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The Adirondack State Park in upstate New York comprises six million acres of wilderness – woods, water and mountains – and includes 2,000 miles of hiking trails. An Adirondack trail may take you around a lake speckled with water lilies, edged with blueberry bushes and inhabited by loons. A trail may pull you up a mountain, from whose rocky summit you can view 360 degrees of forests, lakes and other mountains. A trail may lead you through woods so thick you’ll think you’re a pioneer.
Surprises abound in the Adirondack woods. You’ll likely see trees atop boulders like cowboys on horseback, gardens of waist-high ferns, and mosses and fungi reclaiming dead trees. You might glimpse a pileated woodpecker, a deer or a black bear. You’ll hear streamlets sing as they bounce against rocks, and you’ll smell the fragrance of fern and fir. You might happen upon a lean-to, a welcoming shelter in the woods.
When you become familiar with the Adirondacks on a woodland trail, you’ll want to return again and again. Over the past twenty-five years, I’ve hiked dozens of Adirondack trails, mainly in the West-Central and High Peaks regions. I’ve found that most Adirondack trails share some common characteristics.
Typical Adirondack Trails
Typical Adirondack trails are well-marked, single-file dirt paths through woods, and they contain lots of roots, rocks and ruts. Hikers can get a workout on just about any Adirondack trail; even the easy ones undulate up and downhill.
Trails are often wet and muddy due to frequent rain, and most trails cross streams. On a hike up Blue Mountain, my friends and I had to turn back near the summit when the trail became a torrent during a downpour–and lightning began to crackle around us. Near the summit, trails on mountains become very steep, and they transition from dirt to rock devoid of tree markers. On rock, look for cairn markers.
Adirondack trails penetrate the heart of a unique wilderness. Hiking an Adirondack trail satisfies a need in me to connect with unvarnished nature. Yet I’ve learned that a trail can become a trial if I hike unprepared for what the terrain and weather may dish up.
What to Wear
Suggestions for what to wear on an Adirondack hike:
- non-cotton clothing
- long pants, even in warm weather, to deter insects
- long-sleeved shirt, same reason as above
- water-proof boots
What to Take
Suggestions for what to take on most Adirondack trails:
- hiking poles for stability
- water, always, more than you think you’ll need
- basic first-aid supplies
- insect repellent (picture hordes of hungry mosquitoes)
- trail guide with map
- rain gear.
A few hiker safety tips:
- Tell someone where you are going.
- Sign the trail register.
- Hike with someone.
- Watch for trail markers.
- Turn back if you can’t find trail markers, the trail peters out or, for any reason, you feel uncomfortable continuing.