Sunday, September 4, 2011

Understanding Forest Rangers and ECOs

What follows is a guest essay contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy:

While fishing a fairly remote brook trout pond, a man in an official looking green uniform approaches and asks to see your fishing license.

While camping on a lake, a woman in a green uniform – a little different from the uniform you had seen before – comes into camp and makes some inquiries about your plans and practices for storing food and waste. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 2, 2011

6.1 Million Adirondack Acres Leave Plenty to Do

Although Hurricane Irene has wrought considerable destruction on the Eastern High Peaks area of the Adirondacks, aside from a few unfortunate communities, trails and campgrounds, the vast majority of the Adirondack Park was left unscathed and open for business. This Labor Day weekend and the coming months offer a great opportunity to explore the rest of the Adirondack Park’s 6.1 million acres.

The Adirondack Park has a land area larger than than Vermont. At 9,400 square miles, the Park is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined. Yet, many visitors rarely get out of the Lake Placid-High Peaks Region to explore places like the Fulton, Saranac or Raquette chains, the half-million acre Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex in the southwest, the St. Regis Canoe Area, or the some three-quarter million acres of newly acquired easement lands. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Phil Brown: DEC on Adirondack Closures, Alternatives

Before Tropical Storm Irene hit, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) closed campgrounds in the Adirondacks and urged people to stay out of the wilderness. In so doing, the department no doubt disappointed hikers and campers as well as the businesses that cater to them, but a spokesman contends that it was the right call. “Based on the damage we’re seeing, we’re confident we saved lives by doing that,” David Winchell said.

Winchell also defended the closure of the eastern High Peaks, Dix Mountain Wilderness, and Giant Mountain Wilderness—perhaps the most popular hiking regions in Adirondack Park. He said the trails are unsafe for hiking.

Many trails have been deeply eroded, and some have been partially buried by landslides. Raging floodwaters washed away bridges, boardwalks, and ladders. There also is a lot of blowdown.

The good news is that the damage appears to have been concentrated in the three Wilderness Areas. “There’s still plenty of opportunities for hiking.” Winchell said.

Just about any place in the central or western Adirondacks probably is safe, Winchell said, but he cautioned that hikers should be prepared to encounter some blowdown and wet sections of trail. He said hikers may experience more difficulties in the eastern Adirondacks, such as in the Lake George Wild Forest and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, but those regions remain open.

Even Forest Preserve tracts near the closed Wilderness Areas seem to have weathered the storm well, Winchell said. As a matter of fact, I hiked seven miles to Duck Hole in the western High Peaks yesterday and encountered only occasional blowdown, easily skirted or stepped over. I went there to take photos of Duck Hole, which is now largely muck, thanks to a breach in its dam. If you want to see the desolation of Duck Hole, you can start, as I did, at the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb.

But given the closure of the three Wilderness Areas, many people may be wondering where they can hike near Lake Placid or Keene regions. Here are ten suggestions:

Haystack Mountain: 3.3-mile hike, with 1,240 feet of ascent. Start on Route 86 between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

Scarface Mountain: 3.2 miles, 1,480 feet of ascent. Start on Ray Brook Road in Ray Brook.

McKenzie Mountain: 3.6 miles, 1,940 feet of ascent. Start on Whiteface Inn Road in Lake Placid.

Whiteface Landing/Whiteface Mountain: 3.0 miles to landing, 7.4 to Whiteface summit, with 3,232 feet of ascent. Start on Route 86 east of Lake Placid.

Copperas Pond: 0.5 miles. Start on Route 86 east of Lake Placid.

Hurricane Mountain: 2.6 miles, 2,000 feet of ascent. Start on Route 9N between Keene and Elizabethtown. (The road to Crow Clearing, the start of another Hurricane trail, is washed out.)

Pitchoff Mountain: 1.6 miles to Balanced Rock or 5.2 miles for one-way traverse of Pitchoff summits, with 1,400 feet of ascent to main summit. Both trailheads on Route 73 between Keene and Lake Placid.

Baker Mountain: 0.9 miles, 900 feet of ascent. Start next to Moody Pond in village of Saranac Lake.

McKenzie Pond: 2.0 miles. Start on McKenzie Pond Road between Saranac Lake and Ray Brook.

Ampersand Mountain: 2.7 miles, 1,775 feet of ascent. Start on Route 3 west of Saranac Lake.

Photo: A closed trailhead in Keene. Courtesy Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine and author of the Explorer’s Outakes blog.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Conditions Report From The Northville-Placid Trail

What follows is a guest post by Tom Wemmet Chair of the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT) Chapter of Adirondack Mountain Club and the webmaster for www.nptrail.org which features the latest trail conditions, hike planning help, and more. The Almanack asked Tom to tell us what he knows about conditions on the Northville-Placid Trail following this week’s storm.

Well, hurricane Irene certainly left her mark on the Adirondacks as roads, bridges and trails have been washed away and closed in many areas of the Eastern High Peaks. Irene also left her mark on the Northville-Placid Trail as part of the Duck Hole Dam breached with the result that Duck Hole Pond is dewatering. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dozens of New Landslides Reported in the High Peaks

Dozens of new landslides have been reported in the High Peaks following heavy rains and winds from the remnants of Hurricane Irene which reached the Eastern Adirondacks as a Tropical Storm on Sunday.

Regular Alamanack contributor and Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown snapped a photo of a new slide on Wright Peak, near Angel Slide. Formally two adjoining scars, Angel Slide is a well-known destination for expert backcountry skiers named in honor of Toma Vracarich who was killed in an avalanche there in 2000. The slide now includes a third route, longer than the rest. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DEC Warns About Conditions in the Adirondacks

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a warning Wednesday afternoon that unsafe conditions will remain in much of the backcountry of the Adirondacks through Labor Day Weekend and beyond following the devastating impacts of the remnants of Hurricane Irene. The most seriously affected areas include of some most popular areas in the Eastern Adirondacks. Several trail areas are closed or inaccessible due to Hurricane Irene storm damage include flooding, bridge wash outs, trail wash outs and blow down of trees and other debris.

Citing the extent of the damage and ensuring public safety, DEC has closed the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Giant Mountain Wilderness and Dix Mountain Wilderness through Labor Day Weekend and beyond. Areas in the Western Adirondacks are reported in fairly good condition though some flooding and blowdown can be expected. Most DEC campgrounds in the Adirondacks are expected to be open for Labor Day Weekend with many available sites.



According to long-time Adirondack guide and outdoors writer Joe Hackett this is the first time since the Great Ice Storm of ’98 that the DEC has closed large areas of Forest Preserve lands due to a natural disaster. In 1995 some areas of of DEC Regions 5 and 6 were closed after a major blowdown in 1995, Hackett said. Some sixty years ago The Big Blowdown of 1950 caused a complete shutdown of the roads and trails across large swaths of the park, a historic suspension of the State Constitution, a temporary glut in the spruce market, and a political impact that continues to this day.

Many eastern High Peaks mountain areas have been impacted by landslides. Mt. Colden, Trap Dike, Wright Peak, Skylight, Basin, Armstrong, Upper and Lower Wolf Jaws, Dix, Macomb, Giant and Cascade Mountains and many existing slides widened and/or lengthened. The threat of additional slides exists on these and other mountains remains in effect. Adirondack Almanack will have a report on the new slides this evening.

Although a full assessment of the recreational infrastructure in all areas of the Adirondacks has not been completed, DEC has confirmed the following:

* The footbridge over Marcy Dam has washed away and the flush boards have been damaged;

* Marcy Dam Truck Trail has 4 major washouts;

* The first bridge on the western end of the Klondike Notch Trail washed downstream to South Meadows Trail;

* Washouts on the Van Hoevenberg (Mt. Marcy) trail are 1 to 3 ft deep;

* Along the Avalanche Pass Trail from Marcy Dam, Marcy Brook jumped its banks and caused widespread damage to the trail;

* One side of the Duck Hole Dam has washed away and the pond has dewatered;

* Calamity Trail from Lake Colden is impassible south of McMartin Lean-to.

Lesser amounts of damage can be found on Adirondack Forest Preserve lands south and north of these areas. However, hikers and campers should expect to encounter flooding, bridge wash outs, trail wash outs and blow down when entering the backcountry. Plan accordingly and be prepared to turn back when conditions warrant. Updated information on trail closures and trail conditions in the Eastern Adirondacks can be found at the DEC website and at Adirondack Almanack‘s weekly Conditions Report which will be updated Thursday afternoon:

Over the next several weeks DEC is expecting to evaluate the conditions of all trails in the closed areas, prioritize work to rehabilitate trails and determine what trails may be reopened for public use.

Many DEC Campgrounds in the Adirondacks and the Catskills experienced significant damage from the storm including flooded areas, road destruction, and loss of electric and water service. Despite progress in restoring services, a number of campgrounds may be closed or have limited availability of campsites over Labor Day Weekend.

The following temporary Adirondack campground closures are in effect: Little Sand Point, Poplar Point, Point Comfort, Lake Durant, Ausable Point, Paradox Lake, and Putnam Pond. All other campgrounds are open and operating. A complete, updated list of closed campgrounds can be found on the DEC website.

The public should be aware that many state and local roads may be inaccessible to travel and access to campground areas could be limited. Those planning to visit the Adirondacks this weekend should call ahead or check for road closure information at the Department of Transportation’s webpage.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1), WSLP (93.3) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack also publishes a weekly Adirondack Hunting and Fishing Report.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene Leaves Widespread Damage in the Adirondacks

Following a spring of historic flooding and two minor earthquakes, the Adirondacks has been slammed by the remains of Hurricane Irene leaving behind a changed landscape, isolated communities, disastrous flooding and epic damage to local infrastructure, homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and trails.

Damage from the remnants of Hurricane Irene is widespread across the Eastern Adirondacks from Moriah, which suffered extensive damage during the spring flooding that had still not been repaired, to the entire Keene Valley and into the Lake Placid region. Trails in the Eastern High Peaks, Giant Mountain and Dix Mountain wilderness areas have been closed through the Labor Day weekend. The bridge over Marcy Dam has been washed away and the Duck Hole Dam breached. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Climbing the Nippletop Slide

From the Elk Pass Lycopodium Ponds herdpath to bottom of Nippletop Slide slide is, but for a few short sections, extremely easy to follow. This .75-mile section took us 40 minutes while enjoying the beautiful scenery of this miniature canyon. Starting out and walking around a good size beaver pond it was mostly flat, but turned steep starting from the outlet. In places the numerous and large mossy boulders reminded us of Indian Pass. Walking in the drainage itself never appeared to us a better option; we were able to stay on the same East bank side all the way. Actually it was never enticing, only pretty to look a every step of the way.
» Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Adirondack Backcountry Preparedness

What follows is a guest essay contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy:

If you are traveling into the backcountry beyond the trailhead these tips are important to keep in mind:

* Be prepared, consider what you need to do to protect yourself and to protect the park.

* Plan ahead. Let friends of relatives know where you are going, when you plan to return and what to do if you do not return on time.

* Avoid traveling alone.

* Dress in layers to protect yourself from the wind, rain and cold. Wear clothing made of synthetic fibers or wool and do not wear cotton in cold or rainy weather.

* Carry a lightweight, waterproof tarp for use as an emergency shelter. A storm proof tent is necessary for overnight trips.

* Carry lightweight foods and cooking gear. Use trail food such as nuts, dried fruit, candy, and jerky for nibbling. Carry extra food and water.

* Carry a portable stove. Stoves heat more quickly and useful in wet weather.

* Stop to make camp well before dark or at the first evidence of bad weather.

* Do not take unnecessary chances. Abandon the trip if anyone becomes ill or if bad weather sets in.

* If you think that you are lost, stay calm. Stop and try to determine your location. Do not continue traveling until you know where you are. Use your head, not your legs!

* Three of anything (shouts, whistles, fires, flashes of light, etc.) is a standard distress signal. Use these only in an emergency situation.

* In a backcountry emergency contact the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Dispatch at 518-891-0235

When traveling in the backcountry, be sure to take these essential items along:

* Sturdy boots, fleece layers and rain/wind gear (even on a sunny day!)

* In winter included snowshoes, hat and gloves or mittens

* Map and compass

* Flashlight / Headlamp

* Water bottle, water purification tablets or other means of purifying your water

* Extra food

* Pocket knife or multi-purpose tool

* Bivy sack or sleeping bags

* Matches and/or lighter with fire starter (such as a candle)

* First aid kit and insect repellent during bug season

* Whistle – Three blasts is a distress signal. Please use only in an emergency

* Pencil and paper – to write notes in an emergency

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.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

DEC: Avoid the Backcountry Sunday and Monday

Due to anticipated hazardous weather from Hurricane Irene the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued a warning urging the public to not attempt to use hiking trails or backcountry camping areas throughout the Adirondacks from Sunday 8/28 through Monday 8/29.

Hurricane Irene is expected to generate extremely high winds and heavy rainfalls which could result in flooding, heavy erosion of trails, falling trees and limbs and, possibly, landslides on steep slopes. Already saturated soils could also increase the potential for blow-downs. DEC is currently considering whether or not to close its local campgrounds.



Adirondack Almanack will have a more complete report on conditions around the Adirondacks this afternoon.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bushwacking the 46 High Peaks

A short while ago Spencer Morrissey completed a decade long quest of bushwhacking to or from every one of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. Although when he got started he had not heard of John Winkler, he eventually met him at book signings and had the rare privilege on several occasions of exchanging hiking stories.

John E ‘Bushwhack’ Winkler (1941-2007), who received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, preferred bushwhacking to trail hiking and over a span of 30 years climbed just about every bump, scaled most of the slides and visited many of the ponds and bogs of his ‘Cherished Wilderness’, the Adirondacks. Nevertheless his most famous accomplishment is climbing all of the 46 (over a 5 year span during the late 70s early 80s), from one direction or the other following a set of rules he had established himself but bushwhacking in at least one direction between each mountain base and its summit. A talented photographer, he came back with two volumes of extraordinary pictures. The volumes sport little text but one can guess many of his routes easily since every picture is worth a 1000 words. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our New Outdoors Contributor: Christine Bourjade

Please join me in welcoming our newest contributor here at Adirondack Almanack, Christine Bourjade. Although Christine tells me she’s “58 and one-half”, you wouldn’t believe it. She’s an avid and energetic hiker and gardener who has climbed the 46 many times in summer and more than five times in winter (46er #4967W).

Christine was born in France, but for more than 20 years she and her husband Alex Radmanovich (#4968W) have run their own PR firm in Montreal, Canada, and raised their daughter, Lyla, who has climbed three High Peaks, at last count. When it came time to climb the 100 Highest, Alex said, “No way.”



Luckily, plenty of friends were willing to join Christine in her backcountry madness. Living part time in New Russia, Christine is a correspondent for the 46ers who manages to also find time for trail work with her good friends and hiking companions Gary Koch (#1137W) and the late Ed Bunk (#3052W), “as well as numerous requisitioned volunteers.”

Christine will contribute stories about her outdoor adventures beginning today.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gear Review: Brazos Walking Sticks

Everyone needs something or someone to lean on for support once in a while. Backcountry explorers are no different, whether it is a pair of telescoping hiking poles or simply a thick stick picked up along the trail. A pole or stick can assist with a wide range of backcountry situations from crossing a beaver dam to descending a mountain. This extra support becomes even more important as one gets older when the knee and hip joints need relief from the stress caused from hours of hiking over arduous terrain.

Although most hikers use the typical high-tech aluminum telescoping poles, there still remains a few who prefer the old-school wooden hiking sticks. These sticks are often found along the trail, especially near tricky wetland or beaver dam crossings. Occasionally, a hiker might develop an attachment to one of these sticks, removing the stick from its native habitat to live out a life as a trusty object of support and balance.

An alternative to these options is to buy a wooden hiking stick from Brazos Walking Sticks.

Brazos Walking Sticks makes a wide selection of walking sticks, canes, and accessories. The company’s walking stick line are an attractive alternative to the high-tech hiking poles for anyone but the most aggressive mountain climber.

Brazos products come in a wide variety of wood types including oak, cedar, ash, maple, cherry, pine and others. Each walking stick or cane is handcrafted by one of their gifted artisan craftsmen in central Texas, not far from the company’s namesake, the Brazos River.

Brazos Walking Sticks offers several different tip accessories for their walking sticks and canes. The black rubber ferrule is standard but for an additional price one of their other tips can be substituted. The Combi spike is the typical blunt metal type tip found on most traditional hiking poles. Two other sharper tips are also available.

In addition, there are several different accessories available for the handle of the walking stick. The compass, thermometer, whistle and camera mount are just a few likely to be of interest to a backcountry enthusiast.

Several cases are available for those who travel with their hiking stick using methods of locomotion involving more than just their own two feet.

The company customizes their products too. They engrave personal messages on their walking sticks in a variety of different fonts. This makes any of the Brazos Walking Sticks’ products a perfect gift for someone who does a lot of walking or hiking and could use a sturdy companion to accompany them. Each walking stick comes with a lifetime warranty against defects and a 100/100 Satisfaction Guarantee. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with your stick, just return it within 100 days for a full refund, no questions asked.

Recently, I was sent a Brazos Backpacker Walking Stick to review. The options on it were few; it was dark brown in color and 55 inches in length, with no additional handle or tip accessories included. It was made of solid oak, and was very sturdy and finely finished. It was twisted in the middle giving it a very distinctive appearance.

My first impression, after removing it from the shipping tube, was of its fine craftsmanship. It was truly a thing of art; it was super smooth and finely stained to a beautiful dark brown color. The walking stick’s finish clearly brought out the natural beauty of the wood. This walking stick would be more appropriately mounted on a wall rather than out and about on the trails in the Adirondacks.

Near the top of the stick there was a small hole drilled through with a thin strap threaded forming a loop. This wrist strap would ensure the walking stick could not be easily dropped during a stumble on the trail.

Take care laying this walking stick on the ground while out on the trails within the Adirondacks though. Given its natural look and brown color it would be very easily left behind by accident. Perhaps a bit of florescent orange flagging on the top strap might elevate this possibility.

The Backpacker Walking Stick has a black rubber ferrule at its tip, much like one found on the end of crutches. This tip is not glued on, so one should take care when using the walking stick within muddy conditions or in bogs, lest the ferrule be lost in the muck. Brazos Walking Sticks offers several other tip accessories that might be more appropriate for the wild backcountry conditions found on many Adirondack trails.

The Brazos Backpacker Walking Sticks retails for $40. Any optional accessories would cost extra.

For anyone in the market for a quality, finely-crafted walking stick should take a serious look at the Brazos Backpacker Walking Stick or any other of Brazos Walking Sticks’ outstanding products. These beautiful walking sticks make the perfect companion for anyone into walking and/or hiking, whether just around town or in the backcountry of the Adirondacks.

Photos: Brazos Backpacker Walking Stick handle, walking stick and twisted section by Brazos Walking Sticks.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Long Overdue Recognition of Ranger Douglas King

What follows is a guest essay by one of the founders of Lean2Rescue, Paul Delucia. Lean2Rescue volunteers have recently completed rehabilitations of lean-tos in DEC Region 6, and are now beginning to work on those in Region 5. The Almanack asked Delucia to tell our readers how he got involved in rehabbing lean-tos in the Adirondacks.

As the original organizer of Lean2Rescue, I have been asked many times how our group, which has renovated nearly 40 lean-tos across the Adirondacks, developed such a cooperative relationship with the DEC. Simply put, it boils down to a sincere trust in both directions. In the beginning, we needed to earn the trust of the DEC; to show that we would carry through on our (rather aggressive) commitments while respecting the rules that govern the park. Of equal importance was my instinctive trust of the DEC which is based on the privilege of knowing Ranger Douglas King. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Adirondack Sporting Experience

What follows is a guest essay by longtime local guide Joe Hackett:

The Adirondack Park has a long and storied history of outdoor sporting adventures.

For centuries, the region was a favored hunting ground for the Iroquois and Algonquin nations. Indeed, the area provided the first commodities of trade in the New World as Adirondack beaver pelts became crucial to early commerce. » Continue Reading.



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