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.


Monday, June 7, 2010

APA: Moose River Plains, General Permits, Zoning Changes, Boathouse Definition

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, June 10, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The June meeting will be one day only and will consider the creation of a Moose River Plains Intensive Use Camping Area, renewing four previously approved general permits on wetlands, communications towers, hunting and fishing cabins, and development rights, amendments to the Town of Hague, Bolton, and Westport local zoning programs, and revisions to the definition of “boathouse,” and easing the permitting process for businesses, among other topics. Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.

The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report which will include a resolution recognizing the contributions of long serving past Agency Board Member, James T. Townsend.

At 9:30 a.m., The State Lands Committee will hear a second reading for the Jay Mountain Wilderness and the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area Unit Management Plans. These plans are actionable items; however, the Board will not act on the fire tower proposal included in the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area at this time.

APA staff will request authorization from the Board to proceed to public hearing on reclassification proposals for state land in Herkimer and Hamilton Counties including a proposal to create a 2,925 acre Moose River Plains Intensive Use Camping Area. The committee will also hear an informational presentation from DEC staff on the working draft for the Moose River Plains Unit Management Plan. Public review of the draft Unit Management Plan will be conducted jointly between DEC and APA as part of a coordinated SEQR review process on both the Unit Plan and the reclassification proposals.

At 11:15, the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider renewing four previously approved general permits which are set to expire on August 12, 2010. The general permits include:

2005G-2 Minor Projects Not In or Impacting Wetlands

2005G-3 Replacement of or Installation of Certain New Telecommunications Antennas on Existing Towers or Other Tall Structures

2005G-4 Hunting and Fishing Cabins Greater Than 500 Square Feet in a Resource Management Area

2005G-5 Subdivision to Convey Two or More Lots Without Principal Building Rights

The Committee will then hear a first reading for a new draft general permit which, if authorized, would expedite APA approval for a change in use in existing commercial, public/semi-public and industrial structures. This proposed general permit is the latest in ongoing efforts by the APA to improve administrative efficiency.

At 1:00, the Local Government Services Committee will consider approving proposed amendments to the Town of Hague and the Town of Bolton’s approved local land use programs. Agency staff will then provide the committee with an overview on local land use controls inside the Adirondack Park.

At 1:45, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will hear a first reading on the Draft Memorandum of Understanding for APA’s review process of DEC projects on State Easement Lands inside the Adirondack Park. The MOU defines working relationships, provides guidelines for outlining new land use and development subject to Agency review and establishes review protocols for future DEC projects proposed on lands with State-owned conservation easements.

Following this discussion, the Committee will determine approvability for a proposed map amendment in the Town of Westport, Essex County.

At 3:00, the Legal Affairs Committee will meet to discuss and act on regulatory revisions for the definition of “boathouses”. The proposed definition is available as a pdf.

At 4:00, the Full Agency will convene to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.

The next Agency meeting is July 8-9 2010 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

August Agency Meeting: August 12-13 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

LGA Lake Steward Monitoring Begins on Lake George

Lake George Association (LGA) lake stewards are once again on duty at boat launches around Lake George for the summer, inspecting boats and educating boaters on how to prevent the spread of invasive species. They began their work on Memorial Day weekend.

Coordinated by the LGA, the program seeks to contain the spread of three species already present in Lake George: Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, and curly-leaf pondweed, as well as a possible fourth – brittle naiad – which was found and removed from Dunham’s Bay last summer. The program also helps prevent new invasive species from being introduced, such as spiny waterflea and water chestnut, which are present in nearby water bodies. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (June 3)

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: MODERATE

Smoke Haze
There is a possibility that the heavy smoke we saw on Monday from a number of large fires in Quebec could return on Friday as winds shift from the Northwest. According to Quebec officials, the current fire season there has already included more than 352 fires that have consumed about 300,000 acres. Smoke from those fires has reached southward as far as the Lake George basin.


Weather

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 74.
Friday Night: 30% chance of showers after 3am.
Saturday: Occasional showers and possibly a thunderstorm.
Saturday Night: 40% chance of showers. Lower 40s.
Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 64.

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

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.

Old Forge: Heavy motorcycle traffic is expected in the vicinity of Old Forge and throughout the Town of Webb for this weekend’s Thunder in Old Forge motorcycle rally.

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.

——————–
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 3, 2010

Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center Hosting GPS Workshop

On Saturday, June 5, the Visitor Interpretive Center at Newcomb will offer beginning level Global Positioning System (GPS) training from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. This “hands on” workshop is for people interested in learning more about using a GPS. It will focus on how to operate a GPS receiver and will cover basic GPS features, terms, and functions. GPS skills will be practiced both indoors and outdoors. Adirondack Connections, a private guide and trip planning service based in Tupper Lake, will conduct the training and provide Garmin eTrex GPS units for participants to use throughout the class.

Pre-registration and pre-payment is required by Wednesday, May 26th. The course fee is $55/person (includes materials, batteries, and GPS to use). The fee for members of the Adirondack Park Institute, the “friends group” for the VICs, is $50/person.

The Newcomb VIC is located on NYS Route 28N just west of the Hamlet of Newcomb, Essex County. For information and to pre-register, call the VIC at 518-582-2000.

The Adirondack Park Agency’s two Visitor Interpretive Centers at Newcomb and Paul Smiths are slated to be closed at the end of this year due to the state’s fiscal situation.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Black Fly Challenge: On Your Mark, Get Set, Swat!

With the name like the Black Fly Challenge, the Central Adirondacks’ premiere bike race does not exactly encourage spectators.

That’s a pity, because this year may prove more interesting than most. Among the expected 300 participants is expected to be riders of a three-person bicycle and a unicyclist.

That’s right — a man (presumably — one assumes women would have more sense) and a single wheel, riding dirt and paved roads for 40 miles.

“That whole unicycling thing has taken off,” said race co-organizer Ted Christodaro of the Inlet store Pedals and Petals.

The Black Fly Challenge engenders this sort of tomfoolery. While some racers may take it seriously, others are just in it for a good time. The ride is 40 miles of paved and unpaved roads with no technical challenges to speak of, aside from a few medium-size hills. It’s a grand welcome to the summer cycling season in the North Country.

The race has changed somewhat from the days it was solely a mountain bike event. These days, so many people ride it on cyclocross bike — downhill frames and wheels with knobby tires, used for all-terrain races in the fall — that organizers created a separate category.

The cyclocross riders have the advantage, since they have larger wheels and get more distance with each crank of the pedal. However, those skinny tires are also more susceptible to flat tires — which means the rider becomes victim to the inevitable bug bites.

When I rode the race two years ago (without a flat tire, I might add), I found that the only bugs that bothered me were the few that slipped down between the vents in my helmet. Forward-thinking cyclists might consider taping strips of bug netting to seal up the holes. Or just ride harder and hope for the best.

It was the bystanders who seemed to get bugs the worst. The volunteers along the plains, where the heart of the race takes place, either wore full-jacket bug nets or suffered the swatting of the damned.

Still, the race is worth catching, for those who don’t already plan to take part. This year it starts from Inlet, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 12, and ends in Indian Lake.

“With so many races in the books, there’s no shortage of wild stories from ‘out there in the Plains,’ the organizers say on their web site. “Bikes have crossed the Finish Line with no seat, flat tires, broken rims and even on the shoulder of a few determined competitors.”

While some were apparently worried the race might not take place due to the state’s threatened closure of the Moose River Plains area, Christodaro says that never would have happened anyway because the state had already issued a permit for the race and had planned to honor it.

Anyway, the plains are open, the road is in good shape and the black flies are waiting. Let the pedaling begin!

For more information on the Black Fly Challenge, click here.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Whiteface Bike Park Opens With Big Events

The Whiteface Mountain Bike Park opens for the season, Friday, June 18. Riders will have the chance to experience 27 of Whiteface’s mountain bike trails or ride the cross country flume trails from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. Giant Bicycles will have their latest cross country bikes available for demonstration rides and there will be guided tours of the new flume trails all weekend long by the crew that built the trails. Other events at the mountain include a Pump Track Challenge on Saturday, at noon, and a Super D race on Sunday, also at noon.

After experiencing the hand-built downhill and cross country mountain bike trails visitors to the bike park can head down to the Wilmington dirt jump and skills park for the Kyle Ebbett & Friends Jump Jam, from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday, June 19. The Jump Jam is open to all levels and abilities and prizes will be awarded for style and creativity. Some of the top pros will be on hand, but prizes are for the amateurs in all age groups. Other events during the Jump Jam include live music from Damaged Goods and a free showing of a local bike film. The evening ends with the feature film, “Follow Me.”

The ninth annual Whiteface Uphill Bike Race is also slated for Saturday. Riders from all over the country will ascend up the eight-mile long scenic Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. Cyclists begin the 3,500-foot climb at 5:30 p.m. in group waves.

A barbecue dinner will be held following the race and awards will be presented to the men’s and women’s overall winner and the top three finishers in each class. The Whiteface Mountain Uphill Bike Race is a part of the Bike Up the Mountain Points Series (BUMPS), which includes nine competitions across four states and eight mountains, with Whiteface being the first race of the series.

For more information about the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park, the Jump Jam and the uphill race visit www.downhillmike.com, WWW.WhitefaceRace.com or www.whitefacelakeplacid.com. The bike park is operated by High Peaks Cyclery and the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: A Hike To Owl’s Head

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™

Trailhead to Summit: 0.6
Ascent: 460 ft

Owl’s Head, located between Lake Placid and Keene, is a perfect hike for the entire family. It takes approximately 45 minutes round trip for an average hiker though we always plan for a bit more than an hour each way. The ascent is 460 ft., and very easy for even the smallest climber. The summit is semi-wooded, and has spectacular views of Cascade, Pitchoff and Giant Mountains.

For most families it is unfair to put a time limit on a hike due to frequent pit stops, wildlife sightings and herding of imaginary friends. Not that I wish to besmirch the herding of imaginary friends but sometimes it is enough just to get the children focused without having to gathering troops of people only visible to those under the age eight. Though it may sound tedious to some, we want to be able to take our time and instill the joy of the outdoors to our children.

This time of year scrubby blueberry bushes are in flower and line the path to the summit. Mark the calendar for a return trip midsummer when wild blueberry bushes will be in peak and ready for picking. Feel free to factor berry eating into the time factor as well unless a previous hiker has picked the trail clean.

The trail is a series of ledges, rock faces and switchbacks. To the west is Pitchoff Mountain and to the southwest, Porter and Cascade. To the east look for Hurricane Mountain’s fire tower as well as other smaller mountains and Giant Mountain to the southeast.

Local rock climbing companies use Owl’s Head for training so an added treat is to catch climbers repelling down the craggy ledges. Snacks or lunch and plenty of water are imperative. This time of year, don’t forget the bug repellent.

From the intersection of Route 9 and 73 in Keene bear north on Route 73, about 3.5 miles, turning onto Owl’s Head Lane. Continue 0.2 miles until you come to a Y. The trailhead is directly in front. Park to the left, off to the side. There isn’t a parking area. Please be considerate. The Owl’s Head trailhead and surrounding land is mostly private property.


all photos and content © Diane Chase, an excerpt from Diane’s guidebook Adirondack Family Time:Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activiities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. The other three books in the Adirondack Family Time guidebook series are: Adirondack Family Time: Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga (2012), Adirondack Family Time: Long Lake to Old Forge (2012), Adirondack Family Time:Schroon Lake to Lake George and just beyond (2013)


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (May 27)

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: HIGH

Memorial Day Weekend
Due to Monday’s holiday and the forecast for good weather, visitors should be aware that popular parking lots, camping sites, motels and hotels may fill to capacity. This is a weekend to seek recreation opportunities in less-used areas of the Adirondack Park.


Weather

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 74. Calm wind becoming northwest around 5 mph.
Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 44. Light north northwest wind.
Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 73. Winds 5 to 8 mph; could gust to 23 mph.
Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, slight chance of showers after 2am. Low around 52.
Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 79.
Sunday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 46.
Memorial Day: Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, high near 79.
Monday Night: Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, low around 54.

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

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.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Funding reductions have required that most gates on the Moose River Plains Road System will remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic, however crews began clearing the main Moose River Plains Road this week and plan to open it Friday. Roads south of the “Big T” junction (Otter Brook and Indian Lake roads) will remain closed for now.

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.

——————–
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, May 27, 2010

Gates to Remain Closed at Hudson River Recreation Area

Saying the agency was “acting to protect natural resources and to curtail illegal and unsafe activities,” the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced it has relocated six campsites closer to main roads and will not reopen the gates at the Hudson River Special Management Area (HRSMA) of the Lake George Wild Forest. The gates, only recently installed to limit the area’s roads during spring mud season, will remain closed until further notice. “Unfortunately, due to funding reductions resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall, DEC is, as previously announced, unable to maintain many of the roads in HRSMA and must keep the gates closed until the budget situation changes,” a DEC statement said.

Also known as the “Hudson River Rec Area” or the “Buttermilk Area,” the HRSMA is a 5,500-acre section of forest preserve located on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, straddling the boundary of the towns of Lake Luzerne and Warrensburg in Warren County. Designated “Wild Forest” under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, HRSMA is a popular location for camping, swimming, picnicking, boating, tubing, horseback riding, hiking, hunting and fishing. The Hudson River Rec Area has been a popular spot for late-night parties, littering, and other abuses.

Six campsites (# 6-11) have been relocated due to vandalism and overuse. Campsites #6, 7, 8, and 10 and 11 are relocated in the vicinity of the old sites and just a short walk from the parking areas. Parking for each of these sites is provided off Buttermilk Road. Site 9 has been relocated to the Bear Slide Access Road providing an additional accessible campsite in the HRSMA for visitors with mobility disabilities. Site 11 is located off Gay Pond Road, which is currently closed to motor vehicle traffic.

Signs have been posted identifying parking locations for the sites and markers have been hung to direct campers to the new campsite locations. Camping is permitted at designated sites only – which are marked with “Camp Here” disks.

Gay Pond Road (3.8 mi.) and Buttermilk Road Extension (2.1 mi.) are temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access. Pikes Beach Access Road (0.3 mi.) and Scofield Flats Access Road (0.1 mi.) may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits. As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road and Darlings Ford are closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open for non-motorized access by the general public and motorized access by people with disabilities holding a CP-3 permit.

Currently eight campsites designed and managed for accessibility remain available to people with mobility disabilities. All of the designated sites are available to visitors who park in the designated parking areas and arrive by foot or arrive by canoe.

DEC Forest Rangers will continue to educate users, enforce violations of the law, ensure the proper and safe use of the area, and remind visitors that:

* Camping and fires are permitted at designated sites only;

* Cutting of standing trees, dead or alive, is prohibited;

* Motor vehicles are only permitted on open roads and at designated parking areas;

* “Pack it in, pack it out” – take all garbage and possessions with you when you leave; and

* A permit is required from the DEC Forest Ranger if you are camping more than 3 nights or have 10 or more people in your group.

Additional information, and a map of the Hudson River Special Management Area, may be found on the DEC website.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lows Lake to The Upper Oswegatchie River

It’s been exactly two years since I paddled the Lows Lake-Oswegatchie River traverse with my friend Dan Higgins. So by now the bug bites have healed.

That is, of course, the danger of doing the Adirondack’s greatest canoe trip in the middle of black fly season. But with a bit of perseverance, some luck as to the weather (lower temperatures and wind keep the flies down), bug dope and a head net, and the trip this time of year can be not only tolerable but even grand. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Commentary: On Towers in Wilderness Areas

This month the Adirondack Park Agency board authorized its staff to solicit public comment on proposals to save the fire tower on Hurricane Mountain through a bit of legal legerdemain.

I understand the board’s motivation: the public wants the tower to stay. This has been amply demonstrated in letters, petitions, and comments at hearings.

But the solutions on the table are intellectually dishonest and make a mockery of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Adirondack Birding Festivals and Events Kick Off in June

June is birding month in the Adirondacks of Northern New York and avid ornithologists can enjoy the pristine wilderness habitats of several species of birds during one of the many birding events and festivals this spring.

At Great Camp Sagamore, two adventure programs featuring Boreal Birds of the Adirondacks will take place May 25-28 and June 10-13. Space is extremely limited – only 15 people are accepted per program and reservations are required. See and hear the boreal birds (gray jay, white- throated sparrow, black-backed and Northern three-toed woodpeckers, boreal chickadee, etc.) that make their home in and breed in the Adirondacks. Lectures, slide shows and bird-call lessons will prepare you for field trips to two New York State “Important Birding Areas.” $439 per person for this three-night, four-day program. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two New Adirondack Bicycling Initiatives

Two unrelated efforts this spring show that bicycling may be getting a little more attention here in the Adirondacks.

For starters, you can take part in a local survey, looking for input for a future Web site dedicated to promoting bicycling in the Adirondacks. The survey is reachable here.

The survey is part of a program called Bike the Byways, which is sponsored by the Adirondack North Country Association, a community development group in Saranac Lake. The idea, says organizer Tim Holmes, is to figure out what bike resources already exist in the park.

The group is most interested in road rides, he said, especially to promote the 14 federally-designated “Scenic Byways” located in the park.

Because of the lack of roads in the park and the sheer splendor of most of them, apparently most roads in the park are in fact scenic byways. So cyclists could just unfold a map and take their pick. Nevertheless, visitors might appreciate a site offering more specific descriptions.

For more information, check out the new blog, http://bikethebyways.wordpress.com/

Meanwhile, work continues on the Upper Hudson Rail Trail, a proposed 29-mile route that would go from North Creek to Tahawus on a right-of-way currently owned by NL Industries. A year after the idea was first made public, organizer Curt Austin, a photographer from Chestertown, has planned his first official organizing meeting.

Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail Inc. will meet at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 12 at the North Creek Ski Bowl lodge.

“There are a lot of details to work out,” he said. But the meeting may include some more fun activities, such as a drive out to some of the route’s more scenic spots and possibly a bike ride in the afternoon.

The group is seeking to buy the railroad from NL, remove the track and lay down a bike trail through some of the Central Adirondack’s most remote woods.

“We don’t have that many formal members yet, but we’re going to try to make it entertaining and worthwhile for new people,” he said.

Check out the Upper Hudson’s Facebook page here.



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