Saturday, September 3, 2011

Adirondack Park is still open for business post-Irene!!!

While en route to Whiteface Mountain and the Whiteface Slides on Friday (separate blog post/trip report), driving through Keene, Upper Jay, and many other areas of the Adirondacks, seeing the devastation created, in many places by relatively small innocuous brooks, really put things into perspective. Businesses, and worse, homes were destroyed. Peoples personal belongings put out to the curb or in there yards to be carted away. Beyond that towns pretty much cut off from the Northway and even other parts of the Adirondacks in what is the busiest month of the year. Labor Day through Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving, this 6 weeks is perhaps the most important of the year for the bottom line of businesses. Labor Day is gone, there is hope that the roads and infrastructure can be ready for Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving weekend to perhaps soften the blow.

There is tremendous misinformation about what is open, what is closed. And even on scene things were difficult to discern. 9N beyond Jay was closed last night, though I'd heard previously roads into Ausable Forks had reopened. 9N between Upper Jay and Keene is also open only to local traffic and because we already had made one mistake, we chose to not drive 9N to see how much of it is closed or if it is in fact passable all the way through.

That said, the Forest Preserve/Adirondack Park is open for business. There are over 6 Million acres of land inside the Blue Line (the line on maps that denotes what most people refer to as Adirondack State Park, though it is not a state park at all, it's really not even a park). Of that 6 million acres -an area the size of either Vermont or New Hampshire- the state owns or has easements to close to 4 million acres. Of that 4 million acres, only about 300,000 is closed. That means that all areas of the park, including Long Lake, Old Forge, Indian Lake, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Speculator, Cranberry Lake, and countless others are open and have outdoor recreation available.

However, the areas that are closed are being enforced, and I'd recommend really not testing the police powers of the NYS-DEC Forest Rangers or ECO's. I know these guys are nicer than your average cop, and they are probably the only law enforcement officers that I am generally happy to encounter, but they have all the authority and quite a bit more than a New York State Trooper. The difference is they don't approach you as a criminal as cops are trained to do, so people often forget they do have tremendous authority. Personally, I don't see why a forest needs to be safety inspected for my use, afterall, many of us are happy to hike or climb up unmarked routes in the first place. But I'm going to respect the authority of the state to do what it needs to do on the Forest Preserve, and also realize that many people simply do not have the backcountry skills to deal with the potential damage.

Nevertheless, there might be a silver lining to all this. Many people get fixated on "High Peaks" and forget that sometimes the little peaks are pretty awesome too. This weekend is a great opportunity to explore other areas. I recommend Catamount, Whiteface, Silver Lake Mountain, Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area, the (officially) trail less Jay Wilderness (if roads allow access, possibly not yet), McKenzie Mountain Wilderness, Sentinel Range Wilderness. These are all in the Lake Placid/High Peaks Region. Also, the Western High Peaks is open for business. This includes 7 High Peaks, and the wonderful, yet often ignored Ampersand Mountain.

Ampersand to me is the Adirondacks! It's perfectly positioned between the High Peaks and Nortern/Western Lake Country. What a view!

I cannot forget Debar Mountain, Lyon Mountain and St Regis Mountain, all a little further north and east or west. Or Goodenow, Vanderwhacker, and Mount Adams to the south.

One last note, Keene Valley business district is open for business. There are quite a few nice shops in Keene Valley, and the town is cut off from it's lifeblood traffic from the Northway. And with the High Peaks Wilderness on lockdown, no one really has a reason to visit Keene Valley. Worse, the DOT has put up a roadblock in Keene inferring that Keene Valley is closed. KEENE VALLEY IS NOT CLOSED FOR BUSINESS! If nothing else, stop by the Mountaineer for some shopping, eat dinner at the Ausable Inn and visit the Noonmark Diner for a piece of pie! It would be a shame to see any of these places close due to this. The Mountaineer is one of the friendliest most helpful shops I have ever dealt with, and the two restaurants are pretty tasty too!

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