Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Should ‘secret spots’ stay that way?

newcomb trail

SECRET SPOTS: We all have them. In a commentary in the Almanack, outdoors enthusiast Paul Kalac questions whether the rise in social media is doing a disservice to our treasured places.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Should ‘secret spots’ stay that way? Is the internet to blame? Join the conversation in the comments section or send an email to editor@adirondackalmanack.com.

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Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.


68 Responses

  1. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    Yup. Of course, my “secret spots ” ate hidden in plain sight. However, I don’t expect other people to tell me about theirs, and my lips are sealed.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Absolutely. The last time I went to my secret spot, there were 50 people there, including a guy reading the New York Times and a trio of three-year-olds bouncing around on slippery rocks while their parents appeared totally oblivious. We left and haven’t been back since.

    • Bill Ott says:

      The whole Adirondack Park used to be a secret spot. Now my secret spot is one I have not visited since 1994. I am going back soon just to see it once again.

  3. Ethan says:

    Yes! Some tiny “blessings” are meant for your eyes only. We don’t have to share all of our secrets. No telling whether others would have the same reverence as you do for very special places.

  4. ADKresident says:

    Well, not to state the obvious but if it’s a “secret spot” and you post it online you’d be an idiot to think it remains a secret. Mum’s the word! ?

  5. AdkAck81 says:

    Def! I’d like to be able to walk the dogs where there isn’t garbage.

  6. Nora says:

    When I have discovered a beautiful secret spot I have always wanted to share with folks so people could also enjoy it but now I keep that spot my secret as It saddens me to see how folks are treating our park and trails, you are a guest here and all we ask is enjoy and please leave it either the way you found it or better,

  7. Kathy says:

    It’s not like you can hide the mountain peaks that people want to add to their list or the popular paddling spots that are a must do and out in plain site but the smaller ,(not hidden) places that carry no glamour reps that are threatened to be overrun by over exposure.
    Let’s just find them on our own. It’s not selfish not to share directions when pictures are sharing the beauty of a special.place.

  8. Mac says:

    Ask any trout fisherman where they go to to find good fishing and they will probably not tell you and certainly not on social media platforms. Why then should hikers and canoeists be any different? We all know the popular crowded places why should we publicize those places that still remain relatively crowd free. I’m not an elitist, well maybe I am in some ways, but I have spent years finding places on my own and seriously object and resent those who just want to go to social media and ask how do I get there, or what’s your favorite place it’s like using Cliff Notes instead of reading the book. Go hiking or go paddling take pictures post on social media if you like but stop saying where you went or where you are especially if you are in some back of beyond place that is relatively untraveled.

  9. Rc says:

    I would never give out locations (on social media) to spots I love. Any photos I take that would hint at location are held close.

    Sorry. Find your own 🙂 There are plenty, just get out and look. And take delight in the mundane.

  10. Pat B says:

    I only share secret spots with very close friends who appreciate why they are secret.

  11. David says:

    YES, YES, YES.

  12. Nicole Morin says:

    Secret spots are called secret spots for a reason. When I post pictures of fish on my personal page, I never put the location and if someone specifically asks I tell them I do not reveal that info. Fishing spots, hiking spots, camping spots etc. are not shared by me unless you are physically with me for the adventure.

  13. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Not sure you’d call my favorite spot a “Secret”, but it “used to be” a very quiet and enjoyable place to camp and then “Andy Arthur” among others decided to hype the wonderfulness of free camping and how incredibly enjoyable it was via the internet and in particular Facebook sites set up specifically for those that frequented the area I’m referring to in West Central Adks. Admittedly, I joined one of the sites and after a short period of time bowed out primarily due to the anal griping and complaining of the “regulars” over how it was now overrun by others, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. To be sure I feel sorry for the Rangers who have to deal with this kind of baloney, but there’s no question it is fueled by continual and elevated exposure via Facebook and other sites.

  14. Tim-Brunswick says:

    One more thing…and this comes from a Die-Hard trout fisherman/sportsman who used to run a small sport shop……..if a seasoned trout angler readily tells you where he/she caught that nice stringer of Brookies………automatically assume he/she is lying……………and that’s the truth!!

    • Paul Kalac says:

      So true Tim!

      Your experience, seeing the hype unfold over the years, is mine too. I concur, the extraordinary detail of the internet reports and the mapping, really put a stake in it.

  15. Todd Eastman says:

    A good story doesn’t need a specific location…

  16. JT says:

    The river I live on is not exactly secret but mostly fished by local people.
    The last few years it has been on fishing shows and now they are considering holding fishing tournaments.Always some one trying to make a buck by luring in everyone.
    I noticed a decline in numbers of fish I catch now.

  17. Boreas says:

    I no longer have secret spots. They have all been overrun.

  18. Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. I wonder how much social media is at fault here or is it a case of more people recreating = more people everywhere throughout the Park?

    • Mac says:

      Pretty easy to blame social media but you also have to look at the habits of millennials and younger with there need to be in constant contact with each other. But when you post on a group post you are telling maybe 35000 people that you don’t even know as opposed to telling a few friends.

    • Bill Ott says:

      I like your active part in this site.

    • Boreas says:

      7 billion and counting! When I was actively hiking, I think it was 3 billion – give or take a few. More people everywhere.

      • Dennis Lee says:

        A few? 7.8 billion now in 2020.

        The book “The Population Bomb” was seen as alarmist back in ’68 but it stuck in my mind. Well, we didn’t all starve like Ehrlich suggested, conversely, we got obese and out of shape as we crowded together. We eat unhealthy food and fail to exercise our bodies. Some of us don’t want to be that way, so we climb mountains and follow trails into the woods.

        If you hide your secret, it is bound to be found out eventually anyway. If you reveal the secret, it is bound to become over crowded with visitors. A conundrum.

  19. If I told you…
    It wouldn’t be secret anymore
    And you’d go there.
    So, I won’t.

  20. Michael Procknal says:

    Who owns and pays for the Park lands? The people of NY State. Any information to help spread knowledge on the Parks benefits to everyone is only fair to everyone.

    • Peter Newell says:

      The knowledge that has to be spread is what to do and not do in the woods. How to behave and take care of the “park” when you are there. To be blunt, how to poop in the woods. Don’t take your boom box or fireworks when you are “wilderness camping.” Don’t pick any spot to make a fire, whether or not you make a fire ring. Don’t make huge fires, or any fire if you don’t have to. Don’t cut trees or strip bark. Tread lightly. Carry in, carry out. … Until everyone has that knowledge and follows it, knowledge of any pristine spot has to be shared very sparingly, and if at all then only with those who you are absolutely sure won’t trash it. Everyone who lives in the park or has been coming here for a long time has seen the degradation of ‘secret spots’ caused by ignorant, careless, or just plain stupid tourists who do not really understand anything about being in the woods.

  21. John Marona says:

    I owned a flyfishing shop in Ct for 15 years, and would readily tell customers a half dozen or so places to fish, and they were good spots too. One time a customer came in and said “How come I never see you at church pool”. My answer was, “Oh I never fish there, to crowded”. The Farmington River was, and is, very heavily fished, but there are many places with few or no people, just takes walking through tick infested brush for 5-10 minutes. One of my favorites I called Beaver Pool, because several years ago there was a dead beaver there that stunk like the dickens, other than my 2 close fishing buddies, no one ever knew where that was , though we would mention it often, our inside joke.

  22. Charlie S says:

    After reading these posts I thought of this:
    Did anyone hear about the new group that was formed? It’s called paranoids anonymous…they won’t tell anyone where it is.

    • Bill Ott says:

      Yes, I am the founder of PA, and still the only member as people are too paranoid to join.

  23. Charlie S says:

    It is so easy to find a place in the Adirondacks where nobody knows but me. There are thousand lots of them! I have one that i wish was surrounding me these moments….. wishful thinking me. Maybe soon!

  24. Stephen G Rose says:

    “Secret spots” sounds selfish and undemocratic. I think this moment requires us to be generous and and show leadership. Are we willing to be trail stewards instead of just secret users? Are we willing to organize “Friends of _” type groups? This may require using some of our free time, but it’s to help our fellow citizens become responsible lovers of the wilderness. Too many posts here are just us vs them rants.

    • Tim-Brunswick says:


    • average hiker says:

      Good Points. I was a run of the mill hiker for many years, with no intentions of doing the 46 or any other challenges, until I read about a “secret” in the ADK high peaks twelfth edition. It was the description for Gothics from lower Ausable lakes via Pyramid, it states: “Known as the Alfred E. Weld Trail, this approach to Gothics was laid out and cut by Jim Goodwin, in 1966. It is the shortest route to the summit and what well be the single most spectacular view in the Adirondacks from the summit of Pyramid just below the summit of Gothics…” Well I just had to try it, because I was hiking the same hikes all the time- Giant, St. Regis, Hurricane…they were all great but I had to see what was considered the best by the experts. The hike that day changed me forever. The trail along Ausable river, The camaraderie of total strangers sitting on high peaks and talking like old friends, the incredible views, everything was perfect…I found out that the summit canisters were gone and anyone can be a 46er with no witnesses, on our word. The following summer I was a 46er and then I had to find a harder challenge so I’m trying to do the winter version. On this journey I went from dreading it to loving it, to thinking that winter hiking is better than summer hiking. I also think that hiking is the best sport and activity that we can do, period. Physical, mental, spiritual, aesthetic, you name it. And then came the parking and overuse issue. No more parking along the road, the parking tickets, the overworked rangers, the fact that you might not get a spot even at 5:00 am…what a bummer…and so many people calling for a way to limit usage. The trail erosion, the littering, the summit crowding, on and on and on…story after story, the High Peaks advisory committee made up of almost all APA and DEC, closed door meetings….more talk about limiting parking – and permits. The arguments, mostly in comments section like this…because we can say what we want, what we feel here as long as we don’t overdo it…but I just think it’s all growing pains. They need to realize that this is a “good problem to have” …we just need to make it work and work together to make it.

      • drdirt says:

        well said.,,, yes, its growing pains for the high peaks .., please stop sending ‘others’ over to our side of the park. the Almanac recently told the world about our secret spots near Wells on rt 30. I’m not sure Tenant Creek falls will ever be the same.

    • Sula says:

      “Feiends of” groups are part of the problem.

  25. Elie Bijou says:

    For a long time I had been thinking about starting a Facebook group about hiking in the Adirondacks. My many hiking friends encouraged me to do it. But I had reservations and waffled. Finally in August 2013 I started the group and it grew with about 50 members per week.

    In October that year, during the height of fall foilage season, someone posted a photo from Indianhead. By then, the group had about 150 members and the site lit up. The two weeks following, thirty, then fifty members, respectively showed up in St. Huberts. Subsequent to that, the AMR and Roaring Brook lots filled up as well as parking areas.

    I totally blamed myself for allowing that post. I knew it was inevitable. One day a couple of years ago, while on a hike to Lost Lookout, I started a conversation with hikers to see where they were headed. To my amazement came the answer, “Indianhead, of course.” Nobody was headed to Gothics or the Wolf Jaws.

    In years since, I have noticed that group members – and we have nearly 13,000 – follow trends, such as rediscovering Hopkins, Catamount and even Baxter. Hurricane enjoys enormous popularity as do Cascade and Porter. The current rage is sunrise hikes, with the mist in the valleys and a predawn pink and orange sky. I prefer post sunset and contrails as I’m not an early riser. I have my secret spots.

    • Paul Kalac says:

      Today, does your administration of the group in any way post stickies at the top of the group’s page asking members to refrain from spot burning?

    • Sula says:

      To quote Oscar Wilde, “Each man kills the thing he loves.”

    • Sula says:

      It wasn’t inevitable until you posted it. What were you thinking?

      • Paul says:

        Elie’s 150-member (at the time) Facebook group did not singlehandedly alert the entire Internet to the existence of Indian Head overlook…

  26. Glenn Weston says:

    I live in the Hudson valley near Newburgh. We have probably 20,000 acres of state parkland within 15minutes of where I live.Many more people are out hiking these areas since Covid 19,which is great. But most of them are new to this and they are not early risers or deep hikers so you can still have all the peace & quiet you like by getting there early and going farther from the parking lot. My secret places down here are the old wood roads and the brooks .
    Judging from the pictures of lines of hikers on a few of the high peaks, secret spots should remain secret.I won’t be posting photos of any place I deem special on instagram. We should be relieved that with 6million acres available, only a few trails attract the hordes.

  27. Polly says:

    My secret spot is really just a very large year round spring that has formed a small pond…the overflow forms a brook that babbles all winter long. It is surrounded by coniferous and deciduous trees, a stone fence up above, and a midden full of glass bottles dating from th 1800s at one end of the fence. It sits at the bottom of a small but steep hillside, and only the animals and I know how to get there, so it’ll do you no good to ask me. I intend to have my cremains buried deeply there, 10-12 ft. from the edge of the pond ought to do it, so as not to upset the natural balance of the contents of the water. It’s such a lovely place to relax and be grateful.

    • JohnL says:

      Don’t need to ask you Polly. You’ve said enough. I’m on my way. Thanks.
      P.S. Buried in a Chock Full O’ Nuts can, I presume.

    • Enrico says:

      I understand the romance of the image but I hope you reconsider. Cremation has a significant carbon cost and pollutes the air thar feeds the spring later as rain, and you are clearly aware that ash from cremation is very environmentally harmful on nature. Plus, digging near a spring? And all of this negative impact on natural life for *after* you are dead? This strikes me as more selfish and degrading to the land than overuse while you are alive. Clearly the people with secret locations need stewards as much as “outsiders” from the city. We were not given “dominion” over nature, and need to consider our own impact on the planet, not just spots we think are “ours” . . .

  28. Dennis Lee says:

    This is a good question. In the early seventies I was hired as a park ranger at a property that had been newly acquired by the state: Awosting lake in the Shawangunk mountain range just north of NYC near New Paltz. What an extraordinary place. A crystal clear “dead” lake surrounded by pine barren. It was a 6,700 acres portion of a property owned privately that included Minewaska lake. I explored it all over. Hardly anyone would come there.
    The history was that a couple of Quaker men from the city made a purchase to create a quiet retreat and Mohonk Lake was acquired. That still exists in it’s original form.
    What a place this state park is but fifty years later, the remainder of the land has been acquired, access was improved and now the place gets flooded with hikers and picnickers throughout the year. I would return but you can’t get in. I’ve called. A line of cars form at the gate early in the morning and if you are not in that cue by 8:30, you are not getting in. Crazy. So, forget there being any secret. I’m going to try in the fall when the leaves have dropped, bring a bike and see how far I can get. This is a ten thousand acre park that gets over crowded SMH.

  29. attendrissant hiker says:

    This is my secret spot-can you guess where it is?

    Come with me up into a high mountain. Over a rippling ocean of forests first in long, swelling waves, rising, then sinking down into deep hollows ; here in grand mountains, crested as with caps of foam, like ocean billows frozen, their summits glittering granite, their deep green troughs gleaming with threads of silver and bits of fallen sky. Now the trees of the valley glide away behind us, now come dark spruce and pine and the sturdy balsam climbing the mountain-side, tall and graceful at first but as the mountains rise, growing smaller, gnarled and twisted, and scarce above the surface, sending their branches out close along the ground, their white tops blacked and ghastly, like dead roots of upturned trees ; the hardy lichens ; now naked rock, and we stand on the wind-swept summit. Now see the other great mountains — east, west, north, south — limitless, numberless, a confused mass of peaks and ridges, crowding close up to the base of their chief, and receding in waves of green all down through the scale of color to its blue and purple edge. Pen can convey no idea of its sublimity ; the pencil fails to even suggest the blended strength and delicacy of the scene. The rude laugh is hushed, the boisterous shout dies out on reverential lips, the body shrinks down feeling its own littleness, while the soul expands, and rising above the earth, claims kinship with all around to witness.

  30. Jeanne says:

    No, I won’t tell a soul

  31. Charlie S says:

    Stephen G Rose says: ““Secret spots” sounds selfish and undemocratic. I think this moment requires us to be generous and and show leadership.”

    When I go up to them thar woods Stephen it is all about me, about a place to get away from people. People are boring, loud, insecure, narcissistic…generally speaking. The Adirondacks are the perfect place to go to find what you will not find anywhere else-solitude, peace, undisturbed nature. When I say there are thousand lots of place to go in the Adirondacks to get away from dysfunction….tis true, even if you step off a trail and walk three-hundred feet into the trees. Just park your body and hang out as long as you want it’s all yours. Just remember how to get back to the trail is all.

  32. ADKresident says:

    You win! You’re reply was so well crafted, I think I went there on the inside?!

  33. Peter Newell says:

    Absolutely they should stay secret. As soon as any place becomes more well known or more easily accessible it gets ruined. I see this happen all the time. Trash, toilet paper, fires, trees cut, and general overuse. This is NOT from the locals who have been going there for years. I have almost completely stopped posting pictures or saying anything that would give away a spot or make it more popular or well-known.

  34. Scottie Adams says:

    I mourn the loss of another “local” spot every time I see it “outed” in print.
    It gets harder and harder to find any solitude, especially this summer!!

  35. John M says:

    Get off trail, do a bit of bushwhacking. Trust your map and compass, it may be tough and require good navigational skills, but you won’t see anyone, even this year. When winter comes it will thin the herd as well, though if some come unprepared then, the rangers will be doing recovery, rather than rescue.

  36. Adam says:

    I think if you must post your pictures leave some Leave No Trace tips and information, educate others about your preparedness, and never geotag or go on and on about your trip and the route you took to get there. Leave things anonymous and allow the public to do their own research. Suggest that is how you found and traveled the region you visited. Ask yourself why you’re posting something? Think about the people or ecosystem that could be compromised by leading more people there. If you found it relatively uncrowded then keep it to yourself so it stays that way. It’s hard to find peace and solace in a lot of places these days due to social media and the huge increase in outdoor use. Suggest others give back and volunteer to pick up trash, or become a steward.

  37. Jeanne says:

    Over 30 years of climbing, hiking, paddling , biking, camping the Adirondacks the crowds that gather ruin the solitude. Hiking the high peaks 30 years ago,you’d run into Pete Fish, retired Ranger but; rarely anyone else mid-week. It was gift of
    solitude, calm and oh so very grateful. I’m not into crowds. I will never share where we go they remain ‘secret’ havens for our soul. Thanks to all our great Rangers and to those retired. We all had a great run, we knew you Rangers and there was respect- for everything. The mountains are calling my name.

  38. Randy Fredlund says:

    “See that little ledge over there on the other side of the slippery falls? That’s my secret spot. Selfie? That’s up to you!”

  39. Tina says:

    I have been living in the Adirondacks for over twenty five years. Back when I first came to the area I could hike the high peaks almost any time of year and it would be unusual to see another person unless you were on one of the most popular trails. Small out of the way ponds or swimming holes, deserted and in their natural state are now bustling with people, littered and stripped of anything that burns.
    There used to be a culture of secrecy when it came to a favorite place. Now the internet and social media have made all those sacred place’s assessable to all with no regard to what the area can handle. It has overwhelmed the DEC with the number of inexperienced hikers, looking like they just stepped out of an LL Bean catalogue, that get in trouble and need to be rescued. It has eroded trails, destroyed rare and fragile fauna and introduced invasive species.
    Not every place needs to be reviewed like a favorite book or restaurant!
    Enough is enough.

  40. Mac says:

    I hear you and also keep in mind in 1970 when I first started coming to the Adks the US population was about 200 million today it’s about 330 million then add in the social media boom and bingo we have crowds. Social media isn’t going away and apparently neither is population growth plus throw in global warming and all that we have cherished for our lifetimes will not survive or certainly not as we knew it.

  41. Eliz says:

    I might share a photo of a secret spot and I will say it is my “secret spot” with a very approximate general locale. However, I won’t name it even if asked. The Adirondacks are beautiful and special but are starting to have real problems due to people who don’t respect it. I am definitely not going to name on social media any very special secret spots. If anyone is really into nature and the Adirondacks they could discover their own. “Back in the day” you might share a secret spot with someone who seemed sincerely interested, today with too much social media and people who disrespect “Leave no trace”- well, that has changed. Keep it to yourself!

  42. Chris D. says:

    I definitely do not disclose secret spots anymore. Social media has caused an over population in once cherished areas because people need to feel that they have to put their exact location. Because of social media and individuals trying to be influencers; they go to areas that are special and try to create photos to get the most likes. Rather that be starting a bon fire in a area that says no fires, destroying precious vegetation, or leaving garbage everywhere. If you want to post something on social media then my biggest advice would be put some generic location. Like just say “New York.”

  43. Adrienne Hurst says:

    I love to post pictures of beautiful places I go. If I want to keep it a secret I only give very general descriptions so that only people who explore on their own would ever find them.

  44. Robert M Wemyss says:

    The problems with public property management are ancient. Public rights is access to public land are enshrined in law but in practice there is often defacto denial whether it’s no park no swimming no camping or complex permitting and fee structures. Coastal New York is full of examples there is a right to the foreshore below high tide and one should in theory be able to walk along the shore for the entire marine district without trespassing but if you try it you will get a set of silver bracelets. The old English Common Law recognizes folkland and bookland with folkland being public for common use. When we unpack the tragedy of the commons and examine where public use or overuse diminishes public land we find many examples but the real issue in my view is the government has fail to enforce public rights of access jealously on behalf of the people instead the state grows the private rights of land holders in defacto public enclosures of land. Making access meaningful is the job if the state. We allow ourselves to be disenfranchised all the time. Catskill and Adirondack parks were legislated for great purpose and for the people.

    My view in secret spots is that you share them with those you find worthy recognizing we are all worthy. One of the old legal iterations of serf in was glebi ascriptecci which literally means written to the dirt and tho the seeds are freed they still retain the right not to be removed from the land. Peasant and communal rights to public land need to be understood as collective rights and responsibilities. Tragically most of the States lakes are impoundments that destroy habitat while at the same time they extinguish public right why is a swimming hole crowded because we do have enough swimming too many private lakes turn cess pool.

  45. Searlaid says:

    I share images, but never identify the place. I also write protests to travel sites that extoll the beauty and allure of an “unknown” spot.

    One sure way to ruin everyone else’s pleasure in the contemplative and regenerative moments those “unknown” gems of nature provide.

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