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Summer dangers: bugs and high waters

July 5, 2014
By JOE HACKETT - Outdoors Columnist , Lake Placid News

Following another visit to the local doctor's office to remove a batch of bugs from my ear canal, I have taken to stuffing my ears with cotton while traipsing through the Great North Woods.

Although I may no longer have an opportunity to enjoy the bird songs, nor the gentle rustling of leaves. But, on a happier note, I will no longer have a buzz on, nor have to listen as my fishing partners brag about the size of their catch.


Article Photos

Photo by Joe Hackett
Visitors to Split Rock Falls look apprehensive as they consider jumping off a cliff into a pool of cold, mountain water.

Look before you leap

There has been a great deal of sadness on the waterfront as of late, with a tragic series of accidents occurring along the West Branch of the Ausable River near Wilmington, on West Canada Creek in Herkimer County and in the Mad River in Vermont.

The drownings occurred after heavy rains from passing storms unleashed unseasonably heavy torrents of swift water that severely compounded rescue efforts.

Local rescue teams took extraordinary measures in their attempts to recover the victims. My condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims.

It's often easy to overlook the omniprescent danger of water-based recreation, especially when the sun is shining bright and the temperatures are hovering in the mid-80s.

I spent five summers as a lifeguard in my younger years. The experience taught me to respect the power of flowing waters, heavy waves and the potential for underwater hazards, especially on mountain streams and tumbling rivers.

Although my parents always warned me to "look before you leap," their message was never so valuable as the day I decided to use a diving mask to check out the Upper Pool at Split Rock Falls before I jumped in.

It was blisteringly hot morning as I pulled into the empty parking lot located off state Route 9, and sweat was just pouring off my brow. I couldn't wait to get in the water.

Rather than diving as usual, I decided to get into the cool pool slowly. So, I fitted my mask and slid into the water. It proved to be a wise decision as I discovered a road sign buried in the bottom with it's attached steel pole standing straight up, just a few feet below the water's surface.

If I had jumped as usual, I could have been skewered, and in my younger, more carefree days I probably would have.

I thought about that incident as I watched youngsters hurl themselves off the Bluff Island cliffs on Lower Saranac Lake last weekend. It also came to my mind as I listened to a recent new report of a swimmer being struck by a boat on Lake Champlain.

Water is a wonderful resource and an enjoyable medium, but it requires a great deal of respect.

We all know that with age comes caution, but unfortunately it often takes caution to achieve age.


Essex Chain opens to overnight camping

As of July 1, the fabled Essex Chain of Lakes located near the southern slopes of the High Peaks Wilderness will be available for overnight camping.

While the region has been available to the public for more than a year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has limited access strictly to day use until now.

Although the vast tract of wild lands has remained primarily in private hands since the late 1860s, it is not totally a true wilderness since it remains laced with miles of dirt roads and bares the scars of industrial logging operations. There are also a number of cabins owned by members of the fabled Gooley Club that will remain.

In addition, the expected "Grand Opening" to the camping public is really nothing new, as float planes have long been used to shuttle campers and anglers in and out of First Lake on the chain.

Many years ago, I flew in with Helms Aero Service out of Long Lake for a series of week-long camping and fishing trips. The lake produced some fine rainbow trout and a few brookies.

However, the experience was not as wild as many other truly remote waters as the lights of passing vehicles could often be seen traveling along the dirt roads on the opposite shore from our camp.

Visitors and prospective campers are advised to contact DEC for current regulations which will require reservations for a limited number of camping permits.

Permits for campsites must be reserved 10 days in advance since there are currently only 13 campsites available. Only 11 of the campsites will be available directly on the Essex Chain Lakes.

Camping permits will be issued for a maximum of only three consecutive nights, rather than the current two-week camping permit available for most state lands.

Camping permits are available through DEC staff at the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb. Contact DEC Region 5 in Ray Brook for further information.



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