Summer is rapidly winding down and the return of cooler, evening temperatures has served to hasten its departure. The summer season, despite getting off to a very wet start, has been graced with outstanding weather for most of the recent month.
Although the summer doesn't end officially until the Autumnal Solstice arrives on Sept. 22, the signs of the looming transition are already quite obvious.
Already, leaves have begun to turn along the river banks and shorelines, while a thick carpet of fog rolls off the waters each morning. Even the brook trout sport a brighter coat, as they begin to take on their spawning colors.
Far above, the honking of geese flying in formation offers further proof of the coming changes. Yet, for many area families, the arrival of the first school bus at the end of the driveway is the final signal announcing the end of the summer season.
Earlier this week, local children were gathered along the roadsides waiting for a bus to collect them and deposit them at school. The school year has already begun.
Although the familiar punginess of autumn is not yet evident, the tang of woodsmoke and the distinct crispness of autumn is readily apparent in the morning air.
The extended Labor Day weekend offers many travelers and locals alike with an opportunity for one last escape and one last gasp to grasp the joy of an Adirondack summer. It is a final salute to the season and travelers should expect to find the local woods and waters quite busy this weekend.
Traditionally, Labor Day has been the date when the woods and waters return to the locals. Camps begin to empty out as "lake people" and their summer guests depart for the season. Yet, it appears the standard time frame gets pushed back incrementally each year, as seasonal residents stay on a bit longer to enjoy the beauty of the Adirondack Park late into the season.
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Looking for a lonely location?
Outdoor travelers will realize that their efforts to locate a secluded campsite on a quiet stretch of water or a lonely place to take a hike over the long holiday weekend will prove to be a challenge. The woods and water seem to be busier every year, especially in most of the nearby wilderness areas such as the Johns Brook Valley, Eastern High Peaks, Lows Lake-Bog River Flow, the Whitney Wilderness and the St. Regis Canoe Area.
These popular hiking trails and canoe routes annually attract large numbers of visitors seeking solitude and a lonely setting. Often, such opportunities are not available on a major holiday weekend in such places.
However, there remain numerous other nearby Wilderness Areas that receive very little attention and/or camping pressure. While the vast majority of visiting outdoor enthusiasts tend to gravitate to wilderness areas, many of the nearby wild forest lands are untouched.
Places such as Taylor Pond, the Osgood River-Meacham Lake, Hayes Brook Horse Trail System, the Rainbow Lake Chain and Franklin Falls offer a comparable wilderness experience without the crowds.
Day hikers looking for a secluded experience should avoid the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness and seek out a few of the lower and less traveled peaks. These would have to include Azure Mountain northwest of Paul Smiths on the Blue Ridge Road, Debar Mountain accessible from Meacham Lake Campground, Silver Lake Mountain near Silver Lake, Hurricane Mountain off Route 9N toward Elizabethtown and Scarface Mountain or Haystack Mountain in Ray Brook. These smaller peaks offer outstanding vistas, without the clutter of a crowd of other visitors.
Although many of the region's Wild Forest lands are relatively easy to access, the character, remoteness and opportunity to find seclusion in these regions would surprise "wilderness area" regulars. To really get off the beaten path, travelers must first look at the number of vehicles parked at the entrance to the path.
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Changing of the guard
For many outdoor enthusiasts, their year operates on a seasonal schedule. It is dictated by weather conditions and recreational opportunities. For sportsman, the fish and game seasons typically dictate the activity of the day.
As a result, I consider autumn to be the "season of indecision" because it usually offers far too many agreeable options.
Hiking still tops the list of fall pursuits, due to the splendor of the foliage, fewer travelers and cooler hiking conditions. Close behind comes the bird seasons, for both those who enjoy watching the annual migration of species or for those who prefer to hunt.
Resident goose season began on Sept. 1 and it is followed by opportunities to harvest duck, woodcock, ruffed grouse and wild turkey.
Concurrently within this timeframe, trout season comes to a conclusion on Oct. 15, but not before the fall spawn offers anglers the opportunity to seek brilliantly colored brown trout, lake trout and brook trout.
At about the same time the trout become active, landlocked salmon will begin to move from the lakes into the rivers to begin their fall spawn run. These powerful, silver bullets offer anglers another exciting outlet.
The duration of the annual big game hunting season permits enthusiasts to combine some of their favorite outdoor pursuits with the hunt. I have accessed areas to hunt by utilizing a canoe, mountain bike or even cross country skis in some years.
In the Adirondacks, the early bear season begins on Sept. 19, which is followed by the opening of archery season for whitetailed deer on Sept. 27. Hunters are reminded that in order to participate in the early big game seasons, they must have a valid 2008-9 season big game license, including an archery stamp and a unused tag.
In the Adirondacks, hunters are able to be afield from mid-September until mid-December pursuing their game.
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The fishing report
Despite the rather dry weather, water conditions remain excellent for this time of the season and most local waters continue to be productive. Cooler evenings have served to lower the water temperatures and trout are becoming increasingly active on the ponds. On the streams, consistent insect hatches have served to keep riverside anglers happy.
On the lakes, both bass- and pike-fishing enthusiasts have experienced continued success especially with live bait, as well as with lures and jigs.
The Ausable River is in real good shape, with water temperatures in the low 60's, good water levels and outstanding water clarity.
The Saranac River offers comparable water conditions and has been producing some nice fall browns in the pocket waters above Franklin Falls Flow.
Brown trout and salmon will soon begin moving into shallow waters along Lake Clear, Lake Colby and the Upper St. Regis. These fish are a favorite for flyfishermen who wade the lake waters to cast nymphs, streamers or wet flies in hope of a hook up.
The ponds on the Boy Scout Reservation at Massawepie will soon be putting out some nice trout again. These ponds are closed all summer for the Boy Scouts and only open up again from September until the end of trout season.
This beautiful preserve offers several big lakes and numerous small ponds that provide outstanding brook trout angling opportunities, with very little pressure. Located off Route 3, between Tupper Lake and Cranberry Lake, the Massawepie Park is utilized by the Boy Scouts for the months of June, July and August and closed to the public, until September.