It has been an interesting week in the woods with returning wildlife and, finally, the return of some significant rainfall. Although the rains were not extreme, they served to drench the region and refresh the rivers. The showers also provoked some extraordinary hatches of caddis flies along the AuSable to the delight of anglers who were willing to venture out.
However, the region could certainly use more water. The currently diminished water table is most evident on the ponds, where shallow waters have extended canoe put-in sites well beyond their normal range.
At a number of the worst bog, slog and mud put-ins, I found where some enterprising individuals, obviously concerned about getting their feet wet, had constructed makeshift docks by using a combination of saplings and spruce poles lashed together to form a platform through the muck.
Unfortunately, if water levels return to normal, these temporary docks will be like Huck Finn’s raft, floating around the ponds. With water temperatures now approaching 70 degrees on the surface, maybe the paddlers should have considered wading their boats through the shallows rather than constructing rustic bridges.
Whether it’s a result of the weather, climate change or some other outdoor oddity, the tables have turned on many regularly occurring natural occurrences.
Over the past week, I’ve witnessed blueberries already ripened on the bushes, and I have seen lightning bugs in the air. Along the AuSable, a pair of Canada geese that were guarding a large gaggle of goslings also had an adopted mallard drake in tow.
Evident also have been a set of spotted fawns wobbling along after a doe and a mama bruin, cuffing her three cubs to stay in line. I’ve not often seen a bear with three cubs.
Despite this wealth of wildlife activity, the woods have been relatively empty of the two-legged sorts. In a week full of outdoor travel — on the rivers, through the ponds and over the trails — I encountered only three other travelers.
I was happy to find that all three parties consisted of family groups, parents and their kids. With Father’s Day on the way, I do hope this trend continues.
The Gulf engulfed
Although numerous news sources continue to focus national attention on the massive oil spill currently threatening the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, it is difficult for Adirondackers to comprehend the enormity of the problem.
However, a website recently designed by the American Military University (AMU) can help us put the disaster in perspective. It is hard to imagine what would happen if the oil was in our backyard.
The website (www.ifitwasmyhome.com) utilizes the latest data from the Gulf of Mexico to illustrate the extent of the spill. The graphics are alarming.
If the spill had occurred in Booneville, for instance, the oil would now cover the entire Adirondack Park, stretching from Saratoga to Montreal, west to Kingston, Ontario and east across half of the state of Vermont.
Although we are currently under the threat of global warming and await the consequences of climate change, the disaster occurring in the Gulf will surely affect us much faster.
Bikes and bumps
In recent columns on mountain biking in the park, I regret two errors that I would like to correct.
Josh Wilson is an organizer of the second annual Lake Placid Adaptive Cycling Festival, which will take place on Saturday, June 12 at the Ski Jumps. The festival will be a fun-filled day of cycling, confidence building, skills instruction and gear demos for cyclists of all abilities.
Although Mr. Wilson is an avid mountain biking enthusiast and fully supports their mission, he is not currently a member of the Barkeater Trail Alliance (BETA), a new group advocating for mountain biking in the Park.
Along with many local mountain bike enthusiasts, I have advocated for the reopening of certain wilderness areas for mountain bike use. It has been brought to my attention that, unfortunately, some readers may have misinterpreted comments in last week’s column on the history of mountain biking in the park regarding BETA’s efforts in this regard.
According to Matt McNamara, a founding member of BETA, “To be clear, BETA is not advocating opening wilderness areas to bicycles.”
For the record, the volunteer organization’s mission statement is to “develop, maintain and advocate for a diverse, sustainable and interconnected trail system suitable for mountain bikes in the Adirondack Tri-Lakes area.”
BETA is not involved in any advocacy efforts beyond the scope of establishing a sustainable and interconnected system of trails on Wild Forest lands. I regret any misunderstanding.
Biking in the Catskills
Since 1994, bikes have been banned from wilderness areas in both the Adirondack and Catskill parks. According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the use of bikes on state lands has been limited primarily to wild forest lands, on roads or trails open to the public, state truck trails, old wood roads, foot trails, snowmobile trails and horse trails, unless such use is deemed unsuitable through the Unit Management Planning process.
However, there is now a chink in the state’s anti-biking armor. A recent State Land Master Plan decision has opened four new bike trails in wilderness areas of the Catskill Park.
The trails designated for bicycle use are part of the plan that created a new land classification, called a “Primitive Bicycle Corridor.” The classification permits the continued use of mountain bikes along corridors that pass through existing or proposed wilderness areas and will provide links to communities and opportunities for bicyclists to undertake larger backcountry loops through the Catskill Park.
According to the DEC press release, “the classification encompasses about 156 acres … with the reclassification of four trail corridors (100 feet wide) through existing or proposed new wilderness areas that would allow the public to use a bicycle, but would otherwise be managed according to wilderness guidelines.”
The primitive corridors consist of old roads that have historically been used by bicycles. They will serve to connect communities by providing a link between wild forest lands through lands classified as wilderness.
According to DEC commissioner Alexander “Pete” Grannis, “This finalized Master Plan incorporates the significant public input we received throughout the development process and will assist DEC in managing the Catskill Forest Preserve to balance public needs with the protection of our precious resources.”
The concept of primitive corridors, if applied in the Adirondacks, holds the potential to reopen such corridors as the Old Mountain Road, the section of the Jackrabbit Trail through McKenzie Pass and other similar routes.
A pair of loons appear to nuzzle as they guard eggs on the nest.