Posted on August 29th, 2012 Add a comment >>
Governor Andrew Cuomo came to the rescue of Keene today, pledging $640,000 in state funds to rebuild a fire house destroyed by the floods of Tropical Storm Irene a year ago.
Cuomo said the state had to step in after the Federal Emergency Management Agency reduced the amount of money it offered for replacing the fire house.
“The building was cut in half, and we said not only will we build back, but we will build back better than before,” the governor said at a check-signing ceremony at the site of the future fire house on Route 73.
The new structure will have more room for trucks, equipment, and personnel, Cuomo said.
Since the floods, the fire department has been storing its trucks and ambulances at other sites around town, according to Keene Supervisor William Ferebee. Consequently, he added, “our response time is longer.”
Ferebee said the town hopes to break ground in September and move trucks into the building by mid-December. The building is expected to be finished in the spring.
The fire house will cost $2.3 million. FEMA initially offered to contribute $640,000 but later cut the amount to $340,000. The state intends to make up the difference and kick in another $300,000 to pay for the property where the fire house will be built (across from the Stewart’s Shop in the hamlet of Keene). Additional funds will come from Keene’s town’s insurance policy and a bond approved by town residents.
The town had already accepted bids from contractors, but the project came to a standstill when FEMA changed its offer. The state had to act quickly before the bids expired, which would have required the town advertise for new bids—a process that could have delayed work for months. Keene officials were anxious to begin construction well before winter.
Half of the old fire house was washed away by a swollen Gulf Brook during Irene.
Posted on November 18th, 2011 50 comments Add a comment >>
Now that the state has decided not to rebuild the dam at Duck Hole, people are wondering about the future of Marcy Dam.
The short answer is that there is no answer—not yet.
“No decisions have been made. We’re still evaluating that,” David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said this morning.
Unlike the Duck Hole dam, Marcy Dam remains largely intact. However, flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Irene washed away the bridge over the dam and the dam’s sluice gate. Most of the pond behind the dam has since drained, leaving a mudflat.
DEC plans to either rebuild the bridge at the dam or construct a new bridge downstream. Which option the agency goes for will depend in part on what engineers say about the dam’s structural integrity. In either case, nothing will be done until next year at the earliest.
Since Irene, hikers on the popular Van Hoevenberg Trail have been crossing Marcy Brook by boulder-hopping about a quarter-mile below the dam. That crossing may be dangerous in winter, yet snowshoers and skiers will need to get on the other side of the brook to reach Mount Marcy and Avalanche Lake. Winchell recommends that they cross what’s left of the pond, once it’s frozen, or approach Marcy Dam via the Marcy Dam Truck Trail.
Marcy Dam is one of the most familiar scenes of the High Peaks. From the dam, hikers would look across the pond toward Avalanche Pass and Mount Colden. The photographer Carl Heilman II used a scene from the dam on the cover of his book The Adirondacks.
Posted on November 16th, 2011 4 comments Add a comment >>
The state Department of Environmental Conservation does not plan to rebuild the dam at Duck Hole, an iconic pond deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.
The wooden dam was breached in the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene in late August, draining about two-thirds of the impoundment.
Even before Irene, fans of Duck Hole had been urging DEC to repair the old dam. In fact, the Explorer ran a debate on the question in its September/October issue, which was on the newsstand when the storm hit. Nestled among high mountains, Duck Hole is a favorite camping spot on the Northville-Placid Trail.
In the Explorer debate, Tom Wemett, chairman of the Northville-Placid chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, extolled Duck Hole as one of the most scenic water bodies in the High Peaks Wilderness. “Whether hiking on the Northville-Placid Trail or paddling and portaging from Henderson Lake (via Preston Ponds), those who arrive at Duck Hole are in awe of the stunning vistas and quiet solitude,” he wrote.
After Irene, Wemett argued for the dam’s reconstruction. But DEC spokeswoman Lisa King said today that the department has no plans to repair the dam.
“At this time, DEC does not anticipate the repair or replacement of the Duck Hole dam in the High Peaks Wilderness Area,” she told the Explorer in an e-mail. “By leaving it as is, the affected backcountry in this area can return to a more natural state. This is in keeping with DEC’s responsibilities for care, custody and control of Forest Preserve lands under the state constitution.”
The department’s guidelines for dams in the Forest Preserve favor removing dams in Wilderness Areas “when they become unsafe or are otherwise in need of replacement, reconstruction and/or rehabilitation.” Nonetheless, such dams may be rehabilitated to preserve fish and wildlife habitat, protect scenic vistas, or maintain a waterway’s navigability, among other purposes.
Spokesmen for the environmental groups Adirondack Council and Adirondack Wild said they opposed rebuilding the dam.
“It’s deep in the wilderness,” remarked David Gibson of Adirondack Wild. “It’s just as much a wilderness experience after Irene as it was before Irene.”
I did the paddle/portage trip to Duck Hole this past spring and wrote about the adventure for the July/August issue of the Explorer. A few days after Irene, I returned to Duck Hole on foot and took the photos shown here of the broken dam and the mudflat.
Adirondack guide Joe Hackett did the paddle/portage trip a few weeks after Irene and found enough water remained to paddle to the lean-tos near the dam. “Duck Hole is down, but it’s not out,” he told the Explorer after his trip.
Duck Hole, the source of the Cold River, is fed by at least three streams, including the outlet of Lower Preston Pond. Over the next several years, the mudflats should be overtaken by vegetation and provide habitat for a variety of wildlife–not to mention improve the view.
Posted on November 3rd, 2011 Add a comment >>
The state has reopened two more trails in the High Peaks region, but it has no plans to reopen before next year other trails closed by Irene.
Hikers can once again take the Deer Brook Trail from Route 73 to Snow Mountain, though the low-water route through the Deer Brook flume remains impassable (it was eroded during the storm).
Also reopened is the second crossover trail between the East River Trail and West River Trail in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. The first crossover trail is still closed, owing to a missing bridge.
Three trail on the Forest Preserve remain closed:
- The Southside Trail to the ranger’s cabin in the Johns Brook valley.
- The Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass.
- The Colvin Range Trail from Blake Peak to the Elk Lake-Mount Marcy Trail.
“These probably will remain closed throughout the winter,” said David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “We’ll look at them again in the spring.”
Winchell said the public can still use the closed trails on the Forest Preserve, but they will not be patrolled or maintained.
Posted on October 28th, 2011 2 comments Add a comment >>
Five trails that had been closed since August 29, the day after Tropical Storm Irene, have been reopened, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced this morning.
Four of the trails start in the vicinity of the Ausable Lakes in the privately owned Adirondack Mountain Reserve:
- The Carry Trail between Lower and Upper Ausable Lake (trail #54 in the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks guidebook).
- Trail from the Carry Trail to the Colvin Range Trail (#55 in the book).
- Trail from Warden’s Camp at the foot of Upper Ausable to Sawteeth Mountain (#57)
- Trail from Warden’s Camp to Haystack Mountain (#58).
The fifth is the Haystack Brook Trail (#59). It leads from trail #58 to the State Range Trail in the col between Haystack and Basin Mountain.
DEC says the Carry Trail and the trail to Sawteeth have been cleared of blowdown. The other trails are passable but may have blowdown.
Two short trails in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve remain closed. They are the first two crossover routes between the East River Trail and West River Trail. Three other crossover routes are open.
Four other trails also remain closed: the Deer Brook Trail from Route 73 to Snow Mountain; the Southside Trail from the Garden to the Johns Brook ranger cabin; the Cold Brook Trail between Indian Pass and Lake Colden; and the Colvin Range Trail from Blake Peak to Pinnacle and beyond.
Hurricane Road to Crows Clearing remains closed, but the trails starting at the clearing are open. These trails lead to Hurricane Mountain, Big Crow Mountain, and Nun-da-ga-o Ridge.
Click the link below for DEC’s High Peaks bulletin for this weekend. It includes a list of trails that impacted by Irene.
Posted on October 19th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
The new issue of the Explorer (November/December) will include a two-page spread on climbing five new slides created by Tropical Storm Irene in the High Peaks.
I’ve blogged about my climbs of four of them (see links below), but I have yet to write about my climb of the long slide on Saddleback Mountain. I climbed it two weekends ago with Ron Konowitz. It’s steep enough in places that I would recommend rock-climbing shoes or approach shoes.
You can easily reach the Saddleback slide via the Ore Bed Brook Trail in Johns Brook Valley. Starting from the suspension bridge near the ranger’s cabin, hike 1.7 miles to a house-size boulder on the right side of the trail (it’s 0.25 miles past a lean-to). From the boulder, you can see the slide on the right, a short bushwhack away.
If you leave the trail here, you’ll be walking up a scoured section of Ore Bed Brook, a mix of slab, boulders, mud, and pools. In a half-mile, you’ll reach the wide slabs of the slide proper. Your other option is to stay on the trail past the giant boulder: in another 0.8 miles, the trail passes the edge of the slide.
From the second access point, it’s just about a mile to the top of the slide. From the boulder, it’s 1.9 miles.
The ascent is gradual at first, but it steepens considerably as you get higher. Toward the top, you need to climb over or around a rock wall. We went left, which was fine, but we encountered a muddy section just past the wall.
While ascending, be sure to turn around occasionally to take in the spectacular view of the north face of Gothics.
The climb ends with a dike, one to two feet wide, that runs down the middle of the slide. The pitch here is very steep, but the dike is stepped. At the end you’ll need to make a tricky move to gain the woods.
From the top of the slide, you have a 10-minute bushwhack to Saddleback’s summit. We angled left and did not have too much trouble.
Saddleback’s summit offers marvelous views of the High Peaks. Between the slide and the summit, you’ll be sated with scenery. If you return by the Ore Bed Brook Trail, you’ll cross another slide created by Irene. In the aerial photo, this two-pronged slide is to the left of the Saddleback slide.
Following are links to my blogs on other slides created or expanded by Irene:
Posted on October 11th, 2011 4 comments Add a comment >>
On Sunday I climbed the Trap Dike for the first time since Tropical Storm Irene triggered a landslide above and inside the dike. The slide swept away nearly all of the trees inside the canyon and created a new exit, a slab of clean white rock that can be followed to the top of Mount Colden.
Before Irene, the guidebook Adirondack Rock awarded the Trap Dike five stars, its highest rating for the overall quality of the climb. Since Irene, the climb is even better.
The Trap Dike must be approached with caution: it’s considered a third- or fourth-class climb in the Yosemite Decimal System, so a slip at the wrong time can result in death or serious injury. Sadly, this was proven when Matthew Potel, an experienced hiker, was killed in a fall on September 30.
People debate whether parties should carry a rope and other rock-climbing gear. Whether or not you carry a rope, I suggest you wear sticky-soled shoes: either rock-climbing shoes or approach shoes (some trail-running shoes also have sticky rubber). You’ll appreciate the stickiness on the steep sections, which are often wet, and on the finishing slab.
The dike has two waterfalls. The second is considered the crux of the climb. It’s steep and about forty feet high. Potel fell here after helping two companions up the falls.
The climb from Avalanche Lake to the new slide is 0.8 miles. The base of the slide is steep. I started up from the right side, following a left-rising ramp. Two companions, Josh Wilson and Matt McNamara, chose to start up the left side, ascending some cracks.
Once on the slide, we stayed more or less in the middle, following whatever features we could find to give us a foothold or handhold. Much of the slab is pocked with sharp-edged dimples, which also aid traction.
Depending on the slope, we either walked upright, more or less, or scrambled on all fours. I measured the slope in spots at more than forty degrees—steep enough for a long fall. In winter, this should be considered avalanche terrain.
At the headwall, the slide gets even steeper. Matt and I bailed left into the trees just before the top. Josh managed to stay on the rock all the way to the end. All told, the slide is about 0.4 miles long. From the top, it’s a very short bushwhack (20 or 30 yards) to Colden’s summit trail.
To my mind, the slide is just as dangerous as the waterfalls—especially if you’re not wearing sticky rubber.
Before Irene, hikers would exit the Trap Dike onto an older slide. You can still do this, of course, but if you exit the dike too early, you’ll find yourself on a part of the old slide that is as steep as the new one. Some hikers who exited early have become frozen with fear, too scared to continue climbing or retreat.
The Trap Dike may be a five-star climb, but it’s no fun if you find yourself in over your head.
Posted on October 7th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
The town of Keene is looking for volunteers to help with the post-Irene cleanup. The town plans to undertake a number of cleanup projects every weekend through November 5.
This Saturday, people will be removing mud from the basement of a house on Styles Brook Road, according to Joe Pete Wilson Jr., the town’s volunteer coordinator. Because of the mud, the homeowner has been unable to turn on the heat since the storm.
Next weekend (October 15-16), volunteers will clean mud and debris from the Keene Library and pick up debris at the community center’s playing fields. On the following Saturdays, volunteers will help clean up homes, yards, and local businesses.
If you’d like to volunteer, send an e-mail to Joe Pete at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who would like to help but can’t provide labor can send a contribution to the Keene Flood Recovery Fund. Click here for details.
Posted on October 7th, 2011 Add a comment >>
The state has reopened the trail from Elk Lake to Panther Gorge but warns that hikers still may encounter blowdown.
The 10.2-mile route leads from the private Elk Lake to Four Corners, a trail junction that lies amid Mount Haystack, Mount Skylight, and Mount Marcy. The trail had been closed since August 29, the day after Tropical Storm Irene roared through the High Peaks.
Several trails remain closed. The following list of closed trails is a news release issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation:
- Adirondack Mountain Reserve Trails:
- The first (northernmost) two cross over trails between the East River Trail and the West River Trail. NOTE: The other three cross over trails and bridges are open and must be used to travel between the East River and West River Trails.
- Warden’s Camp to Sawteeth Trail
- Carry Trail
- Warden’s Camp to Haystack Trail
- Haystack Brook Trail
- The Deer Brook Trail from Route 73 to Rooster Comb
- The Southside Trail from the Garden Trailhead to John’s Brook Outpost
- The Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass.
- Adirondack Mountain Reserve Trails:
Posted on October 4th, 2011 3 comments Add a comment >>
The state Department of Environmental Conservation intends to restore the natural character of streams that were altered by bulldozers and backhoes in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, according to Christopher Amato, the department’s assistant commissioner for natural resources.
Amato said he agrees with environmental activists that some streams were damaged by cleanup crews after Irene.
Numerous streams in the Ausable River watershed overflowed and cut new channels during Irene. Afterward, crews used bulldozers and other equipment to rechannel the streams. Critics contend that the workers destroyed habitat for trout and other fish by straightening channels, removing gravel and boulders, and smoothing streambeds.
Based on his review of photographs and early reports from biologists, Amato is convinced that “there are areas where some of the work that has been done has adversely affected fish habitat.”
Amato did not fault the crews, pointing out that they were responding to an emergency. “It’s not surprising that when people are working to save lives and property, protecting trout habitat is not their first priority,” he said in an interview with the Explorer.
But now that the emergency is over, he said, DEC will assess the work and come up with a plan to repair damaged habitat. Amato said DEC will employ established stream-restoration techniques to recreate natural features such as gravel beds, pools, riffles, bends, and shoreline vegetation.
“We will re-establish the variety of habitat that naturally occurs in streams,” Amato said.
Such variety is vital to fish: they lay eggs in gravel, feed in riffles, and seek refuge from the heat in deep pools and along shady banks. Twists and turns check the speed of the current and can alleviate flooding downstream.
Amato said any plans to restore the streams will take into account the potential for future floods. “We certainly don’t want to do anything that will exacerbate the flooding problem,” he said.
Amato couldn’t say when the restoration will begin, but it’s possible that some work will occur this fall. “You don’t want to rush in there without understanding what you want to do,” he said.