Friday, August 14, 2020

High Peaks, for weeks

A Go Aviation helicopter flies low over Duck Hole in the High Peaks Wilderness.If there was any thought that the pandemic might ease pressure on High Peaks trails this summer, forget it.

Like a lot of the hikers themselves, our photographers have had trouble getting a parking spot at the trailheads over the last couple of weeks, as they’ve looked to document the surge in hikers. As Adirondack Explorer reporter Mike Lynch noted in a recent story, the strain on the alpine environment and the summit stewards who protect it persists. Clearly, after months of lockdown, people from all over New York and beyond decided it was time to get out of the house. (Explorer reporter Gwendolyn Craig reported that boat traffic on Lake George is also breaking records.)

The state’s advisory group on this matter has started to recommend some solutions, though the bigger changes — such as the potential for hiker permits — are yet to be determined. The September/October issue of the Explorer takes an in-depth look at this debate — and at what it takes to continue finding solitude in parts of this popular wilderness area.

It’s not quite as in-depth as I had hoped when the year began. At that time I envisioned comparisons to crowding and management tools in other popular outdoor zones around the region and country. The coronavirus thwarted our travel plans for that package, though we hope to revive it soon.

We know that the hikers, and this topic, aren’t going away.

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Brandon Loomis is a former Adirondack Explorer editor.

14 Responses

  1. Nora says:

    I live here in the beautiful Adirondacks and I treasure the park and do my part to make sure it is kept safe and clean . Everyone should have the opportunity to visit and enjoy its beauty but sadly many people trying to get away are not prepared when they go in for a hike and what is more disturbing is the amount of damage they are doing to the trails and the amount of garbage they are leaving behind.

    I know we need more Rangers but you don’t need an educational course on how to bring out your garbage or how to leave the area as you found it if not better.

    If a permit is the way to go then it should be only required of those visiting from out of the area. I know the North Country depends on tourism to survive but we , the locals, are already paying top dollar at the grocery stores and to now pay for a permit , to me would not be acceptable.

    • Steve B. says:

      You’re paying top dollar at the grocery store is the price you pay for choosing to live at the end of the supply chain. The benefit is you’re an hour away from wilderness. I cannot imagine paying $5 or $15 for a yearly EHPW ONLY hiking permit would be onerous, especially as it’s also possibly reducing the damage and the crowds. As others have stated, there are fees for hunting, fishing, boating, driving, etc….. this seems to be a permit whose time has come.

  2. Hurricane Hiker says:

    The anti-permit folks always forecast the extreme worst case scenario projecting that it would be year round, weekdays, paid, random lottery or for the entire High Peaks. They don’t realize it is probably the best opportunity to educate hikers before they start hiking, pick a few trail heads and for a few weekends a year, when the so called ‘wilderness area’ is treated liked absolute zoo. The fact that people think keeping cascade at maybe 50 or 100 people a day on peaks weekends is infringing on their access rights or hurt the recreational economy is just a poor accuse to change their own hiking behaviors.

  3. Tom Kligerman says:

    Putting aside the negatives of overcrowding and littering (an issue that will never go away given human behavior) for a minute, the flocking of people to natural areas during a time of world crisis is the strongest ratification there could ever be for the creation and protection of the Adirondack Park/Forest Preserve and all similar places. The words of NY Governor Flower in 1892 that the Adirondack Park was created for all the people “for their health and pleasure” have never rung truer. Note “health”, not just “pleasure”. For helluva lot of us, putting our kayaks on a gorgeous natural lake or our boots on a summit is the difference between sanity and the opposite of same.

  4. Smitty says:

    Instead of a complicated, onerous permit system, why not just meter the popular trailheads and limit the number of spaces to what can be accommodated. Modern meters can accept credit cards and are convenient. If you don’t want to pay for the convenience of parking nearby then take the shuttle bus. Low use periods can be free or reduced cost. Use the money to harden trails, provide porta potties, fund summit stewards and more rangers. As I learned from a past coworker, there are no problems, only opportunities or alternately, make lemonade from lemons.

    • Hurricane Hiker says:

      People will still illegally park. People are more likely to change their plans accordingly if they see reservations or permits are full for a set day and place online before they leave. After people get there… it’s too late, meters or no meters they will illegally park and not change their plans. Permits are just one part of a lot of things the state should be doing, not the sole answer.

      • adk_hiker says:

        For the people who already park illegally, and risk being fined, lacking a hiking permit isn’t likely to change their plans either.

        • Hurricane Hiker says:

          Not necessarily, a lot of hikers get here and find out that parking is limited upon arrival so they park illegally because they dont know what else they could hike.

          If there was proper outreach with a Parking permits, people would see ahead of time that they have to change their plans for that day. People are much more willing to change their agenda before hand rather then a split decision upon arrival after they built the hike up in their heads and promised their family that hike.

          It may take som towing too, like they are doing in the Catskills, but to assume people would see oh parking permits are full, I’m just gonna go, what could go wrong is a pretty bad assumption for the majority of people.

  5. Tim says:

    Whatever happened to that helicopter posted with this article? Are they still in business somewhere in the ADK?

  6. Carrie says:

    Nothing has been mentioned about all the vegitation being stomped due to social distancing. All the encounters I’ve witnessed, hikers are all way off the trial when encountering others. (Worse then walking around mud!) And we don’t even have the Canadians here☹️

  7. David Hurwitch says:

    I lived in Paul Smiths for 20 years and used Adirondack Trails and Canoe routes many times. I know live in Florida. Florida uses Reserve America to book campsites in the Keys. You could use a similar system for issueing permits in the high peaks area. The difference is more Rangers for inforcement would be necessary. As far as trash goes that’s a shame. Carry it in, carry it out. Has been the way of the last 40 years. To bad some people don’t care!!

  8. David Gibson says:

    Thanks to Mr. Hurwitch for his comment. Looking forward to the next Explorer, Brandon. DEC has since 1972 anticipated as a necessary management tool and, in many draft plans stepped right up the line of requiring what is now called a “limited entry” system of permits for camping or hiking in the eastern High Peaks. Invariably, internal DEC resistance, as well as certain stakeholder resistance, has stopped the conversation and the planning and execution of such a system, which would require informed preparation, including fairness to local residents of the High Peaks region. Thoughtful and experienced folks on the current DEC task force are trying to advance this conversation and put a pilot project in place. That’s progress, as is the Explorer’s treatment of the topic.

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