Outside the window, there are big, fat snowflakes floating like goosedown in the cold morning air. In the backyard, a layer of skim ice has already returned to reclaim the brook, where the slow, black waters were earlier highlighted by snowbanks several feet deep.
With such a wide abundance of snowcover, I’ve refused to dismiss the winter season. The skis and snowshoes remain stacked just outside my back door and my cross-country boots are still on the boot dryer.
It appears far too early to exchange ski poles for fishing poles. For over two weeks now, I’ve been skiing regularly in the woods out back, gliding endlessly through the open hardwoods atop a solid snowpack.
It has been some of the best skiing of the season, with long days, mild temperatures and abundant sunshine. I even spent a day on the backside of the mountain, where south facing slopes still retain good cover.
A significant base layer has been regularly dusted with a soft powder that serves to highlight the comings and goings of whitetail deer, coyote, fox, bobcat and plenty of otter tracks and slides.
I recently followed the tracks of a squirrel that ended in the center of an imprint of wings, where an owl or a similarly winged predator had dropped to the forest floor for a quick furry snack.
In the woods, winter continues to hold sway as snow continues to blow in on the wind. Even the mighty Saranac River can’t shake the season, as the channel along Lake Flower repeatedly opens, heals and reseals.
Trout season is scheduled to open on Friday, April 1.
Guides celebrate 30 years
It was also a very busy week in town, with the return of the New York Outdoor Guides Association Rendezvous to Lake Placid. More than 100 members of the organization gathered to celebrate the association’s 30th annual confab, with a nearly equal number of prospective guides attending for training and testing.
Three decades young, the association remains as vital and vibrant as ever. The organization continues to attract a wide range of professional outdoorsmen and women, ranging from rafting rats to trout bums, ice and rock climbers and naturalists, photographers and hunters and many more.
It was nice to see many old familiar faces, and encouraging to find a lot of fresh, new faces.
For many members, the highlight of the conference was an opportunity to enjoy a lunch with Jim Goodwin from Keene Valley, who recently celebrated his 101st birthday. Mr. Goodwin, who guided his first guests at the tender age of 9 years, is the group’s oldest member. He was accompanied by Brett and Mary Lawrence from the Valley.
Lawrence, sporting a wide, white beard and a wry smile, has been guiding guests on the Ausable lakes for more than 40 years. Spry and possessing a mischievous glint in his eye, he is the personification of Old Mountain Phelps.
As the group gathered for lunch, the guides were thrilled to find that Lawrence had helped to spring Mr. Goodwin from the Neighborhood House for the day.
Mark Brown, a former Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife biologist from Warrensburg, delivered the keynote address. Brown, who was instrumental in the effort to rejuvenate the guides licensing program, is a Life Member of the association. Brown provided an interesting and entertaining history of those early years.
2010 big game harvest
The state DEC recently released the results of 2010 big game season harvest surveys for black bear and whitetail deer.
The figures indicate that both the bear and deer harvest were about average. Deer harvest overall was up about 3 percent from the previous season and was above the five-year average.
In the northern zone, the peak deer harvest occurred from Oct. 17 to 24, while the southern zone didn’t peak out until Nov. 20 to 24.
Franklin County was the most prolific producer in the region with 1,777 deer harvested, while Essex was second with 1,107.
The Adirondack region black bear harvest saw a total of 521 bruins taken which was down considerably from last season’s take of 814 bears. However, the tally was slightly higher than the historic average.
Good times for NPT
On the morning of Saturday, March 26, the Board of Directors of the Adirondack Mountain Club approved a petition to form the newest chapter of the organization.
On Saturday afternoon, I met with a very enthusiastic Tom Wimett, the chapter chairman, and his partner Genny Morley, the chapter treasurer in Lake Placid. The couple was attending the Guides Rendezvous to announce the official approval of the new chapter, and to solicit new members.
“We are really excited,” exclaimed Wimett. “It’s now official, there is a separate ADK chapter that is dedicated to people that are interested in the Northville-Placid Trail. We’ll be able to raise funds, sponsor events and host organized work parties that are specifically centered on the Northville-Placid Trail.
“In recent years, we have discovered that the trail is really in need of help. Bridges are out, blowdown needs to be cleared, there’s a real need for better signage and markers and some sections need to be rerouted around beaver dams. And now, we can get to work.”
The Northville-Placid Trail, also known as the NPT or NP, is a 121-mile hiking trail that crosses through the Adirondack Park from the small town of Northville in the south all the way to the Lake Placid in the north. Originally designed at 133 miles in length, the route has since been shortened to avoid travel on highways at each end.
The trail now begins in Upper Benson, north of Northville and ends at the Chubb River bridge on Averyville Road in Lake Placid.
The route crosses both state and private property and runs through river valleys, flood plains and rolling hills, rather than over mountaintops. It offers access to some of the most remote ponds and rivers in the park, including Moose Pond, Duck Hole, Terrill Pond, Cold River, Silver Lake, Cedar River, Whitney Lake and many others.
The trail encompasses some of the most underutilized backcountry ski routes in the Adirondacks and also offers outstanding opportunities for backcountry brook trout anglers and backwoods deer hunters.