Areas ideally suitable for a novice bushwhacker are not common in the northwestern Adirondacks. Plentiful blowdowns, extensive wetland complexes and thousands of acres of unbroken forests can appear insurmountable to the uninitiated.
Typically, the best areas for an inexperienced bushwhacker contain many prominent features, such as trail networks, old logging roads, lakes, ponds and small wetlands, which increase the opportunities to orient oneself in the landscape.
We live in a throwaway society. Most purchases come with an expectation of ephemerality, regardless of whether it is a small novelty item or a durable good, like a car or refrigerator. When these manufactured goods meet our low expectations, we toss them in the trash and buy new ones. At least this is the norm for those with disposable income, a term that reinforces our throwaway thinking. The outdoor community has no immunity to this mindset, where gear is often retired well before its time because of small signs of wear and tear.
However, it is often justifiable to retire gear that is showing its age. Exploring the remote Adirondacks requires subjecting outdoor equipment to an excessive amount of backcountry abuse. Outdoor products are typically well-made, with durable materials, but eventually the constant maltreatment reduces their usefulness. At that point, replacement is inevitable to reduce the chance of a disastrous failure, miles from anywhere. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack State Park is a huge place, encompassing approximately 6.1 million acres. It stretches from Lake Champlain at its eastern end, almost all the way to the Black River valley in the west, and from nearly the Canadian border in the north to the doorstep of the Mohawk River valley in the south. It is the largest state park in the contiguous United States, and, in fact, larger than several states. It is even larger than the combined area of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and Great Smoke Mountains National Parks.
Its size is not the only unique aspect about the Park. Within its borders lies almost unimaginable beauty. Nature’s bountiful gifts take many different forms, including a near infinite number of lakes and ponds, more swamps than one can shake a stick at, acres upon acres of dense primeval forests, and of course, more than a few majestic mountains.
Yet there are those that would reduce the Park to a mere fraction of its size. These are not those people who routinely decry the restrictions and regulations, who seem to want to cut, build and pave their way across this beautiful park; these individuals love the natural beauty of the Park, although apparently, only a small portion of it. » Continue Reading.
This scenario is familiar to any backcountry enthusiast, regardless of whether they prefer the well-worn trails of a popular area or the trailless expanses that see more moose and black bear than they do people. Surrounded by forest, a multitude of birds singing in the canopy, a frog’s occasional throaty call emerging from a nearby wetland, it is as if there is not another living soul within miles around, and there may not be. Just as this feeling of remoteness engulfs the mind completely, the unnatural color of something on the ground assaults your senses, dispelling any fanciful notion of being in the only person in an unbroken wilderness.
Whether it is a candy bar wrapper, an old glass bottle, or a Mylar balloon, it does not matter. It does not belong here. It is not natural. It is litter. And it just shattered a finely-honed illusion of wilderness.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the completion of the Northville-Placid Trail (N-P Trail) this year. The N-P Trail, originally called The Long Trail is a north-south foot path that traverses through the heart of the Adirondacks from Northville to Lake Placid. This 135-mile, long distance hiking trail has captured the hearts of many throughout the years.
The N-P Trail was the first major project that ADK sponsored after the organization’s formation in 1922. One of the objectives as a newly formed organization was “to open, develop, extend and maintain trails for walkers and mountain climbers in the Adirondack Mountains,” as stated in the certificate of incorporation. What better way to do that than to build a trail that runs the length of the Adirondacks? Why pick Northville to Lake Placid though? Why not Lake George to Keene Valley? » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack backcountry is a fascinating place to visit. It provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life, where slow traffic, demanding bosses and other aspects of the daily grind are left far behind for the relaxing solitude that is increasingly rare in the modern world. Tranquility, outstanding photographs and a satiation of peace and quiet are just a few takeaway benefits of spending time in the remote backcountry.
It is not all forest bathing and new age communing out there, as these positive aspects of a backcountry adventure are not the only things making their way home with us. There is a whole host of nefarious backcountry things that may show up in your gear, your home, or heaven forbid, yourself. » Continue Reading.
The Northville-Placid Trail is getting a face-lift. The initial 10-mile stretch that started at the west end of the bridge over the Sacandaga River along State Route 30 is no more, or at least soon will be. Instead, the famous trail will soon officially start in the village of Northville and mostly stick to State Forest Preserve for the first ten miles all the way to Upper Benson.
This is not the only recent change for the famous trail. Combined with other alterations over the last few years, the singular long trail of the Adirondacks is going through a transition, giving it a whole new look; one that makes it wilder and more remote.
Exploring the Adirondack backcountry requires tenacity, perseverance and great deal of fortitude, as climbing over blowdowns, crossing beaver dams and struggling through hobblebush is an arduous way to spend the day. These personal qualities are not the only necessities for enjoying the backcountry however, having the proper gear is equally important. Backpacks, shelters, sleeping bags and numerous other items are tools of the trade for any intrepid soul that leaves societal comforts behind to enjoy some time surrounded by trees, furry animals and all the other creepy-crawlies in the great outdoors.
Sometimes the need for the proper gear quickly becomes a compulsion for owning the latest and greatest equipment on the market. For these people, the satisfaction of owning adequate gear is not enough; instead, the desire for the lightest or flashiest item becomes overwhelming. Whenever a new “superior” piece of equipment comes to their attention, whether it is lighter-weight or just a better way of fulfilling some backcountry need, the desire to own it gnaws at them. They want it. They need it. They must have it. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack backcountry contains a plethora of natural gems, such as ponds, lakes, mountains, bogs and beaver meadows. Although many are reachable by trail, the vast majority are islands of remoteness, surrounded by a sea of near-impenetrable forest, just waiting for a human bold enough to venture away from the marked trails to discover them. Few humans ever visit these gems, which undoubtedly suits both the gems themselves and the meager number of visitors just fine.
One of these gems is a small pond found in the southwest corner of the Five Ponds Wilderness. Sitz Pond is its name, and as attractive backcountry ponds go, it ranks up there with the best. » Continue Reading.
Some backpacking trips go beyond the ordinary backcountry adventure. Whether due to a single outstanding wildlife sighting, a series of unlikely events, a special chemistry between participants, a scenic location or any combination of these, some trips become legendary, recounted time and time again. These legendary trips eventually develop their own mythology, combining equal amounts of actual events and fictitious hyperbole.
These legendary backcountry trips are not common, but almost anyone who spends enough time in the Adirondack backcountry can expect to experience at least a few during their backpacking career. Typically, these trips involve groups, the dynamics between the participants contributing not only to the memorable trip activities, but also to the numerous retellings where the events morph into the mythological.
With six million acres of valleys, lakes, peaks, and passes, the Adirondack Park of is a big place ripe for big adventures, and no adventure could be bigger than hiking across the entire park, from top to bottom. This 235-mile opportunity to traverse the Adirondacks is being dubbed by former Adirondack Park backcountry ranger Erik Schlimmer the “Trans Adirondack Route”.
Schlimmer’s Trans Adirondack Route pieces together hiking trails, abandoned pathways, snowmobile trails, and dirt and paved roads to travel from Ellenburg Center near the Canadian border to southern Fulton County near Gloversville. During its course the route crosses five wilderness areas, visits fifty bodies of water, climbs three summits, and runs through three settlements. Highlights of the route include Whiteface Mountain, the High Peaks, the Cold River, and Long Lake. » Continue Reading.
For years, synthetic fleece has been a standard material in almost every backcountry enthusiast’s gear repertoire. Jackets, sweatshirts, hats, gloves, socks, pants, there is almost no piece of clothing safe from the material, except for perhaps underwear briefs.
The popularity of the material is reflected in the multitude of different types of fleece invented, ranging from Polar to Windstopper. That the material is made of polyethylene terephthalate, the same plastic used to make soda bottles, often appears to be lost on almost everyone.
Despite the versatility and popularity of fleece, I have all but abandoned the material in my own backpacking during the warmer months, with the exception of the extremities, like gloves, hat and socks. Instead, my fleece sweatshirt endures the loneliness of my dresser drawer now, replaced by a jacket that is just as warm, but with a fraction of the weight and eminently more packable. » Continue Reading.
Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and those fortunate enough are gathering with family and friends to gorge themselves on a hearty meal, giving thanks for the bounty enjoyed throughout the year. Tomorrow, many of us will turn around and venture into the shopping wilderness to forage for the best deal on things few of us need, in celebration of the birth of a man who lived over two thousand years ago when people got by with so little.
Just appreciating what we already have seems to be out of vogue these days. Our appetite for stuff appears more insatiable with each passing year. The simple things in life, such as family, friends, and the beauty of the great outdoors are no longer satisfying enough, and hardly a substitute for the newest smart phone, tablet, or new-fangled whatchamacallit. » Continue Reading.
Exploring the Adirondack backcountry is an arduous activity, demanding as much from the participant as from their equipment. Although this remains true for traditional trail hiking, it is even more so for its less conventional sibling of bushwhacking. Regardless, even the most durable gear can break, fall apart, pop, unravel or disintegrate at the most inappropriate moment, requiring some type of repair job that at the very least allows for a humbling exit from the backcountry.
The best offense is a good defense when it comes to any backcountry gear. Purchasing high quality gear, well made with durable materials, is crucial for reducing the possibility of failure in the field. Simple, yet functional equipment, with as few bells and whistles as possible, further diminishes any chance of catastrophic failure. Less stitching to unravel, less seams to become unsealed and less parts to go kerflooey at an inopportune time are a good thing. » Continue Reading.
The late summer and early fall weather has been ideal for exploring the Adirondack backcountry. The mostly sunny days and clear cool nights are near-perfect conditions for bushwhacking through remote and wild areas, regardless of the season. With the weather and my hording of vacation time this year, the stars seemed aligned for an interesting late season adventure.
Except for one tiny detail, it is hunting season. That time of the year when bullets and arrows fly, causing wildlife, in addition to a few hikers and bushwhackers, to flee for their lives. In my opinion, a hail of bullets and/or arrows whizzing by one’s head is uniquely qualified as the easiest way to ruin a backcountry trip. » Continue Reading.
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