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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

After Irene, where can you hike?

The rains of Irene created a new slide on Wright Peak. It located to the right of the two Angel Slides, which were created in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Photo by Phil Brown.

The rains of Irene created a new slide on Wright Peak. As viewed from Marcy Dam, it is located to the right of the two Angel Slides, which were created during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Photo by Phil Brown.

With the most popular Wilderness Areas in the Adirondacks closed, many people are wondering where they can hike this Labor Day weekend.

Forest rangers have yet to reconnoiter all of the backcountry, but it’s believed that the central and western Adirondacks largely escaped the wrath of Irene.

Yesterday the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, the Dix Mountain Wilderness, and the Giant Mountain Wilderness would all be closed during the holiday weekend. The three areas probably encompass more than 175,000 acres. The western High Peaks—which constitutes more than half of the High Peaks Wilderness—remains open.

DEC said Irene’s heavy rains severely eroded trails, washed out bridges, and felled trees throughout the Wilderness Areas, creating hazardous conditions.

As the Explorer reported yesterday, the bridge over Marcy Dam—on the most popular trail to Mount Marcy—was washed out. The dam remains intact, but the water in the impoundment has dropped, revealing mud in the middle of the pond.

The bridge over Marcy Dam was washed downstream.

The bridge over Marcy Dam was washed downstream. Photo by Phil Brown.

DEC forester Kris Alberga flew over the High Peaks region and discovered that the dam at scenic Duck Hole was breached, draining that pond. Duck Hole is the source of the Cold River. It is (or had been) one of the favorite campsites of hikers on the Northville-Placid Trail.

Alberga also reported new slides on numerous High Peaks, including on Wright, Colden, Basin, Haystack, the Wolf Jaws, Giant, and the Dixes. I was able to take a photo of the new slide on Wright Peak yesterday before DEC closed the region. As viewed from Marcy Dam, the slide is to the right of the existing Angel Slides, a popular destination for backcountry skiers. The new slide appears to be longer than the existing slides.

Rob Davies, DEC’s director of Lands and Forests, said the eastern part of the Adirondacks received the brunt of the storm. “The western part of the Park fared very well in the storm,” he said. “That may be an excellent place to look for people who want to get out and recreate this weekend.”

For example, DEC spokesman David Winchell said the Moose River Plains seems to have weathered the storm well. He expects that the adjacent West Canada Lake Wilderness did also.

Presumably, tracts farther west also remain accessible. On Sunday night, my son and I drove through much of the western Adirondacks, from Woodgate to Saranac Lake—via Route 28, Route 30, and Route 3—and saw very little storm damage other than a few downed trees. Power was out only in Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake.

However, DEC officials caution that they have not yet been able to reconnoiter the backcountry and so hikers should understand that they may encounter storm damage. “We are still in the assessment mode,” Davies said.

The eastern High Peaks region encompasses many popular mountains, including Mount Marcy (the state’s highest summit), Algonquin Peak, and the peaks of the Great Range. Undoubtedly, shutting down the eastern High Peaks on Labor Day weekend will deal an economic blow to Lake Placid and Keene.

Lake Placid and Keene probably will feel the economic effects of Irene far beyond this weekend. Route 73, the main route into the hamlets from the south, was washed out in several places and is impassable. It’s anybody’s guess when it will be reopened. I’m told that Route 86, the eastern approach to Lake Placid, has been reopened.

Moreover, a bridge washed out on the Adirondak Loj Road, stranding twenty-five guests at the Loj, which is run by the Adirondack Mountain Club. Located outside Lake Placid, the Loj is the most popular trailhead for the High Peaks Wildneress. The road to the Garden in Keene Valley, another popular trailhead, also is washed out.

With those trailheads closed, the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb likely will see more use. Newcomb Supervisor George Canon said the road to Upper Works remains open. Hikers could use the trailhead this weekend to access the western High Peaks.

DEC divides the High Peaks Wilderness into two management zones. The eastern High Peaks, which sees far more traffic, has more restrictions on hikers and backpackers. The western High Peaks is more remote. Its natural assets include seven of the forty-six High Peaks, Duck Hole, and the Cold River. A long stretch of the Northville-Placid Trail passes through the western High Peaks.

The High Peaks Unit Management Plan defines the boundary between the two zones as “the height of land immediately west of the Indian Pass Trail.” This means more than half of the 193,000-acre Wilderness Area is in the western zone. The Dix Mountain Wilderness encompasses 45,000 acres and the Giant Mountain Wilderness 23,000 acres.

A section of Adirondak Loj Road collapsed near the West Branch of the Ausable. Photo by Phil Brown.

A section of Adirondak Loj Road collapsed near the West Branch of the Ausable. Photo by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

28 Responses

  1. » Reports Of New Slides After Irene Adirondack Backcountry Skiing says:

    […] Adirondack Explorer Outtakes Article […]

  2. jordan Ebling says:

    So what mountains r open for hiking?

  3. Linda says:

    Is that the new bridge on the Loj Road?

  4. Bad news for the backcountry @ says:

    […] After Irene, where can you hike? […]

  5. Phil says:

    Linda, that is not the new bridge. That one is still in place.

    @Jordan, every mountain not in the eastern High Peaks or the Dix and Giant Wilderness Areas is open.

    If you’re talking about High Peaks, the seven in the Western High Peaks are the three in the Santanoni Range and the four in the Seward Range. Be aware that you still may encounter storm damage. You’ll probably find less storm damage the farther west you in the Park.

  6. Harvey44 says:

    How is the Siamese Ponds Wilderness? Pharoah Lakes? Where can we find out what is likely to be ok?

  7. Ellen says:

    Holy cats! I thought the ‘dacks would be missed by this storm, but it looks like at least some parts were really nailed! My thoughts go out to everyone who had damage.

  8. Paul says:

    Harvey, Jordan and others..

    People, just chill. Stay out of the woods for a few weeks. It isn’t going to kill you. Let people clean up and put their lives back together just stay away.

  9. Ben C says:

    @Paul and others-

    I’m torn.

    On one hand, want to give the community space and not disrespect them in this time of loss.

    On other hand, many articles here and on Adirondack Enterprise, etc. lament loss of tourist dollars.

    Do I help more by canceling my trip and staying away or by coming and spending money?

  10. Sue says:

    That bridge is the one closest to the Loj. It is not the new one. Please do come and spend your money here. Lake Placid suffered very, very little damage and there are many businesses still open in Keene and Keene Valley who could use the and need the revenue now more than ever! There is so much more to do than hiking in the High Peaks! This is a good chance to expose yourselves to something other than the heavily trafficked hiking trails that, quite honestly, are probably heaving a sigh of relief that there won’t be people crawling all over them. Just kidding, but really there are so many more options. Check out http://www.lakeplacid.com for lots of ideas.

  11. Nancy says:

    @ Phil – Can we get to the trail head of Cascade and Porter on Rt 73?

    If so, can we get there from the Northway or do we have to go some other way?

    @ Ben – I plan to keep my motel reservation for the weekend – even if we don’t get to hike there are plenty of bars in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake that could use our tourist dollars.

  12. WrenHawk says:

    Adding to Sue’s comments and answering Ben…come, help our small, locally owned businesses. It will mean a great deal to them now and this winter. But one request: be patient, drive a few miles under the speed limit, enjoy one of the most beautiful places around and be willing to be a little inconvenienced now and again. Don’t be demanding if you are asked to respect a local person’s space, or if you have to wait at a bridge, or if you can’t travel a road and are offered an alternate…if you hike, please be cautious and heed all DEC and local official’s warnings….don’t stretch our local rescue teams any further. We have great shops, arts, food…with great views…enjoy and respect.Thanks.

  13. Phil Brown says:

    Nancy, the Cascade trailhead is accessible via NY 73, but since it is in the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, it is officially closed. I did read an online report that someone climbed it and found the trail OK. I will ask DEC about this trail when I’m back in the office. I will be in the field much of Wed.

    Harvey, I have no reports on either Pharaoh or Siamese Ponds. The thinking is that the eastern Adks were hit hardest, so the farther west you go, the better.

  14. Selden says:

    There are also major new slides on Cascade Mountain.

  15. Wanakena says:

    The area around Cranberry Lake was not hit. We had some rain but little wind. The trails of the Cranberry 50 are open and ready for this weekend.

  16. Sue says:

    There actually IS a major new slide on Cascade Mt. I saw it last evening. It follows the small stream which ends way back in at the base of the mountain between the lakes. It has created a spectacular new waterfall, visible from the picnic area and the road. I think we should name the new falls “Irene”. Fitting no?

  17. Paul says:

    Ben C,

    Come and spend your money but give the area some time to get things back in order first. I don’t think that clogging up closed roads and the like makes much sense right now.

  18. Michelle says:

    Where can I find a list or map of what mountains are in what region and which ones are open? We were supposed to hike Algonquin on Friday but are looking for a good alternative.

  19. Brian says:

    Paul, just chill. These people are inquiring about what roads are still open and plan to hike on public lands. I don’t see how this relates to clogging up closed roads. Nor do I see how hiking on public lands prevents or inhibits anyone from putting their lives back together.

  20. Gillian says:

    Friend’s brother attempted to hike Santanonis yesterday… they got panther then ran out of time due to “environmental conditions.” He said as they came out, a ranger was closing the trail.

  21. Selden says:

    Is that a new waterfall on Cascade or the old one that we used to hike up to, now revealed by having the trees stripped in the landslide?

    The backcountry skiers have noted at least a dozen new, large slides… Upper and Lower Wolfjaw, Saddleback, Basin, Wright, Colden. From my farm I can see two new small slides on the back of Big Slide.

  22. Rich Filosi says:

    How did Whiteface and Esther survive?

  23. Daine says:

    Hate to muck up the blog but I thought maybe all the energy that goes into finding places to hike etc. could well be funneled into the communities who could use the energy. Info here can be found at many sources. Keene needs help. Ausable Forks need help. Red Cross is a source. Let’s not cry about the loss of the weekends entertainment. It is time to give back. Do what you can. It’s a rush that can’t be beat.

    JAY COMMUNITY NEWS

    WEDNESDAY AUGUST 31 EVENING MESSAGES

    SHOP FOR GOODS AND SERVICES LOCALLY!

    VISIT THE JCN SERVICES DIRECTORY

    VISIT THE JCN COMMUNITY CALENDAR

    FREE FOOD

    Breakfast, lunch and dinner are being served at the Au Sable Forks Fire Department for all flooding victims, work volunteers and rescue personnel. We’ve had lots of donations of food from individuals and businesses. Breakfast starts up at 7am and we’ll have food and drink all day long.

    Shannon Stanley

    HERE’S ANOTHER WAY TO HELP

    Many of the people who really need help don’t know that help is available because they have no home, or they have no electricity or internet. It is vital that everyone take it upon themselves to check on people nearby and spread the news about available help and the scam mentioned below. Even temporary homes are available.

    People have been ENORMOUSLY generous in cooking food, volunteering and spreading info. Someone needed a generator and two were instantly provided. People have offered housing, clothing and all kinds of services. A huge thanks to all!

    There is still a need for people to volunteer to help move things out of houses. If you can lift things please contact the Town of Jay office: 647-2204

  24. thomas says:

    dont stay out of the aderondacks, but by all means give them the space they need, call ahead see if your place is up and running, maybe instead of camping stay at a local b and b, they need revenue to recover,

    if you need to hike look to the sewards, they survived in good shape, of go out west even more,

  25. Amanda says:

    Hi,

    I’m really sorry for the losses, but also curious if you think back country hiking would be possible on the weekend of 9/24? If so, any recommendations for places to go that would avoid the damaged areas and stay out of peoples’ hair as they clean up? I’ve never been the adirondacks and would really love to see the high peaks area, but don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give!

    Sincerely,

    Amanda

  26. Phil Brown says:

    Amanda,nearly all the closed trails are now open again. In places you may encounter erosion, blowdown or missing footbridges, but apparently most trails are in decent shape. That said, the High Peaks region is only a small part of the Adirondack Park. Most of the Park was not much affected by the storm.

  27. Wait for some time until DEC clean the bridge and remove the fallen trees.

  28. Great article,Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.

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