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Enjoying the trails safely

May 21, 2008
By Richard Gast, Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension
Whether you’re looking for a short hike to a hidden pond for an afternoon picnic or searching for a panoramic mountain vista at the end of a picturesque hiking trail; whether you seek the sanctuary of an easy access riverside retreat or the solitude of a waterfall eight miles into the backcountry, you’ll find it here. Within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park’s approximately 2.6 million acres of public land lie more than 3,000 lakes and ponds, more than 1,500 miles of rivers, hundreds of mountain peaks (42 of them at elevations over 4,000 feet) and more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails, clearly marked and maintained by the state Department of environmental Conservation (DEC).

Whatever your interest or ability, there is a hiking trail for you. From easy half-day round trips for novices and children, to challenging overnight camping routes for the most experienced hikers, you can ramble, roam and explore here, and you can do it to your heart’s content.

With just a little bit of forethought and preparation, hiking and camping in the Adirondack region can be an extremely rewarding experience. There is little that compares to hiking alongside a cascading stream when the sweet smell of balsam is in the air and native wildflowers are in bloom, and the sound of songbirds, the flight of a raptor or the scurrying of animals in the underbrush are filling up your senses and leaving you awestruck.

However, for the uninformed or inexperienced hiker, going off into the wilderness unprepared for biting insects and unseen dangers, such as hanging tree limbs in dangerous winds, high elevation summer snows, rapidly changing temperatures, thunderstorms, fog, slippery terrain or falling rocks, an Adirondack adventure could prove, instead, to be a series of regrettable discomforts or result in an otherwise avoidable injury.

Proper clothing and appropriate gear are quintessential to safe and enjoyable hiking. It’s best to always dress appropriately and in layers. Wear comfortable, sturdy, properly fitting hiking shoes or boots. Keep in mind that cotton retains moisture. Carry a wool sweater or poncho, adequate rain gear, sunglasses if you wish and a hat.

Learn basic first aid and carry a first aid kit with you at all times. Learn how to use a compass. Take it with you, even on short hikes, along with a pocket knife, map, matches, field guides, flashlight, insect repellant, healthy high-energy snack foods such as trail mixes or fresh or dried fruit, and plenty of clean drinking water.

(If you must drink the water from spring brooks and streams, be sure that you purify, boil or filter it first.)

If you have a cellular phone, you may want to bring it, too. But, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t function when you need to use it.

Leave an itinerary with someone you trust. Let them know where you will be and when you expect to return. Stick to it.

Always sign the trail registers. That way, if you do get lost, rangers can quickly find you.

If you think you are lost, stop hiking. Don’t panic. If you are cold, put on your sweater or poncho, and if you think that it will be awhile, start a campfire. A fire will be visible from the air, making it easier for rescuers to find you, if you have been reported missing.

If a member of your hiking party is injured, do not leave that person alone. At least one other person should remain behind.

Should you choose to try to find your way out on your own, the rule of thumb is to find a stream and follow it downhill. You will almost definitely eventually come to a road.

You are expected to know the rules and guidelines for visiting and

using DEC managed public lands.

Rangers and conservation officers patrol regularly. They will confront and redirect you if you are not behaving appropriately. There may be consequences for your behavior, including being asked to leave and/or being arrested.

Keep in mind that camping and fires are not permitted at elevations above 4,000 feet.

One last thought. Unfortunately, cars parked at trailheads are sometimes broken into and valuables are stolen. Protect your valuables. If you cannot remove them, lock them in the trunk before walking off.

Happy trails!


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