At its meeting this Thursday, the Adirondack Park Agency board may discuss, in addition to the Boreas Ponds Tract, the classification of two other large parcels abutting the High Peaks Wilderness, known as MacIntyre West and MacIntyre East.
Like the Boreas tract, both MacIntyre tracts were acquired by the state from the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy. They formerly had been owned by the Finch, Pruyn paper company.
All told, the APA board will consider classifications for 90 parcels of state land scattered throughout the Park. At 20,758 acres, the Boreas tract is by far the largest. The other 89 parcels together add up to 32,053 acres. They include 32 parcels of newly acquired land (totaling 30,284 acres) and 56 corrections to the APA map (totaling 1,949 acres).
In 2009, towns on Lake George were awarded a $69,000 grant from the state’s Adirondack Park Community Smart Growth Grant Program to create a “Trails Master Plan” for the west shore.
“Creating the plan was a great opportunity to pull together all the information we have about hiking and mountain biking trails as well as bicycle routes,” said Tracey Clothier of the LA Group, who crafted the plan. » Continue Reading.
The Pinnacle, the Bolton landmark visible from Lake George and the Cat and Thomas Mountains Preserve, may be protected from development after all. More than five years after Ernest Oberer first proposed building houses on the ridgeline, the Lake George Land Conservancy intends to purchase the property, said Jamie Brown, the Conservancy’s new executive director. » 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.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens was atop Prospect Mountain this morning to announce the state’s purchase of more than 2,460 acres that will help protect the world-renowned scenery and water quality of Lake George and its tributaries.
The purchases, made through the Environmental Protection Fund, include the Cat and Thomas Mountains parcel, a 1,900-acre property in the town of Bolton (Warren County), previously acquired by the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC), which was sold to the State for $1.5 million. The State also purchased the 565-acre East River Road Tract of the former Finch lands in the Town of Bolton from The Nature Conservancy for $381,000. This parcel is adjacent to the Cat and Thomas Mountains parcel. The parcels will be added to the State Forest Preserve. The State will pay full local property and school taxes on the newly acquired land. » Continue Reading.
When out in the backcountry I tend to bushwhack through areas that receive little human traffic so I rarely encounter examples of illegal tree cuttings. But this past summer I went on an eight-day trip hiking and bushwhacking through the heart of the Five Ponds Wilderness from Stillwater Reservoir to Cranberry Lake where I discovered tree cutting on the top of Cat Mountain on my final night.
This put a slight damper on an evening highlighted by watching multiple Independence Day fireworks displays and culminating with sleeping under the stars on the cliffs. The cut trees were located around the single large campsite just off the cliffs to the north. This site is obviously very popular with campers given the fire ring and the large, flat, open area perfect for pitching tents. » Continue Reading.
Cat and Thomas mountains have only been open to hiking for the past seven years, but word is getting out.
On the Adirondacks’ most famous and perhaps most scenic lake, hikes abound. Visitors can choose from challenges, like Black or Tongue Mountain, or easy afternoon climbs, such as Sleeping Beauty or Pilot’s Knob.
Still, among those treasures, Cat and Thomas stand out for their ease of access, stellar views and, well, relative solitude. Located near Bolton Landing on the lake’s west side, the hikes just aren’t as well-known as the usual suspects. But that, of course, is changing. The mountains, formerly private, were purchased by the Lake George Land Conservancy in 2003 for $1 million. Visitors can hike one or both mountains, or — my favorite — connect them both via a 6.5 mile loop. The mountains are reached via former logging roads that don’t ascend more than 750 feet. However, the connecting loop includes a difficult trail that requires scrambling up and down some considerably steep sections.
Thomas is the lesser of the two peaks, at least in terms of views — it faces west, so you can’t see the lake. There is, however, a neat cabin at the top (or at least there was the last time I visited — the property owners have been planning to remove it at some point).
Cat offers a stellar view of Lake George from its bare, rocky summit. Spread out before you is Bolton Landing, Tongue Mountain, and in the distance, the range of peaks stretching up the lake’s east side.
To reach the preserve, take Northway Exit 24 and head east. After two miles, make a right on Valley Woods Road. The main parking lot is on the right shortly after the turn. There’s also a separate parking lot further down for those who just want to climb Cat Mountain. The trails are well-marked and easy to follow.
The Pinnacle, the prominent Bolton Landing ridgeline where a developer has proposed situating houses, may be preserved after all.
The Lake George Land Conservancy’s Board of Directors has voted to apply for a grant from New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for funds to help acquire the ridgeline, said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director.
Bolton’s Town Board approved a resolution endorsing the application at its July 6 meeting, said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover. “My personal feeeling is that protecting the Pinnacle is an admirable goal,” said Conover. “If there’s a willing seller, and it can be kept in a natural state, with hiking trails for the community, that would be a terrific thing.”
Last week, The Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Waterkeeper announced that law suits have been filed against the Town of Bolton for its approvals of a mile-long road to the Pinnacle’s summit.
“This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.
According to Conover, the Town Board was also set to approve a resolution to retain Mike Muller, the town’s legal counsel, to defend Bolton’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Zoning Administrator from the suit.
But if the Pinnacle is protected and no road is built, the lawsuit would in all likelihood be dropped, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.
“If conditions on the ground change, obviously, that would have a huge effect on the suit,” said Bauer. “But we’d have to see the final result.”
Bauer said he could not comment on the proposal to protect the Pinnacle because he was unfamiliar with the Conservancy’s plans.
According to Nancy Williams, protecting the Pinnacle “is very much a local project; we’d like to see hiking trails connecting it to Cat and Thomas Mountains and into Bolton Landing itself, creating a significant trail system.”
But, Williams said, “it will take the community to protect the Pinnacle; we want to see how much support there is within the community.”
Williams said the Conservancy had made Pinnacle owner Ernie Oberrer aware of it’s interest, but had yet to hear from him.
Oberrer could not be reached for comment; reportedly, he has expressed an interest in building below the ridgeline if he could sell the Pinnacle’s summit for an unspecified sum.
Not having discussed its plans with Oberrer, Williams said she had no idea how much money would have to be raised by the Conservancy and other local organizations to protect the Pinnacle. Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.
The front lines in the battle over upland development continues to be Lake George. In the latest skirmish, a recent approval of a controversial, three lot subdivision atop a prominent ridge in Bolton Landing has prompted The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper to bring a lawsuit against the Town of Bolton.
The organizations filed the suit against the Town of Bolton’s Planning Board, Zoning Board and Zoning Administrator late last week. According to the suit, the application should have received a variance from the Zoning Board in order for it to be approved by the Planning Board. “The approval granted by the Planning Board violates the Town Code for driveway width as well as violating the Town of Bolton Zoning Law, because the applicant never obtained a variance to exceed allowable clearing limits for road/driveway construction,” argued Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.
According to Navitsky, the mile long road to the top of the Pinnacle was described as a shared driveway. “Under the Bolton Zoning and Planning codes, a driveway should only be 16 feet in width. The Planning Board issued a waiver, exempting the applicant’s access road from the Town’s Planning code restrictions of a 16-foot width. The Planning Board’s approval authorized a “shared driveway” of 20 feet in width with two 2-foot shoulders, totaling 24 feet,” said Navitsky.
“What the Planning Board is calling a shared driveway is a road in every way. We’re challenging the Planning Board’s authorization because what it authorized is not what’s been designed. The applicant is planning a road that is eight times as wide as the 24 foot width approved by the Planning Board,” said Navitsky. “This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations.”
The suit also alleges that the Town Zoning Board of Appeals should have issued a variance to permit excessive clearing. “Town Zoning Law states that clearing for driveways shall not exceed 16 feet. The Zoning Administrator should have recognized the need for a variance once she reviewed the plans and referred the matter to the Zoning Board,” said Navitsky.
“We asked the Town Boards and Town officials numerous times for an explanation of how a shared driveway that’s supposed to be 24 feet wide was approved given that it involves eight acres of clearcutting, widths of over 150 feet, and will be built on grades of over 25%? We never received a response” said Navitsky. “We feel like we attempted every means practical to work with the Town, but they refused to answer these basic questions. Now we’ll let the courts settle the matter.”
“This is an important legal issue because it seeks to clarify the Bolton code and establish an important precedent for placement and design of these shared driveways and roads to upland developments. As more development continues in the uplands of Bolton, many accessed by long driveways or roads over steep terrain, the issues of clearing widths and construction on steep slopes are very important” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George. “In this instance it appears to us that the Town is violating its own local laws.”
Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.
When the next big snowfall comes, I know where I’m headed with my cross-country skis: Cat and Thomas mountains in the Eastern Adirondacks.
Located just west of Bolton Landing on Lake George, the two small peaks are part of a 1,900-acre preserve purchased in 2003 by the Lake George Land Conservancy. Neither of the two mountains require more than a 750-foot ascent to the top, making them two of the easiest ways to catch a killer view of Lake George or the Adirondack foothills. I’ve done this hike in warm weather and cold, and I like it best on skis. The trails are never desperately steep (at least to the intermediate skier). Fresh snow and wide skis are definitely preferred, however.
To reach the preserve, head east off Northway Exit 24 toward Bolton Landing, and make a right after two miles onto Valley Woods Road to find the preserve on the right. The trail to Cat, 3.5 miles, follows a rocky logging road. Occasional colored discs show the way. After about 15 minutes, you pass a right turn (signed) to Thomas Mountain, which is only 1.5 miles from the cars. You can also reach Cat Mountain from a different parking lot down the road from the main lot.
Which peak is better? Hard to say. When I was there last winter, Thomas still had a small cabin on top, which made a great place to take a break (there was talk of removing the cabin at the time). But the view faces west, missing the lake. Cat has nothing on top, and it’s got a sweeping view of the southern half of Lake George.
Thomas is the easier ski, but Cat is still quite doable. Climb them both — which shouldn’t take more than half a day — and you’ve got the makings of a great winter outing.
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