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Old 07-18-2019, 12:50 AM   #4
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 4,815
A few other things to be aware of since you are targeting the High Peaks. Most of these have to do with necessary ethical/regulatory considerations due to the extreme high levels of use (and associated impacts) the area receives:

Bear canisters are required for overnight food storage in the Eastern High Peaks (which includes Mt. Marcy and a significant portion of the surrounding area). Nuisance bear activity has been a frequent problem here due to improper food management by campers- and bears have been causing problems in the Eastern High Peaks within the past week or so. If you don't have a bear canister, you can rent one at one of several local businesses (The Mountaineer in Keene, the High Peaks Information Center at the Adirondak Loj, etc.). It is strongly recommended that you avoid the BearVault brand canisters as these have failed in the High Peaks in the past even when properly used.

It's also important that you use the bear canister properly- do not leave the canister open, even when you're actively cooking/eating (they've learned to wait until the canister is open before making an appearance). When it comes time to cook, open the canister, take out only the food that you need for that specific meal, and then immediately reseal the canister. Cook early (if you can have dinner over with by 5 pm you'll likely avoid the worst of the nuisance behavior), and cook away from your campsite (as well as any other nearby campsites). Remember that all smellables must be stored in the canister- this includes toiletries and trash as well as alcohol.

Carrying (and using the canister) is essential- a lot of backpackers mistakenly think that the worst consequence of a bear getting their food is that they are out a meal or two. The reality is that every time a bear obtains human food, it serves as a reward that only encourages increasingly aggressive behavior in the future- to the point that a bear could potentially become violent and attack humans. The DEC unfortunately has to put these bears down before a human gets injured. Last year, the DEC had to put 15 bears down across the entire Adirondack Park due to unnaturally aggressive behavior. Hence the phrase, "a fed bear is a dead bear."

(Side note: Starting next year, bear canisters will be required across the entire High Peaks Wilderness, not just the Eastern High Peaks.)

The second thing to be aware of is that campfires are not permitted in the Eastern High Peaks. The reason for this is that there literally is not enough dead and downed wood to sustain campfires for all visitors to the area- and back when fires were still permitted there was a major problem with illegal cutting of standing trees because there were no ready supplies of fuelwood on the ground. The fire ban has probably been the single most beneficial act in recent history as far as protecting the natural character of the High Peaks- the forest around popular backcountry campsites has rebounded amazingly in the ~20 years or so since fires were banned. The fire ban includes twig-burning stoves, but gas and alcohol powered stoves are permitted.

The third factor that is important to consider in planning your trip is that camping is permitted only below 4,000 feet (and between 3,500 and 4,000 feet you can camp at designated sites only). This is due to the fragile nature of the alpine ecosystem, as the soils and plants that grow up high in the Adirondacks do not withstand camping impacts very well at all. In the alpine zone especially, a single wayward footstep off trail can cause damage to alpine vegetation that can take decades (and quite possibly even a century or more) to recover from. Also, even in areas where you can dispersed camp (below 3,500 feet), keep in mind that NY is a bit more strict about site selection than many other areas- your tent site must either be an officially designated one (marked with a yellow plastic disc that says "Camp Here"), or if you're selecting your own site it must be at least 150 feet from any roads, trails, or water sources.

You can view a list of the most relevant hiking and camping regulations on the DEC's website. Note also that the High Peaks Wilderness has additional regulations that apply.

Be aware also that some High Peaks are accessed via un-marked "herd paths." These paths are generally easy to follow, but there are no trail markers and the junctions are also often unmarked. You'll need to do your research in advance to figure out which peaks fit into these category, and if you do decide to climb some of them, you'll want to be prepared for a somewhat increased navigational challenge that will require more map and compass skill on your part, as well as more research on the route in advance.

Regarding unattended gear left behind at campsites during the day: Backcountry theft does happen but it's super rare. I've logged over 1,000 nights in the backcountry in my lifetime (the vast majority of it in the Adirondacks), and I've only twice ever had someone mess with my stuff (both times with my bear hang, and only one of those times was anything actually stolen- the rope I used for the hang was taken, as well as a single apple out of my food bag). You definitely don't want to leave anything small and particularly valuable like your wallet, phone, camera, etc. (at least not out and in plain sight). But generally speaking, I wouldn't worry too much about leaving a tent set up during the day (or even a sleeping bag/pad in a lean-to).

I don't have the same hatred for the National Geographic maps that some do, but I agree that the ADK High Peaks map is worth picking up even though you already own the National Geographic High Peaks Map. The biggest advantage to the ADK map is that it shows the location of many of the designated tent sites in the High Peaks region, which makes trip planning a bit easier as you can see what your options for tenting are if/when the lean-tos are full.

I agree with TCD- ~20 mile days with a full overnight pack in the High Peaks is a lot, even for someone in decent hiking shape. I think you'd be wise to scale back your ambitions a bit. If you do decide to consider base camping, Marcy Dam, Lake Colden, and the Johns Brook Valley make for great base camping spots that each provide access to more peaks each than you could hope to hit over 3 days. (With Johns Brook, you'll need to be aware of the current parking situation concerning the Garden, however.) If you do want more of a traverse, the Great Range can make for both an incredibly rugged and an awesomely spectacular backpacking trip over 3 days.

Alternatively, you could consider destinations elsewhere in the Adirondacks. The High Peaks region constitutes only about 10% of the Adirondack Park by land area, and 20% of the recreational opportunities within the Adirondacks by trail length. There's a ton of other opportunities out there, many of which are passed over by the hyper-focused High Peaks crowd (their loss). These areas also often receive less use than the High Peaks- meaning that solitude is a bit easier to come by. With 40-45 miles to play with you could do a good chunk of the Northville-Placid Trail (although you'd need to arrange a shuttle). You could also give the Cranberry Lake 50 a shot- it's a 50 mile loop trail around Cranberry Lake, through relatively flat terrain where it's not hard to rack up big miles over consecutive days if you're in a good hiking shape.

I hope this is helpful. Good luck!
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