Since Hurricane Irene drenched the High Peaks region, more than thirty guests have been stranded at Adirondak Loj, unable to leave due to a washout on the only road to the rustic inn.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), which owns the Loj, hopes that the road will open in a day or two, but with so much devastation around the region, nothing is certain.
Neil Woodworth, executive director of the ADK, said a few guests opted to walk out, but most are waiting for the road to be repaired enough to allow them to take their cars. As of today, there were thirty-one guests (and about fifteen cars) at the Loj.
“They’re as hopeful as we are that [the roadwork] will be done tomorrow or the next day,” he said.
The Loj and ADK’s High Peaks Information Center are located at the end of Adirondak Loj Road, which starts on Route 73 outside Lake Placid village. The ADK property is the most popular starting point for trips in the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
The rains of Hurricane Irene swelled the West Branch of the Ausable River and washed out a section of the five-mile-long road.
Woodworth said Essex County expects to reopen one lane of the road this week. At some time in the future, the one lane would be replaced by a temporary bridge, and eventually the temporary bridge would be replaced by a permanent bridge.
He did not know when the bridges will be installed. The county built a new bridge this year at another stream crossing. A temporary bridge had been in place for a few years at that location.
Hikers also cannot drive to the Garden in Keene Valley, the trailhead used to access Johns Brook Lodge, ADK’s interior inn. The road to the Garden parking lot is washed out.
At this point, though, the lack of vehicular access to the Garden and the Loj is largely immaterial as the state has closed the eastern High Peaks Wilderness (as well as the Dix Mountain Wilderness and Giant Mountain Wilderness). It’s uncertain when the Wilderness Areas will reopen, but they will remain closed through Labor Day weekend.
Moreover, Route 73, the main route to Keene Valley and Lake Placid from the south, will be closed for weeks, if not months.
The road is officially closed from the junction of Route 9 north to Route 9N in Keene, according to Carol Breen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. However, we are told that people are driving between Keene and Keene Valley, despite a roadblock. The worst damage on the highway occurred south of Keene Valley, in the St. Huberts area.
Breen said DOT will repair the road before winter. She said DOT expects to repair a washout on Route 9N, which connects Keene and Jay, in a few days.
Vinny McClelland, the owner of the Mountaineer in Keene Valley, said the closure of the Wilderness Areas and the road washouts have dealt a double whammy to local businesses.
“This is usually the biggest week of the year. This will have a major impact on the town,” he said.
McClelland said the Mountaineer, which sells outdoor gear and clothing, sustained only minor damage from the storm, but its outlet store up the road was severely flooded and lost most of its merchandise.
Note: earlier reports said there were twenty-five guests at the Loj.