Late autumn can be a great time to recreate in the Adirondacks. Leaves have fallen from the trees providing more scenic views, there are a lot fewer people on the trails and waters and there are no insects! However, variable weather and trail conditions and shorter days require that you be prepared to deal with a variety of circumstances.
Days may be sunny, with temperatures above freezing or you may experience rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow and temperatures well below freezing. Sometimes you can experience all of these weather conditions on the same day or even within a short period of time, particularly if you are hiking into higher elevations.
Darkness comes early and the temperatures drop quickly. Trails will likely have ice in the morning but may be muddy in afternoon. Water temperatures are cold and ice begins forming on the shores of ponds and in the backwaters of rivers.
Mountain tops and high elevations will have snow and ice, and snowstorms may blanket all of the Adirondacks at any time. Hypothermia is a real danger at this time.
Many people in the Adirondacks stay inside at this time. Either waiting for the enough snow so they can ski, snowshoe or snowmobile, or waiting for spring. However, if you are properly prepared you can still enjoy the outdoors.
Whether you are hunting, hiking, camping, paddling or boating, be prepared for the wide variety of conditions you may encounter:
* Check the weather forecast and trail conditions during the days before and just before setting off into the woods (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7865.html);
* Wear good quality waterproof hiking shoes or boots, with cold weather hiking socks;
* Wear layers of synthetic, fleece or wool (not cotton) clothing;
* Pack and/or wear water proof outer wear and fleece or wool hat and gloves or mittens;
* Pack additional synthetic, fleece or wool clothing & socks – take off and put on layers of clothing to regulate body heat;
* Carry plenty of water (2 liters/person), high energy foods and any needed medications;
* Carry crampons, snowshoes, and/or skis and use when appropriate;
* Carry a flashlight or headlamp and fresh extra batteries;
* Pack an ensolite pad and bivy sack or space blanket; and
* If you are on the water, wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD) – it is required by law for anyone on a boat less than 21 feet in length between November 1 and May 1
As always on any backcountry trip:
* Know your physical abilities and the terrain you will be hiking and plan your trips accordingly;
* Carry and use a map and compass, even if you have a GPS;
* Let someone know where you will be going and when you expect to return; and
* Contact DEC Forest Rangers at 518/891-0235 to report lost or injured hikers
It is also important to remember to be prepared to turn back if conditions worsen, to prevent hiking in the dark or if someone in your group is weary, cold, sick, injured or otherwise distressed. The mountain or the water will always be there to come back to another day.
Proper preparedness and good judgment will ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip, even during this fickle and unpredictable season.
This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.