Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cross-Country Ski Centers of the Adirondacks

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

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

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

Garnet Hill Lodge, North River, 55 kilometers of trails

Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center, Northville, 38 km

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

Cascade Ski Touring Center, Lake Placid, 20 km

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

Whiteface Club and Resort, Lake Placid, 15 km

Lake Placid Crown Plaza Resort, 25 km

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

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

Time to bookmark the snow-depth map!

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


Monday, November 16, 2009

Noah Rondeau: A Day in His Woods

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


Friday, November 13, 2009

APA Reverses Lows Lake Wilderness Vote

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


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mount Marcy A Safer Ski This Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sea Serpents in the Adirondacks? You Bet!

Scandinavian folklore has described eskers as being formed by large sea serpents crawling inland to die. Celtic lore describes eskers as being formed by monks carrying baskets of sand inland from the sea as a form of penitence. What are eskers?

They’re glacial features that kind of look like an up side-down riverbed. As a glacier retreats, it leaves behind outwash deposits of sand, gravel, and stone that may form long, interrupted, undulating ridges. Sometimes, just like a river, they branch off and there may be two or three in a roughly parallel arrangement. Colloquially, they have been called horsebacks, hogbacks, serpent ridges, and sand dunes.

Luckily, these interesting features are commonly encountered while paddling (and carrying) in the Adirondacks. Most Adirondack eskers run in a NE to SW arc, starting near the N. Br. of the Saranac and extending to Stillwater Reservoir, with the highest concentration within the combined St. Regis/Saranac basin. Others are found in the drainages of West Canada Creek and the Schroon, Moose, Hudson, and Cedar Rivers. The Rainbow Lake esker bisects that lake; A. F. Buddington, an early geologist, says this is one of the finer examples of an esker and considers it to extend (in a discontinuous manner) for 85 miles.

There is a long discontinuous esker from Mountain Pond through Keese Mill, passing between Upper St. Regis Lake and the Spectacle Ponds, and continuing to Ochre, Fish, and Lydia Ponds in the St. Regis Canoe Area. Other very interesting eskers are found on the lower Osgood, at Massawepie Lake (you drive on the esker to get to this lake), near Hitchins Pond on the Bog River/Lows Lake trip, and along the Saranac River near its namesake village. An esker in the Five Ponds Wilderness can be paddled to (though is usually hiked to). It bisects theses ponds and, at 150 feet high, is among the tallest.

Examples of twin or double eskers are those at Rainbow and Massawepie Lakes and there are triple ridges near Jenkins Mountain and Cranberry Lake. Eskers make for great hikes. They generally support tall stands of white pines. You can often see related glacial features such as kames, kettle holes, and kettle ponds. If you’re lucky, you might also find some sea serpent scales. If you can’t find these, put on your penitent face and bring along a basket of ocean sand on your next paddling trip.

Map of the Rainbow Lake esker (to come) by A. F. Buddington, 1939-1941. Esker ridges are indicated by yellow shading. Source: Geology of the Saranac Quadrangle, New York, a 1953 New York State Museum bulletin (# 346)


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nate Pelton, Almanack’s Guest Adirondack Music Contributor

Our regular Adirondack Music Scene contributor Shamim Allen is over in Europe for the next six weeks, so North Creek’s Nate Pelton has graciously accepted the role of guest contributor while Shamim’s gone. I’ve been trying to get Nate to contribute for some time – he knows the music scene in the southern and eastern Adirondacks well, and would be an outstanding addition to our music coverage here at the Almanack, which tends to focus on the northern and western parts of the region. It’s my hope, this short foray into the world of the Almanack will become a permanent feature, but we’ll have to wait and see. Like most of us around these parts, Nate has a lot of irons in the fire.

After more than ten years as a raft guide and manager at Hudson River Rafting Company, Nate and his wife established the North Creek Rafting Company in 2006. During the “other” North Creek season, Nate is a trail groomer at Gore Mountain and runs the North Creek Tuning Shop. Nate also does web design and development as Grateful Design, and is the man behind ADK Music Event Production. Nate has been handling the arrangements for North Creek’s Music by the River concert series.

Nate has dabbled in a variety of music styles. He says the first concert he can remember attending was Michael Jackson’s 1988 Bad tour with parents and sister. Nate has since seen such legendary bands as The Who, The Rolling Stones, Supertramp, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John. He’s seen about 40 Grateful Dead shows in the early 1990s, and also wouldn’t miss a chance to see South Catherine Street Jug Band, Donna the Buffalo, or Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.

Please join me in welcoming Nate.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Adirondack Ski Resorts: What To Expect Around The Region

Downhill skiing and riding in the Adirondacks could begin as early as November 27 at both Whiteface and Gore mountains, if freezing conditions allow for making snow this month. But the biggest news in snow sports this winter is the return of two long dormant ski areas (reported here at the Almanack last month), Hickory Ski Center and Big Tupper.

Hickory Ski Center, a 1,200-foot resort for expert skiers outside Warrensburg, will reopen this winter for the first time in four years. The legendary Adirondack slope has only a dozen trails, mostly black diamond, and a T-bar and two Poma lifts (famous for breaking down regularly). But the sixty-year-old resort is beloved by hundreds of hard-core skiers. Last year, William Van Pelt, a Saratoga native who now lives in Houston, decided to invest in the property. He’s added some snowmaking and plans to add grooming. Visitors can expect the usual old-fashioned atmosphere of a tiny resort, combined with a few nods to the 21st Century – such as WiFi in the homey base lodge, and a $45 lift ticket.

Meanwhile, in Tupper Lake efforts are under way to open the long-dormant Big Tupper Ski Area. The resort, with about 30 trails and more than a thousand feet of vertical, closed around a decade ago. More recently, developers included the resort in the massive Adirondack Club and Resort, a plan for 600 high-end vacation homes and a hotel. But with the controversial project held up in the permitting process, some locals under the name ARISE, or Area Residents Intent on Saving their Economy, pushed to open at least part of the ski resort on their own this year. According to the web site, lift tickets will be a mind-blowing $15, although that’s subject to change. Plans are to open the resort Dec. 26 on Friday-Sunday as natural snow permits.

Further to the south, McCauley Mountain in Old Forge plans to open on December 12th and another troubled ski resort, Oak Mountain in Speculator, will open the day after Christmas (though tubing begins a month earlier). Oak Mountain, run by the Germain family for five decades, was taken over by the village three years ago. Now owned by the local Industrial Development Agency, the resort is staffed mostly by volunteers. The IDA still hopes to sell it to a private operator – asking price two years ago was $2.4 million. It’s a terrible market now, admits Mayor Neil McGovern. “But a tremendous value.”

Adirondack Ski Resort Details:

Gore Mountain, North Creek
Phone: 518-251-2411
Cost for adult: $71 weekend/$64 weekday
Vertical drop: 2,300 feet
Trails: 82

Best deal: Coke Wednesdays ($38 lift ticket with a can).

What’s new: Gore’s Burnt Ridge opened last year to mixed reviews (their chairlift can be awfully windy and the base lodge access trail is rather flat and tough for snowboarders) — but new terrain is always welcome. This year, the mountain has expanded its Cirque Glade trail and will be running a shuttle bus from the North Creek Ski Bowl to the resort (which means adventurous skiers can ski from the Gore summit all the way down to the bowl, and then catch a ride back). It’s a prequel to an interconnect between the two areas that should be open next winter, and which will vastly increase Gore’s vertical drop.

“Whiteface Mountain”, Wilmington
Phone: (877) SKI-FACE
Cost: $74/ $74 ($79 on holidays)
Vertical drop: 3,200 feet
Trails: 80

Best deal: Same as Gore, plus $35 Sundays on Dec. 13, Jan. 10, Feb. 7, March 14 and April 4.

What’s new: Lookout Mountain, open for the second year this winter, will have a new glades area. Look for the National Alpine Championships, here for the first time sine 2003, from March 20 to 23, with men’s and women’s slalom, giant slalom and super G competition.

McCauley Mountain, Old Forge
Phone: (315) 369-3225
Vertical drop: 633 feet (count ‘em)
Trails: 21

Best deal: $8 lift tickets on Friday, except holiday periods.

Oak Mountain, Speculator
Phone: 518-548-3606
Cost: $28
Vertical drop: 600 feet
Trails: about a dozen

Best deal: what, $28 for a lift ticket isn’t good enough?

What’s new: they’re still open.

Hickory Ski Area, Warrensburg
Phone: 518-623-5754
Cost: $45 (open weekends only)
Vertical drop: 1,200
Trails: A dozen, nearly all hard

Best deal: If it snows on a weekday, you’ve got fresh powder on Saturday.

What’s new: Open again after four years!

Big Tupper Ski Area, Tupper Lake
Cost: $15!!
Vertical drop: 700 feet will be available this year
Trails: 30, but not all of the mountain will be skiable this year

Best deal: at $15 per ticket (or $400 for a season pass for the whole family) this could be the cheapest ski deal in the Northeast.

What’s new: Open again after a decade, albeit with only one lift. Wish them luck.

Royal Mountain, Caroga Lake
Phone: 518-835-6445
Cost: $350/season, $35/day
Vertical drop: 500 feet
Trails: 13 served by three lifts, including expert-only glades

What’s new: Three-year, $400,000 upgrade of snowmaking and grooming is now complete.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Almanack Welcomes New Contributor Alan Wechsler

I’m pleased to announce the addition of Alan Wechsler to the Adirondack Almanack. Alan will be covering the outdoor recreation beat and his regular posts will run on Wednesdays at noon. Alan has been coming to the Adirondacks since his uncle took him on his first backpacking trip—with wet snow, followed by temperatures down to zero degrees—at age 15. He says he still hasn’t learned his lesson.

Today, his frequent adventures into the park include mountain-biking, skiing (cross-country and downhill), hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and climbing (both rock and ice). A long-time newspaper reporter and avid outdoor photographer, he also writes for a number of regional and national magazines about the outdoors and other issues. Alan’s recent piece for Adirondack Life, Ski to Die, is an International Regional Magazine Association first-place feature-writing winner.

Got an Adirondack outdoor recreation story idea? Contact him at alwechs at juno dot com.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Gearing Up: Snowshoe Season is Almost Here

Winter is nearly upon the Adirondacks and it’s time to blow the dust off your cold-weather gear including your snowshoes. Snowshoeing has increased in popularity and practicality in stride with technology. Gone are the days when the only choice was hand woven wood frame shoes. The framing, decking, cleats (crampons) and bindings are now made with high tech materials specialized for various conditions and preferences.

The first question becomes one of purpose. What environment will they be used for? Deep powder snow and packed trails are drastically different underfoot. Designs with increased length and width increase surface area and offer more stability and flotation in unpacked conditions. They are a bit less maneuverable, however, it tighter areas. They can also be used on packed trails in many instances. More compact models save weight and increase maneuverability when snow depth is minimal.

Specialized conditions sometimes require specialized shoes. Ascending to higher elevations via steep grades may require traverse through changing conditions: packed trail, unbroken powder, steep inclines with ice flows, summits with mixed conditions where, perhaps, crampons would be most valuable. Most models offer some crampons with varying degrees of aggressiveness for traction. MSR, for instance, offers a very specialized and maneuverable line of shoes that include aggressive crampons, metal “teeth” either around the circumference or in rows, a heel elevator to alleviate leg fatigue on inclines and an optional flotation tail to increase length and thus versatility across terrain.

No matter the environment, it’s also important to know which shoes perform best for your personal traits as well. Manufacturers usually have a weight chart to help choose between models or sizes of a particular model. Forums and product review sites can offer guidance on the positive and negative aspects of each.

As an aside, please remember that in the High Peaks Wilderness area, you “must possess and use skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow”. This helps reduce preventable rescues and protects both the wearer and other hikers alike.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Commentary: On Leaving Behind Backcounty Boats

My neighbor came to the door last week in a fit of outrage over a new DEC regulation that made it clear that leaving your gear in the backcountry was against the rules, except in certain cases. He read about it in the Adirondack Journal, a free Denton Publications paper that appears—whether we like it or not—in our mailboxes each week. “Best pack out your boat” was the title of the “Outdoor Tales” column by Denton Managing Editor John Gereau. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Top Mountains of Initial Ascent for Adirondack Forty Sixers

As many know, Adirondack Forty-Sixers, or just Forty-Sixers, are people who have climbed the 46 mountains of New York State traditionally considered to be at least 4,000’ in elevation. Membership numbers took nearly a half century to grow from the club’s first recorded member on June 10, 1925 to 1,000 in 1974. Since then, numbers have increased dramatically to 6,385, according to the Forty-Sixer website’s last roster update. Perhaps you too have contemplated exploring the peaks but don’t know where to begin. A good guidebook and some research help, but footprints from the past may also serve as a guide.

Numbers based on the membership roster yielded the four most popular peaks for first ascent:

1. 1,370 or 21.5% people began with Marcy.
2. 1,097 or 17.2% began with Cascade.
3. 593 or 9.2% began with Algonquin.
4. 588 also about 9.2% began with Giant.

Cascade is the most conservative choice for those unsure about their performance over an extended distance. It’s still a challenge with a five-mile round trip covering 2,000’ elevation gain. Porter Mtn. sits alongside and can be added to the day for a minimum of effort. Giant is a rugged and unrelenting round trip of a bit over five miles from Chapel Pond. Elevation gain is over 3,000’ vertical. A side venture to Rocky Peak Ridge can add another high peak to the day, but costs a good bit more in effort. Algonquin jumps to an eight-mile roundtrip over about 2,400’ in ascent. A side spur ascent up Wright or trek over Boundary to Iroquois can make the Algonquin trip either a double or triple header high peak day with multiple choices for descent. Marcy weighs in at about fifteen miles in total with over 3,100’ vertical. Various other destinations can be added if you’re particularly fit and up for the challenge.

All four choices boast open summits with stunning 360 degree views. Marcy is 5,344’ in elevation and overlooks a large percentage of the high peaks being the highest and nearly centered in the grouping. Cascade climbs to 4,098’ with views of Whiteface to the north and most of the peaks from the McIntyre Range over to Big Slide. Algonquin is the second Highest Peak at 5,114’ and is placed a bit to the west. It offers views of numerous mountains including the remote Wallface, Marshall and Iroquois as well as a breathtaking view of Mt. Colden’s incredible slide array down to Avalanche Lake. Giant is aptly named at 4,627’ and delivers views spanning from Lake Champlain and beyond as well as the Dix Range to the east. Each peak is equally rewarding.

So, in deciding how to begin, it’s nice to reflect upon past statistics as well as current sources. Once you’ve wet your feet on Adirondack trails, perhaps you’ll have a taste for more explorations and even more difficult challenges. Stay “tuned” for more on the High Peaks, including one of several ways to accumulate over 10,000 vertical feet in a day hike.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (Fall 2009)

These DEC Forest Ranger reports are to good to pass up. They are a slice of the Adirondack experience that is almost never reported, and since the last one was so popular, we offer you the October 21st report in its entirety:

Essex County

Town of Keene, High Peaks Wilderness Area

On Wednesday, September 30, at approximately 7:28 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call reporting an overdue hiker from Mount Marcy, Table Top and Phelps Mtn. James Cipparrone, 29, of Berlin, NJ, was last seen at approximately 4:15 pm Monday, September 28, departing the lean-to at ADK Loj to camp in the interior. Last known contact with Mr. Cipparone was on Tuesday, September 29, in a phone conversation with his father he stated that he was on top of the mountain, but eight miles from his group. Based on the description of the gear the he was carrying, it was decided that he could spend one more night out. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two Adirondack Almanack Debates You May Be Missing

We often have some outstanding discussions here at Adirondack Almanack, debates that carry on long after the story has left the main page. I thought I’d take a moment to point readers to two active and interesting debates that have recently slipped off the main page.

The first involves Mary Thill’ s October 8 post “Posted Signs Do’s And Don’ts” which has 21 insightful comments on navigation law, trespass, private property and paddlers.

A second post also generating a lot of discussion is the recent announcement I made about a planned North Creek to Tahawus Rail Trail on October 14. There you’ll find nearly a dozen comments on the subject of abandoned railway easements and the Forest Preserve. Both discussion are enlightening—take a moment to check them out.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Upper Hudson Rail Trail Planned: North Creek to Tahawus

There is a movement afoot to transform the northern end of the Upper Hudson Railroad into a multi-use trail. Although the project has only just begun, Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail have met twice so far in the North Creek area and according to organizers indications are good the new trail will become a reality. The entire route, from the North Creek Railroad Station to the Open Space Institute’s 10,000 acre Tahawus Tract is owned by NL Industries (National Lead, the former operators of the mine at Tahawus), who have been reported for several years to be eager to dispose of the property and salvage the rails. Access points are owned by Warren County, Barton Mines, and the Open Space Institute.

The route would be 29 miles long in three counties (Warren, Hamilton, and Essex) beginning along the Hudson to a bridge just below the gorge, then along the Boreas River, Vanderwalker Brook, and Stillwater Brook before rejoining the Hudson River near Route 28N in Newcomb and finally crossing the Opalescent River and into the mine area. Riders could continue past the restored iron furnace along the Upper Works Road to end at the Upper Works, a southern trailhead to the High Peaks and Mount Marcy. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Local High Peaks Access Point: The Garden

The “Garden” in Keene Valley is one of the more popular access points to the High Peaks region. Turn west from Route 73 onto Adirondack Street which turns into Johns Brook Lane. The parking lot with a capacity of around three dozen cars (including a centerline of vehicles) is located about two miles from Route 73 at the end of Interbrook Way. A modest parking fee of $5.00/day helps to maintain winter plowing, upkeep and pay the weekend attendants. A seasonal shuttle to and from the southwest corner of Marcy Field, with the last run of this season slated for October 18th, helps with overflow. Further details regarding parking/shuttle rates can be viewed via this link.

The Garden’s popularity is perhaps owed to its proximity to a multitude of High Peaks including those of the Great Range. Johns Brook Lodge sits three and one half miles southwest and can be directly accessed via either the Southside trail or the Northside Trail, both of which parallel Johns Brook. While the grandeur of the peaks tempts many, simple explorations of the immediate area can be equally fulfill whether just a brief walk, snowshoe or ski through a hardwood forest or exploration of Johns Brook itself. The easiest access to the brook is from the Southside trail which deviates south (left) from the Northside Trail one half mile from the parking lot.

For all its familiarity to the hiking community, the origin of the Garden’s name is often a mystery since the parking lot appears to be a far cry from a garden. Its origin is, however, as simple as it sounds. It was derived from a vegetable garden maintained at the site of what is now the parking lot in and about the year 1915, according to the Spring 1971 issue of the Forty-Sixer newsletter. The few hikers that passed through the area at that time used the vegetable garden as a reference point and the name remains today.

 



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