What follows is the Spring 2012 Forest Ranger Activity Report for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. Although not a comprehensive detailing of all backcountry incidents, these reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date. You can read previous Forest Ranger Reports here.
These incident reports are a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry and always carry a 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.
Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters in Saranac Lake will host an Adirondack Stand-Up Paddle Board Festival, on June 23rd from 8 am to 4:30 pm at the Village of Saranac Lake’s Lake Colby Beach.
The all day event and will include stand up paddleboard (SUP) inspired activities for the whole family and feature a short race course of three miles, a longer 6-mile course, race of six miles, and sprint/fun races.
The sprint/fun races will include an obstacle course, person and dog race, tandem race and sprint time trials. There will also be food, music, paddleboard clinics, demos of boards and equipment, and board and equipment dealer reps on hand. » Continue Reading.
On Sunday July 1, 2012 will mark the 50th annual Willard Hanmer Guideboat Race commemorating Willard Hanmer the preeminent Guide Boat builder of his era. The race has been celebrated every year since 1962 on the Sunday closest to the 4th of July. This year, to celebrate the craftsmanship of this uniquely Adirondack craft, the organizers are planning a display of over 50 guideboats in a guideboat parade on Lake Flower prior to the race.
Following the parade will be guideboat, canoe and kayak races. This year the one-person guideboat race will follow the traditional route on Lake Flower, carry around the dam and down the Saranac River to the Fish and Game Club where there will be food, refreshments ands festivities for the whole family. Canoes and kayaks will be following the one person guideboat course, also going down the river. For those wishing to race in either the guideboat, recreational canoe or kayak classes contact: [email protected]» Continue Reading.
There are only three more days until the deadline for submissions to the Adirondack Paddlers Photo Contest. By this Friday, May 11, photos from pond lilies to loon babies should be on their way to the contest’s Flickr site. Start the process at Adirondack Explorer.
Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, View, and the Adirondack Explorer are co-sponsoring the inaugural contest. The rules are simple: photos have to have been taken in the Adirondack Park and from a canoe or kayak. » Continue Reading.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s film festival in Lake Placid on Friday night will feature footage from all over the world, from Russia to Hawaii, from the Grand Canyon to the North Atlantic. But for many Adirondackers, the highlight will be a movie made by Saranac Lake resident Mike Lynch.
Lynch, an outdoors writer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, canoed the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail last summer—from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine—and has created a 37-minute film about his adventure titled Through Paddle. Click here to read my earlier interview with Lynch on Adirondack Almanack. » Continue Reading.
The 7th annual Reel Paddling Film Festival (RPFF) will be making its way through the Adirondacks this spring and summer with showings in Lake Placid, Old Forge and Tupper Lake. The Reel Paddling Film Festival highlights the best paddling films for the year in ten categories: Instructional Paddling, Environmental Paddling, Kayak Fishing, Sea Kayaking, Stand-up Paddling, Short Paddling, Canoeing, Whitewater, Documentary Paddling, and Adventure Travel Paddling. » Continue Reading.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a $5,120,000 investment for NY Works projects that will allow for eight flood control system and dam repair projects in the North Country. Projects slated for the Adirondack North Country include the Lower Lows Dam and Upper Lows Dam on the Bog River. Those dams, made of concrete and located in a area classified Primitive, are favored by paddlers on the Bog River, Hitchins Pond, and Lows Lake. The other dams slated for repair are Palmer Lake Dam in North Hudson (popular with anglers); Taylor Pond Dam in the town of Black Brook, southwestern Clinton County (part of the Taylor Pond Wild Forest); Kingdom Road Dam which holds back Lincoln Pond in Elizabethtown; Main Mill Dam in the City of Plattsburgh; and Whiteside Dam. All are considered “Critical Dam Repairs.” The funds will also support a Malone flood control project. Two notable back country dams gave way late last summer during Hurricane Irene. The Marcy Dam is expected to be rebuilt. DEC has decided that the Duck Hole Dam will not be rebuilt. » Continue Reading.
With days reaching into the 50s, but much colder waters in still in the mid-30s, it’s a great time to remind paddlers and other boaters of the dangers of falling overboard in cold water. Of New York’s 25 fatalities associated with recreational boating in 2011, almost a third of those deaths involved small paddled boats, when water temperatures were cold.
In almost every one of those fatal accidents life jackets were not worn and in some cases weren’t even on board at the time of the accident. The Coast Guard estimates that 80% of all boating accident deaths might have been prevented had a life jacket been worn. In New York, life jackets are required to be worn on any boat less than 21 feet in length between November 1st and May 1st. » Continue Reading.
My Adirondack family has finally stored the winter gear and is getting ready to take out the canoes for a paddle. Safety is always a concern when paddling with children so we want to take whatever precautions necessary to assure a fun experience.
Adirondacks Lakes and Trails Outfitters owner Steve Doxzon says, “This time of year it’s the cold water that is the biggest issue. People need to dress for the water temperature not the air temperature. It may be 70 degrees outside but the water is still only 37 degrees.” Doxzon especially urges a person kayaking to dress accordingly as there is a greater chance for capsizing and hypothermia. He reminds paddlers that sudden changes in conditions, like windy days, are something to be wary of when getting out on Adirondack lakes, rivers and ponds.
He also reminds boaters that from November 1 to May 1, it is NYS law that life jackets must be worn by all people on a boat under 21feet in length. Though he recommends all his clients to wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) at all times, the law only requires boaters to have approved wearable life vests for each person available during those months. After May 1st, pleasure vessels must have US Coast Guard approved wearable PFDs on board for each person on the vessel. All children under 12 (aboard boats 65 feet or less)are always required to wear a PFD.
“We didn’t get a lot of snow this year so there isn’t the snow pack from the mountains. The rivers are not running as high as usual,” says Doxzon. “That may give people a false sense of security. It is really the water temperature people need to be prepared for. It has been getting down into the 20s each night so the water is going to be cold.”
According to Doxzon a person can reach exhaustion or unconsciousness in water temperatures below 32 degrees in less than 15 minutes. He reminds paddlers that in these cold-water temperatures to stay close to shore where they can get back to shore or in their boat in that 15-minute window.
If this is a bit early to be out on the water, Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters is hosting the Reel Paddling Film Festival on April 27that 7:00 p.m. at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. With a mix of paddle sport films, door prizes and silent auctions, all proceeds will go to support the Northern Forest Canoe trail.
With over 50 stops throughout Canada and the U.S., the Reel Paddling Film Fest showcases the best paddling films with the hopes of encouraging more people to explore the world waterways.
Doxzon says, “The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a 740-miletrail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine. This festival supports efforts to maintain this trail.”
So whether you’re just starting out or an experiencedpaddler, be careful during this seasonal transition into the summer paddlingseason. Enjoy yourself and explore those Adirondack waterways!
Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time Lake Placid and the High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 activities. Her second Adirondack Family Activities book for the Champlain Valley will be in stores summer 2012.
More than seven thousand people have climbed all forty-six of the Adirondack High Peaks. Not to denigrate the achievement of those hikers, but bagging the peaks is no longer a rare feat.
In contrast, only forty or so people have paddled the entire length of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail—a 740-mile route that starts in Old Forge and ends in northern Maine. One of them is Mike Lynch, the outdoors writer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Lynch paddled the NFCT this past summer and wrote about his adventure for the newspaper and his website, Northeast Outdoors. He also is working on a documentary film.
Lynch will give a slide show on the forty-five-day trip at the Guides House in Lake Placid at 7 p.m. Sunday, October 9. The Guides House is next-door to High Peaks Cyclery on Main Street.For more information on the talk, e-mail Lynch at [email protected]
Meantime, you might be interested in reading Lynch’s responses to questions we asked about his trek.
Just to set the scene: the Adirondack leg of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail starts on Fulton Chain of Lakes and ends on Lake Champlain. Paddlers canoe down the lake and then along various rivers and water bodies in Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine. The route has a number of tough carries, so Mike brought a canoe cart.
Lynch did the trip solo from Old Forge to Saranac Lake, where he was joined by Jacob Resneck, a friend who used to work at the Enterprise. After Jacob left, Mike was joined by his fiancée, Ariel Diggory.
What was your favorite part of NFCT in Adirondacks? “On the Raquette River just after you enter it from the northern end of Long Lake. I entered this section in late evening, and the lighting was spectacular. The reflections on the water were near perfect. There was also a young loon ahead of me for a short period.”
What was your favorite part outside New York? “I enjoyed nearly the entire 350-mile section in Maine, starting with Umbagog Lake and ending on the St. John River in Fort Kent. Some of the highlights included paddling on glass-like water on Umbagog, Flagstaff, and Moosehead lakes either just before sunset or during it. The rapids and wildlife on the Allagash River were also amazing. We saw about a dozen moose in that region, along with probably thirty bald eagles.”
What was the hardest portage? “The hardest portage was what I thought was the Mud Pond Carry in Maine, but in retrospect may have been some other path. The first section was in a bog; then the trail led to a forested area with a lot of large brush from prior logging operations that was difficult and dangerous to walk over. Another hard portage was a twenty-mile walk from Rangeley, Maine, to Stratton on a paved state road. Although this portage was long, it wasn’t too bad because the road was paved and we had wheels.”
And the scariest whitewater? “I wouldn’t characterize any whitewater we did as scary. We paddled Class I and II rapids and portaged around Class III and up. Because we scouted the more challenging rapids, we were able to pick lines that we could handle. The highest waves we faced were on the St. John River because the area received a lot of rain while we were in that region. In one short section, the waves were breaking over the gunnels as we paddled. The most difficult paddling was actually on windy lakes. We faced large swells and very strong winds several times.”
Best wildlife sighting? “That’s an easy one. Ariel and I saw an abundance of wildlife at the north end of Churchill Lake on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway one evening after an especially intense thunder and lightning storm. The water here is a few hundred feet across as it narrows into an outlet that leads to a dam. As we arrived there, we were greeted by a rainbow. Then we saw two loons on our left. Then a moose, half-submerged in the water, appeared on our right. After seeing it, we decided to float and watch it feed in the water for a while. As we were sitting there, a young calf stood up in the grass on the shore. Then an eagle swooped down on our left and caught a fish. There was also about a dozen Canada geese swimming very close to the moose and four or five otters playing in the water to our left. The scene ended with the moose walking out of the water. But before leaving, she nursed the calf. We watched this entire scene for about forty-five minutes, enjoying every second of it.”
Most memorable people encounter? “There were many, many memorable people encounters. I met great people everywhere. I found that the people in the smallest towns were often the friendliest and most down to earth. In Rangley, for instance, a couple named Bruce and Claudia let us store my canoe under their house while we stayed at the Rangeley Inn across the street. I also used their computer, and Bruce took me on a drive for moose.”
Was the NFCT easy to follow? “For the most part, but we did experience a few problems. One of the difficulties we had was trying to follow some of the portages that used streets. We got off track in Plattsburgh and a few small towns in Vermont early in the trip. In Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine, most everything was straightforward. Well, except for the Mud Pond portage and maybe the Spencer Stream area in Maine.”
Did you have any unforeseen difficulties? “I guess the size of the waves on some of the lakes were larger than I anticipated. I had heard stories about the large swells on Lake Champlain, Raquette Lake, and many lakes in Maine, but it’s a different thing to experience them. Also, walking upstream on the rocks was tough at times because the rocks on the river bottoms were extremely slippery. The first half of the trip I also had pretty bad blisters from my new watershoes.”
How often were you paddling upstream? The majority of upstream paddling occurs between Vermont and Maine. It starts on the Missisquoi River as you leave Lake Champlain and is pretty constant with a few exceptions until Errol, New Hampshire. I read in an Adirondack Explorer article that there are 160 miles of upstream paddling. I never added it up myself. It seems like a lot when you’re about halfway through the trip. Luckily, the majority of the second half of the trip is downriver or on lakes and ponds. The worst upstream section was probably on Little Spencer Stream in Maine because the water was so low.”
Did you go through customs at the Quebec border? “Yes, on the Missisquoi River in Vermont I had to walk up a hill, then cross a bridge to the customs station. I was soaked to my waist when I showed my passport card to the border guard. He barely glanced at it, handed it back to me, and we went back down to our canoe.”
How many miles did you paddle a day? “We averaged fifteen miles per day. Each day was different though. I had three zero days on the trip. Otherwise we paddled between seven and thirty-something miles a day. How much we paddled a day depended upon a number of variables, including weather, the type of water. And whether I had any interviews to do that day. I took thousands of photos on the trip and hours and hours of video. That slowed us down.”
How often did you paddle in rain? “It was very dry in June and July. I didn’t paddle in the rain until just outside of Jackman, Maine, about five weeks into my trip. But from Jackman to Fort Kent, it rained several days. There were times Ariel and I had to seek shelter on the shore during thunder and lightning storms. The worst day of just rain was the second-to-last day of the trip on the Allagash and St. John rivers. We paddled more than thirty miles in the rain that day, including a hiking sidetrip to see some old ruins on the Allagash. That was a tough day. It was only about 50 degrees outside. We had to keep moving to stay warm.”
What did you eat? “When I was with Jacob during the first part of the trip, I ate lots of pasta. We also ate cheese and crackers, beef jerky, canned fish, and an assortment of other things that were easy to cook or could put hot sauce on. I ate granola bars throughout the trip at any time of the day. In Maine, Ariel and I ate packaged Indian food for dinner about one-third of the time. Oatmeal was a good breakfast. For snacks, we had Cheez-its, lots of Gorp, dried fruit, jolly ranchers. One of my favorite meals was dehydrated vegetarian chili. We also had some dehydrated mash potatoes that we mixed with dehydrated vegetables.”
Where did you sleep? “The vast majority of time we camped out. In the Adirondacks, I slept in lean-tos. In Vermont, Quebec, and New Hampshire, we slept at NFCT-designated campsites, in fields outside of towns or we just pulled over on the riverbank. For the most part in Maine, we were able to utilize designated campsites. Throughout the trip, we also slept at campgrounds a few times. I spent two nights in my own house in Saranac Lake, which is on the trail, two nights in a friends’ house on Lake Champlain, one in a new friends’ house near Stratton, Maine and three nights in a hotel.”
Most useful gear? “The most useful gear was my canoe, paddles, and wheels. The canoe I used was a seventeen-foot Old Town Penobscot. It’s a versatile boat that can handle a variety of situations, from intermediate whitewater to the varying conditions of lakes. As for paddles, I had one lightweight carbon-fiber bent shaft paddle for flatwater and a wooden straight shaft Sawyer Voyager paddle for rapids and situations where I needed something durable. Because there are a lot of long portages, I believe wheels are essential. Another thing that’s essential is a tube-repair kit and extra tubes. I popped about five tires on the trip.”
Advice for those attempting the trip? “My advice for those doing the trip is to talk to others who have done the trip already, read their blogs, and learn from their experiences. It helped me get a better understanding of what I was getting into. Also, consider the time of year. In the spring, the water will be cold and high. In the summer, the water levels will be a little lower, which will require more portaging. I would also say that it’s important to travel as light as possible without leaving essential gear at home.”
Photo by Mike Lynch: Moose on the Allagash River in Maine.
A few days after Hurricane Irene, I hiked to Duck Hole to see how the place looked after the breach of the old logging dam. Although the pond lost most of its water, there were streams running through the resultant mudflats and a pool remained at the base of the waterfall on east shore.
Earlier in the year, I had carried my canoe to Duck Hole and had a ball paddling around and admiring views of High Peaks. Now I wondered if anyone would ever want to bring a canoe to Duck Hole again.
As more frequent rain begins to replace the prolonged dry periods of early to mid summer, water levels in streams and rivers slowly start to rise from their early August lows. Yet, back country paddlers that are hoping to encounter fewer surface rocks and other obstacles that become present during times of low water are likely to be confronted with a new navigational hazard.
During the latter part of August, the awakening urge in the beaver to erect a series of dams, and to repair and heighten any stick and mud barrier that already exists in various waterways, can cause frustration to anyone hoping to encounter an unobstructed flow of water. » Continue Reading.
On Sunday, I took a delightful canoe trip on the East Branch of the St. Regis in the northwestern Adirondacks. It was so enjoyable that I didn’t stop until I reached the end of public land, making for a round trip of twenty miles from Everton Falls.
Four years ago, I had paddled the East Branch in early spring before the greening of the alders and the grasses. On that day the riverside scenery was a bit drab.
How different things are in July. Hues of green were everywhere—in the grasses dancing in the breeze, in the trees beyond the floodplain, and in the river grass bowed by the current. Wildflowers provided dashes of color: the purple whorls of joe-pye weed, the yellow globes of the pond lilies, the drooping scarlet petals of the cardinal flower, the violet spikes of pickerelweed, and the glistening white arrowhead. Add in a blue sky with puffy clouds, and you have the perfect day. Soon after putting in along Red Tavern Road, I heard one or two passing cars, but as I journeyed farther upstream, I penetrated deeper into the wild where the only sounds were natural: a beaver plopping into the river, the one-note whistle of a red-winged blackbird, a merganser skittering over the water to flee a human intruder.
In ten miles I encountered no development. It’s no wonder that researchers for the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) recommended back in the 1970s that most of this stretch (some eight miles) be designated a Wild River in the state’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational River System (WSR).
All rivers in the WSR system receive a degree of protection, but Wild is the most protective designation. State regulations prohibit the construction of dams, vehicular bridges, or other structures within a Wild River corridor—not even lean-tos are permitted. The only exceptions are footbridges. Just as important, no motorboats are allowed on Wild Rivers.
If you check the APA land-use map, though, you’ll see that roughly the first fifteen miles of the East Branch, including the stretch I paddled, are designated Scenic and that the rest of the river is designated Recreational. Both are less-restrictive classifications, allowing some development, such as vehicular bridges, and motorboat usage.
Usually, the APA followed the recommendations of its field researchers in classifying rivers. Why not in this case?
In his classic guidebook Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, Paul Jamieson writes that the classification was downgraded “probably at the insistence of a paper company and its lessees” (that is, hunting clubs).
Jamieson’s book came out many years ago. Since then, New York State has purchased this part of the river from Champion International and added it to the forever-wild Forest Preserve. In other words, the original objection to designating part of the East Branch a Wild River no longer obtains. APA spokesman Keith McKeever conceded as much in an article I wrote after my earlier trip up the East Branch. “The big impediment to that classification was that it was private land, and that’s no longer the case,” McKeever said.
Well, then, let’s change the classification to Wild. This would ensure that the river corridor stays pristine and that motorboats will not upset the natural serenity with their noise and pollution.
It also would bestow upon the East Branch a cachet that might attract a few more paddling tourists to a neglected corner of the Adirondack Park.
Of the 1,200 miles of Adirondack rivers in the WSR system, only 155 are designated Wild (about 13 percent). Indeed, there are only thirteen river segments in the entire Park that are classified Wild. They tend to be remote and/or rocky. Only one of them—a long stretch of the Main Branch of the Oswegatchie—is easily accessible and navigable by the average paddler. The East Branch would be in rarefied company.
In truth, I don’t know of any plans to build lean-tos, bridges, or other facilities on the river. And I doubt that motorboats often ply the East Branch. Thus, the reclassification might be seen as more symbolic than practical. But symbolism has its place. Designating the East Branch a Wild River would acknowledge its unspoiled beauty. It’s the least we can do.
Photo by Phil Brown: the East Branch of the St. Regis River.
online, but note this is a physically demanding activity. Caleb Davis, proprietor of Tremolo, creates handcrafted canoe paddles. He is a former shop teacher and a member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. Tremolo is both a vocation and a passion for Caleb, whose enthusiasm towards the art of both canoeing and paddle making is contagious; all it takes is five minutes with Caleb to make you want to pick up a blank and craft that perfect paddle, then to jump into your solo or tandem canoe and master traditional flatwater paddling techniques.
Davis is a skilled instructor and continues to enhance his skills with course work and certifications. His past and current certifications include: Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association Instructor, Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association Instructor, Eastern Professional Ski Touring (XC) Instructor, United States Rowing Association Coach, League of New Hampshire Craftsman – Canoe Paddles, American Canoeing Association Flat Water Tandem Instructor, American Canoeing Association Flat Water Solo Instructor, Traditional Flatwater Canoeing Association.