Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rebuilding Trails After Hurricane Irene

Trail work calls many a climber but with life getting in the way it’s only a lucky few who actually get to enjoy this dream job. One needs time and energy to spare to fully enjoy climbing a peak all the while trimming, chopping, and tossing. For us stalwarts, trail work is a kind of luxury. Year after year we observe the effects of weather and people on the mountains while marveling at the ever evolving beauty of wild flowers and other vegetation as our slow pace allows us to monitor the progress of spring and fall.

Sometimes we get too close to a branch and drop blood on the trail, or suddenly become a delicious buffet for a hive of Yellow Jackets. Gushing head wounds are the best as patient and caregiver take a break from the trail to partake in murder mystery and general hospital all in one. Obviously the audience is limited but one day when retiring from trail work we will be more than ready for the big screen.

Repellent works nicely thank you against black flies and by the time deer and horse flies abound summer has arrived and trail work pauses. Anyway, we have to admit that but for a handful of spring days black flies do not harass volunteer trail workers since they much prefer “fresh” peak baggers!

Let’s mention the invaluable fringe benefits of a tree hugging job: mud caking, soaking dew showers, balsam needles coating, pitch smears, spruce scratches: all combined to keep one forever young and cute.

There are countless ways to participate in trail work depending on one’s availability. It’s all under DEC governance and rules but mostly via the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), Adirondack Trail Improvement Society (ATIS) and the 46ers. Volunteers can either register for one or several of the trail days organized every year by the ADK and the 46ers or become the steward of a particular section of trail, an agreement renewed on a yearly basis. Being a steward is more of a commitment but it gives the adopter schedule flexibility.

Luckily, as there is much more to do than volunteers can undertake, the DEC, ATIS and ADK have professional trail crews in the field every year for a certain number of weeks depending on projects and funding.

Tony Goodwin has been Director of ATIS (founded in 1897) for 25 years and never lacks for things to be done. As he is known to utter, “Trail work is never done”. In his capacity he takes care of 105 miles of public trails and walks most of them once every year! At the ADK (founded in 1922), from early spring to late fall, Wes Lampman, Director of Field Programs, does not have a minute to himself either. The ADK oversees close to 200 miles of trails.

As for the 46Rs (founded in 1948) volunteers clear 36 miles of trail every year. The toughest job for volunteers is no doubt adopting a herd path as some have been doing since 2004. The relatively high turnover in stewards testifies to the mental and physical fortitude it takes to actually do herd path maintenance. Most herd paths are far from trailheads and often consist of roots, mud and steep ledges galore. One volunteer in particular, Matt Clark, deserves our admiration for his unfailing commitment (8 years and counting) to the Redfield path.

Then the occasional hurricane re-routes trails and brooks not always for the best. Following Irene’s furry, the DEC sent a large and experienced trail crew composed from the various neighboring regions staff to clear trails during most of September allowing the re-opening of the High Peaks in record time.

As a result of Irene’s massive destruction, many a brook and a river found themselves occupied by heavy machinery trying to restore the past in an attempt to temper future flooding. The resulting uniform landscape seen from every bridge is not getting a round of applause and the jury is still out on the efficiency of the work. Below is a picture (A) of the new and improved Roaring Brook bed (New Russia side of the Giant Wilderness) as it goes under Route 9 to enter the Boquet. Photo B shows the same brook 20 yards upstream from the brook work where a house partially collapsed during the tropical storm. Photos C and D are views of the same brook 100 yards upstream!

Irene did have one positive impact. The Orebed Trail ladders had been in need of extensive repairs for years until finally thanks to Kris A. Alberga, District Forester (DEC), Wes Lampman (ADK), Ranger Jim Giglinto and a few generous climbers, rebuilding began in mid-August. The work progressed until Irene decided to take control of the situation. The newly built ladders (E) resisted Irene’s onslaught but the environment was drastically re-organized (F). Consequently, upon close inspection, Ranger Giglinto determined that the new gentle and stair-like slide above would make for an easy enough climb without any further manmade assistance. Unused funds earmarked for this work will be available for other projects.

The numerous bridges and dams which were crushed or pushed aside may make fall and winter travel tougher than usual as it will take time (and money) to re-position and rebuild them (if at all in certain cases). Duck Hole (photos G & H) will no doubt be an ongoing story for months if not years as the debate will rage about the pros and cons of rebuilding the historic dam. However, there seems to be a consensus about the urgency of rebuilding Marcy Dam.

In the meantime, we wish you and ourselves many more years of trail work and all joys and rewards that come with it. Photos (I & J) show Gary Koch and Pete Biesemeyer doing just that along the Upper Range Trail this past spring. Pete has been doing trail work every year since 1954 while Gary adopted his first lean-to in 1986 and became a trail steward in 1989. Both would easily convince any passer-by they are not a day over seventeen!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Five Ponds Wilderness: Cracker, Gal and West Ponds

The Adirondacks are dotted with many small lakes and ponds. Many of these are remote wilderness water bodies lacking any roads or trails to them. Since these water bodies have no obvious attractions, few people ever visit. Recently, I visited three such ponds: Cracker, Gal and West Ponds.

These three ponds are located in the Five Ponds Wilderness, south of the Robinson River and west of the upper East Branch Oswegatchie River. The nearest trail lies at least two and a half miles through dense forest to the west. The only way to reach these ponds is via bushwhacking through some of the most challenging terrain in the Adirondacks due to the extensive blow downs from the 1995 Microburst.

Although there are no trails near these ponds, this was not always the case. A trail once existed just east of Cracker Pond and eventually crossed Gal Pond’s outlet before climbing over Greenfield Mountain on its way to High Falls along the Oswegatchie River. After a cursory search during my recent trip, I found no sign of this trail remaining along the outlet. The trail has most likely been reclaimed by the surrounding forest. A historical topographic map of the area can be found here.

Cracker Pond is the southernmost and largest of the three ponds. It is irregularly shaped, with an island connected to the shore by a thick strip of vegetation. Snags and small shrub-covered islands are scattered near shore while many stately white pines tower over the pond along its perimeter. A series of several smaller beaver ponds lie off to the southwest.

Gal and West Ponds are in close proximity to each other about a half mile north of their southern neighbor. They are similarly shaped and connected to each other via a swampy stream. Unlike Cracker, these two ponds have a significant amount of open water with no snags or shrub-covered islands. They both have open rocks along the shore and at least one protruding from the water’s surface.

Gal Pond is unlike the other two ponds with respect to its aquatic vegetation. Pickerel weed and yellow-flowered water lilies are plentiful along its northwestern shoreline.

These lakes are reported to have low pHs due to acidification from acid rain. They are reported to be devoid of fish. However, this condition has not limited hooded mergansers from raising their young. Two different merganser families with multiple young were observed on Cracker and West Ponds. Hooded merganser’s primary diet consists of small fish, although they also eat aquatic invertebrates and amphibians.

Apparently the low pH has not impacted all aquatic life. Whirlygig beetles were common along the northern shoreline of West Pond. Based on the prodigious presence of the blood-sucking adults, the ponds are hospitable to the aquatic larvae of mosquitoes, black flies and deer flies. Amphibians were well represented as well, with green frogs, mink frogs, bullfrogs and spring peepers commonly heard calling during all hours of the day.

Evidence of beaver is plentiful at all three of the ponds. Several remnant dams were present at Cracker Pond, while both Gal and West had obvious beaver lodges. Gal Pond was reported to once have a 654-feet long and 4 feet wide beaver canal leading from the pond to a grove of yellow birchs and other hardwoods. But during my recent visit I observed no recent sign of any beaver activity in at the ponds.

Moose find the area favorable as well. An abundance of moose scat was present between Cracker Pond and its northern neighbors as well as along the northern shores of Gal and West Ponds.

These three ponds represent the very best wilderness experience the Adirondacks have to offer. Their remoteness ensures a peaceful respite from hustle and bustle of the modern world if one has the fortitude to reach them.

Photos: Peninsula at West Pond, Cracker Pond and Gal Pond by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Phil Brown: Is the Trap Dike a Hike or a Climb?

If you’re rock climbing, you use a rope and wear a helmet (though not everyone does). If you’re hiking, you don’t.

That seems simple enough, but the distinction between a rock climb and a hike isn’t so straightforward. Sadly, this was demonstrated when a hiker died in a fall in the Trap Dike last week. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Paddling the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

More than seven thousand people have climbed all forty-six of the Adirondack High Peaks. Not to denigrate the achievement of those hikers, but bagging the peaks is no longer a rare feat.

In contrast, only forty or so people have paddled the entire length of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail—a 740-mile route that starts in Old Forge and ends in northern Maine.

One of them is Mike Lynch, the outdoors writer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Lynch paddled the NFCT this past summer and wrote about his adventure for the newspaper and his website, Northeast Outdoors. He also is working on a documentary film.

Lynch will give a slide show on the forty-five-day trip at the Guides House in Lake Placid at 7 p.m. Sunday, October 9. The Guides House is next-door to High Peaks Cyclery on Main Street.For more information on the talk, e-mail Lynch at mike@neout.com.

Meantime, you might be interested in reading Lynch’s responses to questions we asked about his trek.

Just to set the scene: the Adirondack leg of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail starts on Fulton Chain of Lakes and ends on Lake Champlain. Paddlers canoe down the lake and then along various rivers and water bodies in Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine. The route has a number of tough carries, so Mike brought a canoe cart.

Lynch did the trip solo from Old Forge to Saranac Lake, where he was joined by Jacob Resneck, a friend who used to work at the Enterprise. After Jacob left, Mike was joined by his fiancée, Ariel Diggory.

What was your favorite part of NFCT in Adirondacks?
“On the Raquette River just after you enter it from the northern end of Long Lake. I entered this section in late evening, and the lighting was spectacular. The reflections on the water were near perfect. There was also a young loon ahead of me for a short period.”

What was your favorite part outside New York?
“I enjoyed nearly the entire 350-mile section in Maine, starting with Umbagog Lake and ending on the St. John River in Fort Kent. Some of the highlights included paddling on glass-like water on Umbagog, Flagstaff, and Moosehead lakes either just before sunset or during it. The rapids and wildlife on the Allagash River were also amazing. We saw about a dozen moose in that region, along with probably thirty bald eagles.”

What was the hardest portage?
“The hardest portage was what I thought was the Mud Pond Carry in Maine, but in retrospect may have been some other path. The first section was in a bog; then the trail led to a forested area with a lot of large brush from prior logging operations that was difficult and dangerous to walk over. Another hard portage was a twenty-mile walk from Rangeley, Maine, to Stratton on a paved state road. Although this portage was long, it wasn’t too bad because the road was paved and we had wheels.”

And the scariest whitewater?
“I wouldn’t characterize any whitewater we did as scary. We paddled Class I and II rapids and portaged around Class III and up. Because we scouted the more challenging rapids, we were able to pick lines that we could handle. The highest waves we faced were on the St. John River because the area received a lot of rain while we were in that region. In one short section, the waves were breaking over the gunnels as we paddled. The most difficult paddling was actually on windy lakes. We faced large swells and very strong winds several times.”

Best wildlife sighting?
“That’s an easy one. Ariel and I saw an abundance of wildlife at the north end of Churchill Lake on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway one evening after an especially intense thunder and lightning storm. The water here is a few hundred feet across as it narrows into an outlet that leads to a dam. As we arrived there, we were greeted by a rainbow. Then we saw two loons on our left. Then a moose, half-submerged in the water, appeared on our right. After seeing it, we decided to float and watch it feed in the water for a while. As we were sitting there, a young calf stood up in the grass on the shore. Then an eagle swooped down on our left and caught a fish. There was also about a dozen Canada geese swimming very close to the moose and four or five otters playing in the water to our left. The scene ended with the moose walking out of the water. But before leaving, she nursed the calf. We watched this entire scene for about forty-five minutes, enjoying every second of it.”

Most memorable people encounter?
“There were many, many memorable people encounters. I met great people everywhere. I found that the people in the smallest towns were often the friendliest and most down to earth. In Rangley, for instance, a couple named Bruce and Claudia let us store my canoe under their house while we stayed at the Rangeley Inn across the street. I also used their computer, and Bruce took me on a drive for moose.”

Was the NFCT easy to follow?
“For the most part, but we did experience a few problems. One of the difficulties we had was trying to follow some of the portages that used streets. We got off track in Plattsburgh and a few small towns in Vermont early in the trip. In Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine, most everything was straightforward. Well, except for the Mud Pond portage and maybe the Spencer Stream area in Maine.”

Did you have any unforeseen difficulties?
“I guess the size of the waves on some of the lakes were larger than I anticipated. I had heard stories about the large swells on Lake Champlain, Raquette Lake, and many lakes in Maine, but it’s a different thing to experience them. Also, walking upstream on the rocks was tough at times because the rocks on the river bottoms were extremely slippery. The first half of the trip I also had pretty bad blisters from my new watershoes.”

How often were you paddling upstream?
The majority of upstream paddling occurs between Vermont and Maine. It starts on the Missisquoi River as you leave Lake Champlain and is pretty constant with a few exceptions until Errol, New Hampshire. I read in an Adirondack Explorer article that there are 160 miles of upstream paddling. I never added it up myself. It seems like a lot when you’re about halfway through the trip. Luckily, the majority of the second half of the trip is downriver or on lakes and ponds. The worst upstream section was probably on Little Spencer Stream in Maine because the water was so low.”

Did you go through customs at the Quebec border?
“Yes, on the Missisquoi River in Vermont I had to walk up a hill, then cross a bridge to the customs station. I was soaked to my waist when I showed my passport card to the border guard. He barely glanced at it, handed it back to me, and we went back down to our canoe.”

How many miles did you paddle a day?
“We averaged fifteen miles per day. Each day was different though. I had three zero days on the trip. Otherwise we paddled between seven and thirty-something miles a day. How much we paddled a day depended upon a number of variables, including weather, the type of water. And whether I had any interviews to do that day. I took thousands of photos on the trip and hours and hours of video. That slowed us down.”

How often did you paddle in rain?
“It was very dry in June and July. I didn’t paddle in the rain until just outside of Jackman, Maine, about five weeks into my trip. But from Jackman to Fort Kent, it rained several days. There were times Ariel and I had to seek shelter on the shore during thunder and lightning storms. The worst day of just rain was the second-to-last day of the trip on the Allagash and St. John rivers. We paddled more than thirty miles in the rain that day, including a hiking sidetrip to see some old ruins on the Allagash. That was a tough day. It was only about 50 degrees outside. We had to keep moving to stay warm.”

What did you eat?
“When I was with Jacob during the first part of the trip, I ate lots of pasta. We also ate cheese and crackers, beef jerky, canned fish, and an assortment of other things that were easy to cook or could put hot sauce on. I ate granola bars throughout the trip at any time of the day. In Maine, Ariel and I ate packaged Indian food for dinner about one-third of the time. Oatmeal was a good breakfast. For snacks, we had Cheez-its, lots of Gorp, dried fruit, jolly ranchers. One of my favorite meals was dehydrated vegetarian chili. We also had some dehydrated mash potatoes that we mixed with dehydrated vegetables.”

Where did you sleep?
“The vast majority of time we camped out. In the Adirondacks, I slept in lean-tos. In Vermont, Quebec, and New Hampshire, we slept at NFCT-designated campsites, in fields outside of towns or we just pulled over on the riverbank. For the most part in Maine, we were able to utilize designated campsites. Throughout the trip, we also slept at campgrounds a few times. I spent two nights in my own house in Saranac Lake, which is on the trail, two nights in a friends’ house on Lake Champlain, one in a new friends’ house near Stratton, Maine and three nights in a hotel.”

Most useful gear?
“The most useful gear was my canoe, paddles, and wheels. The canoe I used was a seventeen-foot Old Town Penobscot. It’s a versatile boat that can handle a variety of situations, from intermediate whitewater to the varying conditions of lakes. As for paddles, I had one lightweight carbon-fiber bent shaft paddle for flatwater and a wooden straight shaft Sawyer Voyager paddle for rapids and situations where I needed something durable. Because there are a lot of long portages, I believe wheels are essential. Another thing that’s essential is a tube-repair kit and extra tubes. I popped about five tires on the trip.”

Advice for those attempting the trip?
“My advice for those doing the trip is to talk to others who have done the trip already, read their blogs, and learn from their experiences. It helped me get a better understanding of what I was getting into. Also, consider the time of year. In the spring, the water will be cold and high. In the summer, the water levels will be a little lower, which will require more portaging. I would also say that it’s important to travel as light as possible without leaving essential gear at home.”

Photo by Mike Lynch: Moose on the Allagash River in Maine.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Adirondack Family Time Guidebook

A new guidebook outlining family activities in the Adirondack Park has been authored by Adirondack Almanack contributor Diane Chase of Bloomingdale. Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes & High Peaks Regions, is a comprehensive guide to over 300 activities perfect for families. The first of four books planned to be published by Hungry Bear Publishing in Saranac Lake, the Tri-Lakes/High Peaks edition targets four seasons of family activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Jay, Upper Jay, Keene, Keene Valley and Wilmington with a foreword by local author Edward Kanze.

Based on Chase’s Adirondack Daily Enterprise weekly “Family Time” column, her Adirondack Family Time blog, and her contributions here at the Almanack, Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes & High Peaks Regions is a guide for anyone wanting to discover ideas on how to entertain family, friends and visitors while in the Adirondack Park. The points of interest also include GPS coordinates.

“This book is designed to be used by everyone, not just those with children,” Chase said. “My family and I have been to each activity listed in this book and walked, skied or snow-shoed each trail. The goal is to give people ideas on the many things to do in the Adirondack Park.”

The 176-page softcover book has maps, photos, trivia, and information to find museums, activity centers, performing arts centers, and farmers’ markets, as well as swimming holes, mini-hikes and mini-snowshoe/ski treks. Further broken down by season, this guide provides ideas on ways to entertain every day of the week, whether the readers are single, a couple or a group.

“Diane is a master at connecting families with fun, exciting and educational opportunities in the Adirondack Park,” said Andy Flynn, owner of Hungry Bear Publishing. “What sets her apart from other guidebook writers is her proximity to the subject; she lives the ‘Family Time’ lifestyle every day. She’s taking experiences with her family and sharing it with others in a useful, easy-to-follow way.”

Chase started searching and writing about Adirondack family activities in 2003 while pregnant with her second child with eldest in tow. She has written for newspapers, magazines, marketing and advertising agencies.

Chase’s first Adirondack Family Time, is a great guide for exploring the Adirondacks with kids in tow. Handy maps and GPS coordinates are combined with insider tips, pricing, and age appropriate ratings for places and activities. The opportunities here have been carefully selected to hold the interest of kids and this guide is written with a real knowledge of what kids (and adults) want out of their nature experiences. No doubt this is one book that’s sure to be passed from parent to parent.

Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes & High Peaks Regions is available at local bookstores and online at the Adirondack Family Time website for $17.95 plus tax and shipping.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mike Matthews: Hunter Safety

What follows is a guest essay contributed by Mike Matthews, DEC Sportsman Education Coordinator a member of the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership:

It’s about 45 minutes after sunrise, but because of the fog I can=t see more than 20 yards in any direction. Off to my right I can hear a deer walking toward me. I can hear the foot fall – it=s not a squirrel – I know that sound. Slowly the deer approaches, stops and gives out a grunt – it is a buck! Here is where training, experience and ethics come into play. I do not raise my firearm and the firearm remains on safe – I wait. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Five Ponds Wilderness: Oven Lake

There are many places well off the beaten path in the Adirondacks. But there are few as remote or as difficult to get to as Oven Lake in the Five Ponds Wilderness. But for those willing to put the effort in, Oven Lake can be well worth the trouble.

Oven Lake is a highly remote wilderness lake located near the eastern edge of the Five Ponds Wilderness in the northwestern Adirondacks. The lake is nearly a mile long, oriented roughly southwest to northeast and has a unique shape. An undulating shoreline partitions the lake into several different parts. The lake’s inlet is a half mile long, straight channel connecting it to its southeastern neighbor Grassy Pond.

Oven Lake’s wild character is greatly enhances by its remoteness. The lake is located several miles from the nearest trail in the Five Ponds Wilderness. It is approximately two miles north of the terminus of the Red Horse Trail and over three miles east of the Sand Lake Trail. The lake’s distance from any marked trail is a significant reason for its lack of human visitors.

Oven Lake’s remoteness is not the only reason for its lack of visitation. The lake is nearly surrounded by significant blow down from the 1995 Microburst. The forests along both the lake’s eastern and western shores were highly impacted by the intense wind of the 16-year old storm.

The impact of this storm along the shoreline of Oven Lake can clearly be seen from aerial photographs available via Bing or Google maps. These blow downs make a nearly impenetrable barrier keeping all but the most ambitious or insane backcountry adventurer from visiting its shore.

The lake’s many unusual features make it ideal for exploring with a kayak or canoe. Unfortunately, its remoteness and surrounding aggressive terrain are difficult hurdles to overcome in getting a boat onto this wilderness lake.

I made the effort to bushwhack through some of the most arduous backcountry conditions to camp near Oven Lake for two nights this past summer. This trek required hiking into the Five Ponds Wilderness using a network of herd paths, and unmarked and marked trails before bushwhacking several miles through the vast interior. The off-trail portion involved bushwhacking through hardwood, conifer and mixed forests, over hills and around cliffs, avoiding thick blow down, crossing the Robinson River on an abandoned beaver dam and following along a series of stygian beaver swales.

On this trip I gained access following a series of beaver swales from the Robinson River located between Toad Pond and Crooked Lake. The beaver swales were fed by a boggy wetland located just a short distance from the southern portion of Oven Lake. This route allowed me to avoid most of the worst of the blow down along the eastern and western shoes of Oven Lake. My exit from the lake was via the northern end of the lake as I headed northeast toward Cracker Pond.

I spent two nights in the Oven Lake area; one night near the southern portion of the lake and the other near its northern terminus. The remoteness of the lake was accentuated by the presence of common loons, beaver, several river otters and a prodigious amount of moose droppings. The only evidence of human activity in the area was the remnants of a Mylar balloon found near its shore to the southwest.

Oven Lake is a perfect place to explore for a backcountry enthusiast looking for a true wilderness experience unlikely to be disturbed by the presence of other people. With its remote location and difficult surrounding terrain there is little chance of seeing another soul at Oven Lake except for the truly dedicated bushwhacker.

Photos: Southern portion of Oven Lake, hardwood regeneration along eastern shore of Oven Lake and River otters near northern terminus of Oven Lake by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Limit Invasive Species, Don’t Transport Firewood

What follows is a guest essay contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy:

On the heels of additional discoveries of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle in forests in multiple parts of New York including the Catskill Forest Preserve all New Yorkers and visitors are urged to comply with the state’s stringent regulations prohibiting the movement of untreated firewood, the major vector for the introduction of this insect. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

After Irene: Paddling The New Duck Hole

A few days after Hurricane Irene, I hiked to Duck Hole to see how the place looked after the breach of the old logging dam. Although the pond lost most of its water, there were streams running through the resultant mudflats and a pool remained at the base of the waterfall on east shore.

Earlier in the year, I had carried my canoe to Duck Hole and had a ball paddling around and admiring views of High Peaks. Now I wondered if anyone would ever want to bring a canoe to Duck Hole again.

Well, someone already has: Adirondack guide Joe Hackett. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Adirondack State Campground Camping

What follows is a guest essay contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy:

Picture this… the weather forecast is for a beautiful weekend, spring camping has begun and you have a reservation for your favorite site at the campground you camped at as a child. Your grandparents have reserved the site next to you and they will have their boat in the water and the fishing poles put together before you arrive. Your kids are excited about getting to the perch hole they fished last year.

When school is out for the summer, you’ll spend even more time camping and your kids will earn the newest patch in the Junior Naturalist Program. In the past they have had so much fun completing the activities and the bonus is how much they have learned about conservation and the environment. Someday they’ll be bringing their children camping and you will be the grandparent.

In the Adirondack Park there are 42 public campgrounds administered by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. These campgrounds provide a wide variety of experiences, including island camping, tent and trailer camping, boat launching facilities, hiking trails, beaches and day use areas with picnic tables and grills. There are no utility hook-ups at these campgrounds.

For more information about DEC operated campgrounds call (518) 457-2500 or www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/camping.html. To make a reservation call Reserve America, at 1-800-456-CAMP (1-800-456-2267), or reserveamerica.com

More than 100 private campgrounds are also available in the Adirondacks. They generally offer a wider variety of services, including utility hook-ups. For a listing of private campgrounds contact the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council at (518) 846-8016 or www.VisitAdirondacks.com and click on the camping link.

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Phil Brown: Slides Change High Peaks Landscape

The day after Hurricane Irene drenched the Adirondacks, state forester Kris Alberga flew over the High Peaks and saw so many new debris slides that he lost count of them.

Since then reports and photos of new slides—some taken from the air—have been trickling in. A guy who goes by the nickname of Mudrat has started compiling a list on Adirondack High Peaks Forums. In his first post, he listed sixteen that had been created or expanded by the storm, but there probably are many more.

The large slide depicted above, on the north side of Saddleback Mountain, was among those on Mudrat’s list. Brendan Wiltse, who took the photo, climbed it the day after storm before the state Department of Environmental Conservation closed the High Peaks Wilderness. He named the slide Catastrophic Chaos.

Now that DEC has reopened most of the trails in the Wilderness Area, many hikers will be eager to climb the new slides (and in winter, they will get skied). DEC spokesman David Winchell said the department is not prohibiting people from hiking on the slides, but he warned that debris on some slides is unstable.

It’s been estimated that that there are more than four hundred slide scars in the Adirondacks. They are most common in the High Peaks region, where soils are thin and slopes are steep.

Andrew Kozlowski, associate state geologist, said debris slides occur when heavy rains saturate the soil to the point where it starts slipping downward. “Once it starts moving, it starts accelerating,” he said, “and then it rockets down the slope”—taking trees and other vegetation with it.

Since the soils remain wet from Irene, he said, the High Peaks may see more slides if another storm hits, even one less powerful than Irene, which dumped about ten inches of rain.

If a slide strips a slope clean to the bedrock, he said, it can take centuries for vegetation to grow back. First, lichens cling to the bare rock, followed by moss. These pioneers trap bits of organic debris that decompose to form soil. Eventually, small seedlings take root, which in turn trap more debris. If rubble or dirt remain on the slide, the process is speeded up.

Kozlowski, who works for the New York State Museum, said debris slides are very different from the slow-motion mudslide discovered on the side of Little Porter Mountain in Keene this spring.

In that case, some eighty-two acres are slowly creeping down the mountain. The mudslide has destroyed, damaged, or imperiled a number of houses in the Adrian’s Acres subdivision.

The soil in the vicinity of the mudslide has been measured up to 250 feet deep, whereas the soil where debris slides takes place may be only a few yards deep. The speed of the mudslide on Little Porter—or whether it continues at all—depends on the depth of groundwater, Kozlowski said.

Kozlowski said the groundwater depth has dropped six feet since July. Right after Irene, it rose two feet. In the following days, it went up another half-inch. “What we’re anticipating is that the water levels will keep rising,” he said.

At its peak, the mudslide moved up to two feet a day. Although its movement is now “imperceptible,” Kozlowski said, if the groundwater reaches a certain level, the slide could speed up again. But he doesn’t know for sure what that level is.

“If the water levels recover in the in the four-to-six-foot range, things might start happening,” he said.

Click here to read a detailed account of the Keene mudslide on the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine’s website.

Photo of Saddleback slide by Brendan Wiltse.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer. He has been writing about the aftermath of Irene on his Outtakes blog and here at the Adirondack Almanack.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some High Peaks Areas Reopen, NPT Trail Warning

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) have reopened access to several High Peaks wilderness areas and facilities. The Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness and the Giant Mountain Wilderness have reopened, although the Dix Mountain Wilderness and several area trails remain closed. ADK has reopened the Adirondak Loj and Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake and the Johns Brook Lodge in the Johns Brook Valley.

Roads to those facilities were among several that were washed out when the remnants of Tropical Storm Irene slammed into the eastern slopes of the Adirondacks causing widespread damage and destruction, especially along the Ausable and Bouquet Rivers, into the Keene Valley, and the High Peaks. State Route 73 is now open between Lake Placid and Keene Valley, and may be accessed by taking Route 9N from Elizabethtown. Route 73 remains closed between the Hamlet of Keene Valley and the Route 9 intersection, but is expected to open by next weekend. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Southern Adirondack Rockclimbers Festival

The Fourth Annual Southern Adirondack Rockclimbers Festival begins this Friday, September 9th, at 3pm. This year, participants will rendezvous at the property of photographer Gary Dean, located just north of the intersection of routes 10 and 10A, in the town of Caroga Lake.

This year’s climbing venues include Good Luck, Lost T, and Lost Hunter’s cliffs, as well as several newly-discovered crags. Additionally, location manager Justin Sanford will run a bouldering competition featuring the well-known boulders at Nine-Cornered Lake. SRCFC will again provide a dinner for participants Saturday night. Door prizes and giveaways from Mad Rock, Clif, National Geographic, and many more will be handed out during the event.

Begun in 2008, the Festival provides climbers from all over the northeast an opportunity to explore lesser-known crags outside of the Adirondack’s well-known cliffs, and a chance for local climbers to meet, compare notes, and share the latest developments with each other. Past events have been held at Shanty Cliff, Crane Mountain, and the southeast shore of Lake George.

The Rockclimbers Festival is free to all. Free camping sites are available. Overflow camping is available close to many of the climbing areas. No training or guiding is supplied during this event; participants should understand the skills required in climbing, the risks involved, and the methods for dealing with them. Visit the festival website for more information.

Photos: Above, Lost T cliff; Below, A boulderer at Nine Cornered Lake (photos by Justin Sanford).


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Understanding Forest Rangers and ECOs

What follows is a guest essay contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy:

While fishing a fairly remote brook trout pond, a man in an official looking green uniform approaches and asks to see your fishing license.

While camping on a lake, a woman in a green uniform – a little different from the uniform you had seen before – comes into camp and makes some inquiries about your plans and practices for storing food and waste. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 2, 2011

6.1 Million Adirondack Acres Leave Plenty to Do

Although Hurricane Irene has wrought considerable destruction on the Eastern High Peaks area of the Adirondacks, aside from a few unfortunate communities, trails and campgrounds, the vast majority of the Adirondack Park was left unscathed and open for business. This Labor Day weekend and the coming months offer a great opportunity to explore the rest of the Adirondack Park’s 6.1 million acres.

The Adirondack Park has a land area larger than than Vermont. At 9,400 square miles, the Park is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined. Yet, many visitors rarely get out of the Lake Placid-High Peaks Region to explore places like the Fulton, Saranac or Raquette chains, the half-million acre Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex in the southwest, the St. Regis Canoe Area, or the some three-quarter million acres of newly acquired easement lands. » Continue Reading.



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