Rant: Adirondack and Catskill crowding, ignorance and other problems

Wilderness in the Dix Range
Average read time 3 min

In the past number of years, the foot travel in the backcountry in New York has exploded. And that’s okay. My daughter and I were out for a short hike to Burnt Knob during the week and we came across about 13 people. When we parked at the trail head at Batavia Kill 4 cars (including ours) were already parked there at 9 AM. This is on a Thursday. In a couple of hours, we returned to the trail head to find about 10 cars with 4 lining the small dirt road that leads to the Black Dome Range Trail.

The same day we sat at the junction of the Escarpment and Burnt Knob – Acra Point Access Trails and 6 hikers heading toward Peck Road stopped to chat. One of the hikers said, “bet you didn’t expect to see anyone midweek?” Without any thought, I replied, “Not anymore, but 10-15 years ago absolutely”. That reply stuck with me the rest of the day as the places that I would go to get away from things are now getting “crowded”.

Today in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise online I found an article that reported the closure of the trail to Little Porter Mountain from the Garden parking area. This action was not taken by the state but by the landowners who had generously allowed the trail to run across their property. The reason they stated was simple, ongoing trespassing by hikers.

This is like what happened last year to another short and outstanding hike – the trail to Owl’s Head.

The real downside to this is that both short hikes have historically been the “first” hike to a summit for generations of young hikers. Now lost due to ignorant “hikers”. Sorry, I’ve seen them and met them. I probably was one when I started hiking and backpacking as a teenager. But I learned.

The reports of the state now having to alter parking regulations and locations for numerous trail heads in the high peaks due to incredible amounts of cars parked dangerously on main highways are common. This takes time and taxpayer money. Not to mention the risk for the motorist driving these roads.

Tourism is great, but the Adirondack Park is larger than the High Peaks. Just as there are many other hikes in New York outside of the Blue Lines.

Tourism and teaching

New York State and the local municipalities have undertaken a massive promotional effort to increase the usage of natural resources in the Adirondack High Peaks and the Catskills. This is good. However, unlike going to an amusement park, the backcountry is unforgiving and needs to be respected and cared for. In the past several years rescues have risen dramatically.

I see people out in the backwoods completely unprepared. A few winters ago, my son and I where descending Slide Mountain in the Catskills and on the summit, we experienced whiteout conditions and frigid windchill. On our way down, we dropped out of the whiteout and passed four college-age guys heading up in blue jeans and light jackets! Only one had a pack.

In my opinion, it’s time for the state and local municipalities to add significant education efforts to the marketing plans. Hopefully, it will decrease the many problems that have been experienced in the backcountry which you can read about here, here, and here. And maybe even save the state some money by reducing the number of rescues and worse recoveries.