Visits don’t match ‘fever pitch’ of a few years ago
By MIke Lynch
Data tallied in the first half of this summer by summit stewards shows that hikers are returning to several popular High Peaks summits after a down year in 2021, but the numbers aren’t quite as high as other recent summer seasons.
Summit stewards averaged 81 contacts per day between May and the end of July on Algonquin, Marcy, Wright and Cascade this summer. Last year, between May and October, they averaged 62 hikers per day.
“2021 was a pretty down year overall, but we have not seen something that parallels what we saw in the mid to later 2010s, which was kind of a, you know, a fever-pitch period,” said Adirondack Mountain Club spokesman Ben Brosseau.
The numbers are still down significantly from 2016 to 2019, when stewards made an average of 110.5 contacts per day, according to ADK.
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That average doesn’t even include 2020, the first year of the pandemic, by all accounts an extremely busy year in the mountains. Accurate numbers aren’t available that year because stewards weren’t on Cascade for the first half of the summer.
Two major factors that could have led to an increase in hikers this year compared to last include the reopening of the Canadian border and drier weather this summer, Brosseau said.
Last summer, some hikers stayed away because of the wet weather and were taking advantage of loosened COVID restrictions to travel greater distances instead of coming to the Adirondacks, Brosseau said.
Summit stewards spend time on Algonquin, Marcy, Wright and Cascade during the season to educate hikers about avoiding vulnerable alpine vegetation.
In addition to educating hikers, stewards do maintenance and monitoring work.
This summer, they have been focusing on their photopoint monitoring program, which looks at the same 59 locations at roughly five-year intervals to determine if there have been changes to the vegetation.
They are adding photopoints and doing a new survey.
The last analysis was done in 2015, and it showed no decline in alpine vegetation on mountains where stewards were present.
A full copy of the summit stewardship program’s mid-season report can be found online.
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This year’s fuel prices may have thrown a bit of a wet blanket on Park tourism in general. It would be interesting to see if a correlation exists between other tourist activities and hiking when evaluating usage patterns.