I was the Forest Ranger for the Moose River Recreation Area which was a popular Big Game Hunting spot. The season for Deer and Bear opened on the 25th of October each year back then and hundreds of vehicles came into the area for that opening day, plus lots of others had set up tent camps to hunt from back off the main roads.
The day before the season the temperature was up in the 60’s but it went down fast all afternoon and just before dark it started to snow, the first snow of the fall. Lots of vehicles had gone in on this nice day and set up tent camps along the road system. Vehicles were required to have chains that fit the vehicle and they were checked at the Limekiln Gate on the west end and at the Cedar River Gate on the east end.
I don’t think anyone expected to see the two feet of snow over night when they got up the next
morning, but there it was, and the road was impassible. The Conservation Department had no vehicles equipped to plow the road, so they hired Fred Burke from Raquette Lake who had an old Walter’s four wheel-drive V snowplow with chains on the front and the back. Well he made it in a quarter mile to the first steep hill which he tried to plow uphill. He broke his front drive shaft and he was out of business. If he had driven up the hill and plowed down, he would probably have been ok. He got back off the hill and out to the gate, so they went to plan B. They called local garage owner Ted Payne who had an International four wheel one- ton pick-up with just a straight plow. He came up with a load of sand filling the box and several cans of extra gas.
I followed him in with chains on all four wheels of my Ford four-wheel drive pickup in case he got stuck so I could pull him out backwards. It’s 25 miles from gate to gate and we just plowed along in low range and he never got stuck. We passed several campers whose tents had fallen it with all that snow, and they were in their vehicles trying to stay warm. We turned around and came back through, then went back in and plowed the five mile side road to the Rockdam Trail, then we went into the Big T and plowed ten miles, all the way to the Indian River where we passed several more campers with down tents. About the only thing that survived were truck campers and I just hoped the chains they had fit their vehicles. Most campers didn’t even have a shovel so when we went by their sites Ted would plow them a path out to the road.
It was almost dark when we finished down to the Indian River and came back out plowing to the gate again. We pulled out several vehicles who couldn’t make even the plowed hills coming back out to the Limekiln Gate. I didn’t mention that the wet snow had taken down trees into the road which made our progress much slower. So those first flakes of autumn snow in the early 70’s are just a memory now.