Cascade reroute works, offers other possibilities

Ron Konowitz, a trailhead steward with the Adirondack 46ers organization, shows a family of hikers a map of the rerouted Cascade Mountain trail on Sunday morning. The state temporarily rerouted the trail for the busy Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE PLACID — An often overcrowded parking area outside of Lake Placid was a sea of traffic cones and police officers this weekend, as several state agencies partnered to temporarily reroute what is arguably the busiest trail in the Adirondacks.

The state departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation, along with the state police and the Olympic Regional Development Authority, temporarily closed numerous parking areas along state Route 73 for the holiday weekend, instead sending hikers who wanted to tackle Cascade, Porter and Pitchoff mountains to the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic complex.

Due to the popularity of High Peaks Cascade and Porter, which regularly see close to 1,000 people over a weekend, the DEC announced the change in parking a couple of weeks ago. The parking areas are routinely overflowed, creating a dangerous situation for drivers and pedestrians alike, with cars spilling out of the off-road parking spots and onto the shoulder.

Kris Cheney-Seymour, Nordic Program and Events Manager at ORDA’s Mount Van Hoevenberg, said the change in the trail went off without a hitch., at least as of Sunday afternoon.

“About a week and a half before the Columbus Day weekend we made the call that we were going to pull it together and identify the changes we would need to make,” Cheney-Seymour said. “From my standpoint, it was a huge success. We were obviously curious if people would come and utilize the venue and accept the change.

“For the people that came, we heard nothing but positive.”

Cheney-Seymour said that venue amenities were available, including food, drinks and bathrooms. Mount Van Hoevenberg also offers more than enough parking.

With the change in trailhead, the hike up Cascade Mountain was four miles longer than normal. Trailhead stewards from the Adirondack 46ers were on hand at the Olympic biathlon and sliding complex all weekend, offering tips on Leave No Trace and offering hikers advice.

Ron Konowitz, a steward for the 46ers, said that many of the people who came to hike on Friday and Saturday chose instead to hike the nearby Mount Van Hoevenberg mountain, which is much shorter at just 3.2 miles.

The 46ers organization is in its first years with trailhead stewards, and over the past few weekends, stewards encountered just shy of 1,000 people over the course of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the regular Cascade Mountain trailhead.

“Friday, we only had 73 hikers,” Konowitz said Sunday morning. “I’d say at least half went to (Mount Van Hoevenberg).”

Konowitz said numbers were down, with stewards counting 473 hikers on Saturday. The previous Saturday saw 560 hikers and another 400 last Sunday at the regular trailhead. He said many of the people chose the shorter Mount Van Hoevenberg after learning more about the change in distance.

“I think the majority of people who have done this a lot are not going to show up to do Cascade on Columbus Day weekend, or a lot of weekends,” he said. “You can tell when people show up with packs, gaiters, boots — you don’t even have to ask them if they have a headlamp because you know they have one. (But) the majority of people have a phone in their pocket, maybe a jacket tied around their waist.

“We have had a few people who’ve come through and they say ‘I really want to do a High Peak. I want to be a 46er’ and they do the extra mileage, and that’s fine too.”

Regular trailhead parking for Cascade, Porter and Pitchoff will be open again on Tuesday of this week.