Monday, October 12, 2009

Local High Peaks Access Point: The Garden

The “Garden” in Keene Valley is one of the more popular access points to the High Peaks region. Turn west from Route 73 onto Adirondack Street which turns into Johns Brook Lane. The parking lot with a capacity of around three dozen cars (including a centerline of vehicles) is located about two miles from Route 73 at the end of Interbrook Way. A modest parking fee of $5.00/day helps to maintain winter plowing, upkeep and pay the weekend attendants. A seasonal shuttle to and from the southwest corner of Marcy Field, with the last run of this season slated for October 18th, helps with overflow. Further details regarding parking/shuttle rates can be viewed via this link.

The Garden’s popularity is perhaps owed to its proximity to a multitude of High Peaks including those of the Great Range. Johns Brook Lodge sits three and one half miles southwest and can be directly accessed via either the Southside trail or the Northside Trail, both of which parallel Johns Brook. While the grandeur of the peaks tempts many, simple explorations of the immediate area can be equally fulfill whether just a brief walk, snowshoe or ski through a hardwood forest or exploration of Johns Brook itself. The easiest access to the brook is from the Southside trail which deviates south (left) from the Northside Trail one half mile from the parking lot.

For all its familiarity to the hiking community, the origin of the Garden’s name is often a mystery since the parking lot appears to be a far cry from a garden. Its origin is, however, as simple as it sounds. It was derived from a vegetable garden maintained at the site of what is now the parking lot in and about the year 1915, according to the Spring 1971 issue of the Forty-Sixer newsletter. The few hikers that passed through the area at that time used the vegetable garden as a reference point and the name remains today.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Remote and Difficult Adirondack Paddle Trips

The Adirondacks have a number of remote, difficult trips suitable for either long, single-day trips or for multi-day trips. One notable trip is the Cold River, starting at Tahawus and on to Duck Hole, paddling the entire length of river down to the Raquette, and then either upstream to Long Lake or down to Axton’s Landing.

Another involves a paddle down the upper East Branch of the Oswegatchie to Inlet starting from the Lower Dam on the Bog River, up Lows Lake , and over to the Oswegatchie via Big Deer Pond. (I know of one party that got to the upper East Branch from Stillwater Reservoir and then north via Salmon, Witchhopple, and Clear Lakes.) » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Volunteers Needed for Adirondack Fall Trails Day

Adirondack outdoor recreation enthusiasts will have an opportunity to give back to the region’s trail system on Saturday, Oct. 17, when the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Trails Program holds its 17th Annual Fall Trails Day in the High Peaks Region. Participants can stay at the ADK’s Wilderness Campground for free both Friday and Saturday nights; Saturday begins with a basic breakfast at the High Peaks Information Center near the Adirondak Loj (volunteers should pack a lunch). A list of trail projects is available at www.adk.org/trails/Fall_Trails_Day_List.aspx.

According to the ADK announcement of this year’s Fall Trails Day “volunteers, working with trained leaders, will use hand tools to clean drainage, trim overgrown sections of trail and remove downed trees. This maintenance work will help prepare the trails and their existing erosion-control structures for spring. Once debris is cleared from drainage ditches, the trails will be better suited to withstand rainwater and spring snowmelt runoff.” All maintenance work is done in cooperation with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

For more information or to register, contact the ADK Trails Program at (518) 523-3441.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Paddler and Author Don Morris Joins Adirondack Almanack

Adirondack Almanack is pleased to announce that Don Morris is joining the site as paddling contributor. Don’s posts on all things canoeing and kayaking will run monthly, beginning tomorrow.

Don is co-author of Adirondack Canoe Waters, North Flow, the classic canoeing and kayaking guide and just a great book, period. “Don is an experienced kayaker at home in technical waters beyond the skill of the original writer,” Paul Jamieson (the book’s selfsame original writer) wrote in 1994 as he announced the transition in authorship. Jamieson died in 2006 at age 103. Don has added whitewater routes as well as detail about technical runs to the book. But he says he spends just as much time on flatwater in the Adirondacks and on his travels outside the region.

Photograph: Don Morris and friends paddle Ausable Chasm


Monday, October 5, 2009

Internet Resources for Backcountry Navigation

Navigation through the Adirondack backcountry can be difficult. Out of the way rivers, streams, geologic features, ponds and even mountains are not always accessible by paths or readily described in books. The internet provides a number of valuable visual resources that help take some of the guesswork out of locating and navigating to a remote location. Some of the most helpful sites include ortho-imagery (aerial photographs digitally adjusted for topography, camera tilt and other details), latitude/longitude specifics, compass orientation and 3-D modules.

Flash Earth displays the latitude and longitude in relation to an on-screen crosshair. These details can be input into a GPS to further narrow the margin of error. Several satellite aerial photograph choices with scaling allow an in-depth study of the earth’s features. A compass in the upper right of the screen provides accurate orientation as well as map rotation if desired.

Terra Server USA adds a topographic map to the mix, but narrows the aerial photo choices to one source. Latitude and longitude information is displayed and can be used to display a general location. The lack of a cross-hair or other relative on-screen marker makes it a bit more difficult to tell what section part on the map corresponds to the latitude/longitude.

Virtual Earth uses either a “road” view or an “aerial” view with several powerful features. Latitude, longitude and altitude correspond to the cursor’s location on the image and work in both the two and three dimensional modes. The 3-D module allows the user to truly study the area’s topography by using the zoom, tilt, rotate, pan and altitude functions. A special “Bird’s Eye” view overlays photographs (where available) of specific areas.

State Lands Interactive Mapper or SLIM is located on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s site. Map details are manipulated by about twenty different layer options that can either be added or removed from the map via the map contents pane. Layer choices include trails for mountain bikes, hiking, snowmobiles, horses and cross country skiing. Waterways, roads and areas accessible by persons with disabilities may also be selected. Several boundaries including state land boundaries help the back country explorer avoid private lands. Ortho-imagery or topographical maps may be chosen as well.


Monday, October 5, 2009

A New Hiking Guide for Adirondack Dog Lovers

There are many good reasons to pick up a copy of Dog Hikes in the Adirondacks: 20 Trails to Enjoy with Your Best Friend, a useful and big-hearted little book from Westport’s Shaggy Dog Press: Authors who know the territory offer their favorite places to hike with pets. The book’s editors, Annie Stoltie and Elisabeth Ward, provide tips on introducing young dogs to the trail, rules and courtesies, and veterinary care. Finally, proceeds from the sale of the book benefit animal shelters and humane organizations throughout the Adirondack Park.

“The Adirondack Park remains uncrowded by the grace of location,” the book’s introduction says. “The pet population may well rival that of humans, which helps to explain the number of animal shelters in the park’s 11 counties. As in any predominantly rural setting, these shelters are overfilled and struggling to save abandoned cats and dogs, to educate on proper care of pets, to teach the importance of spay and neuter programs. Often these shelters have to rely on the kindness of the strangers who visit the Adirondacks for their outdoor experiences.”

Cats are an especially big challenge for Adirondack shelters, as Annie Stoltie explains in this Adirondack Life article. The link also provides addresses and contact information for Adirondack humane organizations.

North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann aired a charming on-trail interview with the book’s publisher, Libby Treadwell, last week.

The soft-cover book is 64 pages. To order send $12.95 per copy (price includes tax and postage) to: Shaggy Dog Press | PO Box 318 | Westport, NY 12993. Donations also sent to that address will be forwarded to shelters. North Country Books is distributing the book, so check your local bookstores as well.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

September DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (Sept 2009)

For the interest of Almanack readers, we present the September DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report in its entirety:

Clinton County
Town of Black Brook, Taylor Pond Wild Forest
On Saturday, September 19, at approximately 2:05 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call from State Police in Plattsburgh, reporting a group of 3 young girls, ages 9, & 10, missing from the DEC Taylor Pond Campground. The girls were last seen at 11:30 AM heading to an outhouse. The girls’ parents searched for 2 hours before reporting them missing. Five DEC Forest Rangers responded, along with the State Police Aviation Unit helicopter. A forest ranger aboard the helicopter spotted the missing group approximately 3 miles from the campground. Another forest ranger searching in the area made contact with the children and safely escorted them out of the woods by 5:15 PM. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 28, 2009

St. Lawrence’s Peak Weekend: High Peaks Tradition

I crossed paths with a group of hikers on September 27, 2003 while traversing the High Peaks of the Dix Range near Keene Valley. The cloud ceiling that day was hanging at about 3500’ which put it well below the altitude of the herd paths and the rain was blowing sideways under heavy winds. There were no views, but the enthusiastic hikers were focused on a different goal. They were students from St. Lawrence University and comprised one of many groups scattered throughout the Adirondacks at that time.

Each was playing a role in a collaborative effort to put at least one St. Lawrence student on the summit of all forty-six High Peaks over the course of three days.

The annual tradition called Peak Weekend was initiated by the university’s Outing Club in 1982. and coincides closely with autumn’s foliage peak, either the last week of September or the first week of October (though their first effort was attempted in the spring of 1982). An Outing Club meeting held the week prior enables all the participants to choose their objective, meet the group leaders and discuss logistics.

While autumn’s peak foliage hadn’t quite reached its full spectrum, September 25th marked the beginning of this year’s St. Lawrence University Peak Weekend. The weather during the end of last week made for the perfect autumn hiking conditions with most of the adventure taking place on Saturday. Crisp Adirondack blue skies free of summer’s humidity enunciated the splendor of autumn’s colors. Group sizes this year ranged from two to the DEC limit of sixteen, including some staff and faculty. The total participation was roughly 260 including three St. Lawrence athletic teams. Several groups camped Friday night in conditions below freezing while others met early Saturday morning to day-hike their objectives. Routes included both maintained trails and some less traveled routes including Mt. Colden’s Trap Dike which was ascended by a large group of first-year students. The coordinated effort has not always achieved its goal, though according to the Outing Club’s website, 2009 marked success for the fifth consecutive year.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

DEC Proposes Fishing Regulations Changes

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced proposed changes to the state’s freshwater fishing regulations. The agency will be accepting public comments on the changes until November 2, 2009. According to a DEC press release: “The proposed regulations are the result of careful assessment of the status of existing fish populations and the desires of anglers for enhanced fishing opportunities. The opportunity for public review follows discussions held with angling interest groups over the past year.”

The following are highlights of the proposed changes in the Adirondack region provided by DEC:

* Apply the statewide regulation for pickerel, eliminating the “no size” limit regulation in: Essex, Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington County waters.

* Apply the statewide regulation creel limit of 50 fish per day for yellow perch and sunfish for Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties, as well as for Schroon Lake, as this limit will help protect against overexploitation.

* Eliminate special regulation prohibiting smelt fishing at Portaferry Lake in St. Lawrence County as no smelt runs have been reported in many years.

* Delete the 5+5 brook trout special regulation (Regions 5, 6 & 7), which allows for an additional 5 brook trout under 8 inches as part of the daily limit, as there is no basis for retaining this special regulation for this species.

* Prohibit fishing from March 16 until the opening of walleye season in May in a section of the Oswegatchie River in St. Lawrence County to protect spawning walleye.

* Ban possession of river herring (alewife and blueback herring) in the Waterford Flight (Lock 2-Guard Gate 2) on the Saratoga County side of the Mohawk River, where blueback herring, declining in numbers, are especially vulnerable to capture.

* Allow the use of alewives and blueback herring as bait in Lake Champlain, Clinton County, Essex County, Franklin County, Warren County, Washington County and Canadarago Lake (Otsego County).

* Add new state land trout waters to bait fish prohibited list for Essex, Hamilton, and Washington Counties to guard against undesirable fish species introductions and preserve native fish communities.

* Allow ice fishing for rainbow trout in Glen Lake, Warren County.

The full text of the proposed regulation changes are available on DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/57841.html.

Comments on the proposals being submitted by e-mail should be sent to fishregs@gw.dec.state.ny.us or mailed to Shaun Keeler, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.

After full review of the public comments, the final regulations will go into effect October 1, 2010.

Artwork of Brook Trout by Ellen Edmonson from Inland Fishes of New York, a publication of Cornell University and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation


Sunday, September 20, 2009

DEC Announces Pheasant Stocking Locations

In time for the opening of Pheasant Season October 1, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be stocking easily accessible areas where upland game bird hunting opportunities are generally limited. 2,500 pheasants will be distributed at locations in six counties. A second stocking will occur later this season.

Since some of the locations are on private land where the public is allowed to hunt, DEC asks hunters to maintain cooperative relationships with landowners by keeping hunting groups small, seeking permission, avoiding driving through fields or blocking roads or driveways, and staying in areas where public hunting is allowed.

For the third consecutive year DEC is providing a Youth Pheasant Hunting Weekend on September 26-27 to provide junior hunters (12-15 years old) an opportunity to hunt pheasant the weekend before to the regular season begins.

Listed below are pheasant stocking locations by county in DEC’s Region 5. “YH” indicates a site stocked prior to the youth hunt weekend and “RS” indicates a site stock prior to and during the regular season.

Clinton County

* North of Brand Hollow Road, west of Rt. 22B in the Town of Schuyler Falls (RS only)
* Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area in the Town of Chazy (YH & RS)
* NOTE: Monty Bay Wildlife Management Area will not be stocked due to better pheasant habitat at Lake Alice.

Essex County

* Near the junction of Lake Shore Road & Clark Road on state land in the Town of Westport (YH & RS)

Franklin County

* North of Rt. 11 between Brockway Road & Garvin Road in the Town of Bangor (RS only)
* Howard Road (also known as the Griffin Road) in the Town of Fort Covington (RS only)

Fulton County

* Rt. 140 west of the Village of Ephratah in the Town of Ephratah (RS only)
* Rt. 67 Ephratah Rod and Gun Club in the Town of Ephratah (RS only)

Saratoga County

* Daketown State Forest in the Town of Greenfield (YH & RS)

Washington County

* Carter’s Pond Wildlife Management Area in the Town of Greenwich (YH & RS)
* Eldridge Lane in the Town of Hartford (RS only)
* South of the Village of Whitehall between County Rt. 12 and the barge canal and along Greenmount Road in the Town of Whitehall (RS only)
* Eldridge Swamp State Forest in the Town of Jackson (YH & RS) – note that Eldridge Swamp is often wet, knee boots are recommended.

For further information on pheasant hunting and release sites contact the DEC Region Wildlife offices at 518-897-1291 (Ray Brook) or 518-623-1240 (Warrensburg) or visit the DEC web site at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9349.html for more information on pheasant hunting.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

DEC Region 5 Invites Public to Deer Management Meetings

Public meetings that focus on the state’s whitetail deer herd management have been scheduled for around the state this fall. The meetings seek public input and an opportunity to participate in New York’s long-range deer management planning. According to a recent press release the goal of the meetings will be, “to identify and prioritize the issues that are most important to hunters and other people concerned with or impacted by deer.”

» Continue Reading.


Friday, September 11, 2009

APA Protects Lows Lake Wilderness Canoe Route

The APA voted this week to classify Lows Lake as Wilderness. You can read more of the Almanack‘s coverage of Lows Lake here, and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise‘s report here, but the following is a press release issued today by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK):

The Adirondack Park Agency’s landmark decision today to classify Lows Lake as Wilderness will provide added protection to two important wilderness canoe routes. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 11, 2009

2009 Paddle for the Cure Announced For September 26

Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company has announce its sponsorship of the 2009 Paddle for the Cure, a leisurely 6-mile paddle on the Moose River beginning at Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, on Rt. 28 in Old Forge on Saturday, September 26. All proceeds for Paddle for the Cure will support the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund. The Paddle for the Cure will begin at 11:00 am Saturday morning. The day-long event will last until 6:00 pm. More information and pre-registration forms are available at www.PaddleForCure.net.

According to the event announcement, the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund supports both new and established researchers investigating the causes, prevention and treatment of breast cancer. This research will include—but not be limited to—studies of the genetic, molecular, cellular and environmental factors involved in the development and progression of breast cancer; application of the knowledge thus gained to educate medical professionals and increase public awareness for the prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer; and studies of the outcomes of breast cancer detection and treatment on the patient, their families and society.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Canoe Rights Advocates Go On the Offensive

The Sierra Club—the same people who thought they had re-established canoe rights once and for all in New York State with a lawsuit-baiting paddle down the South Branch of the Moose River in 1991—wants to make sure that private landowners and state officials recognize what that trip accomplished.

In a letter sent last month, the Sierra Club’s Adirondack Committee asked the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to enforce public navigation laws by making an Adirondack landowner remove cables and signs strung across Shingle Shanty Brook.

“This is a clear-cut case where those laws have been violated by Brandreth [Park Association] for many years,” an August 27 letter to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis states. “DEC should order the Brandreths to remove the cable and intimidating signs from the State’s right-of-way where they have long been a threat to paddlers and a hindrance to navigation.”

Four canoeists and a kayaker affiliated with the Sierra Club were sued for trespass nearly two decades ago when they attempted to paddle the Moose River through the Adirondack League Club near Old Forge. The test case worked its way through the courts for seven years before it affirmed the right of recreational paddlers in New York not only to float through private land via rivers but to use the banks to portage around obstacles (for background see this Almanack article, or this brochure on the history and status of navigation rights).

The Moose River ruling said streams that are “navigable in fact” are open for public passage. There’s room for disagreement about the definition of “navigable in fact” on rivers such as the Beaver between Lake Lila and Stillwater Reservoir, which is really only passable for about a week after ice-out.

Other waterways, such as the East Branch of the St. Regis River and Shingle Shanty, seem to meet navigability criteria, yet landowners continue to post them. Paddlers could use the disputed section of Shingle Shanty on a traverse from Lake Lila to Little Tupper Lake with a short carry around a dam at Mud Pond. Here’s a recent account of that trip by Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown.

A June 2008 article in the DEC magazine The Conservationist by agency attorney Kenneth Hamm states, “[A]ttempts by landowners to interfere with the public’s right to freely navigate violates the State’s trust interest in the waterway. Either the State or the public can sue if a landowner tries to interfere with the public’s right to navigate on navigable waterways.” In the late 1980s DEC was still arresting paddlers for trying to access rivers involving private land. Its enforcement policy shifted, to uphold paddler rights, in 1991.

Nobody has sued a landowner yet. Charles Morrison, a retired DEC official who co-signed the Sierra Club letter as the group’s public navigation rights coordinator, has been focused on codifying riparian-rights case law and common law in statute. A bill has an Assembly sponsor but has been stymied in the dysfunctional state Senate. If the legislature and the DEC don’t take up the issue, we might see a paddler as plaintiff rather than defendant in the next navigation rights lawsuit.

Here is the Sierra Club letter to DEC:

Dear Commissioner Grannis:
 
We are writing to request that DEC take action to remove the blockage of the State-owned public right-of-way on Mud Pond and a segment of Shingle Shanty Brook between the outlet of Mud Pond and the downstream Forest Preserve boundary. This blockage, where these navigable waterway segments flow on private land adjacent to the William C. Whitney Wilderness, is maintained by the Brandreth Park Association. It consists of a cable strung across Shingle Shanty Brook by Brandreth at the downstream Forest Preserve boundary and a number of posting signs, all erected by Brandreth. (For general location, see sketch map of the Mud Pond-Shingle Shanty Brook through-segment and vicinity, Attachment 1.)
 
This blockage forces paddlers to use a very rough one-mile carry trail through the Forest Preserve instead of this easy waterway route.
 
As discussed and documented in the attached“Illegal Blockage of Shingle Shanty Brook and Mud Pond in the Whitney Wilderness Vicinity,” these impediments to public navigation violate both State public nuisance law and the public’s right under State law to freely navigate on navigable waterways. They are infringements on the navigational easement that the State holds in trust for the public. This also is a critical link between Little Tupper Lake and Lake Lila in the heart of the proposed 500,000-acre Great Oswegatchie Canoe Wilderness (GOCW), whose creation has been advocated by the Sierra Club and other conservation organizations. (See map in enclosed GOWC brochure showing this larger area, Attachment 2.) The GOWC includes Lows Lake and the Bog River, the Five Ponds Wilderness Area and the Pigeon Lake Wilderness Area, all of which are accessible from the Whitney Wilderness by paddlers.   

We actually are asking DEC to do several things. First, with regard to the case at hand, enforce existing State public nuisance and public navigation rights law in accordance with the 1991 DEC enforcement guidance memorandum on this subject. This is a clear-cut case where those laws have been violated by Brandreth for many years in the name of their deeded recreation rights.  DEC should order the Brandreth to remove the cable and intimidating signs from the State’s right-of-way where they have long been a threat to paddlers and a hindrance to navigation.
 
Second, DEC should ensure that Brandreth’s surrogate, Potter Properties LLC, amends its 2007 deed concerning its illegal claim to navigation rights on the waterway segments at issue, to reflect the State’s ownership of these rights. This is discussed below.

Third, we ask DEC staff to honor the several commitments made during the Sierra Club’s December, 2007 meeting with them, which were to:

—revise, update and reissue the 1991 DEC enforcement memorandum for public navigation rights as soon as possible.
 
—remove the text on navigation rights in the black bordered box on page 3 of the DEC Whitney Wilderness brochure. This text erroneously states that a court decision is needed to find that a waterway is navigable in order for it to be truly navigable-in-fact, which is incorrect.
 
—help to educate the public about their lawful rights and obligations by issuing a statewide flyer or brochure that combines and expands on  the information that is in Kenneth Hamm’s article and the John Humbach-Charles Morrison article, both of which are described below. The flyer would be widely disseminated through all DEC Regional Offices and via DEC’s website.   

Fourth, DEC needs to let paddlers know, in DEC’s brochure for the Whitney Wilderness, that the vital Mud Pond-Mud Pond Outlet-lower Shingle Shanty Brook link is open to the public for navigational purposes, for through travel.
 
It is particularly important to follow through with these committed actions in view of the delay in getting a bill (A.701) passed in both houses of the Legislature to codify the public right of navigation in a single statute and give DEC specific authority to issue regulations, including a list of navigable waterways that would be subject to amendment based on field investigations. We appreciate DEC’s collaboration in drafting this legislation.
 
Please let us know if we can provide any other information to aid DEC’s pursuit of this enforcement case, or if we can help with any of the agenda items to which DEC committed itself in 2007. Thank you for your attention to the abuse of the public’s rights on Mud Pond and Shingle Shanty Brook.
 
Sincerely,
 
Roger Gray, Co-Chairman, Adirondack Committee
John Nemjo, Co-Chairman, Adirondack Committee
Charles C. Morrison, Adirondack Committee, Public Navigation Rights Project Coordinator

Encl. Main attachment and eleven (11) numbered attachments

cc: Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
     Judith Enck, Deputy Secretary for Environment, Executive Chamber
     Stuart Gruskin, Executive Deputy Commissioner, DEC
     Allison Crocker, General Counsel, DEC
     Michael Lenane, Deputy Commissioner, DEC
     Christopher Amato, Assistant Commissioner, Natural Resources, DEC
     James Tierney, Assistant Commissioner, Water and Watersheds, DEC
     Robert Davies, Director, Division of Lands and Forests
     Kenneth Hamm, Associate Attorney, DEC Office of General Counsel
     Christian Ballantyne, Director, Legislative Affairs, DEC
     Elizabeth Lowe, DEC Region 5 Director
     Christopher LaCombe, Regional Attorney, DEC Region 5
     Brian Huyck, Enforcement Coordinator, DEC Region 5
     Katherine Kennedy, Director, Environmental Protection, Depart. of Law
     Lisa Burianek, Environmental Protection, Department of Law
     Curtis Stiles, Chairman, Adirondack Park Agency
     Terry Martino, Executive Director, Adirondack Park Agency

Photograph of the East Branch of the St. Regis River


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

90-Miler Canoe Race Begins Friday

The second weekend in September is quiet. Mornings are cool, still and misty. Soft maples put out the red flag, making a fall statement as other trees pretend summer isn’t over. But a swim is not yet out of the question, and the biting bugs have given way to the singing bugs. Good canoeing weather.

On a northeasterly diagonal across the Adirondack Park, this weekend belongs to the Adirondack Canoe Classic, better known as the 90-Miler. From the day the ice goes out, every other race is practice for this one, a three-day tour of lakes and rivers, and a test of endurance as well as marriages.

The 27-year-old event attracts serious athletes and boatsmen, but it has remained fun for duffers and people who don’t have the latest gear, though I learned from experience—one year of paddling and several more-arduous years of pit-crewing and volunteering—not to skimp on the boat: buy or rent one designed to move fast over flatwater.

The 90-miler is a traveling carnival, and the 500 or so racers are only part of the troupe. Support teams and volunteers double the ranks. If you’re driving through you can track the race’s progress by where cars are parked along the roads between Old Forge and Saranac Lake as family and friends stop to cheer boats on or to hand paddlers food and drink on the carries.

My favorite place both to paddle and to watch is at the bridge where Browns Tract meets Raquette Lake, just off Route 28 at the hamlet of Raquette Lake. Racers have to go single file on the winding little stream and under the bridge in the midst of Day 1, Friday, the longest day. Most of Saturday they will be out of sight on Long Lake and the Raquette River, though the early morning view from the Long Lake Route 30 bridge of 250 colorful guideboats, canoes and kayaks moving north in bunches is a once-a-year spectacle. On Sunday they do the Saranacs and finish at Lake Flower in Saranac Lake village.

This is the 27th year of the Canoe Classic and the 25th that the Department of Environmental Conservation has helped stage it. Terry Healy, a DEC employee who died in 1993, had an “enthusiasm, sense of fun and commitment to the 90-Miler” that’s remembered every year through presentation of a Terry Healy Award to a participant, support team, volunteer or staff member who exemplifies the spirit of the event.

The 90-Miler on Long Lake, 2008, by photographer Mark Kurtz of Saranac Lake


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