Tuesday, August 10, 2010

At Chapel Pond Slab: Is Solo Climbing Crazy?

The Empress is one of two five-star climbing routes on Chapel Pond Slab—a route first ascended in 1933 by the legendary Fritz Wiessner.

Empress is long—865 feet, usually climbed in seven pitches—but not especially difficult. It’s rated only 5.5 on the Yosemite decimal scale. It’s mostly friction climbing: you smear your soles on small toeholds to progress upward. There also is an off-width crack in one section.

Click here to a read a more detailed description of the route.

I climbed Empress for the first time the other day and had a great time. My ascent was all the more exciting in that I did it solo, without a rope, without protection against a fall.

Climbers often ascend Chapel Pond Slab solo. A few weeks ago a friend did laps on Regular Route, the other five-star route on the cliff, while waiting for me to meet him. The guidebook Adirondack Rock contains a photo of a solo climber on that same route. The book also tells of a soloist who slipped on a neighboring route and slid far down the slab, ripping the skin off his palms. “He then drove to a bar using his wrists,” the authors write.

To many people, solo climbing is lunacy. In a recent issue of the Adirondack Explorer, however, the Lake Placid climber Don Mellor defends the practice. He argues that we all take risks and that what seems like lunacy to one person is an acceptable risk to another.

“The pleasure of a bushwhack comes from the uncertainty of the outcome,” says Mellor, the author of American Rock and other climbing books. “The slide hike is exciting, not in spite of the danger, but because of it. Appreciating security by tasting insecurity is an elemental human endeavor. The only real variable, I guess, is the size of the dose.”

That said, solo climbers do push the limits. Two years ago, Alex Honnold scaled a 23-pitch route on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The sheer-vertical climb is rated 5.12a—too hard for most climbers even with a rope.

Click here to see video of this incredible feat (sorry for the German overdubbing).

If the average climber attempted to solo this route, it would indeed be lunacy. But Honnold obviously is not your average climber, and he knows his limits.

Indeed, climbers usually stay well within their comfort zone when going solo. Nevertheless, accidents do occur, some of them fatal, even to the best of climbers. John Bachar, one of most renowned soloists in the world, died in a fall last summer. He had been solo climbing for decades. Apparently, the odds caught up with him.

What do you think? Do solo climbers have rocks in their heads?

Photo from halfway up Empress taken by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (August 5)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. 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]. Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and on the stations of North Country Public Radio.

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

General Weather Report
Friday: Cloudy, chance of afternoon showers; high near 67.
Friday Night: Partly cloudy, low around 36.
Saturday: Sunny, high near 67.
Saturday Night: Mostly clear, low around 37.
Sunday: Sunny, high near 75.
Sunday Night: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; low around 55.

The National Weather Service has begun providing 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]

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. 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.

Biting Insects
It is “Bug Season” in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

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; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

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].

Local Adirondack Conditions

Western Warren County: Western Warren County will be a busy area this weekend with the
Stony Creek Mountain Festival, featuring musicians, vendors, exhibits and children’s games in the town park and a town-wide garage sale on Saturday and Sunday. In North Creek, hundreds of visitors will be on hand for Saturday’s annual “Race The Train” event, an 8.4 mile race against the Upper Hudson River Railroad train from Riparius to North Creek. On Saturday afternoon North Creek will host Waynestock, a North Country Hardship Fund benefit concert at the Historic North Creek Ski Bowl, and an unrelated celebration of Adirondack authors that will bring some twenty writers to Main Street to meet fans and sign books.

Ausable River: There is no public access to area of the East Branch of the Ausable River known as Champagne Falls, where a young boy recently drowned. No swimming is permitted and dangerous rocks and currents are found there. Heed the additional “No Trespassing” and “No Swimming” signs that have been posted. This covers both the Grist Mill and Hulls Falls sides of the River. Parking is being restricted. Law enforcement officers have added this area to their patrols and will be enforcing the law.

Lake Champlain: Hot and humid weather this week means that potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain are still a concern. Affected areas could include Westport, Port Henry, and Crown Point, and near St. Albans on the Vermont side, but there may be other blooms as well. Take the following precautions: Avoid all contact (do not swim, bathe, or drink the water, or use it in cooking or washing) and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water.

Raquette River Boat Launch: Rehabilitation of the Raquette River Boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake, also known as “The Crusher”, is complete. DEC expended approximately $190,00 from 2009 EPF Parks Capital Fund to upgrade the parking lots, install a new concrete boat ramp and floating dock, construct a separate launch area for canoes and kayaks and the improve the site so it is accessible for people with mobility disabilities. Paddlers are encouraged to use the canoe and kayak launch and retrieval area which is located just 50 feet upstream of the boat launch ramp.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge are open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

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 Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay 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.

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.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

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

Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: Climbing routes on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain have reopened.

Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/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.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

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.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

Wilmington Wild Forest: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch have reopened.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.

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, July 29, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (July 29)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf]. Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and on the stations of North Country Public Radio.

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

Weather
Friday: Mostly sunny; high near upper 60s lower 70s.
Friday Night: Mostly clear and cold; lows in upper 30s and lower 40s.
Saturday: Sunny; high near 73.
Saturday Night: Slight chance of showers; low in upper 40s.
Sunday: Chance of morning showers; mostly cloudy, high near 76.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. 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.

Biting Insects
It is “Bug Season” in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

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; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Adirondack Conditions

Raquette Lake: Raquette Lake will be busy this weekend during Durant Days, the annual celebration honoring William West Durant. The event features the only opportunity all year to tour Camp Pine Knot.

North Central Essex County: The Au Sable Forks Annual “Forks Pride Century Ride” will take place on Saturday. There will be heavier than usual bicycle traffic in Au Sable Forks, Jay, Upper Jay, Keene, Port Kent and Elizabethtown.

Old Forge R/C Fly-In: Expect larger crowd and crowded skies over the North Street Airfield in Old Forge during the Mountain Radio Controlled Club’s annual air show.

Lake Champlain: Potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain are still a concern. Affected areas could include Westport, Port Henry, and Crown Point, and near St. Albans on the Vermont side, but there may be other blooms as well. Take the following precautions: Avoid all contact (do not swim, bathe, or drink the water, or use it in cooking or washing) and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water.

Raquette River: Raquette River Awareness Week begins Saturday, focusing on the Raquette River corridor from its origin at Blue Mountain Lake to its mouth on the St. Lawrence River at Akwesasne (near Massena, NY). Events include canoe/kayak paddles, naturalist walks, stewardship information kiosks, letter-boxing treasure hunts, presentations on the history of the river, and clean-up activities along the entire 174-mile-long watercourse and shoreline.

Raquette River: The boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, and the floating docks have been installed.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge are open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

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 Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay 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.

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.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

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

Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: Climbing routes on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain have reopened.

Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/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.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

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.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

Wilmington Wild Forest: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch have reopened.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.

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, July 28, 2010

The Lake George Loop: Queen of Bike Rides

As bike rides go, the loop around Lake George isn’t perfect. It’s got traffic, a tedious, 25-mile straightaway between Ticonderoga and Whitehall, and a challenging hill climb after Bolton Landing.

But it’s also almost exactly 100 miles from point to point, a distance known as a “century” in biking parlance, and a sort of Holy Grail for bike-tourers looking to up the ante of a day-ride.

I hadn’t biked a century in more than 20 years, and I was looking for a challenge before undertaking a three-week bike tour of Colorado. So in early July I recruited my friend Steve, a surgeon from Latham, to join me on a day-long circumnavigation of the Adirondacks’ most famous lake.

We parked the car in Lake George Village, not far from the water, and began pedaling before 8 a.m. The village was just waking up and the air was
cool and still. It was the Saturday of July 4th weekend, and we knew it would be a busy day, but the heavy traffic gave us no trouble as we rode north on the narrow shoulder of Route 9N.

The loop is a pretty simple design, and you don’t need a map for most of it — Route 9N north for 40-odd miles to Ticonderoga, then Route 22 south for another 25 miles to Whitehall. From here, you can either take busy roads back to Glens Falls before getting on the bike path back to Lake George, or you can follow beautiful but hilly back roads to avoid the traffic.

Two hours after starting, Steve and I had left the traffic of Lake George Village behind, as we climbed the steep shoulder of Tongue Mountain and ripped down the other side. This was the best part of the ride — a shaded road, few cars, tantalizing views of the lake and charming communities like Hague and Sabbath Day Point to pedal through.

We reached Ticonderoga in a little more than three hours. I’ve been to this historic village at least a half-dozen times, and finding downtown is always a challenge. Would a sign — “This way to village” — be such a bad idea? Even an un-staffed tourist information booth left no clue about which direction to take.

The idea was to stop and buy some food, but somehow we missed downtown completely. We had to satisfy ourselves with the shade of a tree on Route 22. Sorry, Ti.

From here, it was a long, steady plod down to Whitehall on Route 22. This is not the best part of the ride, although the rolling farmland of the Champlain Valley has a certain charm. The route is wide and shadeless, more like a highway than a country road. But the hills are easy to climb, and it took less than two hours to traverse the route.

After another long break in Whitehall, we looked at a borrowed map and made a choice. The fastest route would be to take Route 22 down to Fort Ann, and then traverse over on Route 249 to Glens Falls. But these are busy roads, and we wanted something a little more relaxing.

So we made up our own route, using a variety of county and town roads, including one that was gravel. This gave us one more big hill to climb, but it was worth it — we found ample shade, no cars and some of the best views of the trip.

By now we were both feeling the mileage. Especially Steve, who hadn’t been drinking enough to stay hydrated on this hot, cloudless day. But one final rest and a bottle of Gatorade at a small general store in Oneida Corners fueled us up for the final few miles. We biked past Glen Lake, found the entrance to the bike path, and enjoyed the final, breezy miles back to our car.

There, a hundred miles and about 10 hours after we started, we washed away our sweat in the cool waters of Lake George and celebrated a successful century.

* * *

Interested in biking Lake George but don’t want to commit to a full century? On Sunday, Aug. 8, local cyclists organize a 42-mile ride from Lake George north to a small dock outside Ticonderoga. There, they are picked up by the cruise ship Mohican at 11:30 a.m., which brings cyclists back to Lake George on a 2 1/2-hour scenic journey.

The trip costs about $20, and tickets must be purchased in advance. And, of course, if you don’t make the boat or can’t find the dock (it’s not well marked and harder than it sounds — get directions) you’re on your own.

For more information, call the Lake George Steamboat Company at (518) 668-5777.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Local Economics: Confessions of a Granola-Eater

Yes, I eat granola.

Ergo, I am a granola-eater, and in the view of some people, that makes me a cheapskate hiker.

Over the years I’ve heard a few local politicians complain about “granola-eaters” who gas up their cars outside the Park, drive to the Adirondacks for a hike or canoe trip, and return home without spending a dime.

I’ve always been puzzled by this attitude.

First, it’s wrong. OK, many hikers and paddlers are not lavish spenders, but some of them are and most of them do spend money during their Adirondack sojourns. And there are a lot of them. Their dollars add up. How do you think EMS in Lake Placid, Mountainman in Old Forge, the Mountaineer in Keene Valley, and Hornbeck Boats in Olmstedville stay in business?

Second, it’s wrongheaded. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that hikers, paddlers, and other backcountry enthusiasts don’t spend money in the Adirondacks. Whose fault is that? Isn’t it up to entrepreneurs in the Park to figure out how to pry cash from their tight fists? If these people aren’t spending money, I assume it’s because businesses are not offering goods and services they desire.

In fact, as already noted, there are many businesses and outfitters in the Park that cater to backcountry enthusiasts. I can’t help noticing that many of them are run by transplants. John Nemjo, for example, grew up in New Jersey and started Mountainman after moving to the Adirondacks in 1993. It’s now one of the largest canoe-and-kayak dealers in the Northeast.

Money can be made off hikers and paddlers, but first you have to see them as potential customers, not as tightwads.

If nothing else, you can sell them granola.

Photo of a granola-eater by Susan Bibeau.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (July 22)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

Weather
Friday: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; high near 74.
Friday Night: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; ow around 60.
Saturday: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; high near 81.
Saturday Night: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; low around 59.
Sunday: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; high near 72.

Thunderstorm Safety Reminder
With the frequent possibility of encountering thunderstorms at this time of year it’s a good time to review lighting safety. There is NO safe place outside in a thunderstorm, your biggest defense is to follow local weather and avoid storms. Hundreds of people are killed or permanently injured each year by being struck by lightening. If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance. Seek safe shelter immediately. If you are caught outdoors away from safe cars or buildings avoid open fields, hill-tops, isolated trees, and stay away from water. Hikers should never be above the treeline when there is lightning. If caught in a small boat drop anchor and get as low as possible. There’s more information about lightning safety here.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. 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.

Biting Insects
It is “Bug Season” in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

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; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

Northville Placid Trail: The Damn Wakely Dam Ultra footrace will take place this Saturday, July 24th. Expect heavy use along the section of the Northville Placid Trial between Piseco Lake and Wakely Dam.

Northern Forest Canoe Trail: Expect higher than usual traffic on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail this Saturday, July 24th, as kayakers and canoeists paddling on any waterway of the 740-mile trail can contribute to “740 Miles in One Day,” with the goal to paddle the total mileage of the trail between sunrise and 5:00 p.m. on that day. The New York section of the trail begins at Old Forge, following the Moose River, the Fulton Chain, Raquette Lake, the Raquette River, Forked and Long lakes, and by way of Stoney Creek Ponds and the Indian Carry to Upper Saranac. The route proceeds across Bartletts Carry to Middle and Lower Saranac and Lake Flower and then out of the mountains by way of the Saranac River to Franklin Falls Pond and Union Falls Pond and finally Lake Champlain.

Lake Placid, Jay, Ausable Forks, Wilmington: Ironman Lake Placid will take place this Sunday, July 25. A changed route this year will impact residents of Jay and Ausable Forks. Due to the bridge project over the Ausable River on Haselton Road in Wilmington, Route 9N from Jay to Ausable Forks will now comprise a 10.2 mile portion of the 56 mile bike circuit that racers will travel twice. Both lanes of Route 9N will be closed to non-essential vehicle traffic on race day between 8 am and 4:30 pm. The rest of the Ironman route includes the 7 am start on Mirror Lake, the village of Lake Placid, and routes 86 and 73.

Lake Champlain: This weeks hot and humid weather has produced a number of potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain. Noticeably affected areas include Westport and Port Henry, but there may be other blooms as well. Take the following precautions: Avoid all contact (do not swim, bathe, or drink the water, or use it in cooking or washing) and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water.

Raquette River: The boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, although the floating docks are not expected to be installed until late-July. The canoe and kayak launch area is not yet open but paddlers can launch at the ramp until that area reopens as well.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge are open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

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 Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay 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.

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.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

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

Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: Climbing routes on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain have reopened.

Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/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.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

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.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

Wilmington Wild Forest: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch have reopened.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.

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, July 21, 2010

Gore: Bike Season Opens, Construction Progress

Mountain biking, gondola rides, and hiking has begun at Gore Mountain. Operations will continue every weekend through October 10, Gore’s longest off-season operation, and feature more biking terrain, instructional camps, and an expanded barbeque menu.

There is progress toward the Interconnect with the Historic North Creek Ski Bowl. The bridge that joins the Ski Bowl terrain to Burnt Ridge Mountain has been completed, snowmaking pipe on the new Peaceful Valley and Oak Ridge trails has been welded, and the black-diamond 46er trail on the lift line has been graded. Installation of the new Hudson Chair has begun.

The Gear Source of downtown North Creek has a supply of full-suspension downhill bikes available, and downhill camps that include all-day instruction, lift ticket, lunch, and an optional guided hike are available on July 24 and September 4 for just $59. Sunday, August 22 will be a second opportunity for 2010/2011 season passholders to enjoy free access to Gore’s summer activities.

Ruby Run, the trail off the top of the Northwoods Gondola, was top-dressed to offer bikers a smooth start to their ride. Trails such as the Otter Slide Glades and Tannery are now included in available riding terrain.

Photo: Aerial view showing the 46er trails that runs along the new Hudson Chair lift line. This trail was named for the 1946 T-bar that serviced skiers of the Historic North Creek Ski Bowl. The profiles of the trails and lift have retained their original routes, and offer views of North Creek Village and the Hudson River.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Commentary: Finch Deal Would Help Newcomb

A few days ago I went paddling with two other guys in Newcomb. We started at Rich Lake and canoed through Belden Lake and Harris Lake to the Hudson River and then down the Hudson for a mile, turning around at the first rapid.

We took out at Cloudsplitter Outfitters, conveniently located at the Route 28N bridge over the Hudson. Click here for a detailed description of the route.

It’s a fun seven-mile excursion, but paddlers will have more to do in Newcomb if and when the state buys a tract of former Finch, Pruyn & Co. lands from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy. The purchase would lead to more tourism for Newcomb. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Free Fishing Event at South Bay of Lake Champlain

A “free fishing” event will be held on Saturday, July 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the South Bay Fishing Pier on Lake Champlain, hosted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) I FISH NY program.

No fishing license will be required for this event, which is free to all participants. DEC fisheries staff and Washington County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs members will provide instruction on the use of gear, fishing techniques, and information on aquatic biology and fish identification.

Fishing rods, bait and other necessary tackle will be provided free of charge. Adaptive fishing equipment will be available to participants who require it. Quantities are limited, however, so attendees are encouraged to bring their own gear if possible.

South Bay Pier is a 300-foot long universally designed, wheelchair accessible fishing pier providing the community with barrier-free access from the parking area to the fishing rail. The pier is designed to provide a variety of places to fish from shallow water, to the deepest channel of the bay. Benches are provided along the pier, and the covered pavilion area over the end of the pier provides shelter from the sun and inclement weather.

South Bay of Lake Champlain has traditionally offered anglers outstanding opportunities for catching popular sportfish species such as northern pike, largemouth bass and chain pickerel. Yellow perch, white perch, crappies, sunfish, brown bullhead and catfish are also common.

The pier is located near an existing DEC boat launch facility, which has additional parking and an accessible privy. Constructed in 2008, South Bay Pier is one of many universally accessible recreation projects DEC has completed statewide over recent years. The pier is just west of the State Route 22 Bridge over South Bay near Whitehall in Washington County.

The free fishing event is one of four DEC sponsored free fishing clinics permitted by law in each DEC Region annually. The Free Fishing Days program began in 1991 to allow all people the opportunity to sample the incredible fishing New York State has to offer.

Everyone is invited to participate in this event, whether they have a fishing license or not. Ordinarily, anyone age 16 or older is required to obtain a license when fishing or helping another person to fish. Participants should note that all applicable fishing laws and regulations are still in effect during the event.

For additional information regarding this event contact Joelle Ernst with DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries at (518) 402-8891 or visit the DEC website for further information on a number of “Free Fishing Events” held in various locations throughout the state: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27123.html


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (July 15)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

Weather
Friday: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy; high near 80.
Friday Night: Chance of showers and thunderstorms; low around 55.
Saturday: Slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy; high near 77.
Saturday Night: Slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy; low around 53.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 78.

Biting Insects
It is “Bug Season” in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibilty 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.

Group Camping Reminder
DEC regulation requires that groups of ten or more persons camping on state land obtain a permit from a forest ranger. DEC does not issue group camping permits on wilderness, primitive or canoe forest preserve areas. Except for the eastern High Peaks Wilderness and the William C. Whitney Wilderness, where the group size is 8, camping groups in wilderness, primitive and canoe area lands are limited to 9 people or less.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. 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.

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; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

Lake Champlain: This weeks hot and humid weather has produced a number of potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain. Noticeably affected areas include Westport and Port Henry, but there may be other blooms as well. Take the following precautions: Avoid all contact (do not swim, bathe, or drink the water, or use it in cooking or washing) and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water.

Raquette River: The boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, although the floating docks are not expected to be installed until mid-July. The canoe and kayak launch area is not yet open but paddlers can launch at the ramp until that area reopens as well.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge are open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

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 Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay 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.

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.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

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

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/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.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

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.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.

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, July 14, 2010

A Short List of Summer Adirondack Lecture Series

Even for those who don’t get out onto the rivers, lakes and trails, summertime offers great opportunities for learning more about the Adirondack region thanks to several lecture series that are held around the region. Mostly free (or really cheap) local lectures cover current issues, history, art, culture, wildlife, the environment, outdoor recreation.

I’ve noted a few of what I think promise to be the season’s best lectures below, but be sure to check out the links to see all the upcoming events.

The Huntington Lecture Series – This lecture series takes place on Thursday evenings from July 1 through August 19 at the Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center (beginning at 7 pm). The series is sponsored by SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center and is free. LINK.

Paul Smith’s VIC Adirondack Outdoors Lecture Series – The Paul Smiths VIC lecture series will feature six lectures on topics ranging from bears and moose to mountain biking. Co-hosted by the Forest Preserve Education Partnership, the lectures are on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. The July 21st lecture Moose & Bear: Adirondack Charismatic Megafauna, with DEC’s Ed Reed, sounds great. LINK.

Fort William Henry Lecture Series
– Serious students of local history will want to attend this series of lectures offered each year at Fort William Henry. This year’s schedule has not been released yet, but these lectures take place weekly (free and starting at 7 pm) at the Fort William Henry Conference Center (behind the fort) on Canada Street in Lake George. I take in all of these that I can and have yet to be disappointed. LINK.

Fort Ticonderoga Author Series
– Another classic series for fans of local history. Unfortunately, these events are held at 2 in the afternoon and require paying the admission price of $15. Still, they are worth it. this year’s events feature Carl R. Crego, who will focus on the early restoration history of Fort Ticonderoga between 1908 and 1924 with an illustrated talk (August 15th), and popular local historian Russ Bellico, author of several books related to the military history of the Lake Champlain and Lake George areas (July 25th). LINK.

Adirondack Moutain Club (ADK) Lectures – A wide variety of lectures on local environment issues, natural history, backcountry recreation, and Adirondack art, music, and history are offered throughout the summer by the ADK. Lectures are held throughout the summer at the High Peaks Information Center in Lake Placid, at the ADK’s Member Services Center in Lake George, and occasionally at John Brooks Lodge (though none are scheduled there yet for this year). One highlight here is the August 10th lecture The Great Camps: From the Adirondacks to the Rocky Mountains, a slideshow by Dr. Ralph Kylloe, owner of the Ralph Kylloe Gallery in Lake George and author and photographer of 23 coffee table books on rustic design and rustic architecture. LINK.

Adirondack Museum’s Monday Evening Lectures – This lecture series is one of the most popular in the region. This year you won’t want to miss biologist Jerry Jenkins on Climate Change in the Adirondacks on July 26th, and Brian Mann on August 2nd for “Adirondack Park 3.0” billed as a lecture on the “reinvention of the Adirondacks.” All lectures are held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members. LINK

Photo: October 15, 1924. Dedication of Francis Asbury statue, Washington, D.C.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Forever Wild Outside The Adirondack Park

I recently did a paddling trip in the northern Adirondacks that had been on my bucket list for a few years. I launched my canoe in Hatch Brook and traveled downstream to the Salmon River and down the Salmon to Chasm Falls.

It’s a delightful trip, largely wild, with interesting scenery, lots of birdlife, and a great swimming hole. Click here for a detailed description, directions, and more photos.

One unusual thing about this excursion is that it begins inside the Adirondack Park and ends outside of it. Of course, there is no sign on the river–either man-made or natural–to let you know when you leave the Park. The trip reminds us that wildness does not end at the Blue Line.

As a matter of fact, two state commissions on the Adirondacks (in 1971 and 1990) recommended extending the Park’s boundary northward to include the tract that I paddled through. But that didn’t happen. Consequently, when I crossed the Blue Line I simultaneously crossed the boundary between the Debar Mountain Wild Forest (part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve) and the Titusville State Forest (not part of the Forest Preserve).

Most people familiar with Adirondack history know that Article 14 of the state constitution prohibits cutting trees in the Forest Preserve. Logging, however, is allowed on State Forest lands.

Fewer people realize that some of the Forest Preserve lies outside the Park.

Article 14 declares that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” And an 1885 law defined the Forest Preserve as “all the lands now owned or which may hereafter be acquired by the State of New York, within the counties of Clinton, excepting the towns of Altona and Dannemora, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Warren, Washington, Greene, Ulster and Sullivan.” (The lands in the last three counties are in the Catskill Forest Preserve.)

Reading Article 14 and the 1885 law together, you might reasonably conclude that nearly all the state lands in eleven northern counties belong to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

But you’d be wrong, according to Norman Van Valkenburgh, the author of The Forest Preserve of New York State in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.

Van Valkenburgh tells me that a constitutional amendment in 1931 permitted the state to acquire lands outside the Park in the Forest Preserve counties for reforestation. These lands can be managed for timber and wildlife habitat.

Yet the lands outside the Blue Line that the state owned prior to the amendment are part of the Forest Preserve. The Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks estimated in 1971 that there were 12,867 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve outside the Park (not including lake and river beds).

Like the Preserve inside the Park, these lands must be kept forever wild and cannot be logged. Van Valkenburgh said this requirement leads to a legal anomaly when a piece of orphan Forest Preserve lies within a State Forest tract. Even if all of the surrounding land is logged, the Forest Preserve parcel must remain untouched.

If the Adirondack Park boundary were expanded, would the State Forest lands automatically become part of the Forest Preserve?

“That’s a good question,” Van Valkenburgh said. “I don’t know, but I think not.”

Van Valkenburgh noted that the State Forest lands were purchased with a specific purpose in mind and so may be exempt from Article 14’s forever-wild mandate.

This interpretation seems to jibe with the view of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. In its 1990 report, the commission recommended not only extending the Blue Line, but also amending the constitution to prohibit “the continued management of existing reforestation areas” added to the Park.

The commission wanted to extend the Blue Line to the north to encompass all of the towns of Bellmont, Brandon, Dickinson, Peru, and Saranac; part of the town of Malone; and Crab Island in Lake Champlain. It argued that doing so would protect extensive forestlands and farmlands on the Park’s border.

Do you think extending the Park’s boundary is a good idea?

Photo of Salmon River by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (July 8)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

Weather
Friday: Showers and thunderstorms, high near 84.
Friday Night: Showers and thunderstorms, low around 65.
Saturday: Afternoon Showers and thunderstorms, high near 76.
Saturday Night: Showers and thunderstorms, low around 58.
Sunday: Mostly cloudy, afternoon showers and thunderstorms, high near 78.

Wet Weather
Due to storms and heavy rains expected this weekend blowdown, muddy trails, and high water may be found on backcountry trails, and may impede travel in some locations. Hikers are advised to wear appropriate footwear and to stay on the trail – hike through muddy areas and puddles to avoid widening the trails or creating “herd paths” around those areas. The rains may raise the water levels of many streams – particularly during and immediately following storm events – low water crossings may not be accessible.

Biting Insects
It is “Bug Season” in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibilty 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.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. 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.

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; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

Lake Champlain: This weeks hot and humid weather has produced a number of potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain. Noticeably affected areas include Westport and Port Henry, but there may be other blooms as well. Take the following precautions: Avoid all contact (do not swim, bathe, or drink the water, or use it in cooking or washing) and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water.

Raquette River: The boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, although the floating docks are not expected to be installed until mid-July. The canoe and kayak launch area is not yet open but paddlers can launch at the ramp until that area reopens as well.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) is open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

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 Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay 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.

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.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

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

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/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.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

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.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.

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, July 7, 2010

Adirondack Outdoor Hazards: Poison Ivy

Lately I’ve been enjoying a close, personal relationship with a plant we all know by reputation if not from direct experience. It is the plant version of the skunk – the name alone conjures reactions that may or may not be deserved. It is reviled and feared. And yet, it fills a vital link in the ecosystems around us. Today, I give you poison ivy, Toxicodenron radicans.

Even if they’ve never seen it, children can describe poison ivy: it has three red leaves! As we all know, reputations, while usually founded on some morsel of truth, often become wildly exaggerated and the truth left behind in the dust. So, let’s start off on the right foot with a correct description of this plant.

First, its leaves are composed of three leaflets. A leaflet can look like a full-fledged leaf to the untrained eye. The key is that a leaf has a stem (petiole) that attaches directly to the twig of the tree/shrub/plant. Think of your fingers. Together they make up a hand, but you wouldn’t call each finger a hand, would you?

When these leaflets first emerge, they might have a reddish tinge to them, and in the fall they can turn red, too. But to claim that year-round they are red would be misleading. Look for green, for this is the dominant color. You also want to look for teeth (jagged edges). And bilateral symmetry. Bilateral what? Bilateral symmetry means that if you were to hold a poison ivy leaf (with its three leaflets all intact) in front of you, with the center leaflet pointing upwards, you could fold it right in half, down the middle of that middle leaflet, so that the left leaflet lies right on top of the right leaflet, and it would match up almost perfectly. The left side is a mirror image of the right side.

Poison ivy is a native plant. It likes wooded understories, but also does well in rocky, disturbed areas. This is not a plant that seems to be too choosy about where it puts down roots. Sometimes it grows as a dense ground cover. Other times it grows as a vine, using hairy rootlets to attach itself a tree or fence post. Where it becomes established, it can be difficult to eradicate.

In the spring, PI blossoms right along with other early bloomers. Its flowers are white, grow in clusters, and are probably missed by most passersby since they are neither large nor showy. As summer progresses, the flowers that were successfully fertilized become white berries, which are an important food source, especially in winter, for lots of wildlife, namely birds.

And here is where the men are separated from the boys. Or the wildlife from the humans. Y’see, most wildlife, be they birds or mammals, are immune to the effects of urushiol, the oil that is the cause of all the problems we associate with this plant.

Urushiol can be dreadful stuff if you are allergic to it, and most of us have some level of sensitivity. All parts of the plant (the leaves, stem, flowers, fruit, bark, roots) contain this oil. Sometimes just brushing against the plant is enough contact to cause distress, while other times one needs to really crush it to get a reaction. I don’t recommend the latter.

I always prided myself on not being sensitive to PI, but I also kept in mind that this could be simply because I know what the plant looks like and have done well to avoid contact. Until recently.

Some of my readers may recall that about three weeks ago I was down at the Ice Meadows and simply had to try and photograph the flowering partridge berries. They were, of course, nestled down below a robust growth of PI. Throwing caution to the wind, I lay down on the very narrow herdpath and snapped away with the camera. I never got a good shot of the flowers, but about a week later the itching began.

At first I thought it was a bug bite – I’d been gardening and the ants have been known to crawl up my pant legs and nip away. A few days later, the “bite” had turned into three or four bites, and they really were beginning to itch. Then the area was the size of a quarter. By the time it became palm-sized, I was beginning to think “um, these aren’t ant bites…I think I have poison ivy.”

Sure enough, the local medical staff confirmed that I had a healthy rash going on my leg. Calamine lotion wasn’t helping much, so I invested in an industrial strength version, and started taking Prednisone and Benedryl. Another week has passed and I think the worst is over, although random individual blisters are appearing in other locations.

Here are some PI facts:

• Urushiol is water resistant. In other words, it doesn’t just rinse away. Soap and water, these are important. Wash well as soon as you come into contact. Get that stuff off as fast as you can.

• Once you have removed the oil, it cannot spread.

• The blisters, when they form, are filled with your own body’s fluids – not more urushiol. If
they burst or ooze, the liquid is not going to spread the rash.

• If the rash seems to be spreading, there are a couple rational explanations. One, you are getting more of the oil on you from a source (like your pants, or boots, or the dog, or the furniture you sat on while wearing your contaminated clothes). Two, the newer eruptions are occurring on parts of your skin that are either less sensitive or received a smaller dose of the oil and simply took longer to react.

• The oil can linger for years. I read on one website that people got reactions from contaminated artifacts that had been in a museum for over a hundred years.

When I teach people to go out and enjoy the outdoors, one of the things that I cover right up front is “know your local hazards.” This may seem like common sense, but as a society we have become so disassociated from the outdoors that we often need these reminders. The “wild” can be dangerous, but if you know what to look for, it is no more dangerous than your basement. Hazards can be cliffs, raging waters, nests of bees. They can also be the weather, plants and animals. Learn to identify what’s in your neighborhood, and you won’t have to worry so much about unplanned encounters.

That said, wild clematis and box elder are often confused with poison ivy. These are harmless native plants that grow around much of the Adirondack Park. Knowing how to tell them apart from PI is useful. If in doubt, however, treat the unknown as unfriendly and don’t risk unnecessary contact. Better safe than sorry, eh?


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A New 46er Challange: Failing to Reach the Top

Many years ago, after two attempts (and subsequent failures) to climb Dix Mountain via the southwest slide, I turned to my friend and said, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s come up with a new type of 46er challenge.”

The 46ers, of course, are those hikers who climb all 46 of the High Peaks in the Adirondacks more than 4,000 feet high. There’s more than 6,000 officially in this club, plus hundreds more who have done them all in winter.

So my new idea? To fail on every peak more than 4,000 feet high. To qualify for this challenge, you have to try to climb every peak and not get to the top for one reason or another. These must be organic reasons — blisters, encroaching night, exhaustion, getting lost, an ailing partner. You can’t just up and turn around — you’ve got to plan to climb the peak, but fail.

Thus far I’ve climbed every 46 peak, but I’ve only failed to climb a handful. That means I’ve got a lot more failing to go, so if there’s any weak-kneed or blister-prone hikers who think they can’t make it to the top of a High Peak, let me know and I’d love to join you for an attempt.

But the real reason I’m writing today is my other idea for a High Peak challenge — The Black Fly 46. To qualify for this covered prize, you’ve got to climb every High Peak during black fly season, mid-May to early July.

Now, my standards are more than what the calendar can provide. After all, if it’s early June — the heart of black fly season — but temperatures are low so they’re not biting, that doesn’t count. To qualify for a Black Fly 46, you’ve got to come back with at least four bug bites for each peak climbed. That means if you’re ascending four peaks in one day and you want credit, you need at least 16 bites. My idea, my rules.

I think this challenge will help bring people to the mountains at a time that many hikers tend to stay away, and perhaps ease the crowds on busy weekends in summer and fall. After all, why bother climbing a peak if you’re not going to get enough bites to qualify?

Anyway, that’s my idea. If anyone wants to vie for the award, show me a picture of your bites on various summits and I’ll send you the prize (a bottle of Calamine Lotion).

Watch for an upcoming post for my next idea for a hiking challenge: the Frostbite 46. Winners of this prize may be bedridden for a while, but think how good the certificate will look on your hospital wall.