Friday, May 27, 2011

Mary Thill: Hudson River Rafting Travails

Hudson River Rafting Company owner Pat Cunningham pleaded not guilty in Hamilton County Court Thursday to two counts of reckless endangerment. He is scheduled to go to trial in August. Adirondack Life just posted details of the case in “Risky Business,” a story Mary reported for its May/June issue. The Almanack asked Mary Thill to bring our readers up to speed on the latest developments – ed.

The charges are connected to two trips on the Upper Hudson River last summer. But for more than a decade, guides who’ve worked for Cunningham have said that the Hudson River Rafting Company sometimes 1.) overbooks rafts 2.) sends customers in rafts piloted by unlicensed guides-in-training and 3.) launches inexperienced customers in their own boats without guides. The company’s reputation among the guiding community and in rafting towns like North Creek and Indian Lake has not been good for a while. For reasons that are explored in the article, that reputation has been held as local knowledge, until recently. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Following The Masters at Chapel Pond Slab

The Adirondack Park doesn’t enjoy as much cachet in the rock-climbing world as, say, the Gunks and the White Mountains. A recent geology book written for rock climbers, for instance, fails to mention the Adirondacks in its chapter on climbing venues in the Northeast.

That’s OK. We can do without the crowds. But the fact is that the Adirondacks offer superb rock routes and a rich climbing history. On Sunday, Josh Wilson and I got a taste of both at Chapel Pond Slab.

Anyone who regularly drives Route 73 from the Northway to Keene knows the slab—eight hundred feet of bare rock that rises above the highway just south of Chapel Pond. It’s an excellent place for beginning climbers to learn how to do multi-pitch routes.

The guidebook Adirondack Rock awards five stars—its highest rating—to two of the six routes at the slab: the Regular Route and Empress. Both were pioneered, at least in part, by legendary rock climbers and both are rated 5.5 in the Yosemite Decimal System. By today’s standards, a 5.5 climb is considered easy. But when the system was created, back in the 1950s, the scale ranged from 5.0 to 5.9, so a 5.5 route would have been regarded as moderate in difficulty. Nowadays, the scale ranges up to 5.15, so a 5.5 is no big shakes.

The Regular Route evolved from another route, Bob’s Knob Standard (rated 5.3), that was first climbed by John Case in 1933. Case, a former president of the American Alpine Club, helped introduce European climbing techniques to the United States earlier in the century. Case’s route was the first on the slab. Over the years, climbers tried variations of the route and eventually developed the more interesting and more challenging line known as Regular Route. The two routes still share the same beginning.

Empress was first ascended in the 1930s by Fritz Wiessner, one of the best climbers of his generation. Among his many accomplishments, Wiessner “discovered” the Gunks and established a number of routes there. He also earned fame as a high-altitude alpinist. In 1939, he came within two hundred meters of K2’s summit—fifteen years before “the Savage Mountain” would finally be conquered (four men died on Wiessner’s expedition).

On Sunday, Josh and I followed in the footholds and handholds of these masters when we did Bob Knob’s Standard, Regular Route, and Empress—altogether about 2,400 feet of climbing. Usually, each route is ascended in six or seven pitches, or stages, but we climbed without a rope except for one wet pitch on Regular Route. Climbing sans rope (that is, without belays or protection) is not recommended, but it’s sometimes done on these routes.

Although I had climbed Empress twice before, I got a little wigged out on its celebrated fourth and fifth pitches. Both involve ascending long stretches of slab with almost no holds. The holds that do exist are Lilliputian bulges, ridges, or depressions. Essentially, you trust the rubber of your climbing shoes to keep you on the rock.

Josh finished the route first. I waited several minutes while he went to the top of Bob’s Knob to take photos of me ascending the final pitches on Empress. This gave me the opportunity to look down (at that point, I had climbed five hundred feet) and contemplate what I was about to do, mindful of a nasty fall I had taken on the Eagle Slide last summer.

When Josh gave me the OK to start, I stepped onto a small ledge on the slab and began searching for tiny irregularities in the rock on which to smear my soles. Starting up, I had to fight the impulse to rush over the rock to get out of danger as soon as possible. I knew I’d be safer if I proceeded carefully, deliberately. Still, I found myself hurrying toward the end.

After finishing, I had a greater admiration for Fritz Wiessner. Yes, the routes he established are not especially difficult by today’s standards, but advances in equipment have changed the climbing game. Wiessner explored Chapel Pond Slab long before the era of sticky-soled slippers. In those days climbers wore leather boots. I suppose Fritz had on something of the sort when he first did Empress. I can’t imagine how he found the traction—and the nerve—to get up that rock.

As for protection, the old-school climbers hammered pitons into the rock instead of placing cams and aluminum chocks into cracks. And their ropes were made of hemp, not stretchy nylon. If the lead climber slipped, chances are the rope would break when it pulled taut. Hence, the motto of that time: “The leader does not fall.”

Do you think Empress is easy? Try climbing it in hiking boots.

Photo by Phil Brown: Josh Wilson on Regular Route.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Shingle Shanty Paddling Rights Case Update

The state’s effort to intervene in the trespassing case against Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown hurts private property owners, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued early last week.

“This case is asking the court to say, basically, ‘Have canoe, will travel,’” said Dennis Phillips, the Glens Falls attorney representing the Friends of Thayer Lake and the Brandreth Park Association. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Audubon Society’s Adirondack Birdathon

They say it is the most fun you can have outside with your clothes on. And, no it is not bushwhacking through an Adirondack wilderness. It is the Birdathon, the National Audubon Society’s largest annual fundraising event and the globe’s biggest birding competition. It is happening soon and it may be taking place in some parts of the Adirondacks.

The Birdathon is a 24-hour long marathon competition to find as many bird species as possible within a given region. Species can be identified by sight and/or sound and you are free to bird for as many or as few hours within the 24-hour duration as you desire. Most people participate in teams but if you are of the anti-social persuasion then it is perfectly fine to go solo. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Batten Kill Named A National ‘River to Watch’

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan has unveiled the 2011 list of 10 “Waters to Watch”, a collection of rivers, streams, estuaries, watershed systems and shores that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition. Included in the list is the Batten Kill in Washington County.

The 10 waters represent a snapshot of this year’s larger voluntary habitat conservation efforts in progress. These and other locally driven conservation projects are prioritized and implemented by regional Fish Habitat Partnerships that have formed throughout the country to implement the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. The objective of the Action Plan is to conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats essential to the many fish and wildlife species that call these areas
home.

The 10 “Waters to Watch” are representative of freshwater to marine habitats across the country including rivers, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries that benefit through the conservation efforts of these Fish Habitat Partnerships formed under the Action Plan-a bold initiative implemented in 2006 to avoid and reverse persistent declines in our
nation’s aquatic habitats.

The initial Action Plan’s 10 “Waters to Watch” list was unveiled in 2007 and in 2011 will feature its 50th project. Since 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided $12 million to support 257 on-the-ground Action Plan projects in 43 states, leveraging $30 million in partner match, to address the priorities of Action Plan Fish Habitat Partnerships. Additional funds have been provided by several other State
and Federal agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and industry partners.

“Our approach-teaming local, state, tribal, and federal agencies with private partners and stakeholders-is helping to bring these waters back to life in most cases…in a faster more strategic way,” said Kelly Hepler, Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. “By watching these 10 models of our nation’s aquatic conservation efforts underway, we can see real progress, in both avoidance and treatment of causes of fish
habitat decline. Too often we have focused on treatment of symptoms with limited success. Through sound science and on-the-ground locally driven partnerships, these select Action Plan projects can be held high as a vision of what quality habitat should and can be, and how it benefits all people throughout the United States.”

BATTEN KILL RIVER – Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture

The Batten Kill project is a high profile fisheries and watershed restoration project that has galvanized local, regional and national groups and partners. Once a famous, world-class recreational trout fishery, the river experienced a steady decline in its wild fish population over the past two decades. Since 2000, there has been widespread grassroots support and effort to restore the fishery to its former status.

Purpose of the project: In-stream and riparian habitat restoration for Eastern brook trout in the Batten Kill watershed, have been based on scientific assessments and
monitoring that have led to strategic on-the-ground implementation of
restoration practices.

The goals are to deliver as much short term habitat restoration work as possible through the installation of in-stream cover and shelter along with replanting the riparian zone, while making long term investments in quality habitat by improving river dynamics, conserving existing buffers, and planting buffer zones where vegetation is deficient.

There is also the essential component of fostering good stewardship by educating landowners in river-friendly practices and supporting easements or other conservation protection of riparian areas where appropriate.

Project Timeline: Projects to install cover and shelter structures combined with in-stream structures to improve river dynamics (according to established Natural Channel Design Techniques) began in 2005 and continue in earnest today.

There are two teams implementing assessments and restoration: one in Vermont, one in New York. Each team restores about a half a mile of stream each year. So far, the partnership has accomplished:

26 miles of fish habitat inventory and assessment.
27 projects totaling 10.5 miles of riparian and stream habitat restoration.
21 miles of stream geomorphology and bank erosion surveys.
15 scientific/biological investigations & assessments and fishery studies.
Multiple river stewardship and public outreach and education projects.

The project is considered a good example of cooperation between Federal, State,
and local agencies, organizations, communities and streamside landowners, in both states, to develop and implement a scientific-approach and community-driven restoration effort. Monitoring shows a 400% increase in the number of yearling trout in the affected pools and 100% increase in affected riffles.

Partners include:
Batten Kill Watershed Alliance of New York and Vermont
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
Fisheries Program
US Forest Service, Green Mountain National Forest
Natural Resources Conservation Service
New York Department of Environmental Conservation
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
Washington County (NY) Soil and Water Conservation District
Bennington County (VT) Natural Resource Conservation District
Windsor County (VT) Natural Resource Conservation District
Clearwater Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Adirondack Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Southwestern Vermont Chapter of Trout Unlimited
The Orvis Company
National Wildlife Federation
University of Vermont
University of Massachusetts
Dartmouth College

The rest of the 10 “Waters to Watch” for 2011 include:

Alewife Brook/Scoy Pond, NY (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership)

Au Sable River, Michigan – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership)

Barataria Bay, Louisiana – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Southeast Aquatics Resources Partnership)

Cottonwood Creek, Alaska – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership)

Duchesne River, Utah – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Desert Fish Habitat
Partnership)

Llano River, Texas – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Southeast Aquatic Resources
Partnership)

Manistee River, Michigan- (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership)

St. Charles Creek, Idaho – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Western Native Trout Initiative)

Waipa Stream, Hawaii – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership)

The Action Plan has met its objective of establishing at least 12 Fish Habitat Partnerships by 2010 to help identify the causes of habitat declines and implement corrective initiatives for aquatic conservation and restoration, with 17 Fish Habitat Partnership currently working on the ground in aquatic conservation.

Since its launch six years ago, the Action Plan has received wide public support. To date nearly 1,700 partners have pledged their support including a range of organizations and individuals interested in the health of the nation’s fisheries such as fishing clubs, international conservation organizations, federal agencies, angling industries and academia.

These ten habitat conservation efforts highlighted in 2011 are a small sample of the many habitat conservation projects implemented under the Action Plan. The 2011, as well as past 10 “Waters to Watch” lists can be viewed at www.fishabitat.org along with
complete information on the scope of the Action Plan.

Illustrations: The Batten Kill in Arlington, Vermont; below, the Batten Kill and its tributaries. Courtesy Wikipedia.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ADK Offers Backcountry Skills Programs

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), a national leader in outdoor education for nearly 90 years, is offering a full plate of programs and workshops in 2011 to help outdoor lovers hone their backcountry skills.

ADK’s workshops are designed to help participants explore the wonders of wild lakes and waterways, high alpine ridges, rugged backcountry wilderness and pristine forests while learning skills and ethics.

Most ADK outdoor workshops are based at the club’s Heart Lake Program Center in the Adirondack High Peaks region. A sampling of some of this year’s offerings is below, but a complete listing of ADK outdoor programs and workshops is available online.

Wildflower Weekend (May 21-22) Designed for beginner wildflower enthusiasts, but a good refresher course as well. This two-day program will familiarize participants with Adirondack wildflowers. The workshop will cover identification, use of field guides, botanical structures, relationships between plants and various environmental factors. Cost is $69 for ADK members and $76 for nonmembers.

American Canoe Association Instructor Certification Workshop (June 20-23) In addition to its introductory, one-day canoeing and kayaking courses (scheduled for June 4 and 5, respectively), ADK is offering this four-day program designed for outfitters, outdoor educators and experienced paddling enthusiasts. Refine paddling mechanics, hone rescue skills and develop teaching techniques. Cost is $375 for ADK members and $415 for nonmembers.

Beginner Backpacking: High Peaks Wilderness (July 8-10) Learn the tips and tricks of backpacking and low-impact camping with a New York State Licensed Guide. Spend three days and two nights in the High Peaks Wilderness and learn about proper gear, food planning and preparation, safety considerations, map reading, camp set-up, low-impact techniques, water treatment and more. Cost is $160 for ADK members and $176 for nonmembers.

Dog Days (Aug. 8-11) This four-day exploration and discovery program is designed for kids 8-12. Each day will feature fun educational activities using the woods and waters around the Adirondak Loj. Cost is $125 for ADK members and $138 for nonmembers.

Wilderness First Aid (Oct. 22-23) This intense Wilderness Medical Associates course teaches students how to deal with medical emergencies when they are miles from help. Cost is $235 for instruction and materials. A package including meals and two nights lodging is available for $320.

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


Monday, May 16, 2011

Dave Gibson: Wild Forest Lands Do Need Our Help

Phil Terrie’s essay in the current Adirondack Explorer, “forests don’t need our help,” rebuts those who claim that no further land acquisition is justified because the state “can’t take care of what it already has.” Phil is absolutely correct to call the list of unmet recreational maintenance projects on a given unit of Forest Preserve, such as a trail or lean-to in rough shape, as a lame excuse for not adding additional strategic lands to the Preserve.

He is incorrect, however, in asserting that the “forever wild provision of the state constitution provides a perfect management plan. It costs nothing and provides the best guarantee possible for healthy, aesthetically appealing, functional ecosystems.”

Article 14, the forever wild clause of our Constitution, has never been self-executing. Its implementation requires both a vigilant defense to prevent bad amendments from being passed, as well as an offensive team of alert citizens and principled and funded state agencies to proactively carry out its mandate that the forest preserve is to be “forever kept as wild forest lands.” Call it field management, if you will. Over time, you can not preserve wilderness, or shall I say, Forest Preserve without actively managing ourselves, the recreational user. This prerequisite demands that we have management principles, plans and objectives in place, and that we oversee and measure the results.

I don’t mean a lean-to here, or a trail there that may be out of repair and needing maintenance, and not receiving it. What I mean is that the underlying philosophy, principles, plans and objectives for managing our uses of “forever wild” land are vitally important if you expect to still have wild, or natural conditions years hence. Remember that a part of the Wilderness definition in our State Land Master Plan (which echoes the national definition) is to “preserve, enhance and restore natural conditions.” Howard Zahniser, author of the National Wilderness Act, was inspired by New York’s Forever Wild history. He always maintained that our biggest challenge, once Wilderness was designated, was to keep wilderness wild, especially from all of us who could, and often do love wilderness to death. The same applies to the Forest Preserve. Of course, restoring “natural conditions” in a time of climate change is a significant challenge that wilderness managers are facing across the country.

Remember the way Marcy Dam used to look? Restoring that area from the impact of thousands of boot heels and lean-to campers took decades of effort. The High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan established clear management objectives of, for example, restoring native vegetation at heavily used lean-to and trailhead sites, and redistributing and limiting the heavily concentrated camping pattern that once existed. It then took additional years to actively carry out those objectives, measure their progress, and achieve the desired results.

So did the efforts led by Edwin H. Ketchledge, ADK, DEC and Nature Conservancy to ecologically restore the High Peak alpine summits. In the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, the UMP is seeking to restore wilder conditions in the central core area, and move some of the dense snowmobile traffic to the perimeter of that unit.

In the Siamese Ponds Wilderness and Jessup River Wild Forest, it will take years of well directed management effort to restore parts of the western shoreline and islands of Indian Lake to achieve “natural conditions” after decades of uncertain management and overly intensive day and overnight use. Without a Siamese Ponds Wilderness UMP, there would be no clear wild land objectives, and no timetable to achieve them. Yes, those timetables are often exceeded, but these UMPs hold our public officials feet to the fire, and accountable to the State Land Master Plan and to Article 14 of the Constitution.

Our Constitution’s assertion that lands constituting the forest preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands” are, in these myriad and laborious ways, carried out for future generations. And yes, wild land management requires financial resources and devoted personnel. That is why it was so important a decade ago to establish a land stewardship account in the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. Yes, these funds are insufficient, so a stronger public-private partnership for Adirondack wild lands is needed.

Lost so far in the debate over whether and how to acquire some 65,000 acres of Finch, Pruyn lands for the Forest Preserve is the good thinking that should be underway about how to best manage these lands as wild lands, for their wild, ecological and recreational values. Assuming that some day these lands will be part of the Forest Preserve, time and effort needs to be devoted now to management planning that may help keep these lands as wild as possible, preserving their ecological integrity while planning for recreational uses that are compatible with the paramount need to care for these lands as part of the Forest Preserve.

For example, public access will need to be closely managed if wild land and natural conditions are to be preserved, enhanced or restored. During a visit sponsored by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, I was impressed, for example, with the extensive logging road network leading to the Essex Chain of Lakes south of Newcomb. This beautiful chain of lakes offers a fine future canoeing and kayaking attraction in the central Adirondacks, as well as an ecologically interesting and important aquatic resource.

State and private natural resource managers are giving quite a bit of thought, as they should, to how and where the paddling public might access the chain of lakes. Closing off some of the roads to motorized traffic, turning these into narrower trails, and requiring paddlers to carry or wheel their boats longer distances to enter or leave the lakes would create or restore wilder and more natural conditions along these sensitive shorelines, conditions which would appeal to paddlers from across the Northern Forest and Canada. Special fishing regulations may also be required to preserve the fishery long treasured by the private leaseholders here. The same level of planning thought will be needed to assure or restore both wild and natural conditions at Boreas Ponds, the Upper Hudson River and other former Finch lands and waters that merit Forest Preserve status.

Photo: Paddling on the Essex Chain of Lakes, south of Newcomb, NY, as guests of The Nature Conservancy.

 


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wilmington Whiteface Bike Fest Set for June

The June 16-19 Wilmington/Whiteface Bike Fest celebrates the bicycle with activities and events including the Wilmington/Whiteface 100k bike race (one of three qualifiers for the Leadville 100), the Whiteface Uphill Road Race and the “Brainless Not Chainless Gravity Ride.”

The festival kicks off Thursday, June 16, at 8 a.m., when the Wilmington Dirt Jump/Skills Park opens in the Wilmington Bike Park. Registration for the Uphill race and the “Brainless Not Chainless Gravity Ride” will also continue at the Whiteface Business and Tourism Center from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday also includes a “Fun Not Fear” MTB instructional clinic on the Flume trails from 4-6 p.m.

Friday’s schedule features the opening of the Whiteface Mountain bike downhill park, at 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., a free dirt jump clinic with Kyle Ebbett, 5-6 p.m., a jump jam & trials exhibition, 6-9 p.m., and the “Brainless Not Chainless Gravity Ride.” The parade of bikes begins at 4 p.m. with a Mass LeMans start at Santa’s Workshop and takes the participants downhill, 1.6-miles to Route 86. Awards will be presented at the Wilmington Bike Park for the best themed bike and for best costume.

The opening of the Bike Fest Village, at Whiteface Mountain, a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the Hardy Road Trail Network, at 10 a.m., and the 10th annual running of the Whiteface Uphill Bike Race highlight Saturday’s schedule. The village opens at 7 a.m. and throughout the day visitors can enjoy vendor displays, children’s event, food and entertainment. Admission is free.

The Uphill race begins at 5:30 p.m., and more than 340 cyclists are expected to climb New York State’s fifth highest peak via the Veterans Memorial Highway. The race is open to both road and mountain bicycles. The Whiteface event is the first race in the nine-race “Bike Up Mountain Points Series” (BUMPS) Series. An award ceremony and barbeque will be held at Santa’s Workshop beginning at 7 p.m.

Sunday’s Wilmington/Whiteface 100k begins at 6:30 a.m. and the festival’s village re-opens, at Whiteface at 7 a.m. More than 800 cyclists will race from Whiteface to Lewis and back to the Olympic mountain on the area’s paved and dirt roads, mountain bike trails and the Whiteface Mountain trails. It’s a test of determination, guts and even sanity for the opportunity to earn one of only 100 coveted entries into the Leadville Trail 100, mountain biking’s most prestigious race.

The weekend long festival is expected to bring 4,000 biking enthusiasts to the Wilmington region. For more information about the second annual Wilmington/Whiteface Bike Fest, log on to www.whitefaceregion.com.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

High Peaks Happy Hour: Whitewater Derby; Recipes

North Creek’s annual Whitewater Derby is an event which deserves proper recognition – of the drink persuasion. We spent some time on “research” last week, creating the Whitewater Rushin’, and an interesting variation; its subtle maple flavor and frothy finish a tribute to spring in the northeast. It’s been some time since we were at Whitewater Derby – back when it was just a great excuse to party, camping at the ski bowl, an inch of snow on the roof of the VW bus, and no watercraft in sight. Considering our current livelihood, it was high time we returned, so we had our own private, mini pub crawl in North Creek on Saturday.

Whitewater Rushin’
1 oz. Sapling Maple Liqueur
1/2 oz. Amaretto
1 oz. vanilla vodka
2 oz. cream or milk
Shake with ice or use a blender

Beginning with Trapper’s at the Copperfield Inn, Pam ordered a “Snow Bunny Martini”, a delicious grape-flavored concoction that set the tone for the afternoon. We met a newcomer to North Creek, Michael, who had just begun the arduous task of tearing down an existing home and putting up a camp. Good luck with that, Michael. We couldn’t stay long; we had planned to visit five of the local pubs, including Laura’s which we have yet to review. As we headed out, under the gaze of Teddy Roosevelt’s moose, bedecked in his own derby number, Pam remarked that Trapper’s has, by far, the very best outdoor ashtray we have yet seen.

Snow Bunny Martini
3 Olives grape vodka
Whipped cream vodka
Cream

Off we went to the Barking Spider. We hadn’t been there since February and were pleased to find it quite crowded and noisy and we managed to grab a couple of seats at the bar. Pam couldn’t decide which direction her next cocktail should take from the grapes of Trappers and, ironically, the bartender suggested the Grape Crush. A theme was emerging. It was even more delicious than the previous drink.

Pam went outside to see what was happening on the deck (perhaps “landing” more aptly describes it) and talked to some nice people about the Derby – the Kentucky Derby. Two kayaks paddled by on the Hudson, lending a feeling of being a part of the Whitewater Derby! That’s more than we’ve ever seen in our history of attending. Hmmm, what if OTB got involved in whitewater racing??? When it was time for the ladies on the deck to order, they advised their companions that they wanted what Pam was having. She must have had “delicious” written all over her face as she sipped her beverage because she hadn’t commented on it. Upon further reflection, perhaps it was the pint sized glass the drink came in that attracted their attention.

Grape Crush
Grape vodka
Chambord
Splash of craberry juice
Top off with Sprite

And we’re off…to do a review of Laura’s. We popped in and found it totally empty; even the bartender was missing. So we scooted out undetected, planning to stop at barVino. With the grape theme going, that would have been an obvious choice, but Pam didn’t think their grapes would complement the grapes she had already consumed. So, it was decided, one last stop at Basil & Wicks, then home.

Basil & Wick’s trail marker themed sign indicated we were on the right trail. From our parking space we could see into the dining room, where Jane, the owner, was waving us in. She even came out onto the porch to greet us, making us feel really special. Pam once said, “A good tavern is one that makes strangers feel they are in their own home town.”

Basil & Wick’s is like going home. Jane proudly showed Kim her newest museum piece – a barstool from the original Basil & Wick’s, hermetically sealed in its own plexiglass case. The bar was fairly full and we actually knew a few people, among them local music legend Hank Soto, of Stony Creek Band fame. We will actually be reviewing the Stony Creek Inn next week, celebrating its reopening on Sunday, May 15, featuring the Stony Creek Band. You know ’em, you love ’em… Hope to see some of you there!

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Adirondack Lost Ski Area Book Forthcoming

Author Jeremy Davis of Saratoga Springs recently announced he has begun work on a new book to be titled Lost Ski Areas of the Adirondacks. The new volume, Davis’s third in the series, will be published by The History Press, and will focus on the 50-60 lost ski areas in the region. Davis touched upon some of the fascinating history of these ski areas when I chatted with him back in January.

“The Adirondacks are filled with the ghosts of former ski areas,” Davis said. “They range from the first J-bar in New York State in Lake George, to short rope tows at hotels in Lake Placid, to large planned resorts that were never completed like Lowenburg near Lyon Mountain.”

Lost Ski Areas of the Adirondacks will be written over the course of the next 12 months, according to Davis, and is expected to be in print in the late summer of 2012. Davis says that he has already been researching areas, locating photos and maps.

The book is expected to be a bit different than Davis’s previous two books (Lost Ski Areas of the White Mountains and Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vemont) in that it is expected to have fewer photos and maps, but more background information and personal stories. Davis said that he will define the Adirondack region as within and “slightly outside” the Blue Line, including areas that were marketed as Adirondack ski areas.

If you skied at a lost area in the Adirondacks and would like to share a memory, or if you have any photos, contact Davis at [email protected]. Additional information can be found at the website of the New England Lost Ski Areas Project (NELSAP).

Photo: Paleface postcard courtesy www.teachski.com.

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


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (May 5)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.

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

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND

** indicates new or revised items.

** HIGH WATERS – FLOODING
The worst is now over in the central Adirondacks but areas downstream of the the region’s major rivers are still experiencing significant flooding. Most waters are well above normal and a significant number of closed roads, impassable river, stream and brook crossings, and flooded trails and campsites plague the backcountry. Docks, boat launches, and low-lying waterfront property across the region’s lakes and reservoirs are submerged by high waters. Lake Champlain is currently at the highest level ever recorded on the USGS gauge at Burlington. Most boat launches in the region are flooded, making it risky to launch and retrieve boats. Boaters and paddlers should be aware that waters are cold and swift and may contain logs, limbs and other debris. High waters also conceal navigation hazards such as boulders, rock shelves, docks and other structures that normally are easily seen and avoided. DEC is recommending that paddlers and boaters consider staying off larger rivers such as the Raquette, Saranac, Hudson, and Schroon. Paddlers consult the latest streamgage data and use extreme caution. A complete report of the Adirondack Floods of 2011 can be found here.

**EXPECT BLOWDOWN
Saturated soils could result in numerous trees being toppled and tails and campsites may be covered and blocked by fallen trees and other blowdown. The danger of landslides on mountain slopes is currently high.

** ROAD CLOSURES
Many secondary roads and backcountry roads remain closed due to flooding. DEC has closed most roadways for mud season. Gates on roads designated for motor vehicle traffic will be reopened when conditions warrant.

** WET AND MUDDY CONDITIONS
This is a good time to stay off wet trails. While snow is still present above 3,000 feet, lower and mid-elevation trails are wet and muddy. Be prepared by wearing waterproof footwear and gaiters, and remember to walk through – not around – mud and water on trails.

** SNOWSHOES STILL REQUIRED
The use of snowshoes is required in the Eastern High Peaks where ever snow depths exceed 8 inches, as is currently the case on some trails above Lake Colden. Using snowshoes prevents “post-holing”, avoids injuries, and eases travel through snow.

** HUDSON RIVER WHITEWATER DERBY
The Hudson River Whitewater Derby will run May 7-8 2011. The event includes novice slalom, giant slalom, and other races from North River to Rapairus.

BEAR CANISTERS NOW REQUIRED IN HIGH PEAKS
The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, and recommended throughout the Adirondacks, between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear-resistant canisters.

Carry Extra Winter Gear
Snowshoes or skis can prevent injuries and eases travel in heavy snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy trails and mountaintops and other exposed areas. Wear layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!), a winter hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots. Carry a day pack complete with ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.

Know The Latest Weather
Check the weather before entering the woods and be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.

Fire Danger: LOW
NOTE: We’re currently in the state’s historically high fire risk period from mid-March until mid-May.

** Central Adirondacks LOWER Elevation Weather

Friday: Chance of rain and snow showers; partly sunny, high near 59.
Friday Night: Slight chance of showers; mostly cloudy, low around 38.
Saturday: Chance of showers; mostly cloudy, high near 61.
Saturday Night: Chance of showers; mostly cloudy, low around 33.
Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 55.

The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]

** Snow Cover
Snow is gone outside the High Peaks where there is still snow cover above 3,000 feet. Conditions still require snowshoes above Lake Colden on some trails.

** Backcountry Ski Report
Snow cover is no longer suitable for backcountry skiing.

** Rock Climbing Closures
All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in Wilmington Notch and the Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs at Chapel Pond remain closed to allow for peregrine falcon nesting. DEC has confirmed that peregrine falcons are nesting on the Nose on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain and 54 climbing routes remain closed including Garter and Mogster (Routes #26 through #82 in Adirondack Rock) through the nesting season. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.

** Warmwater Sportfishing Opens Saturday
The first Saturday in May marks the beginning of the fishing season for many popular warmwater sportfish species, including walleye, northern pike, pickerel, tiger muskellunge, and catch and release fishing for black bass (largemouth and smallmouth bass) in many waters across the state. Muskellunge fishing season and the regular (harvest) season for black bass open on the 3rd Saturday in June (June 18). Spring also provides outstanding fishing opportunities for yellow perch, sunfish and crappie, valued for their tasty flesh. A complete listing of 2011 warmwater fishing hotspots recommended by DEC biologists can be found online.

** Use Baitfish Wisely
Anglers using fish for bait are reminded to be careful with how these fish are used and disposed of. Careless use of baitfish is one of the primary means by which non-native species and fish diseases are spread from water to water. Unused baitfish should be discarded in an appropriate location on dry land. A “Green List” of commercially available baitfish species that are approved for use in New York State has now been established in regulation. A discussion of these regulations and how to identify approved baitfish species is available online. Personal collection and use of baitfish other than those on the “Green List” is permitted, but only on the water from which they were collected and they may not be transported overland by motorized vehicle. Anglers are reminded that new regulations for transportation of baitfish are currently under consideration, and these proposed regulations can be viewed online.

** Preventing Invasive Species and Fish Diseases
Anglers are reminded to be sure to dry or disinfect their fishing and boating equipment, including waders and boots, before entering a new body of water. This is the only way to prevent the spread of potentially damaging invasive plant and animal species (didymo and zebra mussels) and fish diseases (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) and whirling disease). Methods to clean and disinfect fishing gear can be found online.

** Lake Champlain Anglers
Warmwater anglers on Lake Champlain are requested to report any catches of sauger to Emily Zollweg at the DEC Region 5 office in Warrensburg at (518) 623-1264. The status of sauger, a close relative of the walleye, has been unknown in the lake for a quite some time, until a single sauger was caught in a DEC survey last spring. Sauger can be distinguished from walleye by the three to four saddle-shaped dark brown blotches on their sides, the distinct black spots on the first dorsal (back) fin and the lack of a white tip on the lower lobe of the tail fin.

Trout Season Opened April 1st
Trout (brook, rainbow, brown and hybrids, and splake) and landlocked Salmon season opened April 1st, but the season is still suffering from high and cold waters. With large lakes like Lake Champlain and Lake George at record levels, smaller lakes and ponds are your best bet. For catch and size limits view the freshwater fishing regulations online.

Spring Turkey Season Opened May 1
DEC biologists expect the spring turkey harvest to be well below the state’s 10-year average of about 34,000 birds, and likely below last year take of 25,807. This is likely to be a third year of poor production in the Adirondacks. 2009 was one of the worst poult production years on record and as a result there will be fewer 2-year-olds, last year’s poor production means fewer yearlings (jakes). Because those birds make up most of the spring turkey harvest, it will likely be considerably lower than average.

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

NORTHVILLE PLACID TRAIL

The Northville Placid Trail (NPT) is the Adirondack Park’s only designated long distance hiking trail. The 133 mile NPT was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, and is now maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Up to date NPT trail condition information can be found online.

** Upper Benson to Whitehouse: About 1.8 miles north of the Silver Lake lean-to and just south of the Canary Pond tent camping area, the trail is flooded and may require wading through water and mud.

** West Canada Lakes to Wakely Dam: The bridge over Mud Creek, northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out. Wading the creek is the only option. The water in Mud Creek will vary from ankle deep to knee deep.

** Lake Durant to Long Lake: About a half mile north of the Lake Durant trailhead at Route 28/30 the trail crosses several flooded boardwalks. Use extreme caution as the boardwalk is not visible and may shift. Expect to get your boots wet and use a stick or hiking pole to feel your way along to avoid falling off the boardwalk.

** Lake Durant to Long Lake: About 4 miles north of the Tirrell Pond the trail is flooded by beaver activity. The reroute to the east is now also flooded in spots.

** Duck Hole to Averyville Rd. and Lake Placid: Beaver activity has flooded the trail about 3 miles south of the Averyville trailhead and will require a sturdy bushwhack.

ADIRONDACK CANOE ROUTE / NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL

** High Waters – Cold Temperatures: Water levels are very high, especially on the Raquette River, flooding is occurring on most rivers and streams, and water temperatures are low. Paddlers and other boaters should be prepared for high waters that may contain logs, limbs and other debris. See High Waters – Flooding Warning Above.

HIGH PEAKS

** Saturated soils could result in numerous trees being toppled and tails and campsites may be covered and blocked by fallen trees and other blowdown. The danger of landslides on mountain slopes is currently high.

** East River Trail: The first bridge on the East River Trail has been washed away, high waters make crossing risky.

** Snow at Elevation: Snow is present in elevations above 3000 feet, and snowshoes may be warranted in elevations above 3500 feet.

** Corey’s Road Closed: Corey’s Road is closed at Stony Creek Ponds, there is no access to the trailheads for the Western High Peaks. The unpaved section of Corey’s Road, the main entrance to the Western High Peaks Wilderness, is closed for mud season.

** Day Glow South Camping: Campsites in the Day Glow South camping area below the Lake Colden Dam, including the McMartin and Opalescent lean-tos, are once again available for use, though the area may be wet and muddy.

Preston Pond Trail: The first bridge west of Henderson Lake on the trail to Preston Ponds and Duck Hole went out with an ice jam and is now impassible.

Johns Brook Valley: The Bear Brook Lean-to has been removed and will not be replaced.

Bear Resistant Canister Now Required: The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, and recommended throughout the Adirondacks, between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear-resistant canisters.

Giant Mountain Wilderness: All rock climbing routes on Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs are closed to allow for peregrine falcon nesting. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.

McKenzie Mountain Wilderness: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff are closed to allow for peregrine falcon nesting. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.

Johns Brook Valley: Lean2Rescue, in cooperation with DEC, will be undertaking several lean-to projects in the Johns Brook Valley over the course of the next several months. DEC will post notifications at the Garden trailhead prior to work being started. The Deer Brook lean-to is currently closed while it’s being moved.

Opalescent Cable Bridge: The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the East River/Hanging Spear Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water periods.

Western High Peaks Wilderness: Trails in the Western High Peaks Wilderness are cluttered with blowdown from a storm that occurred December 1st. DEC has cleared blow down along the Corey’s Road, and in most areas accessed from the that road, including the Seward Trail, although not along the Northville-Placid Trail.

Western high Peaks Wilderness: The unpaved section of Corey’s Road, the main entrance to the Western High Peaks Wilderness, is closed for mud season.

Sentinel Range Wilderness: The Copperas Pond/Owen Pond Loop Trail was impacted by serious winds resulting in significant blow down. While most of the blowdown has been cut out, some downed trees and limbs are still present.

** Ampersand Mountain Trail: There is heavy blowdown on the Ampersand Mountain Trail as far as the old caretakers cabin – approximately 1.7 miles in.

Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. This adds 2 miles of hiking, plan trips accordingly.

Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: While much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed, the trail remains impassable to horses and wagons.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS

** Wakley Dam: The Wakely Dam Area is closed due to significant damage from flooding.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The Moose River Plains Road System is closed for mud season. Gates have been closed at the Cedar River Headquarters and the Limekiln Lake. The road system will be reopened once they have dried out and all necessary maintenance and repairs have been completed.

Ferris Lake Wild Forest: The West Lake Boat Launch was impacted by rains and floods last August. DEC staff have made repairs to the roadway, parking lot and ramps, however, be aware that the waters off the boat launch are more shallow than before.

Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement: Gates have been closed on all roads for the mud season. The roads will be reopened once they have dried out and all necessary maintenance and repairs have been completed.

EASTERN / SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

** Western Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: The two designated campsites at Scofield Flats and the two designated campsites at Pikes Beach are flooded by 2-4 feet of water.

** Lake Champlain Islands: Lake Champlain is at record levels. Access points, campsites and trails on Valcour and other islands may be flooded.

Shelving Rock Road: The Town of Fort Ann has reopened Shelving Rock Road.

Ausable Point Campground & Day Use Area: The entry road to the Ausable Point Campground and Day Use Area is closed until further notice due to flooding. DEC has placed barricades at the end of the road and will be patrolling the area to ensure the public is abiding by the closure. The road will be reopened once the waters have receded and it is determined the road can handle motorized traffic without further damage.

Eastern Lake George Wild Forest: The Town of Fort Ann has closed the Shelving Rock Road for mud season.

Western Lake George Wild Forest: The Bear Slides ADA-accessible route is open.

Western Lake George Wild Forest: The following roads have been closed for spring mud season: Scofield Flats, Pikes Beach, Darlings Ford in the Hudson River Special Management Area, Palmer Pond Access Route, Gay Pond Road, Lily Pond Road, Palmer Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road.

Hammond Pond Wild Forest: The Lindsey Brook Trail is closed due to flooding by beaver activity.

Hoffman Notch Wilderness: Some stream crossings do not have bridges and may be difficult to cross in high water conditions.

Hudson River Recreation Area: Gates on the Buttermilk Road Extension in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area), in the Town of Warrensburg remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic.

** Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: See the High Waters – Flooding Warning Above. Water levels are high and water temperatures are low. Paddlers and other boaters should be prepared for high waters that may contain logs, limbs and other debris. DEC is recommending staying off the Hudson River at this time.

NORTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All lands are open to all legal and allowable public recreation activities beginning January 1. The gate to the Pinnacle Trail remains closed until after the spring mud season.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: The gate to the Lake Lila Road is closed. Public motorized access to the road is prohibited until the gate is reopened after the spring mud season. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized access is allowed on the road. Trespassing on lands adjacent to the road is prohibited.

NORTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Taylor Pond Wild Forest: Peregrine falcon nesting has been confirmed on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, rock climbing routes between and including Garter and Mogster (Routes #26 through #82 in Adirondack Rock) will remain closed through the nesting season. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.

Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave has been reopened to the public following the expiration of the cave closing order on March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. DEC is considering whether to close all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population. It’s best to stay out of caves at this time.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK NOTICES

Accidents Happen, Be Prepared
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Personal Flotation Devices Required
Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.

Cave And Mine Closings
White nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across the northeast has spread to at least 32 cave and mine bat hibernation sites across the New York state according to a recent survey. Populations of some bat species are declining in these caves and mines by 90 percent. White nose was first discovered in upstate New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and is now confirmed in at least 11 states. An order closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population expired on March 31. DEC is reconsidering whether continuing the closing to protect the bat population is warranted. At this time it’s best to stay out of caves that may contain bats.

Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles
All backcountry users should learn and practice the Leave No Trace philosophy: Plan ahead and be prepared, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. More information is available online.

——————–
Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Surviving the Adirondack Bug Season

As we enter the month of May a season dreaded by all backcountry enthusiasts in the Adirondacks quickly approaches. Only the heartiest (or craziest) hikers and backpackers venture far into the backcountry during the height of the bug season in May and June. And with the recent abundant rainfall overflowing the lakes, ponds and streams there should be a bumper crop of biting and blood-sucking insect pests to torment anyone unwearyingly stepping out into the outdoors without the proper preparation and protection.

A menagerie of four different types of flies form the core of the biting or blood sucking community within the Adirondacks. These four blood-sucking flies of the Adirondacalypse are black flies, mosquitoes, no-see-ums (or biting midges) and deer flies. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Adirondack Fishing Expo in Old Forge

The Adirondack Fishing Expo will be held May 21 and 22 in Old Forge. It will be at the Community Center on Park Ave, located behind Souvenir Village at the “Five Corners.” Hours are 9 – 4 daily. It is sponsored by Souvenir Village and the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame with proceeds to benefit Hall of Fame youth programs.

There has been a renewed interest in fishing the Adirondacks but many people are unaware of the potential that exists here, or the methods to take advantage of it. With exhibits, demonstrations, and seminars the attendees at the Expo can gain a better idea of where to go and how to fish for the species they desire.

There will be exhibitors ranging from canoe and kayak sales, fishing tackle vendors, Adirondack guides, outfitters such as canoe rentals or seaplanes, fly tyers, conservation organizations, tourist information, wildlife artists, and craftsmen. You will have the chance to meet and talk with award winning artist and outdoorsman Tom Yacovella and hear his methods for brook trout fishing.

Throughout the day there will be seminars and presentations on Adirondack bass fishing, brook trout fishing, kayak fishing, fishing remote trout waters, trolling techniques and lures, fly fishing, and photography. Learn and sample fish cooking techniques from the masters Nick Bankert and Jim Holt. Professional photographer Angie Berchielli will share her tips for taking better fish photos.

There will be information on fishing various lakes, ponds, and rivers, as well as free “fish finder” maps available from FishNY.com. Explore the options of getting to fishing waters ranging from roadside boat launches to flying in by seaplane, packing in by horseback, or traveling by canoe. Meet the outfitters and learn from their presentations on what to take and how to pack.

There will be fly fishing demonstrations, clinics, or lessons. Participants will have the chance to meet popular authors and get autographed books.

Seminars and demonstrations will include kayak fishing (10 am), floatplane (10:30 am), Yacovella on brook trout (11 am), fly tying demo (11 and 2), fly casting clinic (11:30), back country brookies (12 noon), fish cooking demo (1 pm), bass fishing (1:30 pm), better fishing photos (2:15), pack in by canoe (2:45 pm) and trolling techniques and lures (3 pm).

See the New York State Outdoor Writers Association Hall of Fame website for more information.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Update: Dealing With Flood Waters

This winter’s deep snow pack combined with heavy rains last week and this week continue to leave lakes and ponds brimming, and rivers and streams swollen with cold and fast water. All major rivers are at or above flood stage and flooding continues to occur and is expected to continue through Friday. Except for the Tug Hill Plateau, Flood Warnings continue to be in effect across the region. Roads and trails around the region have been reported closed, several roads and bridges have collapsed, and major flooding has forced evacuations along the Hudson, Schroon, Ausable, Bouquet, Saranac, Moose, Black and Raquette Rivers, and along Lake Champlain and many other water bodies around the Adirondacks.

The NYS Department of Environmetnal Conservation has issued the following announcement about continued flooding and the environmental risks associated with flooding.

Gasoline and Oil Spills

DEC is warning homeowners and building owners with flooded basements to check for sheens or odors from gasoline, oil or substances that may have leaked from fuel oil storage tanks, furnaces or motorized equipment before pumping out water. If a sheen or odor is present, contact the DEC Spills Hotline immediately at 1-800-457-7362.

If pumping is already occurring when sheens or odors are discovered, cease pumping immediately. A mixture of gasoline or oil and water can impact the surface water, ground water and soils when pumped and released into the environment. It is best to collect and remove spilled gasoline and oil while it is still contained in a basement. DEC Spills staff will work with home and building owners to determine the most effective means to address the spill.

Repairing Flood Damaged Streambanks and Lake Shorelines

Property owners who have streams or shorelines which have been eroded or otherwise damaged by flooding should check with the DEC Environmental Permits Office before undertaking repair work to determine if a permit or emergency authorization is required. Depending on the situation, work immediately necessary for the protection of life, health, general welfare, property or natural resources may be authorized under emergency authorization procedures. Projects for the purpose of shoreline restoration and erosion protection are subject to a permit application process.

DEC provides a number of documents on its website to assist in developing a shoreline stabilization project:

Stream Crossings

Stream Crossings: Guidelines and Best Management Practices


Shoreline Stabilization

Shoreline Stabilization Techniques

Applying for a Protection of Waters Permit

Sample General Site Plans for a Protection of Waters Permit

Sample General Project Plans for a Protection of Waters Permit

Locks

Both the Lower Locks, located between First Pond and Oseetah Lake and the Upper Locks, located between Lower Saranac Lake and Middle Saranac Lake, are closed to public usage until further notice. High waters and large amount of debris are still preventing the operation of the locks.

Boat Launch Sites

Most boat launches in the region are flooded, making it risky to launch and retrieve boats. Boaters not familiar with the location of the various structures on around the boat launch (ramps, walkways, docks, posts, etc.) that are now underwater risk damaging trailers and boats when launching or retrieving boats.

Water Recreation

Paddlers and boaters should continue to stay off of rivers and streams. Water levels are high and water temperatures are low, rivers and streams are running swiftly. Cold waters increase the risk of hypothermia and drowning if you should fall into the water.

Waters may contain logs, limbs and other debris. High waters also conceal navigation hazards such as boulders, rock shelves, docks and other structures that normally are easily seen and avoided.

Backcountry Recreation

The previous warning to keep out of the backcountry has been rescinded. However, hikers and campers should be aware of the conditions they can expect to encounter in the backcountry. Streams are still high and extra caution should be used at stream crossings without foot bridges.

Trails are muddy and wet. Hikers should be prepared for these conditions by wearing waterproof footwear and gaiters, and remember to walk through – not around – mud and water on trails. Trails and campsites adjacent to waters may be flooded.

Blowdown may be found on trails, it is expected that large trees may have been blown over due to winds and saturated soils. The danger of landslides on mountain slopes still exists, particularly if the forecasted rain occurs.

Snow is present in elevations above 2900 feet, and snowshoes are required in elevations above 3200 feet.

The full weekly Adirondack Conditions Report will run Thursday afternoon here at the Almanack, and Friday morning on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

Photo: A snowmobile sits in flood waters on the Schroon River in Chestertown. Photo courtesy John Warren.

 


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rock Climbing: Life on the Sharp End

Rock climbers call it the sharp end of the rope. That would be the end attached to the lead climber, the one taking the risks. Some say you haven’t really climbed until you’ve been on the sharp end.

Cambridge University Press’s online dictionary defines “sharp end” as the part of any activity “where the most problems are likely to be found.” Having experienced the sharp end of the rope for the first time last weekend, I would say that about sums things up.

Unlike the following climber (the “second’’), a leader risks injury or even death if he falls. Although the leader places protection during the climb, meant to hold him in a fall, if he slips, he will plummet twice as far as he ascended above his last piece of “pro”—and a bit more if you factor in slack and rope stretch. Thus, if he is ten feet above his last piece, he falls more than twenty feet. In contrast, when the leader belays the second climber from above, he keeps the rope taut, so if the second slips, he falls hardly at all.

Although I never led a climb before Sunday, I had climbed solo on multi-pitch routes on Chapel Pond Slab. You’d think that solo climbing, with no rope or protection, would be more unnerving than leading a climb. Strangely, I found that wasn’t the case.

Anybody attempting a lead climb for the first time should choose a route well within his ability. I did two short routes — “Return Home” and “And She Was” — on the Roast and Boast Slab in Wilmington Notch (my son, Nathan, belayed me). Both are rated 5.2 in the Yosemite Decimal System. Essentially, they’re novice climbs.

So why did I feel less comfortable leading the 80-foot And She Was (named for a Talking Heads song) than I did soloing the 800-foot Regular Route on Chapel Pond Slab, which is rated 5.5?

For one thing, I think my reaction says something about the subjectivity of the rating system. Most of Regular Route is straightforward slab climbing that requires little technique. And She Was, in contrast, follows a series of cracks. Which route you find easier will depend on whether you prefer slab climbing or crack climbing. I enjoy both, but for whatever reason, I felt more comfortable on Regular Route.

More important, though, lead climbing is simply harder than solo climbing. You’ve got all that heavy gear—wired nuts, cams, and carabiners—hanging off your harness. It tends to get in the way. You’re also dragging a rope behind you. It sometimes tugs at you, and it might even throw you off balance. Finally, you have to stop frequently to wedge a nut or cam into a crack and clip the rope to it, trying to maintain your position on the cliff with one hand while the other fiddles with the gear. To top things off, if you’re new to leading, you’re bound to have doubts about whether that protection will hold in a fall. I sure did.

I suspect the fears and doubts will subside as I gain experience, but I don’t imagine they ever go completely away, and that’s probably a good thing. Fear keeps you alert.

But why climb at all? Why take any risk? I pondered that question after taking an unroped fall on the Eagle Slide last summer. I wrote about the fall briefly in this story in the Adirondack Explorer. In the newsmagazine’s current issue, I describe the fall in more detail with my commentary. Click here to read it.

Photo of climber’s rack by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.



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