Thursday, February 21, 2019

DEC Says 40% of Cascade Holiday Weekend Hikers Unprepared

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 5 Forest Rangers piloted a preventative Search and Rescue initiative during the President’s Day holiday weekend in the High Peaks Wilderness.

Staff from Adirondack Mountain Club and volunteers from Keene-Keene Valley Backcountry Rescue partnered in the effort to directly interact with hikers entering the backcountry.

According to an announcement by DEC: “Statistics from Cascade Mountain show that more than 100 hikers were encountered each day on Saturday and Sunday. Approximately 40 percent were unprepared because of improper clothing or footwear.”

Forest Rangers, ADK staff, and volunteers were stationed at the Cascade Mountain Trailhead, Adirondak Loj Trailhead, the High Peaks Information Center, and on other trails in the area where they queried hikers about their destination, gear, equipment and clothing. They also provided information and displays to demonstrate the proper gear, equipment, and clothing necessary to help ensure a safe and enjoyable outdoor winter experience.

DEC press announcements have said the overall goal of this effort is to decrease the number of unprepared hikers and the number of search and rescue incidents.

Forest Rangers and other participants are expected to meet to evaluate the pilot initiative.

Photo of Forest Rangers speaking with hikers during outreach efforts provided by DEC.

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19 Responses

  1. TRAILOGRE says:

    JUst
    Think of the money savings
    if this had always been done

    Doing this small thing may save the state millions in rescue spending

    This should be the norm

  2. Boreas says:

    Yes, any education is a good thing. I couldn’t ascertain from the article what happened to the 40% that were deemed unprepared. Did they continue on with an educational warning, or were they turned around until they obtained the proper gear?

    • Peter says:

      I’ve heard the theory, mostly out west but sometimes in New York, that authorities should be careful not to become judges of whether someone is “prepared” because they then assume some liability for the misfortunes of those they have deemed prepared.

  3. Suzanne says:

    Good question, Boreas. One would suspect that they may have listened (or not) and continued on. It is still a free country and therefore folks are free to be stupid and ignore useful advice. Hopefully, most of the 40% survived their excellent adventure with little harm other than blisters, bug bites, and cold wet clothes. BTW, I worked for two seasons in Nepal as a trek leader, and the porters shlepped uphill and down dale wearing flip-flops while carrying 150 pound loads in bamboo dokos on their backs. There have been efforts to supply the porters with better gear but it’s an ongoing project.

    • Boreas says:

      Suzanne,

      I wasn’t sure what the author meant by “improper footwear” – shoes/boots vs. snowshoes/skis. I suppose the Rangers could have turned them around if snowshoes/skis were required and they didn’t have them.

    • Paul says:

      “bug bites”?

      Probably not too many bugs to deal with in mid February!

      • Suzanne says:

        Right you are, mea culpa! I was thinking about the year-round influx of hikers on Cascade and the high peaks, and not reading the article carefully. Once the weather gets warm, all those volunteers will be really busy, and I’d willing to bet that there may still be 40% unprepared hikers.

  4. Charlie S says:

    “Approximately 40 percent were unprepared because of improper clothing or footwear.”

    Just a few hours ago I saw a dude wearing shorts and a tee shirt walk into a store. Mind you it was in the mid 30’s which is warm compared to what it has been of late but mid 30’s is not shorts & tee weather. I’ve seen shorts and tee’s in 20 degree weather and even as low as 10 degrees I saw a dude step out of a car one early morning like he was dressed for summer. This is now as uncommon as one may think. Very common are people driving by in cars wearing tee shirts…..when temperatures are below and/or way below freezing. Mindless was mindless is!

    • suzanne says:

      I’ve noticed this as being a kid thing amongst middle-schoolers, who are, of course, invincible, and manage to escape from their parents to make some sort of statement. When grown adults (if there are such people, one must wonder) do this, it’s a different story. Possibly many are so accustomed to comfy heated cars — oh, those butt-warmers! — people just don’t realise that out in the woods it’s not like that and actual clothing is required. Pete Fish would give them all a good talking to!

  5. Charlie S says:

    “It is still a free country and therefore folks are free to be stupid…”

    Yes maam!

  6. Charlie S says:

    ” I worked for two seasons in Nepal as a trek leader, and the porters shlepped uphill and down dale wearing flip-flops..”

    I have frequently found in reports over the years that way back in the early pioneer days of New York and elsewhere the children and adults walked over the earth without shoes. The Indians were known to do same. Recently in some literary acquisitions of mine I found these:

    “The boys and girls, and some of the older folks, commonly went barefoot in the summer, and often in the winter likewise.”

    “I was born October 27th, 1816, in a very cheap log house on Onondaga Hill, in Onondaga Co., N.Y.,….Up to eleven years of age I was engaged principally in endeavoring to get something to eat, not always however with much success, and in going to school barefoot both summer and winter.” Linus Jones Peck
    From ‘Pioneer History of Orleans County New York 1871’

    Also in De Witt Clinton’s 1810 journal, I believe (without having the book in front of me) there is mention of people walking around barefoot in winter back in them long ago early New York days…….and they survived. I suppose there was no such thing as frostbite back in them days.

    • Suzanne says:

      Let’s face it, we’re not as tough as folks used to be. Them was the good old daze when we all walked up hill (both ways) to school in bare feet during a snowstorm, carrying a scuttle of coal to heat up the school house. My late Mother recalled her father driving to her one-room schoolhouse in a sleigh, but she did have shoes and a fur rug. 🙂

  7. James Marco says:

    Well, yes, I agree with Charlie S more or less. Several times in early spring, I have been out and a late storm has suddenly covered the trail with 6-8inches of snow. While my normal hiking shoes are good, they get wet inside (usually from sweat.) So, I bring a set of camp shoes (usually flip-flops) for walking around camp, doing camp chores, etc, while my shoes dry out. I have often been out in 6″ of snow with flip-flops for up to an hour. Usually without noticing my feet were all that cold. When I got back, I simply dried them off and slipped on a pair of warm socks by the fire. Your body can usually tolerate your feet getting quite cold, down to something above 32F. As long as nothing freezes, you should be good. But you need experience, and, you need to pay attention.

    • Boreas says:

      James,

      I would think flip-flops would be more of a slip/trip hazard (due to the flexible sole catching on things like roots) than a cold hazard. I have hiked out west with the Teva style sandals (yes – with socks) in hot/dry weather and found them OK as long as the trail wasn’t too rocky or irregular. I suppose it boils down to what you are used to – but always have something warm and dry to change into.

      • James Marco says:

        Boreas, yes. Not counting how many times I simply walked out of them. I went back to a light pair of barefoot sneakers(around 9oz/pair) to stay on my feet and have a bit better traction. I used Teva’s for a little while but had problems.

  8. Frank W. says:

    What is being prepared for an outdoor activity? I think the idea is subjective and there is no answer to the question.

    There is the standard list of items you should carry when engaging in hiking, biking, snowshoeing, or skiing. But is it necessary?

    I, for one rarely enter the back country prepared and consider myself well seasoned. Occasionally I feel the need to be prepared. But more times than not, I leave water, extra clothes, food, and first aid all at home. Only to venture out for miles and miles with nothing in tow. It’s very liberating. Trail running with only a pair of sneakers and passing by those loaded down with packs full of gear.

    I don’t dig on others who have cotton socks on or who hike in a baseball hat when when a winter hat may be necessary. I will always stop to help someone, provide information, and guidance.

    • Boreas says:

      Seat belt fan?

    • Sula says:

      Frank, whatever makes you happy. If you feel liberated without bringing any stuff along that is your decision. However, you don’t need to be “loaded down” with a pack full of gear–a water bottle, Swiss Army knife, a little package of beef jerky or a granola bar, a few band-aids, an ace bandage and a small flashlight aren’t going to cramp your style and may save your life some day when your shield of invincibility suddenly takes a hike elsewhere. Good that you stop to offer advice, but what sort of guidance are you providing?

  9. Charlie S says:

    Frank W. Says: “I, for one rarely enter the back country prepared and consider myself well seasoned. Occasionally I feel the need to be prepared. But more times than not, I leave water, extra clothes, food, and first aid all at home. Only to venture out for miles and miles with nothing in tow. It’s very liberating. Trail running with only a pair of sneakers and passing by those loaded down with packs full of gear.”

    What if of a sudden you become incapacitated Frank? Like maybe you’ll be stuck in the woods for a night or three, or….!

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