Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Discovery

It was Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, 2010. I had driven through the night to make it to the Adirondacks from my home in Madison. I had to see for myself the amazing opportunity I had stumbled upon while browsing around on the web. I was already tired, unknown territory lay ahead, and there I was, face to face with one of the most imposing natural wonders in all the Adirondacks: Vinny McClelland.

No doubt many Almanack readers are familiar with Vinny, but if you don’t know him he is the owner of The Mountaineer in Keene Valley among other vocations and he is intimately involved in the community in a plethora of ways. Amy and I have come to have great affection for Vinny. He is a “salt of the Earth” kind of guy: capable, authentic, generous of spirit.

We also find Vinny to be – and I can’t think of a better way to say this – hard core. Vinny has this way of looking at you, a certain sort of sizing-up. It is not egotistical and it isn’t judgmental of your worth as a human being, but it is as if to decide whether you know what you are doing. Either you do or you don’t, either you make the cut or not. Vinny knows what he is doing. I don’t really know how many things he is expert at: mountaineering, skiing, building, guiding, landscape engineering, exploring… it’s a long list. Vinny knows the Adirondacks; for example he knows that if you are going on a day hike four miles into the wilderness on no sleep, off trail, in new territory, in winter conditions, with two hours of daylight, two thousand feet of climbing and a lot of ice… well, either you know what you are doing or you don’t. Probably you don’t.

At the moment Vinny was looking at me with what I would describe as a level of skepticism. From what he had to go on at that point I didn’t blame him.

Amy and I had been daydreaming, searching on real estate sites for small houses we might buy on the cheap and fix up over several years before eventually fulfilling our long-held plan of moving to the Adirondacks. One such MLS search produced a list that included a sixty acre parcel with a picture that showed a beautiful, densely forested mountain view. These are the sorts of listings I have learned to ignore seeing as I am not a multi-millionaire. But the asking price of this acreage was unbelievably low, far less than any other listing I’d seen except for those that turned out to be poor or recently cut-over land. The picture sure didn’t make it look like it was poor land. How was this possible?

Incredulous, I called the realtor whose site I had been using and asked her to contact the listing agent with a few basic questions. When she called back to tell me that the parcel held mature timber and views and was embedded in State Wilderness I was stunned. Apparently the price was low because the tract was inaccessible, with no road or trail to it and no possibility for development. In other words it was perfect! It was the embodiment of my life-long dream to own wild land in the heart of the Adirondacks, a dream I had never once considered could become reality.

I was seized with the kind of fear one gets when a miraculous opportunity seems too good to be true. In the unlikely event that the land was anything like it was being represented, then to a value system such as mine it was priceless. Surely there were like-minded people who would covet such a piece of wilderness and be all over this offering. I was sure it was already gone. The realtor called me back: no, it wasn’t sold but an offer was imminent.

Time was of the essence. I decided to be rash. It was Thanksgiving week and my college classes were not in session. I consulted with Amy, she agreed and I headed for the driveway with a pair of boots and a sleeping bag.

On my way through Illinois the realtor called to discourage me from coming out as the offer was expected at any moment. Besides, she said, the listing agent told her that the land was “difficult to get to” and that the last potential buyer he had sent back to look at it “got lost” and never made it. This sounded better and better by the moment. “Too late,” I said, “I’m already in the car and on my way.”

We arranged to meet at 1 PM at a café in the nearest town after which I would hike to the land. In the meantime the listing agent continued to express his concerns. He provided her with a map containing GPS points on the route in. “I hope he has a GPS,” he said. “There is snow up there,” he warned, “It’s off trail.” I assured her that I was experienced.

No doubt harboring a healthy measure of reserve, the listing agent decided to attend the meeting too. I have since speculated on what his thought process must have been… “Here is some guy who lives in the Midwest. He’s driving through the night to look at a piece of land without having the slightest idea what he’s getting into. He’s probably a lunatic or an idiot; I’d better see for myself…”

By now you have guessed the name of the listing agent. Vinny McClelland is also a real estate professional. He typically represents marquee properties but as fate would have it he was selling this little forgotten swath because he had a personal connection to it going back years. He is one of the few people in the world who has actually been there.

It was nearly 1:30 PM before we got started with our meeting. Vinny had assembled an impressive packet on the parcel with a name on the cover: Lost Brook Tract. I asked some questions. Vinny seemed anxious for me to go. He reminded me that late-November days are short, that there was snow up high and a lot of ice. “Do you have gear?” he asked. I said that I did (I had boots, after all). I asked another question or two. “You need to get going,” Vinny urged. “Do you have GPS?” I replied that I never used GPS (I can’t stand the idea of it). At this point I could tell that the “idiot” assessment was prevailing. I decided to play an assurance card. “Vinny,” I told him, “My most recent bushwhack this summer was Allen to Redfield,” knowing full well that not a lot of people try that one. I wanted to think it helped a little but Vinny showed no outward sign that he was impressed. Now that I know him better I think that saying I’d just done the North face of Eiger might have helped more.

In any case, off I went. The way up was indeed icy and progress was slow. I did not get all the way there – at least I never saw his flagging – but I did bushwhack to a small outcropping on the way with a view of the parcel from a short distance. It looked beautifully forested, dark and dramatic, utterly wild. I was enchanted.

I returned to Madison. We made an offer, prevailed somehow and closed on the property two days after Christmas.

On the afternoon of December 29th Vinny took us up to Lost Brook Tract, following an old bushwhack route he first took as a child. For two miles it was easy, relatively open woods and a gradual climb. At the halfway point near a pair of huge boulders Vinny paused for a moment to inform us that the route got “gnarly” from there. The snow deepened, the forest thickened and the grade became formidable. Our snowshoes were subpar, our packs were heavy and we fell well behind. After an exhausting climb we came upon Vinny sitting at an old lean-to, contentedly enjoying a late lunch. He told us he admired our family for doing this, wished us a happy new year and bid us farewell.

We had arrived in a winter paradise. The first thing we all noticed was the snow-draped spruces towering overhead. Some looked to be more than eighty or ninety feet in height, something I’d never seen at this elevation in the Adirondacks. We were filled with wonder at the sight of them. “I think this is old-growth forest,” I whispered. We dug through four feet of snow, pitched our tents and make a fire pit. The temperature dropped to twenty below.

We spend two magnificent days. We explored the immediate area and the interior of the partially collapsed lean-to. We made our way down to Lost Brook, frozen and under a sea of snow. We uncovered part of an original fire ring and for a time got two fires going. Just before leaving I blazed a tree by the brook so as to be able to find the land again. We hiked out on our own, following the snow trail we had made going in. I thought of all the writers of old from my tattered copy of the Adirondack Reader. I recalled their reverent descriptions of the primeval and the wonder of discovery with a new understanding. This is what it is like.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Adaptive Nordic Ski Camp This Weekend

Despite the wet weather, the 2nd Adirondack Adaptive Nordic Ski Camp is still being held this weekend, February 3-5, 2012, in Lake Placid, NY.

This unique 3-day event will bring together new and experienced adaptive Nordic skiers from all over the country for an adaptive Nordic skiing training camp and races at the Empire State Winter Games. The camp is being organized by a partnership of local and regional organizations including Adirondack Adaptive Adventures, Mountain Orthotic and Prosthetic Services, U.S. Paralympic Nordic Team, Olympic Regional Development Authority, Northeast Passage, New England Nordic Ski Association, and Horowitz Associates, Inc. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

10th Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival Slated

The Mountaineer and Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides have teamed up to host the 10th annual Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival on March 3 and 4, 2012. The event celebrates the ski experience both here in the Adirondack backcountry and in the greater ranges of the world.

This year’s event features guest athlete Glen Plake, star of many ski films and an accomplished backcountry skier, guide and instructor based in Chamonix, France. He will be skiing at Otis Mountain in Elizabethtown on Saturday and offering a presentation on Saturday evening at the Keene Central School.

Guided ski tours will be held on Saturday and Sunday, led by Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides and a group of local ski guides. Skiers with intermediate nordic skills can join the classic Avalanche Pass ski traverse, while intermediate to expert downhill skiers looking to get into backcountry skiing will want to join the Intermediate Tour. Expert skiers with prior backcountry experience and their own gear can refine their skills on the Advanced Tour. Space is limited, so check out their website to register.

Free demos and mini clinics will again be held at Otis Mountain on Saturday. The Mountainfest is benefit event, with all proceeds supporting the New York State Ski Education Foundation’s Nordic racing programs and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, stewards of the Adirondack Park’s backcountry ski trail system, including the Jackrabbit Trail.

Call The Mountaineer at 518 576 2281 or visit www.mountaineer.com for more information and to register for the clinics.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Free Cross-Country Skiing: Tupper Lake’s Groomed Trails

Nordic skiers in the northern Adirondacks will want to keep Tupper Lake’s free, groomed cross-country trail system on their radar screen. Expected snowfall should have the 10k trail network skiable this weekend. The trails are located on town-owned land and can be accessed from the Tupper Lake Country Club or Big Tupper Ski Area.

Even though the trail system has been in existence for 40 years, it’s something of a well-kept secret. “We’d like to change that,” says John Gillis, one of a half dozen community volunteers who maintain the trails in winter using snowmobiles and a variety of grooming and track-setting equipment. The trail system is free of charge, open to the public 24/7 (conditions permitting) and is dog-friendly.

The trail system’s website and Facebook page are updated frequently with current conditions and grooming reports. Upcoming events include:

– February 4th, 6 pm: Full Moon ski and bonfire at the Cranberry Pond Picnic Area.

– February 11th, 6 pm: Skiing with the Stars. If the night is clear a telescope will be set up.

– February 18th, 10 am: Lumberjack Scramble Ski Race.

– February 25th, 6 pm: Skiing with the Stars. If the night is clear a telescope will be set up.

– March 2nd, 6 pm: Winterfest Bonfire at Cranberry Pond.

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


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lightweight Backpacking: Sweat the Big Stuff

Reducing the weight of one’s backpack is essential for journeying into the depth of the Adirondack backcountry, where trails are nonexistent and obstacles plentiful. This is especially true as time passes and endurance of youth gives way to the slower plodding of middle age and beyond. Shouldering less of a burden reduces the stress on the legs resulting in more comfortable hiking, healthier joints and blister-free feet.

Although endlessly counting ounces may be tedious, there is no other way to effectively reduce the weight of a backpack. The simplest solution is carry less stuff. Discard the superfluous, such as a large bowie knife, a cast iron frying pan, or a square egg maker (this is no jest, I witnessed all of these articles packed into the backcountry during my backpacking career). Think small when it comes to those essential items.

When going lightweight is in its nascent stage, initially concentrate on the biggest and bulkiest items. A shelter (e.g. tent), sleeping bag and backpack form a triumvirate of heavy equipment typically carried into the backcountry. Therefore, these big boys are where one should start to shave off the pounds.

Making the switch to lightweight is easier today since most manufacturers appear to be making equipment out of lighter material. Unfortunately, many of them are simply playing lip service to this effort. The majority of their products continue to contain numerous unnecessary “bells and whistles.” Keeping the ounces off one’s back requires jettisoning all but the essential amenities.

The best method for getting exactly what one desires in a piece of backpacking equipment is to make it yourself. Although this notion seems unthinkable to some (at least that’s what the major manufacturers are counting on), it is not as difficult as first imagined. Unfortunately, not everyone has the skills or patience to make their own homemade equipment.

The best alternative for those without the skills or inclination to make their own is to modify manufactured equipment after purchasing it. Since it requires steely nerves to start ripping apart a brand new product to remove unwanted bells and whistles, this option may be just as unrealistic as producing equipment from scratch.

For those unwilling to make their own and unable to disassemble newly purchased manufactured products, the only viable alternative remaining is carefully shopping around to find manufactured equipment that comes as closely to meeting ones needs as possible. Just think small and keep it simple.

The shelter is a great place to start reducing the weight of a fully packed backcountry backpack. The bountiful options available makes it easier than ever to lug around more shelter than absolutely necessary. The tent is the most conventional choice in a portable shelter but often other options (e.g. tarp) weigh less and offer better ventilation.

Avoid carrying more shelter than necessary, if possible. Carrying a three-person tent for a single person results in a heavier burden and a lot of unoccupied and thus unnecessary space at the end of the day. The smaller the shelter, the less weight on one’s back. Think small and save potentially a few pounds.

Any shelter with optional poles is an excellent choice for a lightweight shelter. The backcountry has an almost infinite variety of poles, ripe for the using, if one knows where to find them. Standing trees and their fallen limbs make outstanding poles, and they add nothing to the weight of a backpack. Just take care not to damage any living trees in the process.

My shelter preference is for a modular tarp system; I have not seen the inside of a tent in a decade. The tarp system was manufactured by Golite using Ray Jardine’s designs. The system consists of a tarp (the Cave) and a hanging insect netting interior (the Nest). Trees or sticks function as poles, though sometimes in a pinch I will use my hiking poles. Unfortunately, Golite no longer offers this product (although a tarp kit is available directly from Ray Jardine’s website), though they do have many other lightweight tents currently available.

The sleeping bag is another one of the more weighty backpacking essentials. Its bulk and weight is mostly due to the insulating material that keeps one comfortable and warm on a chilly Adirondack night. Enough insulation is necessary for the lowest potential temperature encountered on a trip but going overboard in this regard can be costly weight-wise. If it gets colder than anticipated long underwear, coats and rain gear may be worn as pajamas.

Choosing down over synthetic insulation is the best way to reduce the weight of a sleeping bag. Down insulates better, is more compressible and weighs much less than the synthetic alternatives. Some may find such a notion complete lunacy in the temperate rainforest known as the Adirondacks, since wet down offers little insulating ability. A waterproof stuff sack, backpack liner and/or pack cover insures a dry down sleeping bag, even in the Adirondacks.

For the last half dozen years, I have almost exclusively slept in the Western Mountaineering’s Highlite sleeping bag during the warmer months of the Adirondacks. It is engineered to be as lightweight as possible, with such features as down insulation, lightweight fabrics and a reduced sized half zipper. Unfortunately, it is offered in only a few sizes and I had to settle for the 6 feet length option. At around 5’8” (and that is with my boots on), this sleeping bag is much too long but I lack the nerves of steel required to do something about it.

Shaving off weight by replacing the backpack with a lighter equivalent is best saved for last. Since the backpack must offer enough support to comfortably carry all the equipment, it is best to pare down the weight of its contents before making the leap to a lightweight equivalent.

Some features to avoid in a backpack are a top pocket, side pockets, metal or plastic stays and even a highly cushioned hip-belt. Although these features might appear essential, they are easily abandoned with some planning. The extra support provided by the stays and highly cushioned hip-belt is unnecessary when the weight of the contents of the backpack is reduced sufficiently.

Golite’s Pinnacle is my primary backpack during the summer months in the Adirondacks. It is extremely lightweight but roomy enough to carry over a week’s worth of supplies and is highly durable. Over the years mine has traveled from Cranberry Lake to Stillwater Reservoir (and back), through some horrendous recovering blowdown along Oven Lake, and deep into the interior of the Pepperbox Wilderness.

Reducing the weight of one’s backpack allows for more comfortable hiking and a more enjoyable backcountry experience. Concentrating the initial effort on the larger equipment lays the groundwork for reducing the weight on the less substantial gear. Think small, keep it simple and enjoy a renewed spring in the step on the trail.

Photos: Cave/Nest tarp at Moshier Reservoir, Highlite sleeping bag on Cat Mountain and Pinnacle backpack at Streeter Fishpond by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

DEC Accepting 2012 Summer Camp Applications

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be accepting applications for its 2012 Summer Camp Program starting January 28.

The summer camp program offers week-long adventures in conservation education for children ages 11-17. DEC operates four residential camps for youth ages 11-13: Camp Colby in Saranac Lake, Franklin County; Camp DeBruce in Livingston Manor, Sullivan County; Camp Rushford in Caneadea, Allegany County and Pack Forest in Warrensburg, Warren County. Pack Forest and Camp Rushford also feature Teenage Ecology Week, an environmental studies program for 14-17-year-old campers.

“As the parent of a son who spent a week at Camp Colby, I can personally attest to the quality of the camp experience for teenagers and the valuable environmental lessons learned at a DEC summer camp,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “Many DEC camp alumni have followed their interests into careers in the environment and wildlife conservation throughout our 64 years of operating DEC summer camps.”

Campers learn about environmental stewardship through hands-on experience in the outdoors. They participate in a wide variety of activities including fishing, bird watching, fly-tying, archery, canoeing, hiking, camping, orienteering and hunter safety education. Campers also learn about fields, forests, streams and ponds through fun, first-hand experiences in these habitats. DEC counselors teach youth conservation techniques used by natural resource professionals, such as measuring trees and estimating wildlife populations.

Changes for the 2012 camp season:

Youth camp attendees now range from age 11 to 13.

Teenage Ecology Week attendees now range from age 14 to 17 and will be offered at Pack Forest from weeks 1 through 5 and at Camp Rushford during week 5.

All four camps will run for seven weeks, beginning July 1.

Children who have attended camp in the past may register for any of the weeks within their age range.

Campers may attend for more than one week. The fee for the total number of weeks must be included with the application (Note: campers may not stay at camp on Saturday night, so parents should make alternate arrangements if two consecutive weeks are selected).

DEC is also encouraging sporting clubs, civic groups and environmental organizations to sponsor a child for a week at camp. Those groups who sponsor six paid campers will receive one free scholarship when all applications are sent together.

Applications from both sponsors and parents can be postmarked starting January 28, 2012. The cost for camp remains at $350 a week.

For complete information, including when applications will be accepted, visit DEC’s website or call 518-402-8014. Interested parents may also sign up for the camps’ listserve on the same web page, visit the camps’ Facebook page at “NYS DEC Summer Camps” or contact DEC in writing at DEC Camps, 2nd Floor, 625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-4500.

Photo: A fishing lesson at Camp Colby. Courtesy DEC.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Cold Rain and Snow

Amy and I had tarried too long in town, visiting friends, getting a tour of a local art collection, enjoying a leisurely holiday pace. We did not start the long climb up to Lost Brook Tract until after 2 PM with a scant two hours of daylight remaining. It was an icy climb and even with trekking poles to help lever the ascent our progress was halting. By the time we were three miles in and two thousand feet up, nearing the junction where the way to Lost Brook Tract leaves any hiking trail altogether, it was close to pitch black with spotty freezing rain. We didn’t mind as hiking in the dark is fun. But we were about to be stupid… well, not so much “we” as me. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dan Crane: Backpacking Through Middle Age

Facing middle-age is a traumatic prospect for many people, more so for those who enjoy exploring the Adirondack backcountry. During this period of life, the wear and tear of many decades begins to erode the physical abilities of youth. This physical erosion puts increasing demands on the body from backpacking, making enjoying the backcountry more arduous, but not impossible.

Backpacking, with its heavy lifting, long hikes over aggressive terrain and precarious stream crossings, is typically regarded as an activity of youth. There is no reason this must be the case though. With a little determination, some minor adaptations and a sizable portion of luck, it should be possible to continue exploring the backcountry throughout middle-age and beyond.

Many changes within the aging human body negatively impact the ability to backpack through the backcountry. Collagen fibers within muscles and tendons become less supple, cartilage in the joints wears down and becomes more brittle, and back issues, such as degenerating disc disease, are just a few of the changes brought on with age. Although it may be impossible to reverse these negative changes (for now), there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects.

Training is important for anyone engaging in strenuous exercise, and especially important for older hikers. Preparing the muscles for the arduous physical activity accompanying backcountry exploration is a necessity for exploring the backcountry, as much as map and compass skills, properly fitting hiking boots and prodigious amount of mosquito repellant.

Regular aerobic exercise (such as running, cycling or swimming), combined with weight training (especially those strengthening the core and legs), should be performed for months before lacing up the hiking boots. Although these activities prepare the muscles for physical activity, there is no substitute for getting on the trail and doing some day hiking. If coming off a long down period, start out slow with shorter distances and lower backpack loads, working up to farther distances and heavier loads over time.

Stretching before exercising is increasingly important as the years advance. Stretching prepares the less supple muscles and tendons for the rigorous activity required on the trail. It is especially important after spending hours riding in a car before reaching the trailhead. Concentrate the stretching effort on the legs but do not forget other important area such as the back, neck and arms.

Another important way to deal with the negative physical effects of middle-aged involves reducing the weight of the backpack. The weight of a backpack places an enormous amount of stress on the joints of the hips and legs. By reducing its weight it is possible to reduce the amount of stress placed on these joints so they stay healthier over the long haul. Plus, a lighter pack is a major advantage when trying to outrun a hungry bear.

We are living in an age of technological proliferation, and the backcountry products industry is not immune. Many of the improvements include a reduction in weight, due to stronger and more advanced materials. Anyone who owned a backpack from the 1980’s and 1990’s can attest to their impenetrable yet weighty materials, like carrying a tank on one’s back. Although these heavy materials prevented the occasional rip or tear, they put a lot of stress on the back and knees. Today, the trend is using more advanced materials to reduce the weight of equipment including clothes, sleeping bag, tents, and backpacks.

Despite the best effort to train, stretch extensively and reducing backpack weight, issues pertaining to middle-age can persist. Middle-age is accompanied with some inevitable slowdown, which can manifest itself in a slower speed on the trail, a reduction in the distances traveled per day or greater weakness in carrying heavier loads.

All the squatting, stooping and crawling associated with backpacking takes a serious toll on the back and joints of middle-aged backpackers. Crawling in and out of a tent or other shelter, cooking hunched over a small stove and squatting while answering natures call are just a few of these activities leading to back, neck or leg strains. And there is nothing worse than losing one’s balance due to a muscle cramp while squatting over a cat hole.

Sleeping on hard surfaces such as hard-packed ground found in heavily used areas and inside lean-tos becomes more difficult with age. Anyone waking after a restless night without the ability to stand up straight is familiar with this pain. Thankfully, this pain can be ameliorated with the addition of a couple different sleeping pads. Camping in areas rarely (or never) used by others may be helpful in providing a more comfortable sleeping experience due to thick layers of leaf litter and other detritus not highly compacted by many years of use.

In addition to the physical changes accompanying middle-age, there is the inevitable decrease in eyesight. This decrease in performance due to age is called presbyopia. Presbyopia is a perfectly normal loss of close focusing ability due to hardening of the lens inside the eyes and usually begins occurring around age 40. Just in time to accompany the other physical limitations brought on by middle age.

Presbyopia can be compensated for by initially holding reading material further away but over time requires wearing reading glasses.

Presbyopia affects backcountry enthusiasts mostly through the reading of topographical maps. The faint print on these maps, especially the elevation numbers, are often difficult for even youthful eyes in the best lighting, let alone those in middle-age. The print on many handheld GPS units often proves difficult to read as well.

Reading glasses are useful for compensating for the effect of presbyopia. Unfortunately, transporting reading glasses through the backcountry is often difficult due to their fragility. Folding reading glasses are useful in compensating for this fragility.

Middle-age is definitely a difficult time for backcountry enthusiasts with its many physical changes. If you are dreading the coming of middle-age or frustratingly dealing with its impact on the ability to enjoy the backcountry, take heart, there is some hope as backpacking during old age is going to be much more challenging.

Photos: Middle-aged trees at Sand Lake by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

‘Open House’ Weekends at Camp Santanoni

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH), the Town of Newcomb, and the Adirondack Ecological Center have announced that historic Camp Santanoni in Newcomb will be open for three special long “open house” weekends this winter. Over these weekends, cross-country skiers and snowshoers will be able to visit the Gatelodge and Main Lodge, get short interpretive tours with AARCH staff, and warm up at the Artist’s Studio before the return trip. These weekends will be January 14-16, February 18-20, and March 17-18.

Camp Santanoni was built beginning in 1892 by Robert and Anna Pruyn and eventually consisted of more than four dozen buildings on 12,900 acres including a working farm, Gatelodge complex, and a huge rustic Main Lodge and other camp buildings situated on Newcomb Lake. Santanoni was in private ownership until 1972 and over the last several decades, in state ownership, it has gradually been restored by a partnership between NYSDEC, AARCH, and the Town of Newcomb. Santanoni is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.

Camp Santanoni is one of the most popular cross-country ski destinations in the Adirondacks, and for good reason. The snow conditions are usually excellent, the trip itself is of only moderate intensity, and the camp on its remote lakeside setting makes for an interesting and most beautiful destination. The round-trip cross-country ski and showshoe trip is 9.8 miles on a gently sloping carriage road. People may visit Santanoni 365 days a year but these weekends are rare opportunities to visit the camp in winter, have a brief tour, and have a place to warm up.

As snow conditions so far in 2012 have been light, it is best to check in advance to make sure the road is suitable for skiing.

 


Friday, January 6, 2012

Paul Smith’s College VIC Upcoming Programs

The Paul Smith’s College VIC has issued their schedule for the remaining winter season. The VIC is located at 8023 State Route 30 in Paul Smiths. For more information about the events listed here or the VIC in general contact Brian McDonnell at (518) 327-6241

Sunday, Jan. 8 through Sunday, Feb. 19 – Winter Wonders Art Show and Sale

Local featured artists will display their nature themed art from 1-3 p.m. at the VIC. The first show of the new year, we will feature 8 artists showcasing their art in a variety of mediums including photography, watercolor, oil, and pastels. This will be the first show of the year. Each month, on the new moon, we will offer a new exhibit featuring 2 local artists. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 2, 2012

ADK Offers High Peaks Winter Lecture Series

Environmental authors Bill McKibben and Curt Stager will be among the distinguished speakers participating in the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Winter 2012 Lecture Series at the High Peaks Information Center (HPIC). The Saturday evening lecture series begins Jan. 7 and runs through March 17.

McKibben, one of the leading voices of the environmental movement, is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont. His books include The End of Nature, The Age of Missing Information and Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth. His Feb. 4 lecture, “Notes from the Front of the Climate Fight,” will focus on the global movement to address climate change.

Stager, a professor at Paul Smith’s College, is the author of Deep Future: the Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth, which Kirkus Reviews listed as one of the best nonfiction books of 2011. On Jan. 21, Stager will speak on “Climate Whiplash: What Happens After Global Warming?” While debate over global warming generally focuses on what may happen in the next 100 years, Stager will discuss the long-term climate picture.

Other lectures in the series will focus on winter birds, backcountry travel, avalanche awareness and moose in New York State. On the lighter side, the series will also feature concerts by Annie and the Hedonists and the Rustic Riders.

Winter 2012 HPIC Lecture Series

Jan. 7: “Winter Birds of the Adirondacks” with Joan Collins, president of Adirondack Avian Expeditions & Workshops.

Jan. 14: “Backcountry Travel” with Pete Fish, a retired forest ranger with over 30 years experience patrolling the High Peaks.

Jan. 21: “Climate Whiplash: What Happens After Global Warming?” with Curt Stager.

Jan. 28: “Basic Avalanche Awareness” with High Peaks Forest Ranger Jim Giglinto.

Feb. 4: “Notes from the Front of the Climate Fight” with Bill McKibben.

Feb. 11: “Moose in New York” with state wildlife biologist Ed Reed.

Feb. 18: “Adirondack Environmental History: It’s as Clear as Mud” with Brendan Wiltse, a Ph.D. candidate from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.

Feb. 25: Music by Annie and the Hedonists.

March 3: “Introduction to Square Dancing,” with music and calling by Stan Burdick.

March 10: “Flora and Fauna of the Adirondacks.”

March 17: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with The Rustic Riders, an Adirondack-based acoustic group.

The High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) is at the end of the Adirondack Loj Road, 8 miles south of Lake Placid. For more information about the lecture series and other ADK programs, visit our website at www.adk.org or call (518) 523-3441.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is the oldest and largest organization dedicated to the protection of the New York State Forest Preserve. ADK is a nonprofit, membership organization that protects the Forest Preserve, state parks and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dan Crane: Solo Backcountry Exploration

One of the central tenets of backcountry exploration is never venture out on your own. The conventional thinking is hiking/backpacking is a group activity, where individual achievement must take a backseat to safety. This remains a well-held belief, but is it valid? Do the risks of solo backcountry travel outweigh the benefits?

There are many reasons for traveling through the backcountry in a group. Communal meals, sharing equipment, division of camp duties and basic human companionship are just a few advantages of trekking through forests and over mountains with other individuals. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 26, 2011

BurkeBeaner Coffee to Benefit Dewey Mountain

Home on holiday break from the World Cup circuit, Olympic biathlete Tim Burke has launched a limited-edition coffee with the Adirondack Bean-To. Proceeds from each bag of BurkeBeaner Hammer Roast sold this ski season will be donated to the campaign to build a new lodge at Dewey Mountain, where Burke learned to cross-country-ski race as a kid.

Burke went on to compete in two Olympics and to become the first American to lead the biathlon World Cup, in 2009.

“I support Dewey because of all the great opportunities it provided me,” Burke said. “This was the place I could come not only to ski but to be with friends, meet new people and live a healthy, active lifestyle. That was important to my childhood, and I’d like other kids to have that opportunity as well.” » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Adirondack Forest Ranger Reports (Late Autumn)

What follows is the late-October through late-December Forest Ranger Activity Report for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. Although not a comprehensive detailing of all backcountry incidents, these reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date. You can read previous Forest Ranger Reports here.

These incident reports are a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry and always carry a 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.

The Adirondack Almanack reports current outdoor recreation and trail conditions each Thursday evening. Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1), WSLP (93.3) and on the stations of North Country Public Radio. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Outlook for Adirondack Ski Areas

It’s no secret that it’s been a difficult start to the ski season. Besides a notable lack of snowfall, the cold temperatures that ski areas need for snowmaking operations have so far been hard to come by.

I started my ski season on Thanksgiving weekend, when both Gore and Whiteface opened for the 2011-2012 season, and I’ve now got several days at both mountains under my belt. Although trail choices have been limited (both mountains are about 20% open as of this writing), conditions have been surprisingly good, thanks to efficient snowmaking plants and modern grooming equipment. You can check out my most recent visits to Gore and Whiteface here and here. » Continue Reading.



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Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.