90% of their trails (also plenty of glades open there).  Conditions have improved at Titus, and most of the mountain will be open this weekend, including a few glades. McCauley near Old Forge will nearly all of their trails open this weekend, as will Oak Mountain near Speculator. Hickory and Big Tupper remain closed.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKI CONDITIONS: All cross-country ski facilities will be open and grooming with outstanding conditions this weekend. The trails at Dewey Mountain have improved, although there are some spots on the upper mountain that remain thin. Elsewhere around the Adirondack Park conditions will be excellent this weekend.

BACK-COUNTRY SKI CONDITIONS: Back-country ski conditions around the Park improved again this week, although a few thin areas remain, mostly east of Hamilton County, in Warren County, and in Eastern Essex County. In those areas, as well as into the Keene Valley and west of Paul Smiths, some obstacles remain uncovered, cover is thinner, and trails, especially steeps, may be somewhat icy. Elsewhere conditions this weekend range from very good to excellent and most popular trails have been tracked; some drainages remain open (though cross-able). This could be the best weekend so far of the season. More detailed ski conditions for the Eastern High Peaks, Tri-Lakes, and Paul Smith’s areas may be updated more recently here.

SNOWMOBILE REPORT: Most snowmobile trails west and north of Warren County, including the Webb and Inlet trails systems, and along popular trails and village trails, are in good to very good shape, although a few wet areas and icy spots remain. The best conditions remain north and west of Route 28 in the Big Moose – Stillwater area, where there is deep snow and excellent conditions. Conditions in the northern and western Adirondacks, including in St. Lawrence County, have improved to good. Northern Warren County trails have opened, but the base is thin and conditions poor; Southern Warren County trails are even thinner and not recommended. Do not ride on closed trails. A new route is being built in North Hudson, across from the Frontier Town property through the Yogi Bear Campground and out to Johnson Pond Road, but the trails in Schroon Lake and North Hudson remain in fair to poor condition

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 Abnormally Dry warning has been lifted for the western half of the Adirondack Park.

ICE ON WATERS: Aside from larger lakes such as Lake George, Lake Champlain, and Schroon Lake, the region’s lakes and ponds are iced over. Some lakes have dangerously thin areas, that were open water last week, but do not now appear any different from surrounding thicker ice. Check the depth of ice frequently as you cross and use extra caution near channels, inlets, outlets, pressure ridges, and bubblers. Remember, ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.

RIVERS AND STREAMS: Rivers and streams around the Adirondacks are mostly just above normal levels for this time of year. Waters around the region are high enough to make some crossings more difficult, but not generally impassable. 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 Wednesday afternoon. Stream gage readings may be affected by ice.

Moose River at McKeever – 5.38 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 5.92 feet
Ausable River at AuSable Forks – 2.01 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 3.98 feet
Schroon River at Riverbank (Route 11) – 2.68 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 95.13 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. Trails designated as Ski Trails can only be used by people wearing skis. Snowshoeing or walking on Ski Trails is prohibited. 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 on this traditional ski route.

** Adirondack Loj Info Center: The Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) has extended its closure for renovations into early February. 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 open to the summer gate, however 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 has ended on the State Route 86 Bridge over the West Branch Ausable River about three miles northeast of Lake Placid.

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.

CENTRAL-SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS
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 fair.

Seventh Lake Mountain Snowmobile Trail: Seventh Lake Mountain Snowmobile Trail is very muddy.

** Wakely Mountain Fire Tower: Wakely Mountain Fire Tower has been found to be structurally unsound and has been closed to the public until further notice.

Essex Chain Lakes: The portion of the Cornell Road that is a designated snowmobile trail is open to snowmobiles.

Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower: The Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower has reopened.

Perkins Clearing: The south entrance of Perkins Clearing Road is open and plowed to Mud Lake Road for log trucks and other vehicles and equipment related to ongoing logging operations. Snowmobilers can access Perkins Clearing from the south entrance via a trail bypass on the west side of the road.

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.

EASTERN-SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS
Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co

** Great Camp Santanoni Open Houses: The second Winter Weekend at Great Camp Santanoni in Newcomb will take place President’s Day holiday weekend, February 18-20. The third and final open house will take place the weekend of March 18-19. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers will have access to the restored 19th-century great camp. The 10-mile round trip on gently rolling terrain will take you past the Santanoni Farm and through the Forest Preserve on a wide, old road (no vehicle access). Visitors can Walk through the Main Lodge, boathouse and other buildings and volunteers from Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) will lead tours and talk about the history, design, and family life at the state-owned historic site. Visitors may warm up by the wood stove in the Artist’s Studio on the shores of Newcomb Lake, and enjoy complimentary hot beverages (please, bring your own cup). Camp Santanoni Winter Weekends are free.

** 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.

Lake George Village Boat Launch: The Lake George Boat Launch on Beach Road remains open to use by boaters. DEC does not plow the main parking area to protect the porous pavement. When snow depths increase or ice forms on the lake the gate will be shut and the launch will be closed. Ice anglers and others will be able to access the ice on the lake by parking in the auxiliary parking area on the south side of Beach Road. DEC will put up temporary fencing to create a path with packed snow from the parking area to the lake. Snowmobiles are prohibited in the main parking area outside of the fenced path as they will damage the porous pavement. Boaters, anglers, and others seeking to access the lake can call the DEC Warrensburg office at 518 623-1200 to learn whether the gate is open or closed.

** Dacy Clearing Road – Lake George Wild Forest: Dacy Clearing Road is closed to motor vehicle traffic until the end of the spring mud season. The road is a designated snowmobile trail (S49E) but remains closed to snowmobiles until conditions improve.

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.

Siamese Ponds Wilderness: Two foot bridges have collapsed. The 55-foot bridge over the East Branch Sacandaga River on the Botheration Pond Loop Trail has collapsed and cannot be crossed. Do not attempt to scramble over it. During low water, rock hopping is possible. A 30-foot bridge on the Puffer Pond Trail over a tributary to the Thirteenth Lake south of the lake collapsed earlier this year and cannot be crossed.

Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: A logging operation is using the C7 Snowmobile Trail (D&H) during the week.

** New North Hudson Snowmobile Trail: A new route is being built in North Hudson, across from the Frontier Town property through the Yogi Bear Campground and out to Johnson Pond Road.

WESTERN-NORTHERN-NORTHWESTERN ADIRONDACKS
Santa Clara, Tupper and Saranac Lakes, St. Regis, Lake Lila

Loon Lake Mountain Trail: The Loon Lake Mountain Trail has reopened for public use.

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 are closed until the end of the spring mud season.

Independence River Wild Forest: A temporary bridge as been installed over Fourth Creek on the C8 Snowmobile Corridor in Three Lakes Conservation Easement in Herkimer County.

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.

Stillwater Mountain: Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower and the trail to the summit of Stillwater Mountain are open for public use.

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.

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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.


Editorial Staff

Stories under the Almanack’s Editorial Staff byline come from press releases and other notices.

To have your news noticed here at the Almanack contact our editor John Warren at adkalmanack@gmail.com.




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