Rangers rescue hikers in McKenzie Mt. Wilderness

State forest rangers helped two Adirondack hikers lost in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness last week. Three other rangers were recognized as heroes for saving lives in separate incidents. These are among the items in this week’s Ranger Report from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The report follows:

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Search:
 On May 8 at 5:30 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a request to assist two lost hikers in the McKenzie Wilderness Area. An 18-year-old female from Argyle and a 22-year-old female from Gansevoort became disoriented while descending Haystack Mountain. One Forest Ranger was dispatched to locate the pair while Dispatch obtained cell phone coordinates from Essex County 911. Although the Ranger called the women to tell the hikers how to get back on the trail, the two went in the opposite direction. The Ranger then told the women to stay in place so he could find them. The women were located and escorted back to their vehicle by 8 p.m.

Town of North Hudson
Essex County
 On May 8, Forest Rangers responded to a report of a wildfire in the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area. The fire was located at 1,200 feet elevation, just west of I-87 and inaccessible to local fire departments. By May 10, the fire was contained to 26.5 acres. The fire is believed to have been started by a lightning strike.

City of Albany
Albany County
Prescribed Fires:
 Forest Rangers assisted Albany Pine Bush Commission fire management staff conduct two prescribed fires on May 8, and 9. A total of 62 acres of woodland and open areas were burned for prescribed fire. Both burns supported the ecological goal of improved habitat for endangered species.

Town of Clayton
Jefferson County
 On May 8, two Forest Rangers assisted eight county fire departments contain a wildfire caused by debris burning. The fire was stopped at 4.7 acres, but required several days of additional work to extinguish fire burning in debris piles.

Town of Indian Lake
Hamilton County
Wildland Rescue:
 On May 9 at 12:30 p.m., Hamilton County 911 reported to DEC Ray Brook Dispatch that a 20-year-old Cornwall man was suffering seizures while hiking John’s Pond Trail. By 1:30 p.m., Forest Rangers, Blue Mountain Lake Fire Department, and Inlet EMS reached the hiker using all-terrain vehicles (ATV). After being rehydrated, the hiker was transported to the trailhead by 3:30 p.m. He refused further medical treatment and returned home.

City of Rome
Oneida County
Recognition of Heroism:
 On May 10, New York State Senator Joseph Griffo presented three Forest Rangers with New York State Liberty Metals for unique incidents during which the Rangers saved someone’s life. Ranger David Cornell was recognized for saving the life of a motorcycle operator severely bleeding after a highway accident. Ranger Luke Evans was recognized for rescuing a kayaker stranded and submerged in the rapids of the Moose River. Ranger Robert Piersma was recognized for rescuing two unresponsive boaters capsized in the icy waters of Chittning Pond. Senator Griffo said, “Rangers Cornell, Evans, and Piersma displayed remarkable bravery, courage, and initiative and were able to think quickly on their feet while under intense pressure and with lives on the line. They are all very deserving of this special recognition and it is my honor to present them with these Liberty Medals.”

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wildland Search
: On the morning of May 12, Hunter Police asked Forest Rangers to help find a missing 73-year-old Haines Falls man who had not returned from riding his utility vehicle (UTV) the previous evening. Police and Rangers quickly found the abandoned UTV. Eight rangers along with local police, firefighters, and K-9s made extensive and intensive searches of the area and found the immobile man at 4 p.m. He was quickly carried to an ambulance and hospitalized for injuries related to exposure.

Town of Shandaken
Ulster County
Wildland Search and Recovery:
 On May 12, Shandaken Police found a vehicle at a trailhead in Woodland Valley that belonged to a reported missing 46-year-old man from Queens. Hikers reported to police that a man matching the Queens man’s description was seen at the Terrace Lean-to. Two Forest Rangers hiked to the lean-to and found the man in severe hypothermia. Efforts began to move him out of the woods, but the man lost consciousness. The subject did not respond to rescue breathing and died at the scene.

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
 On the evening of May 12, three Erie County hikers at Avalanche Pass called 911 for help. The hikers had just climbed Wright and Algonquin mountains, were cold and wet at higher elevations, and unprepared to stay overnight. One Forest Ranger intercepted the group as they struggled to get to Adirondack Loj. After some minor first aid, the group returned to the parking lot two hours after their call without need of further medical care.

Town of Riverhead
Suffolk County
Prescribed Fire:
 Five Forest Rangers plus additional DEC staff and volunteers conducted a prescribed burn on 20 acres of the Peconic Headwaters State Forest on May 11. The grass field needed burning to enhance warm season grasses that provide an improved habitat for varieties of local wildlife.

Town of Edwards
St. Lawrence County
 On May 13, six Forest Rangers assisted 50 volunteer firefighters from four county fire departments contain a wildfire started at a residence where garbage was being burned. By the end of the day, the fire had burned 68 acres and was 60 percent contained with no loss of buildings or reported injuries. Six Rangers returned on May 14 to continue developing a containment line and to extinguish any burning material. No further spread of fire is expected and the incident is under investigation.

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety and Adirondack Backcountry Information webpage for more information.

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About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

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