I’ll never forget the last few yards of my five-day fiftieth birthday mega-hike in late May of 2011. I had just come through the worst conditions I have ever experienced: six to seven feet of snow above Slant Rock on the way out and a nearly impossible slog up to the Four Corners on the loop back, with torrents of water rushing beneath unconsolidated snow, post-holing up to my armpits, my boots getting sucked and dragged down slope; and in between, three days of rain, drizzle, fog, frost and slush… in short, a brutal trek over a massive Adirondack dome of deteriorating snow pack the likes of which I’d never seen. And on top of the snow? Black files, hovering and swarming. Of course.
How incredible is it then, that in those last few yards I came upon a man experiencing far more grueling and exhausting circumstances than anything I had endured in the five days preceding? But there he was, the poor DEC Forest Ranger assigned to man the Adirondack Loj trail head on Victoria Day weekend. Here stood an overwhelmed would-be gauntlet, futilely attempting to hold the line between the worst late-spring conditions he had ever seen (his description) and a phalanx of sunnily ill-prepared visitors in retro tennis shoes and sandals, tank tops and perfume, designer sunglasses, cell phones and little backpacks with single-serve Greek yogurts, Nutribars and spritzers.
I had seen a stream of them coming in toward Marcy Dam, gingerly attempting to avoid soiling their overpriced footwear by walking right along the far edges of the trail, atop the nice, clean, young green vegetation and delicate moss, blithely absent anything like awareness of their actions or of wilderness responsibility. I have never committed a deliberate act of violence in the Adirondacks but there are times that I have sorely wanted to.
So here it is, Victoria Day Weekend once again, the beginning of busy season and in particular the beginning of busy season for irresponsible hikers. My thoughts wander unhappily to the tawdry collection of back country behaviors I have either seen myself or whose aftermath I have enjoyed. While I am busy juggling five or six unfinished columns, stalled by final exam season and the busiest month of paperwork in my business, I thought it would be fun to conduct a little mud-season survey. Which appalling back country behavior bothers you the most?
Here’s my list. Feel free to add your own:
- Traipsing on arctic vegetation above the tree line
- Making inappropriate noise on trails or at camp sites
- Leaving food or messes out to attract animals small and large
- Eroding trails by walking wherever desired to avoid muck
- Being woefully under-prepared, inviting the need for help or rescue
- Damaging vegetation or trees
- Making fires where prohibited and/or making dangerous fires
- Washing or dumping waste in streams or lakes
- Defecating improperly and/or leaving toilet paper above ground
- Defacing lean-tos or signs
Full disclosure: I have a clear winner. I wonder how it compares to reader opinions. Five points if you guess mine. Bonus points will go to the most creative suggestion for retribution against these perpetrators.
Let ‘er rip!
Photo: spring moss, untrampled