Outdoor Tales

Irene did not spare the backcountry

Duck Hole, Marcy dam gone; Adirondack Loj inaccessible

Somewhat lost in the news of Tropical Storm Irene’s impact on manmade objects like buildings and roads throughout New York is the devastation the storm caused to the mountains and backcountry here. While reports are still spilling in, it appears the backcountry damage could be unprecedented. Foot bridges, trails, railings and dams were either seriously damaged by the flash flood waters or are gone altogether. Blowdown trees litter the forest, making the trails that remain unpassable. With one of the most popular hiking weekends looming, the DEC has officially closed all trails in the eastern section of the High Peaks Wilderness Area, Giant Mountain Wilderness and Dix Mountain Wilderness. Trails will remain closed through Labor Day weekend, according to DEC spokesman Dave Winchell, and hikers are urged to stay out of these areas.

Other damage

Perhaps the most devastating news for ardent brook trout fisherman is that the dam at the Duck Hole is gone, as is the water in the pond. It now appears to be only a few feet deep. The bridge crossing the West Branch of the AuSable River on Adirondack Loj Road (the only access to the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondak Loj) is also gone, as is the Johns Brook bridge on the road to The Garden trailhead in Keene Valley, the main access point for ADK’s Johns Brook Lodge (a 3.5-mile hike in the wilderness). DEC Forester Kris Alberga flew over the High Peaks region Monday afternoon and reported that the bridge over Marcy Dam is gone, and the dam is leaking significantly.
The dam at Elk Lake in North Hudson was also partially breached, and the access road across the dam is gone. Alberga also noted numerous washouts on the Marcy Dam Truck Trail and said Marcy Brook between Marcy Dam and Avalanche Camps jumped its banks, carving a new channel and wiping out much of the trail.
Alberga said the Van Hoevenberg Trail above Marcy Dam is eroded 1-3 feet deep in many places. The handrails on the suspension bridge on the Calamity Pond trail are gone and the trail is not passable. The first bridge on the Klondike Trail is also gone, and trails along the shore line at Lake Colden are under water. At the same time, Alberga said he saw so many new slides carved into the sides of mountains that he “lost track after awhile.” He noted new slides at Wright, Colden-north, Trap Dike, Basin, Haystack, Wolfjaws, Dixes and Giant. Cascade Mountain also has a tremendous swath cut down its face.

State Campgrounds

A number of campgrounds are also currently closed due to damage to roads, lack of electricity and numerous trees down. While DEC is working diligently to have these sites open for Labor Day weekend, the damage to some will undoubtedly keep them shuttered for one of the most popular camping weekends of the year. According to Winchell, as of Tuesday, Aug. 30, only 19 of 45 campgrounds in the Adirondacks remained open. The following were closed with repairs and cleanup under way: Ausable Point Campground, Buck Pond Campground, Eagle Point Campground, Hearthstone Point Campground, Lake Durant Campground, Lake George Battlefield Park, Lake George Battleground Campground, Lake George Beach, Lake George Islands Campground, Little Sand Point Campground, Luzerne Campground, Meacham Lake Campground, Moffit Beach Campground, Northampton Beach Campground, Paradox Lake Campground, Point Comfort Campground, Poplar Point Campground, Putnam Pond Campground, Rogers Rock Campground, Scaroon Manor Campground, Sharp Bridge Campground. Winchell said it is also suggested that campers phone either the campground or regional office to confirm that the facility is open. A list of phone numbers for all campgrounds and their associated regional offices can be found at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/permits_ej_operations_pdf/2011facilityinfo.pdf


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