By Brandon Loomis
Lake George’s grand annual group hike is adding some personal space to the schedule this summer.
Make that a lot of space, and quiet time for reflection, as the Independence Day weekend Lake George Hike-A-Thon drops its communal vibe for some alone time on the trail with a “virtual Hike-A-Thon.” The change is meant to keep hikers from spreading coronavirus.
No groups of dozens hiking or paddling together to 18 destinations that are protected by the Lake George Land Conservancy. No posing at the summits as photographer Carl Heilman swoops overhead to take commemorative shots. No after-party at the park in town.
“We will encourage everyone to go out to a local hike on their own, wearing an old Hike-A-Thon shirt,” Land Conservancy spokeswoman Sarah Hoffman said. Those who are in the Lake George area can hit the trails on their own schedule on July 5. Others who can’t make it may hike wherever they are and post photos online.
The Land Conservancy released the following guidelines on Thursday:
- Go outside on July 5th to enjoy an outing on your own. This may be in your own backyard, a local park, or other favorite hike or paddle. If social distancing protocols are still in place, please continue to be safe and choose a destination that is local to you, and avoid crowds.
- Show your Hike-A-Thon pride! Wear a t-shirt from a past Hike-A-Thon or this year’s. (Those who had registered in April will still receive a free 2020 Hike-A-Thon shirt, as promised. We are working on the logistics of this, and will be in touch when we have more details.) This year’s shirt, as well as past years’, will also available to purchase via lglcstore.myshopify.com. Orders must be placed by June 5th for delivery by July 1st.
- Share a selfie or two on Facebook or Instagram, with the hashtag #LGHikeAThon2020—be sure to let us know where you are and who you’re with. Follow us @HikeLakeGeorge and @LakeGeorgeHikeAThon. Not on social media? No problem! Email pictures to [email protected].
Like every year’s event, the virtual hike’s goal remains a celebration of land protections that in turn protect the waters of the “Queen of American Lakes.” Most of the organization’s routes are open, though any hike will do this year. LGLC listed two of its trails as closed as of Thursday, so check the group’s website before heading out.
Last summer, Bonnie Murawski of Ballston Spa brought her grandson along in an effort to hand down her love of the lake and its surroundings.
“I’m hoping that he just develops a love for hiking,” she said at trail’s end, “a love for nature, a respect for nature.”
Atop the trail’s rocky little summit, volunteer Michelle Pollock said the view south toward the lake helps people visualize how what happens in the hills that the Land Conservancy protects will spill over into the waters.
“It goes to awareness,” she said. “People need to understand where the lake water comes from.”
Hundreds have made these treks each year, and many repeat them as an annual tradition, she said. (Since its inception in 2013, the event has attracted nearly 1,400 people, including repeat hikers. Last year’s total of 692 was the largest.) They’re learning the land-water connection, and their potential to help the group conserve the lake for future generations, every time they head up the trail.
“As you get older, you realize things don’t last forever. They change,” Pollock said. “The added bonus is you get to do this.”
Hikers Mike and Carol Cady, Elmira residents who own a place in Hague, agreed. Seeing the lake from a new vantage, and knowing that the lands are preserved from development, provided a new appreciation for their summer setting and their role in protecting it, Mike said.
But the view was the ultimate prize. “It’s always an extra bonus when there’s a lake at the end,” Carol said.
The group hikes will be back when the pandemic eases in future years, Hoffman said. “2021 will be a redemption year, I hope.”