Less than two months after hikers placed a commemorative sign on top of Grace Peak, state officials have decided it must come down.
On June 21, a large group of hikers gathered on the summit to celebrate—with champagne and cake—the renaming of the 4,012-foot mountain from East Dix to Grace Peak in honor of the late Grace Hudowalski, the longtime historian of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers.
The hikers attached a wooden sign to a boulder on the summit identifying the mountain as Grace Peak. Etched into the sign was one of Hudowalski’s favorite quotations: “It is not important whether you make the summit; it is important how you make the climb.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation did not authorize the sign, and a spokesman said a forest ranger will take it down at the earliest opportunity. “State policy does not allow the placement of commemorative signs,” said DEC’s Pete Constantakes. He said the sign will be returned to its owner.
Most of the hikers in the June outing belong to the Forty-Sixers, but the club president, Sally Hoy, said the event was not sponsored by the club. “DEC has every right to remove that sign,” said Hoy, who did not take part in the hike.
In the past DEC has placed small signs on the summits of the trail-less High Peaks, but many were stolen as souvenirs and have been replaced by plastic disks. The signs were meant to keep hikers from trampling vegetation while searching for the summits. Tony Solomon, who succeeded Hudowalski as the club’s historian, said of the wooden plaque on Grace: “The sign isn’t going to last anyway because somebody’s going to take it down and put it in their game room,” he said.
Solomon and his spouse, fellow Forty-Sixer Jane Nye, both said they understand DEC’s decision. “The important thing is that the peak was renamed,” Nye remarked.
Hudowalski was the first woman and ninth person overall to climb all forty-six of the High Peaks (in 1937). As the club’s historian, she corresponded with thousands of aspiring Forty-Sixers over the decades and encouraged them to keep hiking and record their observations. She died in 2004 at age ninety-eight.
Photo of Grace Peak sign by Lisa Godfrey
She must have been a really wonderful person. Givers like that are rare and such a great thing for all of us. It’s such a cool thing to have a 46’er named after her! Thanks Grace!
My wife, Joann, and I met her many years ago and found her and her story quite inspiring. Perhaps an approved bronze plaque permanently affixed would be okay.
Silly stuff. Grace obviously was a worthy person for commemoration, but that is not the way you go about re-naming features on the landscape, whether natural or manmade.People can’t just go around afixing names to something and expect to have them stick or become official.
What you do is contact the US Board of Geographic Names in the US Geological Survey for the nomination forms for the re-naming, provide a full history and justification, and submit the forms. If all goes well and the nomination is approved.,when the next edition of the particular USGS quadrangle sheet is re-published a few years hence, the new name may show up on the sheet.
The renaming is official – the signs are not.
This morning I received the following email from Ron Konowitz, a Forty-Sixer and friend of Grace Hudowalski. He points out that DEC installed wooden signs on the trail-less summits after removing the Forty-Sixer canisters in the 1990s.
“The concept behind the DEC issued wooden signs that were issued as the cannisters were removed was a concern for both public safety and resource protection in that without a summit marker, hikers who had never been to the summit would wander around looking for the true summits creating both safety concerns and degrading the summit vegetation by creating more herd paths and trampling vegetation. Sometimes common sense management decisions in heavily used wilderness areas actually helps protect the natural resource rather than degrade it. Such was case with the DEC decision for the Placement of the wooden summit markers.
“This is not a commemorative sign. It is a summit sign marking the summit of the newly renamed Grace Peak. Obviously in retrospect , someone should have asked for an official DEC wooden sign to be placed where the DEC issued East Dix sign was mounted( right where the Cannister once existed). It’s unfortunate because it is a very nicely done wooden all natural sign. Perhaps the DEC could issue an official wooden sign to replace it.”