Advocacy groups aim to get ahead on educating hikers on spring conditions
By Mike Lynch
April is generally a down season for hiking crowds but that could change this spring during the full solar eclipse that will be on view in some Adirondack regions.
As a result, organizations have started coming up with a plan to educate visitors about the challenging and unpredictable conditions that can exist during that time, especially in the higher elevations of the High Peaks and on water bodies.
“One of the concerns is just sort of a lack of knowledge about what conditions will actually be,” Adirondack Council communications associate Justin Levine said.
Levine is part of the Love Your ADK committee, which consists of members of the council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The committee generally works together to educate backcountry users about being prepared before heading into the woods and waters, including during mud season. They spread the word about Leave No Trace principles. Now, they are taking on the task of educating visitors who are interested in visiting the backcountry during the eclipse.
The group will be doing that through their organizations and regional partners. The messaging will reach the public through ads, social media, websites, and press releases.
In addition, hiker information stations will be set up the week prior to the eclipse to assist visitors with planning and preparedness, according to the DEC.
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Outside Magazine already promoted the region. It published an October article on its website recommending Lake Placid and specifically the High Peaks as a place to view the eclipse.
“We pretty much know that the solar eclipse is going to drive visitation to the Adirondacks during a time when we don’t usually see by visitation,” said Savannah Dvorak, paid media coordinator for ROOST. “The weather could be snowy or muddy, so we’re really just trying to push pretty much only preparedness messaging as we talk about the eclipse because that’s really what’s most important.”
Preparedness might mean bringing extra blankets and clothes for the drive to the Adirondacks, as well as appropriate gear and equipment for any trips into the woods.
In April, temperatures are generally full-on winter atop many of the High Peaks, which are generally above 4,000 feet. Plus, streams are usually running high and very cold in early spring. Those conditions could leave the unprepared backcountry users vulnerable to hypothermia.
Winter could also be persisting in the lower elevations. But if the High Peaks region is already in mud season that could present a whole different set of challenges for backcountry users.
When those variable conditions exist, organizations and the state generally discourage people from venturing to the state’s highest mountains in the High Peaks region because the trails are vulnerable to erosion and alpine vegetation can be exposed and damaged by traction devices worn for winter travel.
“High peaks might be really tempting, but it’s not going to be a good place to view the eclipse,” said ADK communications director Ben Brosseau.
He suggested following mud-season recommendations, if those conditions exist, which point hikers to trails below 2,500 feet. He also said people should keep their plans manageable.
The temperature is also expected to drop significantly during the eclipse, he noted. Brosseau recalled being in Washington State during the 2017 solar eclipse and noting the cooler temps for about an hour. ROOST has been warning people it could drop as much as 10 degrees around that time.
“It was really quite shocking,” Brousseau said.
Water bodies may also be a concern in early April. Ice out often occurs that month and waters can be dangerously cold. Existing ice can be thin and less reliable compared to mid-winter months.
“It may be very tempting to go walk out on a frozen lake to watch the eclipse and that might be a very dangerous activity,” Brousseau said.
The groups said they plan to take the lead from the DEC about messaging, especially as the eclipse date gets closer.