The Adirondack Mountain Club hopes that the state will reopen some trails in the eastern High Peaks early next week.
“We’re aware of a number of trails that can be safely hiked at this point,” said Neil Woodworth, ADK’s executive director.
Woodworth refused to identify specific trails, saying it’s up to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to determine which trails should be reopened.
“We’re hoping that the closure order of the eastern High Peaks can be lifted,” he said.
Woodworth said ADK and other “interested stakeholders” have urged DEC to keep closed only trails that pose a hazard or are too damaged to hike. It’s possible that the blanket order could be lifted as early as Tuesday, he added. DEC officials could not be reached for comment late today.
DEC also closed all trails in the Dix Mountain Wilderness and Giant Mountain Wilderness in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. Woodworth said ADK crews have not surveyed those regions, so he cannot comment on the conditions of those trails.
The club’s Adirondak Loj sits on the edge of the eastern High Peaks and is the region’s busiest trailhead. It also owns Johns Brook Lodge in the interior of the Wilderness Area (the lodge is on a private in-holding).
Thirty-one guests were stranded at Adirondak Loj after a swollen river undercut a portion of the road leading to the road. Woodworth said Essex County rebuilt one lane of the road yesterday to allow the guests to leave, but the road remains closed to the general public.
Woodworth expects the road and the Loj to reopen on Tuesday. Even if the eastern High Peaks remain closed, he said, guests at Loj will be able to hike Mount Jo and about ten miles of trails on ADK property. They could hike numerous trails in the Lake Placid region that were not affected by the closure order. Click here to see my post on alternative hikes in the region.
Woodworth does not fault DEC for its decision to close all trails in the three Wilderness Areas.
“I think it was prudent to take a period to evaluate the conditions of the backcountry,” he said, “but it makes sense to lift an overall closure as soon as possible.”
Earlier today, DEC spokesman David Winchell defended the agency’s action, saying many trails were unsafe to use. He also said the department made the right call in closing Adirondack campgrounds and urging people to stay out of the backcountry as Irene approached.
“Based on the damage we’re seeing, we’re confident we saved lives by doing that,” he said.