Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New: Winter Sports Coverage at the Adirondack Almanack

Please join me in welcoming Christie Sausa of Lake Placid as the Almanack‘s newest contributor, heading up our winter sports coverage. Christie is a member of the historic figure and speed skating culture in the Olympic Village, and writes about those sports for the Lake Placid News and on her own blogs, including the popular Lake Placid Skater which she founded in 2007.

Sausa, who attends North Country Community College (she’s pursuing a sports and events management degree), will be taking her budding journalism skills behind the scenes at local competitions, and will also be writing about our local athletes, including the many World Cup and Olympic hopefuls. Her reporting for the Almanack will include the more popular sports (like ski-jumping, downhill, snowboarding, and cross country) the sliding sports (luge, skeleton, and bobsledding), as well as the more obscure local sports like biathlon, skijoring, and dogsledding.

When Sausa is not on the ice herself, or writing about what happens there, or learning about managing what happens there, she is helping her mom with their local business, the Lake Placid Skate Shop. Sausa was recently invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and is also a member of the Kiwanis Club of Lake Placid, the Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition, the Skating Club of Lake Placid, and the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club.


Monday, December 14, 2009

In the Adirondacks Quitting is Always an Option

The Climbing Code in The Freedom of the Hills has nine precepts meant to promote safety in the mountains. Some are common sense, such as No. 1: “Leave the trip itinerary with a responsible person.” Others are technical: “Rope up on all exposed places and for all glacier travel.”

Most of us violate some of the rules on occasion. Many times I’ve gone on a short hike without telling anyone or without carrying the ten essentials.

But I’ve had the hardest time over the years with precept No. 7: “Never let judgment be overruled by desire when choosing the route or turning back.”

When you set out to climb a mountain and you travel for hours in pursuit of that goal, it takes mental discipline to turn around short of the summit if, say, bad weather or fatigue slows your progress. If you’re a mountain climber, after all, you’re probably the sort who takes risks, the sort inclined to push on despite the dangers.

Several years ago, I violated six or seven of the precepts when I climbed the slides on the east side of Giant Mountain. I went solo, I didn’t tell anyone, and I got into a situation above my ability. I ended up ascending a very steep face, scratching dirt out of cracks to make holds. Essentially, I was rock climbing in hiking boots, and I had no rock-climbing experience.

It wasn’t the only time I got lucky.

This past weekend, I set out to climb Debar Mountain with Mike Lynch, the outdoors writer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. I needed to get photos for a snowshoeing story that will run in the January/February issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

It’s a round trip of nine and half miles. We skied in a few miles and then switched to snowshoes when the trail got steeper. We were breaking trail the whole time.

Most of the climbing comes in the final mile or so. As we ascended, Mike started to fall behind, so I waited for him. He told me his asthma was acting up. He also may have been worn out from skiing eight days in a row. We decided to go a little farther to see if he felt better. He didn’t, so with less than a half-mile to go to reach the top, we turned back.

No doubt we could have made it had we pushed on. In the past, I might have regretted turning around, but I felt we made a smart decision—especially as we were running out of daylight—and that gave me as much satisfaction as reaching the summit.

A wise man once said: “The mountains will always be there; the trick is to make sure you are too.”


Monday, December 14, 2009

North Creek-Gore Mountain-Ski Bowl Shuttle Slated

A public transportation shuttle is being established in North Creek with hopes of more closely linking Gore Mountain with the village of North Creek. The shuttle will also make a stop at the historic North Creek Ski Bowl allowing skiers and boarders to take a single trail down and shuttle back up. Additional trails are expected to be open next winter.

Locally owned Brant Lake Taxi & Transport Service will operate the shuttle, which is being paid for by hotel occupancy tax receipts and local businesses. The free shuttle will run just 39 days during the ski season beginning December 19th, including weekends and holiday weeks, from 8 am to 4:30 pm, with a break for the driver’s lunchtime.

Gore Mountain spokesperson Emily Stanton told the Glens Falls Post-Star that the shuttle will provide access to North Creek village for Gore visitors who arrive at the mountain by chartered bus.

Additionally, a controversial “Gold Parking” program has been getting a lot of discussion on the lifts and in the lodges. About 200 spaces have been set aside for paid parking. The $10 fee has led to quite a debate over at skiadk.com and the Gore Facebook page.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Pharaoh Lake Wilderness: The Battle of Crane Pond Road

Two decades ago, some Adirondackers forced the state to back down from a decision to close Crane Pond Road inside the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness.

A few weeks ago, I went to Crane Pond Road to take photos for a story that will run in the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

The dirt lane became a cause celebre two decades ago when the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) tried to close it. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Adirondack Explorer’s Phil Brown Joins Adirondack Almanack

Please join me in welcoming Phil Brown of Saranac Lake as a new contributor to Adirondack Almanack. Phil has been the editor of the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, since 1999. He is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing, all experiences that will no doubt inform his his weekly posts here at the Almanack. Phil’s work will appear mostly on Monday afternoons, but occasionally at other times as well.

Brown is also the owner of Lost Pond Press, which has published Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings, Adirondack Birding by Gary N. Lee and John M.C. Peterson, and Within a Forest Dark, a prize-winning novel by Michael Virtanen.

Regular readers of Adirondack Almanack know that the site has been growing dramatically over the past year with the addition of a dozen new contributors. In contributing to the Almanack, Phil Brown will be joining quite a stable of outstanding local writers: longtime local journalists Mary Thill and Lake George Mirror publisher Anthony Hall, experienced local naturalists Ellen Rathbone and Brian McAllister, paddling guru Don Morris, local inquiring family writer Diane Chase, outdoors writers Alan Wechsler and Kevin MacKenzie, local music contributors Shamim Allen and Nate Pelton, and local politics sketch commentator Mark Wilson. Our complete list of contributors is located at the lower right side of the page.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Scott Hamilton Returns To Lake Placid With A New Show

Figure skating icon Scott Hamilton is back, ready to thrill audiences with a new skating show, Scott Hamilton’s Holiday Concert on Ice, coming to the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Tuesday, Dec. 29, at 7:30 p.m.

For more than 20 years, the Olympic Champion and four-time World and U.S. National Champion wowed audiences with his annual Stars on Ice tour, which kicked off annually in Lake Placid. Several of those performers are set to join the skating legend again including Ekaterina Gordeeva and Steven Cousins. The show will also feature Kimmie Meissner, Jozef Sabovcik and Caryn Kadavy, all skating to music performed by a live band and American Idols Phil Stacey and Melinda Doolittle.

Tickets for the Dec. 29 performance of Scott Hamilton’s Holiday Concert on Ice range in price from $90-$30 and are on sale now at the Olympic Center Box Office 518.523-3330 or online at tickets.com or whitefacelakeplacid.com.

About the Skaters: Together with her late partner and husband, Sergei Grinkov, Ekaterina Gordeeva was the 1988 and 1994 Olympic Champion. She also began touring with Stars on Ice in 1991.

Steven Cousins is an eight-time British National Champion; he competed in eight World Figure Skating Championships and three Olympic Winter Games and toured with Stars on Ice until 2007, while Kimmie Meissner won both the 2007 World Championship crown and the 2007 U.S. National Championship title. Ms. Meissner was also the youngest American athlete to compete in the 2006 Torino, Italy Olympic Winter Games.

Jozef Sabovcik claimed the 1984 Olympic bronze medal and won both the 1985 and 1986 European Championship titles, while Caryn Kadavy, a 1988 Olympian, is a three-time U.S. National Championship medalist.

NOTE: THIS POST COMES DIRECTLY FROM AN ORDA PRESS RELEASE


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advocacy Group On-Board With Upper Hudson Rail-Trail

Parks & Trails New York, an Albany-based advocacy group, has joined an effort to develop a rail-trail between North Creek and Tahawus.

The group Friends of the Upper Hudson, which seeks to build a 29-mile multi-use trail along an old railroad bed, recently announced the partnership. Parks & Trails will provide help with technical issues, planning, public outreach, grant writing, fundraising and other activities.

The trail would follow the railway formerly used to haul ore from the NL Industries mine, passing through the towns of Johnsburg, Indian Lake, Minerva and Newcomb. The trail would provide easy access to the scenic Upper Hudson and Boreas Rivers, as well as a dramatic crossing of the Hudson over a long trestle.

When complete, the trail could lure tens of thousands of users to a part of the Adirondacks that is not visited by many hikers. But there are concerns about the project. First is the cost, estimated at $4.4 million for a stone-dust trail, or $7.3 million for paved. And there are also access questions, as the right-of-way (across both private and state land) will expire with the removal of the tracks. However, backers say a federal law to encourage the reuse of rail beds may solve the complicated land issue.

The project backers have completed a feasibility study and are working with partners to acquire and preserve the corridor for trail use.

Trains haven’t run on this section of rail for decades. To the south, a tourist line called The Upper Hudson Scenic Railroad operates in warmer weather on the same line between North Creek and Riparius. That railroad faces an uncertain future: the section is owned by Warren County, which is seeking proposals from new operators for a scenic railroad. The rail-trail would ave no impact on the tourist line.

The Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail maintain a website here. To find out more about the Healthy Trails, Healthy People program, contact Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or ptny@ptny.org or visit the Parks & Trails New York website here.


Monday, November 30, 2009

A Great Range Dayhike of 10,000 Vertical Feet

The respite from winter’s grip is about over in the Adirondacks. I, therefore, decided to summarize a hiking route best done in the warm weather as a nostalgic farewell to temperate days. There are many ways to challenge ones hiking metal, one of which is to set cumulative goals such as total mileage, mountains climbed or total vertical gain. The Great Range is the premier Adirondack mountain range for such a venture as hiking over 10,000 vertical feet in a dayhike. As a matter of fact, the Great Range’s complete traverse was listed in Backpacker Magazine as America’s third hardest dayhike. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Warren County 4-H Shooting Sports Program Announced

FROM A WARREN COUNTY 4-H PRESS RELEASE:

Ever wonder what 4-H Shooting Sports is all about? Do you want to find out? Then mark your calendars! 4-H Shooting Sports will be hosting a general interest meeting on Thursday, December 3rd at the Dunham’s Bay Fish and Game Club. The meeting will start at 6pm and cover the basics of 4-H Shooting Sports as well as offer Laser Shot and Archery activities that evening. Any interested youth over the age of nine is welcome.

4-H Shooting Sports fosters responsibility and helps youth acquire knowledge, skills, abilities related to firearms safety, and sound decision making. Shooting sports helps develop social skills, leadership techniques, and provides opportunities for community service.

There are, however, some limitations to participation due to New York State policy. They are as follows: youth age 12 and up can participate in all disciplines which include archery, air rifle, and conventional firearms. Ages 10-12 can participate in archery, living history, and air rifle only. Ages 9-10 can participate in archery and living history only. All youth are able and encouraged to participate in the different projects that enhance 4-H Shooting Sports. These policies are in line with the NYS 4-H Shooting Sports guidelines and are designated based on the “Ages and Stages” curriculum outline.

All participants must be fully enrolled in 4-H prior to participation in any shooting activities. Enrollment will be available the night of the event. Registration is required and can be done by calling Cornell Cooperative Extension at 668-4881 or 623-3291.

Photo: Archery program participant Caroline Lomnitzer of Indian Lake.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

What’s in a Name? Adirondack Waterbody Trivia

Many of our region’s lakes and ponds share the same name—Moose, Long, and Black come to mind as some overused ones. While our rivers have generally fared better, there are still many examples of name-sharing. Here’s some name-related trivia to help get through the non-paddling months.

Several rivers share the same name. There are two Deers (one in Franklin County and another near the Tug Hill Plateau), two rivers named The Branch (one a tributary of the Schroon and the other a small tributary of the Boquet), two Littles (one flows into the East Branch Oswegatchie and the other into the Grass near Canton); and two Blacks (the major river draining the western Adirondacks and Tug Hill Plateau, plus a small one flowing into the Boquet).

In a tie for 1st place we have the Salmon and the Indian, each with three. The three Salmons flow east into Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, north through Malone into the St. Lawrence River, and west from the Tug Hill Plateau into Lake Ontario. The three Indians include the major stream that flows into the Hudson, another flowing north into the South Branch Moose, and another north of the Beaver near Natural Bridge. There are way too many creeks/brooks with the same name to catalog them—my guess is that Alder is the most popular name.

There are some river-pairs that sound like they should flow into one another though never do—the Great Chazy/Little Chazy and the Ausable/Little Ausable. Some rivers have East, West, and Middle Branches (Sacandaga, St. Regis, Oswegatchie) while others have North, South, and Middle Branches (Grass, Moose). In a class by itself, the Boquet has South and North Forks near its headwaters, and a North Branch further downstream. In a different vein, we have the South Branch Grass claiming a 1st and 2nd Brook, only to be outdone by the Independence, which claims 1st through 5th Creeks.

There are several rivers with multiple tributaries of the same name: The Cold has two Moose Pond Outlets, each from a different Moose Pond—one west of Duck Hole, and one near Shattuck Clearing. The South Branch Moose has two Otter Creeks, one in the Moose Plains and the other in Adirondack League Club lands. The East Branch Oswegatchie has two Skate Creeks, one flowing into Cranberry Lake and another into the Flat Rock impoundment. The Raquette has three (!) Dead Creeks, one near Piercefield and two flowing into the Blake Falls and South Colton Reservoirs. The Saranac has two Fish Creeks (one near the campground of the same name and the other flowing into Lower Saranac Lake) and also has two Cold Brooks (one near the lower lock and the other near Bloomingdale). If we stretch things a bit, we could add the Cold Brook that flows into the North Branch Saranac near Riverview. As usual, there are some near misses—Cold Brook and Little Cold Brook flow into Carry Falls Reservoir (Raquette) and the East Branch St. Regis has both a Big Cold Brook and a Little Cold Brook.

Finally, rivers almost always have streams and brooks as tributaries. Is there a situation when this is reversed and a brook has a river as a tributary? You bet. Quebec Brook (itself a tributary of the Middle Branch St. Regis) claims the Onion River as a tributary. Go figure.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Short Adirondack Hike For Short Days

November is one of those in-between months, sort of like mud or black-fly season, where your outdoor activities are sort of limited. There’s no snow yet (not anymore, not like the old days anyway), it’s too cold to paddle unless you’re a die-hard and without any leaves the woods certainly don’t look terribly appealing. Not to mention the fact that it gets dark only a few hours past noon.

Our advice for a hike during these dreary, pre-winter days? Keep it short.

A good outing for those in the Lake George area, or living in the Capital Region, is Sleeping Beauty. This 2,162-foot-high treeless peak is less than two miles from the parking lot (assuming you’re brave enough to drive the one-lane, 1.5-mile road to Dacy Clearing from Shelving Rock Road — but I’ve done it several times in a sedan and never had a problem). And though it gains steeply toward the end it’s a climb any hiker should be able to tackle.

To reach the trailhead, 149 east of Route 9 in Queensbury, and make a left on Buttermilk Falls Road. Follow that road for a good 10 to 15 minutes until you enter the Shelving Rock woods. You’ll see a huge parking lot on the right, and at the end of that will be the road to Dacy Clearing (or park here and walk the road if you like). Don’t make the right onto Hogback Road.

Trail signs point the way to Sleeping Beauty, which at first follows an old, rugged dirt road. Eventually, the trail leaves the road and climbs steeply past rock cliffs to the summit, which provides a sterling view over most of Lake George.

If you left early enough you’ll have time to explore some of the many trails in this area. Bumps Pond, just north of Sleeping Beauty, makes a nice loop, and Fishbrook Pond further north will make the loop even longer. There’s a nice leanto at Fishbrook to have lunch and a number of other loop options if the short days still haven’t caught up to you.

While the trails are well-signed, an ADK Eastern Region trail map will go a long way to helping you choose your destinations. Remember to pack a flashlight and warm clothes, and enjoy.

Photo: Lake George from Sleeping Beauty.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cross-Country Ski Centers of the Adirondacks

These aren’t little rascals, they’re good Dewey Mountain kids, helping get their cross-country ski trails ready for winter. The Harrietstown ski area, run by Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters, hosts a volunteer work day 9:30–3:30 Saturday to build a bridge and finish drainage work that’s been ongoing all autumn. (All welcome!) Dewey’s just one of many Adirondack ski centers preparing for opening day.

The park of course has limitless free backcountry skiing on Forest Preserve, but a midwinter thaw can reveal the beauty of more civilized gliding. Most x-c ski centers pack the base so it holds up better after rain or heatwave. For races and growing legions of skate-skiers, trail grooming is a must. Plus, it’s just nice to have a hut when kids are learning to ski—a warm place to change boots or have a cup of cocoa. At night the lodges become the hub of ski parties.

Alan Wechsler gave us the rundown of downhill areas earlier this month, and we featured Tug Hill ski destinations this morning. So below are links to Adirondack cross-country ski centers. Some have lodging, some have food, some link to larger trail networks; no two are alike but each has something to make it worth the price of admission.

Garnet Hill Lodge, North River, 55 kilometers of trails

Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center, Northville, 38 km

Dewey Mountain X-C Ski and Snowshoe Recreation Center, Saranac Lake, 15 km

Cascade Ski Touring Center, Lake Placid, 20 km

Mount Van Hoevenberg Verizon Olympic Sports Complex, Lake Placid, 50+ km

Whiteface Club and Resort, Lake Placid, 15 km

Lake Placid Crown Plaza Resort, 25 km

The Jackrabbit Trail is a town-to-town trail linking all the way from Keene to Paul Smiths. Definitely not a ski center, but we love it, and volunteers take great care of the trails. The Adirondack Ski Touring Council, the donor-supported organization that maintains it, reports up-to-date trail conditions for the Jackrabbit, the High Peaks backcountry and several Lake Placid-area ski centers.

The Paul Smiths and Newcomb Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers (VICs) have well-kept trails as well as warm buildings, and they’re free.

Time to bookmark the snow-depth map!

Photograph taken and enhanced by Jason Smith, co-manager of Dewey Mountain


Monday, November 16, 2009

Noah Rondeau: A Day in His Woods

Many an article and book is available describing the life of Noah Rondeau and his hermitage. Interactions with the few hikers who ventured into his area portrayed a favorable gentleman who loved the company of some people as well as his solitude. Pictures are worth a thousand words and attach emotion to the text. A walk to the site of the former hermitage, however, allows a person an even deeper perspective and appreciation for the “Last Adirondack Hermit” and his way of life. » Continue Reading.


Friday, November 13, 2009

APA Reverses Lows Lake Wilderness Vote

All three of Governor David Paterson’s representatives on the Adirondack Park Agency board have reversed votes made in September and opposed designation of the waters of Lows Lake as Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe. By a 6-4 vote the APA had added most of the waters and bed of Lows Lake to the Five Ponds Wilderness in September. The rest of the lake was classified as Primitive, which would have prohibited motorized use. It was later learned that the tenure of one of the APA commissioners had expired and the vote needed to be retaken – that vote occurred today and ended in a 7-4 reversal of the previous decision. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mount Marcy A Safer Ski This Winter

For advanced skiers who are looking forward to hitting the High Peaks this winter, the Adirondack Ski Touring Council has some good news: There are now fewer opportunities to get skewered by branches or whapped in the face by evergreen boughs when skiing down Mount Marcy.

Tony Goodwin, executive director of the council, joined two other local skiers last September to prune trees along the 7.5 mile trail from Adirondack Loj to the summit of the state’s highest peak. This was their second pruning trip in a year.

Long a popular ski route as well as a hiking trail, it’s the only official ski trail to the top of a High Peak.

The route was first built with skiers in mind but has been allowed to grow inward over the years. Recently, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has allowed skiers to go in and clear the trail to the width allowed for skiing – six feet in most places, eight around turns.

The work, which included the use of expandable poles up to 20 feet long – the snow is often five to ten feet deep by March, meaning the dangerous branches are far overhead in summer – drew some curious stares by warm-weather passers-by. “People actually ski this trail?” was a frequent question, Goodwin said.

A week after their work on Marcy, a larger group headed to the Wright Mountain Ski Trail (which stops below the summit), which was also cleared of dangerous branches.

“We’re definitely making a noticeable improvement,” Goodwin said.

Backcountry skiing in the High Peaks has grown into a very popular sport in the past decade, with the advancement of high-tech alpine and telemark gear, a ski festival in March and the release of a photographic guide to skiing slides.

But many serious skiers complain the DEC has refused to consider making the mountains more backcountry ski-friendly, such as creating separate trails for skiers and hikers, allowing the widening of unofficial routes or permitting the pruning of small saplings in areas that would make nice glade skiing.

“They’ve definitely made it clear we can’t go too far beyond the six-foot width for trails,” Goodwin said.

In other ski news, the Town of North Elba has created a small parking lot on McKenzie Pond Road near Saranac Lake for users of the popular Jackrabbit Trail. The parking lot coincides with a new section of trail that takes advantage of an easement purchased by the council to ensure continued access from that point.