By Mike Lynch
It may look and feel like winter in parts of the Adirondacks, but mud season is officially here.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation sent out a bulletin earlier this week urging people not hike on trails above 2,500 feet because trails are either muddy or covered in rotten snow and ice.
Until conditions improve, DEC asked hikers to explore lower elevation trails close to home and enjoy other forms of recreation.
The current conditions in the Adirondack High Peaks pose a danger to hikers, they warned, and that has played out at least once recently. Just last week, a hiker had to be rescued after spending an unplanned night in the woods on a trip to Mount Marcy. Forest rangers, even though they were wearing snowshoes, were forced to posthole through deep, wet snow. The hiker and his partner, who got out of the woods separately, also got soaked trying to cross streams.
Backcountry streams during this time of the year often rise quickly and flood due to melting snow and after rainfalls, and it can happen fairly quickly. A hiker may be able to cross a stream during the morning, but melting snow can cause it to rise by the afternoon making it impassable.
In the High Peaks, many trails require hiking across streams. For instance, hikers going up Mount Marcy must cross a brook at Indian Falls. That stream can be difficult to cross this time of the year.
DEC warned that hikers “should not attempt stream crossings during periods of high, fast moving water. The stream water is very cold and hikers who fall in can become immediately hypothermic.
In addition, mud-season conditions can cause damage to the environment, including erosion on trails. DEC noted that hikers should walk through the mud instead of around it to help reduce trail widening and minimize damage to trailside vegetation. On summits, thin soils are susceptible to erosion and sensitive alpine vegetation can be easily damaged.
Trails in particularly bad shape now include those in the Giant and High Peaks Wilderness areas. See below for a detailed list of trails to avoid:
High Peaks Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snow conditions still prevail, specifically Algonquin, Colden, Feldspar, Gothics, Indian Pass, Lake Arnold Cross-Over, Marcy, Marcy Dam – Avalanche – Lake Colden, which is extremely wet, Phelps Trail above Johns Brook Lodge, Range Trail, Skylight, Wright, all “trail-less” peaks, and all trails above Elk Lake and Round Pond in the former Dix Mountain Area;
Giant Mountain Wilderness – all trails above Giant’s Washbowl, “the Cobbles,” and Owl Head Lookout;
McKenzie Mountain Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, and snowy conditions still prevail, specifically Whiteface, Esther, Moose and McKenzie mountains; and
Sentinel Range Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snowy conditions still prevail, specifically Pitchoff Mountain.
Visit the DEC website for a list of hikes in the Adirondacks below 2,500 feet. Check the Adirondack Backcountry Information webpages for weekly updates on backcountry conditions and seasonal recreation information for the Adirondacks.
DEC continues to encourage people to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.
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