Posted on April 29th, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
I took advantage of this week’s snowstorm to get in one last (?) ski. After work Wednesday, I met Ron Konowitz at the Whiteface Mountain toll road, and we skied up the highway 3.5 miles, as far as the Lake Placid Turn.
We were surprised to see that one side of the road had been plowed by the state. Ron was ticked off not only as a skier, but also as a taxpayer. The road is closed to vehicles this time of year, so why expend time and money plowing it if the snow is going to melt soon anyway?
As it turned out, the plow got only a half-mile or so up the road before turning around. After that, the only tracks we saw were those of a lone skier and an occasional hare. Otherwise, the road was blanketed by a foot or more of fresh, unbroken snow.
It was almost too much snow, really. We expected that it would be slow on the descent, but as we approached the Lake Placid Turn, two snowmobilers passed us. Ordinarily, I don’t like to see snowmobiles when I’m skiing, but this time I didn’t mind: the machines provided a packed trail that would facilitate a swift descent.
By the time we reached the turnaround, the sun was starting to set, and the snowy summit was bathed in a soft, yellow light. It was a gorgeous moment, inadequately captured in the top photograph.
Starting today, the snow will be melting fast. I imagine the snow at the bottom of the road will be gone soon, but if you’re desperate you might be able to find snow at higher elevations this weekend if you’re willing to walk a ways.
And if you can’t make it to the toll road before the snow melts, there’s always next year. Or–who knows?–next week.
Posted on April 27th, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
You’ve got to be fast to take part in the Great Adirondack Trail Run. The Mountaineer will accept the first sixty applicants to sign up for the 11.5-mile race this Saturday and expects to fill all the slots in just twenty minutes.
The race will be held Saturday, June 19. Participants will run through the Giant Mountain Wilderness, starting on Route 9N and ending at the Mountaineer in Keene Valley. Along the way they’ll cross the wide-open summit of Hopkins Mountain. The elevation gain is about 2,900 feet.
If you’re not up for that, you can take part in a 3.5-mile fun run from the Baxter Mountain Tavern on 9N to Keene Valley.
This is the charity race’s sixth year. In the past, it has drawn criticism from people who object to holding organized races in Wilderness Areas.
The fees for adults are $40 for the main trail run and $20 for the fun run. The fees are cut in half for children sixteen and under. Proceeds from the race will be donated to the Au Sable River Association and the Boquet River Association.
Registration starts at 8 a.m. Saturday. On your mark, get set, go …
Posted on April 21st, 2010 3 comments Add a comment >>
Below is the latest Forest Ranger Activity Report, received today from the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 5. It covers the period of April 4-18.
Town of Wells, Siamese Pond Wilderness Area
On Sunday, April 18, 2010, at 6:45 PM, DEC Dispatch received at call from Hamilton County Dispatch reporting a missing hiker. Ernest Wilson, 63, of Cheektowaga, NY had been hiking with his brother to Auger Falls on the East Branch of the Sacandaga River from the Griffin Gorge trailhead and was last seen 2 hours prior. Although Mr. Wilson was reported to have been carrying a GPS and a two-way radio, he also was diabetic – raising concerns for his well being. Three DEC Forest Rangers responded and searched the area. Mr. Wilson responded to signal shots from the rangers and was located at approximately 8:30 PM north of Forks Mountain in good condition. He stated that he had fishing along the river and had been trying to get beyond the falls. He tried to bush whack back to the road, became lost and got stuck in a swampy area. He also reported that he had left his two-way radio in the car, his GPS was not working properly and he did not have his insulin with him. DEC Forest Rangers remind anyone entering the woods to ensure you are prepared before starting a hike. Check to be sure you have all of the proper equipment and that it is working. Always carry any necessary medication with you.
Town of Bolton, Lake George Wild Forest
On Sunday, April 4, 2010, at approximately 8:40 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call from Warren County dispatch, reporting 2 overdue hikers on Tongue Mountain. Andrew Moran, 32 of Greenfield Center, NY and Corey McClendon, 23, of Saratoga Springs, NY, reported that they see headlights passing on the road below, but did not know how to get down the mountain as they did not have flashlights. Four DEC Forest Rangers responded heading to a number of locations where Route 9N may be seen from the mountain. They eventually located the two men at 10:51 PM. They were safely escorted out of the woods and to their vehicles. Forest rangers remind hikers to always carry a map, compass and flashlight.
Town of Stony Creek, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest
On Saturday, April 10, 2010, at approximately 8:06 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call from Warren County dispatch reporting five hikers lost on Baldhead Mountain. Katherine Chesebrouth, 20, Amanda Veleis, 23, Anne Leiss, 21, Jennifer Ling, 21, and Nathan Roser, 18, all of Syracuse, NY, had climbed to the summit of Baldhead Mountain during the day. However they started hiking back down the mountain using a bushwhack route and became lost. The group had no flashlight, food or water, and was not prepared to spend the night on the mountain. DEC Dispatch instructed them to remain where they were, start a fire and wait for assistance. DEC Forest Rangers responded and began searching the large area around the mountain, but had no success locating the group during the night time operation. The following morning search operations resumed with additional rangers and a State Police Helicopter. At 8:10 AM a ranger noticed a small smoke column rising from the Kenyantown Creek drainage east of Burnt Mountain. Two rangers already searching that drainage located the group at 8:25 AM and were out of the woods by 9:30 AM. After the search the subjects were informed that they had climbed Burnt Mountain – not Baldhead Mountain. Forest rangers remind hikers to plan trips ahead of time; use a map to compass to know where you are going and where you are; always carry food, water, and flashlight; and be prepared to spend a night in the woods.
Town of Chester, Private Lands
On Thursday, April 15, 2010, at approximately 12:09 AM, State Police contacted a DEC Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) and asked the assistance of him and his DEC canine unit in locating an elderly man near Chestertown. Bradley Tennyson, 97, of Chestertown, NY had been last seen by a Warren County Sheriff Deputy wandering along Route 9. The ECO requested that forest rangers be dispatched as well. Four forest rangers, the ECO and his dog Gunner responded to the search. DEC forest rangers were able to locate the man’s tracks on the shoulder along Route 9 and followed them up an old logging road. However, the tracks entered a grassy and mossy area and could no longer be followed by sight. The ECO and Gunner took over from there and located Mr. Tennyson at approximately 3:45 AM. He was barely responsive when found and was not adequately dressed for the weather. Mr. Tennyson was evacuated out of the woods and turned over to Chestertown EMS for transport to Glens Falls Hospital.
Town of Fort Ann, Lake George Wild Forest
On Friday, April 9, 2010, at approximately 8:00 PM, DEC Raybrook Dispatch received a call from three hikers lost near Buck Mountain. Sarah Watkins, 27, and William Watkins, 38, both of Glens Falls, NY had hiked with Katie Quintio, 20, of Indian Lake, NY, up the mountain from the Pike Brook Trail head. While returning back down the mountain, they took a wrong turn and found themselves on the shore of Lake George with no idea how to return to their vehicle. DEC Forest Rangers responded and determined the group’s location based on the description they provided. Rangers located the trio at 9:50 PM and gave them a ride back to their vehicle. Forest Rangers remind hikers to always carry a map and compass and know how to use them.
Posted on April 7th, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
The New York Post has raised questions about the state’s purchase of Lyon Mountain from the Nature Conservancy in late 2008 for $10 million. Four years earlier, the conservancy paid $6.3 million for the same twenty thousand acres.
In an editorial on Wednesday, the Post called the rise in price “a staggering 57 percent profit . . . at a time when property values were collapsing.”
At the request of Governor David Paterson, the state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has opened an investigation into the matter.
Fred LeBrun will write about the controversy in the next issue of the Explorer. Meantime, I called Connie Prickett of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy for her view of things. She denied the Post’s implications that this was a sweetheart deal, saying the state’s purchase price was determined by two appraisals of the property. The appraisers were hired by the state.
“We don’t have any influence over the appraisal process,” she said. “It’s completely independent of us.”
She also pointed out that the conservancy bought the property from Domtar Industries as part of a larger deal involving 104,000 acres. The rest of the land was bought by Lyme Timber, but because this was handled as a single transaction, Prickett said, the conservancy benefited from the economies of scale. That is, it paid a lower per-acre price than it would have if it had purchased the twenty thousand acres in isolation.
Prickett said the whole project cost the conservancy $9.7 million when interest, taxes, maintenance, and other costs are taken into account. This means the conservancy pocketed $100,000, not $3.7 million.
“You could call it a profit,” Prickett said. “We look at it as funds that can be rolled over into another project.”
After the Domtar deal, in fact, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy purchased 161,000 acres from Finch, Pruyn & Company in 2007 and the 14,000-acre Follensby Park in 2008. The state expects to buy much of this land. Prickett said she doesn’t expect the controversy over the Domtar sale to delay these transactions.
Posted on April 6th, 2010 Add a comment >>
Last week, I posted a list of rock-climbing routes that are closed to protect the postential nesting sites of peregrine falcons. This morning, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it is adding the Upper Washbowl routes to the list. The following is an e-mail sent out by Joe Racette, a DEC wildlife biologist:
We have observed peregrine falcons engaged in nesting behavior at the Upper Washbowl cliff at Chapel Pond, and effective immediately are closing all climbing routes on Upper Washbowl Cliffs. Climbing routes on Lower Washbowl cliff will remain closed until peregrine falcon nesting on Upper Washbowl cliff is confirmed.
Posted on April 5th, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
I just received the Forest Ranger Report from the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 5, which encompasses most of the Adirondacks. It covers the period of February 6 through March 21. You can read it verbatim below.
Town of North Elba, High Peaks Wilderness Area
At noon on Saturday February 27, 2010, an avalanche occurred on a slide on the northeast side of Wright Peak. The two skiers that triggered the slide were partially buried in the avalanche but were able to rescue themselves.
DEC Forest Rangers were not requested for a rescue but upon learning about the avalanche later that afternoon began an investigation of the incident. They found no evidence of people unaccounted for in the area and determined that, fortunately, nobody else was in the avalanche. The entire 300 feet by 1200 feet area of the slide had slid down the mountain and piled snow debris at the base exceeding 20 feet deep in spots. Forest rangers interviewed Ian Measak and James McNeil (ages and hometowns unknown) by phone and learned that they had dug a test pit at the base of the slide before heading up slide to ski down. While climbing the slide they heard “woofing” noises coming from the fresh snow and decided to retreat back to the base. As they were turned to head back down the snow gave way, carrying both men down the slope. One man was pinned against a stump and buried up to his chest, while the other traveled more than 600 feet before stopping, buried up to his neck. Both men were able to dig themselves out of the snow and left the area without further incident. On February 17, 2000, another avalanche occurred on this very same slide. It was triggered by a group of skiers and claimed the life of one of them.
Town of Harrietstown, High Peaks Wilderness
On Saturday, February 6, 2010, at approximately 2:00 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call from Franklin County 911, reporting a hiker on Donaldson Mountain in the Seward Mt Range with a dislocated knee. Skip Young, 52, of Schenectady, NY, was hiking with two other individuals when he was injured. DEC Forest Rangers responded and after making contact with the hiking party by cell phone, learned that the hiking party had started to descend on the Calkins Brook trail. The forest rangers met up with the hiking party and transported the Mr. Young by snowmobile to the trailhead.
Town of Lake Pleasant, Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement Lands
On Saturday, March 6, 2010, at approximately 10:30 AM, a DEC Forest Ranger was notified of a snowmobile accident on the Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement Lands. Ray Leach, 49, of Jackson, NJ, was riding a borrowed snowmobile and ejected from the machine when he rode up over a knoll and struck a tree. DEC Forest Rangers, DEC Environmental Conservation Officers, Hamilton County Sheriff and Speculator EMS & Fire all responded to the scene. Mr. Leach was transported by a State Police Aviation Unit helicopter to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Utica.
Town of Lake Pleasant, Jessup River Wild Forest
On Saturday, March 6, 2010, at approximately 5:30 PM, a DEC Forest Ranger was notified of and responded to a snowmobile accident on Sacandaga Lake. An 11 year old boy from Delhi, NY was riding on Sacandaga Lake toward the Fawn Lake snowmobile trail when he struck a pressure ridge in the ice. The boy was ejected from the snowmobile. The Speculator Ambulance squad determined he had a fractured wrist and transported him to St. Mary’s Hospital.
Town of Wells, Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement Lands
On Monday, March 8, 2010, at approximately 4:19 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call from Salvatore Gentile, 54, of Yorktown Heights, NY reporting that his vehicle was stuck somewhere on Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement Land. He and three others – Carmine Fardella, 61, of Mahopac, NY, Mario Calandrello, 64, of Ossining, NY and Gjon Zadrima, 64, of Thornwood, NY – were unable to free the vehicle. DEC Forest Rangers responded and searched the drivable roads in the area but were unable to locate the truck or the party. Forest rangers then began searching the “Old Route 8” snowmobile trail where they located Mr. Gentile and Mr. Fardella. Mr. Zadrima and the vehicle were located near the intersection of the snowmobile trail and Fly Creek Road. A snowmobiler had picked up Mr. Calandrello. A local skidder operator was contacted to tow the vehicle that out of the ditch it was buried in. Mr. Gentile stated that the group was rabbit hunting when they lost 6 of their eight dogs. In an attempt to locate the dogs they went down the snowmobile trail and became stuck.
Town of Wells, Sacandaga River
On Sunday, March 21, at approximately noon DEC Forest Rangers responded to reports of an overturned kayaker on the Sacandaga River near the Fulton/Hamilton County line. Elfredia Parker, 64, of Northville, NY was kayaking the river when her boat hit a submerged branch which trapped and overturned the boat, ejecting her into the water. Mrs. Parker was able to reach a small rock shoal, but was stranded. Forest Ranger Dave Kallen, wearing a cold water rescue suit, and members of the Northampton Rescue Squad used a small boat to rescue Mrs. Parker from the shoal. She was brought to shore downstream where an ambulance crew evaluated her for injury. She was released to her husband and rangers retrieved the kayak later in the day.
Town Of Hadley, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest
On Sunday, February 7, 2010, at approximately 12:00 AM, DEC Dispatch received a call from Saratoga County Dispatch reporting a hiker in need of assistance on the summit of Hadley Mountain. Katherine Kuhl, 29, of Clifton Park, NY, said she was unable to return to her car without assistance. DEC Forest Rangers hiked up the mountain and located Ms. Kuhl at approximately 1:36 AM. She stated that she had hiked to the fire tower in the afternoon, but on her return trip mistakenly took a bushwhack trail north, which lead to North Round Top. She realized she was lost and backtracked to Hadley Mountain Fire Tower, not wanting to risk getting lost again in the dark she called for assistance. Forest rangers escorted Ms. Kuhl back to her car at the trailhead at 2:30 AM.
Town of Edinburg, Great Sacandaga Lake
On Sunday, February 21, 2010, at approximately 4:11 AM, DEC Dispatch received a report from a passing motorist of a possible snowmobile through the ice on Great Sacandaga Lake. DEC Forest Rangers and State Police, along with numerous volunteer fire departments from Fulton and Saratoga counties responded to the scene. Forest rangers used their airboat to transport divers to the site where the vehicle was believed to have gone through the ice. The divers located a 3 wheel ATV which was then retrieved by the VFD. State Police tracked down the owner of the ATV and located the operator, asleep at his residence. The operator, Jeffrey Shiely, 39, of Hadley, NY had walked home after the incident. The State Police were investigating the matter.
Town of Johnsburg, Gore Mountain Intensive Use Area/Siamese Pond Wilderness
On Wednesday, February 24, 2010, at approximately 2:40 PM, DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a report from Gore Mountain Ski Area of a lost skier. Mike Downer, 29, of Glendale, MA, was reported missing by friends after he had skied out of bounds. Two Gore Mountain Ski Patrollers had located Mr. Downer’s tracks and were following them westward towards Black Mountain Brook in the adjacent Siamese Ponds Wilderness. Gore Mountain staff were concerned he may miss the brook and head further west into the wilderness. DEC Forest Rangers were requested to intercept Mr. Downer. Three forest rangers entered the woods from Chatiemac Road. A forest ranger on snowmobile went up the east side of the Black Mountain Brook drainage, while two other forest rangers, with snowshoes and skis, headed up the west side of the drainage. At 5:18 PM, the forest ranger on the snowmobile located Mr. Downer and the two ski patrollers who had caught up to him. Mr. Downer and the ski patrollers were wet, cold and tired but otherwise in good shape. Mr. Downer, the forest rangers and the ski patrollers were out of the woods by 6:00 PM.
Warren County, Town of Johnsburg, Gore Mountain Intensive Use Area/Siamese Pond Wilderness
On Sunday, February 28, 2010, at approximately 2:41 PM, a Forest Ranger received a report from the Gore Mountain Ski Area of possible lost skiers. Gore Mountain Ski Patrollers had located ski tracks in an out of bounds area and heading into the adjacent Siamese Ponds Wilderness. DEC Forest Rangers were contacted and informed that the skiers appeared to be heading towards Black Mountain Brook and were possibly lost. Forest rangers set up a command post on nearby Chatiemac Road and four forest rangers headed up into Black Mountain Brook drainage, where they planned to intercept the lost skiers as they came down the drainage. The skiers, Cory R. Dal Mata, 30, of Gloversville, N.Y., Steven E. Gottler, 25, of Albany, N.Y., and a 17 year old male of Queensbury, N.Y., were located by the rangers at approximately 5:40 PM, near the headwaters of Black Brook. The three men were escorted down to the command post and transported back to the Gore Mountain Ski Area.
At about the same time, Gore Mountain staff received a phone call from the wife of Christopher Trotta, 40, of Croton on the Hudson, N.Y. She informed the ski area staff that her husband had called her by cell phone, reporting that he and their two sons, ages 13 and 11, were out of bounds and lost somewhere on the south side of the mountain. Two ski patrollers assisting on the first search were already on the tracks of the three lost skiers and located them at 8:00 PM. The ski patrollers reported that they would escort the group back to the ski area, while forest rangers relocated to the ski area and developed a plan to access the skiers from a maintenance road on the upper southern slope of the mountain. Soon afterwards, at about 9:40 PM, the ski patrollers reported that the young boys were unable to continue. They developed a plan that would allow one ski patroller to remain with the two boys, while another patroller would assist Mr. Trotta out of the woods.
Three forest rangers headed into woods to find both the ski patroller and Mr. Trotta. At 10 PM, the forest rangers encountered the two and both followed the forest rangers tracks back to the road, while the three forest rangers followed the skiers’ tracks back to the other ski patroller and the two boys. It was not an easy trip for any of the people involved, forest rangers reported encountering six feet of snow on the ground, as well as spruce and balsam regeneration at the higher elevation. At 10:55 p.m. they located the second ski patroller and the two boys, who were wet, cold and tired. A large fire was built and the boys were given dry clothing and food. Meanwhile a fourth forest ranger was breaking trail for an exit route from the top of Gore Mountain. While breaking trail, he encountered similar snow conditions and ledges which slowed his progress. He finally reached the group at 12:15 AM. The whole group followed the packed trail back up the mountain, reaching the top by 1:15 AM. Mr. Trotta and his sons, the ski patrollers and the forest rangers returned safely to the base lodge by 2 AM. A total of six forest rangers and 20 Gore Mountain Ski Area staff were either in the field searching or working as support staff over the course of the operation.
Posted on April 5th, 2010 Add a comment >>
You know we’re in between seasons when you go backcountry skiing one day and canoeing the next.
Last Friday, I skied Mount Marcy with Ron Konowitz. It was so warm than I stripped down to my T-shirt on the ascent. On the summit, we met Keith Kogut, a music teacher in Saranac Lake, who was wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
Despite the warm temps, the Van Hoevenberg Trail had plenty of snow, at least above Marcy Dam. A few rocks were starting to show on the section along Phelps Brook.
As noted in an earlier post, the high-water bridge across the brook was washed out a few weeks ago. The water was too deep, swift, and cold to wade through, so on the ascent, we bushwhacked for an hour and picked up the trail again high on TR Mountain. On the descent, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the brook (having crossed a mile up on another bridge), so we bushwhacked to the Marcy Dam Truck Trail.
The Van Ho trail was in great shape for skiing. Unfortunately, I heard that post-holers trashed the trail on Saturday. There is no excuse for this. Hikers should know that the regulations still require snowshoes or skis at higher elevations. There is still plenty of snow up there. Don’t ruin it for others!
On Saturday, I drove to Utica to spend time with my family. On the way, I stopped to canoe South Inlet, following the broad channel from Raquette Lake to the small cascades where the tributary spills out of the woods. It felt like summer, though the bogs that line the inlet were still a drab brown and yellow.
I observed a pair of common mergansers—one male, one female—in one of the side many channels. As I approached for a closer look, they took flight.
Spring is definitely in the air.
Posted on April 1st, 2010 2 comments Add a comment >>
If you’re thinking of climbing Mount Marcy from Adirondak Loj this weekend, you should plan for a longer-than-usual journey, thanks to the loss of a log bridge over Phelps Brook.
The bridge that hikers use to cross the brook in high water was washed downstream about a week ago, according to David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Winchell said DEC is advising hikers to take a detour that will add roughly a mile to the round trip to Marcy, making it about sixteen miles.
Ordinarily, hikers starting at the Loj take the Van Hoevenberg Trail, marked by blue disks, to Marcy Dam and then on to the summit—a 7.4-mile trip (one way). DEC now recommends that you should turn right onto the yellow-disked Avalanche Pass Trail just after passing Marcy Dam and follow it 0.9 miles to Avalanche Camps, where there is another trail junction. Turn left onto the Lake Arnold Trail, marked by blue disks, and follow it a mile to a junction. Turn left onto the Indian Falls Crossover Trail, marked by yellow disks, and follow it 0.8 miles, where it ends at the Van Hoevenberg Trail. Turn right to continue your trek up Marcy.
Tony Goodwin, editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks guidebook, suggests another option. At Marcy Dam, turn left onto the Marcy Dam Truck Trail and follow it about a third of a mile to a bridge over Phelps Brook. Cross the bridge and turn right to bushwhack along the brook for about three quarters of a mile to the Van Hoevenberg Trail. Be sure the brook is on your right when you begin the bushwhack.
Hikers usually need to use the high-water bridge only in early spring. At other times, it’s possible to cross Phelps Brook on boulders upstream from the bridge.
Winchell said DEC hopes to replace the bridge later in the year. Nate Jeffrey, the Lake Colden caretaker, tied it to a tree to prevent it from floating farther downstream. “It’s not in a lot of pieces; it’s pretty much intact,” Winchell said.
DEC will post updates on the Van Hoevenberg Trail on its website.
Keep in mind that there is still lots of snow at higher elevations. Skis or snowshoes are required.