Monday, June 28, 2010

Wilderness on the Raquette River:Should Motorboats Be Banned?

Ah, the ideal Adirondack day: sunny, mild, few people, no bugs. These circumstances aligned the other day when I paddled from Axton Landing to Raquette Falls.

The six-mile trip up the Raquette River is one of the more popular flatwater paddles in the Adirondacks. (Click here for a description and photos.) Meandering upriver, you see lovely silver maples overhanging grassy banks, kingfishers darting across the water, common mergansers with their young in train, inlets that lead to hidden marshes. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

APA Extends Comment Period For Jessup River UMP

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has extended the public comment period for the Jessup River Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) amendment. The APA will continue to accept public comments on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) compliance for the Jessup River Wild Forest unit management plan (UMP) amendment until August 2, 2010. A proposed final UMP amendment was completed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). It was subject to a series of public meetings and public input. The Agency will accept public comments on the proposals contained in the UMP amendment until 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010.

This amendment addresses changes to the Jessup River Wild Forest snowmobile trail system. Proposals are in accordance with DEC and APA adopted snowmobile trail guidance and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Jointly adopted guidance established a “community connector” snowmobile trail class. Community connector trails can be 9-feet in width which is one foot wider than previously allowed under DEC snowmobile trail maintenance policy. The new guidance also calls for the elimination of trails that lead onto ice-covered water bodies and dead-end trails while promoting snowmobile trails near the periphery of Wild Forest units.

The Jessup River Wild Forest lies in the south-central Adirondack Park. It sits entirely within Hamilton County in the Towns of Arietta, Wells, Indian Lake, Lake Pleasant and the Village of Speculator. The DEC estimates the size of the planning area at 47,350 acres. The area includes Snowy Mountain, the highest peak in the southern Adirondacks – elevation 3,899 feet, more than 24 ponds and lakes – the largest being Fawn Lake and approximately 73 miles of rivers including parts of the Cedar, Indian, Jessup, Miami and Sacandaga rivers.

The UMP amendment is available for viewing or downloading from the Adirondack Park Agency website.

All written comments pertaining to State Land Master Plan compliance should be addressed to:

Richard Weber, Assistant Director, Planning
Planning Division, Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977

Or e-mail: [email protected]

The Adirondack Park Agency Board is currently scheduled to consider a compliance determination on the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment at the August 12 and 13 Agency meeting. Any written comments received by 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010 will become part of the public record. Written comments received after 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010, will be provided to Agency Board members on meeting day but will not be part of the Agency meeting materials mailed to the members or posted on the APA website.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Northern Forest Canoe Trail Event Has 740-Mile Goal

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2010, and is hosting an international paddling challenge as part of its anniversary festivities.

On Saturday, July 24, kayakers and canoeists paddling on any waterway of the 740-mile trail can contribute to “740 Miles in One Day,” with the goal to paddle the total mileage of the trail between sunrise and 5:00 p.m. on that day. Pre-registration for the free event is open at the event website.

“This event is a great excuse for families or a group of friends to get out on a lake, river or pond along the Trail and be a part of our fun anniversary celebration weekend,” said NFCT Executive Director Kate Williams.

Jen Lamphere running the Saranac by Mike PrescottMiles will be counted per person, not per boat, so you don’t have to be a serious paddler to have a big impact. A canoe with three people making a 5-mile trip will translate to 15 miles toward the goal. Participating paddlers will report their mileage to the designated email address [email protected] or by calling or texting 802-279-8302. Photos and videos of paddler’s experiences can be uploaded on the event website.

Visit northernforestcanoetrail.org/ to see the 13 mapped sections of the water trail in New York, Vermont, southern Québec, New Hampshire and Maine. Choose a portion of the trail close to home or take a road trip to a far off destination. People paddling from Vermont into Canada or from Canada into Vermont should have a passport to show at border patrol stations.

The “740 Miles in One Day” event is part of NFCT’s 10th Anniversary Paddler’s Rendezvous taking place July 24-25 in Rangeley, Maine. There will be a hosted paddle station set up on Haley Pond in Rangeley from noon to 4:00 p.m. on the 24th to give anniversary celebrants an easy way to contribute to the 740-mile goal.

The total miles paddled will be announced during a Saturday evening anniversary party and dinner at Saddleback Maine resort.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (June 24)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: Low
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.

Weather
Friday: Sunny, with a high near 71.
Friday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 50.
Saturday: Scattered showers, then thunderstorms likely, a high near 67.
Saturday Night: Showers and thunderstorms likely.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 72.

Biting Insects
“Bug Season” has begun in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibilty 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.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. 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.

Rainy Weather: Due to significant recent rainfalls, trails have mud and/or puddles in many locations. Hikers are advised to wear appropriate footwear and to stay on the trail – hike through muddy areas and puddles to avoid widening the trails or creating “herd paths” around those areas. The rains have also raised the water levels of many streams – particularly during and immediately following storm events – low water crossings may not be accessible.

Blowdowns: Due to recent storms and high winds blowdown may be found on trails, particularly infrequently used side trails. Blowdown may be heavy enough in some places to impede travel.

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; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

The Raquette River Boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, although the floating docks are not expected to be installed until mid-July. The canoe and kayak launch area is not yet open but paddlers can launch at the ramp until that area reopens as well.

New York State Free Fishing Days are this weekend. No license is required to fish the state’s waters on Saturday and Sunday. DEC’s other fishing rules and regulations remain in effect.

Santanoni Historic Preserve: Part of the stone bridge on the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni has collapsed in recent rains. Hikers and bikers can still pass, but horse trailers can not. DEC is working with the Town of Newcomb to repair the bridge, in the meantime use caution when crossing the bridge.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) is open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

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.

Rock Climbing Route Closures: Peregrine falcon nesting activity has closed a number of Adirondack climbing routes including The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain, the Upper Washbowl on Giant Mountain, and Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch. A complete list of closed routes can be found online.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has a lot of blowdown. Also beavers have flooded a section of trail about half way between the ponds. A significant amount of bushwhacking will be needed to get through the carry, so be prepared for a real wilderness experience.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

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 Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also 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.

High Peaks/VanHovenburg Trail: The High Water Bridge has reopened.

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.

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

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, June 23, 2010

DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (May-June 2010)

What follows is the May and June Forest Ranger Activity Report for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. These reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date. You can read previous Forest Ranger Reports here.


Essex County

Town of Jay, Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area

On Saturday, April 24, 2010, at approximately 3:54 pm, State Police Dispatch received a call reporting a hiker on the Lost Pond side of Weston Mountain who was vomiting, had a severe headache and was unable to walk. Joe Demer, 23 of Amsterdam, NY, was hiking with a group of friends and reportedly had had nothing to eat or drink all day. DEC Forest Rangers responded and requested assistance from State Police Aviation and BackCountry Medical. When forest rangers located Mr. Demer and his party they provided him water and energy food. His condition improved and forest rangers cancelled the aviation and backcountry medical assistance. Eventually, Mr. Demer’s condition improved enough for him to walk. Forest rangers escorted him and his party out to the trailhead. Mr. Demer refused further medical treatment and was released to his friends at 8:00 pm. DEC Forest Rangers remind hikers to carry and consume plenty of food and water while hiking. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

High Peak Hiking: Four Slides in One Day

Many Adirondack hikers go on to explore the many slides of the High Peaks after hiking trails for many years. Slides create a direct approach to the top, combining bushwhacking, easy rock climbing and a sense of adventure.

Then there’s Kevin “MudRat” MacKenzie of Lake Placid, who has taken slide-climbing to a new extreme.

Call it slide-bagging. And recently he got four of them in one day.

About a week ago MacKenzie, 40, an assistant registrar at St. Lawrence University, climbed Giant Mountain — the popular High Peak off Route 73 in Keene Valley. He climbed it, descended it, climbed it and descended it, by himself, going up and down four adjacent slides on the prominent west face.

“I was going to do everything on the west face,” he reported later. “So I put together four of them.”

Every slide was different, he said. Every slide had its own character.

Starting his hike around 7 a.m., he hiked the Roaring Brook Trail to a bushwhack that follows drainages to the base of the Bottle Slide, one of a number of bare areas created from landslides years ago.

He describes the slide as one of his favorites, with waves of anorthosite, plenty of cracks and ledges to climb and a pitch of around 39 degrees (he figures this out at home using topographic software.

From there, he descended the Diagonal Slide, which is steeper and covered with algae, making for a nerve-racking descent. “You can’t see what you’re stepping onto,” he said.

At the bottom of the mountain’s headwall, he traversed to the Question Mark Slide, an obscure route that’s steep, overgrown and covered with wet moss. That took two hours, including a lot of bushwhacking through the trees to avoid the perilous, 45-degree wet bits.

Finally reaching the summit at 1 p.m., he was exhausted and decided to pass on hiking Giant’s most well-known slide, the majestic Eagle Slide (the wide and obvious bare section visible from Keene Valley). Instead, he walked down the 600-foot-high Tulip Slide and decided to call it a day.

MacKenzie says he’s done about 30 slides so far, and hopes to one day climb all 100 major slides in the peaks. His next area: Dix, with its dozens of slides, which he plans to attack in a weekend camping trip in the near future.

Readers: What are your favorite slide routes and why?

 


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (June 17)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: Low
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.

Weather
Friday: Sunny, with a high near 82.
Friday Night: Clear, with a low around 48.
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 88.
Saturday Night: Showers and thunderstorms likely; low around 57.
Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, highs near 75.

Biting Insects
“Bug Season” has begun in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibilty 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.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. 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.

Rainy Weather: Due to significant recent rainfalls, trails have mud and/or puddles in many locations. Hikers are advised to wear appropriate footwear and to stay on the trail – hike through muddy areas and puddles to avoid widening the trails or creating “herd paths” around those areas. The rains have also raised the water levels of many streams – particularly during and immediately following storm events – low water crossings may not be accessible.

Blowdowns: Due to recent storms and high winds blowdown may be found on trails, particularly infrequently used side trails. Blowdown may be heavy enough in some places to impede travel.

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; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

Lake George: There will be two parades down Canada Street from Lake George High School to Fort William Henry on Friday evening and again on Saturday afternoon during the 120th Annual Hudson Valley Volunteer Fireman’s Association Convention.

Giant Mountain Wilderness: The sixth annual Great Adirondack Trail Run will take place on Saturday in Keene Valley. Expect heavy use by trail runners between the Route 9N Trailhead / Owl’s Head Lookout area, Hopkins Mountain, and the Mountaineer on Route 73.

Santanoni Historic Preserve: Part of the stone bridge on the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni has collapsed in recent rains. Hikers and bikers can still pass, but horse trailers can not. DEC is working with the Town of Newcomb to repair the bridge, in the meantime use caution when crossing the bridge.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) is open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

Raquette River Boat Launch: The Raquette River Boat Launch along State Route 3 is closed at this time as DEC is rehabilitating the boat launch. See the press release for more information. It is expected to reopen in mid-June.

Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: A peregrine falcon nest has been confirmed on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain. All rock climbing routes including and between Garter and Mogster, are closed. All other rock climbing routes are open beginning May 12.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has a lot of blowdown. Also beavers have flooded a section of trail about half way between the ponds. A significant amount of bushwhacking will be needed to get through the carry, so be prepared for a real wilderness experience.

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.

Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also 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.

High Peaks/VanHovenburg Trail: The High Water Bridge is expected to be reinstalled and open on Friday.

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.

Wilmington Wild Forest: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch are closed due to possible peregrine falcon nesting activity.

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

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, June 17, 2010

Phil Brown: Paddling Another Posted River

Over the past year, the Adirondack Explorer has published several stories on paddlers’ rights, including an account of a canoe trip on Shingle Shanty Brook through posted lands. As you can see from this earlier post on Adirondack Almanack, not everyone applauds our work.

We hope the stories will spur the state to clarify the legal status of Adirondack rivers. For the July/August issue of the Explorer, I paddled the Beaver River from Lake Lila to Stillwater, another stretch of river that passes through posted land. Click here to read the story.

The Beaver is shallower than Shingle Shanty, with many shoals and rapids. As a result, I had to get out of my canoe on several occasions to carry around obstacles or free the boat from rocks. I imagine the river would be even more boney in midsummer.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not “navigable-in-fact,” a legal phrase that describes waterways open to the public under the common-law right of navigation. The experts I spoke with said courts recognize that paddling sometimes requires portaging or lining a boat and that a river may not be navigable year-round. And the time I spent portaging or lining accounted for just a small fraction of the journey.

I’ll mention two other points in favor of the argument that the Beaver is navigable-in-fact.

First, this stretch of the Beaver connects two popular canoe-camping destinations in the public Forest Preserve. Thus, it is part of a canoe route from Lake Lila to Stillwater. Moreover, you could extend the route on both ends to create a multiday canoe expedition. You could start in Old Forge or Saranac Lake and paddle to Lila, thence to Stillwater, and then continue down the Beaver below Stillwater. If you’re looking at a hundred-mile trip, a few sections of shoals and rapids are not that daunting.

Second, the Beaver was used to float logs in the nineteenth century—which is evidence of the river’s navigability. Coincidentally, a week before my trip I received a letter from George Locker, a New York City attorney who canoed the Beaver a few years ago. In his historical researches, Locker found that William Seward Webb—the ancestor of the current landowners—asserted in 1893 that the Beaver was “a natural highway” for transporting logs.

“If the original Webb told a New York court in 1893 that the Beaver River was his commercial highway beginning at Lake Lila, then it is a settled matter that the Beaver River is navigable-in-fact and accessible to the public, no matter what any subsequent owner (Webb or not) may claim,” Locker wrote us.

Nevertheless, the landowner I spoke with contends the public is not allowed on the river.

Apart from the rapids and shoals, the legal ambiguity is probably enough to deter most paddlers from traveling down the Beaver.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is talking with the owners of Shingle Shanty Brook. Let’s hope this will result in public access. Perhaps the department could talk to the Beaver’s landowners next.

Photo by Susan Bibeau: Phil Brown on the Beaver River shortly before crossing into private property.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Safe Paddling Alternatives on Lake George

Two recent paddling fatalities on Lake George show that the Adirondacks’ most crowded lake may not be the safest place to take a canoe or kayak.

On May 31, Stephen Canaday drowned only a few yards from shore when hie canoe was capsized by the wake of a passing boat. On June 9, Peter Snyder of Troy was run over by another power boat while in his kayak on the lake. His neck was broken, but the cause of death was ruled drowning. Neither men wore life preservers.

Even on low traffic days Lake George is not necessarily a friendly place for paddlers — strong winds often blow through the channel between the mountains, causing tough headwinds and choppy waters.

Still, one can see the appeal. Lake George is truly a highlight of the park, with its clear waters surrounded by high peaks, and its dozens of islands just begging to be camped on. So if you must paddle here, do it wisely.

The first plan to avoid traffic is to avoid the summer. Spring and fall are terrific times to come, especially in October when the foliage is at its peak. I’ve on the lake several times after September, and we always had it to ourselves. Islands in the Narrows that are chockablock with campers in the summer are nearly deserted in the fall.

Another plan is to avoid high traffic areas — and that means any spot south of Bolton Landing. Both deaths this year occurred in this busy zone.

The Narrows, located between Tongue Mountain to the west and Shelving Rock and Black Mountain to the east, is another high-traffic area. But with all the islands there it’s possible to choose a narrow path between land masses that will avoid the main channels.

Other ideas would be to launch in places other than Bolton Landing or further south. Northwest Bay, which is accessible via a parking lot near Tongue Mountain on Route 9N (a few miles north of Bolton Landing), offers a terrific paddle. First you glide through a narrow channel filled with wildlife. Eventually, you exit onto the bay, but because this is a nautical cul-de-sac, it gets very little boat traffic compared to the rest of the lake. You can paddle all the way out to the point of the Tongue peninsula and see very few boats.

The remote, quiet Huletts Landing on the lake’s east shore also provides a nice way to visit some of the lesser-known islands north of the Narrows. It’s also right near Black Mountain, one of the best peaks to hike on the lake (accessible from the road or the water).

Finally, the far north has some nice spots that are a little quieter. If you put a boat in at Roger’s Rock State Park, you can enjoy a view of the lake’s biggest cliff (and maybe even see some rock climbers on its slabby face). Or launch from the Baldwin Road dock in Ticonderoga to explore the rarely-visited northern tip of the lake.

Whatever you do, remember to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Power boaters don’t see canoes and kayaks as easily as paddlers see them. And remember to wear those life preservers.

* * *

Photos by Lori Van Buren of Albany.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Short History of the Moose River Plains

The Moose River Plains Wild Forest, sitting between Route 28 and the West Canada Lake Wilderness in Hamilton and Herkimer counties, is a bit of an Adirondack political and natural history wonder.

The gravelly, flat, grassy “plains” of the Moose and Red Rivers are a significant contrast to the rest of the Adirondack Park and one of it’s more unique (and popular) features. Although it’s hard to know for sure, indications from various studies and permit requests suggest that about 50,000 people use the plains each year (not including the some 500 campsites bordering the area, and the incidental use generated by those in the hamlets of Inlet, Raquette Lake and Indian Lake). “The Plains,” as the area is known, was also the site of one of the region’s legendary environmental conservation fights of the last 100 years. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Tourism Officials Optimistic Heading Into Summer

The Adirondack region relies heavily on tourism to support local economies – and if early returns are any indication, there’s good reason to be optimistic as the summer season begins picking up.

Two reports released in recent weeks show more people are packing their bags and heading out for mini-vacations – a good sign for hoteliers and restaurant owners in popular destinations like Lake Placid and Lake George.

The first report came from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Numbers for Memorial Day weekend this year showed a 17 percent increase in attendance over last year – and that’s with 41 parks opening at the last minute due to the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

The second report – a survey conducted by the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association – backs up the state’s numbers. NYSHTA is a not-for-profit trade organization representing some 1,300 businesses in the lodging and attractions industry. The survey found that 70 percent of hotel managers and lodging owners reported better business this year for Memorial Day weekend than in 2009.

Kim Rielly of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) says more people are taking unplanned vacations this year.

“These reports are consistent with our findings,” she said. “We’re looking forward to a good year, because there’s pent-up demand. People haven’t been traveling as much due to the economic downturn.”

Rielly also notes that recent negative press for the airline industry (see: volcanic ash and strikes) has more people looking for drive-to destinations.

“That’s the Adirondacks,” she said.

“Our proximity to millions of people in the New York metro area and the Montreal area works to our advantage,” Rielly added.

Rielly says that in Essex County, occupancy rates are already up over last year.

“And, from what we’re hearing from the area lodging industry, people are making a lot of last-minute travel plans,” she said. “Consumer confidence seems to be up, so we’re optimistic.”

Now for the part that may – no pun intended – dampen some of that optimism:

The weather.

The warm temperatures throughout the Adirondack and North Country regions in April and May flirted with the record books on several occasions. And, of course, most travelers to the area are here for outdoor activities.

“I was on my bicycle in February,” Rielly quipped. “But in all seriousness, we’ve been blessed with some fantastic weather. That’s absolutely going to play into that last-minute decision making and hopefully it will continue into the summer.”


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (June 10)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: LOW

Motorcycle Awareness
Warrensburg Bike Week and Lake George’s Americade will draw a large number of motorcyclists to Northern Warren County roadways and heavy traffic in the villages of Warrensburg and Lake George.

Weather
Friday: Partly sunny, with a high near 67.
Friday Night: Chance of showers, low around 46.
Saturday: Mostly cloudy, chance of showers / thunderstorms. High near 68.
Saturday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Cloudy, low around 56.
Sunday: Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Cloudy, high near 70.

Biting Insects
“Bug Season” has begun in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibilty 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.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. 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.

Blowdowns: Due to recent storms and high winds blowdown may be found on trails, particularly infrequently used side trails. Blowdown may be heavy enough in some places to impede travel.

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; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

Black Fly Challenge Bike Race: The 15th running of the Black Fly Challenge bicycle race will be held on Saturday. Affected roads between Inlet and Indian Lake include Routes 30 and 28, Cedar River Road, Limekiln Road in the Moose River Plains, and Otter Brook Road in Inlet.

Lake Placid: The 2nd Annual Lake Placid Adaptive Cycling Festival will take place in Lake Placid on Saturday, and will include a number of large group rides leaving the ORDA Ski Jumping Complex on Route 73.

Santanoni Historic Preserve: Part of the stone bridge on the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni has collapsed in recent rains. Hikers and bikers can still pass, but horse trailers can not. DEC is working with the Town of Newcomb to repair the bridge, in the meantime use caution when crossing the bridge.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) is open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

Raquette River Boat Launch: The Raquette River Boat Launch along State Route 3 is closed at this time as DEC is rehabilitating the boat launch. See the press release for more information. It is expected to reopen in mid-June.

Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: A peregrine falcon nest has been confirmed on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain. All rock climbing routes including and between Garter and Mogster, are closed. All other rock climbing routes are open beginning May 12.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has a lot of blowdown. Also beavers have flooded a section of trail about half way between the ponds. A significant amount of bushwhacking will be needed to get through the carry, so be prepared for a real wilderness experience.

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.

Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also 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.

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.

Wilmington Wild Forest: All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in the Wilmington Notch are closed due to possible peregrine falcon nesting activity.

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

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, June 10, 2010

Federal Regulators Stall on Providing Access to Ausable Chasm

After winning an important legal battle and a decade of waiting, paddlers expecting to finally be allowed access to one of the most intense whitewater opportunities in the Adirondacks are still waiting. This time for regulators to send a simple letter.

After the lengthy battle that pitted paddlers against the state’s energy monopoly, federal energy regulators, and private landowners, a year ago the Almanack reported that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)issued an order requiring New York State Electric & Gas Corporation (NYSEG) to permit access to the Ausable Chasm across its Rainbow Falls hydroelectric facility. The hydro dam is just upstream of the point where the Ausable River flows into Ausable Chasm, from there expert paddlers (many sections are Class IV, one route is Class V) could make their way the nearly three miles downstream through Ausable Chasm to the bridge at Route 9. Both banks of the river downstream to the take-out at Route 9 are private property, including portions owned by the popular tourist attraction.

The original order was appealed to FERC by NYSEG (and others), but upheld in September of last year. The standing order required NYSEG to develop a whitewater access plan from the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend through the end of October and required NYSEG to consult with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation (OPRHP), American Whitewater, and the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) in the development of the plan.

With the help of its required partners NYSEG developed the plan [pdf] and submitted it to FERC in late November, but memorial Day has come and gone and the 4-foot-wide, 7-foot-high, galvanized steel pedestrian gate that was to provide access to the river has remained closed. NYSEG refuses to open the gate until it receives a letter accepting the plan and formally requiring them to grant public access.

American Whitewater (AW) has asked FERC to approve the whitewater access plan for the Rainbow Falls Project (Project # 2835), but received no response. AW is now asking paddlers send FERC a comment requesting access to the right away.

What Paddlers Are Missing

According to NYSEG’s plan, the gate will be open from sunrise to sunset from the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend through October 31; gate will be locked during the rest of the year.

Those who wanting to scout the river from above will need to use the Ausable Chasm Company’s private trails (their fees apply). Flow information is available via the USGS Ausable River stream gauge.

What follows is a description of the key feature provided by the NYSEG plan, and a response by the Almanack‘s own Don Morris about the safety of the route.

Key Features

All river descriptions and classifications are user-generated estimates based on limited
experiences at limited flows (173-576 cfs). All features have the potential to change.

Horseshoe Falls (III/IV): Visible from the Route 9 bridge, Horseshoe Falls consists of U-shaped,8-foot-high vertical ledge/waterfall followed by large eddies.

Unnamed Rapid (III): Immediately below Horseshoe Falls is a short rapid containing a several waves ending in a pool.

Diagonal Slide (III/IV): A long low angle slide with a diagonal wave stretching across it serves as the lead in to Devil’ s Oven.

Devil’s Oven (IV left line, IVN right line): The left channel, accessible at moderate and high flows, is a twisting series of small drops and waves. The river-right channel is a more challenging vertical drop of 6-8 feet with a steep entrance.

Unnamed Rapid (IV): A series of breaking waves terminating in a cliff wall at the base of the rapid. Paddlers have paddled left to follow the river, or eddied out to the right of the cliff wall and then ferried across the current to continue downstream.

Mike’s Hole (IV): Mike’s Hole consists of a series of waves and holes leading to a narrow constriction containing a final hydraulic. The rock wall on the river right side of the final hydraulic may be undercut. Submerged remnants of an old steel bridge are located in and at the base of the rapid and may pose a hazard to boaters. Portaging or scouting this rapid at river level is extremely difficult or impossible.

Table Rock (II): This rapid is characterized as a small wave train.

Concrete Wall (II): Concrete walls constrict the river and several pieces of an old steel bridge are submerged.

Whirlpool (II): Includes rapids and a large eddy where the river makes a sharp 90-degree righthand bend.

Below Ausable Chasm (I): Between Whirlpool and the Route 9 Bridge, the river is wide and
shallow and provides limited whitewater challenge.

Safety Concerns

Last year, Don Morris responded to concerns that the route was too dangerous. Here is what he wrote:

To me, safety is a relative term and absolute statements about safety are not appropriate. Safety is related to the skill of the paddler, the paddler’s judgment, water levels, and river features. I ran the Chasm at about 600 cfs as part of a feasibility study. It was a Class 4 run at this level and no one had any problems with the run as far as I know. At 600 cfs the river is safe for competent Class 4 boaters. In my opinion, people with only Class 3 skills should not be on this section at this level, though could probably paddle it safely at lower flows. At some point the Chasm becomes too high. I’ve heard people guess that 500-800 cfs is a good range and at least one paddler (who is better than I am) has guessed that 1,000 cfs is all he would ever want to tackle. Many Class 4-5 paddlers have done harder runs than this and have been in remote gorges where it would be even more difficult to get someone out. At 600 cfs, the biggest hazard in the Chasm is man-made: a large I-beam above Mike’s Hole. At higher water I suspect Mike’s Hole would be a bigger hazard. Bottom line–I think this is a safe run for competent paddlers at moderate flows. Strong intermediates could probably do fine at minimal flows and more extreme paddlers could paddle it safely at higher flows, but it’s up to them to decide what they can handle based on their skill and judgment.

Take a look at this video of a paddler running this section in 2006.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A NYC School Group Gets a Taste of the Wild

The group of students was heading to Lake George for a barbecue, and then rafting on the Hudson River. But before that, I had volunteered to take them caving near Albany.

It was the second year I would guide a group from this school. But these kids had never been in a cave before. Nor had they been to the Adirondacks.

They were a group of nine Orthodox high-school students from Brooklyn, led by a rabbi who was a friend of a friend. The boys were a combination street-tough wise guys and Yeshiva-trained scholars. Which meant they asked a lot of questions and they wanted the answer now.

When I met them at a local rock-climbing gym and introduced myself as their guide, the first one I met said: “About time. This place sucks.”

Not a patient crowd. But at least open-minded. When we arrived at the parking lot for the cave, they milled about, asking me questions: How wet would they get? How dark was it? Could they wear Crocs? Should they bring their cell phones? Should they wear a jacket?

And what about after the caving trip? Had I ever rafted the Hudson River before? Was it dangerous? Could they fall out of the boat? How deep was the water? I tried to keep up.

One kid pulled me aside: “Do we have to go through a deep section? How deep is it? I don’t want to go. Can I go a different way?”

Their comments continued as we began our descent, crawling through the entrance hole and tramping through ankle-deep running water. They turned to screams as they felt the cold water enter their shoes. “My feet are wet!” “Watch your head!” “My flashlight is broken!” “Hurry up!” “Wait up!”

Eventually, we reached the end of the passage, at a small underground pond. There Rabbi Fischer asked everyone to turn off their flashlights and be quiet. It took a while, for teen-age boys don’t like darkness and don’t like silence, and tend to fill it with light or noise.

Eventually, though, they settled down, and the rabbi spoke. “I want you to think about where we are,” he said, to the sound of dripping water. “I want you to think about the fact that we could only be here, in this amazing place, because we did this together, as a group. In September, we didn’t know each other, and today — I mean this sincerely — each one of you has a place in my heart.”

There was silence for a moment, and then one boy spoke up: “You guys are like family to me.”

They talked some more, and then it was time to go back to the van. Each boy shook my hand and thanked me for helping to give them such a great experience.

The rabbi took me aside. “The group you took last year? They talked about that caving trip for months. They still talk about it. This is something they’ll keep with them the rest of their lives.”

I thought about that, and the power of wilderness. The kids reacted to this new situation with the only tool that teen-age boys have — big talk, questions, audacity, brashness. They used loud talk to cover up their fear, but they did what was asked of them and came out smiling, if a little wet and muddy.

And tomorrow, when asked for the first time in their lives to step into a rubber raft and paddle down the Hudson River, they would probably be the same way. Perhaps their guide would be annoyed, or perhaps merely amused.

Either way, they would take a little taste of the wilderness back with them to the city, and keep it for the rest of their lives.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Commentary: On Roads and DEC Conspiracies

I guess the conspiracy theorists were wrong.

When the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced it would not open the dirt roads in the Moose River Plains Recreation Area, some in the blogosphere suggested that DEC was using the state’s fiscal crisis as an excuse to cut off motorized access to the Plains. Supposedly, DEC was in cahoots with environmental groups.

Of course, DEC has since announced that it will open most of the roads after all. It agreed to do so after local communities offered to share in the expense of maintaining the roads.

I do find it curious, though, that the DEC will keep closed the Indian Lake Road, which forms the border between the Moose River Plains Wild Forest and the West Canada Lake Wilderness.

Several years ago, I attended a meeting at which DEC discussed a proposal to close this five-mile road permanently to motor vehicles. The rationale for the closure was that it would safeguard the West Canada Lake Wilderness against motorized incursions and the negative impacts of overuse along the border.

Interestingly, DEC argued that the closure would be a boon for floatplane operators as it would make Indian Lake, which is located at the end of the road, an attractive destination for their customers. As long as people can drive to the lake, it makes no sense to fly there.

I need to clarify that we’re not referring to the big Indian Lake associated with the hamlet of the same name. The Indian Lake in the Moose River Plains is an eighty-two-acre water body on the edge of the West Canada Lake Wilderness Area. It once held brook trout, but acid rain killed most of the fish. DEC’s intention is to restock it with trout once the lake’s pH improves.

I don’t know what became of DEC’s proposal, but it seems like a good idea. A few years ago, I visited Indian Lake during a four-day backpacking trip from Forestport to Lewey Lake. Indian is a beautiful, wild lake, but its shoreline has been damaged by overuse. By closing the road, DEC would be limiting use and keeping out most of the litterbugs. In time, Indian Lake would recover its pristine appearance.

Incidentally, the purpose of my backpacking trip was to trace part of the proposed route of the North Country National Scenic Trail. When finished, this trail will stretch 4,600 miles from North Dakota to Crown Point. The trudge along Indian Lake Road was the most boring part of my trek. This section of the Scenic Trail would be more appealing if it were allowed to revert to a motorless pathway.

No doubt some people would oppose closing Indian Lake Road. If you’re one of them, let us know your thoughts.

Whatever you think of the proposal, it shows that DEC recognizes that environmental groups are not its only constituency. In this instance, the department was looking out for the interests of floatplane operators—just as it did during the controversy over Lows Lake.

Yes, DEC listens to environmentalists, but it also listens to pilots, hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers, business owners, and the list goes on. The department can’t please everyone all the time, least of all conspiracy theorists.

Photo of Indian Lake Road by Phil Brown.



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