Long before the arrival of Thanksgiving in late November, sportsmen and women of the North Country will offer thanks, as autumn ushers in the high holy days of outdoor recreation.
Recent weather is increasingly turning Fall-like. The first frost has already browned the ferns as spotty patches of autumn colors appear along lakes shores and river banks. The hills arent painted red yet, but it wont be long now.
Within a week, children will gather along the roadsides awaiting a bus that promises to collect and deposit them at school. This single event will signal the official end of the summer season in most households. School children carrying great packs, loaded with books, always serves as a reminder to order a few extra cords of wood.
Although summer doesnt technically end until Sept. 23, the cooler weather, brilliant fall colors and diminishing tourist traffic provides evidence that the season is fading. The changing of the season is readily apparent to most Adirondackers. Daily, the morning fog grows thicker over area lakes as silky ribbons of white snake through the valleys to highlight the course of rivers and streams.
The intermittent din of geese honking is commonly overhead as Flying Vs wing their way south. Blasts of cold, morning air serve as a harbinger of the cooler weather soon to follow.
Highways are noticeably less congested and the sidewalks are tread once again, by mostly familiar faces. Adirondack woods and waters are again primarily the domain of locals. The will remain that way until the crowds reappear on Columbus Day weekend.
As the waters cool, fish will start feeding again. Birds will be of major interest, as the hunting seasons will open for geese. Soon after, seasons for pheasant, ruffed grouse and woodcock will follow in kind.
Bow hunters now begin their daily ritual of practicing and bird dogs will itch for the chance to go afield. Tree stands will be placed in likely locations and game cameras will sprout from trees like oddly misshaped shelf brackens. All indications are that Fall is approaching sooner than later and for the outdoorsman this can lead to a season of true indecision. Early bow season opens on Sept. 27, for those possessing last years unfilled tag. Regular bow season for whitetails opens on Oct. 1.
Early bear season begins on Sept. 15, the same date that permit camps can be installed. This date signals the longest camping season of the year; when hunting camps can be constructed on state land. The permit camps must be removed within a week after the season ends, usually by December 14 after nearly four months in the woods.
Chore days will also begin at many of the established hunting camps throughout the region, as cabins are opened and aired out. Mice will be chased out; cabinets cleaned and kitchens will be restored to working order. Wood will be bucked up; kindling split as woodpiles grow in anticipation of the approaching season.
Fall offers endless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, to the point that it is sometimes difficult to choose an option. With fewer people in the woods, relatively no biting insects combined with cool, clear days and crisp nights; autumn offers the best of all Adirondack seasons.
It is a time for day hikes and late season camping. It is ideal for canoe touring on flat, black water lakes. Salmon will make their run up river to spawn and the lower reaches of the Saranac, Ausable and Boquet Rivers will fill with silvery leapers. Waterfowl and whitetails will vie for the hunters attention.
Should we paddle and portage into a remote pond to angle for brook trout in the cooler waters, or take that long awaited, mountain bike ride over a foliage canopied, dirt road that offers a natural kaleidoscope of color.?
Wood smoke will again scent the air, as hunters in wool plaid garb gradually replace the Gore-Tex covered hikers in the woods. Wool hats replace baseball caps and leaves will need to be raked. Fresh flights of woodcock will arrive as a new shotgun awaits in the box. The Fall offers too many choices and too little time, so make plans now to enjoy it.
As autumn approaches, decisions must be made. What do I pull out of the cabinet this morning, a shotgun or bow? Paddle or pole? Hiking boots or bike rack?
Expect the woods and waters to be busy this coming weekend as families and individuals attempt their one last trip of the season. These folks are veterans of the One last cast before the summers over campaign.
Attempting to find a secluded campsite on Labor Day weekend will remain a challenge; as the woods seem to get busier every year. This is especially true in many of the parks most popular wilderness areas including the Eastern High Peaks, Lows Lake-Bog River Flow, Siamese Ponds, the Whitney Wilderness and the St. Regis Canoe Area.
However, many other nearby wild lands receive very little attention and/or camping pressure from the majority of visiting outdoor travelers including the Cold River-Northville/Placid Trail, the Five Ponds Wilderness near Cranberry Lake, Taylor Pond, Osgood River-Meacham Lake, Hayes Brook Horse Trail System and the Hoffman Notch Wilderness.
Although most of these locations are quite easily accessible; traveling in these regions will surprise wilderness area regulars with a distinct lack of traffic, the character of remoteness and opportunities to get away from it all. Get out and enjoy!