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Thread: Trail Head Log Books - is it the law?

  1. #1
    Senior Member shadowcat's Avatar
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    Trail Head Log Books - is it the law?

    Question: is there a law stating you must sign in / out in the log books at trail heads? Typically we are always very good about doing this but my understanding was they were used to see how many folks used the trails & of course helpful should someone end up missing - however I was never aware you could get into trouble for not siging in/ out. We had an incident regarding this over the wkend and it was rather disturbing & it goes along w/ my question about who employs the rangers at the trail head at the Ausable Club:
    I got was really sick hiking out on Sunday, maybe it was the heat & humidity & I was having a really sharp pain in my side to boot. My partner was helping out and had my big pack on his chest and his 5000cu pack on his back. Anyone who saw us, especially w/ me hobling along would have known something was amiss. So anyway we come out around 8:30 & the little cabin at the gate at the Ausable Club was dark. My partner was beat from lugging my pack & was sick as a dog & we just walked past the trail sign in area anxious to get home. Remember, I don't recall one other time where we didn't sign in/out. So all of a sudden this ranger comes out of the dark cabin yelling at us - asking us if we had been hiking and how many in our party and demanding we sign out, waving the book in the air. My partner (boyfriend) said sorry he was just anxious to get me home because I was really sick. We told the guy it was just us; no one else that we knew of on our trail anyway. So he was obviously very aggitated but we figured all was ok and kept walking. All of a sudden this truck comes racing down the road, swerves around us and pulls up on the side of the road in front of us. This ranger comes out of the truck stands right in our way and again waving the log book demanding to know who we were. I'm not kidding he looked demented. my boyfriend said "look I told you it was just us and I was sorry, now I have to get home, my girlfriend has a health issue and is sick" & we tried to walk around him. He moved in front of us and put his hand out on my boyfriend's shoulder to try and stop him from moving. But what was really frightening, I look down and the guy has his hand on his holster - like he was actually thinking of pulling out his gun!! I'm like "are you kidding me you think you are going to pull on gun on us?" "Instead of asking if we need help this is how you act?" Finally my boyfriend said something about if he didn't take his hand off him and move out of the way he was calling the police and the guy backed off, got in his truck and took off down the road. Now, I'm sorry , but what the heck was that all about? Threatening force over the fact we simply forgot to sign out? He should have been lending a helping hand instead; it was obvious I was having an issue I could barely stand up straight and here's this guy lugging 2 huge packs & all he's worried about is whether or not we signed out. And this guy should not be wearing a gun - I don't know why a freeking trail ranger needs one at all but this dude sure as heck shouldn't be having one. Anyway so I would like to know what his motivation was: is there a law stating you have to sign in & out, and again who employs this particular ranger because I want to let them know what happened.
    Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are in the mountains.- Unknown

  2. #2
    Senior Member shadowcat's Avatar
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    Well I guess so....

    I just found this on a website - not sure when this was but to answer my own question:
    "Registry by all hikers is now a legal requirement at any trailhead in the Adirondacks. This includes filling out a registration form that you must carry with you on your hike as well as putting your name and address and a contact person in the log book at the trailhead. You'll notice a few postings that explain the rules for hiking in the AMR. They are very serious about these rules. I know!"

    Well Ok, but he still could have handled the matter more rationally. First, we honestly did not know it was a law; most of the trails we hike don't have rangers on them and there's just the sign in post no billboards or large informative areas. Call me stupid but we really did not know it was a law. Even so, to chase us down and basically threaten us? That was a bit excessive considering we are talking about a sign in log for crying out loud. Lesson learned for sure.
    Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are in the mountains.- Unknown

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    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Wow, that's disturbing. I always thought that the person at the gate was an AMR employee. I've met several different people over the years there, and let's just say that their personalities are different! I never noticed a gun on their sides, but I wasn't looking either. As for the truck, was it an official DEC truck, or an AMR truck?

    Since the AMR is private land, their requirements for registration may vary from the state requirements. In any case, I've never seen a 'YOU MUST REGISTER!!!' sign. It usually says 'PLEASE REGISTER', afaik.

    The other thing I find odd is that you did not have to start there, so you may not have signed the book in the morning to begin with. Sometimes I do sign out when I get to the end of a thru hike, sometimes not.

    I would call the DEC and complain if this happened to me.
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    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowcat View Post
    I just found this on a website - not sure when this was but to answer my own question:
    "Registry by all hikers is now a legal requirement at any trailhead in the Adirondacks. This includes filling out a registration form that you must carry with you on your hike as well as putting your name and address and a contact person in the log book at the trailhead. You'll notice a few postings that explain the rules for hiking in the AMR. They are very serious about these rules. I know!"

    Well Ok, but he still could have handled the matter more rationally. First, we honestly did not know it was a law; most of the trails we hike don't have rangers on them and there's just the sign in post no billboards or large informative areas. Call me stupid but we really did not know it was a law. Even so, to chase us down and basically threaten us? That was a bit excessive considering we are talking about a sign in log for crying out loud. Lesson learned for sure.
    That sounds like antiquated information. There used to be cards, but you will not find any cards at any trailheads these days. And like I said above, the AMR and state land may have different rules...
    Tom Rankin
    Web Master - NY Forest Fire Lookout Association
    Volunteer - Balsam Lake Mountain
    Past President - Catskill 3500 Club
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  5. #5
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    Yes, the "self issuing permit" system came and went about ten years ago. It was somebodies bright idea in Albany, but after a few months, they stopped collecting the copies from the boxes by the trailheads, and they becasme too stuffed to put any more in. It was silly from the beginning.

    On State Land, signing in and out has always been optional.

    At the AMR gate, I've always had good luck with the gatekeeper. I haven't been in there in a while, but there was a pleasant older gentleman with a big grey beard who was always nice. I've read a couple reports recently about this new guy who gives people trouble; I am not sure what to believe at this point. A couple of the reports, like the one linked from the Adirondack Explorer, involved people going in there with a dog to deliberately "bait" the AMR folks, to get a bad reaction, so those reports I discredit. Your report sounds reasonable, and suggests that maybe the AMR has a new guy who is a little "overzealous."

  6. #6
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    You might start with emailing a complaint or an inquiry to:

    frontdesk@ausableclub.org

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    The Lake Road gatekeepers in St. Huberts are Ausable Club (AMR) employees and one of the them I believe is a recently retired Forest Ranger.

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    Senior Member Adk_dib's Avatar
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    I thought only the members there were snob's.

    Seriously, this guy should be reported.

  9. #9
    Senior Member shadowcat's Avatar
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    no kidding

    after more research i do f ind that the registration/ card was old; not something new we'd missed. and there was a great older guy we used to call him father time super sweet but he's gone i guess. yes, this guy s/b reported his behavior was totally uncalled for and he def had his hand on his gun!! what if the next person is in a really pissy mood is this guy going to think he's dealing w/ a criminal and shoot 1st and ask later? really, if you would have been there and seen this guy you'd think he was chasing down a couple crooks.
    happy trails! (except maybe on this property - beware of ranger )
    Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are in the mountains.- Unknown

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    Senior Member Willie's Avatar
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    6 NYCRR 190.13(f)(1) provides:

    No person shall fail to register whenever passing a trail register established by the department in the Eastern High Peaks Zone.

    Was the trail register at the Ausable Club "established" by the DEC?

    If so, must the trail register physically be located within in the Eastern High Peak Zone, as defined in 6 NYCRR 190.13(b)(4), to fall within the scope of section 190(f)(1)?
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  11. #11
    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    I've emailed Tony Goodwin and copied Ranger Kris Alberga. Asked Tony to take a look at this and comment.
    The AMR does a great job of stewardship, at the same time, allegations of improper actions need to be looked at.
    Let's reserve comment.
    Glad that this did not escalate.
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    in this life has not escaped me." Jim Harrison

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    Senior Member DSettahr's Avatar
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    Just to clear a few things up- others have alluded to it, but no one has outright explained out it works.

    First off, the Ausable Valley and the lands that comprise the "Adirondack Mountain Reserve" (AMR) are privately owned. The way it works is that the land is under an easement with New York State that protects it from further development, and allows for public access on certain marked trails within the Reserve. For most people, the Reserve functions as an access point- they hike through it on their way to nearby High Peaks that are located on State Land.

    What this means is that the caretakers who work at the gatehouse aren't forest rangers, nor are they state employees. I don't know the specifics of the easement, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was language in there that required the public to sign in when they enter the AMR, or if the AMR had that as policy. Either way, because it's private land, the rules work a bit differently there (at least until you get far enough up the trail to be on State Land again). I'm fairly certain that the register at the gate isn't a state one, mainly because they use a different format on the sign-in sheets there than the state does in all the rest of its register boxes.

    At most registers on state land in the Adirondacks, signing the register is not mandatory (there are some exceptions, like Willie posted above).

    In general, it's not a bad idea to sign trailhead registers, though, and not just for safety. The state uses the register entries to determine use levels, and that allows them to justify money for trail work and such in their budget. What many people do who desire privacy in the backcountry is sign the register on their way out, after their hike is already completed.

    Btw, Kris Alberga is a Forester, not a Forest Ranger- in a nutshell, the Foresters make the rules, and the Forest Rangers enforce them.

  13. #13
    Senior Member teleskier's Avatar
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    I try to always sign in, because I believe there's value to it, not just for my safety but for the safety of others. If a group is lost, being able to contact those who signed in before and after them could certainly help in search and rescue, by narrowing the parameters of where and when they were last seen.

    But, that said, if a ranger hassled me about signing in, the first thing I'd point out is that I have no intention of being forced to provide personally identifying information - name, phone number, address, and destination - in a completely public setting, where anyone who wants to could harvest that information. Information, which, by the way, would tell anyone who looks at it how long I'd be out in the woods, and therefore how long I'd be away from my home and car. Want usage statistics? Fine, I have no problem with signing in as "John Doe" and giving my destination. Guess it's the civil libertarian in me...

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    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peakbagr View Post
    I've emailed Tony Goodwin and copied Ranger Kris Alberga. Asked Tony to take a look at this and comment.
    Just a nit... Kris is not a Ranger, his title is "Supervising Forester", which is something of a different breed with totally different duties, but not a bad guy to contact with specific issues regarding the DEC in the backcountry. I only mention it because Kris is a good friend. As high adventure guide instructors, we'll be instructing/camping together for more than a week coming up soon, as we have done for the past 20+ years.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

  15. #15
    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    I'm aware of Kris' position. People expressed concern in the thread and in PMs - notifiying him was the fastest way I could think of for this incident to be passed along to the correct enforcement person.

    I was told that the individual at the gate is an AMR security person and not a forest ranger, DEC employee, or working on behalf of DEC. The complaint is being investigated by them.
    "The fact that going off the deep end appears
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