With Labor Day weekend approaching, the long-range forecast calls for sunny skies, but that will be of little consolation to people who hoped to hike in the High Peaks.
Because of damage caused by Irene to trails and backcountry infrastructure, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has closed the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Dix Mountain Wilderness, and Giant Mountain Wilderness through the weekend.
The eastern High Peaks Wilderness and the other two Wilderness Areas contain some of the Adirondack Parks’ most spectacular scenery and the majority of the forty-six High Peaks.
In addition, the roads to the most popular High Peaks trailheads—the Adirondak Loj outside Lake Placid and the Garden in Keene Valley—are both closed because of washouts.
Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said about twenty-five guests are stranded at the Loj. He hopes to meet with Essex County officials on Tuesday to see what can be done to get the guests out.
“We’ve got plenty of provisions and staff to take care of them until we get an evacuation plan,” Woodworth said.
A portion of Adirondak Loj Road collapsed when the West Branch of the Ausable River, swollen by heavy rains, undercut the pavement. Until the bridge is replaced, the fifteen vehicles parked at the Loj have no way out.
In another blow to the Loj, the rains also washed out the bridge at Marcy Dam. The dam is a favorite destination of guests at the Loj and a scenic stopping point on the Van Hoevenberg Trail, the most popular route to Mount Marcy, the state’s highest summit. It’s estimated that forty thousand people a year visit Marcy Dam.
Forest rangers are still assessing the damage to trails, but DEC spokesman David Winchell said many routes were severely eroded by the rain. He noted that that the first bridge on the Klondike Trail has been washed away and that the trails along Lake Colden are under water.
DEC is working to reopen all its Adirondack campgrounds before the weekend.