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Monday, August 29, 2011

DEC closes High Peaks trails

Adirondak Loj Road is closed to the public. Photo by Phil Brown.

Adirondak Loj Road is closed to the public. Photo by Phil Brown.

With Labor Day weekend approaching, the long-range forecast calls for sunny skies, but that will be of little consolation to people who hoped to hike in the High Peaks.

Because of damage caused by Irene to trails and backcountry infrastructure, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has closed the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Dix Mountain Wilderness, and Giant Mountain Wilderness through the weekend.

The eastern High Peaks Wilderness and the other two Wilderness Areas contain some of the Adirondack Parks’ most spectacular scenery and the majority of the forty-six High Peaks.

Loj Road

Collapsed pavement at the West Ausable bridge. Photo by Phil Brown.

In addition, the roads to the most popular High Peaks trailheads—the Adirondak Loj outside Lake Placid and the Garden in Keene Valley—are both closed because of washouts.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said about twenty-five guests are stranded at the Loj. He hopes to meet with Essex County officials on Tuesday to see what can be done to get the guests out.

“We’ve got plenty of provisions and staff to take care of them until we get an evacuation plan,” Woodworth said.

A portion of Adirondak Loj Road collapsed when the West Branch of the Ausable River, swollen by heavy rains, undercut the pavement. Until the bridge is replaced, the fifteen vehicles parked at the Loj have no way out.

In another blow to the Loj, the rains also washed out the bridge at Marcy Dam. The dam is a favorite destination of guests at the Loj and a scenic stopping point on the Van Hoevenberg Trail, the most popular route to Mount Marcy, the state’s highest summit. It’s estimated that forty thousand people a year visit Marcy Dam.

Forest rangers are still assessing the damage to trails, but DEC spokesman David Winchell said many routes were severely eroded by the rain. He noted that that the first bridge on the Klondike Trail has been washed away and that the trails along Lake Colden are under water.

DEC is working to reopen all its Adirondack campgrounds before the weekend.

The bridge over Marcy Dam is gone. Photo by Phil Brown.

The bridge over Marcy Dam is gone. Photo by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown

Phil Brown has been editing the Adirondack Explorer since 1999. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important. You can follow his adventures and his musings on the Adirondacks in the Explorer and on this blog.

30 Responses

  1. Chris Greenfield says:

    Heartbreaking Phil….but excellent coverage.

  2. Kerrie says:

    Wow. This is sad, but THANK YOU so much for keeping us informed.

  3. David Finkenbinder says:

    Thank you very much for the information. This looks devastating to my plans to do the Great Range Traverse next weekend, but is much better to now then when arriving!

  4. Steve Shumway says:

    Thanks for the update, Phil. Looks so peaceful and serene today…

  5. Stan says:

    Wow. Gotta take the truck road or wait for it to freeze up in Dec or Jan

  6. Gillian says:

    My memory of the terrain below the dam is vague… but once the water goes down, wouldn’t it be possible to rock-hop or wade across the stream? I know I’ve been down to the water from the truck trail side, but don’t remember the approach from the other side, or the width, depth of the water.

  7. Laurie says:

    I was thinking the same thing as Gillian. I imagine there should be someplace to go down the bank, rock hop or wade the stream, and then back up to the truck trail. Getting use to wading across streams this year (Hudson, Opalescent), what’s one more? Just won’t be able to do it during high water.

    Bigger question mark is access to the Loj, in addition to all the damage along 73. Not what the local economy needed this year.

  8. Pete says:

    Phil – great coverage and photos – keep us up to date.

  9. Willard says:

    Any idea what may be open the weekend after Labor Day??? What a storm!

  10. Stefan says:

    Thinking that the ADK Loj bridge won’t be replaced until after Columbus Day weekend.

  11. Kelly says:

    Thanks for the update! Sorry to hear about the damage in the Peaks and all the surrounding communities. Have a site near Whiteface for the weekend and had hoped to do a mountain, but will be happy just to get up there at all. Take care!

  12. Ben C says:

    Thanks for this info.

    Does anyone know if there are any volunteer trail clearing (or related) opportunities this weekend? I have not called ADK yet.

    Had longtime plan to come up this weekend, but don’t want to come unless I can do something productive and help out.

    Thanks for any info-

  13. Gillian says:

    A friend just sent this update from the NP Trail stewards: “Lots of slides in High Peaks Region – Wright, Colden-north, Trap Dike, Basin, Haystack, Wolfjaws, Dixes, Giant… numerous washouts on Marcy Dam Truck Trail. Marcy Brook between Marcy Dam and Avalanche Camps jumped banks, carved new channel and wiped out much of trail. VH trail above Marcy Dam eroded 1-3 ft deep in many places. Calamity Pond trail not passable.”

    “..biggest news Duck Hole Dam breached and pond dewatered. “

  14. Paul says:

    Phil, thanks for the info. The West Ausable Bridge looks like the bridge was OK and the approach was not well designed. Someone who commented that it could be fixed by Columbus day weekend is maybe being optimistic. You can’t start a bridge project in the Adirondacks this time of year. Maybe they can lay a temporary bridge in there or something.

    It is very strange to see that the river could reach its highest level without spring run off. Haven’t we had this much rain before?

  15. NJB says:

    Yes, this is bad, but the real story is what has happened to the people of Keene. They have suffered tremendous devastation. Roads and bridges out, homes destroyed and their firehouse was destroyed. Sounds like the Mountaineer was badly damaged. Please post any efforts to raise funds for the people of Keene, perhaps to rebuild the firehouse, etc.

    See: http://lakeplacidnews.com/page/content.detail/id/503941/Tropical-Storm-Irene-hit-Keene-hard.html?nav=5005

  16. NJB says:

    Paul raises a good question. The key here is the tropical nature of this event and the already saturated ground. This rain came down at a much faster rate and for a sustained time period than even some heavy thunderstorms. In addition, the luck of the draw tends to concentrate bands of rain in some areas while sparing other areas. This area probably received 10″ to 20″ of rain in a short time period. For instance, Tuxedo, NY reported 20″ of rain. Add to this the sloping action of the mountains and the water accelerates to an unbelievable force in a short time period. No environment or infrastructure can handle that stress. The concern now has to be the potential for epic landslides. That is probably a big concern of the DEC in terms of hiker/camper safety. Let us hope and pray for extended dry weather.

  17. Paul says:

    NJB, it is all bad. Many of the folks in that area (including the Mountaineer) depend on these areas being open for a large part of their livelihood. You lose your home and your business and the activities that keep it all together. Very sad.

  18. After Irene, where can you hike? @ says:

    […] the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, the Dix Mountain Wilderness, and the Giant Mountain […]

  19. Anna Taylor says:

    How can we help? We were supposed to hike Marcy the week of Sept 9th. Do you need volunteers? Supplies? How can we help….We love this area, and were just married on July 30 at the Mountain House on Hurricane Rd.

    who should I contact to help/

    Thanks,

    Anna

  20. Phil says:

    Anna, thanks for your concern. I don’t know how to answer your question just now, but I would start by asking the Adirondack Mountain Club. We may have a better answer in a few days or a few weeks.

  21. Tom Woodman says:

    Re: The amount of rainfall. I live outside of Keene and measured 11 inches of rain for the storm. It was hard to imagine it could rain so torrentially and steadily for 12 hours or so.

  22. Paul says:

    Tom,

    That type of rain is the kind of deluge that lead to the devastating floods in 1927 on the Mississippi river.

    When I read a book about that recently I didn’t think it was possible around here. I guess it is.

  23. Amanda says:

    Does anyone know what we can do to help? Are there any fundraising efforts organized yet to help rebuild Keene and clean up the trails?

  24. Phil Brown says:

    I will write something on what people can do to help. Meantime you can email Wes Lampman at ADK to sign up for trail duty. His email:

    fieldprograms@adk.org

  25. Gremlin says:

    Anything about the Santanonis?

  26. Willard says:

    Did anyone hear how Whiteface made out???

  27. Amy says:

    If anyone is looking to make a contribution to help Keene recover from the hurricane they can make a check out to: ACT/ Keene Flood Recovery Fund and mailed to: Adirondack Community Trust, PO Box 288, Lake Placid, NY 12946. For further information contact Melissa Eisinger at 518-523-9904.

  28. HikingBlog.net» Blog Archive » DEC closes High Peaks trails says:

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  30. butch pinand says:

    anybody here how stephens pond on the NPT made out in the lake durant area?

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