A state forest ranger I follow on Twitter had an interesting observation the other day about the hikers that forest rangers run into in the woods these days.
"So strange to me that hikers are less knowledgeable then they were 20 years ago yet we have unlimited info at our fingertips now," he wrote.
It is sad but true. The Internet has made it easy to find places to go, equipment and most importantly all of the information you need to be prepared when you go afield. Yet we see so many people headed up mountains in the forest preserve with nothing in their hands or on their backs.
This is the time of the year where making bad decisions in the woods has a higher likelihood of leading to death, as life-threatening cold takes hold and daylight is shorter.
From Vermont State Police this week:
As summer departs and the weather cools this fall, the Vermont State Police and Department of Public Safety would like to remind those heading out onto Vermont's hiking trails of the ever changing conditions a hiker may encounter this time of year. As you follow trails into the mountains, perhaps for a better view of Vermont’s spectacular foliage, you can find yourself hiking in cold conditions despite warmer weather at the trailhead. Fall rain at lower elevations can turn into a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain in the hills, and frosty mornings can mean icy trails at higher elevations. Conditions on the trails above are typically much colder and windy than below, allowing for potential hypothermia in individuals who are unprepared.
If hiking at higher elevations, it's important that hikers now prepare for potential winter-like conditions. Waterproof boots (not sneakers) with traction devices, extra layers of warm clothes, a headlamp, map and compass may become necessary for a safe and successful hike. Consider turning around if you are not properly equipped or if travel and route finding becomes difficult.
Neil Van Dyke, Search and Rescue Coordinator for the Vermont Dept. of Public Safety reports that there have already been several search and rescue incidents this fall involving hikers who were not properly prepared for the conditions they found at higher elevations. Hikers should get an early start and allow plenty of time, as the days are getting shorter. Last weekend two different hiking parties lost their way as darkness came in southern Vermont and required rescue as they had not brought headlamps, and a similar incident occurred in mid-September on Mt. Worcester.
So it's not just an Adirondack problem. I follow news around New England, and the same stories are told in New Hampshire and Maine. Be smart out there. Carry extra clothes, a flashlight, compass, water, food, basic necessities. A great rule of thumb is to be ready to spend an unexpected night in the woods.
It's great to get outside, but common sense and basic precautions can save your life.
-- Don Lehman
NY forest ranger rescue report for 10/10
Town of Moriah
Search: On Oct. 3, New York State Police contacted DEC Ray Brook Dispatch regarding a missing 78-year-old male last seen at his residence in Mineville. Rangers Jeff Balerno, Sarah Bode, Kevin Burns, Jacob Deslauriers, and Dan Fox responded and worked with the State Police, Essex County Sherriff's, and a DEC Environmental Conservation Officer to check the immediate area. Two Rangers assisted by performing visual searches of the area with State Police Aviation. As word spread through the town, the subject was discovered to be staying with a family member for a few days. The family notified the State Police and on-scene units confirmed the whereabouts of the subject. No further assistance was needed.
Town of St. Armand
Search: On Oct. 3, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a transferred call from Franklin County 911 regarding a 64-year-old woman from Bloomingdale who was lost off Moose Pond. The subject entered the woods near her residence and lost her way. Rangers Jeff Balerno, Kevin Burns, and Megan McCone responded and attempted to use their sirens as an attractant. Due to the dense swampy area, the subject was unable to tell which direction the siren was coming from. Two Rangers entered the woods and established voice contact with the subject. She was then assisted back to her residence.
Town of Keene
Search: On Oct. 5 at 6:02 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Essex County 911 regarding two individuals hiking Giant Mountain. One subject, a 46-year-old female from Albany, was experiencing nausea, severe headaches, and weakness as the two hikers were descending. Coordinates placed them just above the Giant Washbowl. Ranger Jamison Martin was dispatched to assist the subjects and located them just below the washbowl at 7:28 p.m. The subject was given water to rehydrate and the Ranger escorted her down the rest of the trail, reaching the trailhead by 8:30 p.m.
Town of Keene
Rescue: On Oct. 6 at 1:15 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker advising that a 51-year-old male from Central Square had possibly dislocated his knee .7 miles from the junction of Gill Brook on Mount Colvin. Thirteen Rangers were dispatched in anticipation of having to carry the subject back to the trailhead. After locating and evaluating him, the decision was made to utilize State Police Aviation to transport the subject to Saranac Lake AMC.
Town of Newcomb
Search: On Oct. 7 at 7:35 p.m., a call came in to Ray Brook Dispatch regarding a 23-year-old female from West Chazy and a 24-year-old female from Morrisonville believed to be lost near the Macomb Slide. The two women were attempting to climb the five mountains in the Dix Mountain Range and had become turned around on the Macomb Slide. With darkness setting in, the subjects were having trouble following the herd path. Unable to establish further cell phone communications, Forest Rangers Jacob Deslauriers and Ben Baldwin were dispatched to the Elk Lake trailhead, where they located the subjects’ vehicle. The search continued through the night on Macomb Slide, nearby campsites, and area herd-paths with negative results. Additional Forest Rangers were brought in for the Sunday morning operation period. At 9:20 a.m., the two women were located in good condition on the Dix Trail about one-quarter mile from the Elk Lake trailhead. The two hikers had spent an unexpected night near the top of the Lillian Brook Trail, unable to locate its exact location.
Town of Dresden
Rescue: On Oct. 8, Ray Brook Dispatch received a call requesting assistance for a 53-year-old male from Troy with a possible leg injury. The subject was descending a trail when he slipped. Rangers Ian Kerr and Evan Donegan responded with State Police Aviation while Rangers Jaime Laczko and Joe Hess responded on foot. The subject was packaged into a litter by the Rangers and local fire department personnel. The Rangers then loaded the subject into the helicopter. He was transported to a local airport, then to a waiting ambulance, and finally to a local hospital.
Town of Keene
Rescue: On Oct. 8 at 5:36 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the High Peaks Information Center requesting assistance for a 61-year-old male from River Forest, Illinois, with a leg injury on Mount Jo. Rangers Dan Fox, Chris Kostoss, Robbi Mecus, and Scott Van Laer responded and located the subject. Rangers stabilized the injury and began carrying the subject to the trailhead in a litter with backpack carriers. The subject declined further assistance and stated he would seek further medical attention on his own.
Town of Decatur
Wildland Fire: On Oct. 3 at approximately 4 p.m., DEC Central Dispatch received a call from Otsego County 911requesting Forest Ranger assistance for a structure fire that had spread into the surrounding forest. Rangers Jason Seeley and Hannah O’Connor responded. When the Rangers arrived, numerous local fire departments were already working both the structural fire and the wildland fire. The wildland fire was contained at 8.2 acres. Rangers Seeley, O’Connor, and Aimee Bills continued to mop up ground fire hot spots over the next three days. The fire was finally declared out on Oct. 6.
The aftermath of the Otsego County fire (photos attached).