Be-Laboring the trails
Rain decreases hiker numbers, but thousands still tramped through High Peaks Labor Day weekend
LAKE PLACID — Summit stewards in the High Peaks saw thousands of hikers this past holiday weekend, but the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) says there were fewer people than last year.
Julia Goren, who coordinates the summit stewards for the ADK, said Sunday’s rainy, chilly weather may have helped keep numbers low, but she estimated summit stewards still counted just shy of 3,000 people on only five of the High Peaks.
“It was definitely busy, but it was not as busy as last year,” Goren said. “Of course the weather was different this year. It was really pretty cold up there running into the weekend.
“We spoke to about 2,300 people over the course of the weekend, [but] that’s missing Sunday on Cascade, Friday on Algonquin and all of our Wright numbers.”
Goren said some of the summit stewards haven’t yet turned in their numbers, and that it was reasonable to assume several hundred more people would be counted when the final tally came in.
A glance at the trailhead register for Cascade and Porter mountains showed that from Friday through Monday, 19 pages had been filled in. Each trail register page has 20 lines for hiking groups, so up to 380 groups checked in. If one assumes an average group size of three people, then those groups totaled 1,140 people just on those two mountains. If the group size average was four, then the total would have been 1,520. And that’s just those who signed the register.
While the ADK summit stewards manned mountain tops, the Adirondack 46ers had stewards at the Cascade trailhead. Goren said the double-team approach seemed to work. On Saturday, she said, the 46ers spoke to about 800 hikers at the bottom of Cascade while the summit steward counted about 600 at the summit.
The 46ers’ trailhead stewards coordinated and trained with the summit stewards to ensure a consistent message, such as on the Leave No Trace campaign.
“The take-home is that we were doing the work the way we always do it,” she said. “ADK has really tried to up our game in terms of Leave No Trace. I definitely saw they [the 46ers] were handing out trash bags, and I definitely saw people with trash in their trash bags.”
ADK also runs the High Peaks Information Center at Heart Lake outside of Lake Placid. This is traditionally New York state’s busiest trailhead, one of the major access points for the High Peaks. Bobby Clark, an ADK employee at the HPIC, said the parking lot was full by mid-morning on Friday and by 7 a.m. Saturday.
Goren said there are five paid summit stewards, along with almost two dozen volunteers, who talk to hikers on the summits throughout the summer. Stewards are there for educational purposes but can also help state Department of Environmental Conservation officials on occasion as well, assisting lost or injured hikers and alerting the DEC to potential problems.
Goren said the number of hikers is indisputably increasing, according to ADK’s numbers.
“There’s been a very clear exponential growth in the number of users from 2011 to now,” she said. “I can speculate that it’s social media, and I can speculate that people are doing more staycations. I can speculate that it’s the governor’s I Love New York campaign and all the ads about coming to the Adirondacks.
“But I think it was all of those things.”