I was getting ready to write about the region's recent forest ranger rescues when I spotted a post by Ranger Scott Van Laer on Twitter about a rescue in the Adirondacks on Wednesday night that involved a person who was rescued a day earlier as well.
The reason for the rescue both nights -- the person was out in the woods after dark, but did not bring a flashlight or headlamp to navigate their way after sunset. Full details were not immediately released, but the post had prompted an interesting discussion about the need for fines, or to just leave someone like this in the woods until they didn't need a light anymore.
These days it's pretty much inexcusable to be out in the woods without the basic necessities, including a flashlight or headlamp. Yes, sometimes batteries die, or in packing and re-packing, things get neglected, it happens to the best sometimes.
But to do it two nights in a row, and to need professional ranger help both nights, is mind-boggling. Frankly, if I was dumb enough to make this mistake in back-to-back nights, I would be too embarrassed to call for help and would just hunker down until daylight.
The knee-jerk reaction is to institute some sort of system to hold people like this accountable, such as tickets and/or fines. But states are hesitant to do this, as they fear that it could deter those who need help from calling for it.
So what's the solution? More education? I'm not sure that can be done, as those who want to be informed have innumerable ways to learn how to go into the woods and onto the trails safely and intelligently. As the old adage goes, you can lead the horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
Local DEC ranger rescues are below.
-- Don Lehman
Town of Newcomb
Wilderness Rescue: On July 30 at 12:31 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance for four members of a group of eight hikers who were stuck near a waterfall after leaving the Flowed Lands in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. The hikers had climbed down to see the waterfall at Hanging Spear Falls and could not get back out. Forest Rangers Kevin Burns, Peter Evans and Robert Praczkajlo responded to retrieve the hikers. NYSP Aviation Helicopter met the Forest Rangers at Lake Placid Airport and flew them into Lake Colden. At 2:14 p.m., Forest Rangers Burns, Evans and Praczkajlo executed a technical rope rescue at Hanging Spear Falls to extract one hiker who was in distress and the remaining hikers were rescued by 2:44 p.m. The Marcy Dam Caretaker also responded to Lake Colden to meet up with the other members of the party who went to get assistance. One member of the reporting group sustained a hand injury while walking through the waterfall. The caretaker escorted the group to the Lake Colden Outpost and then continued to the South Meadows access to enable the man with the hand injury to seek medical assistance. The incident concluded at 4 p.m.
Town of Jefferson
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Wilderness Rescue: On July 30 at 3:20 p.m., Forest Ranger Melissa Milano received a phone call from DEC Forester Donald Guest about a man who was lost on Trail 5 at Clapper Hollow State Forest. A short time later, Milano was contacted by Central Dispatch informing her that they had received a call from a 58-year-old man from New York City who was disoriented. Forest Ranger Milano reached out to the gentleman via phone and determined he had been mountain biking on Trail 5. Forest Ranger Milano attempted to provide direction, but the man was nervous and unable to self-rescue so he was instructed to stay put so she could come to his location. Forest Ranger Milano, through her familiarity with the land, was able to locate the mountain biker on the trail at approximately 5:03 p.m. The man was ill prepared for his bike trip and had nothing to drink. Forest Ranger Milano escorted the man out to the trailhead and provided a courtesy transport to a residence where he was staying. The incident concluded at 5:51 p.m.
Town of Bolton
Wilderness Rescue: On July 30 at 9:21 p.m., Warren County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from two young women who were part of a group from Camp Chingachgook who had lost the trail when they went to retrieve water from the lake on their way to a campsite near Tongue Mountain Range. Using the coordinates obtained through 911, Dispatch was able to place their location just north of Montcalm Point on Lake George. Forest Rangers Charles Kabrehl and Arthur Perryman responded to Green Island, where they took a boat out to Montcalm Point. At the request of Forest Ranger Kabrehl, Dispatch contacted the initial caller and instructed them to head back downhill towards the western shoreline. At 10:49 p.m. the Forest Rangers found the 16-year-old from Davidson, N.C., and the 17-year-old from Troy along the shoreline where the Rangers picked them up and took them back to their camp.
Town of Santa Clara
Wilderness Rescue: On July 30 at 9:04 p.m., Franklin County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from a female hiker who had been separated from her husband while hiking St. Regis Mountain. The woman was concerned because it was dark. She reported that her husband did not have a cell phone or any source of light and that her only light source was the phone. Dispatch advised her against using the flash light function on her phone to conserve battery life. Using coordinates obtained through Franklin County 911, Dispatch was able to confirm that she was still on the St. Regis trail. Forest Rangers David Russell and Thomas Gliddi responded and by 12:02 a.m., they made contact with the caller. Forest Ranger Gliddi continued up the trail to search for her husband. At 12:49 a.m., Forest Ranger Gliddi had made it to the summit, followed a ridgeline, and down a drainage without making contact. Forest Ranger Gliddi met back up with Forest Ranger Russell and the wife and proceeded back to the trailhead where a note was left on her husband's car to call Dispatch if he made it out to his vehicle. A courtesy ride was given to his wife back to Malone. On July 31 at first light, additional Forest Rangers were dispatched to the trailhead to continue search operations. The missing 24-year-old hiker was located at 7:09 a.m. by Forest Ranger Robert Zurek in good health and brought to the trailhead. The hiker stated he hiked for an hour after he left his wife when he realized he could not find the trail and waited for morning. At first light, the hiker climbed a tree, spotted the fire tower at the summit, and hiked to the summit where he located the trail and started down toward the trailhead.
Town of Croghan
Dive Exercise: On July 31, Region 6 Forest Rangers assisted the Lewis County Dive Team and the Croghan Volunteer Fire Department with a simulated missing person/possible drowning exercise. Approximately 30 volunteer and professional rescuers participated in classroom demonstrations at the fire hall followed by a live simulation on Soft Maple Reservoir. The Region 6 Air Boat was utilized as a dive platform and also functioned as a safety boat for the exercise.