Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gear: A High Peaks Mobile Phone App

You and a friend finally reach the summit of Gothics, take in the glorious view, and begin to wonder what the names are of all the peaks around you. So your friend whips out an iPhone and starts tapping the screen.

Is he calling the local forest ranger for answers?

Not if he has installed the ADK46erNow app on his phone. Developed by Keith Kubarek, an enthusiastic Adirondack hiker, the app uses the phone’s GPS system to help people identify peaks in the viewshed of any of the forty-six High Peaks.

The app also contains basic facts about each of the High Peaks, including elevation and the feet of ascent and mileage from trailhead to summit; a logbook for keeping track of the peaks you’ve climbed; and links to the current weather at your location or at any of the High Peaks.

The program can be purchased for $4.99 at the App Store on Apple’s website. The hitch is that you must own an iPhone. I don’t, but I was able to download the app onto my iPod Touch to test the features in the office. Without the phone’s GPS capability, however, I was unable to use the app in the field.

The app’s home page has four options: “My Log Book,” “ADK 46er Now,” “High Peaks,” and “Weather.” The coolest feature, the electronic peak-finder, is found under the ADK 46er Now rubric.

If you select this option, your current GPS coordinates appear at the bottom of the screen. Three new options also appear: “Map,” “360-DegreeView,” and “Summit Stamp.”

For the peak-finder, select 360-Degree View. The screen turns into a clear window with a red vertical line running down the middle. It’s as if you’re viewing the landscape through the phone’s camera. When the red line bisects one of the High Peaks in the vista, the peak’s name appears at the bottom of the screen. The function can be used not just on summits, but whenever you have a good view.

One shortcoming is that the app can identify only High Peaks and only those within a five-mile radius. So if you’re on Mount Marcy, for example, it won’t tell you that the big mountain ten miles distant in the southwest is Santanoni Peak. Kubarek tried using a ten-mile radius, but the phone’s screen became too cluttered. He says he may give users the option of adjusting the viewing radius in a future version of the app.

You can get a better sense of how the peak-finder works by clicking this link to the developer’s website.

Other features include:

Summit Stamp. When you reach the top of a High Peak, it records the date and time of your ascent, the current weather, and your GPS coordinates.

High Peaks Sorter. It allows you to order the peaks by name, height, feet of ascent, or round-trip mileage to the summit. By selecting a summit, you can view it in a satellite image or on a topo or terrain map.

Map and Compass. The map function allows you to see your location on a topo map at any time. It also provides your GPS coordinates. You can activate the compass function by tapping the circular logo on the home screen.

For an overview of all the features of ADK46erNow, click here.

Kubarek says he expects to add new features this year, including one that will allow hikers to e-mail trip notes and Summit Stamps to their friends and family. Those who purchase the app now will be able to update it for free as new versions are available.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. For more of his gear reviews, click here.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Major Snowmobile Bridge Replaced in Perkin’s Clearing Easement

A bridge on an important snowmobile connector trail on the Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement Lands was replaced in time for the upcoming snowmobile season, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced.

The new bridge replaces the old, deteriorating Mossy Vly Snowmobile Bridge on the Carpenter Hill Trail which connects the Mud Lake Road and the Jessup River Road in the Town of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County.

The Mossy Vly Brook snowmobile bridge provides a critical link between snowmobile trails on the conservation easement property. Historically, the bridge has been used as a bypass route around winter logging activities on the conservation easement property. Replacing the bridge eliminates the need for hazardous ice crossings by snowmobilers. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Mysterious Northwestern Adirondacks Noise

The Adirondack backcountry can generate some very peculiar sounds. A bobcat crying, a coyote howling and a pine sawyer chewing are just a few of the strange natural sounds of the remote wilderness. These sounds are often easily identifiable as having a natural source. Unfortunately, the sources of many others remain a mystery.

I heard one of these mysterious sounds several times in different locations in the backcountry of the northwestern Adirondacks over the years. This strange sound turned up again this summer at Cracker Pond, located in the remote part of the Five Ponds Wilderness.

The unexplained sound is a soft modulated hum. It is a subtle sound; often it is difficult to tell whether it is a sound or just a feeling deep down in the pit of the stomach. It is sometimes muffled, as if in the background, and therefore easily overlooked. The nature of the sound is hard to describe, but it is similar to the noise made by a boat crashing through a wave or wake of another boat.

This is not the first time I have heard such a sound. Similar sounds intruded upon several different backcountry trips over the last few years in the northwestern Adirondacks. The sound is not constant, as I have returned to the same locations multiple times without hearing it.

I heard this sound for the first time while visiting the Threemile Beaver Meadow in the western part of the Pepperbox Wilderness. At this time, I presumed the sound was from the turbines at one of the dams to the south along the Beaver River.

Unfortunately, my turbine theory appeared incorrect as I heard the sound at the top of Cat Mountain last year in the northern portion of the Five Ponds Wilderness. This mountain is way too far from the Threemile Beaver Meadow for such a sound to carry that far.

What could this sound be? Where is it coming from? Is it just in my head? If not, is it from a man-made source or a natural one? Does anyone have any theories about this sound? Unidentified flying objects? Clandestine hydrofracking operations? Any explanation from the absurd to the practical would be appreciated.

Strange sounds are a part of the backcountry experience in the Adirondacks. Usually these mysterious sounds have a natural source. Occasionally, an eerie noise is difficult to attribute to a natural phenomenon. Most of these remain a mystery; let us hope this is not one of them.

Photos: Cracker Pond, Threemile Beaver Meadow and View from Cat Mountain by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Lake Placid Peninsula Nature Trails

Though there are many places to enjoy throughout the Adirondack Park, the small village trails are often the sweetest treat for families with young kids or anyone just wanting to stretch his/her legs.

The Brewster Peninsula Nature Trails in Lake Placid are situated on a parcel of 133 acres of land purchased by New York State in 1960.

According to the self-guiding pamphlet produced by The Garden Club of Lake Placid (with help from the Adirondack Ski Touring Council and the NYS DEC, the Brewster Peninsula trails were heavily logged in the 1940s with the exclusion of a small 200′ strip of untouched lakeshore.

Our main purpose for being in Lake Placid is to shop but with all the holiday craziness we need to get outside so we are taking the snow pants, boots and coats for a stroll around one of the Brewster Peninsula trails. The ground is hard and not much snow but we just need some fresh air. When we arrive we diplomatically choose one of the three trails; Lakeshore (0.8 mile loop, Boundary (0.9 mile loop) or Ridge (rock, paper, scissors). We go the Ridge Trail.

The Ridge Trail is the longest trail at a 1.3-mile loop. We pass the entrance gate and watch for signs to the right. The main path is the old logging road. It is a wide, relatively smooth dirt road. The legs of my daughter’s snow pants are rubbing together reminiscent of corduroys squeaking. She informs me that they are talking to her. I ask what they say and she replies, “They want me to run.” We oblige.

My son sword-fights with tree branches that have the audacity to be in his path. The trees retaliate by dumping melting snow down his back. The path is a gentle incline and the new boots seem to up to the task.

One short, more popular path, is the Boundary Trail. This 0.9 loop trail intersects with the popular Jackrabbit Trail and leads directly to the west side of Lake Placid lake. This trail also leads to the Shore Owner’s Association (SOA) dam. Along that path are wooded footpaths, roots to explore and a beautiful view of the lake.

Look for interpretive signs along the way (designed by Adirondack artist, Sheri Amsel) as well as benches in case members of your party need a moment of solitude. Enjoy these trails all year long on foot, snowshoes or cross-country skies.

From Saranac Ave (Route 86) in Lake Placid, turn onto Peninsula Way, between Howard Johnson’s Restaurant and the Comfort Inn and drive about 0.4 mile. Follow signs for Brewster Peninsula. Parking and entrance gate is to the left. Trail maps are available at the trailhead.

Photo from the dam at Brewster Peninsula used with permission of Diane Chase, the author of Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities(with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. Diane next guidebook of Adirondack Family Activities in this four-book series will cover the Adirondack Coast from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga.

 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review of ‘The Climbing Dictionary’

I’m a Johnny-climb-lately. After moving to the Adirondacks, I spent most of my outdoors time hiking, backcountry skiing, or paddling. I had no interest in rock climbing—until I finally tried it a few years back.

I quickly discovered there’s a lot to learn apart from the techniques of actual climbing: rope management, gear placement, belaying, anchor building, rappelling, and how to open a beer bottle with a carabiner.

And the language. Like most sports, rock climbing has its own lingo. A bumbling climber is a “gumby”; a perfect climbing route is “splitter”; a route over “choss” (loose, friable rock) is “mungy”; and “deadpoint” is the apex of a “dyno,” or jump move.

All this can be bewildering to a newbie (or “n00b”) who encounters such terms for the first time in articles, books, and conversation. Thankfully, Mountaineers Books has published a guide for the perplexed: The Climbing Dictionary (softcover, $14.95) by Matt Samet, a veteran climber and writer.

The book defines more than 650 terms from rock climbing, bouldering, and mountaineering. Many of the definitions are illustrated by drawings by Mike Tea, an artist who works for Black Diamond, a manufacturer of cams, nuts, and other climbing gear.

In most cases, Samet does more than just define a word; he illustrates usage with humorous quotes and provides word histories that are like small windows onto the history of climbing itself. Did you know that before climbers wore helmets they sometimes protected their heads by stuffing mittens and newspapers under wool hats?

Many of the words are merely useful, such as the names for gear (ice screw, etrier, deadman anchor), but others exemplify the wry, irreverent outlook on life that seems indispensible to people who risk their necks for fun. For example, someone who “craters,” or hits the ground after a long fall, is likely to become “talus food.”

Samet captures this spirit in his definitions and exemplary quotations. Here’s his entry for blog-worthy: “Any rock you’ve ever climbed, videoed, and shot photos of … and uploaded to the Internet. In alpinism, any diversion, no matter how insignificant, from an existing climb is usually blog-worthy.”

Sometimes, though, the author strains too hard at humor, especially in his quotations. He illustrates the use of headlamp with the following: “Dave-o and Sha-Nay-Nay had to open a bivy a half-mile from the car because they spaced their headlamps; then wolves ate their faces off in the night.”

Never mind that the non-imbecilic have no need for a definition of headlamp; the quotation fails to illuminate meaning and it fails to amuse.

That’s OK … we all have our gumby moments. If you love climbing, you should enjoy this book.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. Click here to read his article about climbing Chapel Pond Slab.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Double H Ranch’s Adaptive Winter Sports Program

Sometime in early January, the first participants in Double H Ranch’s Adaptive Winter Sports Program will begin arriving at Double H’s facility in Lake Luzerne. The program offers children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to participate in downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Around 30 children per day typically participate in the program, which runs every winter weekend from January through March. Most children participate for 3 or 4 days over the course of the winter, and five Family Sleepover Weekends allow the entire family to participate in winter sports together.

The program takes place on Double H’s ski slopes, which are equipped with a double chairlift and snowmaking. Like all programs at Double H, the Adaptive Winter Sports Program is offered completely free of charge to participants, and thousands of children and their families have been served since the program’s inception in 1998.
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adirondack Lean-to Etiquette

Lean-tos are three-walled shelters scattered throughout the backcountry of the Adirondack Park. Typically, they are conveniently located near picturesque lakes, ponds or streams. They are often convenient substitutes for tents (except during bug season) and especially popular with backpackers on a rainy day. Unfortunately this popularity often leads to overuse and sometimes downright abuse.

For example, this past summer I visited and revisited the Sand Lake lean-to within the Five Ponds Wilderness during a bushwhacking trip. Over the eight-day period the lean-to went from clean and well-kept to having garbage strewn within the fireplace and abandoned equipment scattered all about.

Obviously there is a need for some rules of lean-to etiquette. These rules need to be adopted and promoted by all backcountry adventurers. They should be posted on an attractive sign in a prominent place on each lean-to to remind those users that seem to forget their obligations when visiting the backcountry. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Adirondack Forest and Trees Field Guide Reprinted

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has released a revised reprint of Forests and Trees of the Adirondack High Peaks Region by the late Edwin H. Ketchledge. First published in 1967, this modest little field guide found favor with Adirondack hikers and naturalists and quickly became a classic. The new printing opens with a biography and tribute to Ketchledge, who died June 30, 2010, at his home in Potsdam.

An acclaimed naturalist and educator, Ketchledge set out to photograph and describe 34 species of Adirondack trees in response to a challenge from Jerome Wyckoff, a geologist and ADK member. The first publication of what was then called “Trees” prompted Ketchledge to expand the volume to reflect his own significantly broadened interests — interpreting the role of these species in the region’s ecology. Thus “Forests and Trees” was born, and with it a greater interest in “reading” the landscape. (Wyckoff’s own book, The Adirondack Landscape, was also published by ADK in 1967.)

“Forests and Trees of the Adirondack High Peaks Region” is 176 pages, 4 ½” x 6″, and includes over 70 photographs. It is available in softcover for $9.95 at book and outdoor supply stores, at ADK stores in Lake George and Lake Placid, and through mail order by calling (800) 395-8080.

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. For more information about ADK, visit www.adk.org.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest Essay: Wintertime Backcountry Sanitation

What follows is a guest essay by Jim Muller, a regular Almanack reader and an avid winter camper who edits the site WinterCampers.com. Muller noted that Dan Crane’s recent post on Adirondack Backcountry Hygiene assumed summertime conditions and he wanted to provide us his take on camping sanitation in winter.

Let’s face it – it is tough to contemplate washing up when winter camping, but that doesn’t mean that sanitation should be ignored. Especially keep your hands clean. Backpackers are more likely to become sick from improper hand sanitation than from contracting Guardia from untreated water. Use a multi-purpose soap or hand cleaner. Don’t touch shared food. Pour snacks and trail mix into your hand as opposed to reaching in a bag to grab a handful. Use food utensils when portioning out dinner rations. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dogs and the Adirondack Forest Preserve

What follows is a guest essay from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

Dog owners should act responsibly and always ensure that their dogs are under the control; for the safety of the dog and wildlife, and to allow an enjoyable outdoor experience for other recreational users.

Wildlife approached by dogs may feel threatened and defend themselves, causing injury to the dog. Porcupines, racoons, coyotes, bears, moose and deer can all cause injury to dogs when cornered. Also there is a danger of rabies, distemper or other wildlife diseases being transmitted to the dog. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dan Crane: Adirondack Backcountry Hygiene

Exploring the backcountry of the Adirondacks is hard work. Regardless of whether it is exclusively done on well-worn trails or way off the beaten path, hiking generates a lot of sweat and stirs up plenty of dirt. When the stench emerging from a sleeping bag in the morning instantly brings tears to the eyes, there can be no doubt; some backcountry hygiene is now a dire necessity.

Adding some backcountry laundry to the usual camp chores can mitigate this smell to some degree, but often more extreme measures are necessary. Although everyone’s tolerance to intense body odor, sticky skin and slimy hair may wildly vary; it is inevitable that at some point the sickening smorgasbord of filth will exceed even the hardiest individual’s ability to ignore it.

Although personal hygiene may be optional for the solo backcountry enthusiast, it becomes a downright necessity for those traveling in groups. One of the few things worse than smelling one’s own overpowering body odor is enduring the stench of someone else’s natural aroma.

Some people prefer the simplest solution to a dire body odor situation. Just a dip in a nearby lake or stream does the trick for these trepid souls. Unfortunately, finding a rocky-bottomed water body in the Adirondacks is not always an easy task. Plus, there is the threat of leeches, snapping turtles, overly enthusiastic fish and a whole menagerie of other creepy organisms to deal with.

For those looking for a more traditional bathing experience, only a little planning and a few pieces of extra equipment are required. The ultimate goal of backcountry hygiene is to deal with the stench and other associated issues without over burdening the weight of the backpack.

Soap is an important component of any backcountry adventurer’s personal hygiene system. Simple biodegradable soaps work best as they have less impact on the environment than the more aggressive, heavily marketed alternatives made by the major manufactures.

Using soap with insect-repellent properties, like Sallye Ander No-Bite-Me, allows for added protection against all blood-craving insects. Having a single piece of equipment satisfy two purposes, such as these repellent soaps, is a weight-conscious backcountry explorer’s dream.

A small sponge comes in handy for rinsing off the soapy residue or engaging in a sponge bath. Currently, I use an ecotools™ cellulose facial sponge. These sponges come in threes, are made of cellulose, contain no petroleum by-products, are minimally packaged and the limited packaging is printed on recycled paper.

Use some type of basin filled with water to wet and rinse the sponge. Backpacker’s Pantry’s collapsible pack bowl works extremely well. It is lightweight, flexible, and extremely packable as it folds down completely flat. Just make sure to dispose of the waste water 150 feet away from any stream, lake or pond.

After cleaning with soap it is important to hold off the inevitable stink as long as possible. Typically, deodorant sticks are used back in civilization to accomplish this task. Deodorant sticks are typically too bulky for backpacking into the backcountry.

An alternative I use is a deodorant powder, such as Thai Crystal & Cornstarch Deodorant Powder. It claims to be free of aluminum chlorohydrate, controls wetness, offers 24-hour protection and is unscented. I typically pack it in a small plastic film container (you do remember film, right?). Since it is a very fine powder I usually place the film container in a small plastic bag, just in case.

Nothing spurs the desire to take a shower more than the slimy feeling of greasy hair in the backcountry. This is especially true at night when it is often no longer possible to cover it up with a convenient hat. Unfortunately, this feeling cannot be fully alleviated by just wetting your hair in a convenient lake or pond; only a thorough shampooing can alleviate this situation.

Despite their utility back in civilization, liquid shampoos are inconvenient in the backcountry. They are not lightweight, require a sturdy container (which often seems to leak despite all attempts to the contrary) and are often heavily scented (which attracts all types of insects, including the biting and stinging kinds).

An alternative to liquid shampoos are solid shampoo bars. Although they typically come in large sizes, they can be cut to a convenient small size for an extended backcountry adventure. They do not leak, can be easily placed in a plastic re-sealable bag and tend to have subtle scents. My favorite is J.R.Liggett’s Shampoo Bar, which I like so much I use it at home fulltime.

The dirty water reservoir of an inline water filter system can be helpful for rinsing shampoo from hair. The reservoir, with the inline filter removed and the hose tied off in a loose knot, when filled with water makes an effective shower. Just be sure not to tie the knot too tight since undoing it with eyes closed is a daunting task.

I use an old Platypus 3L Big Zip Reservoir with some surgical tubing for my inline filter system. The surgical tubing is supple enough to be easily tied and untied regardless of whether my eyes are open or not. Three liters is more than enough to rinse the shampoo from my hair with enough left over to rinse my back and arms. Make sure the water is not too cold or risk having an intense headache after the shower.

Do not forget to have a lightweight and highly absorbent pack towel handy for all of the above activities. They are not only handy for drying but become an effective defensive weapon when wet against crafty biting flies that have discovered the sweet spot on the back where few people can reach. I currently carry a MSR Ultralite Pack Towel for just such occasions.

Spending many days in the wilderness often requires taking steps to perform some backcountry hygiene. Fortunately, personal hygiene in the backcountry does not have to be another tedious chore and can deliver sizable dividends when exploring the backcountry in groups. Otherwise be prepared to spend much of the trip alone with a stench of your own making.

Photos: A perfect place for a late summer bath on Moshier Reservoir by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Preparing For Your Winter Adirondack Adventure

What follows is a guest essay by NYS Forest Ranger Julie Harjung a Lead Instructor for Wilderness Medical Associates and contributor to the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

I have been a Forest Ranger for over 15 years and have spent all of it in either the Catskills or the Adirondack Mountains. Rangers respond to just about every emergency you can think of and probably a few you haven’t thought of. Many of the incidents are true accidents, a slip on the trail causing a broken leg, a dislocated elbow, a fall causing a concussion etc. Accidents can and do happen all the time in the backcountry. As a responsible outdoor enthusiast you need to be prepared for the “what if” scenarios. That means following a few cardinal rules. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Seeing the Adirondacks on Horseback

What follows is a guest essay from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

Looking for a Challenge? Try riding some of the Adirondack horse trails. There is something for everyone, from horse camping to mountain tops or lake shores – whatever scenery you are looking for can be found. If you don’t have your own horse, check with area Chambers of Commerce for names and contact information of stables that take people on public trail horseback rides.

Trail riding is an excellent way for you and your horse to enjoy and deepen the bond of partnership, trusting in one another to negotiate the many obstacles that appear on the trail. A jaunt down the trail can refresh the show veteran, season the young horse or invigorate an old trail hand. Just be sure to choose terrain and distance suitable to your equine friend’s condition and enjoy the view between your friend’s ears!

From your horses back you will see, hear and smell things you would otherwise miss from a motor vehicle. There will be the sound of the babbling brook, the song of a bird, the breath taking view that appears around the bend, glorious fall foilage and the wonderful aroma of pine needles, moss and wildflowers. Your horse can carry you on adventures you’ll remember for a lifetime. So pack a lunch, some horse treats and your camera and get out there!!

Before your go here are a few tips:

Know Where You are Going

* Obtain and study maps of the area.
* Familiarize yourself with the trails and terrain.
* Research parking area sizes to make sure your rig will fit.
* Check to see if mounting blocks and hitching rails are available

Prepare Your Horse

* Check your horse’s shoes to make sure they are tight.
* Ensure your horse is conditioned for rugged terrain.
* Bring insect repellent for yourself and horse.
* Rabies shot and negative coggins are required.

Carry and Use Proper Equipment

* Use of safety helmet is strongly recommended.
* Pack a first aid kit with the basics for you and your horse.
* Weather can be changeable, prepare for rain or cold.
* Carry a cell phone on you, not your horse – that way if you part company with your horse, you have the phone.

Act Properly on the Trail

* Ride on designated horse trails only.
* Sign in at trail registers.
* Slow horses to a walk if you meet other users, i.e. hikers, bikers and other horses.
* Ask people to speak to you and horse – horses have different eyesight and may not recognize people with packs or on bikes as people.
* Do not tie horses to live trees.
* Be prepared to encounter wildlife – deer, bear, turkeys, grouse, etc.

If you spend a little time on preparation, training and research, you will both be richly rewarded with a great outdoor experience!

Photo courtesy Old Forge Camping Resort.

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dan Crane: Backcountry Laundry

Backcountry exploration is an extremely dirty business. Hiking long distances with a heavy pack takes a lot of effort and generates a lot of sweat. Frequently scrambling under downed trees, climbing over logs, trudging across beaver dams and pushing through dense thickets just exacerbates the problem. Mix in insect repellent and sunscreen residues, and hiking clothes are typically filthy, clammy and all-around disgusting after just a single day.

Unfortunately, the nearest washing machine is many miles away. Although laundry is often a forgotten chore out in the backcountry, it does not have to be that way. Backcountry laundry can be almost as convenient as at home with the proper planning and equipment. In fact, I perform the following laundry procedure frequently during my backcountry adventures, most recently at Cracker Pond during a bushwhacking trip through the deep interior of the Five Ponds Wilderness this past summer.

Proper planning starts well before ever hitting the trail or entering the forest. In fact, it starts while shopping for hiking clothes. This is especially true for the clothing worn while hiking as these will likely be in the greatest need of cleaning during any trip.

Lightweight clothing made of synthetic fabrics work best. The synthetic fabrics tend to hold water less and therefore dry quicker. Quick drying is important since only the sun and the wind will be available for any drying. Do not attempt to use a fire for drying except in the most extreme situations, as the risk of melting is too great.

Very little specialized equipment is required for laundry in the backcountry. The necessary equipment is relatively inexpensive or typically carried already for other purposes. Forget about hauling an old-fashioned washboard, all that is needed is a re-sealable, plastic zipper storage bag (Ziploc bags for those not brand name averse), some detergent, a water basin, a super-absorbent towel and a clothes line. Do not forget the filthy clothing too.

The zipper storage bag should be a heavy duty bag, such as a freezer bag. A gallon-sized bag works well unless you plan on cleaning only small articles such as socks and/or underwear. The bag thickness is especially important if it is to be used multiple times on a single trip since small holes can develop easily.

Select a biodegradable and environmentally-friendly detergent for use in the backcountry. Powdered detergents work best as they weigh less than the liquid alternatives. If the temperatures are forecast to be high during your trip then consider supplementing the powdered with a small amount of liquid scent destroying detergent.

My favorite liquid scent-destroying detergent is Sport-Wash. Only a half-ounce is necessary per gallon of water. The label indicates it rinses completely, leaving absolutely no residue or scent. Plus, they claim it restores loft and effectiveness to down and synthetic insulation, improves wicking of fibers and maintains breathability of waterproof fabrics. The only downside is the instructions indicate to let clothes soak for thirty minutes prior to agitation.

When selecting water for washing laundry, try to find the cleanest source available. This may pose a difficult task in some places within the Adirondacks, especially in those ponds with mucky bottoms and indistinct shorelines. Streams often provide the easiest access to relatively clean water.

The water should be scooped up carefully from its source if the plastic bag has had prior use since getting detergent (or any other cleansing agent) into the water can have adverse consequences for aquatic life. Pouring water into the bag from some other receptacle sometimes works well, though at some point you will wish you were an octopus; the extra arms come in handy!

The detergent should be added after the water is in the plastic bag. It is best to place the cleaning agent in first before the clothes since it is easier to get it to mix uniformly. Take care not to use too much; it only takes a little to get the job done.

After adding the clothes, seal the bag and either soak the contents for a while or shake to simulate agitation. Feel free to use your imagination here, alternating between soaking and shaking as time allows. Although it is tempting to open the bag and agitate with one’s hands, be careful not to puncture the bag when doing so.

Depending on how dirty are the clothes, multiple loads can be washed using a single batch of water and detergent. But be warned, the water may be so dark and dirty after just washing a single article of clothing that you may feel a little ill. When the dirty water is finally ready for disposal make sure you are at least 150 feet from any water source, if such a thing is possible in the Adirondacks.

After washing is completed, the rinsing can commence. Although the plastic page could be used for rinsing, I typically use a self-standing water basin for that purpose. The water basin allows for more vigorous ringing and more frequent water changes.

My rinsing basin of choice is a Backpacker’s Pantry collapsible pack bowl. This pack bowl is extremely lightweight, flexible and very packable; it folds down completely flat. This bowl could double as a washing bucket but I only carry one and I prefer washing and rinsing simultaneously.

Dispose of the rinse water in the same manner as the wash water; at least 150 feet from any water source. Try not to dispose of all the water in a single location; spread out any possible impact.

After the clothes are completely laundered, they need to be dried. Although a majority of drying is performed by the sun and wind, there are several procedures that can minimize the amount of time required.

A clothes line is essential for drying laundry in the backcountry. The food bag rope used to foil hungry bears, rodents, etc. can easily double as a clothes line. The only complication of this duel use is it is not possible to dry laundry AND hang food simultaneously.

The clothes line should be tied between two trees where the rope gets as much sunshine exposure as possible. If available place the rope in an area where it takes advantage of any cross-breezes. If you want to avoid your rope getting sticky from sap residue make sure to tie it off to hardwood trees only.

Although throwing the clothes right on the line and waiting for the sun and wind to do all the drying is an option, a super-absorbent pack towel can cut the amount of drying time down significantly. One of these towels should already be in every hiker’s backpack for drying after fording streams, swimming and personal hygiene purposes.

I carry a couple MSR Ultralite pack towels of different sizes for personal hygiene purposes. The larger of these towels doubles for laundry duty when necessary.

Just lay out the wet (and presumably now clean) article of clothing on top of towel and roll the two up together. When completely rolled up, just give a couple gentle twists to transfer the moisture from the clothes to the towel. Unroll and ring out the towel into the rinse bucket or at the proper distance from any water body. Repeat until the clothing is merely damp and then hang it out in the sun to finish the job.

The next time you slip on that hiking shirt and the stench makes you dizzy just be thankful you have the necessary equipment to do your laundry out in the backcountry. Afterwards you will be delighted at how clean are your hiking clothes. Just do not get used to it; after an hour carrying a heavy pack over who-knows-what you will be smelling your own body odor all over again.

Photos: Drying laundry at Cracker Pond by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: 4 Adirondack Ski Swaps

* Please note the correct time for drop off to McCauley Mountain Ski Swap is Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.! 

Being an active family, my kids seems to outgrown their sporting gear before I’ve finished tying up the laces. For other parents looking to outfit their children for the winter ski season, a ski swap is a nice starting place. A ski swap can also be a much-needed opportunity to clean house.

Generally the ski swaps are consignments where you drop off your gear, helmets, and winter clothing a day before the event. If the gear sells then you will receive 80% of the set sale price. Usually the funds generated benefit a special organization like ski clubs or ski patrols so the 20% commission goes to support the sport. It is best to ask what each ski swap’s arrangement is, as it varies with location. Keep in mind no “collector’s items” like wooden skis and only clothing in good condition. Ski Club Swaps

Lake Placid: November 5, 9:00 a.m. – noon
In Lake Placid, the Lake Placid Ski Club/NYSEF Ski Swap is asking for any winter gear from cross-country skis, boots, roller blades, helmets as well as current downhill ski equipment. Any winter clothing in good shape will be accepted. For questions please call Lake Placid Ski Club President Carol Hoffman at 524-6914. This is the first year that Lake Placid Ski Club and NYSEF are doing a combined Ski and Skate Swap at St. Agnes Gym in Lake Placid. 80/20 split, no rear entry boots or straight skis and no gear donations. Drop off equipment to consign on November 4 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Queensbury, November 5 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
November 6, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
This annual event at West Mountain is touted as one of the largest ski swaps in the area. Drop off for consignments is Friday (11/4) from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Saturday (11/5) from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.. They are accepting any new and pre-owned ski or snowboard gear. No straight skis or rear entry boots. They are looking for any outerwear and accessories as well as skis, boots, helmets and snowboards. Proceeds benefit the West Mountain Ski Patrol and Race Team.

Old Forge, November 5, 9:00 a.m. – noon
This annual Polar Bear Ski Club Ski Swap at McCauley Mountain will be the place to find deals on new/used ski and snowboard equipment. Drop off is Friday evening from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday between 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. They are looking for any winter sporting gear and winter clothing in good condition. This event is not restricted to ski or snowboards but will accept helmets, ice skates, hockey equipment and cross-country ski gear. This event will benefit the Polar Bear Ski Club, which sponsors ski races for youth in cross-country skiing, downhill and biathlon.

Speculator, November 19, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
This is a new event for Oak Mountain and a bit different from the traditional ski swap. For a $20 “table” free (if reserved by the 16th or $25 after the 16th) the consignor can sell anything from boats, ATVs, snowmobiles as well as skis, gear and sport clothing. The only requirement is that it has to be sporting goods. The table fee will benefit the Friends of Oak Mountain, which continues to support upgrades to Oak Mountain. There will also be refreshments for sale.

I hope you find whatever you are looking for.

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates), the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities.



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