Keene encourages traveling nature-seekers to stay home

Town promotes social distancing in High Peaks wilderness

Much of the High Peaks Wilderness Area is seen from the summit of Giant Mountain — the state’s 12th highest peak — on Labor Day weekend 2019. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

KEENE VALLEY — The town of Keene is encouraging traveling hikers to seek out trails close to where they live.

The recommendation from the town on Friday came as some out-of-town nature-seekers continue to visit trailheads off of state Route 73 between Lake Placid and the hamlets of Keene Valley and St. Huberts, including the popular Garden, Roaring Brook and Cascade trailheads.

“Hike locally! Stay home and hike the offbeat trails that won’t be crowded,” a news release from the town reads. “Don’t travel to hike. Our small town has limited EMS and hospital infrastructure. Any extra demand stresses the system.”

State Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, who conduct search and rescue missions on state land, are being deployed to aid in the state’s COVID-19 response.

“If we had an extended search or fire, that could possibly inhibit rangers filling crucial positions for COVID-19,” said forest ranger Scott van Laer, speaking in his position as a representative of the rangers’ union.

The DEC is recommending hikers utilize lesser-trodden trails, and if hiking in a group, continue to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from others.

The Adirondacks is currently in mud season, when trails experience different conditions at all levels.

The ground level might be soft and muddy in some areas, but mountains still have deep snow and slippery ice closer to the summit. Hikers are encouraged to be prepared before heading out into the wilderness.

Nature-seekers should continue to bring snowshoes and trail crampons on all hikes, wear seasonally appropriate clothing and gear — including waterproof boots, gaiters and moisture-wicking layers — and pack extra wool socks, face protection and warm, waterproof layers to protect against exposed conditions, according to the DEC.

“Weather can change quickly this time of year, especially as you move from trailheads to higher elevations. Temperatures can drop by more than 10 degrees and rain, sleet, and snow may occur near summits. If conditions worsen, turn around and complete the hike another day,” the department said in a news release.

Before going out for a hike, check out backcountry trail conditions at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9198.html.


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