Thursday, December 23, 2010

DEC: Be Safe On The Ice This Winter

With winter in full swing, officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) remind outdoor enthusiasts to practice safety on iced-over water bodies.

Hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and skating on frozen lakes are among the many winter delights enjoyed by residents and visitors of the Adirondack Park.

Nothing can ruin a good pond hockey game like a crack in the ice. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

West River Trail: A Great Four Season Hike

Last week my friend Barbara visited from Toronto, a city not known for its proximity to mountains. She had never been to the Adirondacks, and I wanted to find a hike that would both introduce her to the beauty and ruggedness of the High Peaks without the ice-covered vertical terrain that would be sure to stop our cramponless feet in their tracks.

So I took her to my favorite easy hike — the West River Trail.

It’s amazing that such an easy and (relatively) flat trail can pack so much of a punch. In less than five miles, hikers on this route parallel a deep, whitewater ravine, pass two of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Adirondacks and walk beneath several cliffs gleaming with ice flows (at least during the winter).

Needless to say, Barbara was impressed.

The only trouble with this hike is the half-mile walk from the parking lot near Route 73 in Keene Valley (also the departure point for Noonmark Mountain) to the trailhead at the Ausable Club. The trail begins right at the gate (hang a right instead of staying on the dirt road to Lower Ausable Lake, although you can cut off some of the hiking by taking the dirt road if you would prefer an easier route).

The route follows the East Branch of the Ausable River. It’s a dramatic trip in any season, but especially in winter, with the river half-frozen but still running over icy cascades. After about an hour walk, you make a steep climb and reach Beaver Meadow Falls. In warmer weather it’s a fairyland stepladder of frothy white, but in winter it’s a gleaming blue chandelier. It’s also a good place to stop for a bite to eat.

From here, the going gets flatter as the Ausable River meanders through a wide meadow. Eventually, you reach the outlet of Lower Ausable Lake, where a side-trail takes you to the even more impressive Rainbow Falls, its running water hidden behind a thick crust of ice.

Once at the lake, you can return to your car on the easy (but boring) dirt road. We elected to climb to Indian Head Cliff for a view of the frozen, fjord-like lake. This proved the steepest and hardest part of the route, as we had to find our way around a few tricky, ice-covered sections of trail (ski poles helped tremendously).

Eventually we made it to the top, and had just enough time to enjoy the rugged, ice-covered view in front of us before it we had to start the trip back to the car.

Besides the ice, that’s the other problem with hiking in early December — sunset comes way too soon.

Alan Wechsler, who lives in New York’s Capital Region, has been writing about and photographing the Adirondacks for two decades.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free Cross-Country Skiing at New Land Trust

You can ski for free on hundreds of trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, but if you’re looking for a few more creature comforts—such as groomed trails and a clubhouse with a wood stove—check out the New Land Trust trails outside the hamlet of Saranac. They’re free, too.

The New Land Trust got its start in 1977 when some Plattsburgh State College students and friends purchased an old farm. Today the land trust is a non-profit organization that maintains twenty-eight trails (totaling about ten kilometers) on 287 acres.

While skiing at the New Land Trust over the weekend with my daughter Martha, we ran into Steve Jenks, a member of the trust board who lives nearby and maintains the trails. He led us down some of his favorite routes. We saw only a few other parties.

“People, why aren’t you here?” Jenks lamented. “The skiing here is fantastic, and it’s only a half-hour from Plattsburgh.”

He told us that the trust has improved its fiscal fitness in recent years but still needs money for a new roof for the clubhouse. The trust relies on donations from the public and on membership fees ($75 a year) to cover its taxes and other expenses. (Although the trails and lodge are open to the public for free, there is a donation box at the trail register.)

Most of the trails are mellow and don’t require a great deal of snow to be skiable. On Sunday, Martha and I skied the Saranac, a very attractive trail that led us past snow-covered balsams. Saranac is one of two main routes. We then took Night Rider to Solstice (the other main route), where we encountered Steve, who led us back to the clubhouse via a number of shorter trails.

The trails are all signed. Other amenities include two lean-tos, a bunkhouse, and a nifty outhouse. You can find a trail map and driving directions on the trust’s website. Trails maps also are available the register.

Photo by Phil Brown: New Land Trust lodge.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Dec. 16)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

** indicates new or revised items.

SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN IN HIGH PEAKS
DEC Forest Rangers and others continue to search 22 year-old Wesley ‘Wes’ Wamsganz, missing since Saturday, November 20, and believed to be in the High Peaks Wilderness. He is 6’3″ 180 lbs, has buzz cut short blond hair, and blue eyes. He is believed to wearing a Black Bob Marley zip up hoodie, jeans or tan Carhart pants, basketball sneakers and a yellow, red and green striped brimmed beanie. The search was scaled back to “limited continuous status” Sunday. Wamsganz, of Saranac Lake, is believed to have been spotted by hikers at Marcy Dam last Saturday evening. Between Marcy Dam and Lake Colden Wamsganz’s green Carhartt jacket was found last Sunday. If you encounter Mr. Wamsganz or evidence of his whereabouts notify DEC Forest Rangers at (518-897-1300).

** WINTER CONDITIONS AT ALL ELEVATIONS
Winter conditions exist throughout the area. Expect to encounter snow and especially ice on trails. Prepare accordingly, pack snowshoes or skis and crampons and use them when conditions warrant. Daytime temperatures below freezing can be expected at all elevations, with wind-chill below freezing as well. Snow cover is now prominent across the Adirondacks. Snow can be up to one to two feet deep across the central Adirondacks and up to a few feet deep at higher elevations.

** Thin Ice Safety
Waters have begun freezing over, but except for some smaller lakes and ponds are generally not safe to access. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person. Each year a number of people fall through thin ice, use extreme caution with ice.

Carry Extra Winter Gear

Snowshoes or skis can prevent injuries and eases travel in heavy snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy trails and mountaintops and other exposed areas. Wear layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!), a winter hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots. Carry a day pack complete with ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.

Know The Latest Weather
Check the weather before entering the woods and be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.

Fire Danger: LOW

** Central Adirondacks Lower Elevation Weather
Friday: Chance of snow showers, mostly cloudy; high near 20
Friday Night: Chance of snow showers, cloudy, with a low around 5.
Saturday: Chance of snow showers, cloudy, with a high near 27.
Saturday Night: Chance of snow showers, coudy, with a low around 8.
Sunday: Chance of snow, cloudy, with a high near 19.

The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]

** Christmas Bird Count Underway
The 111th Annual Christmas Bird Count will take place December 14th to January 6th. The longest running citizen science survey in the US, each year during this time volunteers help document bird population trends used in a wide array of research and conservation efforts. For more information and to find out how to participate as a bird counter this winter, visit birds.audubon.org/faq/cbc.

** Snow Cover
A warm front that came through the Adirondacks on Sunday, December 12, took much of the snow in the central Adirondacks. Since Sunday the temperatures have stayed low so that a frozen 2-inch base is now supporting additional accumulation of about 4 to 6 inches, except in the northern and western parts of the park and in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Lewis counties which is seeing continued substantial snow. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 6 inches of powdery snow at the cabin. The exception is the lower southeast part of the park. There is still little snow on the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks or in Warren County and eastern Essex County, which has yet to see any substantial natural snow. Snow can be up to a few feet deep at higher elevations. The latest snow cover map from the National Weather Service provides an estimate of snow cover around the region.

** Downhill Ski Report
Thanks to snow-making Whiteface and Gore are already open with a limited number of trails, about one-third. McCauley, Mount Pisgah, and Oak Mountain are all expected to open this weekend. The Big Tupper Ski Area had planned to open, but has postponed those plans for now. Cross country ski areas are beginning to open including Cascade in Lake Placid, Mt. Van Hoevenberg, and Lapland near Northville.

** Cross Country / Backcountry Ski Report
There is little snow on the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks including the Keene end of the Jackrabbit Trail. There is 4-6 inches of new snow on 1-2 inches of residual base in the Lake Placid area [conditions]. Skiers should limit themselves to gentler terrain with smooth surfaces. It’s recommended to avoid the steeper, rougher wilderness sections of the Jackrabbit Trail. The backcountry is still in iffy shape after the warm front and high winds took their toll last week. Skiing is generally possible only on trucks trails and maintained trails. There is still no skiing beyond Marcy Dam, but the Truck trail to Marcy Dam again reported skiable, as is the Hays Brook Truck Trail, and the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni, and Burn Road in the Whitney Wilderness. Fish Pond is limited by thin snow about two miles in. Connery Pond is reported “not quite ready.” Ausable Lake Road probably not yet skiable.

** Snowmobile Trails Report
Except in parts of the Tug Hill plateau where snow continues to fall, last weeks warm front, wind and rain took a toll on the regions snowmobile trails. They are still very fragile with just an inch or two of base, and most trails around the region remain closed, including those on state land. Riders everywhere should show restraint and wait for trails to be officially opened and sufficiently snow-covered. Around the region volunteers are still installing signs and protective snow fencing. There has been little or no grooming, and some trails have blowdown from the recent windstorms. Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude. Avoid riding on lakes or ponds, and excessive speed. Ride safely. More Adirondack snowmobiling resources can be found here.

** Ice Climbing Report
Ice has been rebuilding with cold weather that followed last Sunday’s melt. Climbable areas including Chapel Pond, Cascade Pass, the North side of Pitchoff. The Mineville Pillar, Roaring Brook Falls, are reported not yet climbable. There is ice at Multiplication Gulley, and Chillar Pillar, but it’s reported thin. In the backcountry Avalanche and Elk passes are climbable, as is Big Blue at Underwood Canyon. See additional detailed and up to date Ice Climbing Conditions here.

** Most Rivers Running Above Normal
Waters in the region are again running above normal for this time of year, the Hudson, Bouquet, Raquette, and Au Sable are running well above normal. Paddlers should use care and consult the latest streamgages data. Overnight paddlers should be aware that ice is beginning to form on some local waters.

Special Blowdown Notice
Fall storms caused blowdown throughout the Adirondacks. Trees, limbs, and branches may be found over and in trails, especially lesser used side trails.

Motorists Alert: Whitetail Deer
The peak period for deer-vehicle collisions is October through December, with the highest incidences occurring in November. This corresponds with the peak of the annual deer breeding cycle when deer are more active and less cautious in their movements. Approximately 65,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur throughout NYS each year and two-thirds of the annual collisions occur during this three month period. Most of the collisions occur between 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Motorists are advised that the best way to avoid a collision with a deer is to reduce speed and be alert for their presence on or near the highway.

Motorists Alert: Moose
There are upwards of 800 Moose in the Adirondack region, up from 500 in 2007. Motorists should be alert for moose on the roadways at this time of year especially at dawn and dusk, which are times of poor visibility when Moose are most active. Much larger than deer, moose-car collisions can be very dangerous. Last year ten accidents involving moose were reported. DEC is working to identify areas where moose are present and post warning signs.

** Hunting Seasons
Although fall hunting seasons for big game and waterfowl are over in the Adirondack region, some small game seasons are still underway. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to hunt on Forest Preserve lands. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Hikers may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.

** Furbearer Trapping Seasons
Some furbearer trapping seasons remain open. This would be a good time to keep pets leased and on the trails. A reminder that body gripping traps set on land can no longer use bait or lure.

Ice Fishing Tip-Ups Can Now Be Used
Tip-ups may be operated on waters of New York State starting November 15, 2010 and continuing through April 30, 2010. General ice fishing regulations can be found in the in the 2010-11 Fishing Regulations Guide.

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

NORTHVILLE PLACID TRAIL

The Northville Placid Trail (NPT) is the Adirondack Park’s only designated long distance hiking trail. The 133 mile NPT was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, and is now maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Up to date NPT trail condition information can be found online.

Upper Benson to Whitehouse: About 1.8 miles north of the Silver Lake lean-to and just south of the Canary Pond tent camping area, the trail is flooded and may require wading through water and mud.

West Canada Lakes to Wakely Dam: The bridge over Mud Creek, northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out. Wading the creek is the only option. The water in Mud Creek will vary from ankle deep to knee deep.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About a half mile north of the Lake Durant trailhead at Route 28/30 the trail crosses several flooded boardwalks. Use extreme caution as the boardwalk is not visible and may shift. Expect to get your boots wet and use a stick or hiking pole to feel your way along to avoid falling off the boardwalk.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About 4 miles north of the Tirrell Pond the trail is flooded by beaver activity. The reroute to the east is now also flooded in spots.

Duck Hole to Averyville Rd. and Lake Placid: Beaver activity has flooded the trail about 3 miles south of the Averyville trailhead and will require a sturdy bushwhack.

ADIRONDACK CANOE ROUTE / NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL

** Ice: Ice has begun to form on all waters.

Personal Flotation Devices Required: Users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Eighth Lake Takeout: Northern Forest Canoe Trail volunteers rehabilitated the takeout at the north end of Eighth Lake. The 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail celebrates its tenth year this summer. Winding its way from Maine through New Hampshire, Quebec, Vermont, and into New York ending at Old Forge.

HIGH PEAKS

** Western high Peaks Wilderness: Trails in the Western High Peaks Wilderness are cluttered with blowdown from a storm that occurred December 1st. DEC will be working to clear trails as soon as possible.

Jackrabbit Ski Trail: Improvements have been made to the Jackrabbit Trail, a 24-mile cross-country ski trail that runs between Saranac Lake and Keene. There has been a reroute of the popular six mile section between McKenzie Pond Road outside Saranac Lake to Whiteface Inn Road outside Lake Placid. The rerouted trail avoids some hilly terrain at the start of this section and also avoids the ball field, and some private property. Trailhead parking is expected to be expanded in this area later this year.

Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: Big game hunting seasons are closed. Public trails in the Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands have reopened to the public.

Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. This adds 2 miles of hiking, plan trips accordingly.

Lake Arnold Trail: A section of the Lake Arnold Trail just north of the Feldspar Lean-to may be impassable due to mud and water resulting from past beaver activity.

Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.

Newcomb Lake – Moose Pond: A bridge on the Newcomb Lake to Moose Pond Trail has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge is intact, but surrounded by water.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been replaced.

Wilmington Wild Forest: Snowmobiles may be operating on designated snowmobile trails. Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Bear Canisters: From now until April 1 bear resistant canisters are not required to be used in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Gates have been closed on the Moose River Plains Road. Motor vehicle traffic is prohibited until after the spring mud season. Currently snow accumulations are not enough to warrant opening the snowmobile trails.

Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement: Camping is limited to designated campsites, 8 campsites have been designated at this time.

Forest Ranger Greg George: Ranger George has retired after 33 years of service. If you had contacted Ranger George in the past for camping permits, backcountry conditions or for any other purpose, you should now contact Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer at 518-648-5246. For matters regarding Tirrell Pond contact Forest Ranger Jay Scott at 315-354-4611.

Ferris Lake Wild Forest / West Lake Boat Launch (Fulton County): The boat launch was impacted by August rains and floods. DEC staff have made repairs to the roadway, parking lot and ramps, however, be aware that the waters off the boat launch are more shallow than before.

Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: The lean-to on the south shore of Chase Lake has been removed, and a new one is now been built on the lake’s north shore (See photos). A new trail spur leading off the old trail and approaching the new lean-to from the west has been marked. The site of the old lean-to is now a designated tent site.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

Wilcox Lake Forest: Trails to Wilcox Lake and Tenant Falls beginning at the end of the Hope Falls Road, cross private property. While DEC does have a trail easement for the East Stony Creek Trail to Wilcox Lake, there is no formal agreement with the landowner for access to the Tenant Falls Trail. DEC is working on a resolution to this matter. In the meanwhile, hikers and day uses must respect the private driveway at the trailhead and not block it. Also respect the landowner’s privacy – stay on the trail, do not enter the private property.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is affecting the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.

SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Siamese Pond Wilderness: The bridge over Diamond Brook on the East Branch Sacandaga Trail near Eleventh Mt. Trailhead has been replaced.

Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: Ice is forming on all waters. Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Jabe Pond Road, and Buttermilk Road Extension. Although also closed, Scofield Flats, Bear Slides Access, and Pikes Beach Access roads may be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding a Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD).

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

** Lake George Wild Forest: The snow cover has experienced a melting/freezing pattern. Some of the trails on the east side of the mountains have icy sections. Hikers should carry and use crampons on those icy sections of trail.

NORTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All All lands, including the trail to The Pinnacle, are closed to all public recreational access until December 31st. Access corridors have been designated to allow hunters to reach forest preserve lands through the conservation easement lands. Contact Senior Forest Rob Daley for information on access corridors at 518-897-1291.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required. DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working through mid-October to move 8 campsites, closed 23 campsites and created 21 new campsites [online map]. This week they are rebuilding a lean-to on Fish Pond. Please respect closure signs.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: The gate to the Lake Lila Road is closed. Public motorized access to the road is prohibited until the gate is reopened after the spring mud season. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized access is allowed on the road. Trespassing on lands adjacent to the road is prohibited.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: There have been important developments; see new information here. Paddlers may want to avoid paddling through private land until the matter is resolved. Although DEC has sided with paddlers in the dispute over the public’s right to canoe through private land on Shingle Shanty Brook and two adjacent waterways and has sent adjacent landowners a letter asking them to remove the cables, no-trespassing signs, and cameras put in place to deter the public from using the canoe route, the landowners have recently sued Phil Brown, editor of Adirondack Explorer, for trespass. DEC has warned them that failure to comply would require them to refer the matter to the state attorney general for legal action. “The Department has concluded that Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet and Shingle Shanty Brook are subject to a public right of navigation, and that members of the public are therefore legally entitled to travel on those waters,” the letter dated September 24th said.

NORTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Chazy Highlands Wild Forest: The newly acquired Forest Preserve lands on the Standish and Chazy Lake Roads in the Lyon Mountain area, and on the Smith and Carter Roads in the Ellenburg Mountain area, are open for public use. State boundary lines are not yet marked, contact the DEC Region 5 Natural Resources office (518-891-1291) to obtain a property map. Be aware of your location at all times, do not trespass.

Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK NOTICES

Accidents Happen, Be Prepared
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas
The use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe is prohibited. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected by this regulation.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

Personal Flotation Devices Required
Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Cave And Mine Closings
White nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across the northeast has spread to at least 32 cave and mine bat hibernation sites across the New York state according to a recent survey. Populations of some bat species are declining in these caves and mines by 90 percent. White nose was first discovered in upstate New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and is now confirmed in at least 11 states. DEC has closed all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population including Norton Peak Cave in Chateuagay Woodlands Easement Lands and also Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Please respect cave and mine closures.

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles
All backcountry users should learn and practice the Leave No Trace philosophy: Plan ahead and be prepared, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. For more information is available online.

——————–
Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dan Crane’s Backcountry Gear Gift Ideas

For those who have yet to finish their shopping this gift-giving season and are still struggling for ideas for the Adirondack backcountry enthusiast on their list help is now here. From backpacks to sleeping bags and hiking boots to tents, the choices available are enough to send even a seasoned backcountry expert running to their computer for hours of frustrating research. To shed some clarifying light on this situation here are some ideas for relatively inexpensive gifts that hopefully will make the whole process a little less daunting.

Every backcountry adventurer needs the basic navigation tools of map and compass. Although there are numerous different types of compasses to choose from the Silva Ranger 515 CL has been my go-to compass for over 10 years. This compass is one rugged piece of equipment that has always pointed me in the right direction. Other than some worn off print on the bottom and a slightly frayed lanyard, my Silva Ranger compass remains as reliable as it did when I first purchased it.

The Ranger 515 CL has an adjustable declination so it can be set based on the area you are currently exploring. The split-sighting mirror gives superior accuracy when navigating to distant landmarks. And the clinometer provides for measuring angles of inclination too. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this outstanding compass is $55.

Backcountry light sources range from flashlights to headlamps. I prefer headlamps since it is often necssary to have your hands free while doing activities in the dark. With the many headlamps on the market it can be difficult to decide which would make a perfect gift for a backcountry explorer. Hopefully I will be able to shed a little light on this matter.

My current headlamp is a Petzel e+LITE Emergency Headlamp. Although this tiny light is marketed as an emergency headlamp I currently use it as my primary light anytime from mid-spring to mid-autumn. This light is super-lightweight weighing only 27 grams with batteries. It runs on two lithium watch batteries which last anywhere from 35 to 45 hours depending on the intensity of light.

The e+LITE provides 5 different modes including economy, maximum and pulse in white light, and economy and pulse in red light. Although the distance of light and the lack of a focus are disadvantages over traditional headlamps, the lightweight more than makes up for them. Plus there is a 10 year guarantee.

Integral Designs’ Silcoat Backpack is a perfect daypack to bring along on extended trips where reduced weight is paramount. This small daypack weighs a mere 4.5 oz. and can do double-duty as a stuff sack. The pack is made from lightweight silicone-impregnated nylon and features 2 webbing shoulder straps and a removable 1” polyester webbing belt. The manufacture’s suggested retail price is $50.

This pack can be used on those days where a short hike from a base camp is planned and a full pack is just too much to carry. But be careful, this pack is not recommended for loads exceeding 12 lbs, for carrying sharp objects or bushwhacking through dense spruce/fir forests. I often carry this pack for those occasions where I might take a short day hike and would rather not haul my main backpack.

Sleeping pads can be an important part of one’s arsenal of sleeping equipment. Finding a lightweight alternative can be difficult since it often requires giving up on comfort. One of my favorite sleeping pads is Texsport’s Pack-Lite Sleeping Pad.

This sky blue sleeping pad is extremely lightweight, weatherproof, water resistant, full length (20” x 72”) and made from closed cell foam (3/8” thick). If you find full-length pads to be an unnecessary luxury then it can easily be trimmed down to the appropriate size. The best feature of this pad is its incredible low price of only $10.99.

The only downside to the Pack-Lite Sleeping Pad is its really bad out-gassing. I would seriously suggest you set it out in a well ventilated space for a few days before using it.

In the years when I first started venturing into the Adirondack backcountry I carried a large hunting knife. After many trips where I typically used it only to cut food wrappers I could not rip apart with my teeth I finally realized the foolishness of carrying such a heavy knife.

Now I carry the lightest Swiss Army knife available in the Victorinox Classic Swiss Army Knife. This knife weighs only 1 oz. and includes a small knife, scissors (for those tough food wrappers), toothpick, tweezers (for first aid purposes), fine screwdriver and nail file. Although this knife comes in black, green or red, I would strongly suggest the red color as it stands out on a dark forest floor the best.

In my early days of backcountry exploration I not only carried a large hunting knife but multiple Nalgene bottles as well. Now I have replaced them with some lightweight alternatives.

One lightweight alternative to a bulky water bottle is a 1 liter Platypus collapsible bottle. These bottles are extremely lightweight (0.8 oz) and are fully collapsible. The collapsible feature is handy since as you empty the bottle it takes up a less room in your backpack.

I have noted some concern from skeptics about the water bottle being punctured but in the 10+ years I have had them leak only along the upper seams (and this was most likely due to wear of leaving them unattended while attached to my gravity filter multiple times). Plus they are BPA free and lined with taste free plastic.

Although it might be difficult to imagine around this time of year but spring will be here before you know it. And with spring in the Adirondacks comes the most dreaded of all biting flies: the black fly.

The best way to be prepared for bug season is with an OR Deluxe Spring Ring Headnet. This headnet contains a steel ring for holding the netting away from your face yet it only weighs 2.2 oz. This headnet is colored black to minimize interference with vision. And this headnet is no-see-um proof too. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this headnet is $18.

Every backcountry adventurer needs at least a single towel for those occasional bathings. The MSR Packtowl Ultralite is the lightest, most compact microfiber towel on the market. It weighs next to nothing and folds up to a very small space. These towels come in 4 different sizes from x-large to small to meet all your drying needs. This towel soaks 4 times its weight in water and then easily wrings out almost completely dry.

By rolling up your wet backcountry laundry in this towel and wringing both of them together the towel absorbs a vast amount of water. This can significantly reduce the amount of time necessary to dry out your favorite hiking clothing while out in the field.

Hopefully these ideas will help those still struggling with that hard to buy for backcountry explorer on their gift list. Or at the very least, you will know what NOT to buy me since I already have all of the products described above.

Happy Holidays!

Photo: Inexpensive miscellaneous backcountry gear by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at http://www.bushwhackingfool.com/.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Dec. 9)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lapland Lake Ski Center’s Olavi and Ann Hirvonen

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Olavi Hirvonen and his wife Ann, who own and operate the Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in Benson, near Northville. Olavi competed in the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team., and in 1978 he founded Lapland Lake, which he and Ann have built into one of the East’s foremost cross country ski centers.

Jeff: What events led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Nordic Ski Team in 1960?

Olavi: Well, it’s a long story… I was born in Montreal and was brought to Finland when I was eight months old. I was raised there by my grandmother and learned to ski as a youngster. I came to this country in 1949 after serving in the Finnish Army. After being here a couple years and married for a few months, I received greetings from the U.S. Army with special orders to go to Alaska as an instructor in the Arctic Indoctrination School. In the wintertime I taught skiing, snowshoeing, and Arctic survival, and in the summer it was mountain climbing, rock climbing, glacier travel.

Jeff: Alaska must have been an incredible place in the 1950s.

Olavi: I liked Alaska, yes. Good fishing and good hunting, and lots of lingonberries in the woods! [lingonberries are a Scandinavian food staple].

Jeff: Your service in the Army led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team?

Olavi: After the Army I had a ski lodge in Vermont that I was leasing. I had an invitation to go to the U.S. Olympic training camp in Colorado, but we were adding on to the ski lodge in ’59 and early ’60, and I couldn’t take the time to go because of all the work that I needed to do at home. So I trained by myself, until a week before the tryouts, and then I went out to meet up with the team in Winter Park, Colorado, which is at 10,000 feet. I had headaches night and day and didn’t do very well at all. On the fifth day, at a race in Aspen before the tryouts, I came in 26th and I thought I’ll never make it. The day after that we drove up to Steamboat Springs, and I went out to check the course for the first race of the tryouts. All of a sudden I felt like somebody turned the power switch on, like my old self. I came in second in the tryouts.

Olavi: Well, there’s more to the story. Because I hadn’t been trained by the Olympic coaches I was something of a black sheep. I didn’t get to race my best distance, the 30K, which was the first race. I found out the night before the race, and I was very disappointed. Instead I raced in the 15K and the 50K.

Jeff: Which event did you do better in?

Olavi: Well, the 50K, but I had never skied 50K in my life. I didn’t medal, but I ended up being the second US finisher, after breaking my ski. I had to ski on a single ski for more than a mile. I got a ski from a spectator and finished the race. That happened in the first 10K.

Jeff: That’s an incredible story, how did that happen?

Olavi: I stepped out of the track to make way for a Finnish competitor and that’s when I broke my ski. That was Veikko Hakulinen, and he won the silver medal. We became good friends after the Olympics. In the 40K team relay, he came from 20 seconds behind in the last leg to win the gold medal by just one meter. [Veikko Hakulinen was the only athlete at the Squaw Valley games to win three medals. The third medal was in the 15K].

Jeff: And what led you to eventually found Lapland Lake?

Olavi: We were living in Vermont in the 1960s and 1970s, and I had seen Trapp Family Lodge, the first cross country ski center in the United States. My late son worked there as an instructor in the 1970s, and it had been in my mind since the Olympics to one day start something like that.

In 1977 I had built two houses, one that we were living in and one that I was still finishing, and they were both for sale. I thought one of them might sell, but they both did, and so in the spring of 1978 we were homeless and we headed out. My plan was to head into upstate New York, but farther north than here. Driving north on Route 30, I saw the sign for Benson and I thought “I have to make that left.” It was like a magnet, I had not planned to come here. Eventually we found this place. It had cabins, lots of land and a lake, and it was for sale.

When we finally made the deal to buy the property, the lady who sold the property to us, the former owner, wanted to take us out to dinner. On the way to the restaurant she asked me what sports my late son had been involved in [Olavi lost his son Esa in an accident in 1977]. I said biathlon and cross-country skiing, and she said her nephew was on the U.S. biathlon team. So I asked her what’s his name, and she said John Hall. Well, I could hardly believe it because John Hall had been my son’s good buddy in college. That connection must have been the magnet that pulled me here.

Jeff: What were the early years like? Did you operate Lapland Lake as both a touring center and a vacation resort right from the start?

Olavi: Originally, this place was a farm. The lodge was a barn, for cows. In the 1930s, the owner put up some summer cottages but they weren’t winterized. We closed on the property August 3, 1978 and we had the first ski race December 15. There wasn’t much time to work on the trails that first year. We had to jack up all the cottages and put in foundations. I got a backhoe and I dug all of the water lines underground. We worked round the clock to get the place ready.

Jeff: Last year was a really tough year for snow. How did you do?

Ann: We average 117 days of skiing and over 11 feet of snow per year. Last year was our lowest snow year ever (80 inches), but we had over 100 days of skiing. We worked the snow and we were lucky with what we got.

Jeff: How much snow do you need to open?

Olavi: Well it depends on what type of snow. The best is a wet snow, and then cold after that. We can ski with just 2 inches on the lake trail. But six inches of wet snow lets us open just about everything.

Jeff: What’s involved in the trail grooming?

Olavi: At this time of year before the snow comes there’s clearing limbs and trees that have come down, and clearing drainage pipes. In the summer we mow the trails. It’s continuous maintenance. In the winter we groom every day. I’ve got a new 2010 Prinoth Husky Snowcat groomer, I think it’s our fourth snowcat groomer, plus a couple snowmobiles.

Jeff: Do you do all the grooming yourself?

Olavi: Yes, I still do. I have a young man who just started who I hope I can get to groom with the snowmobile, so at least I’ll have a backup if I get sick or hurt. It depends how good he is.

Jeff: How has the grooming evolved?

Olavi: When we first started I just had a snowmobile and track sled. We used mattress springs to break up the snow if it got hard or there was freezing rain. The trails were narrow, and groomed with tracks for classic skiing. Then people started skating, and I complained that people were destroying my tracks. So I widened the trails, bought our first snowcat, and started grooming for both skating and classic.

Jeff: Has anyone taken you up on your “Groomer’s Challenge?”

Ann [explaining to Olavi, who apparently hasn’t seen this on the website]: That’s online. We checked with the Cross Country Ski Association, and we don’t think there’s anyone who has more hours of grooming experience than Olavi in North America. One gentleman said he had been grooming as many years, but he was from downstate where the seasons are short. So in terms of total number of days grooming, we haven’t heard of anyone who’s got the depth of experience that Olavi has. It’s been on the website for three years now.

Jeff: The grooming and the design of the trail network seem to have given Lapland Lake the reputation of being a skier’s ski center.

Olavi: From the start I had the idea of making the trails all one-way loops, other than some connecting trails. We have a limited amount of acreage, and I wanted to get as many kilometers of trail as possible and take advantage of the natural terrain. We also get lots of beginners. We have a great ski school and we do a lot of lessons.

Jeff: Olavi, do you still ski?

Olavi: I don’t ski much anymore. I work days, and usually when I do ski it’s in the evening with lights on the Lake Trail or the easier trails with a headlamp. But I find my balance is nothing like what it used to be. I’ll be 80 on December 26. You know your limitations.

Jeff: A number of cross country ski areas have installed snowmaking: Trapp, Mountain Top, and others. Is that something you’d consider here?

Olavi: No, I think it’s too much of an expense to be worth it for us, it wouldn’t pay. So far we’ve been very lucky with our natural snowfall.

Jeff: Where do your customers come from?

Olavi: We get day skiers from the Capital District, Johnstown and Amsterdam, even Kingston and New Paltz. Overnight guests from Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio. We get lots of Canadians and Europeans. About 65% of our skiers are experienced skiers. We get racers early in the season, but later they travel to races. We also have a great volunteer Ski Patrol.

Ann: On weekends we’ll have 300 to 400 skiers. We hit 1,000 once, but it was just too many: people were elbow-to-elbow in the ski shop.

Jeff: How does this winter look?

Ann: Our reservations and our season passes are up. People seem to feel more comfortable spending money.

Jeff: Do you think a ski center can exist on its own as a viable business, or does it need to be paired with an inn or lodging business to be successful?

Olavi: I think it works best with lodging. It gives you something to fall back on, something for the summertime. And lodging in the winter without the skiing doesn’t do very well either. You have to have that combination.

Jeff: One thing that has always stood out is your website and the way you communicate with skiers.

Olavi: That’s Ann. When we met she was a PR person at Ellis Hospital. She doesn’t want to miss a ski report, and quite often she’ll update it more than once during the day. I’ll give her a report while I’m grooming. We try our best to be honest, but sometimes you still get it wrong.

Ann: At the time, I thought I was taking a big gamble spending money on the website, but it’s really paid off.

Jeff: How do you two share the work: the ski trails, the retail shop, the cottages and the restaurant?

Olavi: Ann is really the manager, and I do most of the outside work, the trails. In the winter, after the trail grooming, I come in and work in the ski shop selling skis and doing repairs. Ann gives me a to-do list.

Ann: Olavi may say I am the manager, but he’s really the heart and soul of the operation. He puts so much of himself into the trails and the grooming… Olavi says “I groom it the way I want to ski it.”

Jeff: Thanks very much Ann and Olavi for your time, and congratulations on your continued success with Lapland Lake. Olavi, congratulations on your upcoming birthday, and your Olympic anniversary. Kudos!

Photo of Olavi and Ann courtesy the Finland Center Foundation.

Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

A New Contributor: Ski Sports Writer Jeff Farbaniec

Please join me in welcoming Jeff Farbaniec as the newest contributor here at the Adirondack Almanack. Jeff is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures. This winter, Jeff’s emphasis will be on the ski sports – everything and anything related to Adirondack skiing.

His first piece for the Almanack runs at noon today, an interview with Olavi and Ann Hirvonen founders of the Lapland Lake ski touring center in Benson (near Northville). Olavi is a former Olympian (1960 Squaw Valley) and at age 80, may be the most experienced groomer in the country.

For now, check out Jeff’s blog. He recently took a look at the pre-season ski movie ritual, took the snowmaking media tour at Whiteface, and spent opening weekend at Gore.

Jeff Farbaniec lives in Wilton, just south of the Blue Line in Saratoga County, with his wife and their 2 young children.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DEC: Be Prepared For Winter Conditions

Visitors to the backcountry of the Adirondacks should be prepared for snow, ice and cold, and use proper equipment, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) advised today. Winter is an opportune time to take advantage of all that the Adirondack Park has to offer, however, the season can also present troublesome – even perilous – conditions to the unprepared.

Snow cover in the Adirondacks is now several feet deep at higher elevations. Visitors to the Eastern High Peaks are required to use snowshoes or cross-country skis for safety. It is strongly recommended that visitors to other parts of the Adirondacks do the same.

Snowshoes or skis prevent sudden falls or “post-holing,” avoids injuries and eases travel on snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy mountaintops and other exposed areas. In addition, backcountry visitors should follow these safety guidelines:

* Dress properly with layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!) clothing: a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots.

* Carry a day pack complete with: An ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, a map and compass, a first-aid kit, a flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.

* Drink plenty of water — dehydration can lead to hypothermia.

* Eat plenty of food to maintain energy levels and warmth.

* Check weather before entering the woods — if the weather is poor, postpone the trip. The mountains will always be there.

* Be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.

* Contact the DEC at (518) 897-1200 to determine trail conditions in the area you plan to visit.

Visitors should also be aware that waters have begun freezing over, but are not safe to access. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.

Adirondack trail information can be found on the DEC website and the Adirondack Almanack provides weekly local conditions reports as well each Thursday afternoon.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Dec. 2)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

** indicates new or revised items.

** SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN IN HIGH PEAKS
DEC Forest Rangers and others continue to search 22 year-old Wesley ‘Wes’ Wamsganz, missing since Saturday, November 20, and believed to be in the High Peaks Wilderness. He is 6’3″ 180 lbs, has buzz cut short blond hair, and blue eyes. He is believed to wearing a Black Bob Marley zip up hoodie, jeans or tan Carhart pants, basketball sneakers and a yellow, red and green striped brimmed beanie. The search was scaled back to “limited continuous status” Sunday. Wamsganz, of Saranac Lake, is believed to have been spotted by hikers at Marcy Dam last Saturday evening. Between Marcy Dam and Lake Colden Wamsganz’s green Carhartt jacket was found last Sunday. If you encounter Mr. Wamsganz or evidence of his whereabouts notify DEC Forest Rangers at (518-897-1300).

Fire Danger: LOW

** Central Adirondacks Lower Elevation Weather
Friday: Chance of light snow showers; mostly cloudy, high near 31.
Friday Night: Chance of snow showers; cloudy, low around 25.
Saturday: Chance of snow showers; cloudy, high near 30.
Saturday Night: Chance of snow showers; cloudy, low around 18.
Sunday: Chance of snow showers; cloudy, high near 30.

The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]

** Recent Storm Impacts
Winds topping 70 mph caused power outages and road closures around the region this week. Whiteface Mountain observation equipment recorded winds as high as 76 mph.

** Snow and Ice Report
Daytime temperatures below freezing can be expected at all elevations. Whiteface and Gore are open with a limited number of trails, but cross country ski areas across the region are still waiting on mother nature. Aside from along the westernmost slopes of the Western Adirondack region where heavy snow has recently fallen, rains have melted much of the snow cover and it doesn’t appear that enough new snow has fallen in the Central Adirondacks / High Peaks regions to make any backcountry trails skiable, although Whiteface Memorial Highway should be skiable this weekend. The Interior Caretaker reports an inch of new snow has covered bare ground at Lake Colden. More snow may be found in higher elevations and summits. Ice is prevalent on the summits and open areas. Carry instep crampons or stabilicers and wear when them when conditions warrant.

** Special Blowdown Notice
Additional heavy winds this week have caused blowdown throughout the Adirondacks. Trees, limbs, and branches may be found over and in trails, especially lesser used side trails.

** Wet & Muddy Conditions
Lower and mid-elevation trails are still wet and muddy. Be prepared by wearing waterproof footwear and gaiters, and remember to walk through – not around – mud and water on trails.

** ALL Rivers Running Well Above Normal
All waters in the region are running well above normal for this time of year. Low water crossings may not be accessible and paddlers should use care and consult the latest streamgages data. Many of the regions rivers and streams are well over 90% of their capacity. The Hudson River at North Creek for example is running at 98% of its capacity. Paddlers and other boaters should be prepared for high waters that may contain logs, limbs and other debris. Overnight paddlers should be aware that ice is beginning to form on some local waters.

Motorists Alert: Whitetail Deer
The peak period for deer-vehicle collisions is October through December, with the highest incidences occurring in November. This corresponds with the peak of the annual deer breeding cycle when deer are more active and less cautious in their movements. Approximately 65,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur throughout NYS each year and two-thirds of the annual collisions occur during this three month period. Most of the collisions occur between 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Motorists are advised that the best way to avoid a collision with a deer is to reduce speed and be alert for their presence on or near the highway.

Motorists Alert: Moose
There are upwards of 800 Moose in the Adirondack region, up from 500 in 2007. Motorists should be alert for moose on the roadways at this time of year especially at dawn and dusk, which are times of poor visibility when Moose are most active. Much larger than deer, moose-car collisions can be very dangerous. Last year ten accidents involving moose were reported. DEC is working to identify areas where moose are present and post warning signs.

** Bear-Resistant Canisters Currently Not Required
The required use of bear-resistant canisters ended November 30. The use of bear-resistant canisters is still encouraged throughout the Adirondacks.

Hunting Seasons
Fall hunting seasons for small game, waterfowl and big game are underway. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to hunt on Forest Preserve lands. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Hikers may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.

** Furbearer Trapping Seasons
Some furbearer hunting and trapping seasons remain open This would be a good time to keep pets leased and on the trails. A reminder that body gripping traps set on land can no longer use bait or lure after December 11, 2010.

Ice Fishing Tip-Ups Can Now Be Used
Tip-ups may be operated on waters of New York State starting November 15, 2010 and continuing through April 30, 2010. General ice fishing regulations can be found in the in the 2010-11 Fishing Regulations Guide.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK CONDITIONS

Accidents Happen, Be Prepared
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas
The use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe is prohibited. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected by this regulation.

Storage of Personal Belongings on State Land
Placing structures or personal property on state land without authorization from DEC is prohibited. Exceptions include: properly placed and labeled geocaches; legally placed and tagged traps, tree stands and blinds. The full regulation regarding the use of motorized equipment on state lands may be found online; the regulation regarding the structures and storage of personal property is also online.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

Personal Flotation Devices Required
Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Cave And Mine Closings
White nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across the northeast has spread to at least 32 cave and mine bat hibernation sites across the New York state according to a recent survey. Populations of some bat species are declining in these caves and mines by 90 percent. White nose was first discovered in upstate New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and is now confirmed in at least 11 states. DEC has closed all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population including Norton Peak Cave in Chateuagay Woodlands Easement Lands and also Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Please respect cave and mine closures.

Waterfowl Consumption Advisory
With waterfowl hunting seasons still open, hunters are reminded that wild ducks and geese may contain chemicals (PCBs and some pesticides) at levels that may be harmful to health. A Department of Health (DOH) advisory states that: “Mergansers are the most heavily contaminated waterfowl species and should not be eaten. Eat no more than two meals per month of other wild waterfowl; you should skin them and remove all fat before cooking and discard stuffing after cooking. Wood ducks and Canada geese are less contaminated than other wild waterfowl species, and diving ducks are more contaminated than dabbler ducks.” DOH’s complete advisories for sport fish and game can be found online.

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles
All backcountry users should learn and practice the Leave No Trace philosophy: Plan ahead and be prepared, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. For more information is available online.

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

NORTHVILLE PLACID TRAIL

The Northville Placid Trail (NPT) is the Adirondack Park’s only designated long distance hiking trail. The 133 mile NPT was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, and is now maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Up to date NPT trail condition information can be found online.

Upper Benson to Whitehouse: About 1.8 miles north of the Silver Lake lean-to and just south of the Canary Pond tent camping area, the trail is flooded and may require wading through water and mud.

West Canada Lakes to Wakely Dam: The bridge over Mud Creek, northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out. Wading the creek is the only option. The water in Mud Creek will vary from ankle deep to knee deep.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About a half mile north of the Lake Durant trailhead at Route 28/30 the trail crosses several flooded boardwalks. Use extreme caution as the boardwalk is not visible and may shift. Expect to get your boots wet and use a stick or hiking pole to feel your way along to avoid falling off the boardwalk.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About 4 miles north of the Tirrell Pond the trail is flooded by beaver activity. The reroute to the east is now also flooded in spots.

Duck Hole to Averyville Rd. and Lake Placid: Beaver activity has flooded the trail about 3 miles south of the Averyville trailhead and will require a sturdy bushwhack.

ADIRONDACK CANOE ROUTE / NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL

** High Waters: Water levels remain higher than normal. Check the current USGS streamflow data for selected waters. Paddlers and other boaters should be prepared for high waters that may contain logs, limbs and other debris. Overnight paddlers should be aware that ice has begun to form in backwaters and long shorelines.

Personal Flotation Devices Required: Users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Eighth Lake Takeout: Northern Forest Canoe Trail volunteers rehabilitated the takeout at the north end of Eighth Lake. The 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail celebrates its tenth year this summer. Winding its way from Maine through New Hampshire, Quebec, Vermont, and into New York ending at Old Forge.

HIGH PEAKS

** Bear Canisters: From now until April 1 bear resistant canisters are not required to be used in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness.

** Jackrabbit Ski Trail: Improvements have been made to the Jackrabbit Trail, a 24-mile cross-country ski trail that runs between Saranac Lake and Keene. There has been a reroute of the popular six mile section between McKenzie Pond Road outside Saranac Lake to Whiteface Inn Road outside Lake Placid. The rerouted trail avoids some hilly terrain at the start of this section and also avoids the ball field, and some private property. Trailhead parking is expected to be expanded in this area later this year.

Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands, including the Elk Lake-Marcy Trail into the High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix-Hunter Pass Trail into the Dix Mountain Wilderness, is closed to all public access through the big game hunting season.

The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season.

Lake Arnold Trail: A section of the Lake Arnold Trail just north of the Feldspar Lean-to may be impassable due to mud and water resulting from past beaver activity. Hikers may want to seek an alternate route during and after wet weather.

Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.

Newcomb Lake – Moose Pond: A bridge on the Newcomb Lake to Moose Pond Trail has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge is intact, but surrounded by water.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement: Camping is limited to designated campsites, 8 campsites have been designated at this time.

Forest Ranger Greg George: Ranger George has retired after 33 years of service. If you had contacted Ranger George in the past for camping permits, backcountry conditions or for any other purpose, you should now contact Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer at 518-648-5246. For matters regarding Tirrell Pond contact Forest Ranger Jay Scott at 315-354-4611.

Ferris Lake Wild Forest / West Lake Boat Launch (Fulton County): The boat launch was impacted by August rains and floods. DEC staff have made repairs to the roadway, parking lot and ramps, however, be aware that the waters off the boat launch are more shallow than before.

Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: The lean-to on the south shore of Chase Lake has been removed, and a new one is now been built on the lake’s north shore (See photos). A new trail spur leading off the old trail and approaching the new lean-to from the west has been marked. The site of the old lean-to is now a designated tent site.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

Wilcox Lake Forest: Trails to Wilcox Lake and Tenant Falls beginning at the end of the Hope Falls Road, cross private property. While DEC does have a trail easement for the East Stony Creek Trail to Wilcox Lake, there is no formal agreement with the landowner for access to the Tenant Falls Trail. DEC is working on a resolution to this matter. In the meanwhile, hikers and day uses must respect the private driveway at the trailhead and not block it. Also respect the landowner’s privacy – stay on the trail, do not enter the private property.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is affecting the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.

SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

** Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: Water levels remain higher than normal. The Hudson River is running high (98% of capacity at North Creek). Check the current USGS streamflow data for selected waters. Paddlers and other boaters should be prepared for high waters that may contain logs, limbs and other debris. Overnight paddlers should be aware that ice is beginning to form on some local waters. Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

** Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Jabe Pond Road, and Buttermilk Road Extension. Although also closed, Scofield Flats, Bear Slides Access, and Pikes Beach Access roads may be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding a Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD).

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

NORTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All All lands, including the trail to The Pinnacle, are closed to all public recreational access until December 31st. Access corridors have been designated to allow hunters to reach forest preserve lands through the conservation easement lands. Contact Senior Forest Rob Daley for information on access corridors at 518-897-1291.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required. DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working through mid-October to move 8 campsites, closed 23 campsites and created 21 new campsites [online map]. This week they are rebuilding a lean-to on Fish Pond. Please respect closure signs.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: There have been important developments; see new information here. Paddlers may want to avoid paddling through private land until the matter is resolved. Although DEC has sided with paddlers in the dispute over the public’s right to canoe through private land on Shingle Shanty Brook and two adjacent waterways and has sent adjacent landowners a letter asking them to remove the cables, no-trespassing signs, and cameras put in place to deter the public from using the canoe route, the landowners have recently sued Phil Brown, editor of Adirondack Explorer, for trespass. DEC has warned them that failure to comply would require them to refer the matter to the state attorney general for legal action. “The Department has concluded that Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet and Shingle Shanty Brook are subject to a public right of navigation, and that members of the public are therefore legally entitled to travel on those waters,” the letter dated September 24th said.

NORTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Chazy Highlands Wild Forest: The newly acquired Forest Preserve lands on the Standish and Chazy Lake Roads in the Lyon Mountain area, and on the Smith and Carter Roads in the Ellenburg Mountain area, are open for public use. State boundary lines are not yet marked, contact the DEC Region 5 Natural Resources office (518-891-1291) to obtain a property map. Be aware of your location at all times, do not trespass.

Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

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Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gear: Northern Lites snowshoes

With the wintry weather upon us snowshoes have become an indispensable piece of backcountry equipment. Without snowshoes (or their cousin the cross-country skis) the backcountry would be mostly off-limits to any adventures for nearly half of the year in the Adirondacks.

Snowshoes come in all different styles and materials (e.g. wood vs. aluminum). The industry has largely moved away from natural materials due to the light weight and durability of their artificial counterparts. Tubbs, Atlas or Redfeather are popular manufacturers but the leader in lightweight snowshoes is Northern Lites located in Wausau, Wisconsin. Northern who?” you might ask. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Never Been Ice Climbing? Here’s An All Ages Primer

Weekend warriors from New York City, western New York State, Massachusetts, Vermont and Pennsylvania often rise at the ungodly dark hour of 4 AM and on a frigid winter morning make the long drive to the Adirondacks. Many come not to ski down our mountains but rather to climb straight-up. What are they doing? Ice Climbing! It is a sport gaining fast in popularity.

Ice climbing can be crazy and dangerous but for the beginner, with qualified instructors and adequate precautions, the risk is minimized. To indulge one’s wild side with a day of ice climbing and a heart-stopping good time, Adirondack residents need only pile on warm clothing, pack lunch and travel a few miles to the nearest wilderness outfitter, a source of instructors. (Do call ahead first.)

These instructors provide boots, crampons, helmets and axes, cinch you tightly into a harness and, upon reaching the ice, clip you to a top-rope, so serious free falling is not an option. They exhibit a world of patience, attentiveness and good humor while at the same time teaching the basics of climbing. Before shivery jitters can take over, you will find yourself, axe in each hand, kicking and chopping your way straight up what just a few minutes earlier seemed an impossibly slippery slope. Age is no excuse.

Last February, ten of us, several well into our sixties, cautiously ascended an ice sheet under the watchful eyes and tutelage of Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service instructors, Bill Seims and Lori Crowningshield. We spent an adrenalin pumping and rousingly fun day finding out why people indulge in this peculiar sport. The reason? – because to climb ice is a whacky challenge, to succeed is a thrill.

What did we learn? – first, that us older folks were just as able to participate and enjoy the crazy adventure as those considerably younger.

If you occasionally hike and are in moderately good shape, you can do this. In fact, because of the necessary “buddy system,” ice climbing can be a perfect cross-generational activity, challenging enough for older children to enjoy with a still active parent. I had the pleasure of doing this with my son, Christopher.

We also discovered several other things: that once on the ice, intense focus on the placement of axe and crampon sends fear of heights skittering away (unless you look down); prongs and ice axes, barely puncturing the surface, easily support a person’s weight; and last, carefully watching and belaying your partner, taking in the rope’s slack as he/she climbs, is as much a challenge as doing the actual climbing itself.

When first confronted with a 65- foot vertical wall of ice, some of us were gripped by an emotion best described as terror. However, top-roped, and with clear directions, each managed to overcome fear and climb, climb again and then, with enthusiasm, climb several more times. With each trip up the ice, understanding of technique grows, less exertion is required and the ascent becomes more fun.

What a way to practice team-building. What a satisfying accomplishment. What a high we experienced at the end of the day. Some got hooked and plan to go back again; for others, just pushing the comfort zone was empowering, a reminder of how we can often do far more than we realize.

After hours of climbing, we declared it a memorable day, one destined to be a highlight in our collection of memories. When looking for adventure, Adirondack residents should think about this great opportunity, one which exists conveniently close to home.

Getting a group together, rather than going by yourself, will lower the price. A day on the ice will cost no more than an evening on the town. For information on how to pick a guide, go to http://www.usmga.net. To find instructors, Google “Adirondack ice climbing instruction”.

Saranac Lake resident and freelance writer Caperton Tissot writes a shared weekly “Friends and Neighbors” column in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. She is also the author of two books on her own Snowy Owl Press, History Between The Lines, Women’s Lives and Saranac Lake Customs (2007), and Adirondack Ice, A Cultural and Natural History (2010).


Monday, November 29, 2010

Some Early-Season Adirondack Ski Trips

I got back from a long holiday weekend Sunday night to find a few inches of snow in my driveway in Saranac Lake. It won’t be long before the cross-country-ski season begins in earnest.

So far, I have been out only once—on the Whiteface highway, the traditional first ski of the season in the Adirondacks. The highway needs only a few inches of snow to be skiable.

A few years ago, the Adirondack Explorer published an article by Tony Goodwin—the author of Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks — on other places to ski that don’t require a lot of snow. He came up with ten early – season suggestions in addition to the Whiteface road.

Click here to read Tony’s story. You’ll find some other old favorites, such as the road to Camp Santanoni, as well as lesser-known destinations, such as Bum Pond in the Whitney Wilderness.

If you have other ideas for early-season ski trips, let us know.

And if you’re planning ahead for trips later in the season, bookmark this site. I’ll be adding links to more ski trips as they become available.

Photo by Phil Brown: A skier on Whiteface Memorial Highway.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Nov. 25)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN IN HIGH PEAKS
DEC Forest Rangers and others are currently searching for a 22 year old male in the High Peaks Wilderness. Wesley ‘Wes’ Wamsganz has been missing since Saturday, November 20, and is believed to be somewhere in the High Peaks Wilderness. He is 6’3″ 180 lbs, has buzz cut short blond hair, and blue eyes. He is believed to wearing a Black Bob Marley zip up hoodie, jeans or tan Carhart pants, basketball sneakers and a yellow, red and green striped brimmed beanie. You may encounter search efforts while hiking in the High Peaks. Please do your best not to interfere with the search effort and follow the instructions of searchers. If you encounter Mr. Wamsganz please notify DEC Forest Rangers at (518-897-1300). If you can’t call, seek out a forest ranger, interior caretaker, other searcher or stop at the ADK’s High Peaks Information Center.

Fire Danger: LOW

Central Adirondacks Lower Elevation Weather
Friday: Rain, chance of snow; high near 37. Gusty winds, summits obscured by clouds.
Friday Night: Chance of snow showers. Cloudy, low around 18.
Saturday: Snow showers. Cloudy, with a high near 28. Summits obscured by clouds.
Saturday Night: Cloudy, with a low around 15.
Sunday: Cloudy, with a high near 30.

The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]

Snow and Ice, Colder Weather
Night-time and morning temperatures below freezing can be expected, especially at higher elevations. Snows may be found in higher elevations and summits are a mix of snow and ice. Carry instep crampons or stabilicers and wear when them when conditions warrant.

Wet & Muddy Conditions
Some lower and mid-elevation trails are still wet and muddy. Be prepared by wearing waterproof footwear and gaiters, and remember to walk through – not around – mud and water on trails.

Expect Blowdown
Recent heavy winds have caused blowdown throughout the Adirondacks. Trees, limbs, and branches may be found over and in trails, especially lesser used side trails.

Some Rivers Running Above Normal
Most waters in the region are still running above normal for this time of year. Low water crossings may not be accessible and paddlers should consult local stream gauges. Well above normal flow is being reported for the Beaver River. The Indian, Hudson, Sacandaga, AuSable, and Bouquet rivers are still running above normal as well. Paddlers and others should use care and consult the latest streamgages data.

Motorists Alert: Whitetail Deer
The peak period for deer-vehicle collisions is October through December, with the highest incidences occurring in November. This corresponds with the peak of the annual deer breeding cycle when deer are more active and less cautious in their movements. Approximately 65,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur throughout NYS each year and two-thirds of the annual collisions occur during this three month period. Most of the collisions occur between 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Motorists are advised that the best way to avoid a collision with a deer is to reduce speed and be alert for their presence on or near the highway.

Motorists Alert: Moose
There are upwards of 800 Moose in the Adirondack region, up from 500 in 2007. Motorists should be alert for moose on the roadways at this time of year especially at dawn and dusk, which are times of poor visibility when Moose are most active. Much larger than deer, moose-car collisions can be very dangerous. Last year ten accidents involving moose were reported. DEC is working to identify areas where moose are present and post warning signs.

Hunting Seasons
Fall hunting seasons for small game, waterfowl and big game are underway. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to hunt on Forest Preserve lands. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Hikers may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.

Furbearer Trapping Seasons
Starting this multiple furbearer hunting and trapping seasons are now open including bobcat, weasel, mink, muskrat, fisher, martin, opossum, raccoon, fox, and skunk. This would be a good time to keep pets leased and on the trails. A reminder that body gripping traps set on land can no longer use bait or lure after December 11, 2010.

Ice Fishing Tip-Ups Can Now Be Used
Tip-ups may be operated on waters of New York State starting November 15, 2010 and continuing through April 30, 2010. General ice fishing regulations can be found in the in the 2010-11 Fishing Regulations Guide.

Fewer Fish Stocking Expected
Conservation Fund Advisory Board chairman Jason Kemper, told the state Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee last week that there will be fewer fish stocked throughout New York state next spring due to cuts to the DEC’s budget. Kemper said that for the first time since the 1970s, eggs were not taken from Raquette Lake this year. This is expected to result in 115,000 fewer lake trout being stocked throughout the Adirondacks. Also impacted will be egg takes at the Adirondack fish hatchery in Lake Clear, which stocks landlocked salmon, and that will result in 700,000 fewer Atlantic salmon being stocked throughout the state.

Historical Note: 1950 Blowdown
The Adirondacks is prone to powerful windstorms, isolated tornadoes, and occasional hurricanes, and microbursts. The second most destructive of these in modern Adirondack history (next to the 1998 Ice Storm) occurred 60 years ago. The Big Blowdown of 1950 brought heavy rains and winds in excess of 100 mph. In a single day – November 25th – more than 800,000 acres of timber was heavily damaged. The storm caused a complete shutdown of the roads and trails across large swaths of the park, a historic suspension of the State Constitution, a temporary glut in the spruce market, and a political impact that continues to this day. You can read more here.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK CONDITIONS

Accidents Happen, Be Prepared
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Whiteface Mountain Opens Friday, Nov. 26
Whiteface will open for its 53rd ski and ride season on Friday, Nov. 26, at 8:30 a.m. Snow guns have been making snow since Thursday, Nov. 18, in preparation for opening day. The Cloudsplitter Gondola will carry intermediate and above level skiers and riders to the summit of Little Whiteface to access Excelsior, Upper Valley, and the Summit Express. Skiers and riders will then load the Little Whiteface chair to return to the summit of Little Whiteface. At the conclusion of their day, they will then download on the Cloudsplitter Gondola. The Lower Valley, Fox and Mixing Bowl trails are expected to open for the season Saturday for top to bottom skiing and riding.

Gore Mountain Opens Saturday, Nov. 27
Gore Mountain is expected to open Saturday, November 27 at 8:30 am. Terrain will include approximately 2 miles for intermediates and experts, with a route combining Ruby Run, Sunway, Quicksilver, 3B, & Jamboree. Snowmakers are hard at work on Topridge as well.

DEC Campgrounds Are Now Closed
All DEC campgrounds in the Adirondacks are closed until next season.

Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas
The use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe is prohibited. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected by this regulation.

Storage of Personal Belongings on State Land
Placing structures or personal property on state land without authorization from DEC is prohibited. Exceptions include: properly placed and labeled geocaches; legally placed and tagged traps, tree stands and blinds. The full regulation regarding the use of motorized equipment on state lands may be found online; the regulation regarding the structures and storage of personal property is also online.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

Bear-Resistant Canisters
The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear resistant canisters; the use of bear-resistant canisters is encouraged throughout the Adirondacks.

Personal Flotation Devices Required
Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Changes to Game Harvest Reporting
A new regulation effective November 17 extends the game harvest reporting deadline from 48 hours to 7 days. Successful hunters of deer, bear, and turkey are required to report their harvest through DEC’s online reporting system (http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8316.html) or by calling 1-866-GAME-RPT (1-866-426-3778). The change will allow hunters who hunt in remote areas more time to report their harvest, a crucial step in the management process that provides data on when and where an animal was taken and estimates for the number of animals harvested each year throughout the State.

Newly Opened Roads
A number of roads closed this spring, when budget cutbacks restricted DEC’s ability to repair, maintain and patrol them, have reopened in time for big game hunting season. All roads typically open in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest are now open. Lily Pond Road in Horicon, Gay Pond Road in Warrensburg, and Dacy Clearing Road (on the east side of Lake George) have reopened. Jabe Pond Road in Hague, Buttermilk Road Extension in Warrensburg, Scofield Flats Road, Pikes Beach Access Road and the Bear Slides Access Road in Luzerne all remain temporarily closed.

Cave And Mine Closings
White nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across the northeast has spread to at least 32 cave and mine bat hibernation sites across the New York state according to a recent survey. Populations of some bat species are declining in these caves and mines by 90 percent. White nose was first discovered in upstate New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and is now confirmed in at least 11 states. DEC has closed all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population including Norton Peak Cave in Chateuagay Woodlands Easement Lands and also Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Please respect cave and mine closures.

Waterfowl Consumption Advisory
With waterfowl hunting seasons open, hunters are reminded that wild ducks and geese may contain chemicals (PCBs and some pesticides) at levels that may be harmful to health. A Department of Health (DOH) advisory states that: “Mergansers are the most heavily contaminated waterfowl species and should not be eaten. Eat no more than two meals per month of other wild waterfowl; you should skin them and remove all fat before cooking and discard stuffing after cooking. Wood ducks and Canada geese are less contaminated than other wild waterfowl species, and diving ducks are more contaminated than dabbler ducks.” DOH’s complete advisories for sport fish and game can be found online.

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles
All backcountry users should learn and practice the Leave No Trace philosophy: Plan ahead and be prepared, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. For more information is available online.

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

** indicates new or revised items.

NORTHVILLE PLACID TRAIL

The Northville Placid Trail (NPT) is the Adirondack Park’s only designated long distance hiking trail. The 133 mile NPT was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, and is now maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Up to date NPT trail condition information can be found online.

Upper Benson to Whitehouse: About 1.8 miles north of the Silver Lake lean-to and just south of the Canary Pond tent camping area, the trail is flooded and may require wading through water and mud.

West Canada Lakes to Wakely Dam: The bridge over Mud Creek, northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out. Wading the creek is the only option. The water in Mud Creek will vary from ankle deep to knee deep.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About a half mile north of the Lake Durant trailhead at Route 28/30 the trail crosses several flooded boardwalks. Use extreme caution as the boardwalk is not visible and may shift. Expect to get your boots wet and use a stick or hiking pole to feel your way along to avoid falling off the boardwalk.

Lake Durant to Long Lake: About 4 miles north of the Tirrell Pond the trail is flooded by beaver activity. The reroute to the east is now also flooded in spots.

Duck Hole to Averyville Rd. and Lake Placid: Beaver activity has flooded the trail about 3 miles south of the Averyville trailhead and will require a sturdy bushwhack.

ADIRONDACK CANOE ROUTE / NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL

High Waters: Water levels remain higher than normal. Check the current USGS streamflow data for selected waters. Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Personal Flotation Devices Required: Users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Eighth Lake Takeout: Northern Forest Canoe Trail volunteers rehabilitated the takeout at the north end of Eighth Lake. The 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail celebrates its tenth year this summer. Winding its way from Maine through New Hampshire, Quebec, Vermont, and into New York ending at Old Forge.

HIGH PEAKS

** Jackrabbit Ski Trail: Improvements have been made to the Jackrabbit Trail, a 24-mile cross-country ski trail that runs between Saranac Lake and Keene. There has been a reroute of the popular six mile section between McKenzie Pond Road outside Saranac Lake to Whiteface Inn Road outside Lake Placid. The rerouted trail avoids some hilly terrain at the start of this section and also avoids the ball field, and some private property. Trailhead parking is expected to be expanded in this area later this year.

Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands, including the Elk Lake-Marcy Trail into the High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix-Hunter Pass Trail into the Dix Mountain Wilderness, is closed to all public access through the big game hunting season.

The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season.

Lake Arnold Trail: A section of the Lake Arnold Trail just north of the Feldspar Lean-to may be impassable due to mud and water resulting from past beaver activity. Hikers may want to seek an alternate route during and after wet weather.

Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.

Newcomb Lake – Moose Pond: A bridge on the Newcomb Lake to Moose Pond Trail has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge is intact, but surrounded by water.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement: Camping is limited to designated campsites, 8 campsites have been designated at this time.

Forest Ranger Greg George: Ranger George has retired after 33 years of service. If you had contacted Ranger George in the past for camping permits, backcountry conditions or for any other purpose, you should now contact Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer at 518-648-5246. For matters regarding Tirrell Pond contact Forest Ranger Jay Scott at 315-354-4611.

Ferris Lake Wild Forest / West Lake Boat Launch (Fulton County): The boat launch was impacted by August rains and floods. DEC staff have made repairs to the roadway, parking lot and ramps, however, be aware that the waters off the boat launch are more shallow than before.

Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: The lean-to on the south shore of Chase Lake has been removed, and a new one is now been built on the lake’s north shore (See photos). A new trail spur leading off the old trail and approaching the new lean-to from the west has been marked. The site of the old lean-to is now a designated tent site.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

Wilcox Lake Forest: Trails to Wilcox Lake and Tenant Falls beginning at the end of the Hope Falls Road, cross private property. While DEC does have a trail easement for the East Stony Creek Trail to Wilcox Lake, there is no formal agreement with the landowner for access to the Tenant Falls Trail. DEC is working on a resolution to this matter. In the meanwhile, hikers and day uses must respect the private driveway at the trailhead and not block it. Also respect the landowner’s privacy – stay on the trail, do not enter the private property.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is affecting the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.

SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: Water levels remain higher than normal. Check the current USGS streamflow data for selected waters. Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Jabe Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

NORTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All All lands, including the trail to The Pinnacle, are closed to all public recreational access until December 31st. Access corridors have been designated to allow hunters to reach forest preserve lands through the conservation easement lands. Contact Senior Forest Rob Daley for information on access corridors at 518-897-1291.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required. DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working through mid-October to move 8 campsites, closed 23 campsites and created 21 new campsites [online map]. This week they are rebuilding a lean-to on Fish Pond. Please respect closure signs.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.

** Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: There have been important developments; see new information here. Paddlers may want to avoid paddling through private land until the matter is resolved. Although DEC has sided with paddlers in the dispute over the public’s right to canoe through private land on Shingle Shanty Brook and two adjacent waterways and has sent adjacent landowners a letter asking them to remove the cables, no-trespassing signs, and cameras put in place to deter the public from using the canoe route, the landowners have recently sued Phil Brown, editor of Adirondack Explorer, for trespass. DEC has warned them that failure to comply would require them to refer the matter to the state attorney general for legal action. “The Department has concluded that Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet and Shingle Shanty Brook are subject to a public right of navigation, and that members of the public are therefore legally entitled to travel on those waters,” the letter dated September 24th said.

NORTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Chazy Highlands Wild Forest: The newly acquired Forest Preserve lands on the Standish and Chazy Lake Roads in the Lyon Mountain area, and on the Smith and Carter Roads in the Ellenburg Mountain area, are open for public use. State boundary lines are not yet marked, contact the DEC Region 5 Natural Resources office (518-891-1291) to obtain a property map. Be aware of your location at all times, do not trespass.

Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.

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Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A New Website For The Northville Placid Trail

The Northville-Placid Trail Subcommittee of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Trails Committee has announced the creation of a new website devoted to the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT).

The NPT, which stretches 133 miles through some of the wildest and most remote parts of the Adirondack Park, was the first project undertaken by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) after it was formed in 1922. ADK publishes “Adirondack Trails: Northville-Placid Trail,” the definitive guide to the trail, which includes a detailed topographical map of the NPT. The website was developed by Tom Wemett, chair of the Northville-Placid Trail Subcommittee and a self-described “NPT fanatic.” » Continue Reading.