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sking ice climbing and antlers on a plane

January 9, 2010
Joe Hackett, Enterprise Outdoors Columnist

In the span of less than a week's time, the region has experienced a full-blown winter. Lingering storms have delivered a significant snowfall, while sub-zero temperatures secured a safe, icy cap over most area waterways. I suppose the addition of a few nights with roaring winds were just an added effect.

Despite frigid conditions, winter recreationalists have been outside playing full bore. From the ice climbers in the Cascades to the alpine skiers on Whiteface, the three-pinners on the Jackrabbit Trail to the hardwater anglers huddled in a shanty on Lake Colby, everyone is relishing in the season.

I spent a cold weekend hosting curling tournaments on Moody Pond and the Upper Saranac, and finished off the weekend ski touring with a few friends along the Fish Pond truck trail. Virgin powder covering old ski tracks greeted the crew, as crystals of pixie dust hung in the woodland air. I had sucked in so much of the flying ice by the time we left the railroad bed, that it felt like my lungs had developed permafrost. I spent the remainder of the day chasing the crew through the hardwoods.

Although our group had planned to ski to Fish Pond, an afternoon start and several equipment adjustments sapped our will, speed and resolve. By the time we reached the outlet of St. Regis Pond and huddled for shelter in the nearby thick conifers, a group consensus concluded that a prompt return to the parking lot was more realistic than traveling the additional 5-mile round-trip required to visit Fish Pond.

We were just about midway into tackling the first hill on our return journey, when we encountered a smiling Jack Burke, of Paul Smiths, on his way down. Father of Olympian Tim Burke, Jack commented how lucky he was to have enjoyed a set of freshly set track all the way in.

"I was worried about the deep snow," he explained as he continued down the hill, "because I had only brought these skinny skis along, but the tracks are great."

I didn't have the time, nor the heart to tell him that we hadn't set tracks any further than the bottom of the hill. But I doubt he cared, as the fresh snow was backed by a firm, fast base layer that offered great support.

Comparable conditions are available throughout the region, and they have been enhanced nearly every evening by a fresh dusting of powder.

In between longer ski treks, I spent a few afternoons wandering about the local woods in my own backyard. It's been an interesting process to discover the numerous runways, beds and feeding areas that the whitetails regularly travel.

I know that many hunters were frustrated due to the lack of any appreciable snow cover for the majority of the hunting season. But with current conditions, it has become alarmingly obvious to recognize the numerous travel corridors of the whitetails.

In fact, as I warmed by the camp's woodstove late in the afternoon, my dog began barking. I looked out the window in time to catch a glimpse of a white flag bounding through the nearby woods. The deer was walking close enough to the cabin that I could've hit it with my boot.

Reports have filtered in of good catches of smelt on Rollins Pond, healthy-sized perch on Oregon Pond and a few fish tales of big fish tails witnessed on Lake Colby.

Although the fresh snow has slushed up the surface on most area lakes and ponds, ice thickness is reported to be at least six inches in most areas. While no ice should ever be considered safe for motor vehicles, snowmobilers have been out in force.

We had received enough snow by Sunday evening that the railroad tracks to Lake Placid were busy with sleds. Despite the ever-apparent threats of climate change, the winter of '10 is off to a great start. If you haven't taken the opportunity to get out and play, do it now! Remember, black flies and mud season are but a few months distant. Enjoy!

Mountainfest 2010

If you've never taken the opportunity to attend the event, there's still time.

Next weekend, the small communities of Keene and Keene Valley will host one of the largest gatherings of world class mountaineers and alpinists in recent history, as the Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service again joins forces with The Mountaineer to host the 14th annual Adirondack International Mountainfest.

This year's event, held over the weekend of January 15-17, will kick off on Friday evening with a slide show presented by blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer.

Saturday evening's speaker will be world-class alpinist Steve House and Sunday's entertainment will be Bill Pelky, offering a program featuring his journeys into the cold, thin air of the Himalayas

Guest athletes Steve House and Jim Shimberg will join local guides Chuck Boyd, Emilie Drinkwater, Jeremy Haas, Carl Heilman, Matt Horner, Chad Kennedy, Colin Loher, Don Mellor and Jim Pitarresi in leading instructional clinics on ice climbing, mountaineering, snowshoeing and avalanche awareness on both Saturday and Sunday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, January 5, there were still several open slots remaining for clinics.

Airline bans antlers

In the category of airline security, United Airlines recently announced a new policy that will prohibit individuals from traveling with antlers as checked baggage.

The ban will affect not only domestic flights but will also impact successful hunters returning to the US from Canada. When was the last time you saw somebody stuff a big rack into an overhead compartment?

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports Safari Club International is currently in negotiations with the airline in an attempt to create an alternative delivery policy with FedEx.

As a local Moira resident discovered earlier this fall when he was attacked, a whitetail's head-dressing can be considered a fearsome weapon.

Northeastern bats

According to state Department of Environmental Conservation biologists and concerned scientists across the Northeast, there are indications that white nose syndrome is spreading fast and potentially wiping out entire hibernation colonies.

Last month, as bats returned to caves to begin their annual hibernation, researchers discovered that the disease labeled 'white nose syndrome' had killed over 90 percent of the bats in the North Country and in other caves across the Northeast.

The report issued by DEC found that some of the region's most important hibernation sites had been completely wiped out.

Researchers have yet to determine the extent of the spread of the disease, although there are reports of breakouts of the disease as far south as West Virginia and west to Indiana.

The affects of this mysterious disease will likely be realized during bug season this spring.cutline



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