In the late nineteenth century, ice harness racing made its Adirondack debut, becoming a major winter sport which flourished well into the 1940s. Ice racing used to attract large crowds. Today, however, it seems that knowledge of it has quietly slipped from our historical grasp.
The Franklin Malone Gazette‘s “Horsemen’s’ Column” from January 29, 1897 captures the excitement surrounding these races in an article about Saranac Lake: “In spite of the cold weather last week the ice races were decidedly ‘hot’ in more senses than one. The bracing Adirondack air seemed to give the enthusiastic horsemen a tremendous appetite for – well, for refreshments of all kinds – and the many hotels of the town were thronged during the evening with hundreds of hungry and thirsty sports who seemed to enjoy themselves with a zest and vim seldom encountered at summer races.” How did ice harness racing gain such popularity? In the late nineteenth century, most people owned one if not more horses which were muscular, accustomed to cold weather and used to hauling farm equipment, sleds and coaches. Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, bred primarily for racing and jumping, were expensive and of little value for the average Adirondacker who needed practical work horses for transportation and chores.
Frozen lakes offered perfect and easily accessible sites for racing. One need only plow the snow away to create a level track. No clearing of woods and rocks was needed.
A ten foot-wide track shaped like a kite was the most popular shape. This consisted of a large triangular kite-shaped loop, either a half- or full mile-long, on which the actual race was held. A smaller loop, attached where the kite track came to a point served for warming up and later slowing down the horses. The course looked something like a lopsided figure eight.
Judges sat on one side where the loops came together; the spectators stood or sat in grandstands on the other. From this vantage point, watchers could sit close to both the start and finish of the race.
Horses were sharp-shod, meaning they were outfitted with special studded shoes (already in use for ice harvesting) called calks. Horses pulled both sulkies and “Portland Cutters,” though eventually, when it was discovered that wheeled sulkies were slightly faster than sleds, the use of cutters declined.
Racing associations set rules and monitored the races. Purses ran from around 50 to 250 dollars per race, excellent money in the late nineteenth century. Was betting taking place as well? Indisputably. Clarence Petty, who attended the races as a child, recalled that a fair amount of gambling was part of the grownup scene.
For smaller events, most of the participants came from a distance of not much over twenty miles; for larger events, horses were shipped to the site by boxcar.
Encouraged by special reduced railroad rates, spectators flocked to these events from as far away as New York City. Crowd sizes were impressive, numbering anywhere from 400 to 4,000 spectators. To get a feel of the action, imagine standing on the ice, all bundled up, stamping your feet to keep warm, a frigid wind lashing your face as you listen to the drivers snap their whips and urge their horses on. Through icy eyelashes you try to focus on the action as the crowd’s roar reaches a fevered pitch. At the same time, no doubt, you may be looking forward to returning to the welcome warmth of both a hot stove and drink at the end of the day.
According to the New York Times, 14 December 1894, “[There] seems to be more dash and spirit to [harness racing on ice] than there is to the hauling of a bicycle sulky over a dirt track.”
Such was the excitement of this winter entertainment. Anybody for bringing it all back?
Caperton Tissot is the author of Adirondack Ice, a Cultural and Natural History, published by Snowy Owl Press.
It’s that time of year again, when men with whiskers shave-down in anticipation of growing their Donegal for this year’s Adirondack Donegal Beard Contest. New beardsmen are welcome to take part in the event, which is free and open to the public.
A Donegal Beard (also called a chin-curtain or Lincoln) is a particular style of Irish hirsute appendage (facial hair) that grows along the jaw line and covers the chin — no soul patch, no mustache. This year marks the contest’s third year. In order to take part in the contest (and all are welcome) contestants must be clean shaven January 1st and grow a Donegal Beard by St. Patrick’s Day. On the day of the contest, held at Basil and Wicks on Route 28 in North Creek, 4 to 7 pm — all beards must conform to the Donegal standard.
Contestants are judged on length, fullness, style and sophistication.
To see pictures from last year’s contest, and to join the Facebook group, go here.
Research has taken me to more cemeteries than I can remember. Surrounded by hundreds of gravestones, I frequently remind myself that every person has a story. What often impresses me is that many people who are largely forgotten actually made a real difference in other people’s lives. Uncovering those stories from the past is humbling, carrying with it the realization that I’ll probably never approach the good works done by others.
Sometimes those good works seem to escape notice, and that was the sense that engulfed me as I read the obituary of Erwin Eugene Lanpher of Lowville. It reminded me of George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life, a regular guy who, as it turned out, was darn important to a lot of people. » Continue Reading.
It’s certainly getting frosty out there, and that’s particularly true for the state’s environmental centers, educators and interpreters.
I first wrote about the closing of the two Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers and the loss of their naturalist staff last June, and the good news that the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY) would run programs at the Newcomb facility in 2011.
Comments back to me said, to summarize, “it’s nice, but get real. In this recession, we have no time to worry about frills and luxuries like environmental education.” I thought I could make a better effort at stating my case.
Most of these “retired” state naturalists are skilled environmental interpreters – meaning that they, to quote a classic definition of interpretation, are skilled at “revealing meanings and relationships through the use of original objects, first hand experiences and illustrative media, rather than simply conveying factual information” (Interpreting our Heritage, by Freeman Tilden).
In essence, these professionals relate parts of the natural world (or the historic or cultural worlds) to something deep within the personality or experience of the visitor, resident or student. What they reveal provokes people to respond, not to yawn. This provocation, in turn, causes visitors to the VICs, Wild Center, Adirondack Museum, or Five Rivers Center to appreciate what they are seeing or experiencing more intensely.
That intensity of appreciation can lead to a desire to understand the details, or a whole ecosystems. These people may develop into aware, informed, understanding, active environmental managers, conservationists, or historians. These activities can and do change the world in ways large and small, and it often begins through good interpretation at a State Park, Visitor Center, or Museum.
Like all layoffs, these at Christmastide are bad enough for the individuals and families involved, like the forced departure of naturalist Ellen Rathbone from the Newcomb VIC, from her park community and from Adirondack Almanack as she seeks new opportunities beyond New York State. We hope New York’s loss will be Ohio’s gain. But the loss of veteran naturalists and educators in NYS is felt statewide.
For instance, a veteran educator at NYS Parks was just laid off after 26 years of successful efforts to link environmental education to improved stewardship of all 150 State Parks. The response of officials in Albany is predictable. “It’s too bad, but we have to cut these naturalist jobs just to keep most Parks open next year.” Keeping the lights on, the golf courses open, the bathrooms plumbed, the roads cleared are a priority. So is keeping the lights on in our eyes, hearts and minds. What these educators do can have real-world, stewardship implications.
For example, this particular naturalist developed a Bird Checklist system for all State Parks back in the late 1980’s. That was considered a “nice” thing to do. A decade later, the awareness those checklists created helped activists to fight off a proposal to construct a large trucking haul road through breeding bird habitats and wetlands of Saratoga Spa State Park. Fifteen years later, these intact wetlands still feed Great Blue Herons, and Kayaderroseras Creek, which in turn has developed into a premier canoeing and kayaking destination.
Thinking ahead, the opportunities for future environmental education employment – and the services those people provide – are shrinking. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is closing two of their three Environmental Education Centers – Stony Kill Farm in Dutchess County, and Rogers EE Center in Sherburne, Chenango County.
The closing of these facilities is big deal for many families for whom these centers and their professional staffs represented learning opportunities, career advancement, family fun and happy memories – to say nothing of community meeting space – at no expense just miles from their front doors. As far as I can tell, the electric lights are still on at Five Rivers EE Center in the Capital District, but I’m not sure about the learning lights, meaning the staffing.
Who will provide those “provocational,” interpretive services to our young people and families in 2011, or 2021? More and more, we hear of the crisis of “wired” kids staying indoors, who are not exposed to the confidence-building, skills-building that outdoor experiences and unstructured playtime provide. We need more adults to share our outdoor heritage, not fewer.
The system of centers supporting this activity around the State is frayed. But there is hope. My hope is founded on the efforts of people who have picked up the fallen baton, such as SUNY’s Paul Hai, who is committed to keeping the Newcomb Interpretive Center open for continuing cultural and environmental interpretation under the auspices of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
It will take time for that facility and others in Newcomb and elsewhere to gain their footing after the loss of so many experienced staff. But there are people like Paul and institutions like ESF out in their communities who are determined not to lose a chance to change someone’s life, or to turn them on to the Adirondacks, or anywhere else with the potential to reveal both our landscapes and parts of ourselves. Let’s work with SUNY’s Paul Hai, or Paul Smith’s College and many others to keep the “lights on” for the fragile network of Adirondack learning centers, museums and interpretive facilities.
Photo: Paul Hai, right, of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry with Tom Cobb, left, retired Preserve Manager with NYS Parks, former staff with the Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century, and a director of Adirondack Wild: Friend of the Forest Preserve.
Bicycles have come a long way. They are one of the most important methods of transportation ever created. Millions of people all over the world rely on them and enjoy them as both a primary means of transport and as a personal means of recreation.
Lifelong bicycle aficionados Rob van der Plas and Stuart Baird have indulged their passion for cycling and created a richly illustrated compendium dedicated to the technology and engineering that goes into the modern bicycle and its key historical components.
Their new book, titled Bicycle Technology, covers every detail and aspect of the bicycle, from the frame materials to the drivetrain, gears, to the wheels, suspension lights, bells and whistles, and more. They have shared their technical know-how and love of the history and the developments of the bicycle from its inauspicious beginnings to the use of space-age materials, and the incorporation of electronic innovations of today. The book is a thorough and up-to-date treatment of the technical aspects of the modern (and historic) bicycle, illustrated with 800 photographs and other illustrations. This new, 2nd edition was completely rewritten, with up-to-date material and numerous clear illustrations, covering bsoth the modern bike itself and its components in a historical context.
The first bicycle was invented in 1817 by Carl Von Drais (no, not three centuries earlier by Leonardo Da Vinci, as has sometimes been claimed). Drais viewed it as a substitute for a horse, which was in very short supply at the time due to a very harsh winter. His earliest machine was protected by a patent, which was soon copied by many people, some under license, some simply pirated. However, interest soon diminished, and by 1830, they were all but forgotten relics of a short-lived craze.
The pedal-drive was first introduced in the 1950s for use on a workman’s tricycle powered by means of cranks on the front wheel, and later found use on Michaux’s two-wheel velocipeds. Tension wire spokes were introduced in 1869, making it possible to build very large wheels of the iconic high-wheel, or “ordinary” bicycle of the 1870 and 1880s.
The first chain-driven bicycle was patented in 1879. Within a few years of their introduction the safety bicycle, with chain-drive and two equal-sized had superseded the high-wheel bicycle.
During much of the 20th Century, bicycle developments were confined to “tweaking” the details rather than the overall re-design of the bicycle as a whole. The most important development of the 20th Century was the introduction and perfection of gearing systems. A modern bicycle derailleur gearing system in the process of changing gear by literally “derailing” the chain to a smaller or larger rear cog
Technical developments in bicycles continue to undergo subtle refinements. There have been, and continue to be, significant developments in areas like brake systems, gearing, suspension, and frame materials. High-tech, lightweight materials, including carbon and titanium, sometimes in combination, are now used in the frames and components of high-end bicycles.
Many bicycles are now available with full suspension and hydraulic disk brakes. Fully equipped urban commuter bikes are available with carriers for a briefcase or laptop, effective lights for night riding, and other electronic and mechanical accessories.
In recent years, electric-assist bikes, or “E-bikes” have gained popularity amongst casual riders and utility cyclists. There are four E-bike categories: CEBs, which are conventional electric bikes; SABs, or simple assisted bikes; EHBs, or electro-hybrid bikes; and SHBs, or Synergetic Hybrid Bicycles, which can be seen as pedal-powered equivalent of hybrid cars.
Modern lighting systems of course, now use ultra-bright multi-light LEDs with rechargeable battery packs and on board generators. Modern audio warning systems are also electronic.
No matter what advances in technology we may see, some people may still choose on installing an old-fashioned bell or horn. Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.
Photo: Early High-Wheel or Ordinary Bicycle (c 1872).
SUNY Potsdam’s School of Education and Professional Studies, in partnership with the College’s Department of English and Communication, invites submissions from area elementary, middle and high school students for the 2011 North Country Peace Poetry Contest.
The North Country Peace Poetry Contest is open to students in all K-12 classrooms in both public and private schools in Northern New York. Students are invited to create and submit original poems on the subject of peace. Dr. Viki Levitt is a poet and a longtime judge for the contest, and beginning this year she will serve as co-director with Dr. Jennifer Mitchell. They are taking the lead as organizers, with guidance from Dr. Sharmain van Blommestein, who coordinated the contest for several years.
“The Peace Poetry Contest provides an opportunity for young writers to express their own concepts of peace through the creative act of composing original poems. Their poems offer all of us the chance to contemplate the ideal of peace and to celebrate each others’ visions of it,” Dr. Levitt said.
Peace is a uniquely human concept, and it affirms the human spirit. Though this contest holds no formal position on the current state of world affairs, the College wants to honor the ideal of peace through young students’ writing.
Judging will occur in February and March. Contest organizers will select about 80 poems for publication in a poetry calendar with the title North Country Schools Peace Poetry, 2011. Winning students and their teachers will receive free copies of the poetry calendar, and will be invited to take part in a poetry reading on the SUNY Potsdam campus to celebrate their contributions and accept their awards.
Children’s Christmas wishes and expectations years ago were much different. I was so struck by this—the simplicity and innocence—while researching a recent book that I included a chapter entitled “Letters to Santa” (in History of Churubusco). The sample letters below were published in local newspapers from 1920–1940. They offer historical significance, portraying the sharp contrast to the modern holiday, where disproportionately expensive gifts have become the norm.
Like hundreds of other small villages and towns in the early twentieth century, Churubusco was a farming community. Families were often self-sufficient, and everyone, including small children, had daily chores. This fostered teamwork and family unity, and it gave children a firsthand understanding of the values of goods, services, and hard work. Those lessons were conveyed in their missives to Santa. And, some of the comments in the letters are just plain cute. 1923 Dear Santa, This year, money being scarce, my wants are few. I want a doll, set of dishes, ribbon, candy, and nuts. Don’t forget my brothers and sisters. Your girl, Eva Lussier
Dear Santa Claus, I want you to bring me a little serving set, ball, candy, nuts, and bananas. Never mind the sled this year because I am expecting one from my aunt. My Xmas tree will be in the parlor near the stove, so take your time and get good and warm before you leave. Wishing you a merry Xmas, your little friend, Louis Patnode
1925 Dear Santa Claus, I would like you to bring me a little bedroom set, some candy, nuts, and bananas. Your little friend, Louise Recore
Dear Santa Claus, I would like a flashlight, sled, gold watch, some candy, nuts, oranges, bananas, and peanuts. Please don’t forget my little brothers, Walter and Francis. Walter would like a little drum, mouth organ, candy, nuts, gum, and oranges. Francis would like a little wagon full of toys, and some candy, nuts, and bananas. Your little friend, John Brady
1938 Dear Santa, For Christmas I want a bottle of perfume and a locket, a 59 cent box of paints that I saw in your sale catalogue, a pair of skates, a nice dress and candy and nuts. I am eleven years old and Santa I hope you have a very merry Xmas. Your friend, Anita Robare
Dear Santa, I am writing a few lines to tell you what I want for Christmas. I want a toothbrush and there is a set of 12 different games in your Christmas catalogue for 98 cents. Some of the names of the games are bingo, checkers, and jacksticks. Please bring me this set. I hope you don’t forget my little sister and brothers. Your friend, Henrietta Matthews
Dear Santa, Christmas is drawing near and I would like these things: a pair of ski shoes, pair of fur bedroom slippers, a dump truck, and banjo. I will leave some crackers and milk on the breakfast table. Your friend, Ann Elderbaum
Dear Santa, When you come around for Xmas, I would like to have you bring me a pair of skates and a woolen shirt. It’s all I want for Christmas for I thought that you are getting old and those chimneys will be hard to climb. You will have some bread and milk at Christmas Eve. Yours truly, Theodore Leclair
Dear Santa Claus, I wish you would bring me a sled and a ring. I don’t want very much for I know you are getting old and I don’t want you to carry too much. You will find my stocking near the stove and on the kitchen table you will find some bread and milk. I want you to leave me some candy, especially peanut brittle. I am 12 years old. Your friend, Cecelia Louise Miller
Dear Santa, I wish you would bring me a popgun, tractor, truck and an airplane. You will find a bowl of bread and milk near the Xmas tree. You will find my stocking near the stove. I am only seven years old. Your friend, Clayton Miller
My Dear Santa, I am eleven years old, and I wish you would bring me a cowboy suit and a sweater. You will find my stocking near the stairway, and on the kitchen table you will find some corn meal mush. Your little friend, Herman Leclair
Dear Santa, Christmas is drawing near and I thought I would drop you a line and let you know what I want for Christmas. I would like a red sweater, western book, and a fur hood. I will leave you some bread, cake, peanuts, and milk. I don’t want very much because you are growing old and your bag will be too heavy. So I will close and hope to have all I want for Christmas. Sincerely yours, Rita Theresa Leclair
Dear Santa, I would like a new pair of shoes for Christmas. Ruth Demarse
Dear Santa, I want a tractor and some colors for Christmas. Henry Lagree
1939 Dear Santa, I have been a very good girl this year. I thank you for the things that you brought me last year. For Christmas I would like a doll and a Chinese Checker game. I will leave a lunch for you on the table. I will clean our chimney so you can slide down it. I will hang our stockings near the Christmas tree. I would like to stay up and see you but I am afraid that I would not get any presents so I will go to bed. Well we will have to close. Your friend, Helen and Patty Smith
Dear Santa Claus, I have been a good boy this year. I would like a car that pedals. If you couldn’t bring that, I would like something smaller. And don’t forget Carol my baby sister. And I would like some candy, gum, oranges, and nuts. Your little friend, Robert K. Smith
Dear Santa, I have tried to be a good little girl this year. I am nine years old and in the fifth grade. I would like a pair of ice skates between my sister and I. And don’t forget my baby sister, because she wasn’t here last year and I through that maybe you would forget her. But I guess that you wouldn’t do that trick. And don’t forget the candy, nuts, oranges, and gum. Your friend, Helen L. Smith
Dear Santa, I would like for Christmas a pencil box and drawing paper, candy, and nuts. Your friend, Beulah Perry
1940 Dear Santa Claus, I want a train and candy. Norman Lafave
Dear Santa, I would like a box of colors, a teddy bear, candy and nuts. Agnes Lagree
Dear Santa Claus, I want a pair of shoes, dress, and Christmas candy and nuts. Ruth Demarse
From Jill and me at Bloated Toe Publishing, Happy Holidays to all.
Photo: 1916 Christmas advertisement for a Malone store.
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
In the 1880s Frank Ofeldt invented a small engine powered by a petroleum by-product called naphtha, which proved to be a very useful means of water transport when attached to 16 or 18-foot launches. For a while, these naphtha launches flourished on the Adirondack lakes, transporting passengers and freight between camps, hotels and settlements.
By the turn of the century, naphtha launches were common on Lake George. Some were excursion boats, such as those owned and operated by the father os onetime Lake George Supervisor Alden Shaw. The majority, however, belonged to summer residents. Dr. Abraham Jacobi of Bolton Landing owned one. Harry Watrous, the perpetrator of the Hague Monster Hoax, owned two, as did Colonel Mann, the New York magazine editor who was the butt of the hoax. (Mann’s own magazine, by the way, poked fun at the rich for taking the accoutrements of soft living into the Adirondack wilderness, naphtha launches included.) The Eva B, the launch portrayed here, was owned by Charles Barker, a gentleman who spent one summer on Lake George in 1892. Barker sailed the craft from New York City to Troy and then came up the Champlain Canal through the locks. The launch was brought overland from Glens Falls to Lake George, where it was paraded in the Water Carnival. When Barked departed Lake George at the end of the season, he announced that he would sill down Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence River, then on to Alexandria Bay and the Thousand Islands.
The naphtha launch, unlike the steamboat which it replaced, was light and easy to handle. No special license was required to operate it. Thus, the naphtha launch became popular very quickly. Just as quickly, however, it disappeared, supplanted by the gasoline-powered motorboat, which was much faster than the naphtha launch and, or so it was said, much safer.
“It is eighty years or more since the naphtha launch came into the woods. They are gone and the steamboats with them. Handled with good manners, the launch was no threat to anyone and a pleasing service to many,” Kenneth Durant wrote in his monograph on the naphtha launch, published by the Adirondack Museum in 1976. Durant’s monograph remains the single best source of information on the naphtha launch.
Durant himself is best known for his pioneering studies of the Adirondack guide-boat. He had originally intended to incorporate the material which he had gathered on the naphtha launch into his book on the guide-boat, but then decided that it would be too much of a digression. After his death in 1972, his widow, Helen Durant, edited the manuscript and produced the pamphlet that is still available through the museum.
Durant’s knowledge of the naphtha launch, like his knowledge of the guide-boat, was rooted in his own experience. His father, Frederick C. Durant, was the developer of the Prospect House on Blue Mountain Lake, the first luxury hotel in the Adirondacks. To accommodate his own family, Durant built a camp on Forked Lake, a tributary of Racquette Lake, in the style made popular by his relative, William West Durant, which they called “Camp Cedars.” Warren Cole, the Long Lake guide-boat builder, was the family’s guide, and Durant spent much of his youth in the guide-boat that Cole built for him.
The family also maintained a naphtha launch, called the Mugwump. For sport and pleasure, there was always the guide-boat, Durant said. The naphtha launch was essentially a service boat. “It transported busts who might have been timid or clumsy in a guidebook. It towed the scow with loads of lumber from the mill or stone cut from the quarry at the head of the lake. It towed the freight boat with a load of fresh balsam for the open camp, or a string of guide-boats for a fishing party to the far end of the lake. Now and then one might make a leisurely cruise along the evening shore, with engine muted.”
Durant’s interest in the evolution of the guide-boat brought him to Lake George in 1960 to study the bateaux that had just been discovered at the bottom of the lake, and he and Helen visited my family often in Warrensburg, usually when traveling from their home in Vermont to Hamilton County, which Durant always called “the woods” and which he believed was the true Adirondacks.
(He once wrote to his friend, canoe authority Paul Jamieson: “When I was half as old as I am now we could say unctuously, ‘There are no venomous snakes in the Adirondacks,’ reciting a bit of nature lore: ‘Rattlesnakes do not advance beyond the oaks.’ Then, when I was not looking, someone moved the Blue Line around Lake George and took in oaks and rattlesnakes–and worse.”)
While he may have been harsh on Lake George, I remember Kenneth as the gentlest of men. And he managed to impart to many, through his books, his conversation and his example, something of his passionate interest in wooden boats and their history on the lakes of the Adirondacks. Those of us who have learned from him had had richer lives as a consequence.
The Cranberry Lake 50 (CL50), the fifty-mile hiking route that circles Cranberry Lake, has been featured as one of the best multi-day hikes in the Northeast in the January 2011 issue of BackpackerMagazine. Here is an excerpt from the article:
“For lakeside shoreline, traipse trough the Adirondacks’ Five Ponds Wilderness on a 50-mile loop around 7,000-acre Cranberry Lake. [Times Union outdoors blogger] Gillian Scott suggests starting in Wanakena and traveling counterclockwise for an easier first day, when your pack is heaviest. Along the loop you’ll see beaver ponds, sandy beaches, evergreen islands, and winding Oswegatchie River oxbows – but not a lot of people. “We went in July and didn’t see anyone,” Scott says. Rick Hapanowicz, Jim Houghtailing and six others did the CL50 as a straight through overnight speed hike in May of this year. You can read about their trip online.
This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.
Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.
The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.
SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND ** indicates new or revised items.
SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN IN HIGH PEAKS DEC Forest Rangers and others continue to search 22 year-old Wesley ‘Wes’ Wamsganz, missing since Saturday, November 20, and believed to be in the High Peaks Wilderness. He is 6’3″ 180 lbs, has buzz cut short blond hair, and blue eyes. He is believed to wearing a Black Bob Marley zip up hoodie, jeans or tan Carhart pants, basketball sneakers and a yellow, red and green striped brimmed beanie. The search was scaled back to “limited continuous status” Sunday. Wamsganz, of Saranac Lake, is believed to have been spotted by hikers at Marcy Dam last Saturday evening. Between Marcy Dam and Lake Colden Wamsganz’s green Carhartt jacket was found last Sunday. If you encounter Mr. Wamsganz or evidence of his whereabouts notify DEC Forest Rangers at (518-897-1300).
** WINTER CONDITIONS AT ALL ELEVATIONS Winter conditions exist throughout the area. Expect to encounter snow and especially ice on trails. Currently ice, frozen ground and mud are covered by light snow. Prepare accordingly, pack snowshoes or skis and crampons and use them when conditions warrant. Daytime temperatures below freezing can be expected at all elevations, with wind-chill below freezing as well. Snow cover is now prominent across the Adirondacks. Snow is 8 to 14 inches across the central, western, and northern Adirondacks and up to a few feet deep at higher elevations; exposed areas are very icy. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 17 inches of snow at the cabin. Ice on Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are thick enough for crossing, but ice is still thin around inlets and outlets.
** Thin Ice Safety Ice has formed on water bodies and people have been observed on the ice at numerous locationa. Always check the thickness of ice before crossing. Be cautious of ice over moving water. Remember, ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person. Each year a number of people fall through thin ice. One has already died. Use extreme caution with ice. Carry Extra Winter Gear Snowshoes or skis can prevent injuries and eases travel in heavy snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy trails and mountaintops and other exposed areas. Wear layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!), a winter hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots. Carry a day pack complete with ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.
Know The Latest Weather Check the weather before entering the woods and be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.
Fire Danger: LOW
** Central Adirondacks Lower Elevation Weather Friday: Partly sunny, high near 23. Wind chill as low as zero. Very windy summits. Friday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 3. Christmas Day: Mostly cloudy, a high near 19. Very windy summits. Saturday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 7. Sunday: Cloudy, with a high near 22.
The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]
Christmas Bird Count Underway The 111th Annual Christmas Bird Count will take place December 14th to January 6th. The longest running citizen science survey in the US, each year during this time volunteers help document bird population trends used in a wide array of research and conservation efforts. For more information and to find out how to participate as a bird counter this winter, visit birds.audubon.org/faq/cbc.
** Snow Cover Snowfall Wednesday night amounted to more than expected across the Central Adirondacks, and added four to five inches of light snow, but still not enough to make a real change in the snow cover. A thin frozen base is now supporting total accumulation of about 6 to 10 inches, except across the northern and western parts of the park and in Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Clinton counties which have seen recent heavier snows. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 17 inches of snow at the cabin. The exception is the lower southeast part of the park. There is still considerably less snow on the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks or in Warren County and eastern Essex County, which has yet to see any substantial accumulation. Snow can be up to a few feet deep at higher elevations. The latest snow cover map from the National Weather Service provides an estimate of snow cover around the region.
** Downhill Ski Report Thanks to snow-making Whiteface and Gore are open; Whiteface has about 60% of its terrian open, and Gore about 50%. McCauley, Mount Pisgah, Titus, and Oak Mountain are all open with limited terrain. The Big Tupper Ski Area had planned to open last week, but has postponed those plans for now and remains closed until at least Sunday. Hickory in Warrensburg remains closed. Call ahead for specific opening details during this holiday weekend.
** Cross Country Ski Report Most cross country ski areas are open including Cascade in Lake Placid, Mt. Van Hoevenberg, and Lapland near Northville, Cunninghams and Garnet Hill near North Creek. Call ahead for specific opening details during this holiday weekend.
** Backcountry Ski Report There is still little snow on the Keene Valley approach to the High Peaks including the Keene end of the Jackrabbit Trail. Most of the Jackrabbit Trail is now reported skiable, but use caution and be on the lookout for some wet spots and trail hazards, some hidden [conditions]. Elsewhere in the backcountry, stick to trucks trails and maintained trails and beware of potential hazards. The Lake Colden Interior Caretaker reports 17 inches of snow at the cabin and open areas have some good cover, though not narrow trails. Ice on Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are thick enough for crossing, but ice is still thin around inlets and outlets. There are no trails skiable beyond Marcy Dam, and the last quarter mile to the summit of Wright Peak is thick ice over bare rock. The Truck trail to Marcy Dam, the Hays Brook Truck Trail (as far as Sheep Meadow and Grassy Pond), the Fish Pond Truck Trail, the Newcomb Lake Road to Camp Santanoni, and Burn Road in the Whitney Wilderness are skiable. Connery Pond and Ausable Lake Road are reported “just skiable” with caution.
** Ice Climbing Report Ice has been building with cold nights and warmer days. Areas at lower elevations are your best bet, with higher elevation areas generally regarded as claimable but just average conditions. Climbable areas including Chapel Pond (the pond is now frozen), Cascade Pass, the North side of Pitchoff, The Mineville Pillar, Roaring Brook Falls, Multi-Gulley, and Chillar Pillar. The highlight is Poke-O Moonshine, which is reported to be in great condition so far this season. Palisades on Lake Champlain is now reported climbable. In the backcountry Avalanche and Elk passes are climbable, as is Big Blue and the Stooges at Underwood Canyon, but The Fang is still thin. See additional detailed and up to date Ice Climbing Conditions here.
** Municipal Ice Skating Rinks Open Most municipal outdoor skating rinks are now open or about to open including those at Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake. Call ahead for specific opening days and times.
** Ice Fishing Report Ice fishing is officially open, but ice conditions vary widely by location. Anglers have been observed on Rollins Pond, Lake Colby, and Lake Clear and Kings Bay and Catfish Bay on Lake Champlain. Ice anglers are traveling on foot thus far and motor vehicle traffic is not recommended on the ice at this point. Tip-ups may be operated on waters through April 30, 2010. General ice fishing regulations can be found in the in the 2010-11 Fishing Regulations Guide.
** Snowmobile Trails Report Except in parts of the Tug Hill plateau where heavy snow has fallen, the regions snowmobile trails are still very fragile with just an inch to three inches of base. Most trails around the region remain closed, including the Moose River Plains. There are some trails open in the Wilmington Wild Forest, Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, and the Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands. Riders everywhere should show restraint and wait for trails to be officially opened and sufficiently snow-covered. Around the region volunteers are still installing signs and protective snow fencing. There has been little or no grooming, and some trails have blowdown from the recent windstorms. Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude. Avoid riding on lakes or ponds, and excessive speed. Ride safely. More Adirondack snowmobiling resources can be found here.
** Most Rivers Returning to Normal Waters in the region are returning to normal for this time of year. However, the Hudson, Bouquet, Raquette, and Saranac rivers are still running above normal. Paddlers should use care and consult the latest streamgages data. Ice has formed on nearly all flat waters and forming on swift waters as well.
Hunting Seasons Although fall hunting seasons for big game and most waterfowl are over in the Adirondack region, some small game hunting is still underway. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to hunt on Forest Preserve lands. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Hikers may want to wear bright colors as an extra precaution.
Furbearer Trapping Seasons Some furbearer trapping seasons remain open. This would be a good time to keep pets leased and on the trails. A reminder that body gripping traps set on land can no longer use bait or lure.
ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS
NORTHVILLE PLACID TRAIL
The Northville Placid Trail (NPT) is the Adirondack Park’s only designated long distance hiking trail. The 133 mile NPT was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, and is now maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Up to date NPT trail condition information can be found online.
Upper Benson to Whitehouse: About 1.8 miles north of the Silver Lake lean-to and just south of the Canary Pond tent camping area, the trail is flooded and may require wading through water and mud.
West Canada Lakes to Wakely Dam: The bridge over Mud Creek, northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out. Wading the creek is the only option. The water in Mud Creek will vary from ankle deep to knee deep.
Lake Durant to Long Lake: About a half mile north of the Lake Durant trailhead at Route 28/30 the trail crosses several flooded boardwalks. Use extreme caution as the boardwalk is not visible and may shift. Expect to get your boots wet and use a stick or hiking pole to feel your way along to avoid falling off the boardwalk.
Lake Durant to Long Lake: About 4 miles north of the Tirrell Pond the trail is flooded by beaver activity. The reroute to the east is now also flooded in spots.
Duck Hole to Averyville Rd. and Lake Placid: Beaver activity has flooded the trail about 3 miles south of the Averyville trailhead and will require a sturdy bushwhack.
Personal Flotation Devices Required: Users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.
Western High Peaks Wilderness: Trails in the Western High Peaks Wilderness are cluttered with blowdown from a storm that occurred December 1st. DEC will be working to clear trails as soon as possible.
** Ampersand Mountain Trail: There is heavy blowdown on the Ampersand Mountain Trail as far as the old caretakers cabin – approximately 1.7 miles in. Finding the trail may be difficult after fresh snows. Skiing will be frustrating as there are so many trees down. Past the cabin site the trail is good but snowshoes are needed. There is aprox 3 feet of snow near the summit. (12/23)
** Wright Peak: Snow shoes are necessary on Wright Peak and full crampons will be required for the final 1/4 mile approach to the summit as there is thick ice on bare rock.
Jackrabbit Ski Trail: Improvements have been made to the Jackrabbit Trail, a 24-mile cross-country ski trail that runs between Saranac Lake and Keene. There has been a reroute of the popular six mile section between McKenzie Pond Road outside Saranac Lake to Whiteface Inn Road outside Lake Placid. The rerouted trail avoids some hilly terrain at the start of this section and also avoids the ball field, and some private property. Trailhead parking is expected to be expanded in this area later this year.
Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. This adds 2 miles of hiking, plan trips accordingly.
Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.
Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.
Wilmington Wild Forest: Snowmobiles may be operating on designated snowmobile trails. Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage.
Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS
Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Gates have been closed on the Moose River Plains Road. Motor vehicle traffic is prohibited until after the spring mud season. Currently snow accumulations are not enough to warrant opening the snowmobile trails.
Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.
Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: Ice is forming on all waters. Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.
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 Jabe Pond Road, and Buttermilk Road Extension. Although also closed, Scofield Flats, Bear Slides Access, and Pikes Beach Access roads may be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding a Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD).
Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.
Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All All lands, including the trail to The Pinnacle, are closed to all public recreational access until December 31st. Access corridors have been designated to allow hunters to reach forest preserve lands through the conservation easement lands. Contact Senior Forest Rob Daley for information on access corridors at 518-897-1291.
** Saranac Lakes Wild Forest: Gates have been open on the old D & H railroad bed (Snowmobile Corridor C7B). Skiers and snowshoers using this designated snowmobile trail should keep to the sides of the trail to allow safe passage of snowmobiles. Snowmobilers are required to slow down when passing skiers, snowshoers or other snowmmobiles on trails.
Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: The gate to the Lake Lila Road is closed. Public motorized access to the road is prohibited until the gate is reopened after the spring mud season. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized access is allowed on the road. Trespassing on lands adjacent to the road is prohibited.
** Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: Numerous cross country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities exist on the Public Use Areas and Linear Recreation Corridors open to the public. Skiers and snowshoers are asked not to use the groomed snowmobile routes. Signs on the trails and maps of the snowmobile routes instruct snowmobilers on which routes are open this winter. Portions of these routes may be plowed from time to time so riders should be cautious and aware of motor vehicles that may be on the road. These route changes are a result of the cooperation of Chateaugay Woodlands, the landowner of the easement lands, and their willingness to maintain the snowmobile network. The cooperation of snowmobilers will ensure future cooperative reroutes when the need arises.
** Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: A parking area has been built on Goldsmith Road for snowmobile tow vehicles and trailers. The southern terminus of Linear Recreation Corridor 8 (Liberty Road) lies several hundred feet to the east of the parking area and connects to the C8A Snowmobile Corridor Trail (Wolf Pond Road) via Linear Recreation Corridor 7 (Wolf Pond Mountain Road). Construction of the parking area was a cooperative effort of the landowner, the Town of Franklin, and DEC. The Town of Franklin donated time, personnel and equipment from their highway department and will be plowing the parking area.
** Sable Highlands / Old Liberty Road / Wolf Pond Mountain Road Snowmobile Trail: Due to planned logging operations by the landowner on lands north of Loon Lake, the western portion of the snowmobile trail (Old Liberty Road/Wolf Pond Mountain Road) that connected with the C7 Snowmobile Corridor Trail (the utility corridor) just north of Loon Lake near Drew Pond and lead to the C8A Snowmobile Corridor Trail (Wolf Pond Road) has been closed this winter. The eastern portion of that snowmobile trail (Wolf Pond Mountain Road) now connects to Goldsmith Road near the parking area. Snowmobiles planning to travel between Franklin County and Clinton County using the C8A Snowmobile Corridor Trail must access C8A at the junction with C7 or use Goldsmith Road and the trail from the Goldsmith Road to C8A (Wolf Pond Road).
** Sable Highlands / Mullins Road: The Mullins Road has been opened to snowmobiles to connect County Route 26 (Loon Lake Road) to C7. The road is located approximately halfway between the intersections of Route 26 with C8 (Debar Game Farm Road) and Route 26 with C7. (12/23)
Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave will be closed to the public from Nov 1 till March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. It is being closed to recreational spelunking to avoid disturbance of hibernating bats. DEC is closing all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easments to protect the bat population.
GENERAL ADIRONDACK NOTICES
Accidents Happen, Be Prepared Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.
Personal Flotation Devices Required Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.
Cave And Mine Closings White nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across the northeast has spread to at least 32 cave and mine bat hibernation sites across the New York state according to a recent survey. Populations of some bat species are declining in these caves and mines by 90 percent. White nose was first discovered in upstate New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and is now confirmed in at least 11 states. DEC has closed all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population including Norton Peak Cave in Chateuagay Woodlands Easement Lands and also Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Please respect cave and mine closures.
Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles All backcountry users should learn and practice the Leave No Trace philosophy: Plan ahead and be prepared, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. For more information is available online.
——————– Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].
The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.
Lake Placid hosted two events last weekend; the Lake Placid Ice Marathon on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval and the FIBT Skeleton/Bobsled World Cup at the Mt Van Hoevenburg track.
The Lake Placid Ice Marathon, one of the races in the Marathon Skating International Series throughout North America, hosted approximately sixty skaters. The race distances were 10 k, 25 k, and 40 k, (which equals approximately 25 laps, 60 laps, and 100 laps), and skaters from the US and Canada competed. The two fastest skaters, Sergio Almeralla (Canada) and Jim Cornell (Rochester, NY), dominated all three distances, with Almeralla placing first and Cornell placing second.
Germany was dominating throughout the World Cup events and the first two days of the FIBT Skeleton Bobsled World Cup in Lake Placid, but the United States’ “Night Train” dashed that winning streak with a victory on the 19th. Steve Holcomb led his team to win the event with a time of 1:48.01, which was .58 seconds faster than the next fastest sled.
The gold medal was their first since the first world cup of the season in Whistler, British Columbia. Coming in second was the Germany-1 team of Maximillian Arndt, Rene Tiefert, Alexander Roediger and Martin Putze with a runner-up time of 1:48.01 total. Canada-1 placed third with driver Lyndon Rush and his crew of Justin Wilkinson, Cody Sorensen and Neville Wright, with a solid 1:48.63 time.
Two other US sleds piloted by local athlete John Napier and rookie Ethan Albrecht-Carrie, finished 8th and 10th respectively. The FIBT Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup tour will resume Jan. 10-16 in Igls, Austria.