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Adirondack High Peaks: more than Marcy.

Ask visitors whether they have sampled the scenery of New York's northern forests and the invariable answer is: "Sure, I've seen the Adirondacks. I climbed Mt. Marcy." For too many, the Adirondacks, and especially the eastern High Peaks, are synonymous with Mt. Marcy.

People are loving the Adirondack High Peaks to death. And that's the problem...

Ironically, this overuse and human congestion occurs in the heart of the Adirondack Preserve, the largest tract of publicly protected land in the eastern United States. There's no question that the High Peaks are the gem of the 2.4 million acre Adirondack Preserve; and while throngs flock to Mt. Marcy, other easily accessible areas of the Forest Preserve go underutilized, offering different types of wilderness experience that many hikers are disappointed to find unavailable in the "Marcy Madness."

On certain holiday weekends, the seven-hour climb from the Adirondack Loj parking area (if you can find a parking spot), to the summit of Mt. Marcy (at 5,344 feet, New York's highest point) can be less of a wilderness ramble and more of a tromp in lock step with hordes of other hikers over worn and eroded trails. At the top, rare are the moments of quiet solitude to reflect on the majesty of nature. The crowds sharing the exposed rock summit are hard pressed to avoid trampling the fragile Alpine tundra special to this slice of the world.

The narrow valleys of the eastern High Peaks are crowded with campsites of hikers staging for an assault on Mt. Marcy or other less accessible summits. And that's another problem. At Marcy Dam or other favored campsites, scrounging kindling for a good, old-fashioned campfire is near impossible. The forest floor is picked clean and living trees have been stripped of anything burnable. Finding a private campsite out of hearing of other campers is a challenge.

But the biggest challenge has been how to solve the problem of overcrowding, how to manage the 226,000 acres of public land in the High Peaks and still provide a wilderness experience. The number of hikers and campers has grown inexorably, reaching 125,000 registered hikers, a number thought to be below the actual yearly total. About half of this number are from out of state. The problems of so many visitors become especially acute when you consider that the majority of those hikers concentrate on a few peak weekends.

Controlling Overuse

In the past, a number of steps have been taken to minimize problems in the High Peaks. Volunteer crews cleaned campsites of old garbage caches so the region now seems remarkably clean. Camping is prohibited above 4,000 feet to protect the summits and within 150 feet of water and trails. A number of campsites were closed, especially those clustered too close together. DEC forest rangers and their assistants have a greater presence throughout the area. With the help of private sources, including the Adirondack Conservancy, summit rangers have been hired to protect the Alpine summits. Illegally parked cars have been ticketed in the vicinity of major parking areas.

But, all the controls that have been gradually introduced have not been enough. As the number of campers has risen (this number is estimated to be about 40 percent of the total who visit the eastern High Peaks), impromptu campsites have sprung up. Human waste remains a problem, as does the use of glass containers, unleashed dogs, and especially noise. Blaring boom boxes shatter the quiet at many campsites.

DEC worked with a Citizens Advisory Committee and other interested members of the public to formulate a management plan that represents a consensus of views of what is best for the region.

Individual hikers can help contribute to the solution by voluntarily selecting outings outside the most congested areas of the eastern High Peaks. One of the best ways is to sample some of the peaks that offer peeks of the High Peaks. All you need is a guide book and a good map.

Views of the High Peaks from surrounding summits offer some of the broadest and most spectacular panoramas in the Adirondacks. You can peer down into the valleys that surround the peaks at the same time you are looking up to the summits. And in exploring the places from which to view the High Peaks, you can sample a few of the other Adirondack regions and discover just how diverse this region is. And, you will find places where you can hike without Marcy's crowds.

Peeks at the High Peaks

The best view of the High Peaks may be from the Newcomb area. You have your choice of the High Peaks picnic area along NY Route 28N, not far from the bridge over the Hudson River, or a climb up Goodnow Mountain. This privately owned mountain has a fire tower maintained by Huntington Research Center, an extension of Syracuse University. The trail is an easy 1.5-mile climb, the parking area is just west of the new Newcomb Visitors Interpretive Center operated by the Adirondack Park Agency. Combine the climb of Goodnow with a day of hiking the Center's beautiful cedar-covered trails along the shores of Rich Lake. With your map you can identify the High Peaks spread out before you. Start with the deep cleft of Indian Pass between Wallface and the MacIntyre Range. Then look east from Avalanche Pass to Colden, Marcy, Skylight, Haystack, the rest of the summits in the Great Range and to their east, Giant.

Vanderwhacker Mountain, with its abandoned fire tower, offers a similar view that takes in the Dix Range. This is a longer hike, 5.8 miles with a 1,700-foot climb. From it you can see from Santanoni all the way past MacIntyre and Colden (with Marcy peeking up behind) to Hunters Pass and the Dix Range.

Pitchoff on the northeast comer of the High Peaks offers a broad panorama. Climb to Pitchoff's first summit or continue on around to follow the changing perspective from the different knobs in the range that constitutes Pitchoff Mountain. From here you see the north side of the Great Range, Basin, Haystack, Marcy and Colden, all the way west to Santanoni, the Sawtooth Range, and Ampersand. Pitchoff shares a parking area with two of the High Peaks, Cascade and Porter, and the lot can be crowded.

Crowding can be even worse at two other lots farther south along NY Route 73 in Keene Valley and St. Huberts because both these lots give access to the Great Range that dominates the eastern High Peaks. Pick a mid-week day to hike to the Brothers from the Garden Parking area north of Johns Brook. Its knobs are rarely crowded and there are a number of places along the summit ridge from which to enjoy views that include Gothics, Armstrong, Saddleback, and Basin.

The view from Noonmark, the sharp peak visible to the south of Keene Valley, is one of the most spectacular. Its parking area is adjacent to Adirondack Mountain Reserve of the private Ausable Club. The trail begins on private property, so respect the access and stay on the marked trail. The view from Noonmark is along the Great Range as well as southwest to Nippletop and the Dix Range.

Ampersand also has wonderful views of the High Peaks, especially the Seward Range of the western High Peaks. You can see from Santanoni around to the MacIntyre Mountains as well as north to the McKenzie Wilderness and Whiteface. Parts of the Ampersand trail suffer the symptoms of erosion from overuse that plague the interior High Peaks. Adirondack Mountain Club crews regularly undertake trail protection and improvement projects throughout the region. Wonderful rock staircases that help control erosion along the Ampersand trail are evidence of that work.

St. Regis Mountain overlooks the High Peaks from the northwest. Its views across a broad, lake-filled expanse include MacIntyre and Marcy, with Colden's cone sharply defined between the two. The 1,235-foot climb is about three miles long from the trailhead west of Paul Smiths. North of Paul Smiths is the second Adirondack Visitors Interpretive Center with its lovely, wetland trails and exhibits.

Hurricane Mountain, between Keene and Elizabethtown, surveys the High Peaks from the northeast. You have a choice of three trails to its summit.

Snowy Mountain is called the Marcy of the southern Adirondacks. It is a big mountain with a 7.5-mile, round-trip trail and a 2,100-foot climb. On a really clear day you can see 32 of the 46 High Peaks, including Marcy 36 miles away.

It is surprising how far from Marcy you can be and still see its summit. Azure Mountain, whose one-mile trail starts from the Blue Mountain Road, four miles south of St. Regis Falls, is more than 36 miles from Marcy, but that peak is clearly visible, along with Whiteface and Algonquin, the highest peak in the MacIntyre Range.

The summit of Bald Mountain is a long hump of bedrock. The mountain is east of Old Forge and from it or from the fire tower which still stands on the summit, you can see Panther, Santanoni, Colden, and Marcy to the north of Blue Mountain, identified by its distinctive truncated profile. An even more surprising view of the slide on Santanoni can be viewed from an outlook on Scenic Mountain, just east of Bald.

Many Adirondack mountains offer glimpses of the High Peaks. Hadley, in Saratoga County, may be the most southerly with a High Peaks view. Whiteface, one of the High Peaks, has a road almost to its summit that offers a splendid view south to the High Peaks.

All you need to find these outposts is a good guidebook and a clear day; and while you are searching out the summits with peeks of the High Peaks, you will not only discover many other parts of the Adirondacks, you will help restore the wilderness to the eastern High Peaks in the heart of the wild forest.


Protection and preservation of the fragile resources are among the objectives of the management plan for the High Peaks Wilderness Complex drafted by DEC, in consultation with a citizens advisory committee. Key elements of the plan include:

* Open fires prohibited to protect trees

from excessive cutting.

* Limit the size of groups of hikers and

campers through permits.

* Permits for overnight camping.

* Dogs must be on leashes.

* More parking and strictly enforce

"no parking zones."

* More Forest Rangers and Assistant

Forest Rangers.

* Construct a visitors' center.

Barbara McMartin of Canada Lake, Fulton County, is the author of more than 15 books, mainly about the Adirondacks, distributed by North Country Books, 311 Turner St., Utica N.Y. 13501; (315) 735-4877.
COPYRIGHT 1995 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:hikers overuse one particular area to view the High Peaks but alterate mountains points are available
Author:McMartin, Barbara
Publication:New York State Conservationist
Date:Dec 1, 1995
Next Article:Low trekking in the High Peaks.

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