Posted on December 31st, 2009 Add a comment >>
Backcountry skiers should find good snow on many of the popular trails in the Adirondacks over the holiday weekend. We have a foot or more of snow in the Lake Placid region, and temperatures should remain below freezing into next week.
Tony Goodwin reports that the entire Jackrabbit Trail (twenty-four miles from Keene to Saranac Lake) has good cover. Two days ago, I skied the Jackrabbit above Whiteface Inn Road, and it was excellent. There was well more than a foot of snow in the woods. Click here to read Tony’s full report on conditions in the Lake Placid region.
People also have been skiing Avalanche Pass. Ken Aaron, the spokesman for Paul Smith’s College, snowshoed from Adirondak Loj to Avalanche Lake yesterday. He reports that he found packed powder the whole way. “There were a lot of skiers, and they were all having a good time,” he said.
Ron Konowitz skied Mount Marcy from the Loj yesterday. He reports that it was good skiing except for rocks in the stretch along Phelps Brook (between Marcy Dam and 50-Meter Bridge).
Friends today were planning to ski to Raquette Falls and Whiteface Landing. I have every reason to think they’ll find the skiing excellent.
Click here for a snow-depth map of the Northeast.
Posted on December 29th, 2009 6 comments Add a comment >>
Seth Lang was part of the media horde that showed up Monday morning to watch the demolition of the Champlain Bridge. But the event held a special poignance for Seth, who grew up in Crown Point, just five miles from the bridge.
“I can’t help but feel saddened by the loss of our bridge,” he says. “Having witnessed the demolition first-hand it was overwhelming for me personally.”
Seth, who is twenty-seven, was taking photos for the Adirondack Explorer, two of which are shown here. The dismal weather was far from ideal for photography, but his shots are as good as any I’ve seen. His video can be seen here: Demolition video.
Like other residents of Crown Point, Seth hopes the bridge will be replaced as soon as possible. “Those who need the bridge for business and transportation to and from work have lost the most,” he says. “Having to put in two to three extra hours per day in travel time has made this entire situation disheartening.”
Posted on December 29th, 2009 1 comment - Add a comment >>
Those of you who have been following the saga of Shingle Shanty Brook may be interested in an article that appears in the latest newsletter of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic chapter, written by Charles Morrison, the former director of natural resources at the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Morrison and two other Sierra Club members have asked DEC to force a private landowner to remove a cable strung across the brook to keep out paddlers. The club contends the public has a right to paddle the waterway. DEC says it is looking into the matter.
In the article, Morrison describes Shingle Shanty Brook as “a critical link” in the canoe trip from Little Tupper Lake and Lake Lila. The blockage of the waterway, he says, “forces paddlers to make a one-mile carry over a very rough trail in the Adirondack Forest Preserve.”
You can read the entire newsletter (which goes to about 35,000 members) by clicking here. The article in question appears on Page 8.
You can read the account of my paddle along the disputed waterway here.
Posted on December 28th, 2009 Add a comment >>
Everybody loves lean-tos, right? But perhaps not as much as the fellow who goes by the name of Dsettahr in Adirondack Forum. He has compiled an Excel spreadsheet of every lean-to he could track down in the Adirondacks and Catskills—nearly three hundred—and his goal is to spend a night in each one.
We learned about Dsettahr from Jim Muller, an avid winter camper who sent us an article full of interesting information about lean-tos, including the original construction plans. You can read Jim’s article by clicking on the PDF link at the end of this item.
The links in the PDF don’t work, but if you click here you can access Dsettahr’s list of lean-tos.
Finally, you might also want to check out Jim’s website on winter camping.
Posted on December 17th, 2009 1 comment - Add a comment >>
Readers of the Explorer should be familiar with the photography of Jeff Nadler. His images often appear in our pages and sometimes on our cover as well (the female cardinal on the front our November/December issue was his).
As a nature photographer (especially of birds), he spends a lot of time outdoors. In a recent post on his photography blog, Jeff offers some timely tips on dressing for winter. He says he was prompted to offer his thoughts because some of the advice he has read is outdated.
You can find plenty of other advice on winter clothing on the Internet. One place to start is the Sierra Trading Post.
Incidentally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation just issued its own advice for those venturing into the backcountry in winter. Click on the link below to read DEC’s news release.
Posted on December 16th, 2009 Add a comment >>
We got enough snow last week to do a little backcountry skiing. One day I skied to McKenzie Pond; on another, I skied part way up Debar Mountain. The flats were fine, but on both trails, my skis scraped rocks on the hills. Expect the cover to remain thin for a while, at least in the Lake Placid region, as no big storms are in the forecast.
Of course, whenever you’re planning on cross-country skiing in the Adirondacks and coming from outside the Park, you’d probably like to know how much snow we have.
Well, if you’re going to ski in the High Peaks or anywhere in the Lake Placid region, you’re in luck. Tony Goodwin, the author of Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks, regularly updates the cross-country-ski conditions for the Lake Placid area here.
But what about other parts of the Park? It’s 5.8 million acres, and snow conditions vary thoughout it. Generally, the western part of the Park receives more snow over a season, owing to lake-effect storms. Retired Forest Ranger Gary Lee told me they got sixteen inches of snow in Inlet last week. Spencer Morrissey, the author of The Other 54, said they got a similar amount in Wanakena.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations updates daily an online map showing the snow depths throughout the Northeast. Today’s map (shown above) indicates that the snow is 15 to 20 inches deep in parts of the central Adirondacks.
You can find more snow reports from NOAA here. If you click on any of the weather stations, you’ll find line graphs showing snow depth, snow melt, snow density, and so forth. Three of the weather stations are in the Adirondacks: Saranac Lake, Speculator, and Chesterfield.
When I looked at these graphs, it seemed to me that they overestimated snow depth. For example, the Speculator site indicates that the snow is about 26 inches deep–more than the maximum amount shown in the Northeast map. I e-mailed NOAA for an explanation. I’ll let you know what I find out.
Other good sources of information are cross-country-ski resorts, which often post their snow conditions online. Mary Thill listed the Adirondack resorts in a recent post on Adirondack Almanack.
Posted on December 11th, 2009 Add a comment >>
We finally have enough snow to ski on some of the early-season trails, such as the road to Camp Santanoni in Newcomb, the Marcy Dam Truck Trail in the High Peaks Wilderness, the Fish Pond Truck Trail in the St. Regis Canoe Area, and the Hayes Brook Truck Trail in the Debar Mountain Wild Forest.
Yesterday afternoon, I took a short ski on a new trail outside Lake Placid—a 2.5-mile round trip/loop through Henry’s Woods, a preserve owned by the Uihlein Foundation. The trail is graded and most of it is covered with crushed stone, so it’s skiable with about six inches of snow.
Conditions were great (fluffy powder), and the woods were beautiful. From the parking lot, you ski (slightly uphill) to a junction at 0.3 miles, the start of the 1.9-mile loop that climbs and descends a ridge. Ski the loop clockwise; otherwise, you’ll face a steep downhill with some sharp turns. Even going clockwise, you’ll encounter a sharp left just as you begin the descent, so be prepared. After that turn, it gets a lot easier.
We’ll run a more detailed story in the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer.
Meantime, if you want to get to Henry’s Woods, turn onto Bear Cub Road from Old Military Road, which runs between Route 73 and Route 86 south of the village of Lake Placid.
To check on cross-country-ski conditions in the area, visit Tony Goodwin’s online report. Incidentally, Tony designed the Henry’s Woods trail.
Posted on December 7th, 2009 9 comments Add a comment >>
In the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer, we plan to publish an article by Adam Federman on the implications of the Old Mountain Road decision on the state Forest Preserve.
Federman notes that probably hundreds of old roads crisscross the Preserve. As a result of the Old Mountain Road case, observers are asking whether towns could reopen these roads to snowmobiles and/or other motor vehicles.
Any attempt to open these roads is sure to put the state Department of Environmental Conservation in the crossfire between local governments and environmental groups.
Remember Crane Pond Road? The dirt lane penetrates nearly two miles into the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, ending at Crane Pond. Since motorized use is forbidden in Wilderness Areas, DEC placed boulders across the road in 1989 to blockade it.
The closure enraged local residents and became a cause celebre. In 1990, a group of men wearing masks removed the boulders and vowed to keep the road open. Members of Earth First, a radical environmental group, later pitched tents at the start of road to keep out vehicles.
This set up a confrontation between the Earth Firsters and locals who wanted to keep the road open. Jack LaDuke, who was there as a reporter for WCAX-TV, recalls that Warrensburg Supervisor Maynard Baker was among those who approached the encampment.
“Out of the corner of my eye I saw some commotion,” LaDuke told me today. “Baker and this other fellow were going at it. It was a very short encounter. Baker threw a punch and hit the fellow, it appeared to me on the chin, and he went down.” The Earth Firsters left soon afterward.
LaDuke’s footage later aired on a 60 Minutes piece about violence against environmentalists.
I went to Crane Pond Road on a gray, chilly day a few weeks ago to take photographs for Federman’s story. There is still an American flag hanging from a tree near the boundary of the Wilderness Area. Just where the road crosses into state land I noticed a boulder with spray-painted letters. I scraped off the moss and to reveal what they said: “Adirondack Homeland.”
There were no signs either indicating that this was the boundary of a Wilderness Area or forbidding motor vehicles. In fact, I wasn’t sure this was the boundary when I first drove up the road. I went as far as the trailhead for Goose Pond and hiked the rest of the way to Crane Pond. I saw three pickups parked along the road, including one at Crane Pond.
John Sheehan, a spokesman for the Adirondack Council, argues that DEC is obligated by the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan to close the road. “It was closed [initially] by a legal action,” he said. “It was reopened by an act of vandalism.”
But the agency has no desire to open this can of worms.
When I asked why the road remains open, DEC spokesman Yancey Roy sent this e-mailed response: “When the controversy became public some years ago, the administration at the time decided to delay any action on the road until some future date. All subsequent administrations have continued to follow that policy.”
Posted on December 7th, 2009 Add a comment >>
The next issue of the Adirondack Explorer will feature a tribute to Clarence Petty, who died last week at 104. Dick Beamish, the Explorer founder, wrote a long article summarizing Clarence’s eventful life. Dick had known Clarence since the early 1970s, when both worked at the Adirondack Park Agency. Our tribute also will include a selection from the popular “Questions for Clarence” column.
Meantime, you can learn more about Clarence’s life online:
Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a well-written obituary by Dennis Hevesi.
Brian Mann aired a lengthy story today on North Country Public Radio, with lots of audio clips from interviews with Clarence.
Mike Lynch published a detailed article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise over the weekend, focusing on Clarence’s groundbreaking wilderness and rivers studies.
Posted on December 1st, 2009 6 comments Add a comment >>
I awoke this morning to learn some sad news: Clarence Petty died yesterday at his son’s home in Canton. He was 104.
Readers of the Explorer got to know Clarence well through the magazine’s “Questions for Clarence” column. He was a passionate advocate of protecting the Adirondack Park’s natural resources.
For the first few years of his childhood, Clarence lived in a cabin on Forest Preserve land on Upper Saranac Lake. His family later moved into a house in Coreys, a tiny settlement on Stony Creek Ponds. As a boy, he hunted and trapped in the neighboring woods.
Clarence graduated from Saranac Lake High School and the state College of Forestry (now the College of Environmental Science and Forestry) in Syracuse. During the Depression, he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps. Later, he went to work for the state Conservation Department and the Adirondack Park Agency.
The APA relied on Clarence’s field work to decide which tracts in the Park should be classified as Wilderness, where motorized use is banned. Clarence also helped conduct the studies that led to the classification of rivers in the Park as Wild, Scenic, or Recreational.
In environmental circles, Clarence was a hero for his defense of wilderness–a philosophy that often put him at odds with other Adirondackers.
Clarence also was a pilot. During World War II, he flew transport missions. Later, he served as the state pilot for Governor Averell Harriman. He gave flying lessons in Canton until he was 94.
You can read about Clarence’s fascinating and productive life in The Extraordinary Adirondack Journey of Clarence Petty, a biography written by Christopher Angus and published by Syracuse University Press.
Clarence never lost his sense of humor. When he turned 104, I asked him if he celebrated. “Sure, I went to sleep,” he replied. “There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep.”
Sleep well, Clarence.