I hiked Cascade Mountain from the Route 73 trailhead on Saturday September 16th. I went to see the crowds, the condition of the trail, and the general scene of what is believed to be the most popular High Peaks hiking trail. In 2015, over 33,000 people signed in at the trailhead register. In 2016, over 42,000 people are believed to have hiked the summit. Near the top there is now an electronic counter.
My whole trip took about five hours in the middle of the day. Many passed me by on the hike up and many others were hiking down the mountain during my ascent. I stayed on the summit about 90 minutes, which was gloriously sunny with the lightest of breezes. On the summit I counted people twice, with each count topping 100. » Continue Reading.
Great news: The Ausable River Porta-John program will continue. They reached their crowd-sourcing goal of $4,000 earlier this month to pay for handicap accessible Porta-Johns required by the state. More than 100 people supported the campaign.
Now they’ve added another $1,000 stretch goal to pay for an initial round of E. coli and total coliform testing of 10 back-country sites this summer and fall, according to Brendan Wiltse, science & stewardship director for the Ausable River Association. » Continue Reading.
There has been detailed documentation in the Adirondack Almanack about ongoing recreational pressures and resulting damage to parts of the High Peaks Wilderness Area, the largest Wilderness unit in the NYS Forest Preserve (and in most of the country).
Severe impacts have resulted to some adjacent trailheads, highways, roads, and parking areas, and certain areas of the interior. NYS DEC personnel, Summit Stewards, and town governments, indeed all of us, feel the pressure from large numbers of us enjoying the Eastern High Peaks, and in some cases requiring search and rescue. What to do about it all has been debated in this space by various stakeholders, including DEC Forest Rangers, with much good information exchanged and good comments and suggestions.
However, current comments and conditions feel like déjà vu all over again. I refer to the 17 year-old document that very specifically guides our public land manager, the NYS DEC, in addressing recreational user pressure on the High Peaks and how to keep the High Peaks as wilderness.
The 1999 High Peaks Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan (UMP) is that guiding document. I propose that we spend more time addressing this plan, its management recommendations and actions to date, and how the UMP might be updated to reflect the era, conditions and user pressures we are now encountering. » Continue Reading.
While navigating the spellbinding terrain along the Pacific Crest Trail, I found it difficult to resist the temptation to take photos.
Each endless vista around each corner was more jaw-dropping than the last! As I hiked onward, smartphone in hand, impermanence was weighed against the magnitude of the moment. “After all, you may never see these places again,” reminded my sage hiking partner. I had to contemplate whether looking at the staggering scenery through an electronic screen was detaching me from the present experience. » Continue Reading.
Forest Ranger Rob Praczkajlo covers the district just east of the High Peaks Wilderness, namely the towns of Jay, Elizabethtown, and part of North Hudson. Due to the high rate of search and rescue operations in the adjacent High Peaks, he is just as likely to be found there as he is patrolling his own district.
The High Peaks district had more than 100 emergency incidents in 2015 and they do not occur in a vacuum. They are not handled exclusively by the half dozen rangers stationed there. Rangers from all parts of the Adirondacks, and the Forest Preserve they protect, are affected by the drain from so many incidents. The following chronicles one week in July for Ranger Praczkajlo. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) owns land with trailheads for some of the most popular mountains in the High Peaks Wilderness, but you wouldn’t know that from their recent promotions on social media and traditional print publications. That’s because the club does not want to exacerbate overcrowding in the High Peaks.
Instead of encouraging people to climb Mount Marcy and Algonquin Peak, ADK is teaching people backcountry ethics, including Leave No Trace principles. “People are coming no matter what, so we don’t need to promote it, and what we need to promote is how to recreate responsibly,” said Julia Goren, ADK’s education director and summit-steward coordinator.
The education campaign is just one of several ways that ADK, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and other organizations are addressing the overcrowding issue. » Continue Reading.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents in the Adirondacks. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and extract lost, injured or distressed people from the Adirondack backcountry.
What follows is a report, prepared by DEC, of recent missions carried out by Forest Rangers in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
In late June, when Justin Todd hiked Cascade and Porter mountains, he had no intention of becoming an Adirondack Forty-Sixer, let alone the ten thousandth. But less than four months later, that’s exactly what happened when he climbed Whiteface Mountain on October 15.
Todd found out in January that he had the honor of becoming the ten thousandth person to hike all the High Peaks and register with the Adirondack Forty-Sixers. » Continue Reading.
The growing number of hikers in the High Peaks in recent years has heightened concern for the fragile alpine vegetation found on many of the summits.
If the number continues to increase, summit stewards charged with educating hikers may find themselves overwhelmed, said Julia Goren, the Adirondack Mountain Club’s education director.
“I don’t think we’ve lost ground yet,” said Goren, who heads the summit-steward program. “But I do think it’s not hyperbolic that we’re kind of at a tipping point where there’s not much more we can take before there’s going to be some kind of loss. One summit steward can’t talk to six hundred people in a day and make sure that people are respecting every patch of alpine vegetation.” » Continue Reading.
When many of the High Peaks’ trails were cut more than a century ago, the work was done by guides and hired hands. Keene Valley’s Orson “Old Mountain” Phelps created the first trail up Mount Marcy in 1861; Verplanck Colvin’s survey workers cut routes up Algonquin and Dix in the late 1800s; and Henry Van Hoevenberg developed a trail system for the Adirondack Lodge (as it was then spelled).
The early trails opened up the High Peaks to more people and laid the groundwork for today’s trail system, but some of the original trails continue to cause maintenance problems. » Continue Reading.
In the recent news and comments about ongoing crowding in the High Peaks there are few references to the document which ostensibly is guiding the state’s management actions there: the 1999 Highs Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan, or UMP. That management plan is downloadable from the DEC website.
It has a lot of important things to say about applying wilderness management and carrying capacity concepts to the very practical problems of managing the widely varying human use pressures over the great distances and very different environments of the High Peaks. » Continue Reading.
An Adirondack Park advocacy group wants the state Department of Environmental Conservation to re-establish a High Peaks Citizen’s Advisory Committee to address increasing usage and resulting impacts to the High Peaks Wilderness.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve sent a letter to DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann today, asking for the department to address the surging number of hikers in the High Peaks with a comprehensive approach that includes possible updates to the High Peaks unit management plan. » Continue Reading.
An excellent pair of articles published here recently by Mike Lynch (Beyond Peak Capacity and Group of 67 People Ticketed on Algonquin) resurrected some memories from the 1970s and ’80s, when avid (or zealous, rabid, insatiable … just pick one) hikers like me lived in constant fear that access to the mountains would soon be restricted. That anxiety was based on frequent newspaper headlines touting plans to alleviate trail damage attributed to hordes of newcomers to the Adirondacks.
Like now, the problems back then were intensified by successful efforts aimed at raising public awareness about the wonders within the mountains, and thus boost the region’s tourism-based economy. The result: more people, more spending, and greater profits, but also more boots on the ground, more worn trails, and more poop in the woods. The problems intensified so quickly that organizations and politicians offered all sorts of solutions, most of which left hikers fearful that the freedom to roam would be restricted. » Continue Reading.
Reporting in the Adirondack Explorer and Adirondack Almanack shows the challenges facing the state as it tries to keep up with recreational pressures in parts of the Adirondacks. It also points to strategies that can help us preserve the natural character of the region and still serve the hundreds of thousands of visitors the Park attracts each year. Driving both the problems and the innovative responses are financial constraints. Overall, the story is at once disheartening and encouraging.
Staffing at the state Department of Environmental Conservation has not recovered to adequate levels following cutbacks from 2008 through 2010. Those staff cuts led to a notorious dismissal of Commissioner Alexander Grannis in the midst of a fiscal crisis in 2010. Grannis’s offense was to tell the governor the department was “hanging by a thread.” He said budget cuts would leave the department unable to fulfill its various missions statewide. Recovery from that fiscal crisis has not brought DEC staffing back to what’s needed. In the Adirondacks, the consequence is that a corps of forest rangers and field staff is stretched thin at a time when their services are needed more than ever. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Forty-Sixers organization has seen a record number of people joining its ranks in recent years. Started in 1925, the club now has 9,425 members—more than a third of whom joined over the last ten years.
The club is open to hikers who have climbed its list of forty-six High Peaks, most of which top four thousand feet. It has seen a record number of new members each year since 2009. Last year, 606 hikers joined. » Continue Reading.
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