Thursday, December 23, 2021

Hiker on Hurricane gets caught in the dark

forest ranger reportsRecent NYS DEC Forest Ranger actions:

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
 On Dec. 14 at 4:45 p.m., Essex County 911 received a call from a hiker requesting assistance on the Hurricane Trail in Keene. The 40-year-old from Broadalbin became turned around on the trail and was concerned about the impending darkness. The hiker didn’t have a light source or enough charge on his cell phone for a light, was not appropriately dressed in layers for the weather, and did not have micro spikes, a map, or a compass. At 6:39 p.m., Forest Ranger Curcio located the hiker approximately one mile and a half up the trail, and walked him to his vehicle.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

13 Responses

  1. Bob Meyer says:

    No map, no compass, no headlamp, no traction devices, no layered clothing: Another “classic”example of blatant irresponsible behavior.
    With all the talk about overcrowding and permits et cetera, isn’t it time to put in place some kind of appropriate consequences here? … or at least mandatory classes like are done for drivers who break the law?

    • M.P. Heller says:

      The idea of mandatory education for those found to be extremely underprepared is something that I could definitely get behind. Without legislation it would have to be undertaken at the local level. This could be something as simple as a ticket being issued by DEC LEOs under an appropriate section of the ECL and having local judges be on-board to order this type of education as part of sentencing in the event of a guilty finding. The expense of enrollment in the wilderness or winter backcountry education program should be borne by the guilty party and failure to comply would be grounds for a contempt hearing.

      Contrary to popular myth, it would not be detrimental to the tourism economy if the Adirondacks were to gain a reputation for strict enforcement of reasonable backcountry safety standards. It’s a preferable alternative to gaining a reputation as a place that is dangerous where people are dying or being seriously injured on a regular basis.

      • Boreas says:

        Amen MP.

        Spending extremely limited Ranger resources (backed primarily by taxpayer funds) on nonsense like this is not sustainable – and ultimately dangerous – both to the responders AND emergency victims in other sectors of the Park where prompt help may be delayed too long.

  2. Bill Ott says:

    I think there should be a monetary reward for not getting lost in the Adirondack Park. Five hundred dollars would be appropriate. The reward would come in the form of not being fined if one is found to be properly equipped and prepared to be in the woods when for some reason beyond that individual’s control he or she is in need of assistance. Imagine having a broken leg vs. not realizing it might get dark.

  3. Bob Meyer says:

    RIGHT ON! 😊

  4. Boreas says:

    Hurricane + Winter + Gross Unpreparedness = Injury/death. 40 year-old hiker was irresponsible and lucky DEC had the ability to respond. Something needs to change in this equation.

  5. JB says:

    A national article mentioning these very DEC incident reports popped up on Melissa’s radar and made its way into today’s “Latest News Headlines” (I still don’t know how she does it): “The Idiots Defacing Our National Parks”. It’s good to see this stuff getting some national attention, albeit in a scathing and sensational form. It is par for the course for all of us folks.

    There are no easy solutions here, but refusal to acknowledge the problem in the first place is a recipe for disaster; and apologism from our leaders is worse than no leadership at all: the absurd mantra of “overuse is a good thing” followed by “we just need education” or “we just need more trails”. M.P. Heller is on the right track here: “Contrary to popular myth, it would not be detrimental to the tourism economy if the Adirondacks were to gain a reputation for strict enforcement of reasonable backcountry safety standards.” I would further that: it will be detrimental not only to the recreation economy, but to the conservation movement as a whole if this tragic narrative continues of overuse and lost land ethic.

    Those two issues are inextricably entwined: we can’t “fix” overuse via some kind of artificial quasi-land-ethic indoctrination (i.e., “Leave No Trace education”), and we can’t restore land ethic simply by “getting people out into nature” (recreation). In fact, no amount of education nor time spent “in nature” can restore land ethic; that is not the calculus here. As the famous Thoreau wisdom begins, “If a person lost would conclude that after all he is not lost, he is not beside himself, but standing in his own old shoes…” Of course, if Thoreau was alive today, he would be a poster child for overuse–after all, he himself was a nescient Romantic, a summit-hiker who overestimated his own abilities before back-to-nature was back. The lasting wisdom here lies not in his intended meaning, but in our contemporary understanding of the folly of an older time: everywhere you go, there you are. Ethics is not a function of places seen and distances travelled. But Thoreau continues: “…and that for the time being he will live there; but the places that have known him, they are lost,–how much anxiety and danger would vanish.” And, here again, we look back retrospectively from the thralls of the American tragedy: we destroy our own house, and then we must find a new one to destroy, so that the “anxiety would vanish”.

    So, there are no easy remedies for problems that are generations in the making. But maybe the first step could be a leap of faith and bold leadership: sacrifice some public access to the last wild landscapes rather than sacrificing the safety of the landscapes themselves. Then, maybe we can reverse course, and our public lands could become not a reminder of our destructive legacy, but a source of hope for the future. Maybe, even, if we start respecting the last great national wildernesses, we will begin to respect our own backyards. Destruction begets more destruction; respect begets more respect. That is what land ethic looks like.

  6. Jim S. says:

    I’m very proud that NY saves the fools caught unprepared. If word got out that people are punished for rescues, I’m afraid it may cause lost souls to delay calling for help when they need it and make a bad situation worse.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      I think that’s purely speculative and qualifies as a big fat red herring. There are volumes upon volumes of solid research that clearly demonstrate that human self-preservation prevails over ego except for in certain very rare circumstances that almost always are driven by mental illness/defect. It’s long past time to dispel this false narrative and take concrete action.

      To wit: New Hampshire is not experiencing any sort of decline in popularity amongst hikers and its obvious that people are not perishing as a result of the very well known fact that you will be charged all expenses for being rescued when its determined that you are at fault.

      • Bill Ott says:

        I have been doing the Adks since the early 70’s. Until I started reading Melissa’s excellent rag, I always thought I would be charged if I needed rescue. That actually kept me from doing some of the more stupid things I thought of trying. I would not call being charged for rescue a fine – I would call it payment for services.

    • Boreas says:


      Hikers should enter the backcountry/wilderness with the idea of self-sufficiency. That idea has been supplanted by the recent possibility that they can get baled out of a sticky situation with a call from their cell phone. This should be at the the bottom of any backcountry hiker’s preparedness list, not at the top. Not because calling DEC endangers personnel and costs taxpayers, but because the phone call simply may not go through!!

      At some point, a line needs to be drawn between accidents and foolhardiness. I have no problem with “punishing” fools with their survival and fining them for it. I am not yet a proponent of charging victims for the entire cost of their rescue, but fines for gross unpreparedness would go a long way toward people better preparing themselves before heading off into the backcountry.

  7. Tim says:

    If the number of ranger-involved incidents is going up, it must be related to the ease of calling for a rescue via cell phones. That said, quite a few of these “rescues” are unnecessary and the hiker could have made it out without help. I hiked with a friend who broke her wrist badly near the top of McKenzie. She sat down for a while, we made a sling, and she made it down no problem. No climbing was necessary, fortunately.
    Rescues which say the hiker was dehydrated really amaze me in this boreal rain forest. Drink the water and take an antibiotic on returning home if giardia is a concern.

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