BLOG: Local trailhead closed, rangers stay busy in winter, too

BLOG: Local trailhead closed, rangers stay busy in winter, too

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Ranger rescue

State forest rangers take part in a rescue of an injured hiker in the Dix Wilderness in North Hudson earlier this month.

The Lake George Land Conservancy has closed its trail to the top of Cook Mountain in Ticonderoga for the rest of winter because of a number of issues.

Downed trees and the theft of "many" trail markers prompted the organization to announce the closure this week. The LGLC plans to get it back open in the spring.

Cook Mountain is off the beaten path on the north end of Lake George, but is fairly popular with hikers because it has nice views of both Lake George and Lake Champlain. My wife and I hiked it during one of the LGLC's "Hike-a-Thons" a few years ago, and it was a nice walk.

If you are looking for some alternative easy-to-moderate hikes this winter on the north end of the lake, stop off at the Tongue Mountain "Deer's Leap" trailhead on the north side of the Tongue Range, or go across the lake to Anthony's Nose or Gull Bay Preserve, both run by the LGLC.

Forest ranger update

The call for more forest rangers in the Adirondacks was the subject of part of state budget hearings this week, and whether there will be more staff added as part of the upcoming budget remains to be seen. Reports by Adirondack Explorer and other media indicate there are not plans to add more ranger positions in the 2020-21 budget.

Rangers in the Adirondacks continue to make due with the staff they have, dealing with hikers and hunters who continue to need help even in the middle of winter. The DEC's regions forest ranger rescue reports are below.

My personal thought is that is kind of ridiculous in light of the massive increase in hiking-related issues we have seen in the Adirondacks, but what do I know? I'm just a shlub who has to write every week about all of these rescues and assistance calls.

-- Don Lehman

Town of North Elba

Wilderness Rescue:  On Jan. 13, at 8:19 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the Lake Placid Police Department regarding two hikers who did not return to their hotel in Lake Placid after hiking Whiteface Mountain. Ranger Kevin Burns responded to the area and located the hikers' vehicle at Connery Pond. An additional eight Rangers responded with UTVs and began sweeping the trail past Connery Pond to the Whiteface Summit. The 38-year-old male and 33-year-old female hiker from Ithaca had intended to summit Whiteface via the Connery Pond trail but never made it to the summit. After losing the trail and hiking through waist deep snow, they kept moving throughout the night and found the trail at 8 a.m. At 10:55 a.m., Ranger Robbi Mecus located the hikers just past the wilderness gate at Connery Pond, approximately one mile from the trailhead, and proceeded to walk out with them. The hikers reached the trailhead at 11:30 a.m., and were assessed for possible cold injuries. Both hikers declined further medical assistance and were cleared of the trailhead at 11:45 a.m.

Town of North Hudson

Wilderness Rescue:  On Jan. 14, at 3:21 a.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Central Dispatch reporting an injury in the Dix Wilderness. The caller stated that his hiking partner, a 67-year-old male from Towaco, New Jersey, had broken his shoulder after a short distance fall on the Macomb Slide in the Dix range. The caller had to leave the injured hiker alone on the slide to walk out for help. Four Forest Rangers entered the woods at 5:40 a.m., with a six-wheeler and cold weather gear. The slide is approximately four miles from the trailhead and Rangers encountered icy conditions on difficult, remote terrain. The rescue crew reached the injured hiker at 8:34 a.m. Rangers warmed the hiker and waited for a second rescue crew to establish an evacuation method. Once the second crew was on scene, it was determined that the hiker would be carried/walked out due to weather conditions. The hiker was belayed in a harness by Ranger Benjamin Baldwin and carried 450 feet up on the steep angle terrain covered in loose rock and solid ice. Once off the slide, Forest Rangers walked with the hiker to staged ATVs for evacuation to the trailhead. Essex County EMS providers transported the hiker to a local hospital. 

Town of Keene

Wilderness Rescue: On Jan. 25 at 4:29 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting an injured climber at Chapel Pond. The reporting party stated that he had lowered the injured 41-year-old Albany man down the remaining distance to the ground and then hiked out to Route 73, where he flagged down a New York State Trooper for assistance. Forest Rangers Robbi Mecus, James Giglinto, and Jamison Martin responded to the scene and were met by the Keene and Keene Valley fire departments' Back Country Rescue Team and Keene Valley EMS. After speaking with the reporting party, Forest Ranger Giglinto reported that the injured climber could have suffered a possible spinal injury from falling and striking a ledge with his head and neck. Forest Rangers and volunteers located the man, stabilized him, and carried him out to Route 73, where he was taken to a local hospital by EMS. The climber was later transported to Albany Medical Center.

Town of Hunter

Flat Ice Rescue: On Jan. 26 at 11:08 a.m., Central Office Dispatch received a call from Greene County 911 reporting two ice fishermen who had broken through the ice while riding a snowmobile across North South Lake. The men were towing two ice fishing sleds full of fishing gear from the South Lake spillway to a fishing spot on North Lake when the snowmobile fell through the thinner ice. Both men went into the water, but were able to self-rescue, crawling approximately 50 feet on the ice to shore. A nearby ice fisherman assisted the two men back to shore and called 911. Forest Rangers Hannah O'Connor, Steven Jackson, Robert Dawson, and Jeffrey Breigle, as well as Tannersville Rescue Squad and Hunter Ambulance, responded to the scene and assisted the fishermen out of the woods. The 49-year-old man from High Falls and the 61-year-old man from Washingtonville were evaluated by Hunter Ambulance and refused further medical treatment. Forest Rangers began to evaluate the scene to develop a plan to extract the snowmobile and ice fishing equipment from the remote section of the lake. A local vehicle recovery service was hired by the fishermen to get the snowmobile out of the water. A Forest Ranger using a flat ice rescue suit assisted the fishermen in retrieving and returning their personal belongings, which were scattered around the broken ice and the snowmobile. DEC reminds New Yorkers to visit the DEC website for important information about ice safety.

Town of Riverhead

Wilderness Rescue: On Jan. 20 at 1:14 p.m., DEC's Central Office Dispatch received a call reporting a lost hunter in the Sarnoff State Forest. Forest Rangers Joseph Pries and John Scott responded to the hunter's last known location, but quickly received word the hunter was able to send a screenshot from his phone with his location to Environmental Conservation Police Officer (ECO) Sean Rockefeller. Using the screenshot, Forest Rangers Pries and Scott met ECO Rockefeller and ECO Jacob Clark and pinpointed the lost hunter's exact location. The officers found the 48-year-old hunter one-quarter mile off the trail and assisted him back to his vehicle.

Town of Hunter

Flat Ice Rescue: On Jan. 26 at 11:08 a.m., Central Office Dispatch received a call from Greene County 911 reporting two ice fishermen who had broken through the ice while riding a snowmobile across North South Lake. The men were towing two ice fishing sleds full of fishing gear from the South Lake spillway to a fishing spot on North Lake when the snowmobile fell through the thinner ice. Both men went into the water, but were able to self-rescue, crawling approximately 50 feet on the ice to shore. A nearby ice fisherman assisted the two men back to shore and called 911. Forest Rangers Hannah O'Connor, Steven Jackson, Robert Dawson, and Jeffrey Breigle, as well as Tannersville Rescue Squad and Hunter Ambulance, responded to the scene and assisted the fishermen out of the woods. The 49-year-old man from High Falls and the 61-year-old man from Washingtonville were evaluated by Hunter Ambulance and refused further medical treatment. Forest Rangers began to evaluate the scene to develop a plan to extract the snowmobile and ice fishing equipment from the remote section of the lake. A local vehicle recovery service was hired by the fishermen to get the snowmobile out of the water. A Forest Ranger using a flat ice rescue suit assisted the fishermen in retrieving and returning their personal belongings, which were scattered around the broken ice and the snowmobile. DEC reminds New Yorkers to visit the DEC website for important information about ice safety.

Don Lehman covers police and court matters, Warren County government and the outdoors. He can be reached at 518-742-3224 or dlehman@poststar.com

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