Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Comparing Colorado to the Adirondacks

I recently spent a few days touring around Colorado by bicycle. It was my seventh trip to the state, in both summer and winter.

The trip took me on a few parts of the Colorado Trail, a 450-mile hiking route that follows the spine of the Continental Divide from Denver to Durango. It also took me to some of Colorado’s old mining towns, most of which have been recast as a combination tourist attraction and burgeoning home to the young, artsy and outdoorsy.

The trip got me thinking about the differences between the Rocky Mountains and the Adirondacks, where I first learned to climb mountains and have spent the last 25 years exploring. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lake George Conservancy to Hold Field Day Event

The Lake George Land Conservancy is holding an Annual Meeting and Field Day event, this Saturday July 24, 2010. The public is invited to participate in a themed hike or presentation around the lake in the morning, then join the group for a picnic lunch in Hague, listen to brief remarks on LGLC’s recent conservation efforts, and family games and activities. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A New 46er Challange: Failing to Reach the Top

Many years ago, after two attempts (and subsequent failures) to climb Dix Mountain via the southwest slide, I turned to my friend and said, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s come up with a new type of 46er challenge.”

The 46ers, of course, are those hikers who climb all 46 of the High Peaks in the Adirondacks more than 4,000 feet high. There’s more than 6,000 officially in this club, plus hundreds more who have done them all in winter.

So my new idea? To fail on every peak more than 4,000 feet high. To qualify for this challenge, you have to try to climb every peak and not get to the top for one reason or another. These must be organic reasons — blisters, encroaching night, exhaustion, getting lost, an ailing partner. You can’t just up and turn around — you’ve got to plan to climb the peak, but fail.

Thus far I’ve climbed every 46 peak, but I’ve only failed to climb a handful. That means I’ve got a lot more failing to go, so if there’s any weak-kneed or blister-prone hikers who think they can’t make it to the top of a High Peak, let me know and I’d love to join you for an attempt.

But the real reason I’m writing today is my other idea for a High Peak challenge — The Black Fly 46. To qualify for this covered prize, you’ve got to climb every High Peak during black fly season, mid-May to early July.

Now, my standards are more than what the calendar can provide. After all, if it’s early June — the heart of black fly season — but temperatures are low so they’re not biting, that doesn’t count. To qualify for a Black Fly 46, you’ve got to come back with at least four bug bites for each peak climbed. That means if you’re ascending four peaks in one day and you want credit, you need at least 16 bites. My idea, my rules.

I think this challenge will help bring people to the mountains at a time that many hikers tend to stay away, and perhaps ease the crowds on busy weekends in summer and fall. After all, why bother climbing a peak if you’re not going to get enough bites to qualify?

Anyway, that’s my idea. If anyone wants to vie for the award, show me a picture of your bites on various summits and I’ll send you the prize (a bottle of Calamine Lotion).

Watch for an upcoming post for my next idea for a hiking challenge: the Frostbite 46. Winners of this prize may be bedridden for a while, but think how good the certificate will look on your hospital wall.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

High Peak Hiking: Four Slides in One Day

Many Adirondack hikers go on to explore the many slides of the High Peaks after hiking trails for many years. Slides create a direct approach to the top, combining bushwhacking, easy rock climbing and a sense of adventure.

Then there’s Kevin “MudRat” MacKenzie of Lake Placid, who has taken slide-climbing to a new extreme.

Call it slide-bagging. And recently he got four of them in one day.

About a week ago MacKenzie, 40, an assistant registrar at St. Lawrence University, climbed Giant Mountain — the popular High Peak off Route 73 in Keene Valley. He climbed it, descended it, climbed it and descended it, by himself, going up and down four adjacent slides on the prominent west face.

“I was going to do everything on the west face,” he reported later. “So I put together four of them.”

Every slide was different, he said. Every slide had its own character.

Starting his hike around 7 a.m., he hiked the Roaring Brook Trail to a bushwhack that follows drainages to the base of the Bottle Slide, one of a number of bare areas created from landslides years ago.

He describes the slide as one of his favorites, with waves of anorthosite, plenty of cracks and ledges to climb and a pitch of around 39 degrees (he figures this out at home using topographic software.

From there, he descended the Diagonal Slide, which is steeper and covered with algae, making for a nerve-racking descent. “You can’t see what you’re stepping onto,” he said.

At the bottom of the mountain’s headwall, he traversed to the Question Mark Slide, an obscure route that’s steep, overgrown and covered with wet moss. That took two hours, including a lot of bushwhacking through the trees to avoid the perilous, 45-degree wet bits.

Finally reaching the summit at 1 p.m., he was exhausted and decided to pass on hiking Giant’s most well-known slide, the majestic Eagle Slide (the wide and obvious bare section visible from Keene Valley). Instead, he walked down the 600-foot-high Tulip Slide and decided to call it a day.

MacKenzie says he’s done about 30 slides so far, and hopes to one day climb all 100 major slides in the peaks. His next area: Dix, with its dozens of slides, which he plans to attack in a weekend camping trip in the near future.

Readers: What are your favorite slide routes and why?

 


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

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

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™

Trailhead to Summit: 0.6
Ascent: 460 ft

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (May 27)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: HIGH

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


Weather

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

Biting Insects
“Bug Season” has begun in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibilty of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

General Backcountry Conditions
Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Blowdowns: Due to recent storms and high winds blowdown may be found on trails, particularly infrequently used side trails. Blowdown may be heavy enough in some places to impede travel.

Bear-Resistant Canisters: The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear resistant canisters; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

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

Raquette River Boat Launch: The Raquette River Boat Launch along State Route 3 is closed at this time as DEC is rehabilitating the boat launch. See the press release for more information. It is expected to reopen in mid-June.

Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain: A peregrine falcon nest has been confirmed on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-moonshine Mountain. All rock climbing routes including and between Garter and Mogster, are closed. All other rock climbing routes are open beginning May 12.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has a lot of blowdown. Also beavers have flooded a section of trail about half way between the ponds. A significant amount of bushwhacking will be needed to get through the carry, so be prepared for a real wilderness experience.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Giant Mountain: All rock climbing routes on Uppper Washbowl remain closed due to confirmed peregrine falcon nesting activity. All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl in Chapel Pond Pass are opened for climbing.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

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

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

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

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gates to Remain Closed at Hudson River Recreation Area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Camping and fires are permitted at designated sites only;

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, May 9, 2010

ADK to Offer Advanced ‘Leave No Trace’ Training

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will soon be conducting the highest-level training under the auspices of the Leave No Trace program. Leave No Trace is an international program designed to teach hikers, campers, paddlers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts how to minimize their impacts on wild places. Leave No Trace is based on voluntary ethical guidelines, expressed as seven principles. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in Boulder, Colorado, is a nonprofit education organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors by all people, worldwide.

“Leave No Trace’s mission is very similar to the mission of the Adirondack Mountain Club,” said Ryan Doyle, ADK’s outdoor leadership coordinator. “In fact, the late Almy Coggeshall, who was ADK president in 1980 and 1981, helped introduce the ‘pack in, pack out’ philosophy in the Adirondacks in the 1960s. These shared mission elements formed the foundation for the new partnership between ADK and Leave No Trace.”

ADK is now one of only seven organizations nationwide authorized to provide the Leave No Trace Master Educator course. This summer, ADK is offering a series of five-day training sessions designed for individuals who are actively teaching others backcountry skills or providing recreation information to the public. In other words, ADK will be teaching the Leave No Trace teachers.

The Master Educator course will be offered June 16-20, July 5-9, Aug. 18-22 and Sept. 6-10. Through classroom discussions, lectures and a four-day backpacking or canoe trip, this course will cover the seven Leave No Trace principles and wildland ethics. Participants will also be taught techniques for disseminating these low-impact skills to backcountry users.

As of January 2010, there were more than 3,500 Leave No Trace Masters worldwide, representing nine countries and all 50 U.S. states. This training is recognized throughout the world by the outdoor industry and land management agencies. Graduates include U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service rangers, outdoor retail executives, school teachers, youth group and outing club leaders, outfitters and guides. Graduates of the Master Educator course are qualified to train others in Leave No Trace skills and can offer Leave No Trace Trainer courses and Awareness Workshops (one-day or shorter).

ADK will also offer the two-day Leave No Trace Trainer course, which provides introductory training in Leave No Trace skills and ethics, on May 22-23 and Oct. 23-24. Details of both courses are available at www.adk.org/programs/Leave_No_Trace.aspx.

In fall 2008, the Leave No Trace Center sought proposals from organizations interested in providing the highest level of Leave No Trace training. ADK was selected because of its large membership base and the sizeable untapped audience in New York state and the Northeast. Last year, Ben Lawhon, Leave No Trace education director, and Dave Winter, Leave No Trace outreach manager, came from Boulder to ADK’s Heart Lake Program Center to train staff as Master Educator instructors. Six ADK staff members participated in the training and are now prepared to lead the Master Educator course.

“It is our intent to inject Leave No Trace information into everything ADK does, from education and field programs to our trails information and lodging facilities,” Doyle said.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.

Leave No Trace Principles

1) Plan Ahead and Prepare
2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3) Dispose of Waste Properly
4) Leave What You Find
5) Minimize Campfire Impacts
6) Respect Wildlife
7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visit www.lnt.org for specifics about the principles and for more information about the organization.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adirondack 46ers: Hike One, Get Three Free

For those who are trying to climb the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks — that is, the peaks originally surveyed at 4,000 feet or higher — there’s nothing better than getting four for the price of one.

There are many peaks where you can do two in a day, mainly when they share the same ridge-line. Cascade and Porter, for instance, are so close to each other you barely break a sweat walking between them. Likewise Esther and Whiteface, or Wright and Algonquin.

There are other cases where you’re traveling so far to climb two, you would be better off doing all three, such as the classic triad of Seward, Donaldson and Emmons in the western High Peaks. You have to climb over Seward to get to Donaldson and Emmons, and back over Donaldson and Seward again to get out.

Or there’s Panther, Santanoni and Couchsachraga, accessed via the road to Upper Works near Newcomb. The last of those mountains is notable not only for being the hardest to spell and pronounce of all High Peaks (most folks call it “Couchie” for short), but also for being the lowest. At 3,820 feet it’s obviously under the 4,000-f00t benchmark, but the original surveyors were off by a bit.

The Forty-sixers defer to history in this regard — there are several other peaks in the group under 4,000 feet. That also explains why MacNaughton Mountain, at 4,000 feet on the nose, is considered a “bonus” peak and not one of the 46 — the first surveyors thought it a bit shorter.

The point is, it’s nice to get a bunch of peaks in on a single day’s hike. That’s why one of my favorite trips into the mountains is the route I did last week: walking the Dix ridge from the south and hitting Macomb, South Dix, East Dix and Hough mountains in one go.

For this trip, I joined a group from Albany that drove to Elk Lake off of Blue Ridge Road (the gate, closed all winter, was fortunately open, saving us 2 miles of road walking to the trail-head). The route leaves the main hiking trail after a few miles to follow a “herd” path up a steep, rubbly slide to the summit of Macomb (4,405 feet — see photo above).

From there, it’s a short walk down and up to South Dix, an hour side-trail to East Dix, an hour back to South Dix, and another hour down and up to Hough. The views get better with each mountain, with Hough affording the best: the nearby, pointy top of Dix itself.

The descents and ascents between peaks is minimal — that’s us leaving Hough to the left. The total hike distance is about 15 miles walking and 4,000 feet of elevation gain overall. We took 12 hours for the trip, with lots of stopping. A fast group could do it in eight or nine hours.

Speaking of fast, on our hike we were quickly passed by a group from Syracuse. As we were staggering our way to the summit of Hough (pronounced “huff”), fellow hiker George took out a pair of binoculars. He pointed them north toward Dix (the highest peak in the range, at 4,857 feet) and said, “Hey, there’s the Syracuse group.”

Sure enough, they had bridged five peaks in the time it took us to climb four. Surely the best hiking deal of the High Peaks.

But for us, it was time to turn around. It was nearing 5 p.m., it was a long walk back to the car and we were all nearly out of food and energy. Still, four in a day isn’t too shabby either.

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To see more photographs of this hike by the author, click here. New users will have to sign in. Note that the slide viewing time can be adjusted by the timer at lower right.

The Dix range follows herd paths, not official trails. Hikers attempting this route should be in excellent shape, carry a guidebook, map and compass and be comfortable with travel along unsigned paths.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ADK to Host ‘Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball’

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) 14th annual gala and auction, “Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball,” will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Friday, May 21, at the Fort William Henry Hotel’s historic White Lion Ballroom, overlooking Lake George. The Black Fly Affair is ADK’s largest fund-raising event of the year, and proceeds from this year’s event will help support ADK’s education intern programs.

Recommended attire for the event is semi-formal dress (black tie) and hiking boots, although the dress code will not be strictly enforced.

Peter and Ann Hornbeck are honorary chairs, and Gregory McKnight will be master of ceremonies. Beverages will be provided by Adirondack Winery and Cooperstown Brewing Co., and there will be dancing to the music of Standing Room Only.

ADK boasts one of the largest silent auctions in the region in addition to its very lively live auction, where guests will bid on original artwork, outdoor gear, weekend getaways, cultural events and more. Jim and Danielle Carter of Acorn Estates & Appraisals will conduct the auction. A preview of auction items is available at the
ADK Web site, www.adk.org.

Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door. To make reservations, visit www.adk.org or call , Ext. 14. To donate an
auction item or to become a corporate sponsor, contact Deb Zack at , Ext. 42. Discounted room rates for Black Fly attendees are available at the Fort William Henry Hotel and the Best Western of Lake George.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Suggested Hikes For Mud Season

It was T.S. Eliot who wrote “April is the cruellest month.” He also wrote, in his epic poem “The Waste Lands”: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

Substitute “mud” for “dust,” and Eliot might have been talking about the Adirondacks after the snow melts (although, you want to talk about cruel, let’s talk black flies …but that’s a subject for another post).

Anyway, as we reach the spring mud season, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues its annual “please don’t hike on muddy High Peaks trails” request, may we suggest a few dryer alternatives?

For starters, cast your eyes southward. The Lake George region, which gets much less snowfall than other areas in the park, is also one of the first places to warm up in the spring. There’s enough hikes there to last a full season, but we can easily recommend a few: » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Long-Time Hiking Advocate Fred Schroeder Remembered

More than 200 people came to an Albany church April 1 to pay homage to Fred Schroeder, an avid hiker who introduced the Adirondacks to hundreds of underprivileged boys.

Schroeder, who lived in an assisted living center in Bethlehem (Albany County) with his wife Martha, died March 18 at the age of 85.

Schroeder, a long-time director at several branches of the Albany Boys Club, also directed the group’s Camp Thacher in the nearby Helderbergs every summer until it closed a few years ago. Part of that work included introducing the boys to hikes and camping trips around the nearby woods. And those who excelled at woodscraft were later invited to the Adirondacks.

One of those boys was John Antonio, now a retired music teacher living in the Albany suburb of Colonie.

“For many of us it was our first encounter with the forest,” said Antonio, who spoke at Schroeder’s memorial service.

Antonio’s first Adirondack mountain was Noonmark. The popular peak in Keene Valley, with its 360-degree view of the Great Range and beyond, was Schroeder’s favorite. Antonio grew up to be a counselor at the camp, and began to lead his own trips to Noonmark and other peaks.

“Every hike I go on from now on, his name will probably be mentioned,” Antonio said. “He introduced so many people (to the mountains), it’s amazing.”

Schroeder had very personal reasons for working with city children: he grew up in orphanages in New York City until graduating high school. He also served in Europe during World War II.

He was a member of the Adirondack 46ers, the Catskill 3500 Club, the New England 111 Club (whose members must climb all peaks over 4,000 feet in New York and New England). He was active with the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Taconic Hiking Club, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, and the Long Path North Hiking Club. He also designed and organized the development and maintenance of miles of hiking trails.

In 1998, Fred and his wife provided the funds to build and endow the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center on the grounds of the former Camp Thacher.

For the past 30 years, he was an active member of the Albany chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, leading weekly hikes to the Adirondacks and every other mountain range within a two-hour drive of Albany. Even later in life , his hiking pace astounded his friends.

“When I met him he was in his 60s, and he could hike anything,” said friend Karen Ross.

To read more about Schroeder, click here.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Mount Baker

We choose a typical spring day to climb Mount Baker in Saranac Lake. We pack the car with all the enthusiasm of a family caught in the thrall of spring fever. I can hardly keep my children in shoes now that the snow has melted, let alone convince them that putting boots back on after a winter’s worth of wear will be a positive experience. Flip-flops are not an option. I am also able to convince my daughter that rhinestone platform slides are best left at home.

Just 2,452′ in elevation, Baker is often referred to as a little mountain. For locals, it’s a quick hike during a lunch break while for others it’s an opportunity to see the High Peaks without investing a lot of time. For children it is a perfect segue to climbing steeper mountains.

Springtime in the Adirondacks presents its own unique set of challenges. Sections of the trail are a frustrating combination of sweet springtime freshness and thick mud and ice. Each step threatens to leave us either barefoot (from the mud sucking the shoes right off our feet) or flat on our backs from a misplaced step on ice. Though some people have cramp-ons, we manage to maneuver the path with ski poles and sticks.

The summit of Baker is only .9 mile from the base. Since we don’t have cramp-ons we opt to skirt the trail, following other footprints along the edge. It becomes a game of search-and-find for my son. The lower section of the main trail has become a frozen waterfall so he must search across and around it for safe places for us to walk. He willingly takes on the challenge.

The path is a gentle incline at first. We then start to see large rocks surrounding us and realize that the summit is near. The path cuts sharply between two boulders but it is too slick for us to approach. We cut back around to the right and climb over the rocks, avoiding the slippery rock chimney. The first vista we find overlooks the town. We identify Lake Flower and the shops surrounding it. The next overlook is behind us, a beautiful view of Scarface and the McIntyre Range.

After our well-deserved snack, we descend, but we do not have to choose our steps as carefully. We glissade down the slippery slope, avoiding the mud when we can. There is enough ice that we are able to avoid any damage to the trail.

To access Mount Baker, on Main Street in Saranac Lake, turn right onto Dugway. Take the first left, Forest Hill Ave, and continue straight to Moody Pond. The trail marker is on the left.

photo: snow seen on the distant McIntyre Range and Mt. Marcy from the summit of Mount Baker
photo credit: www.adkfamilytime.com


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Why I’ll Never Be A Winter 46-er

I was driving over Cascade Pass with a friend recently when we noticed all the cars parked near the trailhead to Cascade and Porter mountains, the two easiest of the 46 High Peaks.

Was there a party going on? There must have been hundreds of people climbing that peak on this warm Saturday in mid-March.

Then my friend hit upon it: it was the last day of winter. Anybody wanting to gain the honor of “Winter Forty-Sixer” needed to climb these peaks by the end of today, or have to wait another season. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wilderness Travel: In Praise of Humanity’s Footprint

Yesterday, I climbed Allen Mountain.

At 4,340 feet high, Allen is the state’s 26th tallest peak (this is a view of Marcy and Haystack from the top). Its summit is wooded, though thin enough to afford a number of tantalizing views, especially in winter. But its reputation has been formed not by its height or its aesthetic qualities, but by its remoteness: it’s considered one of the hardest of the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks to reach.

To get there, you have to follow a trail for about five miles to Twin Brook, site of a former lean-to, from a parking lot near Upper Works. From there, you follow a herd path marked by occasional ribbons and homemade markers through the woods and up a steep slide to the top. By my reckoning, the round-trip distance is around 18 miles.

Allen appealed to me on this day because I had just read on the web site Views from the Top (a great place to learn about trail conditions) that a large group of peak-baggers had blazed a trail through deep snow to the summit, which would make things easier for me.

I could follow their route on cross-country skis for at least six miles, then bareboot the trail — now as firm as concrete — to the base of the slide without fear of postholing, and then slap on snowshoes for the final, steep ascent to the top. Which is what I did, making the summit after 5 1/2 hours of moderate exercise (and some huffing and puffing toward the end).

When I got to the top — this was the first “trailless” high peak I’ve climbed in many years — I saw the wooden sign that said “Allen.” And that got me thinking.

For decades, the summits of these trailless peaks (that is, no official trail, though most have herdpaths) were marked by metal canisters, eventually replaced by plastic ones. These canisters contained notebooks, which peak-baggers would sign. It was always fun to read the observations of those who passed before you, and add your own to the mix.

Then, nine years ago, the state demanded their removal. Canisters, the bureaucrats said, were a non-conforming structure. But a wooden sign was OK. The decision outraged dozens of hikers at the time, but the canisters were eventually removed.

So there I was on this beautiful day on this beautiful summit, contemplating the logic of this declaration. I had just traversed the woods, following the snowshoe prints of a dozen hikers, crossing two man-made bridges, along snow-covered dirt roads and trails cleared by man, following trail markers nailed to trees by man, past wooden signs pointing the way, up a route made by thousands of hikers over many decades, to a summit, where a wooden sign told me I had reached the top.

And according to the state, this was a wilderness experience because a canister had been removed.

Looking back a decade, it all seems rather silly. The notebook would have been fun for me to read — although, given the distance I had to traverse to get back to my car before sunset, I barely had time to eat lunch. But the summit was just as thrilling either way.

What can we learn from all this? Well, I’ve always found it silly to say what’s “conforming” and what isn’t in a wilderness. If we don’t want any signs of mankind in the woods, we should not have trails, bridges, markers or anything else.

But if we want to hike safely — and reach a remote site in a reasonable amount of time — we should accept the fact that wilderness can’t be entirely “pure.” We need trails and bridges, markers and arrows, so folks don’t get lost. And those who think such contrivances will ruin a wilderness experience? Go bushwhack something.

All I know is I would not have dared this hike if others had not stamped the route out for me. And I got back to my car by sunset, too. Where I remembered to sign the trailhead register before leaving.



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