The Adirondack Forty-Sixers organization has seen a record number of people joining its ranks in recent years. Started in 1925, the club now has 9,425 members—more than a third of whom joined over the last ten years.
The club is open to hikers who have climbed its list of forty-six High Peaks, most of which top four thousand feet. It has seen a record number of new members each year since 2009. Last year, 606 hikers joined.
Forty-Sixers President Brian Hoody said the club hasn’t done much to market itself. He suspects the rise in membership reflects a general interest in hiking-oriented clubs.
“The club itself hasn’t really changed since its inception. It’s basically the same peaks, the same kinds of rules,” he said. “I don’t know why the sudden interest in the club, but people are finding us in droves.”
The club has always put a value on outdoor education and trail work, and Hoody said it is trying to make sure that new members heed Leave No Trace principles to protect natural resources in the backcountry. The club is updating its website and posting educational links on its Facebook page. It also plans to station volunteers at the Cascade Mountain trailhead—and possibly others—in the near future to educate hikers.
Fran Shumway, an at-large director of the club, said the trailhead volunteers will work in cooperation with summit stewards. They will teach hikers about rules and regulations, make sure they’re prepared, and remind them to carry their trash out of the woods. “People need to leave things the way they found them, or better than they found them,” Shumway said.
A consequence of the increased interest in hiking all of the High Peaks is that herd paths on the so-called trail-less peaks are seeing more foot traffic. The herd paths are not marked, but Forty-Sixer volunteers maintain them. Hoody said parts of some paths, such as those on Seymour and Cliff, need to be rerouted. The club also plans to meet with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to discuss erosion near the summit of Panther Mountain, one of the trail-less peaks.
“What we’re seeing up near the summit is an entire sloughing off of the vegetation from people scrambling off the top,” said DEC Forester Tate Connor. “So that’s something I’m going to look at.”
The list of the forty-six High Peaks dates back to the club’s founding. At that time, it was thought all exceeded four thousand feet. Later surveys found that four of the peaks are below that altitude. In addition, one peak not on the list was found to reach four thousand feet. The club, however, sticks with its traditional list.
This story originally appeared in the Adirondack Explorer, a nonprofit newsmagazine devoted to the protection and enjoyment of the Adirondack Park. Get a full print or digital subscription here.