Stories of being lost in the great north woods were so prolific in the early centuries of America that there could be jokes about them like this one from 1873:
Conversation between an inquiring stranger and steamboat pilot Andrew Hulett: “This is Black Mountain?” “Yes, Sir! The highest mountain above Lake George.” “Any story or legend connected with that mountain?” “Lots of them. Two lovers went up that mountain once and never came back again.” “Indeed-why, what became of them?” “Went down the other side.”
An 1895 newspaper account warned of the “unburied bones of hundreds of men and women who have lost their way in the pathless miles of timbered country, and have ran on terror-stricken until death overtook them in their madness.” The reporter’s caution: “sit down and wait until they find you.”
Today, geographic positioning systems (GPS), emergency beacons, and helicopter rescue teams mean that being dangerously lost in the Adirondack wilderness is usually only a temporary situation. The lack of significant large predators capable of harming us and our generally warmer weather (thanks to persistent global warming) all make traveling in the Adirondack region less dangerous.
Still, at every river crossing, every icy trail, and every dangerous ledge or mountaintop, every swimming hole and picturesque lake, danger continues to lurk. The unprepared and ill equipped, the inexperienced, and sometimes the just plain unlucky, can all still find themselves in dangerous, life-threatening and sometime life-taking situations. Each year dozens of people are lost, stranded, injured, and killed in the wilderness, on mountaintops, and lakes and rivers of the Adirondack region.
Recently, there was one more.
Barbara Brotman, who describes herself as the Chicago Tribune‘s Outdoor Adviser columnist, found out that it takes more than a cushy newspaper job title to make someone safe in the wilderness – it takes careful planning and preparedness.
Brotman, her Tribune photographer husband Chuck Berman, and their daughter, decided to take on Crane Mountain in Johnsburg, Warren County. Without a map and without enough water.
They did remember to bring their poorly charged cell phone however.
Before they left, Brotman called Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth, apparently thinking he had little more to do then give hiking advice:
His advice was a warning. Crane was an outlying mountain. The trail was hard to find and hard to hike.
“Crane Mountain is a very steep climb,” he said. “Many Adirondack High Peaks are not as challenging as Crane.”
And Adirondack trails in general are difficult and steep, he said. Unlike in the Rockies, where switchbacks allow gradual gains in altitude, Adirondack trails were cut by 19th Century guides who took the shortest route to the top.
First, Berman dropped out. While he no doubt got some great snap shots and video footage, he had failed to drink enough water as he climbed the fairly steep 1.4 miles. As he approached heat exhaustion and dehydration two young hikers descending on the same trail met the Chicago party. Did the Outdoor Adviser assist her ill husband back down the mountain? No. She left it to the other hikers to take him down.
Brotman and her daughter continued up, saw the sights, and while eating lunch realized they had little water left. That didn’t stop them from continuing on for an afternoon swim on the shoulder of the mountain – no trail markers, no map, no problem.
Swim complete, it was finally time for Brotman to begin to worry:
Again, my failure to bring a trail map was proving costly. There was no sign telling how to return to the parking lot. The trail continued along the pond’s edge, but it was in what felt like the wrong direction. We had passed what seemed to be another trail heading back into the woods marked by two red blazes on trees, but where did it lead?
I had no idea which way to go.
There was no one to ask.
It was 4:30 p.m. The sun was getting lower.
We had no water.
And now we crossed the line from challenged to scared.
But we did, at this one spot, have cell phone service. I used it to call the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation emergency line.
No sign telling how to return to the parking lot? Outdoor Advisor expected signs to lead her through the wilderness?
This time they were lucky. They had climbed a minor Adirondack mountain unprepared and had gotten lost. Sure they hadn’t listened to Woodworth’s advice, had divided their party and burdened other hikers, and had relied on a cell phone to call for help from the DEC. Luckily, they managed to make it back to the car before dark.
From ORDA’s recent press release:
The season will commence with World Cup luge. After a one-year absence, the world’s top sliders return to the two-time Winter Olympic village Nov. 15-18 at the Olympic Sports Complex. A brand new men’s luge start, to be constructed this summer at the track on Mt. Van Hoevenberg, will be employed for the first time in a major event. Under the banner of the International Luge Federation, races in men’s and women’s singles, doubles and the team event are on the Lake Placid slate.
One week later, Olympic gold medalist and skating legend Scott Hamilton will bring Smucker’s Stars on Ice back to the Olympic Center for the national debut of his 2007-08 tour. It will take place Saturday, Nov. 24, in the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena.
The International Federation for Bobsleigh and Tobogganing has a World Cup bobsled and skeleton event on the Lake Placid course from Dec. 10-16. Men and women will compete in a total of five events down the mile-long, 20 turn chute of ice.
Athletes in these sports will continue to enjoy ORDA’s continuing efforts to protect the course from inclement weather as roofing will be added to more curves during the off-season.
In January, the scene changes to Whiteface and the Olympic Jumping Complex for three freestyle skiing events scheduled for Jan. 18-20. The International Ski Federation as well as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will conduct World Cup moguls on the Wilderness trail at Whiteface Jan. 18 and 20, while aerial skiing will occur on Jan. 19 at the jumping site in Lake Placid.
Whiteface skiers and riders will be counting down the days to the mountain’s 50th birthday celebration, officially on Jan. 28. But in reality, the party will last for weeks. It begins Jan. 25 and continues with theme weekends until March 8-9.
The Junior Luge World Championships will be contested back at Mt. Van Hoevenberg from Feb. 4-10 as the future stars of this exciting sport negotiate Lake Placid’s difficult track.
February also brings the annual Empire State Winter Games, where New Yorkers compete on the same 1980 Winter Olympic sites. Over 1,000 athletes will converge on the community Feb. 22-24.
March, in many years the best month of winter, maintains the pace with World Cup snowboarding at Whiteface March 1 and 3. The schedule brings snowboardcross to the Boreen trail on Saturday, while parallel giant slalom returns on Monday along Draper’s Drop.
The North American Series Alpine Skiing Finals will be held at Whiteface March 12-16, featuring up-and-coming skiers from the U.S., Canada and abroad.
The final major event is on tap March 22-23 when the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena hosts the NCAA Men’s Div. III Ice Hockey Championships.
In addition to these headline events, during the 2007-08 season, ORDA will present:
• Continental Cup women’s ski jumping Aug. 29-30
• International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix Skating Aug. 30-Sept. 2
• Flaming Leaves Festival Ski Jumping Oct. 6-7
• Masters 90 Meter Ski Jump Dec. 29
• NY Ski Educational Foundation 120 Meter Ski Jump Dec. 30
• U.S. National Bobsled Championships Dec. 30-Jan. 6
• ISI Figure Skating Competition Jan. 17-19
• Continental Cup Skeleton Races Jan. 22-28
• Lake Placid Loppet Citizens Cross Country Ski Race Feb. 9
• Harlem Globetrotters Feb. 19
• New York State High School Alpine Skiing Championships Feb. 26-27
• Masters Alpine Skiing Regional Championships March 6-9
• International Bobsled and Skeleton Drivers School March 16-29
• Adult National Figure Skating Championships April 8-13
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