For rangers, holiday weekend anything but

People flooded into the Adirondacks for the long Columbus Day holiday weekend — and as a result, st

People flooded into the Adirondacks for the long Columbus Day holiday weekend — and as a result, state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers had one of their busiest weekends of the year.

Rangers rescued or located more than a dozen stranded hikers throughout the Adirondack Park.

The eight rescue incidents between Friday and Monday probably had more to do with the number of people in the woods on a beautiful weekend than any trail damage done by Tropical Storm Irene more than a month ago, said DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell.

The combination of the three-day weekend, Canadian Thanksgiving and the reopening of trails that needed repair after the Aug. 28 storm — plus the clear, unseasonably warm weather — brought unusually large numbers into the woods, Winchell said.

Hiking safety

Be prepared:

• Check with local forest ranger for current information. Current weather conditions and short-term forecast.

• Wear appropriate outer wear and foot wear (raincoats, water-proof boots or hiking shoes and gaiters), layers of non-cotton clothes.

• Carry map and compass — and know how to use them. Also flashlight and extra batteries, plenty of food and water.

• Pack extra clothes and socks, hat and gloves or mittens, Ensolite pad to rest on and insulate your body from cold surfaces, bivy sack or space blankets for extra warmth, fire starter supplies, including waterproof matches, butane lighter, candles, starter material.

• Always inform someone of your itinerary and when you expect to return. Groups are advised to remain together when hiking.

• Hikers and campers should check the DEC Adirondack Trail Information Web page.

If you get lost:

• Keep calm, stay dry, keep warm and stay put.

• If it appears that you will need to spend the night in the woods, build a campfire. A campfire will be invaluable in locating you if you have been reported missing.

• If the weather is particularly cold or bad and you must spend the night in the woods, build a small shelter using dead branches, hemlock boughs and leaves. Set up camp before darkness falls.

• Remember that following streams downhill will nearly always lead you back to signs of habitation.

• Any person knowing you are overdue should contact the New York State Forest Ranger in the area of your trip.

Source: state Department of Environmental Conservation

“What we’re seeing, too, is a lot of curiosity seekers,” Winchell said. “A lot of people are curious to see what’s happened due to Irene.”

There’s a lot new to see for those curious about the storm’s devastation. In addition to washing out roads and doing property damage in communities like Keene and Jay in the eastern High Peaks, there was big back-country impact. For example, the bridge at Marcy Dam was washed out, and a number of trails were closed because of blow-down, severe erosion and other damage. Mountains Wright, Colden (Trap Dike), Haystack and the Wolfjaws sustained new rock slides, some of them climbable.

A Binghamton University student from Croton-on-Hudson died in a fall Sept. 30 at Trap Dike, but storm damage isn’t thought to have played a role.

At this point, hiking trails have generally reopened, but some have been rerouted around the worst damage. The damaged areas were closed for Labor Day weekend, which would normally have been a busy period for back-country hiking.

“A lot of people may have planned to hike Labor Day weekend and couldn’t get in, and they may have missed the next couple of weekends,” Winchell said.

The result was crowding in parking lots and numbers in the back-country more typical of August than October. And the natural changes that occur going into October — cooler nights, earlier sunsets — may have contributed to some of the incidents.

In four of the eight incidents, rangers said darkness descending on hikers who didn’t carry flashlights or headlamps was part of the problem.

Among the incidents:

• On Friday, DEC regional dispatchers in Ray Brook received a cellphone call from one of two hikers who got lost while descending Buck Mountain in Fort Ann. The hikers, from Cohoes and Delmar, called about 6:45 p.m., as dark was descending. They didn’t have flashlights. They were told to start a fire and stay in place until rangers reached them.

• About 7 p.m. Saturday, rangers were called after an 11-year-old from Vestal became separated from his parents on Baker Mountain in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness. The parents didn’t have flashlights; the family was reunited.

• Three New Jersey residents had to be led off Tongue Mountain on Lake George Saturday night after losing the trail because of descending darkness.

• Two men from Binghamton and Vestal had to be located and escorted on Monday after darkness arrived on Black Bear Mountain in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest of Herkimer County. They wore only T-shirts and jeans and had no extra clothing, food, water or flashlights.

In two other incidents Monday, people were taken to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, one after a fall and laceration while hiking to Marcy Dam and one after suffering physical distress on the Round Mountain Trail in Keene. Keene firefighters and Northern Adirondacks Search and Rescue had to help with the second incident.

On Sunday, a woman impaled her leg on a stick on Dix Mountain and went to Glens Falls Hospital for treatment.

While the incidents were numerous and some were serious, Winchell said none appeared directly related to damage from Irene.

“We did see increased activity those first few weekends, but there were no rescue calls,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply