Saranac Lake uses funds from popular Saranac 6er challenge toward trail work
By Mike Lynch
One of the most popular hiking destinations in the Saranac Lake region got some maintenance last week.
Baker Mountain received nearly five days of work from the Adirondack Mountain Club’s professional trail crew.
The crew built features to divert water from the route and spent time closing off herd paths to better define the trail. Baker is known for having multiple paths that break off from the official trail, which can be confusing for those not familiar with the route.
“(Hikers are) just going to have a safer experience, because that trail surface is going to be more improved,” said ADK’s Director of Communications Ben Brousseau. “They’re going to know where they’re going, because it’s going to be more obvious where the trail is.”
The trailhead is located less than a mile from downtown Saranac Lake across from Moody Pond. The hike to the summit offers views of the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness and beyond.
The mountain hike is popular with both locals and visitors because of its short distance – nine-tenths of a mile one way – and its location within the village.
It’s also one of the Saranac 6ers, a hiking challenge created in 2013 by former Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau. St. Regis, Scarface, Ampersand, Haystack, McKenzie are the other five mountains.
The challenge inspired many similar ones throughout the Adirondack Park in the years following its creation.
Hikers who finish all six mountains can get a 6ers’ patch by registering their feat and paying $15.
Saranac Lake Treasurer Patrick Murphy said the 6er program generated about $15,600 in the 2020-21 fiscal year from May to June and $12,235 the following year.
Murphy, who recently took over as treasurer, said to his knowledge the funding was used for 6er supplies in the past. That included things such as stickers, water bottles, and events, including the ultra-Sixer competitions.
Money for maintenance
Last summer, the village board decided to start putting that money toward 6er trail maintenance and had the nonprofit Saranac Lake Development Corp. manage the funds. With $7,000 raised since last summer, Jeremy Evans, a Saranac Lake resident and board member with the development corporation, contacted the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
DEC informed the nonprofit that the mountain club had some availability, so the groups paired up to tackle some of the projects at Baker.
“Everyone who uses this trail knows that it needs work,” said Evans, who was the village’s community development director when the program started and is now CEO of Franklin County Industrial Development Agency.
The village has also cut back on promoting the challenge and requires 6er participants to earn a patch by beginning the Baker Mountain hike at downtown’s Berkeley Green.
The changes were in response to criticism about heavy traffic on the mountain over the years exacerbated by the 6er program.
Parking had become a particularly thorny issue and neighbors had complained about the many vehicles parked at the trailhead.
There is now a more limited parking area that is signed at the trailhead.
“(Baker) gets a lot of use, and it just doesn’t get the attention that it needs,” Evans said. “We thought this was a great place to start using the village’s registration funds to do some trail work.”