About Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is an award-winning journalist covering environmental policy for the Explorer since January 2020. She also takes photos and videos for the Explorer's magazine and website. She is a current member of the Legislative Correspondents Association of New York. Gwen has worked at various news outlets since 2015. Prior to moving to upstate New York, she worked for a D.C. Metro-area public relations firm, producing digital content for clients including the World Health Organization, the Low Income Investment Fund and Rights and Resources Initiative. She has a master's degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has bachelor's degrees in English and journalism, with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology, from the University of Connecticut. Gwen is also a part-time figure skating coach. Contact her at (518) 524-2902 or gwen@adirondackexplorer.org. Sign up for Gwen’s newsletter here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Todd Eastman says

    Aside from parking which is an ongoing problem and not likely fixed by selectively reducing trail numbers, please explain how establishing lower user numbers can significantly improve the natural resources in the HPW.

    Reducing groups from the 32 (Algonquin) and 40 (Van Hovenberg) numbers cited to say half of that would have no discernible positive impacts on the trail as erosion is primarily a product of rain and snowmelt. With the introduction of summit stewards some decades ago, the summit vegetation has improved despite the increased visitation.

    These studies seem more an attempt to manage the user experience than a clear evaluation of the actual impacts to natural resources. Perhaps having these two peaks along with several others receiving a majority of the visitors is a good thing as it leaves the scads of other peaks and valleys less crowded.

    • Boreas says

      “Resources” encompass many aspects of the natural world as valued by humans. Some value solitude as a resource. Some value scenery. Some value quiet. Some value easy access. Some value remoteness and wildness. Fresh water, fresh air, vibrant wildlife communities, healthy forests, etc. can certainly all be considered resources.

      We know that education and trail engineering can benefit some of these resources, but increased usage can still detract from others. Who is right? Who should have “say” over which resources are most important?

      I encourage these studies to at least help quantify and qualify certain aspects of usage – especially in the HPW. How taxpayers, users, and other stakeholders want to interpret and act on the data and recommendations will likely never be settled. But the bottom line is, we need to LISTEN to each other – not just raise our voices in order to talk past the people that have opinions with which we don’t agree. It will be a long slog, but keep one foot in front of the other and stay on the trail!

  2. ADKBCSkier says

    Whew! I’ve read some doozies in my day but this one is really out there. No offense intended whatsoever to Gwendolyn Craig for this article where she did her due diligence by reporting the study’s data, but in what world are we supposed to take the Council and OTAK’s “data” seriously?

    So of those supposed up to 40 groups, how long of a stretch of trail are we talking about? What’s the group size? Are these hikers negatively impacting the trail surfaces by causing erosion, or was this study intentionally conducted on two trails which haven’t changed due to anything besides natural storm weathering in 20+ years?

    Maybe the Council and Otak should take a Tuesday stroll up Seymour or Allen. Both provide a lot of mileage to encounter hikers, neither are officially maintained beyond minimal work along very small sections of their respective approaches, and in all likelihood they wouldn’t encounter more than a dozen individual people sharing the trails with them all day, and most of those people would be locals.

    I’ve seen a lot of bad takes but this one might take the cake.

  3. John Grasing says

    You can not print an article about a report and not include a link to the report in the article. That is not journalism. If their report is not online then it is not worth considering. The Adirondack Explorer should be ashamed of themselves for such low journalistic standards.

  4. Todd Eastman says

    Having read the report, it appears that the Wilderness designation for the Eastern High Peaks (EHP) may be incompatible with managing the natural resources with even significant reductions in visitors. Reclassifying the EHP as a high intensity backcountry unit would allow better trail and facility management, and not be straddled with the Wilderness classification and its implied quiet and solitude.

    There were several very busy periods as is normal. Should policy be crafted on the busiest days?

    • Boreas says


      Even without the report, I think reclassification of at least the EHPW needs to happen. The current Wilderness designation is unrealistic and wishful thinking.

  5. AdirondackAl says

    In the White Mountains USFS hardens heavily used trails and implicity acknowledges the most popular trails will be high traffic. As Todd Eastman suggests, a policy designating, or at least acknowledging, Marcy, Algonquin and a few other high peaks (e.g., Giant) as high-intensity may be appropriate.

    • Rogie says

      We could save the state a lot of money in studies by just telling them “make it like the Whites”. The whites get four or five times as many visitors and they’re every bit as special as the Adirondacks; both ecologically and recreationally. Yet there’s no so-called overuse and no one complains about crowding. Four or five trails to every summit (instead of one), 24 hour weekend shuttles that people love (instead of 12 hours that people hate), acres of parking at popular trailheads and the trail infrastructure and hardening to support that use. And dozens of other less popular trailheads for people who want “solitude” instead of making them use the exact same trailheads that the tourists and peakbaggers use. Everyone wins, including the environment.

      • David Belanga says

        This comment/suggestion here by Rogie, I bring up frequently when the conversation turns to High Peaks usage. Native to the Adirondacks, I’ve lived and climbed all across the USA and so got to experience first hand the many different ways that regional entities/government have resolved usage issues within high-use sectors. Right off, one size does not fit most. But in taking Rogie’s example of Whites management, as he says, the Whites get way more usage than the Adirondack High Peaks without the drama that ensues year after year. Nothing is perfect, but snap into place the Whites management protocol here in the Adirondacks (or at least some variation of it) and things are going to change for the better within the first year of implementation. I’m with Rogie here; no need for studies. New Hampshire is only a couple of slim States over. Pay them a visit….

  6. John says

    As someone who has about 30 years of experience in data collection via surveys on human beings in all kinds of settings from observational studies to surveys on opinions attitudes and experiences, in myriads of locations and settings, I don’t believe the data to be accurate without knowing exactly the QC mechanisms that were used in the data collection, the training process of the staff involved, as well as the data verification processes i.e. QC going on while the data collection was ongoing and also after the testing period. So. It’s all crap unless it was closely monitored. which I can assure you is highly unlikely. It is very costly to do such research now, very costly in remote areas, and few have the competence or staff to get it done now. Very few agencies could do it and as for an out of state agency, they have even less chance of getting it right due to manpower costs, and logistics generally.

    So, without knowing the QC and other methodologies, it is all completely crap. You too should assume it is crap too without knowing the details.

    Verify then trust.

  7. DonS says

    If it were my data I would split out encounters into two categories.

    Encounters and frequency when climbing.

    Encounters and frequency when descending.

    I’d expect encounters when climbing to be much less frequent than descending.
    Otherwise there’s a bias.

    Of course Adirondack Council must understand that and has built it in to inflate the numbers,


  8. Tim says

    Seems like the Council is inventing a new “problem” to complain about because every scientific study shows rainfall is the primary cause of erosion and not hikers. So now they’re trying to push “social carrying capacity”. What the hell is that? That’s not mentioned in the state constitution or any UMP.

    Besides that there’s no way the study is valid. Since 80% of people hike at the same pace the only people that are going to run into other hikers are the really fast ones and the really slow ones. The Loj was full nearly yesterday and I only met seven people in total the entire way to Algonquin.

    Besides that, only Boomers want “solitude” when hiking. Gen X and millennials want to meet up with their friends and make new ones on trail. If you don’t like it then just die already and don’t mess things up for the generations coming after you.

  9. Eric says

    Why does the Adirondack Council even exist? Can we just disband them and take their money to pay for more parking? Everything that comes out of their shop is either completely biased, utterly false, or is stated as fact when it’s really opinion from within their own echo chamber. “Social carrying capacity”? That’s not a thing. It doesn’t exist. Yet they talk about it as if everyone just knows and agrees it’s a thing. It’s not.

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