Friday, September 24, 2010

Fee Hikes to Pay for LG Island Trash Collection

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation appears willing to give way on its plan to discontinue the collection of campers’ garbage from the islands of Lake George.

After meeting on September 17 in Bolton Landing with state legislators, county supervisors, the Lake George Park Commission and the heads of lake protection organizations, DEC staff agreed to seek an increase in camping fees large enough to cover the costs of collecting garbage from three locations and transporting it to Glen Island.

State Senator Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who proposed the alternative to the state’s planned “Carry in/Carry Out” policy at the meeting in Bolton, said they would sponsor an item in next year’s state budget designating the new revenues as fees for removing garbage from the Lake George islands.

The agreement, however, must win the endorsement of DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis.
According to Doug Bernhard, DEC”s general manager of Forest Parks, approximately $50,000 would need to be raised every year to maintain the policy of picking up garbage and recycleables from three locations in the Lake George Narrows, Glen Island and Long Island campsite groups.

Last year, DEC issued 6,680 permits for 387 campsites on 44 islands, said Gary West of DEC’s Warrensburg office. By raising the fee for a daily camping permit by as much as $5, Senator Little said, enough funds would be raised to pay for garbage collection. “It will be understood that it is an increase in fees to keep the lake beautiful,” said Little.

If the fee hike is approved, the cost of a permit could rise to $30 for New York State residents and $35 for non-residents. “These campers have expensive boats; they won’t object to a few extra dollars for a permit, and it’s still an incredible deal,” said Bill Van Ness, a Warren County supervisor and a Lake George Park Commission marine patrol officer.

“There’s broad support from business owners, environmentalists and local governments for this fee hike,” said Peter Bauer, the excutive director of the Fund for Lake George.

The decision to abandon the policy of collecting garbage and to rely instead upon campers to carry their garbage with them when they leave was made after the DEC’s budget for non-personnel expenses was cut by 40%, said Bernhard.

“Asking campers to take their garbage to the recycling centers was a highly successful program, winning 90% compliance, but we no longer have the resources to support it,” said Bernhard, who added that other popular campground programs, such as nature education activities, had also been abolished.

Opposition to the plan to terminate garbage collection services, however, surfaced almost as soon as it was announced. The Towns of Bolton, Hague and Lake George, as well as the Warren County Board of Supervisors, adopted resolutions opposing the plan. “The end result will be garbage in the roadway and in the lake,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who organized the meeting. “If we fail the lake, we fail ourselves.”

Members of the Lake George Park Commission also opposed the plan, said chairman Bruce Young, who argued that discontinuing the collection service would diminish the experience of camping on the islands, thus costing the state in revenues and harming the local economy. “This is the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Young. “The Lake George Island campsites generate $700,000 a year in revenues to DEC. I hate to see you shortchange this asset in order to take care of others.”

While a carry in/carry out policy is used at other island campsites in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, Young and others argued that it could not be successfully applied to Lake George. “Not picking it up is not an option, it won’t work,” said Young. “Lake George island campers are not backpackers.”

The Lake George Association’s executive director, Walt Lender, said, “While we agree the campers should be responsible for their own garbage, we know that island camping is not wilderness camping; these boats are floating Winnebagos.”

“Their coolers, their children, their barbecues, they boat it in as though they were going to a land-based campsite,” said Ron Conover. According to DEC officials, 231 tons of garbage was removed from the islands last year.

The Lake George Island Campers Association supports the recommendation, with some reservations, said Cindy Baxter, a New Hampshire resident who helped establish the advocacy group. “We would prefer to see all the funds generated by the Lake George islands be returned to Lake George for the care and maintenance of the campsites. But if that’s not possible, a fee increase is a price we’re willing to bear if that’s what it takes to protect Lake George,” said Baxter.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Sept. 23)

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

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and on 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. Hikers and campers should be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

DO NOT FEED BEARS: Recently a forest ranger shot and killed a bear that was harassing campers at the Eight Lake State Campground near Inlet. Wildlife biologists believe the yearling had been fed by campers and grown not to fear people. This is the first bear killed so far this year by the Department of Environmental Conservation; eight problem bears were killed in the Adirondacks last summer.

Fire Danger: LOW

Central Adirondacks Weather
Friday: Mostly sunny, high near 79; windy, chance of showers and thunderstorms.
Friday Night: Cloudy, windy, likely showers, thunderstorms; low around 52.
Saturday: Chance of showers, cloudy and breezy; high near 56.
Saturday Night: Chance of showers. Cloudy, low around 38.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 54.

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]

Very Close Approach of Jupiter
The planet Jupiter will pass 368 million miles from Earth late Monday, its closest approach since 1963; it won’t be as big or bright again until 2022. Jupiter can be seen low in the east around dusk and directly overhead around midnight as an incredibly bright star – three times brighter than the brightest star in the sky, Sirius. Binoculars and telescopes will dramatically improve the view of Jupiter and its many moons.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK CONDITIONS

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.

Darkness Arriving Earlier
Autumn has arrived and daylight hours have decreased. Know when sunset occurs and plan accordingly. Always pack or carry a flashlight with fresh batteries.

Hunting Seasons
Fall hunting seasons for small game, waterfowl and big game have begun or will begin shortly. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to hunt on Forest Preserve lands. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Hikers may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.

Sporting Licenses On Sale
The new sporting license year will begins October 1. Find out how to purchase a sporting license on the DEC website. Information about the 2010 Hunting Seasons is also available online [pdf].

Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas
The use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe is prohibited. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected this regulation.

Storage of Personal Belongings on State Land
Placing structures or personal property on state land without authorization from DEC is prohibited. Exceptions include: properly placed and labeled geocaches; legally placed and tagged traps, tree stands and blinds. The full regulation regarding the use of motorized equipment on state lands may be found online; the regulation regarding the structures and storage of personal property is also online.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

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

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

** indicates new or revised items.

** Sacandaga Lake (Near Speculator, about 20 miles north west of Great Sacandaga Lake): Warning! The spiny water flea, an aquatic invasive species, is has been confirmed present in Sacandaga Lake in the southern Adirondacks near Speculator. It was previously confirmed in Great Sacandaga Lake in 2008, Peck Lake in 2009, and Stewarts Bridge Reservoir earlier this year. It is not clear when the spiny water flea was introduced into each of the lakes. It is clear that the initial introduction, and very likely the others as well, were through adult, larvae, or eggs being transported to the waters by bait bucket, bilge water, live well, boat, canoe, kayak, trailer or fishing equipment. Prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species – INSPECT, DRY and CLEAN all fishing and boating equipment between waters. See advice in the “Do Not Spread Invasive Aquatic Species” webpage.

**Adirondack Balloon Festival: The morning and evening skies of Queensbury and Southern Lake George will be home to some 90 hot air balloons during this weekends Adirondack Balloon Festival. The event also includes live bands, children’s activities and fireworks. Expect heavier than usual traffic.

**Schroon Lake: Expect a large number of runners for the Adirondack Marathon Distance Festival this weekend, September 25 and 26. The Course loops around Schroon Lake and some roads there will be closed to accommodate runners.

Lake Champlain Tributaries: The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative (Cooperative) will be applying lampricide to portions of five tributaries to Lake Champlain during the month of September. Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be treating the Salmon River, Little Ausable River, Ausable River, and Putnam Creek in New York, and Lewis Creek in Vermont. Treatments are scheduled to begin in New York on September 14th and finish in Vermont by the end of the month. These treatments are part of the Cooperative’s long-term sea lamprey control program for Lake Champlain. Temporary water use advisories will be in effect for each of the five treated rivers to minimize human exposure to affected waters. Each state’s Department of Health recommends that the treated river and lake water not be used for drinking, swimming, fishing, irrigation, or livestock watering while the advisories are in effect.

West Lake Boat Launch (Fulton County): The boat launch was impacted by August rains and floods. 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.

Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower: The firetower on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain is now closed for the season

Blue Mountain Wild Forest: Forest Ranger Greg George has retired after 33 years of service. If you had contacted Ranger George in the past for camping permits, backcountry conditions or for any other purpose, you should now contact Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer at 518-648-5246. For matters regarding Tirrell Pond contact Forest Ranger Jay Scott at 315-354-4611.

Blue Mountain Wild Forest: The Blue Mountain Fire Tower is open to the public including the cab. The fire tower was restored a few years ago. The DEC intern present during August to greet the public and educate them about fire towers and the forest preserve is no longer available however.

Raquette River Boat Launch: Rehabilitation of the Raquette River Boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake, also known as “The Crusher”, is complete. DEC expended approximately $190,00 from 2009 EPF Parks Capital Fund to upgrade the parking lots, install a new concrete boat ramp and floating dock, construct a separate launch area for canoes and kayaks and the improve the site so it is accessible for people with mobility disabilities. Paddlers are encouraged to use the canoe and kayak launch and retrieval area which is located just 50 feet upstream of the boat launch ramp.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Rock Dam Road and the campsites along it have reopened. The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road), the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge will also be open this weekend. Gates to other side roads, including Indian Lake Road, Otter Brook Truck Trail, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

** Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road: DEC Contractors have finished constructing a bridge over Sumner Stream on the main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road). All locations within the Moose River Plains are accessible from either the Cedar River or Limekiln Lake entrance.

Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: The lean-to on the south shore of Chase Lake has been removed, and a new one is under construction on the lake’s north shore. A new trail spur leading off the old trail and approaching the new lean-to from the west has been marked. The site of the old lean-to is now a designated tent site.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required. Also, DEC and Student Conservation Association crews have been working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites [online map]. Please respect closure signs. Work is occuring during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: 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 is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

West Canada Lakes Wilderness / N-P Trail: The bridge over Mud Creek, on the Northville-Placid Trail northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is also affecting the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, particularly the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation 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, September 23, 2010

Dan Crane: Adirondack Bushwhacking Safety

There is no way around it, bushwhacking in the Adirondacks is an inherently dangerous activity. The aggressive terrain, vast amount of wilderness, frequently changing weather conditions and the lack of wireless communication access makes dealing with any emergency situation a challenge. Although it is impossible to make backcountry exploration a completely safe endeavor, the principles of risk management can be used to identify, prevent and, if everything fails, ameliorate some of the possible negative impacts of those risky elements associated with bushwhacking.

Although much of what can be said about safety in the backcountry applies to both trail hiking and bushwhacking, the remoteness encountered by a bushwhacker makes safety precautions an even higher priority. The bushwhacker is typically far from assistance and therefore must be prepared to handle any conceivable emergency situation, or deal with the consequences. Managing the inherent risk involved in exploring the backcountry can be accomplished by being prepared for an emergency and taking the proper precautions should such an emergency present itself.

Whoever coined the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” must have been referring to bushwhacking. And prevention of any problem in the backcountry starts with physical training. Any training for bushwhacking should include both endurance training and core strengthening. Endurance training, such as running, swimming, walking or hiking is essential to prepare for the exertion necessary to bushwhack over steep terrain for many hours a day, not to mention crawling through blowdowns, stepping over logs and struggling through tangles of witchhobble. Core strengthening involves working the thighs, hips, abdominal and back muscles. These muscles assist with handling heavy backpacks, balance when stepping over logs or crossing beaver dams and navigating through rocky terrain. Preventing injury by preparing your body for the effort involved while bushwhacking is worth more than a whole backpack full of first aid equipment.

My training consists of endurance training four to six days per week augmented by resistance training on four of those days. The endurance training typically consists of running a minimum of three to four miles each day although I sometimes experiment with cross-training by biking, stair-stepping or using an elliptical machine instead. The resistance training consists of one to two hours of either core strengthening (i.e. chest, legs, back) or arms and shoulder strengthening. Each of the two training styles (i.e. core and arms/shoulders) is repeated twice per week. I perform my training year round since it is easier to remain in good physical condition than to get back into such condition.

Physical training is not the only way to reduce the inherent risks involved with bushwhacking. Traveling in groups, leaving a trip itinerary with someone and avoiding unnecessary risks are age-old backpacking precautions that should be heeded when possible by the bushwhacker. Typically a group size of 3 or more is ideal so at least one person could go for help while another can stay with the injured person. Although ideal, it is not always possible to find enough people interested in bushwhacking to assemble such a large group. Bushwhacking in smaller groups (or even solo) should not be avoided but the risks involved will be greater and one should take extra precautions to reduce such risks.

Leaving an itinerary with a responsible person along with the day you plan on exiting the backcountry are standard safety precautions that should be adhered to by the bushwhacker. It is best to give a detailed itinerary with the route planned and camping site locations although conditions on the ground often make it difficult to stick to such a plan. At the very least geographic landmarks should be given to define the area being explored (e.g. west of Moshier Creek, south of Pepperbox Creek and east of the county line). This narrows the search of the 6.1 million acres of the Adirondack down to a more manageable level.

Needless to say, unnecessary risks should be avoided as much as possible. When traveling through difficult areas, such as blowdowns, rocky conditions, stream crossing, etc. it is best to slow down and take your time, especially during wet conditions. At any point where you find yourself hurrying through difficult circumstances, it is best to stop and take a short break before restarting at a slower pace. This will drastically reduce the probability of an injury and reduce the chance of having to use your first aid kit.

I always leave an itinerary with someone I can trust before heading out into the backcountry. The itinerary consists of my planned route plus some side trips just in case I have some extra time. In addition, I always register at the trailhead since I typically start my bushwhack off an existing trail system. And I never pass on the opportunity to register in any lean-tos I encounter on my trip too. In areas where registers are not available I tend to write my initials and the date in small pebbles at key locations along my planned route just in case anything should happen along the way. I take these extra precautions since most of my bushwhacking adventures are lengthy solo trips which involve inherently greater risks.

Carrying a well-stocked first aid kit is essential for any bushwhacker. The ingredients of a suitable first aid kit for a bushwhacker are identical as those of the typical backpacker. There is a plethora of pre-packaged first aid kits available on the market to choose from. A cheaper alternative would be to create your own homemade first aid kit by purchasing those items necessary should an injury occur during an outdoor adventure. Some ideas for items to be included in a homemade first aid kit can be found here, here, here and here. It is not enough to carry a well-stocked first aid if one lacks the knowledge to use it in an emergency. For that reason it is a good idea to take a class in wilderness and remote area first aid. These courses are given by the American Red Cross and the Adirondack Mountain Club. Carrying a first aid kit and having the knowledge how to use it in the case of an emergency should leave you in good stead if an injury occurs while in the backcountry.

My first aid kit includes numerous self-adhesive bandages of all different sizes and shapes, gauze bandages, moleskin, alcohol pads, Spenco 2nd Skin® (for blisters and burns), waterproof surgical tape, a small elastic bandage and single-use Neosporin® packets. Also, I carry multiple doses of 200 mg ibuprofen tablets, Benadryl® antihistamine tablets, loperamide hydrochloride tablets (for diarrhea), pink bismuth tablets (for upset stomach) and 75 mg diclofenac sodium tablets (a prescription anti-inflammatory for my back). A space blanket, strike anywhere matches, birthday candles, a water filter straw, a needle and thread, several safety pins and some string round out my kit. In addition, I carry an emergency whistle, a small jackknife (with a blade, scissors and tweezers), sunscreen, lip balm and bug repellent in a separate stuff sack, which I keep in the outside pocket of my backpack for easy access.

Although a first aid can be effective for many types of injuries it is of limited usefulness if the injury is serious enough to prevent one from evacuating the backcountry. This is especially true for those who engage in solo bushwhacking adventures. In the case of a broken leg, sprained ankle or other incapacitating emergency it is wise to carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) when traveling alone. Personal locator beacons are tracking transmitters which aid in the detection and location via a satellite system. They can be used to determine the location of an individual in an emergency leading to an efficient and timely extraction from the backcountry. A personal locator beacon is one of the most important (and expensive) pieces of equipment a bushwhacker should carry when traveling alone but hopefully never use. It is essential the PLB transmit GPS coordinates so that a search and rescue can be reduced to a simple rescue. A PLB should only be activated during a dire emergency where the situation is grave and the loss of life, limb, or eyesight will occur without assistance. But remember, a PLB cannot assist you unless you are conscious enough to activate it, so carrying one should never be used as an excuse to undertake risky behavior.

Three popular manufactures of personal locator beacon products are ACR Electronics, Inc., SPOT, Inc. and McMurdo, Ltd. They typically range from $150 to $400 and some require the purchasing of a subscription service for specific functionality.

Personally, I carry an ACR MicroFix 406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon, a recently discontinued product. It weighs about 10 ounces and cost considerably more than the current products on the market. I cannot comment on how well it works since thankfully I have never had the occasion to use it. But it gives me the peace of mind knowing I have some way to communicate with the outside world in case of a life-threatening emergency.

Hopefully this discussion of the necessary precautions one should take while bushwhacking has not frightened anyone from heading off the trail. Although it is prudent to be as prepared as possible for any emergency it is still fairly safe being in the backcountry. The most dangerous aspect of any trip is most likely the drive to and from the trailhead. It is important to be prepared but not lose sight of the fact that bushwhacking is supposed to be fun and exciting. So get out there, get off the trail and enjoy yourself but be ready just in case.

Photo: Blowdown by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking experiences at http://www.bushwhackingfool.com/.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wallface: A Formidable Climb in Indian Pass

The speed record for climbing the Diagonal route on Wallface Cliff is 3 hours, 14 minutes. I climbed the same route last weekend and I can tell you that the record was never in any danger of being broken by us.

The speed record was set by local climbers Don Mellor and Jeff Edwards, who ran six miles from Adirondack Loj to the cliff, climbed the 700-foot-high route in a half-hour by simul-climbing (with a rope) and placing only a minimum of gear between them for protection. Then they speed-bushwacked back to their car (they were in a hurry because it was their children’s nap time, and presumably their wives didn’t know they had left them alone), according to the book Adirondack Rock.

Since neither myself nor my partner Steve Goldstein have young children, we were in less of a hurry. And that was a good thing, because Wallface is a big, remote place, and if you visit as a climber you should plan to spend the day. Unless you’ve left your kids alone.

Wallface may be the biggest cliff in New York state, but there’s a reason it sees few visitors. The is located deep in the wilderness at Indian Pass, four miles from Upper Works parking lot near Newcomb and six miles south of Adirondack Loj. It’s the deep gash visible to the west from Algonquin and other nearby High Peaks.

I don’t know about the northern approach, but the route from the south has to be one of the worst trails in the Adirondacks — a never-ending slog through mud pits until you get to the climbers’ herd path.

There’s other reasons besides the approach that Wallface isn’t popular: it’s not a pristine cliff. Climbers like clean routes — vertical, devoid of loose rock or vegetation, an obvious line up. Wallface has none of these. It’s a discontinuous face of granite, in some areas chock full of vegetation and loose, low-angle rock, at other spots overhanging and completely lacking in holds. Even finding the base of most climbs is difficult.

Clearly, it’s not a user-friendly area for climbers. “This cliff,” warns Adirondack Rock, the region’s Bible for rock climbers, “must be approached with an adventurous spirit.”

Yet Wallface does have its attractions. For ultra-hardmen, there’s the stiff route called Mental Blocks. For sport climbers, there’s several difficult, bolted routes on a pristine face nicknamed The Shield (Free Ride, rated a hard 5.11, is said to be the “best face climbing on the East Coast”).

And there’s the Diagonal, the most popular moderate route up the 700-foot-high cliff.

After years of talking about it, my climbing partner Steve Goldstein and I finally decided to pack our own adventurous spirits and hoof it into Wallface — the Diagonal our destination.

We left at dawn. After the aforementioned slog, we reached the base around 9 a.m. We eyed our route from below. The Diagonal is rated 5.8, which is just a bit tougher than the average beginner can climb. But most of it is quite easy, and the first third is rather dull.

It follows broken, discontinuous bands of rock up the lower part of the face. Once we roped up, we navigated as best we could through the choss, eventually ascending to the cliff’s most interesting feature.

The Diagonal is named for a 300-foot-high ramp that is the middle part of the route. It’s an easy section, low-angle and chock full of features. Some sections are pockmarked with tiny holes, like coral or cooled lava, which Steve figured were carved by tens of thousands of years of water drops falling from the overhanging rock above. And out before us was the ever-expanding view of the High Peaks.

The ramp ended at a grassy ledge, which brought us to the third section of the route — two pitches of vertical climbing up cracks and corners. I gratefully handed the lead (and the rack of jingling climbing gear) to Steve, the stronger member of our two-man team. And he gracefully made his way up until he was out of sight, cursing at the wet sections along the way.

I followed him up through some interesting and challenging features until I reached him high on a ledge. He had climbed further than the route description called for.

“Sorry,” he said. “I think I stole about half of your pitch.”

“Fine with me,” I said, thinking of the strange and awkward move I had just wormed up, and glad he had gone first.

Then it was my turn to lead. I took the gear and climbed the last 50 feet, making a few well-protected but awkward moves that had me yelling “Watch me!” as I felt for a handhold that ought to have been there but wasn’t.

At the top, we shivered. The sun had long since disappeared behind the cliff, and a constant breeze left no doubt that we were deep in the mountains, not at some roadside crag with a warm car and cold beer waiting only a few minutes away.

Escape from the top of Wallface comes either from walking around (not recommended due to the thick underbrush and blowdown) or rappelling. The top of the Diagonal, being popular, has fixed anchors. You thread the ropes through and then rappel off, pulling the rope after you to set up for the next rap.

For many climbers, this is the sketchiest part of climbing, especially on long, remote routes. The possibility of stuck ropes is always present, and in this location, with darkness and cold temperatures only an hour away, that would have meant for a long and miserable night.

Fortunately, the ropes pulled smoothly and an hour later we were on the ground, warmer and ready for that beer.

Unfortunately, we still had a long way to go. We raced down the approach path and made the official hiking trail at darkness. Then we spent the next 90 minutes walking by the light of headlamps, searching for ways through the endless muck as Steve regaled me with tales of his misspent college years (“The coolest explosion I was ever involved in was when …”).

We reached the car at 9 p.m., making for a 14-hour day. That three-hour ascent record was safe — after all, we had taken five times longer. But that was fine with us. We had conquered Wallface.

And we wouldn’t be going back for a long time.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Phil Brown: Objections to Car-Camping

Earlier this year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed reclassifying the main road in the Moose River Plains as an Intensive Use Area to permit roadside campsites to remain.

In doing so, DEC recognized that the proximity of many of the campsites to each other violated the rules governing primitive tent sites set forth in Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Those rules require that primitive sites be at least a quarter-mile apart. Many of the sites in the Plains also have fireplaces and picnic tables, both of which are not allowed at primitive tent sites.

But the campsites in the Plains are just the tip of the iceberg. A new study [pdf] by the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has found that there are 508 roadside campsites on Forest Preserve lands throughout the Park.

Under DEC regulations, a primitive tent site must be at least 150 feet from roads, trails, and water bodies unless DEC has designated the site (with a yellow disk) as an official campsite. The study found that at least 149 of the roadside campsites on the Forest Preserve lack a DEC disk. Presumably, most of these are illegal.

There are other problems as well. Some sites are denuded from overuse. Some are situated close to the road, the water, or other tent sites. They often lack screening. And many have amenities such as fireplaces and picnic tables that are not allowed at primitive tent sites.

Jim Connolly, deputy director of the Adirondack Park Agency, said at last week’s APA meeting that the agency faces some hard choices regarding roadside sites.

Some argue that roadside sites should be brought into compliance with the primitive-site guidelines — a policy that would require closing or moving sites or taking away amenities. Others argue that the State Land Master Plan should be amended to recognize roadside camping as its own activity, with its own set of regultions.

Closing roadside campsites would be controversial. Chad Dawson, the main author of the ESF study, said roadside camping has evolved into an Adirondack tradition—a free, more rustic alternative to DEC campgrounds. Some families return to the same sites year after year.

“People love their roadside camping,” Dawson told the APA board. Yet most people probably don’t know about the opportunities for road-side camping. “It’s one of those well-kept secrets of the Adirondacks,” Dawson said. “You get initiated into it, but you can’t find a brochure about it.”

Dawson said the great majority of roadside sites—459 out of 508—are located in Wild Forest Areas. They include 163 in the Moose River Plains region. Other Wild Forest sites can be found, among other places, on Floodwood Road, on the Powley-Piseco Road, and along the shores of North Lake and Horseshoe Lake.

The other forty-nine sites are in Wilderness, Canoe, and Primitive Areas, where motorized access is generally prohibited. These include eight sites along Coreys Road in the High Peaks Wilderness and thirteen sites along West River Road in the Silver Lake Wilderness.

Connolly said roadside camping evolved from the 1920s, when DEC began establishing formal campgrounds. Some people question the legality of the campgrounds. How do you square the crowds and noise at Fish Creek with the forever-wild mandate of the state constitution? Legal objections aside, the campgrounds are recognized by the State Land Master Plan. Roadside campsites are not.

The car-camping tradition may be well-established, but it often appears to flout the law. Should it be more tightly regulated?

Photo: A well-used roadside campsite. From the ESF report.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Sept. 16)

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

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and on 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. Hikers and campers should be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

DO NOT FEED BEARS: Recently a forest ranger shot and killed a bear that was harassing campers at the Eight Lake State Campground near Inlet. Wildlife biologists believe the yearling had been fed by campers and grown not to fear people. This is the first bear killed so far this year by the Department of Environmental Conservation; eight problem bears were killed in the Adirondacks last summer.

Fire Danger: LOW

Central Adirondacks Weather
Friday: Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny; high near 60.
Friday Night: Partly cloudy; low around 36.
Saturday: Mostly sunny; high near 68.
Saturday Night: Chance of showers; cloudy, low around 47.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 59.

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]

SPORTSMEN LICENSES NOW ON SALE

The 2010-2011 hunting, trapping and freshwater fishing sporting license year will begin on October 1, 2010 and all sporting licenses are now available for purchase. Find out how to purchase a sporting license on the DEC website. Information about the 2010 Hunting Seasons is also available online [pdf]. All first-time hunters, bowhunters and trappers are required to take and pass one or more education courses. Visit the DEC website to get more information on the Sportsman Education Program and find an upcoming course near you.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK CONDITIONS

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.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

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

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

** indicates new or revised items.

** Indian Lake: The Great Adirondack Moose festival will take place in Indian Lake this weekend, September 18-19. The event offers guided hikes, scenic driving tours, fly-fishing and fly tying demos, a car show, and open houses.

** Lake Champlain Tributaries: The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative (Cooperative) will be applying lampricide to portions of five tributaries to Lake Champlain during the month of September. Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be treating the Salmon River, Little Ausable River, Ausable River, and Putnam Creek in New York, and Lewis Creek in Vermont. Treatments are scheduled to begin in New York on September 14th and finish in Vermont by the end of the month. These treatments are part of the Cooperative’s long-term sea lamprey control program for Lake Champlain. Temporary water use advisories will be in effect for each of the five treated rivers to minimize human exposure to affected waters. Each state’s Department of Health recommends that the treated river and lake water not be used for drinking, swimming, fishing, irrigation, or livestock watering while the advisories are in effect.

West Lake Boat Launch (Fulton County): The boat launch was impacted by August rains and floods. 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.

Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower: The firetower on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain is now closed for the season

Blue Mountain Wild Forest: Forest Ranger Greg George has retired after 33 years of service. If you had contacted Ranger George in the past for camping permits, backcountry conditions or for any other purpose, you should now contact Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer at 518-648-5246. For matters regarding Tirrell Pond contact Forest Ranger Jay Scott at 315-354-4611.

Blue Mountain Wild Forest: The Blue Mountain Fire Tower is open to the public including the cab. The fire tower was restored a few years ago. The DEC intern present during August to greet the public and educate them about fire towers and the forest preserve is no longer available however.

Raquette River Boat Launch: Rehabilitation of the Raquette River Boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake, also known as “The Crusher”, is complete. DEC expended approximately $190,00 from 2009 EPF Parks Capital Fund to upgrade the parking lots, install a new concrete boat ramp and floating dock, construct a separate launch area for canoes and kayaks and the improve the site so it is accessible for people with mobility disabilities. Paddlers are encouraged to use the canoe and kayak launch and retrieval area which is located just 50 feet upstream of the boat launch ramp.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Rock Dam Road and the campsites along it have reopened. The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road), the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge will also be open this weekend. Gates to other side roads, including Indian Lake Road, Otter Brook Truck Trail, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

** Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road: DEC Contractors have completed constructing a bridge over the Bradley Brook. Work has now begun to remove the culvert from Sumner Stream on the main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and replace it with a bridge. All locations within the Moose River Plains remain accessible, however locations east of the Sumner Stream crossing – including the Otter Brook Road – must be accessed from the Cedar River entrance, while locations west of the Sumner Stream crossing must be accessed from the Limekiln Lake entrance. The work should take no more than a week to complete. See the map for locations of the Bradley Brook and Sumner Stream crossings.

Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: The lean-to on the south shore of Chase Lake has been removed, and a new one is under construction on the lake’s north shore. A new trail spur leading off the old trail and approaching the new lean-to from the west has been marked. The site of the old lean-to is now a designated tent site.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required. Also, DEC and Student Conservation Association crews have been working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites [online map]. Please respect closure signs. Work is occuring during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: 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 is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

West Canada Lakes Wilderness / N-P Trail: The bridge over Mud Creek, on the Northville-Placid Trail northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is also affecting the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, particularly the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation 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.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Adirondack Cairns: Rocks For The Ages

Why should I be fascinated by cairns? Aren’t they just heaps of stones?

Yet whenever I come across one of these heaps on a wild and windswept ridge—on Jay Mountain, for instance—I feel cheered. Aha! I am not alone. Someone else has been here before me, and no doubt someone will pass here after me.

A cairn exists to point us in the right direction, but it often evokes an appreciation that can’t be explained by its utilitarian purpose. You don’t react in the same way to a paint blaze.

As an analogy, think of the difference between a word’s denotation and connotation. The word rose refers to a flower. That is its denotation. But a rose can symbolize love or passion, among other things. So whatever Gertrude Stein may have said, a rose is not just a rose. And a cairn is not just a heap of stones.

The word cairn derives from Gaelic and dates back at least to the fifteenth century, but the building of cairns is an ancient custom, not exclusive to the Celts. Its primitiveness is part of the cairn’s appeal. The cairn connects us to humanity across the ages and reminds us that we are all wayfarers. It is a symbol of our journey.

Cairns appeal to our creative spirit. On many mountains, they resemble sculptures. A fine example is the cairn in the photo above, from the summit of East Dix.

You can read more about cairns on the Adirondack Explorer website by clicking here.

And if you have a favorite cairn, please tell us about it.

Photo by Phil Brown: Cairn on East Dix.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Let’s Eat: Advice on Eating in Camp

Enjoying a meal around a campfire is an important part of an outdoor experience. Many a camper insists that food just tastes better when eaten outside.

An anonymous sportsman wrote about his trip to the Adirondacks in 1867, with particular mention of meals: “Trout ‘Flapjacks’ & corn cakes were soon cooked…and then we hurried into the Tent to eat, for the Mosquitos were very troublesome out side, & threatened to devour us, waving [sic] all objections as regarded our not being Cooked. Next morning we were up early & had such a Breakfast. Venison nicely cooked in a variety of ways great blooming Potatoes, splendid Pan cakes with maple sugar syrup, Eggs, & actual cream to drink…We could scarcely leave the Table…” » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

N.J. Woman First to Solo Paddle 740-mile Water Trail

A 50-year-old New Jersey woman on Monday became the first female to complete a solo end-to-end paddle of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) from New York to Maine.

Cathy Mumford of Colts Neck, N.J., set off from Old Forge, N.Y. on June 19, paddling, wheeling and dragging her nine and a half-foot-long Perception Sparky kayak to the northern terminus of the trail at Riverside Park on the St. John River in Fort Kent, Maine. The NFCT opened to the public in 2006 and Mumford is only the third solo kayaker to complete a through paddle of the recreational waterway.

Mumford’s adventure included paddling across the eastern half of Lake Champlain on her 50th birthday, taking a wrong turn on the Missisquoi River in Vermont, and having to repair her broken kayak wheels. Family members and friends paddled beside Mumford on two sections of the trail, and followed her progress in real time on her SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker Web page.

The graphic designer and mother of two started kayaking a few years ago while living in Tennessee. She went on weekend trips with groups, then began taking overnight trips alone. Last year she moved back to her New Jersey hometown and set the goal to be the first woman to solo paddle the NFCT.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail follows historic American Indian paddling routes on the major watersheds of northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and a portion of southern Quebec, Canada. It is the longest inland water trail in the northeast.

Nearly 30 people have finished an end-to-end paddle of the trail in a canoe or kayak. The majority of trail users spend a day or weekend exploring one of the 13 sections of the waterway. Learn more about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail online at www.northernforestcanoetrail.org or call 802-496-2285.

About the Northern Forest Canoe Trail: The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a 740-mile inland paddling trail tracing historic travel routes across New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine. NFCT, Inc. is internationally regarded as the preeminent water trail organization in North America, and connects people to the Trail’s natural environment, human heritage, and contemporary communities by stewarding, promoting, and providing access to canoe and kayak experiences along this route.

Photo: Cathy Mumford, First Woman to Solo NFCT, photo by Scott Mumford.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Sept. 9)

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

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

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

DO NOT FEED BEARS: This week a forest ranger shot and killed a bear that was harassing campers at the Eight Lake State Campground near Inlet. Wildlife biologists believe the yearling had been fed by campers and grown not to fear people. This is the first bear killed so far this year by the Department of Environmental Conservation; eight problem bears were killed in the Adirondacks last summer.

Fire Danger: MODERATE – Vegetation is still green, however, the ground and duff are very dry. Be cautious with fire. Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

Central Adirondacks Weather
Friday: Chance of morning showers; high near 59.
Friday Night: Gradually becoming mostly clear; low around 35.
Saturday: Sunny, high near 68.
Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, low around 45.
Sunday: Chance of showers, cloudy, high near 64.

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]

SPORTSMEN LICENSES NOW ON SALE

The 2010-2011 hunting, trapping and freshwater fishing sporting license year will begin on October 1, 2010 and all sporting licenses are now available for purchase. Find out how to purchase a sporting license on the DEC website. Information about the 2010 Hunting Seasons is also available online [pdf]. All first-time hunters, bowhunters and trappers are required to take and pass one or more education courses. Visit the DEC website to get more information on the Sportsman Education Program and find an upcoming course near you.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK CONDITIONS

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.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

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

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

** indicates new or revised items.

** Newcomb: Expect heavier than usual traffic in the Newcomb area during this weekend’s Teddy Roosevelt Weekend.

** Adirondack Canoe Classic / 90 Miler: The annual Adirondack Canoe Classic, known locally as the 90-Miler, will be held this weekend. This three-day flat water race follows the original highways of the Adirondacks from Old Forge to Saranac Lake. Expect very heavy use along the paddle route which starts on Friday at Old Forge. The route includes the Fulton Chain of Lakes, the Raquette Lake, the Marion River and the Eckford Chain of Lakes ending in Blue Mountain Lake at the end of day one. Saturday begins at Bissell’s on Long Lake continues down Long Lake and into the Raquette River to the state boat launch on Routes 3 & 30 (about five miles east of the village of Tupper Lake). Sunday begins at Fish Creek Campground proceeds down Upper Saranac Lake through the carry to Middle Saranac Lake and on to the Saranac River, into Lower Saranac Lake across Oseetah Lake and Lake Flower to the finish at Prescott Park in the village of Saranac Lake.

** Whiteface: The Whiteface Mountain Bike Park, operated by High Peaks Cyclery, is hosting their 5th Annual 5k Downhill Race, Sept. 10-12. The race, being held on Whiteface, in Wilmington, N.Y., is not only the finals for the Pro Gravity Tour, but is also the seventh event of the eight-race Gravity East Series.

** West Lake Boat Launch (Fulton County): The boat launch was impacted by August rains and floods. 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.

** Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower: The firetower on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain is now closed for the season

All Climbing Routes Have Reopened: Thanks to the cooperation of the rock climbing community and their efforts in monitoring Peregrine Falcon nest sites and refrain from climbing closed routes, in 2010 eight successful nests of Peregrine Falcons in the Adirondacks produced a total of 20 fledglings. CLIMBERS NOTE: There has been an increase in fixed anchor bolts at several cliffs in the Adirondacks, including new bolts placed in close proximity to the eyrie ledge at two locations. DEC urges rock climbers to exercise discretion in placing new anchor bolts.

Blue Mountain Wild Forest: Forest Ranger Greg George has retired after 33 years of service. If you had contacted Ranger George in the past for camping permits, backcountry conditions or for any other purpose, you should now contact Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer at 518-648-5246. For matters regarding Tirrell Pond contact Forest Ranger Jay Scott at 315-354-4611.

** Blue Mountain Wild Forest: The Blue Mountain Fire Tower is open to the public including the cab. The fire tower was restored a few years ago. The DEC intern present during August to greet the public and educate them about fire towers and the forest preserve is now longer available.

Ausable River: There is no public access to area of the East Branch of the Ausable River known as Champagne Falls, where a young boy recently drowned. No swimming is permitted and dangerous rocks and currents are found there. Heed the additional “No Trespassing” and “No Swimming” signs that have been posted. This covers both the Grist Mill and Hulls Falls sides of the River. Parking is being restricted. Law enforcement officers have added this area to their patrols and will be enforcing the law.

Raquette River Boat Launch: Rehabilitation of the Raquette River Boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake, also known as “The Crusher”, is complete. DEC expended approximately $190,00 from 2009 EPF Parks Capital Fund to upgrade the parking lots, install a new concrete boat ramp and floating dock, construct a separate launch area for canoes and kayaks and the improve the site so it is accessible for people with mobility disabilities. Paddlers are encouraged to use the canoe and kayak launch and retrieval area which is located just 50 feet upstream of the boat launch ramp.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Rock Dam Road and the campsites along it have reopened. The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road), the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge will also be open this weekend. Gates to other side roads, including Indian Lake Road, Otter Brook Truck Trail, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

** Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road: DEC Contractors have begun work to remove the culvert at Bradley Brook on the main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and replace it with a bridge. All locations within the Moose River Plains remain accessible, however locations east of Bradley Brook must be accessed from Cedar River entrance, while locations west of Bradley Brook must be accessed from the Limekiln Lake entrance. The work should take no more than a week, at which time the same work will be performed for the culvert on Sumner Stream. See the map for locations of the Bradley Brook and Sumner Stream crossings.

Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: The lean-to on the south shore of Chase Lake has been removed, and a new one is under construction on the lake’s north shore. A new trail spur leading off the old trail and approaching the new lean-to from the west has been marked. The site of the old lean-to is now a designated tent site.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required. Also, DEC and Student Conservation Association crews have been working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites [online map]. Please respect closure signs. Work is occuring during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: 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 is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

** West Canada Lakes Wilderness / N-P Trail: The bridge over Mud Creek, on the Northville-Placid Trail northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is also affecting the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, particularly the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation 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, September 9, 2010

A Primer on Adirondack Bushwhacking

The ways to enjoy the outdoors in the Adirondacks are legion. A pleasant drive through the mountains, a relaxing day by the lakeshore in a state campground, a soothing canoe ride along a slow-moving river or a vigorous hike on one of the many state-maintained trails are just a few ways to take pleasure experiencing the outdoors within the Blue Line. But few outdoor activities allow for the freedom to experience the Adirondacks on its own terms like bushwhacking does. Bushwhacking, or off-trail hiking, permits the exploration of almost all of the environments within the Adirondacks as long as they are accessible via foot travel.

Bushwhacking is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to clear a path through thick woods especially by chopping down bushes and low branches”. The Adirondacks surely has its share of thick woods with bushes and low branches (witchhobble and American beech saplings come to mind) but it is illegal to perform any chopping of live vegetation on public forest preserve property. Fortunately, a machete is completely unnecessary within the Adirondacks where the vegetation is never so dense as to require such extremes. Instead, bushwhacking should be defined within the Blue Line as navigating through natural terrestrial environments (i.e. forests, wetlands, beaver vlys, etc.) without the aid of any human-constructed landmarks such as roads or trails.

In the Adirondacks, bushwhacking only requires the use of a map and compass, a sturdy pair of hiking boots and a desire to explore areas where few have tread. If you are more comfortable with modern technology then a hand-held GPS navigational device can be substituted for the map and compass. Some find navigating with a GPS device to be tedious and prefer to learn orienteering skills to navigate through the landscape. Regardless of preference, map and compass skills should be mastered be everyone adventuring off-trail into the backcountry as GPS devices can cease functioning or run low on battery power. GPS devices equipped with digital topographical maps can be useful especially navigating during wet weather where paper maps quickly become saturated and disintegrate.

If extensive multi-day adventures are desired then traditional backpacking equipment will be required too. When purchasing backpacking equipment for bushwhacking purposes keep in mind the gear should be rugged, well-made, and lightweight. Bushwhacking inflicts greater wear and tear on your gear, so emphasizing rugged and well-made equipment will ensure years of use. Since bushwhacking is typically more arduous than traditional backpacking (e.g. the ground is less level, more obstacles to climb over or around, continuously being poked and prodded by sharp branches, etc.) it is advantageous to lighten the load on your back as much as possible. This can be accomplished by either leaving home unnecessary equipment or replacing heavier articles with lighter weight equivalents.

There are essentially two different navigation methods while bushwhacking. The shortest-distance method entails taking a direct bearing between two geographic features on a map (i.e. a hill, a stream, a lake or pond, etc.) and staying true to the bearing as much as possible as you travel over the landscape. Detours often are necessary to find an adequate stream crossing, avoid a steep section, etc. Dog-legging is the second navigation method, where one travels shorter distances and at different bearings in an attempt to avoid more difficult features on the landscape. Usually a combination of the two methods is necessary to efficiently bushwhack through the diverse topography found in the Adirondacks.

The Adirondacks affords almost infinite bushwhacking opportunities from state-owned forest preserve to private properties with recreational easements. Extensive areas devoid of trails or roads offer the greatest bushwhacking opportunities but trails and dirt roads can be useful to gain access deep into the backcountry. Herd paths (unmarked foot paths created either by human or animal activities) can be found in abundance in areas where gaining access to certain landscape features is popular. Trails, dirt-roads and bushwhacking can be combined to produce lengthy adventures over varied landscape often found in the Adirondacks.

Bushwhacking provides a multitude of opportunities for enjoying the outdoors in the Adirondacks regardless of whether one is interested in forests, wetlands, wilderness lakes or rugged mountain peaks. So pick up a map and compass, learn how to use them and get out and experience the Adirondack as only bushwhacking allows.

Photo: Old logging road by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking experiences at www.bushwhackingfool.com.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Almanack Welcomes Dan Crane, Bushwhacking Fool

Please join me in welcoming Dan Crane as the Adirondack Almanack‘s newest regular contributor. Dan has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry by hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing for almost two decades. In addition, he is a life-long naturalist with a Bachelor and Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends most of his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He will be writing about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. His posts will appear every other week on Thursdays, beginning today.

Dan will no doubt share some exciting stories of the backcountry. Hopefully none will match his most recent harrowing adventure, experiencing the July 1995 Great Blowdown first hand; he was airlifted out of the Five Ponds Wilderness via helicopter the day after the storm.

Dan is also the creator of the new blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures in the Adirondacks and elsewhere.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Climbing: Cascade Pass’s Pitchoff Chimney Cliff

Located on the windiest spot of Cascade Pass, Pitchoff Chimney Cliff is visible to everyone who stops by. Given the precipitous road, drivers would be forgiven for not giving the wide, bare rock more than a passing glance as they maneuvered through one of the High Peak’s most scenic routes.

But if they pulled to the side and looked up, they would most likely see climbers plastered all over the rock. And with good reason — the cliff contains some of the park’s best moderate routes. It also has something climbers like best: an easy approach.

In late August I spent a day here with partner Steve Goldstein and his teenage son Joe. We climbed several routes, including the justly famous Pete’s Farewell and the lesser-known but quite good route called Great Chimney.

The Great Chimney is a route that all climbers on the face should try, because it gives ascentionists a chance to see what Chimney Crag is all about. While the cliff looks like solid rock from the road, much of the face is actually a thin veneer of stone, detached except for the base from the mountain itself, and separated by a dark, roofless space known as a “chimney.”

A chimney in climbing parlance is generally a crack large enough to fit a body in. Many of these routes require “stemming” both walls, making a bridge with hands and feet and using opposing pressure to climb up. They can be some of the most physically demanding and intimidating routes, and climbers often emerge exhausted, with clothes ripped and bodies bloodied from the wrestling match with granite.

Pitchoff’s chimney is much more friendly. After a single pitch up the outside corner, climbers find themselves in its dark bowels, hidden from the view outside and clambering among a pile of broken boulders at its base. The second pitch is short but interesting. Rated 5.6 (fairly easy on the climbing rating scale), I found it somewhat intimidating and hard to figure out. It follows an overhanging crack up the chimney to a notch, where sunlight poured down from the outside world.

It was my turn to lead. I puzzled over the crack for a few minutes, and finally reached out to the other side and ascended the route in classic chimney fashion. Climbing chimneys can often feel sketchy, like you can fall at any moment, but thanks to a wall featured with indentations, this one was solid. It took a while, but eventually I went through the notch and found myself back in the world of sun and sky.

Joe and then Steve soon followed, each finding their own way to ascend the route, and agreeing it was more difficult than the rating suggested.

After rapelling back to the ground, we reorganized our gear and ascended Pete’s Farewell, a true Adirondack classic. This is a more traditional route that follows cracks and corners up the middle of the face. We were following a couple, and the lady — a French-Canadian named Myriam — was having trouble on the crux.

“Oh, my God,” she said repeatedly in heavily-accented English, before finally making the move with help from pulling on a piece of rock-climbing gear. It was clear we weren’t the only ones to be intimidated by the stout nature of Adirondack climbing.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adirondack Explorer’s ‘Adventure Planner’

The Adirondack Explorer has been publishing for more than eleven years. Our primary mission is to educate people about environmental issues facing the Adirondack Park, but as our readers know, we also have a strong interest in outdoor recreation.

Actually, it’s impossible to separate environmental issues from recreation. Many debates in the Adirondacks pit muscle-powered recreationists against advocates of motorized access.

The Explorer has run numerous stories that reflect the divide over motorized use. We’ve delved into such controversies as: Should all-terrain vehicles be allowed on the Forest Preserve? Should more waterways be declared motor-free? Should old woods roads be open to vehicles? Should the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor be converted into a bike path? Should floatplanes be allowed on wilderness lakes? Should tractor-groomers be allowed on snowmobile trails?

Although we always try to get both sides of every story, we cannot deny that we at the Explorer prefer non-motorized recreation as more environmentally friendly. This is not to say that motorized recreation does not have a place in the Park. The debates are over where motorized use is appropriate.

Every issue of the Explorer features several first-person accounts of muscle-powered recreation: hiking, paddling, cross-country skiing, rock climbing, biking, snowshoeing. We’ve published hundreds of such stories over the years, and they’ve proven quite popular with readers looking for new places to explore.

We’ve collected some of these stories in the anthologies Wild Excursions and Wild Times, but now we have begun putting them online as well, where you can read them for free.

The brand-new Adirondack Explorer Adventure Planner is a unique online resource that allows you to search for recreational stories by sport and region. If you select “Hiking,” for example, you will get a list of stories split among six regions in the Park. Select a particular region, say “Southern,” and you’ll see all the hiking stories for that part of the Park.

The Adventure Planner has been in the works for months, but we’re not done. Although it’s complete enough to show the public, we plan to add more content and features in the weeks, months, and years ahead. We also want to fix whatever bugs arise and make the site as useful and user-friendly as possible.

This is where the readers of Adirondack Almanack come in. Please visit the Adventure Planner and let us know what you think of the site and how we could improve it. You can post comments here or send an e-mail to me at [email protected]

Click here to visit the site. We look forward to hearing from you.

Photo: The Cedar River Flow by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorernewsmagazine.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Diane Chase Adirondack Family Activities: Inlet’s Rocky Mountain

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

Rocky Mountain is about the easiest climb I have had the pleasure to complete in a while. With a vertical rise of 450’ and just a half-mile to the top, not only do we get a chance to stretch our legs but an astounding view as well.

I love those types of climbs. Not every opportunity to get outside can be a full day event. Sometimes our schedule only permits a quick jaunt. Knowing where to find a family-friendly hike that satisfies all levels of hiker is worth putting on the list. Rocky Mountain is just such a hike.

Just south of Inlet we find the parking area with ease. We have an expert guide. We are visiting a friend from the area that knows exactly what my children need, a run up a mountain. The kids rush out of the car hardly waiting for it to be put into park. The register is signed and we are on our way.

It is an easy path. Even the damp ground and slick rocks do not impede our scramble up the wide rocky trail. A jogger and a family pass us on an outing. This trail is well used by visitors as well as locals but not overly crowded.

I hang toward the back nudging my daughter on as she stops every few steps to look for butterflies, bugs or perhaps, once again, mermaids. A few trees have started to turn color so we play a game to find the next tree that is putting on its autumn cloak. I have to remind her the goal is going up the mountain not into it. We need to stay on the trail. My son is just the opposite. He is focused on the summit.

We rarely have all sorts of time at the top to explore and soak in the view. Usually we have a quick look around and retreat due to time constraints. With this hike we can relax. Fourth Lake, McCauley Mountain to the west and Bald Mountain along the north are pointed out to us.

I sit in a quiet corner and just breathe while my kids play hopscotch in the soft earth. Later we rub out any marks to make sure that we leave the area exactly (or better) than we found it.

To access the trailhead drive about one mile south on Route 28 from downtown Inlet to the parking area for Rocky Mountain. The path is an easy one-mile round trip hike.

Photo of Fourth Lake from the summit of Rocky Mt © Diane Chase used with permission from Adirondack Family Time


photo and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 



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