At the end of a long day of bushwhacking the backcountry, including crawling over blow downs, thrashing through thick hobblebush and balancing over crumbling beaver dams, it is time to locate a camping site for the night. Unfortunately, finding an acceptable camp site can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the backcountry experience especially when bushwhacking through remote and wild areas within the Adirondacks. One mistake to avoid is bushwhacking late into the early evening hours and not giving yourself enough time to adequately locate a good site to set up your camp. There is simply nothing worse than searching wildly about for an adequate campsite at the end of an exhausting day of bushwhacking as the sun slowly sinks below the horizon. Be sure to stop early enough in the late afternoon to find a nice site and give you enough time to set up and enjoy the early evening hours. Typically I plan on stopping around 5 PM while bushwhacking to give myself the appropriate amount of time without having the feeling of being rushed.
The most frustrating part of locating a good campsite is finding a level enough area for a shelter so as to avoid sliding to one corner and tossing and turning over a back-breaking tree root. Avoid areas appearing completely level as puddles can form there and waking up in a pool of water during a late night thunderstorm can place a real damper on a good night’s rest. A shelter should be placed on crowned site in such a way as to move any possible rain water away from, instead of under your shelter.
When bushwhacking through remote areas abandon the notion of finding one of those perfectly level and open areas typically found along an established trail system. These spacious camp sites near trail systems were artificially constructed from many years of human use and are almost non-existent in the remote backcountry. Even if such sites once existed in these remote areas during the bygone logging days they have long ago been reclaimed by vegetation.
When setting up your campsite try to do as little site modification as possible. Any shelters should be placed in areas devoid of any vegetation, if such a place can be located in the Adirondacks. Any sticks, logs and/or rocks removed from the site prior to setting up the camp site should be placed nearby where they can be retrieved and replaced when leaving the site. The leave no trace ethic should apply to one’s campsite as much as any other aspect of your outdoor experience.
Most people prefer camping near water for the awesome views and the ease of transporting water to their camping site. Regardless of being far away from a trail system or not, the rule of being 150 feet from any source of water is still in effect. Since few journey into the backcountry with a measuring tape, a rough estimate of this distance is necessary. In my experience, distance estimates have a reciprocal relationship to the beauty of the waterfront view. Unfortunately being near water also means being surrounded by hordes of biting insects.
Safety is always a concern in the backcountry and choosing a campsite is no exception. One should always scan the tree canopy for snags that could become a widow maker while you sleep. Do not forget to scan the canopy for dead branches that could come crashing down on you and turn a night’s sleep into a permanent slumber. This is a greater concern in mature forests where giant trees tower over your campsite can hide a few large dead or dying limbs.
Choosing a campsite in the backcountry is more of an art form than a science. In the Adirondacks, the rough terrain, thick vegetation and often soggy soils makes locating an acceptable campsite a challenge. Give yourself an adequate amount of time to search for a comfortable site where you will get a much needed night’s rest. And if the site turns out to be less-than-stellar, just remember, you are only visiting and there is always a chance you will do better next time.
A backpack is one of the most important single pieces of gear in any backcountry explorer’s equipment arsenal. The backpack’s fit is crucial for an enjoyable trip into the backcountry. But for bushwhacking adventures the backpack has to be more than just comfortable but must also be tough and durable enough to handle the onslaught of the worst conditions the Adirondacks can dole out. A severe rip in the backcountry could leave one trying to carry all their equipment in their arms, which is no easy feat in the dense Adirondack backcountry. The extreme conditions encountered while bushwhacking requires a backpack to have the following characteristics:
An excellent bushwhacking backpack that meets all of the above criteria is the Golite Pinnacle. Golite has manufactured the Pinnacle backpack since at least 2007. The Pinnacle is the largest of the three backpacks in Golite’s UltraLite line. UltaLite backpacks are known for their combination of durability, minimalism and comfort. The Pinnacle has been recently updated with a larger front pocket and an improved suspension.
The Pinnacle is a spacious backpack with a volume of 4392 cubic inches but compresses down to about 1500 cubic inches via the ComPACKtor™ system. The ComPACKtor™ system uses two fixed compression anchor clips to compress the pack for shorter trips thus increasing the versatility of this exceptional backpack.
The Pinnacle is made from Golite’s Dyneema® Gridstop weave combining 100% nylon yarn with Dyneema® fibers to create a strong yet light pack fabric. Dyneema fabric has a strength-to-weight ratio 15 times greater than higher tensile steel making the Pinnacle highly resistant to tearing.
For those concerned with their environmental footprint will be relieved to know the Pinnacle is manufactured with Tier 1 recycled fabrics. Golite has replaced virgin, petro-chemical based materials with 50% Tier 1 recycled nylon. Golite’s efforts using recycled materials won them the Green Award of the 2010 Backpacker Editors’ Choice Awards.
The Golite Pinnacle has many other wonderful features important to any backcountry adventurer. Some of these features include:
• Double-Wishbone™ hipbelt connection transfers weight to hips. • Zippered stretch pockets on belt for easy access to small, often-used items. • Mesh on back panel, hipbelt and shoulder harness keeps you drier by moving moisture away from your body. • Removable closed cell foam back pad. • ComPACKtor™ system reduces internal volume eliminating the necessity of carrying another smaller pack for day hikes. • Two side stretch pockets for convenient access to water bottles. • Side compression straps with quick-release buckles. • Two ice axe loops. • Cinch and roll-up closure system with compression strap. • Internal hydration sleeve with right and left tube ports. • Adjustable sternum strap with whistle. • Large front pocket with watertight zipper to keep your stuff dry.
After some extensive research of the backpacks on the market at the time, I purchased a Pinnacle backpack in 2008. Since then Golite has made some changes to the backpack’s design improving its versatility (e.g. larger front pocket and small pockets on hip belt) and stability but unfortunately increasing its weight by 7 ounces.
I have found the Pinnacle to be an outstanding backpack ideal for bushwhacking with its slim design, lightweight and durability. Although highly durable the Pinnacle is not indestructible. Over the past few years I have found several small holes in the front pocket but other than these the pack remains in terrific shape.
The limited suspension and non-padded hipbelt restricts the maximum comfortable capacity of this pack to 40 lbs according to its manufacturer. The longest trip I have ever used this pack was for an eight-day adventure where my pack weighed around 45 lbs. Although this was over its maximum capacity I found the pack retained its comfortable fit even during fairly rugged bushwhacking.
The size of the back pocket limits the amount of equipment readily available as the Pinnacle has no lid with an additional pocket as do many conventional backpacks. Golite appears to have dealt with this issue in subsequent models by increasing the size of this pocket and adding smaller pockets along the hipbelt.
The Pinnacle has been my exclusive backpack since I purchased it. It has hiked the Northville-Placid trail, the John Muir trail in the Sierra-Nevada’s and on numerous bushwhacking adventures. During all these adventures the Pinnacle has proved to be a versatile and durable backpack.
For anyone looking for a lightweight, durable and comfortable backpack should take a serious look at Golite’s Pinnacle.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that registration for the 2011 summer camp programs began this week. Applications from sponsors must be postmarked no earlier than Jan. 15. Parents may submit applications postmarked no earlier than Jan. 29.
The Summer Camp Program offers week‑long adventures in conservation education to children ages 12-17. DEC operates four residential camps for children ages 12-14: Camp Colby in Saranac Lake, Franklin County; Camp DeBruce in Livingston Manor, Sullivan County; Camp Rushford in Caneadea, Allegany County; and Pack Forest in Warrensburg, Warren County. Pack Forest also features Teenage Ecology Workshop, a three-week environmental studies program for 15-17 year old campers. DEC is also encouraging sporting clubs, civic groups and environmental organizations to sponsor a child for a week at camp. Those groups who sponsor six paid campers will receive one free scholarship.
Campers participate in a wide variety of outdoor activities including fishing, bird watching, fly-tying, archery, canoeing, hiking, camping, orienteering and hunter safety education. Campers also learn about fields, forests, streams and ponds through fun, hands-on activities and outdoor exploration. DEC counselors teach youth conservation techniques used by natural resource professionals, such as measuring trees and estimating wildlife populations.
Changes for the 2011 camp season include:
* Camp fee for one week is $350.
* All four camps will run for seven weeks, beginning July 3.
* Children who have attended camp in the past may register for any of the seven weeks.
* Campers may attend for more than one week during the summer. The fee for the total number of weeks must be included with the application. Please note that campers will not be able to stay at camp on Saturday night, so parents should make alternative arrangements if two consecutive weeks are selected.
* Camp Rushford will no longer offer one week for 15 to 17 year olds. Older campers are encouraged to sign up for the Teenage Ecology Workshop at Pack Forest for one of the first three weeks of camp, beginning July 3.
For information and applications visit DEC’s website or call 518‑402‑8014.
Interested parents may also sign up for DEC’s camps listserve or contact DEC in writing at DEC Camps, 2nd Floor, 625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233‑4500.
Photo: A fishing lesson at Camp Colby. Courtesy DEC.
The Cranberry Lake 50 (CL50), the fifty-mile hiking route that circles Cranberry Lake, has been featured as one of the best multi-day hikes in the Northeast in the January 2011 issue of BackpackerMagazine. Here is an excerpt from the article:
“For lakeside shoreline, traipse trough the Adirondacks’ Five Ponds Wilderness on a 50-mile loop around 7,000-acre Cranberry Lake. [Times Union outdoors blogger] Gillian Scott suggests starting in Wanakena and traveling counterclockwise for an easier first day, when your pack is heaviest. Along the loop you’ll see beaver ponds, sandy beaches, evergreen islands, and winding Oswegatchie River oxbows – but not a lot of people. “We went in July and didn’t see anyone,” Scott says. Rick Hapanowicz, Jim Houghtailing and six others did the CL50 as a straight through overnight speed hike in May of this year. You can read about their trip online.
Visitors to the backcountry of the Adirondacks should be prepared for snow, ice and cold, and use proper equipment, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) advised today. Winter is an opportune time to take advantage of all that the Adirondack Park has to offer, however, the season can also present troublesome – even perilous – conditions to the unprepared.
Snow cover in the Adirondacks is now several feet deep at higher elevations. Visitors to the Eastern High Peaks are required to use snowshoes or cross-country skis for safety. It is strongly recommended that visitors to other parts of the Adirondacks do the same. Snowshoes or skis prevent sudden falls or “post-holing,” avoids injuries and eases travel on snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy mountaintops and other exposed areas. In addition, backcountry visitors should follow these safety guidelines:
* Dress properly with layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!) clothing: a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots.
* Carry a day pack complete with: An ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, a map and compass, a first-aid kit, a flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.
* Drink plenty of water — dehydration can lead to hypothermia.
* Eat plenty of food to maintain energy levels and warmth.
* Check weather before entering the woods — if the weather is poor, postpone the trip. The mountains will always be there.
* Be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.
* Contact the DEC at (518) 897-1200 to determine trail conditions in the area you plan to visit.
Visitors should also be aware that waters have begun freezing over, but are not safe to access. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.
Adirondack trail information can be found on the DEC website and the Adirondack Almanack provides weekly local conditions reports as well each Thursday afternoon.
The Northville-Placid Trail Subcommittee of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Trails Committee has announced the creation of a new website devoted to the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT).
The NPT, which stretches 133 miles through some of the wildest and most remote parts of the Adirondack Park, was the first project undertaken by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) after it was formed in 1922. ADK publishes “Adirondack Trails: Northville-Placid Trail,” the definitive guide to the trail, which includes a detailed topographical map of the NPT. The website was developed by Tom Wemett, chair of the Northville-Placid Trail Subcommittee and a self-described “NPT fanatic.” » Continue Reading.
After writing about the illegally cut trees on Cat Mountain, which were neither dead nor down, I started thinking about other rule violations I have observed in the backcountry. One such rule violation I have frequently noticed is the storage of personal property on forest preserve in the Adirondacks.
The storage of personal property can usually be found in one of two different situations. It is either in small amounts scattered around lean-tos or in much more substantial quantities in wild and remote area where few will ever stumble upon these hidden caches. And although some of this property is probably abandoned, the majority appears to be in at least seasonal use. » Continue Reading.
When out in the backcountry I tend to bushwhack through areas that receive little human traffic so I rarely encounter examples of illegal tree cuttings. But this past summer I went on an eight-day trip hiking and bushwhacking through the heart of the Five Ponds Wilderness from Stillwater Reservoir to Cranberry Lake where I discovered tree cutting on the top of Cat Mountain on my final night.
This put a slight damper on an evening highlighted by watching multiple Independence Day fireworks displays and culminating with sleeping under the stars on the cliffs. The cut trees were located around the single large campsite just off the cliffs to the north. This site is obviously very popular with campers given the fire ring and the large, flat, open area perfect for pitching tents. » Continue Reading.
When campers return to the New York State-owned Lake George Islands next spring, the garbage barges will be there to remove trash from three transfer stations.
Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis has agreed to to raise camping fees by $3 per night to cover the costs of garbage collection, which the DEC had announced that it would suspend because of budget cuts.
The alternative to the proposed “Carry In – Carry Out” policy was submitted to DEC officials by state legislators, municipal officials and lake protection organizations at a meeting in Bolton Landing on September 17. “The decision is based on discussions and feedback from local Lake George officials and organizations, area state legislators and campers,” said David Winchell, a regional spokesman for DEC.
“Clearly, the DEC got the message. The message from around the lake was the same, whether campers or environmental groups or local or state government officials, everybody asked that the state deal with this problem not by weakening a successful program, but rather by increasing fees. The camping public is supportive of higher fees to maintain a level of service that will protect both the lake and the treasured Lake George island camping experience. Many families have been using these islands for generations” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George.
The $3 surcharge, which will raise the cost of a camping permit to $28 for New York State residents, will generate at least $90,000 in new revenues, enough to cover the costs of garbage collection, said State Senator Betty Little.
“The goal is to keep these sites clean, to ensure garbage doesn’t end up in the water and to prevent surrounding municipal trash systems from being overwhelmed,” said Little.
According to David Winchell, the surcharge will be collected by Reserve America, which administers public campsite reservation systems.
There’s a unique event happening this week about seven miles from the Limekiln Lake entrance in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest – a Primitive Rendezvous and Hunt, held each year by the New York State Muzzle-Loaders Association (NYSMLA). Now in its 19th year, the event features about 50 men, women, and children dressed in 1740 to 1840 attire and camping with period equipment. This year’s rendezvous will include tomahawk and knife throwing, Dutch oven cooking, tipi and canvass lodge living, an demonstrations of muzzle-loaders and other tools of the era. Visitors are welcome only on Sunday, October 10th, from 10 am to 5 pm.
The Muzzleloaders Association was founded in 1977 as an offshoot (no pun intended) of the Tryon County Militia, an American Revolution reenactment group. Since then, the association has been dedicated to “the continuing support of black powder events, people, and legislation.” The group includes over 40 affiliated clubs throughout the state. This year’s Primitive Biathlon, usually held in March, was canceled, but the group hosted a number of major events including this week’s rendezvous and hunt, a Fall and Spring “Family Fun Shoot & Camp Out,” and the summer New York State Championship “Trophy Shoot.” Photos: Above, an aerial view of the Moose River Plains Primitive Rendezvous and Hunt; below, a typical camp scene. Photos provided by NYSMA.
Len Grubbs, a Trailmaster with the Adirondack Forty-Sixers, has received the Adirondack Stewardship Award from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), for his two decades and thousands of hours of time working on trails, organizing volunteers and planning trail work.
DEC Region 5 Director Betsy Lowe presented the award to Grubbs on Oct. 2 at the fall business meeting of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers at the Keene Central School in Keene Valley. The Adirondack Forty-Sixers Inc. consists of hikers who have climbed the summits of the 46 major peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. “Stewardship is one of our most important tools in managing and preserving the beautiful lands and waters of the Adirondacks,” Director Lowe said. “It is truly gratifying to recognize Len Grubbs for the tremendous contributions he has made to protecting Forest Preserve lands, while ensuring the comfort and safety of hikers.”
The Adirondack Stewardship Award is presented by DEC to groups or individuals who demonstrate outstanding stewardship to the natural resources of the Adirondack Park.
DEC presented a certificate to Grubbs in recognition of his “two decades and thousands of hours of hard work maintaining trails and facilities on the Adirondack Forest Preserve, coordinating the work of others to the benefit and safety of those that use the trails, and conserving the natural resources of the Adirondacks.”
Grubbs began maintaining trails in 1989 as a volunteer with the Adirondack Forty-Sixers. In 1994, he became co-trailmaster a position he has held for 15 years, the longest anyone has held the post in the history of the group.
Grubbs has a total of 2,336 hours of service, which is 500 hours more than other “46er,” — and that does not include the time spent planning work, holding meetings, and writing reports. He has performed a wide array tasks, including: clearing blowdown, hardening trails, seeding summits, installing erosion control devices and building, repairing and moving lean-tos, foot bridges and pit privies. He also has spent time scouting and refurbishing “herd paths” on the trailless peaks.
Hunters and other users of state lands in the Adirondacks are reminded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) of recent changes to state land use regulations. Using motorized equipment is now prohibited on lands classified Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe. Also placing structures and storing personal property is prohibited on all state lands, unless authorized by DEC.
The prohibition on use of motorized equipment on lands classified as Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe in the Adirondack Forest Preserve became effective March 10, 2010. The prohibition includes, but it is not limited to, chainsaws and generators. The use of motorized vehicles and vessels is already prohibited on these lands. The use of chainsaws, generators and other motorized equipment may still be used on the approximately 1.3 million acres of forest preserve lands classified as Wild Forest, provided the user complies with all other applicable provisions of state land use regulation. Also, the use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected by this new regulation.
The prohibition on placing structures and storing personal property on all state lands without authorization from DEC became effective in May 2009. The regulation does allow for the following exceptions:
* a camping structure or equipment that is placed and used legally pursuant to the provisions of the state land use regulation;
* a tree stand or hunting blind that does not injure a tree, is properly marked or tagged with the owner’s name and address or valid hunting or fishing license number, and is placed and used during big game season, migratory game bird season, or turkey season;
* a legally placed trap that is placed and used during trapping season;
* a wildlife viewing blind or stand that is placed for a duration not to exceed thirty (30) days in one location per calendar year, does not injure a tree, and is properly marked or tagged with the owner’s name and address or valid hunting or fishing license number; or
* a geocache, except in the High Peaks Wilderness, that is labeled with the owner’s name and address and installed in a manner that does not disturb the natural conditions of the site or injure a tree.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation appears willing to give way on its plan to discontinue the collection of campers’ garbage from the islands of Lake George.
After meeting on September 17 in Bolton Landing with state legislators, county supervisors, the Lake George Park Commission and the heads of lake protection organizations, DEC staff agreed to seek an increase in camping fees large enough to cover the costs of collecting garbage from three locations and transporting it to Glen Island.
State Senator Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who proposed the alternative to the state’s planned “Carry in/Carry Out” policy at the meeting in Bolton, said they would sponsor an item in next year’s state budget designating the new revenues as fees for removing garbage from the Lake George islands. The agreement, however, must win the endorsement of DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. According to Doug Bernhard, DEC”s general manager of Forest Parks, approximately $50,000 would need to be raised every year to maintain the policy of picking up garbage and recycleables from three locations in the Lake George Narrows, Glen Island and Long Island campsite groups.
Last year, DEC issued 6,680 permits for 387 campsites on 44 islands, said Gary West of DEC’s Warrensburg office. By raising the fee for a daily camping permit by as much as $5, Senator Little said, enough funds would be raised to pay for garbage collection. “It will be understood that it is an increase in fees to keep the lake beautiful,” said Little.
If the fee hike is approved, the cost of a permit could rise to $30 for New York State residents and $35 for non-residents. “These campers have expensive boats; they won’t object to a few extra dollars for a permit, and it’s still an incredible deal,” said Bill Van Ness, a Warren County supervisor and a Lake George Park Commission marine patrol officer.
“There’s broad support from business owners, environmentalists and local governments for this fee hike,” said Peter Bauer, the excutive director of the Fund for Lake George.
The decision to abandon the policy of collecting garbage and to rely instead upon campers to carry their garbage with them when they leave was made after the DEC’s budget for non-personnel expenses was cut by 40%, said Bernhard.
“Asking campers to take their garbage to the recycling centers was a highly successful program, winning 90% compliance, but we no longer have the resources to support it,” said Bernhard, who added that other popular campground programs, such as nature education activities, had also been abolished.
Opposition to the plan to terminate garbage collection services, however, surfaced almost as soon as it was announced. The Towns of Bolton, Hague and Lake George, as well as the Warren County Board of Supervisors, adopted resolutions opposing the plan. “The end result will be garbage in the roadway and in the lake,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who organized the meeting. “If we fail the lake, we fail ourselves.”
Members of the Lake George Park Commission also opposed the plan, said chairman Bruce Young, who argued that discontinuing the collection service would diminish the experience of camping on the islands, thus costing the state in revenues and harming the local economy. “This is the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Young. “The Lake George Island campsites generate $700,000 a year in revenues to DEC. I hate to see you shortchange this asset in order to take care of others.”
While a carry in/carry out policy is used at other island campsites in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, Young and others argued that it could not be successfully applied to Lake George. “Not picking it up is not an option, it won’t work,” said Young. “Lake George island campers are not backpackers.”
The Lake George Association’s executive director, Walt Lender, said, “While we agree the campers should be responsible for their own garbage, we know that island camping is not wilderness camping; these boats are floating Winnebagos.”
“Their coolers, their children, their barbecues, they boat it in as though they were going to a land-based campsite,” said Ron Conover. According to DEC officials, 231 tons of garbage was removed from the islands last year.
The Lake George Island Campers Association supports the recommendation, with some reservations, said Cindy Baxter, a New Hampshire resident who helped establish the advocacy group. “We would prefer to see all the funds generated by the Lake George islands be returned to Lake George for the care and maintenance of the campsites. But if that’s not possible, a fee increase is a price we’re willing to bear if that’s what it takes to protect Lake George,” said Baxter.
There is no way around it, bushwhacking in the Adirondacks is an inherently dangerous activity. The aggressive terrain, vast amount of wilderness, frequently changing weather conditions and the lack of wireless communication access makes dealing with any emergency situation a challenge. Although it is impossible to make backcountry exploration a completely safe endeavor, the principles of risk management can be used to identify, prevent and, if everything fails, ameliorate some of the possible negative impacts of those risky elements associated with bushwhacking. Although much of what can be said about safety in the backcountry applies to both trail hiking and bushwhacking, the remoteness encountered by a bushwhacker makes safety precautions an even higher priority. The bushwhacker is typically far from assistance and therefore must be prepared to handle any conceivable emergency situation, or deal with the consequences. Managing the inherent risk involved in exploring the backcountry can be accomplished by being prepared for an emergency and taking the proper precautions should such an emergency present itself.
Whoever coined the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” must have been referring to bushwhacking. And prevention of any problem in the backcountry starts with physical training. Any training for bushwhacking should include both endurance training and core strengthening. Endurance training, such as running, swimming, walking or hiking is essential to prepare for the exertion necessary to bushwhack over steep terrain for many hours a day, not to mention crawling through blowdowns, stepping over logs and struggling through tangles of witchhobble. Core strengthening involves working the thighs, hips, abdominal and back muscles. These muscles assist with handling heavy backpacks, balance when stepping over logs or crossing beaver dams and navigating through rocky terrain. Preventing injury by preparing your body for the effort involved while bushwhacking is worth more than a whole backpack full of first aid equipment.
My training consists of endurance training four to six days per week augmented by resistance training on four of those days. The endurance training typically consists of running a minimum of three to four miles each day although I sometimes experiment with cross-training by biking, stair-stepping or using an elliptical machine instead. The resistance training consists of one to two hours of either core strengthening (i.e. chest, legs, back) or arms and shoulder strengthening. Each of the two training styles (i.e. core and arms/shoulders) is repeated twice per week. I perform my training year round since it is easier to remain in good physical condition than to get back into such condition.
Physical training is not the only way to reduce the inherent risks involved with bushwhacking. Traveling in groups, leaving a trip itinerary with someone and avoiding unnecessary risks are age-old backpacking precautions that should be heeded when possible by the bushwhacker. Typically a group size of 3 or more is ideal so at least one person could go for help while another can stay with the injured person. Although ideal, it is not always possible to find enough people interested in bushwhacking to assemble such a large group. Bushwhacking in smaller groups (or even solo) should not be avoided but the risks involved will be greater and one should take extra precautions to reduce such risks.
Leaving an itinerary with a responsible person along with the day you plan on exiting the backcountry are standard safety precautions that should be adhered to by the bushwhacker. It is best to give a detailed itinerary with the route planned and camping site locations although conditions on the ground often make it difficult to stick to such a plan. At the very least geographic landmarks should be given to define the area being explored (e.g. west of Moshier Creek, south of Pepperbox Creek and east of the county line). This narrows the search of the 6.1 million acres of the Adirondack down to a more manageable level.
Needless to say, unnecessary risks should be avoided as much as possible. When traveling through difficult areas, such as blowdowns, rocky conditions, stream crossing, etc. it is best to slow down and take your time, especially during wet conditions. At any point where you find yourself hurrying through difficult circumstances, it is best to stop and take a short break before restarting at a slower pace. This will drastically reduce the probability of an injury and reduce the chance of having to use your first aid kit.
I always leave an itinerary with someone I can trust before heading out into the backcountry. The itinerary consists of my planned route plus some side trips just in case I have some extra time. In addition, I always register at the trailhead since I typically start my bushwhack off an existing trail system. And I never pass on the opportunity to register in any lean-tos I encounter on my trip too. In areas where registers are not available I tend to write my initials and the date in small pebbles at key locations along my planned route just in case anything should happen along the way. I take these extra precautions since most of my bushwhacking adventures are lengthy solo trips which involve inherently greater risks.
Carrying a well-stocked first aid kit is essential for any bushwhacker. The ingredients of a suitable first aid kit for a bushwhacker are identical as those of the typical backpacker. There is a plethora of pre-packaged first aid kits available on the market to choose from. A cheaper alternative would be to create your own homemade first aid kit by purchasing those items necessary should an injury occur during an outdoor adventure. Some ideas for items to be included in a homemade first aid kit can be found here, here, here and here. It is not enough to carry a well-stocked first aid if one lacks the knowledge to use it in an emergency. For that reason it is a good idea to take a class in wilderness and remote area first aid. These courses are given by the American Red Cross and the Adirondack Mountain Club. Carrying a first aid kit and having the knowledge how to use it in the case of an emergency should leave you in good stead if an injury occurs while in the backcountry.
My first aid kit includes numerous self-adhesive bandages of all different sizes and shapes, gauze bandages, moleskin, alcohol pads, Spenco 2nd Skin® (for blisters and burns), waterproof surgical tape, a small elastic bandage and single-use Neosporin® packets. Also, I carry multiple doses of 200 mg ibuprofen tablets, Benadryl® antihistamine tablets, loperamide hydrochloride tablets (for diarrhea), pink bismuth tablets (for upset stomach) and 75 mg diclofenac sodium tablets (a prescription anti-inflammatory for my back). A space blanket, strike anywhere matches, birthday candles, a water filter straw, a needle and thread, several safety pins and some string round out my kit. In addition, I carry an emergency whistle, a small jackknife (with a blade, scissors and tweezers), sunscreen, lip balm and bug repellent in a separate stuff sack, which I keep in the outside pocket of my backpack for easy access.
Although a first aid can be effective for many types of injuries it is of limited usefulness if the injury is serious enough to prevent one from evacuating the backcountry. This is especially true for those who engage in solo bushwhacking adventures. In the case of a broken leg, sprained ankle or other incapacitating emergency it is wise to carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) when traveling alone. Personal locator beacons are tracking transmitters which aid in the detection and location via a satellite system. They can be used to determine the location of an individual in an emergency leading to an efficient and timely extraction from the backcountry. A personal locator beacon is one of the most important (and expensive) pieces of equipment a bushwhacker should carry when traveling alone but hopefully never use. It is essential the PLB transmit GPS coordinates so that a search and rescue can be reduced to a simple rescue. A PLB should only be activated during a dire emergency where the situation is grave and the loss of life, limb, or eyesight will occur without assistance. But remember, a PLB cannot assist you unless you are conscious enough to activate it, so carrying one should never be used as an excuse to undertake risky behavior.
Three popular manufactures of personal locator beacon products are ACR Electronics, Inc., SPOT, Inc. and McMurdo, Ltd. They typically range from $150 to $400 and some require the purchasing of a subscription service for specific functionality.
Personally, I carry an ACR MicroFix 406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon, a recently discontinued product. It weighs about 10 ounces and cost considerably more than the current products on the market. I cannot comment on how well it works since thankfully I have never had the occasion to use it. But it gives me the peace of mind knowing I have some way to communicate with the outside world in case of a life-threatening emergency.
Hopefully this discussion of the necessary precautions one should take while bushwhacking has not frightened anyone from heading off the trail. Although it is prudent to be as prepared as possible for any emergency it is still fairly safe being in the backcountry. The most dangerous aspect of any trip is most likely the drive to and from the trailhead. It is important to be prepared but not lose sight of the fact that bushwhacking is supposed to be fun and exciting. So get out there, get off the trail and enjoy yourself but be ready just in case.