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Merck Forest mud

Hikers walk a muddy trail at Merck Forest in Rupert, Vt., just east of Washington County, earlier this spring. NY's DEC is asking hikers to avoid muddy High Peaks trails for the foreseeable future.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation earlier this week issued its annual advisory about avoiding High Peaks hiking trails during mud season.

In reality, it's a good idea for those of us who walk the woods to stay off all trails when they are very muddy, which is pretty much all of them after the deluges we have had in recent weeks. It's a hard thing to do, as winter has ended and many of us just want to get outside.

But hiking in mud leads to erosion, and results in those who try to avoid puddles or deep mud going off trails and causing damage, at times.

Generally we can work our way south to north as mud season ends, and the trails around Lake George will be okay by mid-May as the green up of foliage occurs, quickly drying out the ground if the rain would EVER END.

The DEC press release and links are below. Keep mud season in mind if heading out over the next couple of weekends.

-- Don Lehman

DEC Advisory

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today urged hikers to be cautious and postpone hikes on trails above 2,500 feet until high elevation trails have dried and hardened. Snow and ice are currently melting on high elevation trails and steep trails with thin soils are dangerous for hiking and susceptible to erosion, and sensitive alpine vegetation is easily damaged.

Backcountry trails in the highest elevations are still covered in slowly melting ice and snow. Steep trails with thin soils can become a mix of ice and mud as the ice melts and frost leaves the ground, making the trails slippery and vulnerable to erosion by hikers. Sensitive alpine vegetation is also easily damaged by hikers attempting to avoid the mud and ice.

Avoiding these trails during the Muddy Trail Advisory helps to alleviate impacts to the trail tread and adjacent areas. Saturated, thin soils and steep grades combined with hikers trying to get traction lead to increased impacts to the trail corridors during the shoulder seasons. Snow and ice "monorails" are difficult to hike on, resulting in users widening trails.

DEC encourages hikers to help avoid damage to hiking trails and sensitive high elevation vegetation by avoiding trails above 2,500 feet, particularly high elevation trails in the Dix, Giant, and High Peaks Wilderness areas in the northern Adirondacks. Please avoid the following trails until trail conditions improve:

  • High Peaks Wilderness - all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snow conditions still prevail, specifically: Algonquin, Colden, Feldspar, Gothics, Indian Pass, Lake Arnold Cross-Over, Marcy, Marcy Dam - Avalanche - Lake Colden, which is extremely wet, Phelps Trail above Johns Brook Lodge, Range Trail, Skylight, Wright, all "trail-less" peaks, and all trails above Elk Lake and Round Pond in the former Dix Mountain Wilderness.
  • Giant Mountain Wilderness - all trails above Giant's Washbowl, "the Cobbles," and Owl Head Lookout.
  • McKenzie Mountain Wilderness - all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snow conditions still prevail, specifically Whiteface, Esther, Moose and McKenzie Mountains.
  • Sentinel Range Wilderness - all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snow conditions still prevail, specifically Pitchoff Mountain.

DEC is urging hikers to postpone hikes in the higher elevations to protect New York's trail system and help DEC manage the largest wilderness in the Northeast.

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reporter - crimes & courts, public safety and Warren County government

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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