Thursday, December 21, 2017

Snow, Rain, Ice: Current Adirondack Outdoor Conditions (Dec 21)

CompassThis weekly report of outdoor recreation conditions in the Adirondacks is compiled each Thursday afternoon.

Contribute Your Knowledge: Add a comment below, or send your observations, corrections, updates, and suggestions to [email protected]

Practice Leave No Trace Principles when visiting the Adirondack Park.


SUN AND MOON SATURDAY: Sunrise Saturday in Lake Placid will be at 7:29 am and sunset at 4:20 pm, providing 8 hours and 52 minutes of sunlight. The Moon will rise at 10:49 am Saturday morning, and set at 9:34 pm, Saturday night. It will be about 26% illuminated. The Winter Solstice was Thursday.

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY: The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the entire Adirondack Region. A storm beginning Friday morning is expected to bring 3 to 8 inches of snow around the region thru early Saturday (more to the southeast, less to the northwest). As warm air arrives from the south mid-morning Saturday, mixed precipitation will arrive region wide – including snow, sleet, freezing rain, and rain – leaving a layer of ice, before returning to snow Saturday night and possibly Sunday. Follow the weather closely Sunday as there remains some uncertainly. Follow the latest National Weather Service local weather watches, warnings and advisories here.

TRAIL CONDITIONS – SNOW, RAIN, ICE.  Expect unsettled weather and a range of conditions through the weekend. Expect to encounter areas of deep snow, periods of snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain, and icy trail conditions. Summit temperatures this weekend will be in the 20s and 30s during the day through Saturday, and falling to the single digits Sunday, with windchills to 20 below zero on Monday (Christmas Day). Expect ice at all elevations and as much as foot of snow on trails, and two feet or more above about 3,000 feet by Saturday morning.  Expect to encounter blow-down from the storm Friday. Most low-water backcountry river and stream crossings are still open, backwaters and smaller ponds and lakes are covered with ice, but no ice should be considered safe without using extreme caution. One man has already died, and several others have gone through the ice this season.  Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods in freezing temperatures. Check Mountain Forecasts here and the latest advisories here.

SNOW COVER: The use of snowshoes is now required in the High Peaks Wilderness. Expect 8 to 12 inches of snow around most of the Adirondack region at lower elevations by Saturday, with two feet or more at higher elevations. There is a chance of additional snow showers Sunday and Monday that could add a light or moderate accumulation. Snow depths reported Thursday, in inches – these are expected to increase by 3-8 inches by Saturday morning:

Tupper Lake – 8
Saranac Lake – 8
Wilmington – 7
Whiteface Base – 3
Keene Valley (1,966 feet) – 4
Newcomb – 5
Indian Lake – 5
North Hudson – 5
North Creek – 6
Schroon Lake – 6
Chestertown – 4
Warrensburg – 4
Northville – 2
Piseco – 6
Speculator – 7
Inlet – 9
Old Forge – 7

Contribute your snow depth observations Thursday morning to [email protected] to be listed here.

DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: Gore and Whiteface will be operating this weekend with about 40% of their terrain open. Titus, McCauley near Old Forge, and Oak Mountain have all opened for the season. Mt. Pisgah in Saranac Lake will open Friday, Dec. 22. Hickory near Warrensburg, and Big Tupper remain closed. Big Tupper is not expected to open this year; Hickory hopes to return to operation this winter. Most of the region’s town operated ski and sledding hills will be operating this weekend.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKI REPORT: Although cover remains thin, the base has mostly held, especially where snow is deepest in the Central and Western Adirondacks. The best skiing will likely be early Saturday on fresh snow, but before the mixed precipitation arrives, and again possibly on Sunday and Monday. Your best bet is to stick to groomed facilities, golf courses and smoother back country roads. Conditions will be very good at snowshoe and cross country ski facilities Saturday morning, such as the Tupper Lake Trails, Paul Smith’s VIC, Whiteface, Cascade, Mt. Van Hoevenberg, the North Creek Ski Bowl, Garnet Hill in North River, and Lapland Lake near Northville. At Dewey Mountain the lower mountain has opened.

BACK-COUNTRY SKI REPORT: The smoother unplowed roads in the Central and Western Adirondacks are being skied, including Fish Pond, Hayes Brook, and the Whiteface Memorial Highway. Gulf Brook Road to Boreas Ponds, and the Newcomb Lake Road would both be a good bet Saturday morning. The Jackrabbitt Trail, or other backcountry trails – including South Meadow Road and the Marcy Truck Trail are not yet recommended, but portions have been skied. Although the cover is thin, the base has held up, so some additional snow could bring these into play Saturday morning and possibly Sunday and Monday. Wherever you ski, use caution and beware where cover is thin or icy. Look for a Friday update on skiing in the Tri-Lakes area here.

SNOWMOBILE REPORT: Snowmobile trails are mostly poor, or at best fair condition, although 3-8 inches of snow expected across the region Friday will help, by mid-morning Saturday mixed precipitation turning to rain will probably keep most riders away on Saturday. Sunday and Monday are expected to turn colder, with the possibility of some snow, but early season sledding is the rule this weekend, and that limited to western half of the Adirondacks. Be aware of water holes, wet areas, and blowdown. The Moose River Plains Road and the Seventh Lake Mountain snowmobile trail are open and reported in Fair to Good conditions. Most DEC snowmobile gates are open in the Western and Central Adirondacks will be open by the weekend including Lake Pleasant.  The Perkins Clearing Road has been plowed its entire length recently. Riding is marginal to fair on the Webb-Inlet Trails, and at Raquette Lake, Inlet, Old Forge, Big Moose. The trails at Tupper Lake are in poor condition. Trails in Warren and Eastern Essex Counties remain closed or are too thin to recommend riding. Stay off lakes! No ice is thick enough for snowmobile travel. Easy season riders should travel slowly and always be on the lookout for wet areas and water holes, thin cover areas, and blowdown blocking the trail. (See additional snowmobile related reports arranged by region below).

BE PREPARED! Start slow, gain experience. 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 the woods. Just before entering the backcountry or launching a boat check the National Weather Service watches, warnings, and advisories here. Follow Adirondack weather forecasts at Burlington and Albany and consult the High Elevation, Recreation, or Lake Champlain forecasts.

WATER TEMPERATURES COLD: The following water temperatures were reported Wednesday (temperatures from last week follow):

Lake Champlain (average) – about 39 degrees (12/21): about 40 (12/14)

ICE FORMING – WATER LEVELS NEAR NORMAL: The levels of rivers and streams are near normal for this time of year; rivers and streams remain mostly open, though most low-water backcountry water crossings will be passable. Ice has formed on most smaller waters and backwaters, and waters at higher elevations, although no ice should be considered safe without using extreme caution. One man died recently on Edgecomb Pond in Botlon, and there have been several reports of ATVs and snowmobiles falling through the ice.

Check the levels of Adirondack waters here for waters where you intend to recreate and follow the latest National Weather Service local weather watches, warnings and advisories here.

The following stream gage readings (in feet) were observed on Wednesday afternoon. Gages may be affected by ice at this time of year.

Moose River at McKeever – 4.79 (12/21): 3.91 (12/14)
Raquette River at Piercefield – 5.39 (12/21): 5.43 (12/14)
AuSable River at Ausable Forks – 2.30 (12/21): 1.74 (12/14)
Hudson River at North Creek – 3.61 (12/21): 3.84 (12/14)
Schroon River at Riverbank (Route 11) – 2.41 (12/21): 2.54 (12/14)
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 94.52 (12/21): 94.78 (12/14)

HUNTING SEASON UNDERWAY: Hunting season is underway in the Adirondacks. Expect to encounter hunters. Hikers should wear bright colors and keep pets leashed as a precaution.

AVOID MINES AND CAVES WHERE BATS ARE PRESENT: DEC has urged outdoor adventurers to suspend exploration of cave and mine sites that may serve as seasonal homes for hibernating bats. Human disturbances are especially 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 hibernation sites in New York. All posted notices restricting the use of caves and mines should be followed. If New Yorkers or visitors to the State encounter hibernating bats while underground, DEC encourages them to 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. Learn more here.

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 PETS LEASHED: Keep your pet under control. Restrain it on a leash when others approach. Collect and bury droppings away from water, trails and camp sites. Keep your pet away from drinking water sources. 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. Dogs should be kept leashed for the safety of your dog, the protection of wildlife and rare plants, and out of courtesy to fellow hikers everywhere in the Adirondack Park.

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.


* indicates new or recent items.

Including Dix Mountain, Giant Mountain, Hurricane Mountain, Jay Mountain, McKenzie Mountain, Sentinel Range Wildernesses
These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

* Boreas Ponds Tract: The lower gate on the Gulf Brook Road is closed until the end of the spring mud season.

* The two trails through the Elk Lake Easement lands connecting to the High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix Mountain Wilderness have reopened. The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road will remain closed through the spring mud season. This will add four miles to a round-trip hike, plan accordingly.

* The gate on Corey’s Road will remain open until March 1, however the road and parking areas may not be plowed. If you don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle and there is snow on the road, consider parking along the plowed section of road and walking. DO NOT BLOCK TRAFFIC. Have a shovel in your vehicle in case you need to dig out.

* South Meadow Lane is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the end of the spring mud season. Vehicles can park at the barriers just off the Adirondac Loj Road. Do not block the opening as it used for emergency access.

Mr. Van Ski Trail: A large tree has fallen on the Mr. Van Lean-to on the Mr. Van Ski Trail causing severe damage and rendering the lean-to unsafe and unusable. DEC is working with partners to evaluate the extent of the damage and the requirements and timing of repairs.

Upper Johns Brooks Valley: Several sections of the Phelps Trail in the Upper Johns Brook Valley contain extensive amount of blowdown. Use caution when hiking in and around this area.

Western High Peaks: Blowdown has been cleared from the Blueberry Horse Trail between the Calkins Creek Horse Trail and Ward Brook Horse Trail in the Western High Peaks and the trail has been “brushed out” (trailside vegetation has been trimmed).

Bradley Pond Trail: A new section of Bradley Pond Trail to Sanatanoni Mountain has been constructed near the beginning of the trail to avoid the two crossings which had unusable bridges. The new trail section crosses Santanoni Brook on a newly constructed bridge and then joins the old trail a short distance later.

Calamity Brook Trail: The high water bridge over Calamity Brook has been repaired. Although it leans slightly it is usable for crossing. The lean is expected to be corrected at a later date.

Owls Head Trail Closed: The trail to the summit of Owls Head in the town of Keene is closed to public access by the landowners between 4 pm Fridays and 7 am Mondays. The road to the trail, the trailhead, and all but the last 0.1 mile of the trail are located on private lands. The landowner has announced their intention to close the trail for public use at the end of the 2017 hiking season – an actual closure date has not been announced. More about this closure, and a map of the area can be found here.

Fat Bike Trails: Trail stewards responsible for bike and fat bike trails in the Wilmington-Lake Placid-Saranac Lake ask riders to abide by trail closures posted on TrailHUB.

Ouluska Brook Bridge: The bridge over Ouluska Brook on the Northville-Placid Trail has collapsed into the brook. Crossing the brook is possible only during low water conditions.

Including Aldrich Pond Wild Forest, Bog River Complex, Cranberry Lake Wild Forest, Five Ponds & Pepperbox Wildernesses, Watson’s East Triangle Wild Forest, William C. Whitney & Round Lake Wilderness
These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

* William C. Whitney Wilderness: The gate on the North Branch Road near the entrance is closed and all of the roads are closed to public motor vehicle access until the end of the spring mud season.

Five Ponds Wilderness: An 800-foot portion of the Plains Trail (part of the Cranberry 50) has been rerouted to avoid a dangerous log crossing of a beaver dam. The new route has been brushed out and marked with red trail markers.

Pigeon Lake Wilderness: There is an area with significant blowdown on the Norridgewock Trail about 1.5 miles south of Beaver River Station. A rough and temporary reroute has been flagged with pink flagging. All users should exercise caution when traveling through this area.

Round Lake Wilderness: A beaver dam has caused flooding of the Lilypad Pond Trail about 1.5 miles from trailhead, just past campsite #5.

Including Grass River Complex, Raquette Boreal Complex, Whitehill Wild Forest
These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

* Tupper Lake Snowmobile Trails: The trails snowmobile trails at Tupper Lake are in poor condition.

Including DeBar Mountain Wild Forest, Kushaqua Tract Easement, Paul Smiths College Easement, Santa Clara Tract Easement, Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, St. Regis Canoe Area
These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

Saranac Lakes Chain: The Lower Locks on the Saranac Lakes Chain  have been shut down for the winter. The locks are closed and made inoperable every winter to avoid unsafe situations for users and to prevent damage to the locks. DEC does not officially close the Upper Locks on the Saranac Lakes Chain. The locks are manually operated and become inoperable when ice forms. Unlike the Lower Locks, there is no hydraulic equipment that can be damaged. The Lower Locks will be reopened after the spring ice out.

DeBar Mountain Wild Forest: The foot bridge on the access trail to Debar Pond has been removed. Debar Pond may now be accessed near the lodge building using the road beyond the gate at the parking area. A new gate is expected to be installed that will allow easier passage of people with boats in the very near future. Trespassing in the lodge or any other building is prohibited.

Including Chazy Highlands Wild Forest, Lake Champlain Islands Complex, Sable Highlands Tract, Taylor Pond Complex, Wilmington Wild Forest
These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

* Snowmobile Trails: Snowmobile trails in Eastern Essex County remain closed or are too thin to recommend riding.

* Sable Highlands Tract: The gate on Barnes Pond Road is closed and road is closed to public motor vehicle use until the opening of next year’s big game season.

Fat Bike Trails: Trail stewards responsible for bike and fat bike trails in the Wilmington-Lake Placid-Saranac Lake ask riders to abide by trail closures posted on TrailHUB.

Wilmington Wild Forest: More than 1.5 miles of bike trails, including a new loop opportunity, have been added to the Beaver Brook Trail Network.

Including Black River Wild Forest, Fulton Chain Wild Forest, Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness, Independence River Wild Forest, Pigeon Lake Wilderness

These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

* St. Lawrence County: DEC has upgrades to two bridge projects critical to the St. Lawrence County snowmobile trail network. The Chap Hill Bridge, located in the town of Colton, on the Grass River Conservation Easement (CE), is part of a main snowmobile route. DEC determined the bridge to be structurally deficient for use as a public snowmobile bridge and replaced it with a stronger, portable bridge. The Morgan Road Bridge, located on the South Colton CE, was also deemed unsafe for public snowmobile use after it was destroyed by a contractor’s overweight vehicle. Plans are in the works to replace the bridge with a permanent one. In the meantime, DEC has installed a portable bridge at this site.

Black River Wild Forest: Stone Dam Trail north of Stone Dam Lake to its intersection with the Chub Pond Trail is overgrown and can be hard to find and follow.

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) is no longer flooded by beaver activity. 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.

Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: 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 replacing the sign soon.

Including Blue Mountain Wild Forest, Township 19 Easement, Township 20 Easement, Blue Ridge Wilderness, Moose River Plains Complex, Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Easement, Sargent Ponds Wild Forest, West Canada Lakes Wilderness
These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

* Stillwater Fire Tower on the Big Moose Rd. between Stillwater and Big Moose Station has reopened. The trail and tower have been closed during hunting season. Snow shoes are recommended.

* Moose River Plains: The gates on the Moose River Plains Road (the Limekiln Lake / Cedar River Road) and the Seventh Lake Mountain snowmobile trail are open for snowmobiling. There are fair to good snowmobile trail conditions at Indian Lake, Raquette Lake, Inlet, Old Forge, and Big Moose.

* Most DEC snowmobile gates are open in the Western and Central Adirondacks will be open by the weekend including Lake Pleasant.

* Perkins Clearing: There has been an unconfirmed report that “the lower end of Perkins Clearing Road into Mud Lake Road will be plowed for logging and closed to snowmobiles for the season.”  Perkins Clearing: The bridge over the Kunjamuk River on the Pine Lakes Road on the Speculator Tree Farm is closed for safety purposes. DEC is developing plans to repair the bridge.

* Webb-Inlet Trails: Riding is fair to good on the Webb-Inlet Trails, the Brantingham Trail from Trail #1 is reported in good shape; wet spots may develop in a few low-lying areas such as Trail #9.

Wakely Mountain Fire Tower: remains closed until further notice due to safety concerns with the Wakely Mountain Fire Tower. The fire tower was closed to public access in December 2016 due to structural deficiencies.

Including Camp Santanoni Historic Area,Essex Chain Lakes Complex, Hoffman Notch Wilderness, Hudson Gorge Wilderness, Jessup River Wild Forest, Siamese Ponds Wilderness Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest
These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

* All gates to the Essex Chain Lakes Complex Area are closed for winter. This includes: Chain Lakes Road North, Cornell Road, and Chain Lakes Road South. The outermost parking areas will be used from now until after spring mud season. All other seasonal access roads remain open until conditions warrant their closing.

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.

Including Hammond Pond Wild Forest, Lake George Wild Forest, Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, Split Rock Wild Forest, Lake Champlain
These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

* Snowmobile Trails: Snowmobile trails in Warren and Eastern Essex Counties remain closed or are too thin to recommend riding.

Lake George Boat Launch: The boat launching ramp at Lake George Beach is operational year round with parking for vehicles with trailers limited to 26 parking spots. Access is free of charge beginning after Labor Day until the Friday before Memorial Day.

Lily Pond Road: high axle four wheel drive vehicles are recommended.

Boquet River Nature Preserve: The Nature Conservancy and the Town of Willsboro have opened a new, 1.5-mile loop universal access trail at the Conservancy’s 110-acre Boquet River Nature Preserve. Access to the Uplands Trailhead is located behind the Paine Public Library, off Rt. 22/Main Street. This multi-use trail, which meets the Federal Trail Accessibility Guidelines, is one of the longest accessible forest trails in the Adirondacks.

Including Ferris Lake Wild Forest, Shaker Mountain Wild Forest, Silver Lake Wilderness, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest
These are recent changes, older changes for this area can be found here.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: The cab of the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower and the observer’s cabin are closed and locked for the season.

* Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: The upper section of the Spruce Mountain Trail has reopened.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Mud Pond Road has been maintained by the town and is in decent drivable condition.


DEC Trail Supporter PatchBe 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; active alerts are updated by noon Friday here.

This weekly report of outdoor recreation conditions in the Adirondacks is compiled by Adirondack Almanack founder and editor John Warren for publication each Thursday afternoon. John’s condensed version for radio can be heard Friday mornings on WSLP Lake Placid, and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

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.

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