Saturday, October 23, 2010

October is Bat Month at Adirondack Almanack

Ah, October; the month when summer has truly fled and winter can be felt in the air. Leaves explode in color and then lose their grip on life. Geese and other waterfowl beat a hasty retreat for warmer climes. Some flowers we typically see in the spring are apparently confused and put out a few end-of-season blossoms. And everywhere we turn, yards and businesses are decorated for Hallowe’en.

In keeping with this time of year, I’ve decided to bless you all with a series of articles about one of my all-time favorite animals: bats. I know, I know – I say this about so many animals, but truthfully, bats do top the list. Perhaps this is because they are so reviled by the majority of people and I love to root for the underdog. In fact, this was probably why my interest was piqued in the first place. But as I learned more and more about bats, I discovered just how fascinating these winged mammals are. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 22, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

On Friday afternoons Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers a collection of the week’s top weblinks. You can find all our weekly web round-ups here.

Subscribe! More than 4,500 people get Adirondack Almanack each day via RSS, E-Mail, or Twitter or Facebook updates. It’s a convenient way to get the latest news and information about the Adirondacks.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Remembering Huletts Landing on Lake George

Huletts Landing, the resort on the northeastern shore of Lake George, is a summer cottage colony, and some of the cottages are old enough to be of architectural and historic interest.

But however much is intact, even more is missing; destroyed by fire, the wrecking ball and changes in public taste and the economy.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, though, Huletts Landing “was one of the largest, most successful resorts on Lake George,” says Wyatt Firth. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 22, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

Each Friday morning Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers the previous week’s top stories. You can find all our weekly news round-ups here.

Subscribe! More than 4,000 people get Adirondack Almanack each day via RSS, E-Mail, or Twitter or Facebook updates. It’s a convenient way to get the latest news and information about the Adirondacks.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Oct. 21)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions 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

Newly Opened Roads
A number of roads closed this spring, when budget cutbacks restricted DEC’s ability to repair, maintain and patrol them, have reopened in time for big game hunting season. All roads typically open in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest are now open. Lily Pond Road in Horicon has already reopened. Gay Pond Road in Warrensburg will be open by this weekend. Details on the openings can be found below. Jabe Pond Road in Hague, Buttermilk Road Extension in Warrensburg, Dacy Clearing Road in Fort Ann, Scofield Flats Road, Pikes Beach Access Road and the Bear Slides Access Road in Luzerne all remain temporarily closed.

Cold Wet Weather
National Weather Service is predicting snow showers mixed with rain Friday night and Saturday morning – snow showers only in the higher elevations and summits. Night-time and morning temperatures below freezing can be expected, especially in higher elevations. Pack extra non-cotton clothes, including a hat and gloves or mittens. Take off and put on layers of clothing to regulate body heat.

Snow Above 3000 Feet
Snow can be found on trails and summits over 3000 feet. Although there is a foot or more of snow on the ground in some locations, lesser amounts will be found on trails. Due to below freezing temperatures at night trails will be crusty in the morning. Snowshoes or skis are not required at this time but instep crampons are recommended as summits and other open areas are icy.

High Waters
Water levels continue to be high. Some waters may contain logs, limbs and other debris. Check the current USGS streamflow data for selected waters.

Special Blowdown Notice
Recent storms and high winds have resulted in a good deal of blowdown. Limbs, branches and trees may be found on and across trails, especially on lesser used side trails. Strong winds are expected Friday and Saturday.

Most DEC Campgrounds Are Now Closed
Now that Columbus Day has passed the only DEC campground open in the Adirondacks is the Fish Creek Campground, all the others are closed until next season. The Fish Creek Campground will close October 31st.

Do Not Feed Bears
In mid September a bear broke into a home in Inlet and had to be euthanized by DEC Forest Rangers. In late August a forest ranger shot and killed a bear that was harassing campers at the Eight Lake State Campground near Inlet. Bears fed by humans (intentionally or incidentally) grow to not fear people. For this reason, two bears have now been killed this year; eight problem bears were killed in the Adirondacks last summer. The Inlet and Old Forge corridor has traditionally had problems with bears.

Central Adirondacks Lower Elevation Weather
Friday: Slight chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, breezy; high near 37.
Friday Night: Slight chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, breezy, low around 25.
Saturday: Slight chance of snow and rain. Partly sunny; high near 48.
Saturday Night: Chance of rain and snow showers. Mostly cloudy; low around 32.
Sunday: Chance of rain and snow showers. Cloudy; high near 52.

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]

Snow Above 3000 Feet
Snow can be found on trails and summits over 3000 feet. Although there is a foot or more of snow on the ground in some locations, lesser amounts will be found on trails. Due to below freezing temperatures at night trails will be crusty in the morning. Snowshoes or skis are not required at this time but instep crampons are recommended as summits and other open areas are icy.

Colder Weather
Colder temperatures have arrived in the mountains. Night-time and morning temperatures in the 20s or colder are likely, especially at higher elevations. Pack extra non-cotton clothes, including a hat and gloves.

Darkness Arriving Earlier
Autumn has arrived and daylight hours have decreased. Know when sunset occurs and plan accordingly. Always pack or carry a flashlight with fresh batteries.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK CONDITIONS

Fire Danger: LOW

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.

Waterfowl Consumption Advisory
With waterfowl hunting seasons open, hunters are reminded that wild ducks and geese may contain chemicals (PCBs and some pesticides) at levels that may be harmful to health. A Department of Health (DOH) advisory states that: “Mergansers are the most heavily contaminated waterfowl species and should not be eaten. Eat no more than two meals per month of other wild waterfowl; you should skin them and remove all fat before cooking and discard stuffing after cooking. Wood ducks and Canada geese are less contaminated than other wild waterfowl species, and diving ducks are more contaminated than dabbler ducks.” DOH’s complete advisories for sport fish and game can be found online.

Motorists Alert: Moose
There are upwards of 800 Moose in the Adirondack region, up from 500 in 2007. Motorists should be alert for moose on the roadways at this time of year especially at dawn and dusk, which are times of poor visibility when Moose are most active. Much larger than deer, moose-car collisions can be very dangerous. Last year ten accidents involving moose were reported. DEC is working to identify areas where moose are present and post warning signs.

Hunting Seasons
Fall hunting seasons for small game, waterfowl and big game have begun or will begin shortly. 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.

Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas
The use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe is prohibited. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected this regulation.

Storage of Personal Belongings on State Land
Placing structures or personal property on state land without authorization from DEC is prohibited. Exceptions include: properly placed and labeled geocaches; legally placed and tagged traps, tree stands and blinds. The full regulation regarding the use of motorized equipment on state lands may be found online; the regulation regarding the structures and storage of personal property is also online.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility 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.

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; the use of bear-resistant canisters is encouraged throughout the Adirondacks.

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

** indicates new or revised items.

NORTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS

Chazy Highlands Wild Forest: The newly acquired Forest Preserve lands on the Standish and Chazy Lake Roads in the Lyon Mountain area, and on the Smith and Carter Roads in the Ellenburg Mountain area, are open for public use. State boundary lines are not yet marked, contact the DEC Region 5 Natural Resources office (518-891-1291) to obtain a property map. Be aware of your location at all times, do not trespass.

HIGH PEAKS

** Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands, including the Elk Lake-Marcy Trail into the High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix-Hunter Pass Trail into the Dix Mountain Wilderness, is closed to all public access through the big game hunting season.

** The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season.

Lake Arnold Trail: A section of the Lake Arnold Trail just north of the Feldspar Lean-to may be impassable due to mud and water resulting from past beaver activity. Hikers may want to seek an alternate route during and after wet weather.

Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.

Upper Works to Duck Hole: All the foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and the Duck Hole have been replaced and the trail has been cleared.

Moose Pond Horse Trail: The bridges on the Moose Pond Horse Trail have been replaced, horse drawn wagons can access the trail to Ermine Brook.

Newcomb Lake – Moose Pond: A bridge on the Newcomb Lake to Moose Pond Trail has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge is intact, but surrounded by water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Crews have constructed and marked a reroute of the Northville-Placid Trail around an area flooded by beaver activity between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing.

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.

Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

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.

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.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS

Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement: Camping is limited to designated campsites, 8 campsites have been designated at this time.

** Adirondack Canoe Route: Water levels remain higher than normal due to recent rains. Waters may contain logs, limbs and other debris. Check the current USGS streamflow data for selected waters.

Adirondack Canoe Route: Northern Forest Canoe Trail volunteers rehabilitated the takeout at the north end of Eighth Lake. The 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail celebrates its tenth year this summer. Winding its way from Maine through New Hampshire, Quebec, Vermont, and into New York ending at Old Forge.

Forest Ranger Greg George: Ranger George has retired after 33 years of service. If you had contacted Ranger George in the past for camping permits, backcountry conditions or for any other purpose, you should now contact Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer at 518-648-5246. For matters regarding Tirrell Pond contact Forest Ranger Jay Scott at 315-354-4611.

Ferris Lake Wild Forest / West Lake Boat Launch (Fulton County): The boat launch was impacted by August rains and floods. DEC staff have made repairs to the roadway, parking lot and ramps, however, be aware that the waters off the boat launch are more shallow than before.

** Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The Otter Brook Road, to the Otter Brook Gate, and the Indian Lake Road have been reopened with the assistance of the Town of Inlet, the Town of Indian Lake and Hamilton County highway departments. Previously, with their assistance, the Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road), Rock Dam Road and Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge, had been opened. Currently all roads that had typically been open to motor vehicle traffic in the Moose River Plains are open again.

West Canada Lakes Wilderness / N-P Trail: The bridge over Mud Creek, on the Northville-Placid Trail northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out.

Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: The lean-to on the south shore of Chase Lake has been removed, and a new one is now been built on the lake’s north shore (See photos). A new trail spur leading off the old trail and approaching the new lean-to from the west has been marked. The site of the old lean-to is now a designated tent site.

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.

Wilcox Lake Forest: Trails to Wilcox Lake and Tenant Falls beginning at the end of the Hope Falls Road, cross private property. While DEC does have a trail easement for the East Stony Creek Trail to Wilcox Lake, there is no formal agreement with the landowner for access to the Tenant Falls Trail. DEC is working on a resolution to this matter. In the meanwhile, hikers and day uses must respect the private driveway at the trailhead and not block it. Also respect the landowner’s privacy – stay on the trail, do not enter the private property.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is affecting the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.

EASTERN ADIRONDACKS

** Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: Water levels continue to be high. Some waters may contain logs, limbs and other debris. Check the current USGS streamflow data for selected waters.

Gore Mountain: The Schaeffer Trail to the summit of Gore Mountain, has undergone a significant reroute. The new trailhead is located at the parking lot for Grunblatt Memorial Beach in North Creek. From there the trail leads southwest and then north, looping around the North Creek reservoir before continuing southwest to the summit.

** Lake George Wild Forest (West Side): The Lily Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest in the Town of Horicon, Warren County has been reopened. The Town of Horicon Highway Department provided assistance with grading and fill material and the Town will continue to provide assistance with garbage removal, cleanup and inspection for the remainder of the year

** Lake George Wild Forest (West Side): The Gay Pond Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) in the Lake George Wild Forest in the Town of Warrensburg, Warren County will be open by this weekend [10/23-24]. The South Warren Snowmobile Club covered the cost of several new culverts to replace ones that had failed and been crushed under the road. DEC staff is undertaking the work to replace the culverts and to provide fill and grade the road, with completion expected by this weekend.

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, Jabe Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

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.

NORTHERN ADIRONDACKS

** Adirondack Canoe Route: Adirondack Canoe Route: Water levels remain higher than normal due to recent rains. Waters may contain logs, limbs and other debris. Check the current USGS streamflow data for selected waters.

** Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All easement lands are closed to public hunting as of September 1 and will be closed to all public access during the big game hunting season, which begins October 23. 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. The gate to The Pinnacle has been locked. The public may still walk the road and the trail until this Saturday, October 23, after which it will be closed for the big game hunting season.

** Raquette River Boat Launch: DEC will be removing the floating dock at the Raquette River Boat Launch on Route 3, also known as “The Crusher”, within the next week.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required. DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working through mid-October to move 8 campsites, closed 23 campsites and created 21 new campsites [online map]. This week they are rebuilding a lean-to on Fish Pond. Please respect closure signs.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.

** Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: The DEC has sided with paddlers in the dispute over the public’s right to canoe through private land on Shingle Shanty Brook and two adjacent waterways and has sent adjacent landowners a letter asking them to remove the cables, no-trespassing signs, and cameras put in place to deter the public from using the canoe route. If they fail to comply, the department warns, the matter could be referred to the state attorney general for legal action. “The Department has concluded that Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet and Shingle Shanty Brook are subject to a public right of navigation, and that members of the public are therefore legally entitled to travel on those waters,” the letter dated September 24th said.

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


Thursday, October 21, 2010

New TB Novel Set in Saranac Lake

At 2 p.m. Saturday, Florence Mulhern will discuss The Last Lambs on the Mountain, a novel set at Trudeau Sanatorium during its final years, when she was a patient there.

Jean Mason, of Ryerson University and a native of Saranac Lake, will introduce Mulhern and her book in the John Black Room of Historic Saranac Lake’s headquarters, the former Trudeau tuberculosis lab at 89 Church Street. Mason is a scholar of tuberculosis narratives and health communication.

Mulhern, who lives in Annapolis, MD, will talk about her book and about her experience as one of the last tuberculosis patients in Saranac Lake in the late 1940s and early 1950s. She will also read an excerpt. The program is free and open to the public. Any books sold will benefit Historic Saranac Lake.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pepperbox Wilderness: A Bushwhacker’s Paradise

Those looking for an area with outstanding bushwhacking potential in the Adirondacks would be well rewarded by checking out the Pepperbox Wilderness Area, located in the northwestern Adirondack Park just northwest of Stillwater Reservoir.

At only 22,560 acres, the Pepperbox is one of the smallest of the Adirondack’s designated Wilderness Areas. It is bordered roughly by the West Branch of the Oswegatchie River to the north, the Herkimer County border on the west, the Beaver River to the south and Raven Lake Road to the east. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up with in its remoteness, containing mostly forested rolling hills and extensive wetland complexes. The few state trails here are all located in the northern portion. The Pepperbox is named after one of its many scattered unproductive water bodies, which total about 270 acres. The remoteness, lack of marked trails and limited use makes the Pepperbox a bushwhacker’s paradise.

The Pepperbox’s western half is characterized by extensive beaver meadows and small beaver ponds while its eastern half contains larger water bodies such as Sunshine Pond and the Moshier Ponds. The central part contains extensive unbroken forest with Moshier Creek roughly bisecting the wilderness down the middle. The northern portion, with its two miles of trails and in-holding access roads, is a more recent addition to the wilderness area and can be considered its “civilized” part. The bushwhacking opportunities here are less due to these trails and roads and therefore this part of the Pepperbox is given less mention in this article.

There are several points of access into the Pepperbox Wilderness. From the north there are several trails which enter the Pepperbox and allow access to the few water bodies located there. Such small lakes as Jakes Pond, Spring Pond, Tied Lake or Greigg Lake are all accessed via foot trail or dirt road mostly from Bear Pond Road. Trailhead parking is available for access from the east out of Stillwater Reservoir, in the west from Sand Pond Road near the county boundary (Lewis/Herkimer) and from the south via Moshier Falls Road. With a canoe one could access the southern border via the Moshier Reservoir along the Beaver River.

The northeastern portion of the wilderness area is characterized by a plentiful number of larger water bodies. This area is best accessed from a parking area at the end of Necessary Dam Road via the hamlet of Stillwater Reservoir. A trail register is located here for recording your planned trip, which is an excellent idea when bushwhacking through a trackless wilderness like the Pepperbox. Although the road continues over the Beaver River as a well-maintained dirt road, it is gated at the bridge and available for driving by the owners of an in-holding on Raven Lake only. The road, now referred to as Raven Lake Road, is a convenient jumping off point for bushwhacking adventures into the Pepperbox from the east. Raven Lake Road acts as a border separating the Pepperbox from the southern portion of the extensive Five Ponds Wilderness (the southern Five Ponds offers outstanding bushwhacking opportunities in its own right).

A perfect way to access the Pepperbox off of Raven Lake Road is an old hunting trail situated between the first main stream crossing and where the road turns east. Although this trail is unmarked it is easily followed along its southern end. It passes just south of a large beaver vly and then turns north following along the eastern side of the same stream crossed back on the road. The trail passes to the east of the beaver pond feeding the stream before taking a sharp turn to the northwest. At this sharp turn it is very easy to lose the trail as many dummy trails at this point can testify. While navigating over a bog along the south shore of a beaver pond south of Sunshine Pond watch for chicken wire nailed between two logs on the bog mat to avoid wet feet and guide you to the trail again on the opposite side. After several attempts I have yet to be able to follow the trail after reaching the western shore of this beaver pond. Despite the lack of a trail beyond this point a bushwhacker is well situated to explore the many water bodies in this portion of the Pepperbox. Sunshine, Deer, Moshier, Duck and Pepperbox Ponds and the surrounding area will provide days of exploring for the intrepid bushwhacker. Click here, here, here and here for my trip report in this area back in May 2010.

A parking area at the end of Sand Pond Road allows access to the northwestern portion of the Pepperbox. This area appears to get little use, evidenced by the lack of a register here. A short old logging road from the parking area provides access to a brushed-out state property boundary that can be followed east over a hill and through a fern-dominated wet area to the border of the Pepperbox’s western boundary.

This part of the Pepperbox is dominated by a single unnamed pond and the Cowboy Beaver Meadow. The Cowboy Beaver Meadow is a series of old beaver vlys along the Alder Creek with little evidence of human activity. There are numerous places to cross the Alder Creek if one wishes to explore the steep rise on the opposite side. Between the pond and Cowboy Beaver Meadow is a hill with some steep cliffs to the east which should provide impressive views into the Cowboy Beaver Meadow below during the autumn and winter months when the tree foliage is absent. Keep an eye on the Bushwhacking Fool this winter for a trip report on my adventure through this area on Labor Day 2009.

The southwestern portion of the Pepperbox contains the extensive Threemile Beaver Meadow, numerous unnamed beaver ponds and a series of unusual glacial ridges. A parking lot and trailhead register are available here along Moshier Falls Road. Although the sign in the parking lot implies the trail to the Pepperbox leaves the parking lot, the true trail is across the street where it crosses bridges on both the Sunday Creek and the Beaver River.

The trail continues across the Beaver River and through a power line right-of-way before reaching the Pepperbox’s southern border where a sign warns that there are no marked trails beyond. As if mocking this official sign there is a well-used trail marked with gray paint slashes winding north into the unbroken forest. This trail remains easy to follow all the way to a large beaver vly east of the largest pond in the Threemile Beaver Meadow. North of this vly the trail loses its gray slashes and becomes less distinct though rumor has it one can follow it all the way to Bear Pond. I have tried this myself in the past with only limited success though I did manage to reach Bear Pond by bushwhacking a significant amount of the way.

Along the trail before reaching the large beaver vly there are several side trails to the west which gives access to the extensive Threemile Beaver Meadow. The Threemile Beaver Meadow is a beautiful and extensive series of beaver ponds and meadows well worth exploring.

A good bushwhacker can find many old herd paths in the Threemile Beaver Meadow area and there are even a few hunters’ camps scattered about, some recently used and others vacant for many years. This area appears to be heavily used during hunting season, and for good reason, as I have never seen a higher density of deer in the Adirondacks. Click here for a trip teaser about my recent bushwhack through the Threemile Beaver Meadow in September 2010.

To the north and west of the Threemile Beaver Meadow are a series of beaver ponds scattered about giving a bushwhacker numerous opportunities for exploration. For those interested in glacial landforms there is a series of steep and narrow ridges to the west of the beaver meadow. These ridges tend to end abruptly so one should use caution to avoid getting stuck out on one. The remnants of an old fire tower exists on one the highest ridges. The site of this fire tower, now merely the foundation and a few scattered boards, makes an additional interesting destination while trekking through this area.

The combination of hunting trails and unbroken wilderness makes the Pepperbox an excellent area for the beginning and experienced bushwhacker. So if you are looking for an interesting area to explore via bushwhacking then you cannot go wrong with the Pepperbox Wilderness Area in the northwestern Adirondacks.

Photos: Alder Creek along Cowboy Beaver Meadow, Sunshine Pond and Threemile Beaver Meadow by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking experiences at Bushwhacking Fool.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

DEC Re-Opens More Forest Preserve Roads

Four additional Forest Preserve roads closed this spring, when budget cutbacks restricted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) ability to repair, maintain and patrol them, have reopened in time for big game hunting season.

Hamilton County and the Towns of Inlet and Indian Lake had partnered with DEC earlier to reopen and maintain roads and nearby recreational facilities in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest including Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road), Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge, and Rock Dam Road.

“Big game hunting brings much needed economic activity to Hamilton County during the fall,” said William Farber, Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors. “We
appreciate DEC’s willingness to work with us to reopen the roads in the Moose River Plains. “Commissioner Grannis deserves praise for his determination to open the roads despite the significant reduction in resources DEC has for maintaining roads and other recreational facilities in the Adirondacks,” he said.

DEC also utilized $250,000 of Environmental Protection Fund monies to replace
inadequate culverts on the main Moose River Plains Road with bridges over Sumner Stream and Bradley Brook this past summer. This is continuation of major rehabilitation work in the Moose River Plains over the past several years. Over one million dollars has been invested in roadway improvements based on the findings of an engineering study of the Moose River Plains road system.

The additional newly reopened roads include:

Lily Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest in the Town of Horicon, Warren County. The Town of Horicon Highway Department provided assistance with grading and fill
material and the Town will continue to provide assistance with garbage removal, cleanup and inspection for the remainder of the year.

Gay Pond Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River
Recreation Area) in the Lake George Wild Forest in the Town of Warrensburg, Warren County. The South Warren Snowmobile Club covered the cost of several new culverts to
replace ones that had failed and been crushed under the road. DEC staff is undertaking the work to replace the culverts and to provide fill and grade the road, with completion expected by this weekend.

Indian Lake Road and Otter Brook Road (between the Otter Brook Bridge and the Otter
Brook Gate) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest in the Town of Inlet, Hamilton County opened last week. The highway departments from Hamilton County and the towns of Indian Lake and Inlet replaced culverts, filled holes and graded the road.

Barry Hutchins, Supervisor of the Town of Indian Lake, praised DEC saying that “The Town looks forward to continuing the great working relationship we have developed with DEC and make the Moose River Plains a premiere Adirondack recreational destination for campers, hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, hikers, mountain bikers and others.”

The Adirondack Almanack monitors and reports road and trail closings, along with other backcountry conditions, in its weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report.

Photo: The new Sumner Stream crossing on the Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest (courtesy DEC). Additional photos of work done to the road are available online.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Commentary: National Grid Rates A Shambles

Earlier this year, I published a piece on a state Public Service Commission (PSC) investigation into National Grid’s sketchy finances.

The monopoly power deliverer stood accused by the PSC of charging its Upstate New York electric customers for computers in New England, software licenses on Long Island and other corporate costs that have nothing to do with Upstate utility operations.

A recent Post-Standard article added further tidbits uncovered during the PSC investigation: $1,254 for a National Grid executive to ship his wine collection across the Atlantic, $3,566 to repair another executive’s washing machine and pool cover on Long Island, and $35,700 to send a third employee’s children to a private school in Boston.

However, the Syracuse paper reported that the PSC will be forced to decide on National Grid’s proposed $400 million hike to its already sky-high rates long before the audit is complete. The PSC chairman told a senate committee that state law requires the commission to vote on the proposal within 11 months of its submission.

The president of National Grid USA said the rate hike is needed because much of the utility’s infrastructure is half a century or more old. Power bills have skyrocketed since its purchase of the former Niagara Mohawk, a purchase, it was promised at the time, would be wonderful for rate payers thanks to consolidation efficiencies. It begs the question: where has the money gone?

The multinational wants an 11.1 percent annual profit margin, while the PSC contends the rate should be ‘only’ 9 percent.

New Yorkers still pay the highest power bills in the nation. This fiasco may give some insight why.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sandhill Cranes: An Adirondack Rarity

Every so often a flutter of activity is spawned in the northern extremes of the Adirondack Park (Clinton County) when a few sandhill cranes put in an appearance in a farmer’s field or nearby wetland. Sandhills are not common birds in the eastern US, and most of the Adirondacks is a bit too mountainous for their tastes. So it’s to the lowlands and the agricultural belts around the Park’s perimeter that these birds head if they come here at all.

This last weekend I was in Michigan, where I got to witness the migrating sandhill cranes as they flew in to their evening roost at the Haenhle Audubon Sanctuary. A lone whooping crane, a highly endangered species, joined them in some late afternoon snacking in the marsh, much to the great delight of the dozens of spectators who stood on the chilly hillside to witness the spectacle.

Now, to be honest, I never really gave cranes much thought. To me they were simply another “foreign” bird that I was unlikely to see (I’m not the kind of birder who will travel to the ends of the earth to add a particular bird to a lifetime checklist). There were a couple white-naped cranes at the zoo where I used to work, and I knew that of the fifteen crane species worldwide, ten are listed as threatened, critically rare, or vulnerable throughout their ranges, but that was about it.

The tall, long-necked, wading wetland birds with which I am most familiar are great blue herons, which to the untrained eye look a lot like cranes. Both are tall, long-necked, and wade about it wetlands. But the heron, despite outward appearances, is not a crane. And neither are the various egrets that sometimes turn up in ponds and wetlands within the Blue Line.

If one wants to get into specifics, one can start with the fact that herons are in the family Ardeidae (which includes the egrets and bitterns), and cranes are in the Rallidae family. When a heron flies, it tucks its neck back into its body; a crane flies with its neck stretched way out in front, much like a Canada goose. Herons flap their wings with slow up and down movements, while cranes flap slowly downwards, but have a more rapid up-stroke.

I saw my first pair of wild cranes Saturday morning. I was driving northward into southern Michigan when a pair of long birds flew across the road and out over a farmer’s field. I did a double take – those weren’t herons! The wings were all wrong, and the outline didn’t seem right. They had to be cranes, I thought. A short while later, another pair flew by. There was no doubt left in my mind – these were cranes.

The third pair I heard long before I saw them. I was walking along a trail at a nature sanctuary when through the woods I heard this strange croaking call. It was a sound I’d never heard before, and I thought to myself “those can only be cranes” (had I been back here in the Adirondacks, I might’ve written it off as a raven experimenting with its vocal cords). I walked a little faster, heading toward the field I could see up ahead, hoping I just might see the birds out foraging. No luck – they were on the wing and a few seconds later I watched as they passed above the trees in front of me.

I was thrilled, but at the same time disappointed that I hadn’t gotten a closer look.

When I mentioned the cranes an hour later to the gentleman who was manning the gift shop, he told me of the nearby Audubon sanctuary where hundreds of sandhills were coming in to roost every evening. Why, they had over 2000 the other night! I pulled out my road map and with much pointing and the drawing of lines, we had worked out the directions to get me there.

When my interview concluded later that afternoon, my new friends all encouraged me to head to the sanctuary. Grab a bite to eat, go to the refuge and sit back to enjoy the show – that was their advice.

So, I stopped for a quick dinner, then, braving the road construction and some confusing detours, I wound my way toward Haenhle. When I got there, the parking lot was nearly full. I found a spot, changed into my Bean boots, and, laden with camera and binocs, headed into the fields.

It was early evening, the sun only just headed toward the horizon, and already the birds were arriving in pairs and small groups. Some flew in fairly low (we could see their toes), while others were high enough to be merely silhouettes. We could hear them coming long before they arrived – their harsh calls can carry up to a mile in good weather.

They glided in, losing altitude as they neared the marsh. They then spilled the wind from their wings, and put down their landing gear – those long, gangly legs that trail out behind when the birds are in flight. With some back winging, they gently settled in to the shallow water to preen and feed.

As each group arrived, the hushed crowd of human spectators would gasp and murmur at the sight. Spotting scopes caught individual birds as they hopped and fluttered among the grasses and their peers. A lined formed to view the whooping crane, which was lurking behind some shrubbery, barely visible.

Now I knew why the Adirondack birding community gets all excited when a report comes in across the wires that a group of sandhills has been spotted in Farmer John’s field up in Rouses Point. To catch a glimpse of these ancient birds (a fossilized sandhill crane bone was found in Nebraska that was dated at over nine-million years old, making these birds among the oldest lineages on Earth) is to witness a bit of pre-history that still walks among us.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Breaking: DEC Defending Paddlers’ Rights

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has sided with paddlers in the dispute over the public’s right to canoe through private land on Shingle Shanty Brook and two adjacent waterways.

In a letter to the landowners, DEC asks them to remove cables, no-trespassing signs, and cameras meant to deter the public from using the canoe route. If they fail to comply, the department warns, the matter could be referred to the state attorney general for legal action.

Christopher Amato, DEC’s assistant commissioner for natural resources, wrote the letter in September after negotiations with the owners failed to reach an agreement.

“The Department has concluded that Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet and Shingle Shanty Brook are subject to a public right of navigation, and that members of the public are therefore legally entitled to travel on those waters,” Amato said in the letter, dated September 24.

Amato told the Adirondack Explorer that DEC won’t take action right away. He hopes that the owners—the Brandreth Park Association and its affiliate, the Friends of Thayer Lake—will reconsider their position over the winter. Spokesmen for the owners declined to comment.

The Explorer will carry a full report in its November/December issue. The story is online now and can be read here.

The Explorer touched off the dispute last year by publishing my account of a canoe trip from Little Tupper Lake to Lake Lila. Instead of portaging around private land, I paddled down the three waterways. After that article appeared, the Sierra Club asked DEC to force the landowners to remove a cable and no-trespassing signs along the route. The landowners, however, put up a second cable and installed motion-activated cameras.

DEC contends that the public has a common-law right to paddle the waterways. The owners argue that the common law applies only to water bodies that have a history of commercial use (and the three waterways in question do not).

If the landowners stick to their guns, it’s likely that the dispute will end up in the courts.

Past posts to the Almanack on this topic, both by Mary Thill and myself, have generated much discussion. It will be interesting to see what readers on both sides of the debate have to say about this latest development.

Illustrations: Phil Brown on Shingle Shanty Brook by Susan Bibeau; a map of the Lila Traverse is online.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Climbing at Shelving Rock

About a decade ago, I was riding a speedboat across Lake George — heading north to the Narrows — when I looked over to the eastern shore. There, right above the land formerly known as the Knapp Estate, was a series of large cliffs below Shelving Rock Mountain.

“I wonder if there’s climbing there?” I thought.

Turns out there is. It took a few years, but several local climbers have recently put up a variety of routes on the cliffs. According to Jim Lawyer and Jeremy Haas, authors of Adirondack Rock, there are six different cliff areas known together as Shelving Rock. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Potsdam Student Digs Neanderthal Burial Pits

SUNY Potsdam senior archaeological studies major and Rochester native Jonathan Reeves is spending his fall weekends digging burial pits with stone tools like those used by Neanderthals in the College’s Lehman Park.

Reeves, who is also a member of the SUNY Potsdam men’s soccer team, hopes to demonstrate evidence of ritual in Neanderthal burials by trying to dig graves in the same method and style himself on campus.

Neanderthals are extinct members of the Homo genus classified either as a separate species or as a subspecies of humans, Homo sapiens. By finding out more about the effort and thought put into the method used to dispose of the dead, Reeves hopes to find out more about the mindset of Neanderthals.

“I wanted to look at how long it would actually take to bury one of these individuals. Is it that exhaustive? Can it be done by one person, or do you need multiple people? I wanted to put a number behind this effort,” he said. “The second thing I wanted to do was see how that number fit in with the rest of the stuff that we know about the Neanderthal lifestyle.”

Reeves ordered special flint tools made just like those used during the Neanderthal period. Called scrapers, the rock implements had a variety of simple uses-one of which was freeing soil while digging a grave. The student uses several sizes of scrapers to dig, and then uses his hands to remove the dirt from his hole.

He has dug two burial pits so far, based on the dimensions of sites where Neanderthal remains have been found in the past. One was a smaller rounded grave like one that archaeologists found the remains of a Neanderthal child in. That burial pit took Reeves three hours to dig. He solicited the help of three other students to dig a large deep rectangular pit like one that a Neanderthal adult was found in as well.

Reeves records his heart rate throughout the digging, and that of his volunteers, so he can mark how much time and effort it took.

“My arm gets really tired, and I get a bruise on my hand from holding the scraper. The first time, I got a half an hour in and realized I’d barely gotten anywhere,” Reeves said. “My thought is that for the Neanderthals, they’d really have to want to do this, even if they really just wanted to bury the body to cover it up and keep predators away. It takes a huge part out of the day for a hunter-gatherer, and there would be easier ways to dispose of a body.”

Since Neanderthals had a semi-nomadic lifestyle, leaving their various campsites to hunt during the day and returning only to sleep and eat, Reeves found it interesting that they would choose to bury a body in that location. He also wonders, since other Neanderthal bodies have been found that were not buried, if there was a symbolic choice involved for those that were.

“I can’t say that they believed in an afterlife, but it seems there definitely was a social component, that the group members felt that this was an important loss. The burials say something about the connection that individual had to the group,” Reeves said.

Reeves is an anthropology major and is earning his minor in geology. He hopes to attend graduate school to further his studies in archaeology.

SUNY Potsdam has been training students in archaeology for more than 40 years. The College’s interdisciplinary program includes coursework in archaeological methods, history, art and geology.

For more information about SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Anthropology, visit www.potsdam.edu/academics/AAS/Anthro/index.cfm.

Photo: Jonathan Reeves poses with his Neanderthal-style Stone Age flint tools near one of the covered-over burial pits he recently dug in SUNY Potsdam’s Lehman Park. Courtesy SUNY Potsdam.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Lake Champlain Bridge: A Year Later

New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee and Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary David Dill marked the one year anniversary of the Lake Champlain Bridge closure on Saturday. The temporary ferry service is still in place providing round-the-clock transportation across the lake at no cost to passengers, and the underwater structures for the new bridge are nearly completed. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Commentary: No Elections for APA Commissioners

North Country Public Radio‘s Adirondack Bureau Chief Brian Mann has apparently begun campaigning for the election of some Adirondack Park Agency (APA) commissioners. One of his first public forays into the debate came in August at the Adirondack Museum during a presentation he called “Adirondack 3.0” – billed as a lecture on the “reinvention of the Adirondacks.” His latest came on the NCPR blog in a piece entitled “Yes, some Adirondack Park Agency commissioners should be elected“. Read the whole piece; but here’s the gist of Brian Mann’s argument:

“A far better way to choose in-Park commissioners would be to hold direct, Park-wide elections, allowing Adirondackers to cast their own ballots and make their own picks.

Imagine for a moment the kind of democratic debate that would ensue. Locals would have a chance to discuss openly their concerns, their desires, and their ambitions for the Agency.

Supporters of strict environmental protection inside the blue line would be forced to find electable candidates, who can engage communities directly, reaching out and making their arguments.

They would have the chance to do some educating, but they might learn a few things themselves about local attitudes toward conservation and the outdoors.

Opponents of the APA’s broad mission, meanwhile, would be forced to go beyond ad hominem attacks and zingers.”

It’s hard for local media to not be part of a story. Any reporter worth their weight in salt knows that they frame the discussion of their story from the start. For example, Brian Mann isn’t calling for an expanded role for the APA, or for requiring those towns who still have no serious zoning and planning in place to enact them. What he is calling for are elections to decide the future of the Adirondack Park, America’s most important state park.

I suspect Mann’s arguments are authentic and genuine, but I think it’s the worst idea to come up the pike since David Paterson tried to stop paying local taxes on state land. It’s no surprise they share the same flaw – they seem to forget that the Adirondack Park isn’t a political entity with competing constituencies, it’s a unique natural place with a statewide, regional, and even national historical and cultural significance. Despite the occasional angry bumpersticker to the contrary, the Adirondacks is a park, and an important one.

That park, the country’s largest National Historic Landmark, is all of our responsibility to manage and maintain. Offering an opportunity for one special interest group to use their media and financial friends to get their candidate elected in an attempt to dominate decision-making at the Adirondack Park Agency threatens to destroy an already weak institution; the only institution holding official responsibility to protect the Adirondack Park – our last public wilderness in the east – from over-development.

Perhaps advocates of elections for APA commissioners don’t appreciate the two great forces at play in these mountains. On one side, the constant march of development that has left this small part of the Eastern United States a virtual oasis of woods in a sea of a suburbia of 100 million people. On the other side is the natural world itself, which for millennia had staved off the harshest scars of development by being remote and rugged.

The battle began to shift after the Civil War as we abandoned our fear of the woods and came to revere them. Travelers, once forced to travel on foot or by rough road, were soon arriving by steamboat and rail, and by the 1950s, some roads were choked with cars.

In the 1960s, the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87) opened a pipeline for development to move north and the accompanying second home market spread a kind of dispersed suburbia into the heart of the Adirondacks.

It was in response to this turn in the long arc of Adirondack history that the Adirondack Park Agency was established in 1971. Its purpose was to limit the worst of the development excesses in the Adirondack Park – excesses that were just then beginning to take hold.

So by geography and history this place was marked-off and it now remains the only wilderness park there will ever be as the 100 million people that surround us continue to multiply.

It shouldn’t need to be said that we have a duty to the eastern half of America not to screw it up by turning it over to a regularly scheduled local media circus fueled by special interest money.

UPDATE: Brian Mann has a thoughtful response to this post over at The In Box.



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