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  • #16
    Originally posted by Bunchberry View Post

    Sooner is better than later with this trip. The ash borer is creeping closer every day. There are many massive ash trees to marvel at before they come down. The woolly adelgid has already been found on the East side of lake George. I hope they can stop it. Losing the Hemlocks is not going to be a good time for anyone....
    Yeah, EAB is going to be absolute devastation for parts of the Adirondacks.

    I've worked for a number of winters now as a contract utility vegetation planner. Basically, my job is to identify necessary tree work near power lines, make work plans, reach out to property owners to get permission to do the work, etc. A lot of the job is hazard tree identification- and in the last few years, a lot of that has been ash mitigation specifically. The ecological impact of EAB is absolutely stunning. There are areas of NY where 90+% of the standing timber was ash- now all dead. The sudden loss of the overstory in many areas is likely a boon especially for plant invasives that thrive on disturbance, such as honeysuckle, buckthorn, multi-flora rose, and Japanese barberry (barberry in particular has been linked to increases in the tick populations and a correlated increase in risk of Lyme disease).

    And the economic impacts are equally troubling- it's easily the billions of dollars in terms of the hit to the overall economy. Not only is there a loss in timber value, there's other economic factors involved:
    • The loss of shade trees around homes will drive up electricity bills when more air conditioning is needed in the summer.
    • There is a cost for replanting. Many cities and towns almost exclusively planted ash as street trees- these will need to be replaced.
    • If the tree is still healthy, it can be treated- but this is an ongoing cost for the remainder of the life of the tree (treatments need to be reapplied every 2-3 years). And it's not cheap.
    • Where dead trees are a threat to human health and property, they need to be removed- and this also isn't cheap. Removing dead trees requires special machinery (you can't safely put climbers in them).
    To that last point, I had a conversation with a property owner last week about ashes. He'd had a bunch on his property, and he told me that the cost to have them all cut down was over $100,000.

    And warming up on the sidelines after EAB is the hemlock adelgid... which will be equally as devastating. Cold water stream fisheries at lower elevations in the ADKs will likely be taking a pretty nasty hit from that one if/when it gets into the ADKs, as we've already seen down south.

    Yet society remains largely ignorant and carefree about the whole situation.
    Last edited by DSettahr; 02-21-2021, 07:18 AM.

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    • greatexpectations
      greatexpectations commented
      Editing a comment
      thanks, that was an interesting read and much of it feels very familiar. we are losing a lot of the ash on our property, with lots of standing dead (or near to) trees. seems to be good for the pileated woodpeckers but not so good for species diversity. as you mentioned, the overstory openings also contribute to our invasive issues, multiflora rose and winged euonymus being the big culprits.

      hemlocks are a huge feature of my local woods and we are all very anxious about the adelgid.

    • FlyFishingandBeer
      FlyFishingandBeer commented
      Editing a comment
      While bird hunting on Morgan Hill one time, I met a guy who claimed to be an ESF professor (I believe him). We got chatting and he gave me a very thorough lesson on tree parasites, the American Revolution, old growth, and Walmart. He said that part of the issue the upper right US is seeing with these tree bugs is that they're coming in on packing wood used in in large shipping containers from China. It was a very fascinating conversion.

  • #17
    Originally posted by greatexpectations View Post
    this is definitely an interesting thought process for me. maximizing remoteness is a delicate balance of physical distance, popularity, time of day, and season.

    it is worth mentioning that the fairly constant presences at the lake colden outpost, johns brook outpost, and the ausable warden's camp will all limit remoteness from someone else in the eastern high peaks. allen is <4 miles from the warden's camp, with some of the other peaks we think of as remote closer than that.

    that said, i think i'd still bet that a mid-week winter visit to allen was my most remote adirondack outing. for the summer, my thought was the area near moose pond on the way to bushwhack the ermine brook slide, but as i look at the map more closely i think i would need some real luck.
    Lake Colden is staffed year-round (and on most nights, including mid-week). Johns Brook is generally not staffed in the winter.

    But even ignoring any official presence at either outpost... you'd need some decent luck in your favor for there to be no one camped at either location. Lake Colden especially will go months at a time without being unoccupied by at least 1 or 2 groups during the warmer parts of the year. In Winter it is frequently unoccupied by campers for a night or two during the week, but rarely for any extended period. And weekends can see decent levels of overnight use.

    Remember also that mid-week is the domain of summer camps- and during the months of July and August, many backcountry locations across the Adirondack Park are not nearly as quiet mid-week as many weekend visitors might expect. A few summers ago, I happened to be hiking out from the Dix Range back to Elk Lake on a Monday afternoon. I was passed by a number of summer camp groups, all hiking in. All told, there was easily at least ~30 people planning to camp at Slide Brook- on a Monday night! (Fortunately, camp groups tend to be fairly well behaved. But when they move into a campsite or lean-to site... they usually take it over to the exclusion of anyone else being able to use it, simply by the nature of their large group size alone.)

    I've had similar experiences on the AT while camping mid-week at a shelter site. There was maybe ~10 thru-hikers/section hikers using the tenting space at the shelter, and easily 30+ people who were members of summer camp groups also camped at the same spot. Again, generally quite and well behaved so no complaints from me for the most part, but it was at the same time very much not an experience chock full of remoteness and solitude. (And granted, you do not expect solitude on the AT in any way, shape, or form these days.)

    Moose Pond fits in with Shattuck Clearing- you've got the working research forest just up and over the ridge. And while that is far from a metropolis by any means, yeah, it's quite possible that there was a person (or people) within a surprisingly short distance. (As I understand it, some of the use at Moose Pond is from ESF folks who can drive fairly close to the property line, and then bushwhack a relatively short distance up and over the hill.) Also worth pointing out that Camp Santanoni is surprisingly popular- it gets a lot of day use (even on week days), and some moderate levels of overnight use. But in terms of feel- yeah, that area feels remote (especially if you continue north towards the Cold River).
    Last edited by DSettahr; 02-20-2021, 11:18 PM.

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    • FlyFishingandBeer
      FlyFishingandBeer commented
      Editing a comment
      I don't think I've ever seen the care taker's hut or interior outpost at Johns Brook not being staffed, but then again I'm usually only in that part of the woods on weekends, and haven't been down that stretch in the winter in a few years.

  • #18
    Not counting out west where I've driven for miles never seeing a soul, the Northville Placid Trail has probably provided me the most isolation in the Adirondacks. I've re-hiked the Cold River section several times. On one occasion, back in the early 70's, we backpacked from Averyville Road to Long Lake and did not see another person the entire way. I stayed at Pharaoh Lake in late October a few years ago and saw only one other person in a week. Couch also comes to mind, I soloed it in 2011 and didn't see any other hikers that day.

    Someday I hope to get to Alaska where I'm sure total isolation is readily available.

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    • #19
      Originally posted by Dave Bourque View Post
      I stayed at Pharaoh Lake in late October a few years ago and saw only one other person in a week. Couch also comes to mind, I soloed it in 2011 and didn't see any other hikers that day.
      You were lucky on the Pharaoh Lake experience, even taking into account that you were there late in the season. Outside of winter, the lake can go weeks at a time without being unoccupied for even a single night. In over a hundred nights that I've spent camped on Pharaoh in my life time, I've only definitively had it to myself for maybe 5 or 6 of them. The record for the most number of folks I've ever counted camped on the lake in one night is 85- that was after the Backpacker Magazine article was printed, an article that promised scenic beauty in the midst of solitude. That solitude which was no where to be seen during the warmer months for several years after the article ran (not that there was all that much of it at Pharaoh to begin with).

      And the High Peaks have turned into a completely different ball game in the last 5 years or so especially, including even the less popular peaks usually only visited by aspiring 46ers. Even Couch can get pretty crowded these days on summer weekends. I was on the summit one day last summer when there was a literal line of hikers spread out back down the trail, with everyone waiting for their turn to stand in the tiny summit clearing (I'd say that they were giving each other space out of deference to the pandemic but that would be a lie). There had to have literally been 30+ folks on or near the summit at one time.

      My personal experiences comparing use levels at lean-to and campsites now vs. years past: I remember spending a summer weekend camped at Bradley Pond back in either 2005 or 2006- where my companion and I were the only folks camped there. These days, nice summer weekends can see 30+ folks camped at the lean-to, with the lean-to full and 2-3 groups sharing each of the 3 designated tent sites there. Similarly, I remember spending another summer weekend at Slide Brook in the Dix Range around that same time ('05 or '06), where my companion and I had the lean-to to ourselves and there was maybe 1 group tenting nearby. Now, the Slide Brook lean-to will often fill up with 40+ campers on nice summer weekends, and it's not uncommon to see most of the 5 designated sites there shared between multiple groups. Another one: I remember camping for 2 nights at the Ward Brook Lean-to during Columbus Day Weekend of 2005- we saw maybe 2 or 3 other groups all weekend, during a holiday weekend no less. These days, Ward Brook turns into a veritable tent city on non-holiday weekends even, with 30-40 folks spread out between Blueberry and Ward Brook (Camp Four is still quiet most weekends, though- no one wants to trek an extra mile out of the way apparently, even if it means practically guaranteed lean-to space).

      I've wondered what the record is for the most number of folks in the High Peaks Wilderness at any given time is- I bet for day users and overnight backpackers combined, it's easily been well over 1,000 at times (and I'd suggest that there's a solid chance that it's exceeded 2,000). In terms of overnight use alone, I figure it's probably been close to 500 at times, possibly even in excess of that number on a few circumstances.
      Last edited by DSettahr; 02-23-2021, 08:27 AM.

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      • MediumChris
        MediumChris commented
        Editing a comment
        I don't think of solitude and the high peaks together. I never did. I never experienced what you're describing from the mid 2000's. Sure I've been alone on trails in the high peaks here and there but that wasn't my expectation, and it wasn't why I went hiking that day.
        I've still got a handful of high peaks left to make 46 and I'll hike them eventually, but the next time I get a chance to go out it's going to be for peace and solitude. A chance to actually be alone. It seems counterintuitive to discuss specific places to find solitude on an internet forum so I won't, but I think it's probably not too hard to figure out just by looking at maps. The less convenient that a place is to get to, the less hikers it will draw. The less conventionally interesting features (peaks, waterfalls, swimming holes), the less interest it will draw. Certainly the time of year plays a role too. And to me personally, being separated from others by a mile probably feels the same as 5 miles of separation. I'm longing for a few days of actually being in charge of what sounds go in my ears, what smells go in my nose. I'm confident that there are still plenty of places to have that experience, especially if that's really the only goal of the outing.

    • #20
      Originally posted by MediumChris
      I don't think of solitude and the high peaks together. I never did. I never experienced what you're describing from the mid 2000's. Sure I've been alone on trails in the high peaks here and there but that wasn't my expectation, and it wasn't why I went hiking that day.
      I've still got a handful of high peaks left to make 46 and I'll hike them eventually, but the next time I get a chance to go out it's going to be for peace and solitude. A chance to actually be alone. It seems counterintuitive to discuss specific places to find solitude on an internet forum so I won't, but I think it's probably not too hard to figure out just by looking at maps. The less convenient that a place is to get to, the less hikers it will draw. The less conventionally interesting features (peaks, waterfalls, swimming holes), the less interest it will draw. Certainly the time of year plays a role too. And to me personally, being separated from others by a mile probably feels the same as 5 miles of separation. I'm longing for a few days of actually being in charge of what sounds go in my ears, what smells go in my nose. I'm confident that there are still plenty of places to have that experience, especially if that's really the only goal of the outing.
      In my experience, bushwhacking will get you pretty much guaranteed solitude no matter where you go. This is why a few of the "old timers" that post here (and more frequently on ADKForum) stick to bushwhacking treks almost exclusively.

      Apart from that, here are some key factors I've learned that it's good to plan for if solitude is a priority and bushwhacking is not necessarily an option. The more of these ideas you can incorporate into a plan, the more solitude you can usually expect to encounter:
      • The obvious: Avoid the High Peaks (or at least any of the individual High Peaks themselves, you can still find solitude in parts of the High Peaks that do not lie along the easier approaches to any of the 4,000+ foot peaks).
      • Go remote. In my experience, the "idiot limit" tends to be around 5 miles- that is, if you're camped at least 5 miles (trail distance) from the nearest trailhead, you encounter a lot fewer other backpackers- and the backpackers you do encounter tend to be much better behaved (and they travel in smaller groups). (The High Peaks- especially the Eastern High Peaks- is one area that bucks this trend.)
      • Look for destinations that are further from I-87. Much of the hiker traffic in the ADKs accesses the park via this route. Even when groups coming into the park via the Northway elect to avoid the High Peaks, they still often look for alternate backcountry areas close to this highway specifically to minimize drive time.
      • Look for trips that combine different modes of transportation. For example, if you can paddle for a bit, and then hike for a bit further, you'll likely see very few other folks. (Opportunities to do this aren't super common in the ADKs but a number of them do nevertheless exist.)
      • Consider a paddling trip that targets campsites accessible only via several portages. Even only a couple of portages can be enough to drastically diminish overnight use, regardless of portage length. And louder, more rambunctious paddling groups are often carrying so much gear that they are loathe to do even a single short portage.
      I've also found the Strava Global Heat Map to be an excellent tool for evaluating use levels of different areas. It's a bit tricky to use because it's not published overlaid on a traditional map, and at a glance it can be hard to distinguish between roads, trails, paddle routes, etc. But with some effort if you can pull out a paper hiking map to have in hand, you can compare different trails to see which ones are getting less use.

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      • WNY Wanderer
        WNY Wanderer commented
        Editing a comment
        "Look for destinations that are further from I-87" - Yes... This cannot be emphasized enough. Too often I see people on Reddit, Facebook, and elsewhere telling others that crowds are only a problem in the High Peaks and nowhere else in the Adirondacks. Hogwash. That surely wasn't my experience last year when I passed hundreds of people on a short two-mile trail in the Lake George area. Cars were parked so far down the road it was unbelievable. The only reason I even decided to do that hike (yes, bad mistake on my part) was because one of the cars was leaving right as I had entered the parking lot to turn around.

      • Yury
        Yury commented
        Editing a comment
        "Consider a paddling trip that targets campsites accessible only via several portage." is a timeless classic advice for paddling in any Ontario park.
        I believe that this advice is more than 50 years old.

    • #21
      If the ADK Council is to be trusted with providing accurate data, there's ~920 legal parking spots for the HPW. So if every spot was full and each car contained an average of 3 people, that would be 2,760. At that number of people, the HPW would feel pretty quiet. All spots taken and zero overflow probably hasn't happened since the mid-late 2000s or so.

      That being said, I've camped at the WB lean-to as recently as 2017 or 18 without seeing more than 3 or 4 other groups in the area. On my last trip there, the BB lean-to and surrounding tent sites were completely unoccupied. That was around dinner time on a damp Friday night in mid-July. If a little bit of drizzle is all it takes to scare folks off from a normally busy area, then that's your ticket for finding solitude.

      Of course, that was all pre-Corona. I wouldn't be surprised to find whole organized yoga class or a wedding happening in any given clearing now.
      My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.

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      • #22
        My most distanced experience was probably when a friend joined me on a moose hunt in Quebec in 2005. After driving 11 hours from Syracuse, we were flown about 20 minutes in a float plane and dropped off at a private cabin on the edge of a small lake. I can’t wait to do it again.

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        • #23
          DSettahr has several good points. The further you are away from I-87 the less people you see. It is obvious, the harder it is to get somewhere, the less people you see. My recent climbs up Loon Lake, Silver Lake and Stillwater Mountains were quiet. Other recent climbs up Hurricane, Noonmark, Poko or any High Peak were not. I also agree that adding some paddling cuts way down on traffic. When I did ta full circuit of the St. Regis Wilderness Canoe area I saw many people on Long Pond, Turtle Pond and all the ponds south of Floodwood Road. But I spend one night on St. Regis Pond and 3 nights on Fish Pond and didn't see a soul.

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          • #24
            In spite of the known but little used atv trail (which I am told is legal) not far away, I find it hard to believe there are any people within many miles of me when I am at Pepperbox Pond, the Cowboy Beaver Meadow, or anywhere within the Pepperbox Wilderness.
            "Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do you will be certain to find something you have never seen before." - Alexander Graham Bell

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            • #25
              The bigger the snowstorm, the more alone. What starts as a lone showshoe track eventually becomes the winter olympics. You can't go where no one goes.
              I might be kidding...

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              • #26
                I know I said what I said about the high peaks, but I've always wondered about what kind of use the campsite at panther gorge gets? It seems like you would really have to want to be there. It's a long hike in from anywhere, and if you're not coming directly from Elk Lake you're going over mountains with camping gear.

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                • #27
                  I have backpacked into Panther Gorge from Elk Lake twice. I am not the most robust hiker and both times it kicked my butt. It is an amazing place and amazing hike in. I love all the environments that you go through. Hardwood, swamp, conifer, alpine. Highly recommended. Don't miss it.

                  While it is a 9 mile hike in, it does get people staying there. In the 4 nights staying there, I was never alone.
                  Two nights in the leanto I was alone but there were people camping at the tenting areas.
                  Leave No Trace! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXO1uY0MvmQ
                  ThereAndBack http://www.hikesafe.com/

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