By Gwendolyn Craig
It was a busy weekend for forest rangers in the Adirondack Park. There was a death investigation, search and rescue operations and illegal campers.
The weekend wrapped up with the death of a hiker on Hadley Mountain on Sunday in Saratoga County. A State Police spokesperson said Monday the hiker was found unresponsive along the trail around 1 p.m.
Later Monday, the spokesperson said State Police’s preliminary investigation has found the hiker’s death was “non-criminal in nature,” and thus police will not be releasing the hiker’s identity or more details.
At the beginning of the weekend, Scott van Laer, a forest ranger and a union delegate for the Police Benevolent Association of New York, said rangers responded to an injured hiker on Blueberry Mountain on Friday afternoon in Keene. That involved carrying the individual off of the mountain, with the assistance of the Keene Valley Fire Department.
Friday night, rangers responded to a search and rescue on Giant Mountain in Keene.
The Adirondack Mountain Club’s parking lots filled up at 5 a.m. on Saturday, which ADK Communications Director Ben Brosseau said was “the earliest that has ever happened. ADK operates the Adirondack Loj, a popular trailhead to a number of High Peaks.
“Cars were parked from South Meadows to Alcohol Brook (about 2 miles from the Adirondack Loj) around 8:30 a.m., which is also the earliest that has ever happened to my knowledge,” Brosseau added. “This extended an additional half mile by noon. All in all, based on these metrics, it is likely that Saturday was the busiest day at our trailhead to date. “
On Saturday, van Laer said rangers responded to three rescues including on Azure Mountain in Franklin County and Pitchoff and Whiteface mountains in Essex County. Keene and Keene Valley fire departments also assisted. All three rescues involved carrying out the injured individuals for at least a mile. All hikers had serious but non-life-threatening injuries, van Laer said.
While the northern part of the Adirondacks was conducting rescues, van Laer said rangers in the southern Adirondacks were fighting wildfires. One was in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness in Hamilton County, which started as an improperly extinguished campfire on Sept. 21. Van Laer said a second fire sprung near Loomis Pond in the Town of Arietta. The site of the Arietta fire is remote, van Laer said, and rangers were helicoptered in.
Illegal camping also appears to be a growing problem. To beat crowds at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, also a gateway to a number of popular hiking destinations, people are parking overnight and sleeping in their vehicles or on the ground, van Laer said. He added that camping is illegal at trailheads.
Forest rangers were also notified of illegal campers near the summit of Marcy, the state’s highest mountain, but van Laer said there was not staff available to do anything about it.
“It’s extremely frustrating for our partners, like the summit stewards, who just see it, advise us and (we) do nothing,” van Laer said. “We’re frustrated we can’t do anything.”
DEC reminded the public of fire safety strategies when camping including to:
- Use existing campfire rings where possible;
- Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves. Pile extra wood away from the fire;
- Clear the area around the ring of leaves, twigs, and other flammable materials;
- Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could cause the fire to spread quickly; and
- Drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Move rocks as there may be burning embers underneath.