Two years ago, when the Lake George Land Conservancy asked people to lace up their boots and sneakers and go for a hike on the same day in July, they weren’t sure what would happen.
“We were just amazed that at our first year, we had 400 people,” says Sarah Hoffman, communications and outreach manager for the LGLC.
In 2014, the second year of their Hike-A-Thon, 400 people showed up again to trek up Cat Mountain, Cook Mountain and Anthony’s Nose and tromp through the Berry Pond Preserve and Amy’s Park.
This year, the LGLC had 350 registrations by the end of May.
WHAT: Outdoor event sponsored by the Lake George Land Conservancy
WHEN: Sunday, July 5
WHERE: At 12 trails and sites around Lake George
HOW MUCH: Free, but deadline to register is June 26
MORE INFO: www.lakegeorgehikeathon.org, www.lglc.org, 644-9673 or Facebook
“I’m anticipating 500,” says Hoffman.
On Sunday, July 5, the pre-registered hikers will walk or climb together with volunteer leaders to 12 different sites around Lake George. Then, as they stand together at each summit or clearing, a helicopter will buzz into view and hover as Adirondack nature photographer Carl Heilman II snaps an aerial picture from his seat next to the pilot, Bruce Mowery of North Country Heliflite.
“It’s a really exciting atmosphere. We can hear the helicopter coming up and everyone is waving and yelling up to them,” says Hoffman.
“Each site has their own start time and their own volunteer hike leaders. Everybody is at the summit at the right time for the helicopter to fly over. It takes a little over an hour for the helicopter to do the loop.”
Last year, on top of Cook Mountain, hikers arranged themselves in the shapes of an L and a G, representing the words “Lake George.”
After the event, Heilman’s photos are posted on the web site of LGLC, a non-profit land trust formed in 1988 that works with landowners and orther partners to protect Lake George and preserve its natural, scenic, historical and recreational resources.
“People of all ages participate, which is one of the best aspects of the Hike-A-Thon. It’s not a race to the summit, but rather an opportunity for people to share a nice experience,” says Daniel Ryterband, an LGLC board member and, during Hike-A-Thon, a volunteer leader on Cat Mountain.
“It’s especially fun to hike in a large group because people get to spend time with family and friends and meet new people who share a love of the lake and the surrounding area.”
Hoffman says the Hike-A-Thon attracts families because it’s the Fourth of July weekend.
“We’ve had babies in backpacks to octogenarians,” she says.
While seasoned Lake George hikers are familiar with Buck Mountain, Black Mountain Loop and other trails on state land, they may not know about the LGLC trails, which offer hikes at every level, from beginner or non-hiker to more challenging climbs, like Cat Mountain, a 4.6-mile round trip to a 1,956-foot summit overlooking the lake.
“It’s good for families. Some of these hikes are really short,” says Mim Dunne, a New Jersey resident with a summer place in Ticonderoga.
“I’m a bird watcher and I like to fish on the lake,” says Dunne. Doing the Hike-A-Thon is a way to “force yourself out of your comfort zone.”
The first year, she and her husband signed up to hike Last Great Shoreline, which is accessible only by boat.
Last year, at a LGLC auction, she won a ride in Mowery’s copter.
“It was pretty spectacular. We were just over the treetops.”
At this year’s Hike-A-Thon, Dunne will do a gentle 1.5 mile hike with her husband, daughter and daughter’s fiance in the Terzian Woodlot, a property in Hague that she has never been to.
Amy’s Park, in Bolton, has a trail that’s perfect for children, says Hoffman.
“I took my three-year-old on this hike. A mile hike in, you end at this rocky outcrop and you can go down to the water, a kind of a large beaver pond. You get to see some frogs and salamanders along the way. There are some osprey that fly around. You could bring a picnic lunch.”
Peggy’s Point in Hague is another place that anyone can explore.
The waterfront property has a flat, grassy lawn and a friendship garden where people have placed plants to remember and honor loved ones.
“You can bring a wheelchair in there,” says Hoffman.
“Unless you are fortunate enough to have inherited land or are able to purchase land and be a land owner, this might be the only way for you to get out and have a scenic view or get to the waterfront. So we do have these parks and preserves all around Lake George, north end, south end,” she says.
“The Hike-A-Thon is an opportunity to showcase the fabulous properties that have been protected, to build awareness of the challenges facing Lake George (excessive development, invasive species, pollution, etc.) and to provide participants with a better appreciation of Lake George as a national treasure,” says Ryterband.
LGLC trails and properties are open year-round from dawn to dusk. A map and downloadable trail guides can be found at www.lglc.org.
“Cat and Thomas. You can do mountain biking there as well,” Hoffman says.
“A lot of the properties, they have some great skiing and snowshoeing.”
LGLC also offers guided hikes, educational programs and other events throughout the year.
If you want to do the Hike-A-Thon, registrations will be accepted through June 26.
Because the number of people allowed at each site is limited, some of the Hike-A-Thon sites get filled up by the end of April.
“The first one to fill up every year is Cat Mountain. People just love Cat Mountain,” Hoffman says.
“My personal hope is that we get people who think hiking is not for them. People who just want to try it.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or [email protected]