New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents in the Adirondacks. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and extract lost, injured or distressed people from the Adirondack backcountry.
What follows is a report, prepared by DEC, of a recent mission carried out by Forest Rangers in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
For more than a month, millions of tons of earth and millions of dollars in property value have been inching down a Keene Valley mountainside. As 82 acres of trees and homes continue to break loose, a state geologist says other Adirondack slopes could fail.
The slow-moving landslide on the side of Little Porter Mountain is unnerving residents in the town of Keene, which includes the hamlets of Keene and Keene Valley. The year-round population of 1,000 is nearly doubled in summer by wealthy seasonal residents, many who live upslope for the lofty views of the High Peaks. Four half-million-dollar houses at the top of the slide have been affected—pried wholly from their foundations or partially destabilized—and at least one vacation home appears to be in its path below. The value of the land in motion is expected to be reduced from about $3 million to zero, while sales of similar properties are thrown into limbo. Supervisor Bill Ferebee said the town has begun to seek emergency state reimbursement to help make up anticipated losses in property tax.
Andrew Kozlowski, associate state geologist with the New York State Museum, says the slide is the largest in state history. It’s nothing like the quick tumble of trees and thin humus familiar on high Adirondack terrain. This one started as a subtle shift below 2,000 feet on a 25–35 degree slope. It was triggered by the melting of deep snowpack compounded by more than a foot of rain in April and May. The slide does not seem to pose a risk to human life, but it is reactivated when new rains slip into soil cracks that are growing wider every day. Because it’s logistically difficult to drill borings in shifting soils to measure their depth, Kozlowski can’t estimate when the mass will stop moving; he says it could be months or years.
A dirt road runs parallel to the top of the landslide. Keene residents are questioning whether mountainside building is responsible for altering drainage patterns. “Does the development help? Probably not. Was it the actual cause? Probably not,” Kozlowski said.
There were pre-existing conditions, he explained. He detected on the site signs of a landslide hundreds or thousands of years ago. At the end of the last ice age, Keene Valley was submerged by a glacial lake, and deep sand on the hillsides is evidence of 12,000-year-old beaches.
LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) imagery collected by aerial survey can provide high-resolution digital images and help identify shifty soils, he said. Eight New York counties have collected LiDAR data but none in northern New York, which has the state’s steepest topography. Keene Supervisor Ferebee said aerial images could be useful to all towns in Essex County, and he is exploring how the county might cover the $150,000 cost.
Residents are also concerned about the future of homes on other Keene mountainsides. “There is danger of this happening elsewhere,” Kozlowski told a group of two dozen citizens who gathered at the community’s K–12 school earlier this month. “Will it happen on this scale? We don’t know.”
Real Estate and Rain
Annual rainfall in the Lake Champlain watershed is three inches greater on average than it was during the mid 20th century, when the first houses were built on the side of Little Porter Mountain, according to United States Historical Climatology Network data. A range of climate models predict the Champlain Basin could receive 4 to 6 inches more precipitation a year by the end of this century, with heavy storms becoming more frequent, according to a 2010 report by The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack and Vermont chapters.
The Little Porter slide has suddenly become an unforeseen example of something other Adirondack mountain communities must consider in a potentially wetter future.
“Throughout the Adirondacks there is going to be a lot more concern about this now,” said Martha Lee Owen, who owns vacant land on the failed slope. She is a real-estate broker whose father, Adrian Edmonds, lived at the base of Little Porter and pioneered homebuilding on Keene’s mountainsides. “He’d be just heartbroken,” she said. “It’s just terrible that it’s affected so many homeowners.”
Owen said it never occurred to her to recommend that potential buyers hire a geologist to evaluate slope stability, but she will recommend it now. She would also like to see LiDAR data collected for Essex County. “Of course it’s a huge concern to me in terms of selling properties, not just my own but selling any properties,” she said. “So far buyers aren’t asking a lot of questions, although everyone is just sort of shocked by this. You have to get used to it before you take it all in.”
Jane Bickford, a Saranac Lake resident who has a summer home beneath and — she hopes — outside the projected path of the slide, said the mountain-climbing mecca of Keene Valley is more than an investment to people who own property there. “The piece that’s important is, Can we keep living there?” she said. “The financials are pretty terrible but Keene Valley represents to people a touchstone. It’s where my kids grew up and where they are bringing their own kids up. This is where children’s values are developed. To the people who go to Keene Valley it’s not just a house. It’s a place where families get together and where bonding happens.”
James A. Goodwin, 101, passed away peacefully April 7 at Adirondack Medical Center of complications of pneumonia. Born March 8, 1910 in Hartford, CT, his parents were Howard Goodwin and Charlotte Alton Goodwin. His long association with the Adirondacks began when he spent his first three summers at his grandfather Charles Alton’s resort, Undercliff, on Lake Placid. After a few summers in Connecticut, the family returned to the Adirondacks and spent many summers in Keene Valley, starting at Interbrook Lodge on Johns Brook Lane when Jim was nine. By the age of 12, Jim was guiding parties to Mt. Marcy – a career that only ended on Saturday, March 26 when he was the guest of honor at the New York State Outdoor Guides Rendezvous luncheon. Jim attended Kingswood School in Hartford, CT, graduating in 1928. He then graduated from Williams College in 1932 and went on to receive an M.A. in English from Harvard in 1934. After Harvard, Jim returned to teach at Kingswood (later Kingswood-Oxford) School, teaching there until his retirement in 1975.
During the 1930′s, Jim made many trips west to climb in the Canadian Rockies, ascents by which he gained admission to the American Alpine Club. He also continued to climb in the Adirondacks, making the first winter ascent of Mt. Colden’s Trap Dike in 1935 and becoming Adirondack 46-R #24 in 1940.
In 1941, Jim married Jane Morgan Bacon, daughter of Herbert and Isabel Huntington Bacon. After Pearl Harbor, Jim enlisted in the 10th Mountain Division where by virtue of his membership in the American Alpine Club he served as a rock climbing instructor, first in Colorado and later at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Afterwards, he served as a medic during the division’s combat in Italy. Discharged in 1945, Jim returned to teaching at Kingswood School where he was instrumental in starting a ski team and an outing club.
Jim’s heart, however, was always in the Adirondacks where he spent most of his summers until moving to Keene Valley permanently in 2002 and living in the cabin he built in 1940. Starting in 2007, he was a resident of the Keene Valley Neighborhood House. During his summers in Keene Valley he both cut new trails and maintained existing ones while also guiding many aspiring 46-Rs on the peaks. The new trails he cut include Porter Mt. from Keene Valley (1924), Big Slide from the Brothers (1951), Hedgehog(1953), Ridge Trail to Giant (1955), and the Pyramid Gothics Trail(1966). His long association with the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, as both director and trail maintainer, led to the new, 1998, trail to Rooster Comb being named in his honor.
Jim’s memberships included the Adirondack 46-Rs, Adirondack Mountain Club, American Alpine Club, and NYS Outdoor Guides Association. At the time of his retirement in 1975, Bill Dunham, then AMR President made him an honorary member of the AMR. In that same year he assumed the presidency of ATIS, an office he would hold for a total of eight years between 1975 and 1987. Jim also served as the AMR’s field representative in the extended negotiations that led to the 1978 land sale.
He is survived by sons James, Jr.(Tony) and wife Emily Apthorp Goodwin of Keene and Peter and wife Susan Rohm Goodwin of Wolfeboro, NH. Additional survivors are nephews James and Christopher O’Brien of Clifton Park and Troy as well as grandchildren Morgan, Robert, and Liza Goodwin of Keene and Hunt and John Goodwin of Wolfeboro, NH. He was predeceased by Jane, his wife of 50 years, as well as his sisters, Margaret (Peg) O’Brien and Charlotte Craig.
There will be a memorial service on Saturday, April 23 at 3 PM at the Keene Valley Congregational Church with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Kingswood-Oxford School, 170 Kingswood Road, West Hartford, CT 06119 or Keene Valley Neighborhood House, P.O. Box 46, Keene Valley, NY 12943.
Photo: Jim Goodwin, age 9, on top of Hopkins Mountain.
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.
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.
Jim Goodwin turned a hundred today. It’s an occasion that all who love the Adirondacks should celebrate, for perhaps no one loves these mountains more than he does.
Goodwin first saw Keene Valley when he was nine years old and was smitten at once. At eleven, he began guiding hikers for fifty cents a day. At twelve, he led his first client up Mount Marcy, the state’s highest summit.
Have you ever admired the scenery from Pyramid Peak? Thank Jim Goodwin. He cut the trail from Lower Ausable Lake to Pyramid and Gothics in 1966. Many hikers contend that Pyramid has the most spectacular vista in the High Peaks. Goodwin finished the Pyramid route nearly forty years after cutting his first trail, at fourteen, over Little Porter to Porter Mountain. Several years ago, Jim’s son, Tony, relocated the beginning of the trail and dedicated it to the elder Goodwin. Jim also cut the popular Ridge Trail, the most scenic route up Giant Mountain.
Incidentally, Tony followed in his father’s footsteps as a trail builder and as editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks guidebook.
Jim also made his mark as a rock climber. He pioneered early cliff routes in the Adirondacks with the legendary John Case, who went on to become president of the American Alpine Club, and wrote parts of the first Adirondack rock-climbing guidebook. Goodwin took part in several first ascents.
He also was a backcountry skier and ice climber.
Goodwin, who taught at a private school in Connecticut, wrote about his adventures in the Adirondacks and other mountains in And Gladly Guide: Reflections on a Life in the Mountains. Neal Burdick’s review of the memoir appeared in the March/April 2004 issue of the Adirondack Explorernewsmagazine. Click on the PDF files below to read the article.
Jim now lives in a retirement home in Keene Valley. And he still gets outside.
“He likes to take walks and say hello to the people he meets,” Tony Goodwin says.
Photo: Jim Goodwin, age 9, on top of Hopkins Mountain.