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Wet and wild week of weather in the woods

June 1, 2011
By JOE HACKETT, News Outdoors Columnist
Last week was certainly an interesting time to be in the woods or on the waters of the Adirondacks, as fast-moving weather patterns delivered a unique combination of heavy rains and severe electrical storms across the region.

Sadly, the fast-moving thunderstorms produced a number of dangerous lightning strikes, which were responsible for several fires, including a conflagration that destroyed the Spencer Boatworks shop in Saranac Lake and leveled another home on Keese Mills Road in Paul Smiths.

Although the boat shop burned to the ground, destroying numerous antique boats and other equipment, the core of the company’s success has always been the result of the vast knowledge and dedication of its talented staff.

Material structures can be replaced, but the accumulated experience and wood-working skills of the employees is truly irreplaceable. Fortunately for wooden boat fanatics everywhere, the staff remains intact.

It appears the business will remain in operation, and a recent announcement indicates their popular Runabout Rendezvous, an “on the water” boat show hosted on Lake Flower, will be held as scheduled on July 9.

The combination of dangerous weather patterns, high water conditions, feasting black flies and ravenous mosquitoes made it a challenging week to be outdoors. There were several days deserving notice as “not fit for man, nor beast.”

I was out for several of those days on the ponds and local streams, where I discovered unusually high water conditions, plenty of bugs and very few fellow travelers. The forest floor is soggy, and the rivers remain full as water temperatures continue to soar.

To date, area anglers have been producing some fine lake trout specimens, including several lunkers from Lake Placid and a 22-pounder from Moose Pond. However, reports from successful brook trout anglers have been few and far between.

While I have heard of a few nice fish taken, overall it appears the early season angling on the backwoods ponds has been decidedly slow, with far more fishermen and far less fish than expected.

As water levels continue to rise, many ponds are overflowing their banks. The portages keep getting shorter, and the put-ins are not so shallow.

Stocking has continued in the local streams and rivers, and despite the challenging high water conditions, anglers have been enjoying some decent results, as evidenced by the recent AuSable Two Fly Challenge.

Fly fishing tournament

Longrodders seeking additional fly fishing competition should look north to Malone, where the seventh annual Hendrickson Hatch Fly Fishing Tournament will be held this weekend (June 4-5).

The popular catch-and-release, buddy-system event will again be hosted on Salmon River between the Chasm Falls dam and state Route 37 in Westville. Registration will be held at North Country Community College between 8 and 9:45 a.m. Saturday morning. Registration fee is $35, with 12-and-under only $15. The fee includes miscellaneous gifts at registration, an invitation to Saturday evening’s reception at Gallagher’s Restaurant and a ribs and chicken barbecue on Sunday afternoon.

Registered anglers will also be entered into a drawing for miscellaneous door prizes on Sunday afternoon. All tournament proceeds benefit the Malone Revitalization Foundation for enhancement of the Salmon River.

Long trails and tall tales

It is often easy to forget that the Adirondack region encompasses a number of the most popular recreational routes in the country. The Park constitutes a nexus of both foot trails and blue trails, including the 132-mile Northville-Placid Trail, one of the oldest end-to enders in the United States, and a major portion of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

There’s also the beginning of the North Country Trail, a developing foot trail system that will span seven northern states to create the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States. Beginning in Crown Point, the proposed NCT will span over 4,600 miles from New York to Lake Sacagawea in western North Dakota. 

Despite this area’s confluence of trails, the most popular hiking route in the country remains the fabled Appalachian Trail, a National Scenic Trail that spans 2,181 miles from Georgia to Maine. Since the trail’s creation in 1948, about 11,000 people have completed the epic trek.

To celebrate these efforts, the Mother Nature Network has recently posted a short series of biographies of the AT’s 10 most famous end-to-enders. Their stories can be found on the web at

Notable trail personalities include Earl Shaffer, the first AT end-to-ender, who set off in 1948 when there were no trail maps. He carried a compass and road map and was the first person to cover the AT in one continuous hike, reaching Mount Katahdin in 124 days. He hiked the trail again in 1965 and finished a third thru-hike in 1998 at the age of 79.

Possibly the most memorable of all AT hikers was Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, who completed a thru-hike in 1955 at age 67. The grandmother of 23 later explained to Sports Illustrated, “I would never have started this trip if I had known how tough it was, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t quit.”

“Grandma” was also a pioneer of ultra-light hiking, wearing Keds sneakers and carrying just a wool blanket, raincoat and a shower curtain for a bag. She hiked the AT two more times — in 1960 and in 1963 — and was the first person, and oldest woman, to hike the entire trail three times.

By far, the most prestigious hiker to complete the entire route was former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. In a 1959 Life magazine article, Douglas wrote, “Hiking is not the only way to relax. Painting, gardening, tennis, fiddling, these are all means to the same end. But for me hiking is the best of all.”

Article Photos

Photo by Joe Hackett
Despite the lose of their shop to a fire, Spencer Boatworks has announced that their popular Runabout Regatta will return to Lake Flower on July 9.



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