If you ever wanted to plan a multi-day paddling trip on some of the Adirondack’s best water routes, the next few weeks are a prime time. Only fall-foliage season beats early spring for sheer perfection.
You’ve got long, sunny days. Even the most popular lakes around, such as Long and Lower Saranac lakes, are mostly free of power boats. And the bugs won’t come out in earnest for another two to three weeks.
After multiple canoe trips this time of year, I’ve found the only thing I miss are the leaves, which had not yet budded during an early-May trip to Long Lake. Having done a trip a few weeks later, where we had leaves but also black flies, I think I’d take the bare trees. However, know that even if it’s the heart of black-fly season, if temperatures are cool enough the bugs will not be a problem. » Continue Reading.
Last weekend, Josh Wilson led my friend Mike Virtanen and me up a historical rock-climbing route on Rooster Comb in Keene Valley. Fritz Wiessner, one of the best climbers and mountaineers of his era, pioneered the route in 1949 with Jim Goodwin, his frequent partner on Adirondack outings.
The Old Route, as it’s called, is rated 5.4 in the Yosemite Decimal System, which is easy by today’s standards, but Weissner availed himself of a variety of interesting features as he meandered up the cliff: a ramp, a narrow chimney, corners, ledges, and wide cracks. Wiessner was involved in the first ascent of at least eighteen rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks. The hardest, on Noonmark Mountain, is rated 5.8. That’s considered moderately tough, but it doesn’t come close in difficulty to many routes put up since Wiessner’s heyday. Josh, for instance, has climbed 5.11 routes. III Fire, the hardest climb in the Adirondacks, is rated 5.14a—which once would have been thought impossible.
So are modern climbers that much better than Wiessner?
Not really. Changes in footwear have enabled climbers to ascend ever-harder routes. In the old days, climbers wore boots or sneakers. Today, they climb in lightweight shoes that resemble ballet slippers with sticky rubber soles. These shoes allow climbers to get a purchase on steep slabs and tiny nodules of rock.
Protective gear—“pro,” in the sport’s lingo—also has greatly improved. In Wiessner’s day, climbers hammered metal pitons into cracks to hold their rope in the event of a fall. Nowadays, climbers carry lightweight nuts and cams that can be wedged into almost any crack. The new technology makes climbing difficult routes safer.
On Rooster Comb, we saw three or four old pitons on the Old Route. We wondered if they had been pounded in by Wiessner himself. Although no longer needed, the pitons are artifacts of a bygone era and should be left in place.
Pitons may be relics of the past, but steel bolts are not. Like pitons or other pro, fixed bolts are used to hold the rope in a fall. They are usually found on blank faces where it’s impossible to place pro or at the top of a cliff or pitch where climbers clip in the rope to rappel.
Since they alter the natural environment, bolts are controversial. Don Mellor notes in his book American Rock that attitudes toward bolts vary among climbing communities in different parts of the country. Climbers can get quite worked up over the issue. Mellor once told me, after we climbed Wallface, of a guy who used to carry a hammer to destroy any bolt he encountered.
In the Adirondacks, climbers frown on the overuse of bolts. Dominic Eisinger writes in the guidebook Adirondack Rock: “For existing routes, no additional protection or fixed anchors should be added without the consent of the first-ascent party. Fixed anchors have been installed by the climbing community where necessary for safety and preservation of fragile terrain and trees” (since they obviate the need to wrap slings around trees during a rappel).
But the guideline is not always followed. Tom Rosecrans, a longtime climber, complains that routes he pioneered on Rogers Rock years ago have since been bolted.
Some might ask whether it’s ever appropriate to fix bolts to a cliff in the forever-wild Forest Preserve. It’s a legitimate question: state regulations forbid defacing “any tree, flower, shrub, fern, fungi or other plant like organisms, moss or other plant, rock, soil, fossil or mineral or object of archaeological or paleontological interest found or growing on State land.”
Nonetheless, bolts do happen. Of course, many forms of outdoor recreation—whether hiking, snowmobiling, or camping—leave an impact on the wilderness. The question is whether that impact is acceptable.
Eisinger says Adirondack climbers strive to minimize their impact in all respects, not just in their bolting practices. “Scrubbing lichen from holds, cleaning dirt from cracks for protection, breaking the occasional branch to squeeze by a tree, or removing a dangerous loose block are all accepted practices,” Eisinger writes. “Scrubbing an 8-foot wide swath and cutting trees are not only illegal but aren’t accepted by the climbing community.”
In truth, no one but climbers will see a bolt on a cliff. And most climbers don’t mind a well-placed bolt. So the aesthetic impact is negligible.
Bolts are to modern climbers what pitons were to early climbers: an occasional necessity. And what climber would not take delight in seeing a piton put in by the great Fritz Wiessner? It’s a reminder that the sport hasn’t changed that much.
Photo by Phil Brown: Josh Wilson on the Old Route on Rooster Comb.
The sixth annual Great Adirondack Trail Run will take place on June 19th, 2010 in Keene Valley, NY. Billed as a charity event supporting the Au Sable and Bouquet River Associations, the event includes two runs: an 11.5 mile strenuous run (2900′ of vertical gain and 3100′ of loss) up the back side of Hopkins Mountain and down to Keene Valley, and a 3.5 mile fun run from Baxter Mountain Tavern on Route 9N to Keene Valley.
According to the event’s organizers, registration is limited and runners will be staggered “out of respect for the public trail portion of the run.” The 3.5 mile fun run is entirely on private land. Neither run will include aid stations, and runners are responsible for staying on course and carrying what they need to complete the runs. The 11.5 mile run will begin at 9 AM, with runners starting one at a time in a staggered format (one per minute). The 3.5 mile fun run will begin at 10 AM from the Baxter Mountain Tavern on Rte 9N between Keene and Elizabethtown, also with a staggered start. A shuttle will be available from the parking/finish area at Riverside in Keene Valley to the trailhead for both runs. There will be a celebration of Spring with music, food, beer and more starting at 11 AM, with awards at 2 PM.
Rules: This is a wilderness trail run. There will be no support–participants are on their own from start to finish, and will need their own water, food and all other supplies. Any volunteers stationed on the course will be there to make sure runners take the right trail–they will not have water, food, moleskin, etc. Anyone caught littering will be immediately disqualified.
Although the alpine ski season has come to an end, skiers and boarders will be replaced by mountain bikers when the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park, operated by High Peaks Cyclery, team up again to bring mountain biking to Wilmington’s Olympic mountain this summer and fall.
Season passes are available through the end of April and you can purchase yours for just $199, a $100 savings off the regular price. All season passes and daily lift tickets offer lift-serviced mountain biking via the Cloudsplitter gondola and the High Peaks Cyclery shuttle bus. From there, riders can access 27 hand-built downhill and cross country mountain bike trails, for all levels and abilities, which twist and run between the ski trails that go through streams and woods and meander next to waterfalls. Riders will also find single-track trails between some of the ski trails used for the 1980 Winter Games. Biking on Whiteface begins with a Bonus Weekend, Friday through Sunday, June 18-20, from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. each day. Beginning Friday, June 25, and continuing through Labor Day, the bike park will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. From Labor Day to Columbus Day, biking will be available Friday through Sunday, from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
During weekends this year, at 11:30 a.m., there will be a free guided tour of the upper mountain, while at 3:30 p.m. each day, everyone is invited to participate in the traditional end of the day group ride. Adult daily tickets are $35, while children, 12 and under, can ride for just $24.
Bike rentals are available, as are protective gear including helmets, chest protectors and padding, everything that you need to have a safe experience.
The New York State Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding anglers that fishing season in New York gets into full swing on May 1, the opening day for Walleye, Northern Pike, Pickerel and Tiger Muskellunge. Also, the catch-and-release bass season is now underway on most state water bodies.
Of the warm-water species, walleye are the traditional primary target this time of year; walleye fishing opportunities exist in more than 100 water bodies throughout the state. Over the last five years and in almost all regions of the state, DEC has stocked 60 waters with walleye fry or fingerlings. Through these and other DEC management actions, new walleye populations are being established and others are being maintained or restored. » Continue Reading.
For those who are trying to climb the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks — that is, the peaks originally surveyed at 4,000 feet or higher — there’s nothing better than getting four for the price of one.
There are many peaks where you can do two in a day, mainly when they share the same ridge-line. Cascade and Porter, for instance, are so close to each other you barely break a sweat walking between them. Likewise Esther and Whiteface, or Wright and Algonquin.
There are other cases where you’re traveling so far to climb two, you would be better off doing all three, such as the classic triad of Seward, Donaldson and Emmons in the western High Peaks. You have to climb over Seward to get to Donaldson and Emmons, and back over Donaldson and Seward again to get out. Or there’s Panther, Santanoni and Couchsachraga, accessed via the road to Upper Works near Newcomb. The last of those mountains is notable not only for being the hardest to spell and pronounce of all High Peaks (most folks call it “Couchie” for short), but also for being the lowest. At 3,820 feet it’s obviously under the 4,000-f00t benchmark, but the original surveyors were off by a bit.
The Forty-sixers defer to history in this regard — there are several other peaks in the group under 4,000 feet. That also explains why MacNaughton Mountain, at 4,000 feet on the nose, is considered a “bonus” peak and not one of the 46 — the first surveyors thought it a bit shorter.
The point is, it’s nice to get a bunch of peaks in on a single day’s hike. That’s why one of my favorite trips into the mountains is the route I did last week: walking the Dix ridge from the south and hitting Macomb, South Dix, East Dix and Hough mountains in one go.
For this trip, I joined a group from Albany that drove to Elk Lake off of Blue Ridge Road (the gate, closed all winter, was fortunately open, saving us 2 miles of road walking to the trail-head). The route leaves the main hiking trail after a few miles to follow a “herd” path up a steep, rubbly slide to the summit of Macomb (4,405 feet — see photo above).
From there, it’s a short walk down and up to South Dix, an hour side-trail to East Dix, an hour back to South Dix, and another hour down and up to Hough. The views get better with each mountain, with Hough affording the best: the nearby, pointy top of Dix itself.
The descents and ascents between peaks is minimal — that’s us leaving Hough to the left. The total hike distance is about 15 miles walking and 4,000 feet of elevation gain overall. We took 12 hours for the trip, with lots of stopping. A fast group could do it in eight or nine hours.
Speaking of fast, on our hike we were quickly passed by a group from Syracuse. As we were staggering our way to the summit of Hough (pronounced “huff”), fellow hiker George took out a pair of binoculars. He pointed them north toward Dix (the highest peak in the range, at 4,857 feet) and said, “Hey, there’s the Syracuse group.”
Sure enough, they had bridged five peaks in the time it took us to climb four. Surely the best hiking deal of the High Peaks.
But for us, it was time to turn around. It was nearing 5 p.m., it was a long walk back to the car and we were all nearly out of food and energy. Still, four in a day isn’t too shabby either.
To see more photographs of this hike by the author, click here. New users will have to sign in. Note that the slide viewing time can be adjusted by the timer at lower right.
The Dix range follows herd paths, not official trails. Hikers attempting this route should be in excellent shape, carry a guidebook, map and compass and be comfortable with travel along unsigned paths.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) 14th annual gala and auction, “Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball,” will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Friday, May 21, at the Fort William Henry Hotel’s historic White Lion Ballroom, overlooking Lake George. The Black Fly Affair is ADK’s largest fund-raising event of the year, and proceeds from this year’s event will help support ADK’s education intern programs.
Recommended attire for the event is semi-formal dress (black tie) and hiking boots, although the dress code will not be strictly enforced.
Peter and Ann Hornbeck are honorary chairs, and Gregory McKnight will be master of ceremonies. Beverages will be provided by Adirondack Winery and Cooperstown Brewing Co., and there will be dancing to the music of Standing Room Only. ADK boasts one of the largest silent auctions in the region in addition to its very lively live auction, where guests will bid on original artwork, outdoor gear, weekend getaways, cultural events and more. Jim and Danielle Carter of Acorn Estates & Appraisals will conduct the auction. A preview of auction items is available at the ADK Web site, www.adk.org.
Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door. To make reservations, visit www.adk.org or call , Ext. 14. To donate an auction item or to become a corporate sponsor, contact Deb Zack at , Ext. 42. Discounted room rates for Black Fly attendees are available at the Fort William Henry Hotel and the Best Western of Lake George.
The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.
When four canoeists and a kayaker ventured down the South Branch of the Moose one spring day in 1991, passing through posted land, they sparked a legal battle that lasted eight years and ended in a victory for paddlers.
The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest tribunal, ruled that the common-law right of navigation embraces recreational canoeing. Two years later, the paddlers and the landowner, the Adirondack League Club, reached an agreement specifying when the public is allowed to paddle the South Branch.
But it wasn’t a total victory. For one thing, the agreement says the river is open to the public only from May 1 to October 15 (or the opening of big-game season). But if a river is navigable in mid-April, why shouldn’t the public be allowed to paddle it? Can such an agreement between a landowner and private parties restrict the common law?
For another thing, little has happened to advance the cause of navigation rights since. Last spring, I paddled through posted land on Shingle Shanty Brook, a stream that connects two parcels of Forest Preserve in the Whitney Wilderness. I believe the public has a right to paddle this stream, but the landowners disagree. That there is still doubt about this, more than a decade later, shows that the Moose River decision was not as world-shaking as paddlers had hoped.
Finally—and this is less well known—the Moose River case put an end to legislative and regulatory efforts in Albany to clarify navigation rights.
Back in 1991, state legislators were pushing a bill that would have affirmed that paddlers have the right to travel on navigable rivers. At the same time, working on a parallel track, the state Department of Environmental Conservation was drafting departmental regulations with the identical purpose in mind.
The bill passed the Assembly, but apparently it was blocked in the upper chamber by Senator Ron Stafford, whose district included most of the Adirondacks. I’m told that Stafford was on the verge of coming around when the Moose River controversy erupted. Because of the lawsuit, the bill was shelved.
Similarly, DEC abruptly abandoned its effort to adopt regulations. The department had progressed so far in this initiative that it had drafted a news release.
What’s more interesting, DEC had prepared a draft list of 253 waterways throughout the state that it deemed navigable under the common law. Fifty-five of those rivers are in the Adirondacks.
You can read about this history in the May/June issue of the Adirondack Explorer. The story is available online here.
You also can see online the fifty-five Adirondack waterways on the department’s list. Keep in mind, however, that this was the draft of a preliminary list. If the list were subjected to public hearings, waterways may have been added or subtracted. That being said, it’s thought that most of the waterways on the list probably would have survived.
There is now a bill before the state legislature that would clarify the common law and authorize DEC to draft a new list of navigable waterways. Whether DEC would use that authority is questionable. The department may prefer to negotiate with landowners, as it is doing in the Shingle Shanty case. However it’s done, though, the public’s rights need to be clarified. The Moose River decision was not enough.
What follows is the Forest Ranger Activity Report for April 6 through April 18 for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. These reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date.
Town of Beekmantown, Private Lands
On Monday, April 5, 2010, at 6:40 AM, DEC Dispatch received a call from New York State Police Plattsburgh requesting assistance locating Kim McDonald, 56, of West Chazy, NY. The State Police had information that led them to believe that Mr. McDonald may have intended to harm himself. DEC Forest Rangers responded and along with NY State Troopers began a search of the area. At approximately 9:00 AM, the Mr. McDonald was located in a swamp behind his house. He was missing his shoes, suffering from exposure, and had superficial wounds to his face, feet and hands. He was carried out of the woods and transported to CVPH Medical Center. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that changes to the state’s freshwater fishing regulations will become effective on October 1, 2010.
Among the most important changes to local anglers is the elimination of the special allowance for five extra brook trout less than eight inches. With the exception of certain water body-specific regulations, the daily limit is now five trout of any size. Changes locally also include the elimination of special regulations for pickerel in several local waters, for northern pike in Adirondack Lake (Hamilton County), and for yellow perch and sunfish in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties (including Schroon Lake); statewide regulations will now apply. The open season for trout in Glen Lake (Warren County) has been extended for ice fishing, and the minimum size limit for lake trout in Lake Bonaparte (Lewis County) has been reduced to 18 inches.
The changes to the freshwater regulations are the result of a two-year process during which DEC solicited public feedback during the development of the proposals, and also provided a comment period for public input on the draft rules.
The full text of the new 2010-2012 regulations can be viewed on the DEC website.
The DEC is encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to consider purchasing a Habitat/Access Stamp, an optional stamp that helps support the DEC’s efforts to conserve habitat and increase public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation. Buying the $5 stamp is a way to help conserve New York’s wildlife heritage. More information about purchasing a Habitat Stamp is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/329.html
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) will bring its Northern Forest Paddlers Film Festival to Lake Placid on Friday, April 16 at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and screenings begin at 7:00 p.m.
Four documentary films and a clay-animated short will cover a range of themes on recreational canoeing and kayaking from exploring the Antarctic peninsula and Inside Passage, to finding record whitewater kayak waterfall runs and building a traditional birch bark canoe. The lineup of films:
– Selections from Terra Antarctica: Rediscovering the Seventh Continent (20 min) An up-close look at the iceberg and turquoise blue water landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula by sea kayak.
– Selections from Dream Result (30 min). A group of extreme whitewater kayakers explore wild rivers and monster waterfalls in Canada, Chile, and Scandinavia, and one dares the world record descent of 186-foot Palouse Falls in Washington.
– Earl’s Canoe (30 min). Follow Ojibwe Nation member Earl Nyholm as he builds an Ojibwe birch bark canoe on Madeleine Island, Wisconsin, using traditional tools and methods.
– Paddle to Seattle (50 min). This independent documentary chronicles the journey of two intrepid adventurers paddling handmade wooden Pygmy kayaks from Alaska to Seattle via the 1,300-mile Inside Passage.
– Kayaking is Not a Crime (7 min). A clay-animated short with a fun pro-kayaking message created by young New York filmmaker Ben Doran.
All proceeds from the festival will benefit NFCT programs and stewardship activities along the canoe and kayak waterway that begins in Old Forge and stretches for 740 miles to northern Maine. There will be paddling-related door prizes and a silent auction.
Tickets are $8 for students and $10 in advance or $12 at the door for adults. Tickets can be reserved by calling the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at .
It was T.S. Eliot who wrote “April is the cruellest month.” He also wrote, in his epic poem “The Waste Lands”: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
Substitute “mud” for “dust,” and Eliot might have been talking about the Adirondacks after the snow melts (although, you want to talk about cruel, let’s talk black flies …but that’s a subject for another post).
Anyway, as we reach the spring mud season, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues its annual “please don’t hike on muddy High Peaks trails” request, may we suggest a few dryer alternatives?
For starters, cast your eyes southward. The Lake George region, which gets much less snowfall than other areas in the park, is also one of the first places to warm up in the spring. There’s enough hikes there to last a full season, but we can easily recommend a few: » Continue Reading.
More than 200 people came to an Albany church April 1 to pay homage to Fred Schroeder, an avid hiker who introduced the Adirondacks to hundreds of underprivileged boys.
Schroeder, who lived in an assisted living center in Bethlehem (Albany County) with his wife Martha, died March 18 at the age of 85.
Schroeder, a long-time director at several branches of the Albany Boys Club, also directed the group’s Camp Thacher in the nearby Helderbergs every summer until it closed a few years ago. Part of that work included introducing the boys to hikes and camping trips around the nearby woods. And those who excelled at woodscraft were later invited to the Adirondacks. One of those boys was John Antonio, now a retired music teacher living in the Albany suburb of Colonie.
“For many of us it was our first encounter with the forest,” said Antonio, who spoke at Schroeder’s memorial service.
Antonio’s first Adirondack mountain was Noonmark. The popular peak in Keene Valley, with its 360-degree view of the Great Range and beyond, was Schroeder’s favorite. Antonio grew up to be a counselor at the camp, and began to lead his own trips to Noonmark and other peaks.
“Every hike I go on from now on, his name will probably be mentioned,” Antonio said. “He introduced so many people (to the mountains), it’s amazing.”
Schroeder had very personal reasons for working with city children: he grew up in orphanages in New York City until graduating high school. He also served in Europe during World War II.
He was a member of the Adirondack 46ers, the Catskill 3500 Club, the New England 111 Club (whose members must climb all peaks over 4,000 feet in New York and New England). He was active with the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Taconic Hiking Club, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, and the Long Path North Hiking Club. He also designed and organized the development and maintenance of miles of hiking trails.
In 1998, Fred and his wife provided the funds to build and endow the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center on the grounds of the former Camp Thacher.
For the past 30 years, he was an active member of the Albany chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, leading weekly hikes to the Adirondacks and every other mountain range within a two-hour drive of Albany. Even later in life , his hiking pace astounded his friends.
“When I met him he was in his 60s, and he could hike anything,” said friend Karen Ross.
What follows is the Forest Ranger Activity Report for February 6 through March 21 for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. These reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date.
Town of North Elba, High Peaks Wilderness Area
At noon on Saturday February 27, 2010, an avalanche occurred on a slide on the northeast side of Wright Peak. The two skiers that triggered the slide were partially buried in the avalanche but were able to rescue themselves. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to Almanack founder and editor John Warren.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.