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Thread: Mt Colden loop advice needed

  1. #16
    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Tom Rankin, I think my tone towards the 'mini-rangers' [is 'assistant ranger' better-sounding?] is coming off more negative and pejorative than I mean it to be. The two individuals at the trailhead had on a uniform of some kind but did not have guns. They were young (early 20's?). My impression is they're some kind of assistant rangers. They're definitely not NYS Forest Rangers. You're exactly right - the ADKs, like many other places, are dealing with a surge in visitation that few have seen before. The assistant rangers stopping hikers and backpackers at the Loj - I don't mean to sound so negative towards them. Even though my interaction with them ended up drifting into negative territory (from my side), they're doing the best they can with the cards they've been dealt, and they're young and probably don't have that much experience dealing with a wide range of people and personalities. Also, the Loj is a pinch point where they can interact with many, many hikers. Once into the back country, hikers are relatively dispersed and it's impossible to interact with as large a proportion. So the location makes sense, and doing the best they can to educate folks is laudable. I won't rehash what I wrote, except to add that they'd made their point effectively in the first 90 seconds, and really didn't need to drive it in any further over the next 3-4 minutes. I got it. Also, having seen the situation in the back country, I can say with confidence I'm not the right target. It would NOT have been easy for the assistant rangers to know that just by looking at me and my group. So I understand why we got the lecture. The intensity of it just did not feel good, and I couldn't help but think back on it when I saw all the other stuff happening in the back country.

    I expect your statements on the actual rangers are accurate. Our friends who camped at another spot, one considerably more crowded than where we camped, told us later that the rangers had been in their area all afternoon and into the evening directing people to spots they could camp and generally taking an active role trying to manage the situation. Six or seven miles into the back country, with the sun going down - options are limited. The biggest issue is over-crowding, and the rangers are doing the best they can with the situation in front of them, short of a nuclear option like limiting the number of people they allow into the back country. So I get that too. Even though I fully understand the situation, it just did not feel good to be intruded on in the way we were intruded on, after we'd found an appropriate and legal campsite, practiced perfect bear technique, and gotten to bed early. I understand why it happened, but it still did not feel good.

    In the end, the biggest issue is simply the over-crowding, and my interactions with the rangers and assistant rangers are really a side-effect of that issue.
    Sure. Why not.

  2. #17
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    ...they'd made their point effectively in the first 90 seconds, and really didn't need to drive it in any further over the next 3-4 minutes.
    The "mini's" were probably Adirondack Mountain Club folks.

    The "lengthy lecture" is one of the problems that has been identified. Sadly, there are those here (in Government and in the various "Green" groups) that think subjecting the public to a lengthy lecture about LNT or some other topic will somehow be effective.
    >Maybe a very few people will learn something new.
    >For the vast majority, their eyes will glass over after the first few lines, and they will just become annoyed.

    So your reaction is understandable, and is another data point.

    One of our local experts has developed a ***very short*** script that solves this problem, by just quickly focusing on the very few things that are needed to reduce damage and reduce SAR events. This is the script that should be used, and a number of us have been trying to "sell" this idea for several years. But you cannot sell an idea to those "in charge" who "know better."

  3. #18
    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    TCD, those are all good thoughts. It's a difficult situation, and I brought it on myself in many ways by choosing to hike during COVID, going someplace new that might have unique regulations, and going to a busy spot on a busy weekend. So take any of my bitching with a grain of salt. ;-) I like the ideas in your last paragraph. I was thinking about Tom's question above re: what could the ADK MC folks have done differently, and I came up with the same thought as you. 30 seconds or less. Tell me "It's a busy spot on a busy weekend in a CRAZY year, and there are issues with crowding. We want everyone to have fun in our mountains, so here are the 3 things we REALLY need you to do: bear canister; camp on durable, established surfaces that do not say No Camping; poop in a hole well off the trail and away from water. Also, you will be visited by rangers, sorry for that, it's just how it is right now. We're all doing our best. This is a beautiful spot, welcome, and have fun!" Or whatever. I'm no expert on what the majority of SARs look like, but I'm sure there are thoughtful people who could put the right set of ideas together and get them across quickly.
    Sure. Why not.

  4. #19
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Ok, I think we're still friends!

    Most of what the AFRs and ADK folks are 'preaching' is not to avoid SARs, but to avoid back country degradation.
    Tom Rankin
    Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
    Past President Catskill 3500 Club
    CEO

  5. #20
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    From what I've been reading on the Whites and what I saw in June in both the Whites and ADK, because people can't go to Europe, Disney, ball games, cruises, Canada, feel good about a plane ride or quarantine for two weeks if you go west or go to any other crowded places, they are hiking.

    With the woods being outside and gyms closed, the woods and trails are much more crowded then what we are used to. Labor Day was more likely a weekend to avoid, I expect ugly foliage season parking too.

    You are right that day hikes from the ADK Loj and hikes of Cascade, Giant and the Ausable Club are the Presidentials and Franconia of NY. From what I've seen, if you aren't in the parking lots by 7:00 you are late. (ADK Loj and Ausable Club is likely even earlier.) This is the same for NH.

    With November usually being the Fall's version of April, I may venture somewhere then. (Winter like possibly, one with some snow and slick footing vs. rotting snow, neither counting as winter and harder than Summer. Having been stung nine times working on my son's Eagle project this summer, I've had my share of bugs too)
    Last edited by Mike P.; 09-11-2020 at 06:46 AM.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

  6. #21
    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Mike P. - We'd read before we arrived that the trailheads in the ADKs in general are full by 5:30 a.m. this year. Crazy. That's why we'd chosen to stick to an itinerary that left from the Loj. We had a reservation at the Heart Lake Wilderness Campground, so we didn't need to arrive pre-dawn at the trailhead, which would have been a challenge with 3 families including 5 kids. We could hike straight from our campsite, and we could stay out as long or as little as we wanted, knowing our car-camp tent was already set up and ready for us. Also, we'd made the reservations last December, when COVID was barely a whisper in the wind. Seems like a lifetime ago. We seriously considered not going, but in the end we decided to try and make it work. I'm glad we went. I understand the ADKs at least a little bit now and would have some idea what to expect in a non-COVID year, should we choose to go back in the future. There's value in that. And we had some special moments - our evening/night hike out of the back country in particular was really strikingly beautiful. We hiked past Avalanche lake in golden hour light. Notably, that evening there were 3 separate rescues, including a helicopter rescue at Marcy Dam, which we caught the tail end of well after dark. It IS a crazy year.
    Sure. Why not.

  7. #22
    Senior Member maineguy's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    Ok, here are my brief notes. First, amazingly, my toe healed enough to be basically 100% in time for the trip. I can't believe how much pain I was in, for what ultimately was a sprain, and likely a fairly minor one. Wow.

    The trip:

    Not fond of the welcoming committee on I-87 who called themselves NY's Finest. The flashing red lights were really pretty, but yeah, could have done without the rest of it. Noted.

    Overall, the Daks felt a lot like the Whites to me. Subtle differences - more back country lakes, and a bit more slab, at least where we were. Maybe slightly more remote feeling. But largely similar, as one would expect I suppose. Having to rent bear canisters and practice bear country technique is also a hassle. For those reasons, I probably won't spend the 6 hrs of driving each way again to get back there. It is a long, long drive with little or no additional reward beyond what I can get in a 2 hr drive. That said, TCD and Daniel Eagan (and maineguy), your advice and thoughts were spot on. Unfortunately, I didn't have complete control over the itinerary, and Colden and some back country camping in that area were the decisions that were made.

    You can't enter the back country from the Loj without first passing through a gauntlet of mini-rangers eager to tell you all about back country regulations. We were informed in no uncertain terms that our group of 9 was too big for a back country trip, and that any 'affiliated' groups over 8 needed to be separated by at least 1 mile at all times. This point was drilled into me sufficiently strongly over a 5-10 minute lecture, replete with an expectation of ranger visits and associated fines, that we split our 3 families up, camping at different spots and hiking largely different itineraries. We'd figured we'd be ok since we'd sent early morning hikers out to get 2 different campsites, but the mini-rangers let us know this was not ok at all. This was a bummer and really changed the nature of the trip, but I understand the spirit of the regulation, and as a rule I don't disrespect local customs when I'm traveling. 'No groups larger than 8' was clearly written on the sign as you enter the back country.

    Also written on the sign was 'up to three tents per campsite.' So it was surprising to see >5 tents at EVERY campsite, including sites we'd passed over early in the morning because they were 'full.' Really lovely sights with little signs showing a red line through a tent were all filled with multiple tents. I'm confident rangers came through (read below), so I'm not sure what the rangers did, if anything, to enforce that particular rule. But the selective enforcement of rules was bothersome. It's a weird year though, and perhaps rangers are just doing the best they can.

    The mini-rangers also asked us not only whether we were carrying bear canisters, but exactly how many, and what we were storing in there. So it was surprising to see, at Marcy Dam, several bags of food 'hung' in a tree next to a lean to. More surprising still was the gigantic raccoon actively pawing at the bag when we walked by. But the kicker was seeing a large group of people on their way to that lean to - when I let them know a raccoon was trying to get their food, one guy responded, 'He's back already? He got all my food last night and dragged it away...' I'm not sure how they got past the gauntlet of mini-rangers.

    We did find a decent, quiet campsite off to the east side of Lake Colden. We set up before dark, as advised by the mini-rangers, and we were the only ones there. Great! Finished dinner, packed everything into cans, marched them well away from camp, and settled in at dark to sleep. Around 9:00, having been asleep for half an hour or so, a REALLY noisy group of hikers, along with what must have been 300 lumen headlamps, showed up, stomping right next to our tent and literally yelling to each other. Finally, I poked my head out and asked, please, could they keep it down a little bit so we could get some sleep. No response. Until about 90 seconds later when a voice materialized right outside my tent, just as I was settling in again, 'Park rangers, how are you doing tonight.' They inquired with some rigor about where and how we were storing our food. Felt more than a little intrusive. Truthfully, I wouldn't have been so bothered by it, except for the blatant disregard of the other 'rules', especially after we'd altered our trip significantly to follow them! Sigh. When we woke up in the morning, there were 4 other tents right in our little campsite. We'd planned to stay in that spot 2 nights but opted to add 6 miles onto our Colden summit day to get out of the back country. At least at our car camp sight we had our own space and wouldn't be woken by rangers.

    Avalanche lake was gorgeous, and we stared at Trap Dike the whole time. I was remarking to the boys what a great ice climb that must be; I didn't realize you could climb in the summer too, but that must be a GREAT climb in just about any season except mud season. Nice.

    I haven't been up to the Whites this year. I'm sure it's chaos everywhere, and I'm done hiking until the craziness subsides. Not worth it. The scenery was nice, but (as is probably the case with the Whites right now too) not at all what I want out of a backpacking trip. If I'm back in the Daks again, I'll be targeting the remote lakes and smaller peaks. I get the feeling Colden and Marcy are Franconia Ridge and Washington transplanted.

    Thanks again for the accurate advice! Even if I was unfortunately not able to follow it. In NH, everyone has to hike Washington and Franconia ridge once. Get it out of the system. I believe I've now done the 'Daks equivalent. :-)
    Now I remember why it has been a decade since I was in that area. Glad to hear you made the best of it and had a good time.

  8. #23
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    Mike P. - We'd read before we arrived that the trailheads in the ADKs in general are full by 5:30 a.m. this year. Crazy. That's why we'd chosen to stick to an itinerary that left from the Loj. We had a reservation at the Heart Lake Wilderness Campground, so we didn't need to arrive pre-dawn at the trailhead, which would have been a challenge with 3 families including 5 kids. We could hike straight from our campsite, and we could stay out as long or as little as we wanted, knowing our car-camp tent was already set up and ready for us. Also, we'd made the reservations last December, when COVID was barely a whisper in the wind. Seems like a lifetime ago. We seriously considered not going, but in the end we decided to try and make it work. I'm glad we went. I understand the ADKs at least a little bit now and would have some idea what to expect in a non-COVID year, should we choose to go back in the future. There's value in that. And we had some special moments - our evening/night hike out of the back country in particular was really strikingly beautiful. We hiked past Avalanche lake in golden hour light. Notably, that evening there were 3 separate rescues, including a helicopter rescue at Marcy Dam, which we caught the tail end of well after dark. It IS a crazy year.
    That's right, I remember now on your campsite, which would have made the canoeing in Heart Lake possible. With a slight road walk, hiking to Mt. Van Hovenberg is a nice hike with some bare ledges offering great views. The Summit is wooded, however, if you go further, you come out on top of the Bobsled run.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    The biggest issue is over-crowding, and the rangers are doing the best they can with the situation in front of them, short of a nuclear option like limiting the number of people they allow into the back country. So I get that too. Even though I fully understand the situation, it just did not feel good to be intruded on in the way we were intruded on, after we'd found an appropriate and legal campsite, practiced perfect bear technique, and gotten to bed early. I understand why it happened, but it still did not feel good.
    I wonder if the ADK folks have considered how the AMC handles backcountry camping in the White Mountains. It seems to me that building clusters of tent platforms, providing bear boxes and outhouses and managing the campsites with caretakers works pretty well and might help reduce the overcrowding problems in the ADKs.

  10. #25
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    That seems like a good idea to me, as well.

    As long ago as 2006, after seeing this solution used effectively in Yosemite, I recommended this type of system in writing to our State regulators.

    I was told (and you cannot make this stuff up): "Those ideas will never work here. It works out west, but eastern hikers are too stupid to use the facilities correctly, and will just stuff the bear lockers with trash."

    I was astounded. We went back and forth for a bit, before I gave up.

    This forum has produced many good ideas about how to manage these situations. Almost all of these ideas have been recommended repeatedly, in writing, through the appropriate channels. But in Albany, we are dealing with arrogant, know-it-all bureaucrats, who simply will not listen to suggestions from the unwashed, inferior public.

    I'm glad most of my travel is off trail. It's easy for me to avoid crowds. I advocate for better management not for myself, but for folks who would like to come enjoy the area, and for local businesses who need the traffic to survive. The issues described in this thread are an example of how the current poor management degrades what should be a great experience, and makes people reluctant to come back here. This hurts everyone, but it seems to be very hard to fix.

  11. #26
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Stupid question: Isn't back country/ "at large" camping allowed in the Adirondacks below 4,000 ft? Did they get rid of that with COVID? I think I'd rather take a meat tenderizing mallet to my own genitals before staying in a designated backcountry campground in NH or NY this year, or any busy weekend for that matter. The crowds, the noise, the lack of etiquette, the trash, the "toilet hygiene", etc. and that's all before you even contemplate COVID issues. When I backpack I want to be out there on my own and get a little solitude. I can't imagine how irate I would have been if I'd had hikerbrian's experience. I am really hopeful this year's surge in popularity is a temporary phenomenon for the Northeast and not the start of a trend....
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

  12. #27
    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I am really hopeful this year's surge in popularity is a temporary phenomenon for the Northeast and not the start of a trend....
    The trend has been on an upward swing before this Season. 2020 has only accelerated the process. IMO I don't think you'll see things change very quickly. If anything it is going to get worse as more and more people flee their primary residencies in the cities, relocate in more suburban areas and only get that much closer to the Mountains.
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

  13. #28
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skiguy View Post
    The trend has been on an upward swing before this Season. 2020 has only accelerated the process. IMO I don't think you'll see things change very quickly. If anything it is going to get worse as more and more people flee their primary residencies in the cities, relocate in more suburban areas and only get that much closer to the Mountains.
    Yah I know it has been on the uptick. I see the changes even in the 8 or so years since I started serious hiking. This year has seen an explosion in hiker volume though so I hope it backs off and other distractions capture the minds of some of these people. Even lesser used trails are showing major signs of erosion, braiding, etc. And of course all the littering. That won't be sustainable without more volunteers, more money from the states or access restrictions. I really don't see funding improving at all so the future looks ominous to me. I think we all need to be vocal advocates for the rewarding joy of corn maze puzzles and the affordability of up and coming states like Nebraska.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

  14. #29
    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I think we all need to be vocal advocates for the rewarding joy of corn maze puzzles and the affordability of up and coming states like Nebraska.
    Be careful what you suggest. They are already working on a version for North Carolina. Wait until it hits in New Hampshire. All the Social Media sites will be advertising it. Before you know it having a 48 Four Thousand Footer Patch won’t be enough.https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...untain-edition
    Last edited by skiguy; 09-16-2020 at 11:54 AM.
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

  15. #30
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    The whites lack "mini rangers". If anything the FS is understaffed and appear to have dropped enforcement of some regulations like the 1/4 mile rule.

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