Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Unprepared hikers get hit with winter conditions

forest ranger reportsRecent NYS DEC Forest Ranger actions:

Town of Watson
Lewis County
Wilderness Search:
 On Nov. 24 at 10:17 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Lewis County requesting Forest Ranger assistance in the search for a missing person from Lowville. The county indicated they found the subject’s vehicle at Francis Lake in the Independence River Wild Forest in the town of Watson. Rangers Hanno and McCartney responded and found the missing person at 12:29 a.m. Rangers determined the subject was likely suffering from hypothermia, packaged her into a litter, and carried her out of the woods to a Lewis County Search and Rescue ambulance by approximately 1 a.m.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Search:
 On Nov. 25 at 3:10 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Essex County about two hikers on the Soda Range Trail who had lost their way and did not have headlamps or cold weather gear. The hikers were using a trail app, which was draining their cell phone battery. At 4:27 p.m., Rangers Black and Evans found the hikers and helped them out to the trailhead. Resources were clear at 4:45 p.m.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Search:
 On Nov. 25 at 4:50 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Essex County about three hikers on the summit of Mount Marcy requesting a ride off the mountain. The hikers were wearing regular sneakers and complaining of frozen feet with at least eight inches of snow near the peak. Rangers Black and Evans responded. The hikers could not read a map properly, making it more difficult for Rangers to pinpoint their location. At 9:52 p.m., Rangers reached the hikers and helped them to Marcy Dam and then to their vehicle. Resources were clear at 10:36 p.m.

Town of Bolton
Warren County
Wilderness Search:
 On Nov. 27 at 4:33 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Warren County about two hikers from the Syracuse area who were lost between Cat and Thomas mountains. Ranger Donegan responded to the location shared by the hikers and found the two women on the summit of Thomas Mountain. Ranger Donegan escorted the hikers back to the trailhead at 6:51 p.m.

Winter Safety

DEC encourages people heading outdoors this time of year to be safe and prepared. Dress properly: thermal undergarments that wick moisture; fleece or wool insulating layers; waterproof or water-resistant outer layers; thick socks, a winter hat, and gloves or mittens; and waterproof, insulated boots. Also carry plenty of food and water to eat and drink, and rest often. Being tired, hungry, or dehydrated makes people more susceptible to hypothermia. For more hiking safety information, visit DEC’s website.

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NYAdirondack Backcountry Information, and Catskill Backcountry Information webpages for more information.

If a person needs a Forest Ranger, whether it’s for a search and rescue, to report a wildfire, or to report illegal activity on state lands and easements, they should call 833-NYS-RANGERS. If a person needs urgent assistance, they can call 911. To contact a Forest Ranger for information about a specific location, the DEC website has phone numbers for every Ranger listed by region.

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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.

29 Responses


    “Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Essex County about three hikers on the summit of Mount Marcy requesting a ride off the mountain.”

    We can only hope that this wording is not really what they requested.

    Please notice that DEC Forest Rangers Black and Evans spent Thanksgiving Day in back to back rescues from 3:00 – 10:30 PM.

    • Eric Hancock says:

      Agreed — without the Rangers’ help, these would have been quite serious or fatal. Amazing work.

  2. AdkAck81 says:

    sneakers, most likely no required snowshoes. Ticket them or leave them there… This stuff needs to stop.

  3. Alan West says:

    Why are so many hikers ill prepared.?Sneakers on the top of Marcy? People like that should be charged for ranger assistance.

    • Boreas says:

      Why are unprepared hikers so attracted to Marcy??? There is sufficient signage at the trailheads to dissuade the delusional – but that assumes they can read.

  4. Tom Paine says:

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    • Disgusted says:

      Plus they didn’t know how to read a map properly! It’s people like this that will eventually ruin everything.

  5. Boreas says:

    I don’t go to the grocery store in sneakers after Halloween… Come to think of it, I don’t even own sneakers!

    One would think at least ONE of them had proper footwear. “So it goes…” KV

  6. louis curth says:

    Rangers rescuing unprepared people here in the Adirondacks is nothing new, but perhaps New York State has become the victim of its own success. Years of relentless promotion of outdoor recreation have been very successful. Now, together with a never ending pandemic, more and more inexperienced people than ever before are visiting the Adirondack region in every season.

    Perhaps, before sending out those rescue bills that will hurt tourism, we should consider recalibrating our priorities to bring more equilibrium between our successful outdoor recreation promotion and the needs of a well regarded ranger force that is woefully understaffed and is being burned out by the excessive demands placed upon it. In short, what I am saying is we need to hire more rangers!

    Also, let’s not forget that greater emphasis on ranger law enforcement has come with a lessening of the traditional educational component of the ranger job. We are paying a high price for that loss with today’s visitors to the Adirondacks who are increasingly less and less familiar with the skills they need to be safe in the woods. This has got to change.

    • Boreas says:

      I agree. Back when I used to climb regularly decades ago, I doubt I ever would have made it much past Marcy Dam without encountering a Ranger. Rangers get novices attention more than signage. But by the same token, does it require a highly-trained Ranger to be present at the major trailheads in the shoulder seasons? Couldn’t volunteers similar to Summit Stewards be stationed in a warm, temporary shack to check people out prior to them heading into danger? These stewards would have radio contact with Rangers if regulations are ignored or arguments ensue. If DEC can’t find volunteers, create some jobs! It is cheaper to educate and turn someone around than to bring in resources for search & rescue, or worse, extraction. After all, the shoulder seasons are often considered the most dangerous in the HPW.

      • louis curth says:

        Boreas: We are slipping further and further behind in meeting the critical educational needs of an increasingly diverse user base that no longer has our (yours and mine) rural and open space experience and skills. It will require a multi-faceted approach to get ahead of the curve on this.

        Equally important, the excessive demands being placed on forest rangers must not be allowed to continue indefinitely without doing serious harm to this valuable human resource.

        It may be a lot to ask, but I would hope that Josh Clague, in his new role as Park coordination czar, will make education a top priority, and then reach out to find people who can lead us into a new era of vision and change to resolve these worsening problems.

      • Steve B. says:

        I would see C. Peter Fish pretty much every time I hiked or skied in the Marcy Dam area.

        • Boreas says:

          I think he lived there, and occasionally visited his home and family in Keene. Certainly a guy who loved his work.

        • Ed Burke says:

          Pete’s repetitious perfect-print black pen sign-in was always a welcome sight on the register leaving the Heart Lake trailhead and when your paths crossed he would scan you like an MRI.

          • Boreas says:

            I remember an encounter once around Marcy Dam. I was “talking” with Pete during is MRI and a tiny hard candy wrapper went blowing by – probably from a lean-to. I instinctively made a dash for the wrapper as if it had blown out of my own pocket. Pete just grinned and walked away…

            Someone should assemble a book about “Fish Encounters” in the HPW!

  7. James Marco says:

    A need for land navigation courses in Phys Ed classes in 7-8th grades is clearly needed. Proper education about hypothermia should be taught in all health classes, too. Education seems to be the key.

  8. AK67 says:

    It is my understanding that these sneaker-clad people were spoken to on the trail by a seasoned and well prepared hiker who attempted to warn them of the conditions at higher elevations. The mindset needs to change regarding the role of Rangers as a taxi service. With all of the resources available now there is no excuse not to be prepared for a hike in the wilderness. In a situation such as this those involved should be charged. Rangers Evans and Black were pulled away from their families and homes on a holiday to assist unprepared hikers in back to back rescues.

    • Boreas says:

      Another important consideration – WHEN did the party realize they were in over their heads? Sneakers and feet don’t freeze just at the summit. I suspect they knew they were in over their heads well before they got to the summit. Yet they pushed even higher. Why? To get a cell signal? To allow a helicopter recovery? They either had grossly insufficient knowledge of backcountry safety, or held the “rescue” plan as a viable option well before they got to the summit. Question is, how is this behavior to be addressed by DEC?

    • Tom Hondo says:

      Perhaps they identify as seasoned and well prepared hikers. Who are we to question them?

      Pay your taxes and go about your own business.

  9. Zephyr says:

    Education will do little to deter stupid. It is just commonsense to dress for the conditions. These are the same people I see after every snow storm scraping their car windshield with a credit card while clad in a T-shirt and shorts, probably wearing flip flops too. The problem with fines, as has been pointed out many times, is that it will prompt some to delay calling for help until it is too late. That might very well include people who were well prepared but get into trouble anyway. Stuff happens. All it takes is getting wet, losing the trail in a white out, breaking an arm or leg, or losing your glasses.

    • Boreas says:

      Should we just throw up our hands and continue to risk Ranger’s/volunteer’s lives and spend taxpayer dollars for “stupid”?

      • Zephyr says:

        No, obviously education and enforcement help for those who realize they need to learn about what they are doing. My point is that there has always been stupid and there always will be, and no amount of education or enforcement will prevent people from doing stupid things. There is a certain percentage of the human race that is out for the Darwin Awards and nothing will stop them! Witness the current anti-vax nonsense.

  10. Bill Ott says:

    It is inevitable that some spectacularly famous and similarly unprepared person will die. And then Melissa Hart, who by that time will be an editor at the New York Times, will educate the world. Here, we are just preaching to ourselves.

  11. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “These are the same people I see after every snow storm scraping their car windshield with a credit card while clad in a T-shirt and shorts,”

    Every year about this time, and well into winter, I see handfuls of people, in temperatures well below freezing, in the single digits even, step out of their cars wearing shorts and sneakers, and oftentimes just a tee-shirt to boot; I see them driving by in cars dressed as if it were spring. One good car accident, or their cars going off the road into a ditch and the engine fails, will learn them….maybe. I don’t even use heat in my vehicle in the winter. Why? Because I dress up as if it is winter, even if I’m just going a few miles away. This is polyester weather, or wool, or a mix of both. Many people just don’t seem to get it! Not a day goes by where I am not reminded of how much this society is chock full of mindlessness!

    • Boreas says:


      At least the guy scraping his windshield with a credit card in shirt and shorts doesn’t call AAA to come clean the windshield for him – at least not more than once.

  12. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “The hikers were using a trail app, which was draining their cell phone battery.”

    A reminder of how much we are too reliant on the new technology. Maps have always worked, and a compass. I love maps, road maps, any maps! I have yet to evolve into a battery-operated device to get me from A-Z. I’ve been saying for a number of years now that “we are slipping away from the old ways” which are going to come back to haunt us. Simple me living in a complicated society…..nobody listens!

  13. louis curth says:

    Back in the good old days, my generation of rangers used to double up to do Smokey Bear visits everywhere from kindergartens to the NY State Fair and lots more in between. It was all part of our forest fire prevention program. Maybe we need a strategy like that built around a similar likable mascot to reach out and teach people about how to be safe in our backcountry.

    For example; Charlie – I’ll bet you and I could recruit some of our old curmudgeonly pals, dress them up as something between Davy Crockett and Mary Poppins, and send them out to teach these youngsters the basics of how to be safe outdoors. It sure would beat being a greeter at a big box store, don’t you think?

    • Boreas says:

      While they are at it, Davey and Mary can teach the adults as well…

    • Bill Ott says:

      I think if Mary Poppins told me it would be nice for people to pick up a little trash now and then, I would come back out with three bags fill.

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