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Outdoors: Backcountry hit hard by tropical storm

December 30, 2011
By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Tropical Storm Irene not only closed roads and caused extensive damage in the towns of the eastern Adirondacks, it also significantly altered the backcountry.

The heavy rains created swollen rivers that washed out bridges, dams and trails and carved new slides on the High Peaks.

Just one day after the storm, the state Department of Environmental Conservation closed all trails in the eastern High Peaks, Dix Mountain and Giant Mountain wilderness areas "due to extensive damage to trails and interior infrastructure." The High Peaks and Giant Mountain opened about a week later and the Dix trails opened after two weeks time.

Article Photos

From left, Joe Hackett, Mark Brown and Brett Lawrence stand around Jim Goodwin, seated, on March 26 at the New York Outdoor Guides Association Rendezvous in Lake Placid.
(Photo provided)

Popular destinations such as Duck Hole and Marcy Dam were drastically changed. The high water blew out the Duck Hole dam, which caused the pond behind it to drain. DEC officials later said they don't plan to fix it. At Marcy Dam, the pedestrian bridge over the dam was washed downstream and has yet to be replaced. The pond behind it also mostly drained. The DEC is still evaluating what repairs will be done at the popular hiking and skiing spot in the High Peaks.

One positive is that there were no reported injuries to hikers or anyone else in the backcountry as a result of the storm. A big reason for that is because the DEC evacuated hikers prior to the storm, so most of the affected backcountry was vacant.

The most noticeable changes to the mountains as a result of the storm are the many new slides that have appeared. Cascade Mountain, Wright Peak, Mount Colden and many other mountains now have new scars. No official inventory of the slides was done, but DEC officials have estimated there are more than 25 new ones.


Wolves and mountain lions

Rumors about wolves and mountain lions roaming the Adirondack backcountry have persisted for decades, with some people convinced these animals never left this region. Both animals were extirpated from this region more than 100 years ago, scientists say.

But evidence has been found recently that some stray wolves and cougars have made their way through the Adirondacks.

In August, the DEC issued a report that a cougar came through the Adirondacks in 2010 and was spotted in Lake George that December. The animal was eventually killed this past June in Millford, Conn. DNA tests proved the animal was wild and confirmed it was the same one spotted in Lake George.

One of the tests performed on the cougar was by museum curators Roland Kays and Robert Feranec, who used a new isotope test on the hair and bone fragments to determine if they had been living in the wild or had escaped from captivity. The test was able to determine if the animals were eating food typical of animals in the wild or in captivity.

The two men also performed the same test on eight dead wolves found in the Northeast over the last 27 years to determine if they were wild or captive.

The results revealed that three wolves had a history of eating wild foods and the others had been eating food in captivity. One of these wild wolves was found shot and killed near Great Sacandaga Lake in Saratoga County in 2001. The other two came from Vermont in 1998 and 2006.

Wolves survive to the north in Ontario and Quebec, and have recently been expanding in the Great Lakes. Although this research shows that there have been at least three naturally migrating wolves in the Northeast, the researchers involved with the study pointed out there is no evidence at this point to suggest there is an established breeding population. Rather, it is likely that these few wolves migrated to the Northeast from the Great Lakes area or from Canada, looking for potential mates.


Adirondacks loses two icons

Legendary Adirondack guide Jim Goodwin, who led his first trip up Mount Marcy at age 12 and was an honored guest at a guides' convention in Lake Placid in late March, died on April 7 from complications of pneumonia. He was 101.

Those who knew Goodwin described him as a humble man with a big heart who loved helping others. For much of his life, from fall through the spring, he taught at Kingswood School in West Hartford, Conn. In the summers, he stayed in Keene Valley, eventually moving there full-time in 2002 to live in the cabin he had built in 1940. A few years ago, he moved to the Keene Valley Neighborhood House, a senior citizens residence.

During his summers in Keene Valley, Goodwin cut new trails and maintained existing ones while also guiding many aspiring 46ers up and down the peaks. The trails he cut include Porter Mountain from Keene Valley in 1924, Big Slide from the Brothers in 1951, Hedgehog in 1953, Ridge Trail to Giant in 1955 and the Pyramid-Gothics Trail in 1966. His long association with the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, as both director and trail maintainer, led to the new 1998 trail to Rooster Comb being named in his honor.

Goodwin is also considered a pioneering rock and ice climber, credited with many first ascents in the Adirondacks. He made the first winter ascent of Mount Colden's Trap Dike in 1935 and became the 24th Adirondack 46er in 1940.

Anne LaBastille, author, photographer and renowned Adirondack guide, passed away on Friday, July 1 in Plattsburgh. She was 75.

Born in Montclair, N.J. on Nov. 20, 1935, she achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in conservation of natural resources from Cornell University in 1955, and a Master of Science degree in wildlife management from Colorado State University in 1961. She earned a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology in 1969 at Cornell and was later awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ripon College in Wisconsin.

In the early 1970s, after building a small log cabin on a remote lake near Old Forge, she became a licensed guide and began leading backpacking and canoe trips throughout the Adirondacks. Her efforts as a guide and outdoor writer served to popularize and reinvigorate a nearly defunct occupation.


Men pelt heron with rock

Bird lovers throughout the Tri-Lakes area were outraged when they learned that two men had thrown a large rock at a great blue heron, eventually leading to the bird being euthanized.

A number of people told authorities that they watched on an August day as Ryan F. Slater, 22, of Wilmington, and Michael Martindale Jr., 28, of Jay, threw the rock at the bird on the East Branch of the AuSable River near the Jay Covered Bridge, according to a report from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The bird was brought to the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington, where Wendy Hall and her staff tried to save it. When they determined its injuries were too severe, they put it down.

A witness reported the incident, along with the license plate number of the vehicle the two men were driving. The two men were arrested and faced charges for killing a protected animal.


Jessica Collier contributed to this report.



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