The Backcountry Classroom is now available in digital format for use on the digital reader of your choice. Check it out HERE.
A reader of my blog post Rails AND Trails - It Can’t Be Done...or Can it? asked the question, “Is it feasible to connect the Northville-Lake Placid Trail to a trail alongside the railroad tracks?” I took a look at the map and sure enough it would be quite easy to extend the Northville-Lake Placid Trail 1.25 miles across the Averyville Road through the Saranac Lake Wild Forest and have it join the rail corridor. When the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake trail alongside the tracks gets built (I’m forever the optimist) and planned changes to the trail in Northville are completed, it would allow hikers to hike from Northville to Lake Placid OR Saranac Lake without having to walk along a highway, and start and finish in communities whereas right now you have to hike nearly three miles alongside roads to get to the center of Lake Placid. If the 1.25 mile extension were built and the trail alongside the tracks were built, hikers could walk 3 miles to the Lake Placid Railroad Station or 8 miles to the Saranac Lake Railroad Station. Both routes would be through woods and along the railroad tracks and avoid roads completely. Kind of a neat idea that continues to build on the possible synergy between the railroad and trails.
The latest from the Adirondack Explorer. I have no problems with Tony's opinions but he has a couple of minor facts wrong. I am not chair of TRAC nor was TRAC created at a Tupper Lake meeting. It was created at a meeting in Lake Clear.
I'll let you decide for yourself whether you think trains and trails can co-exist.
I've been an advocate of more recreational trails throughout the park for a long time. I also feel that we’ll be cheated if we don’t try our damnedest to try to have a rail and trail, side by side where possible and intersecting when not.
In a March 16 letter to the Utica Observer Dispatch respected trail advocate Tony Goodwin noted that a rail with trail, “… is not physically possible” and that “Periodically leaving the corridor is so far just talk. A year ago, Tupper Lake rail supporters formed a committee to look at a parallel trail from Tupper Lake to the campground at Rollins Pond. I know committee members made field inspections, but so far there’s no plan showing that a parallel trail could feasibly be built.”
I decided to take a deeper look. I talked with some folks from Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake who have explored the rail corridor in greater detail than I have. I took their information and combined it with my own experience and I made a map of a possible trail from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake. You will note a few specific things:
Note: The blue shows the rail corridor and red shows the trail route. All boundaries and the route are approximate. I don't pretend to have any expertise in GIS or cartography.
Have at it folks. What do you think?
Other Rails AND Trails Blog Posts:
Jack along with colleague Mark Wagstaff are working on digitizing Bruce Bonney and Jack's first book and have initiated a Kickstarter Project to get it going. We have had great success but the more we can raise the more we can do. Read about our stretch goal Here
We finally got a decent dumping of snow this week so it was time to get out and enjoy it. Friday friend and colleague Duane Gould and I set out to snowshoe up McKenzie Mountain one of the Saranac Lake Six. We have hiked this mountain too many times to count so the question of the morning was, "Which route should we take?" We decided to take the Shore Owner's Trail up and come down the DEC trail to the Jack Rabbit Trail.
The morning temperature was in single digits with a slight wind as we headed out. The forecast was for clearing skies but unfortunately for us they didn't clear until late afternoon so we were pretty socked in with occasional flurries for most of the day.
The Shore Owner's Trail heads north parallel to Lake Placid before it heads northwest up along Twin Brook. The snow was nearly two-feet deep as we snowshoed up along the brook. It ascends steadily until you come up to Bartlett Pond.
From there it starts getting pretty steep. That combined with the deep snow made travel, even with snowshoes, pretty demanding. It was a long six tenths of a mile up to the ridge. Once on the ridge the snow was over 30 inches deep but the going was easier. From there it was an easy two tenths of a mile to the summit. The Shore Owner's Trail was much
better maintained than I remember it but then again I probably hadn't hiked on their trails for around 15 years. I was particularly impressed with how well the trails were signed.
Once we summited we headed down the south side where we were very grateful we hadn't climbed up the traditional route. It was much easier to slide down the steep pitches rather than have to climb up them. For those who have never climbed McKenzie Mt be prepared to go up and down a number of "false" summits. There was more than one that I slipped on the way up as well as slid down.
After sliding down, down, down we finally hit the Jack Rabbit Trail where the trail was broken by skiers and it wasn't long before we saw a group of French Canadian snowshoers. It was a long two miles out to the road and then a short jaunt to our car. After over seven miles and nearly six hours of breaking trail with snowshoes we were pretty bushed. It is so nice though to have enough snow to get out and XC ski and snowshoe. More trips to come...
Is it just us or is there something missing from the discussion of rails and trails? Why is the discussion of trails limited to one rail bed (of many within the park) rather than exploring the larger question of, “What are the trails needs park wide?”
Rather than looking at the rail – trail issue in isolation from the larger issue of creating and enhancing recreational opportunities within the Adirondack Park, we should focus on exploring the idea of an Adirondack Park Community-Based Trail System. The rail - trail issue can and should only be addressed after we have acknowledged and prioritized our park-wide trail needs. What follows is a vision for such a trail system in the Adirondack Park and, although the process for such an effort needs to be determined and articulated, it is a vision that would benefit the entire Adirondack Park and its communities.
Adirondack Park Community-Based Trail System
Goal: To create a community-based trail system in the Adirondack Park that will link communities via multi-use trails by utilizing existing trails, the railroad corridor, highway right-of-ways, and newly created trails.
Background: It is estimated that there are over 4,000 miles of different types of trails in the Adirondack Park; however, by and large, these trails are either concentrated in certain areas or haphazard in nature. System is defined as a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole. With few exceptions the park’s trails are not part of a system.
By community-based trails we mean trails that have a number of features:
A variety of state agencies and not-for-profit organizations manage, advocate for, and maintain the park’s trails. Most would agree that they are underfunded and lack a comprehensive park-wide vision.
The Adirondack Park Recreation Strategy called for a more comprehensive recreation strategy to, “Establish recreational linkages between communities in the Park...Create a system of destination trails that weave between the regions of the Park…” and “Identify and develop recreational opportunities within communities.” In addition it suggested that “...a dedicated fund devoted to maintaining recreation infrastructure” be established.
The reasons for such a system distills down to two fundamental points:
Possible Next Steps:
Hypothermia is a potential danger every month of the year in the Adirondack Park.
Make sure you understand:
If you are diligent with the first two you should never need the third.
It is time to look back at another exciting and wonderful year.
Ski season is off to a good start, we now have enough natural snow to start cross country skiing and the temperatures have been cold, so Whiteface has been pumping out the manmade snow like crazy.
Last winter was good and my son John, neighbor Rich and I went to Sugarloaf Maine in March for five days of skiing. It was a fun big mountain experience, but we hit some rain and it took the mountain some time to recover. On our way home we stopped in NH to ski historic Wildcat Mt., which is just across the valley from Mt. Washington in the White Mountains. We finished off the trip home with a stop to ski Attitash Mt. on St. Patrick’s Day.
In January I joined, colleague and friend, Leo Kelly and the CT Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club for a long weekend winter hike to Carter Notch Hut in the Whites. It was a fun and eventful trip. To read about it see my previous blog entry.
It was the start of a good association with the AMC.
The Mayor of Saranac Lake started a program for hiking the six mountains surrounding the village. It is called the Saranac Lake 6 and around 500 people have completed it since Memorial Day. I am SL 6er number 33. In June, Leo Kelly and I guided six members of the AMC on a week long vacation experience and climbed the 6. Members of the group stayed at beautiful White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths. Leo arranged the lodging and I provided meals. We will be offering another week long vacation trip again in June 2014. Click here to see the details on the AMC Adirondack Adventure Trip.
I had 30 days of guiding, about half as Broadwing Adventures and half with St. Regis Canoe Outfitters. We had three trips scheduled with the Wild Center and enjoyed the mix of people that attended those. We have already identified three trips to do with them in 2014.
Jan and I carved out a couple of weeks together. One week we went to Maine and spent half our time on the coast in Bar Harbor and the other half hiking and paddling in Baxter State Park while staying at Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps. We spent another week in Wanakena and stayed in a cabin on the Oswegatchie River.
To top off a year of fun and success, after 41 years, I got together with my Army buddies. We met in Niagara Falls and spent three great days playing tourist and catching up with each others lives since our time together in Korea.
On a personal note, Jan and I have three beautiful granddaughters that fill our lives with love and joy. Sweet, sweet babies.
Hadley is 16 months old and gets prettier everyday. Brian, Danielle and Hadley moved back to Saranac Lake last winter. It is nice to have them in the area.
Jesse and Renee brought twins into their lives in February. Grace and Autumn have unique and charming personalities. They are fun to play with and we all enjoy spending time together.
We have much to be thankful for and joyous about again this year and are looking forward to a festive Christmas and a wondrous New Year. We wish all of you the very best now and in the coming year.
Have a Safe and Happy New Year