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Old 03-23-2016, 02:35 PM   #1
undoubtedly0
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Question Challenging, remote, and inspiring 10-person trip ideas?

Hi all! This is a follow up to my post here. Looking for a region to take a crew of about 10 on a 3-night (about 30-mile long) backpacking trip. Here are some ideals:
  • Regions that permit tent camping for about 10 people (ideally avoiding rustic campgrounds)
  • Remote areas, especially those which can only be reached on a multi-day trip
  • Mountainous trails (without requiring crampons/ropes) with some inspiring views
Hoping to lead these guys on an adventure that will let the wilderness challenge and inspire them. Are there trails in the Adirondacks that would work for this?
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Old 03-23-2016, 03:54 PM   #2
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It's still going to be a challenge to find anything that fits all of your criteria. "Allows large groups" and "remote" tend to be mutually exclusive, especially if you're hoping for solitude to go along with that remoteness. Large groups have been prohibited from accessing remote areas specifically to preserve that sense of remoteness and solitude.

As was stated in the other thread, the overnight group size limit on State Land in NY in most areas is 9 people without a permit, so you'll need to get a permit. Permits are obtained from the Forest Ranger whose district you'll be camping in. You can view a roster of Forest Rangers and their districts on the DEC's Website. Note that the Adirondacks are split between the DEC's regions 5 and 6. It is recommended that you contact the Forest Ranger several weeks in advance of your trip so that they have time to fill out the permit and get it to you in the mail.

Large group size permits are only issued for Wild Forest Areas. In contrast to Wilderness, Wild Forest Areas are managed in a manner that allows a little bit greater modification of natural conditions, and slightly higher levels of impact are considered acceptable there. Nevertheless, familiarity with Leave No Trace is still essential.

There aren't many Wild Forest areas in the Adirondacks that offer significant backpacking opportunities, though. You're definitely not going to find anywhere that takes several days of hiking to reach, unless you're willing to bushwhack. The two areas that immediately come to mind as possible options are the Lake George Wild Forest in the southeastern Adirondacks, and the Black River Wild Forest is the southwestern Adirondacks.

If you want mountain top views, the Lake George region is probably your best bet. The Lake George Wild Forest has a nice network of trails on the east short the traverse multiple peaks and and ponds. The Tongue Mountain Range on the western side of the lake is particularly rugged and has a lot of scenic views, but is not a backpacking trip to undertake unless you are extremely confident in the abilities of each group member. Water is scarce along the Tongue Mountain Range, though (often, your only choice to obtain it is to descend 1,000 feet down to Lake George itself), and there are many ups and downs that can wear out even experienced hikers quickly.

The Black River Wild Forest also has a number of trails that connect various backcountry lakes and ponds and is another possibility that is worth looking into.

The Wilcox Lake Wild Forest might work for you, but a lot of the trails there, from my experience, and pretty overgrown and may be difficult to navigate.

There are also a few backpacking options in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, near the Fish Creek and Rollins Pond campgrounds.

You could get a permit for a large overnight group to climb Whiteface and Esther from the north. It'd be a challenging climb (especially with overnight packs part of the way) but it's definitely no where close to 30 miles long. There's also really only 1 place to camp- the designated tent site atop Marble Mountain, and this isn't the best site for a large group (and there's no water nearby).

Technically, you can get a permit for a large overnight group along the Adirondack Canoe Route in the Western High Peaks. This would allow you to undertake a backpacking trip with a large group along Long Lake or along the Raquette River. These permits are intended to be used for paddling trips, though- the exemption was made because paddling groups often tend to have less of an impact than comparably sized hiking groups. I'm not sure if the DEC would issue them to a backpacking group.

A willingness to paddle in general would open up your options somewhat. Much of the Nothern Forest Canoe Trail traverses areas that are zoned Wild Forest. I think you can get a permit for large overnight groups in the St. Regis Canoe area (not 100% sure on this but it might be worth looking into). None of these water bodies are "remote," however, and on many of them you'd be sharing the water with motor boats. It wouldn't be difficult to put together a multi-day route following the NFCT, though, especially if you're willing to portage. Remember too that in early May, much of the water is still quite cold- a tip that is nothing more than annoying in summer could be deadly earlier in the season.

One other thing to keep in mind is that camping at a lean-to with 10 people may be difficult. By regulation, all members of a group are supposed to sleep inside the lean-to, and many lean-tos are designed only to accommodate 6-8 people. Tents are not permitted adjacent to lean-tos either. In general, you'd probably be better off targeting either designated tent sites or planning to primitive camp at a non-established site in accordance with the 150 foot rule. Note also that primitive camping at non-established sites and not generating undo impacts, especially with a large group, requires somewhat advanced LNT techniques, such as the knowledge of how to build a mound fire to prevent the spread of your campfire if you choose to have one (a ring of rocks many not be enough to contain your fire in the Adirondacks, where surface layers of soil tend to be flammable).

Elsewhere in the northeast, Mt. Greylock State Reservation in MA allows overnight groups of up to 12 people. Large overnight groups are limited to 10 or fewer people in Wilderness Areas in the White Mountain National Forest. In the GMNF, as well as in non-Wilderness Areas of the WMNF, there is no overnight group size limit but overnight groups are asked to limit themselves to 10 or fewer people anyways. PA State Forests have a number of backpacking opportunities and the overnight group size limit is 10 people without a letter of authorization (you also need a permit to camp in the same location for more than 1 night, and fires are banned in PA State Forests until May 25 due wildfire danger). Harriman State Park near NYC has no overnight group size limit and offers some rugged and challenging terrain. The Appalachian Trail (outside of any National Forest/Park or State Forest/Park) has no overnight group size limit but the Appalachian Trail Conservancy asks groups to limit themselves to 10 or fewer. Many of these areas lack the remoteness and solitude of the Adirondacks, however. And again, in all of them LNT is still an essential consideration when camping with a large group.

If driving to NH is an option, you might look into doing something in the Pemigewasset Wilderness. It's a wilderness area in the WMNF, so you can legally have an overnight group up to 10 people there. It's about the best option I can think of for a remote area in the northeast that would allow an overnight group that large. Some of the trails in that area traverse alpine summits, so again, you've got concerns with high levels of impact from hiker traffic if you go earlier in the season.

I think ultimately, you may have to choose which is more important to you- remoteness and solitude, or having all 10 of you camped together.
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Old 03-23-2016, 04:01 PM   #3
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I've taken Scout groups from the trailhead at Benson to Whitehouse.
Silver Lake has a leanto as does Mud Lake with Canary Pond as a stopover.
The kids loved it.
jim
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Old 03-23-2016, 04:10 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Hard Scrabble View Post
I've taken Scout groups from the trailhead at Benson to Whitehouse.
Silver Lake has a leanto as does Mud Lake with Canary Pond as a stopover.
The kids loved it.
jim
This is in the Silver Lake Wilderness, where the overnight group size limit is 9 people. Since the DEC no longer issues permits for large overnight groups in Wilderness Areas, this unfortunately isn't an option for undoubtedly0.
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Old 03-23-2016, 04:20 PM   #5
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So who would deny a Scout group of ten to have the time of their young lives??
I can't.
Jim
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Old 03-23-2016, 04:34 PM   #6
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So who would deny a Scout group of ten to have the time of their young lives??
I can't.
Jim
It's not exactly like group size limits mean that there are no options available that will allow scouts to enjoy the backcountry. The easiest alternative to visit the Silver Lake Wilderness would be for the group to split into two smaller groups and camp separately. Every scout gets to enjoy wilderness that way. Yes, it requires more work on the part of the scout leaders (more responsible adults are probably needed) but backpacking isn't meant to be an easy, effortless endeavor to begin with. Another option would be to visit a Wild Forest area instead and get the permit for a larger group.

The BSA also has the Voyaguer Program in the northeast, a program that provides trained guides to help facilitate backcountry trips for scout troops through various scout camps throughout the region.

As I understand it, the BSA itself requires all scout troops to follow LNT in the backcountry- and that includes not only keeping group sizes small but also obeying regulations for areas they groups chose to visit.
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Old 03-23-2016, 05:04 PM   #7
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LNT is integral to the 8-day Voyageur Trek Leader wilderness guide training program. Always has been, since its inception in 1979 when it arose out of the near-banning of youth groups from the Adirondacks. Long before LNT was formalized as an organized outdoor ethics concept. Indeed, BSA is a LNT organization partner. http://www.outdoorethics-bsa.org/programs/

Lows Lake and environs is our Voyageur training and trek leader evaluation field area. In the northeast the 8-day training is offered every June as a section of the BSA National Camping School. Open to anyone over 18 who is associated with a recognized youth outdoor association, not just BSA. Though by regulation it is not necessary to be licensed to guide youth groups, many graduates easily take the NYS Guide's exam for their license to be a professional NY Outdoor Guide and to join http://nysoga.org.
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Old 03-23-2016, 09:06 PM   #8
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If you're looking to lead a multi-night group trip of 10 "guys" (not scouts) into the Adirondack backcountry, I'd suggest sticking with your original plan. Take your chances and help keep the majority of the over-crowdedness in the High Peaks and away from the other areas in the Adirondacks.
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Old 03-24-2016, 08:23 AM   #9
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Try the Long Trail in Vermont. There are many shelters and tentsites, plus you'll blend in with all the other large groups.
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Old 03-24-2016, 08:43 AM   #10
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So who would deny a Scout group of ten to have the time of their young lives??
I can't.
Jim
I've often wondered how 9 became 'the number.' Seems an even number like 8 or 10 would have made more sense.
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Old 03-24-2016, 10:00 AM   #11
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I've often wondered how 9 became 'the number.' Seems an even number like 8 or 10 would have made more sense.
D mentioned elsewhere that some planning documents recommend a three tent maximum. So three three-person tents?

Anyway, it sounds like undoubtedly's best bet is to have the group split when pitching campsites. So, as previously mentioned you could follow backcountry camping rules, particularly the 150' rule, and find your own sites each night. Ideally, you would plan a trip to an area with multiple designated campsites near each other or near a lean-to (you could also look for a lean-to or campsite and have half the group find their own backcountry site, but if you aren't very, very familiar with the rules this isn't recommended).

The Cedar Lakes area has a couple of locations with designated sites near lean-tos. I don't think you'd get the length or views you're looking for there, but you might be able to get creative with route planning.

A Sewards circumnavigation has a group of lean-tos that are often used as base camps for hiking the "trailess" peaks, and a cluster of lean-tos and designated sites where the truck trail meets the cold river trail. You might be able find something that works at Duck Hole too.

If you're okay with setting up a base camp and hiking, you could hit the Dix range. The sites there are clustered fairly close, and you could hike the peaks over two days (or one, if you're ambitious).

I suppose you could also look into Moose River Plains.

This is off memory, if I'm in error here please correct me anyone. Maybe some others have good ideas for places where sites are clustered, too.
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Old 03-24-2016, 10:38 AM   #12
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I've often wondered how 9 became 'the number.' Seems an even number like 8 or 10 would have made more sense.
An even number of Scouts plus a leader?

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... Ideally, you would plan a trip to an area with multiple designated campsites near each other or near a lean-to ...
I believe the DEC's guidance for splitting groups requires they maintain a minimum separation of one mile at all times. You can't split a group of 24 people into three groups of 8 and then have them reconvene in the same spot (camping area, lookout, lake, or summit). The same holds true for a group of ten.

Best bet is to stay at a campground and day-hike (group size-limit is 15). Or reduce the group's size from ten to eight and then they can camp in any Wilderness area.
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Old 03-24-2016, 11:09 AM   #13
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An even number of Scouts plus a leader?
Nope, BSA requires 2-deep adult leadership at all times. Leaders know this, but will complain when they show up at resident summer camps with too many in the group, having previously signed up for a 5-day guided wilderness trek with knowledge on their application of group size.

With the trained adult guide (required when leaving from a resident camp) plus an adult leader, that leaves room for only 6 or 7 scouts (depending on the area regulation). Many times the problem is made worse for the number of young scouts because more than one adult troop leader has planned to go on the trek. For a large group to split into smaller groups, an extra guide is required at extra expense.

There is at least one case (probably more) that I know of in the EHP when a large group (originally separate with 2 guides) was asked twice by a DEC Ranger to split into two and to camp at least a mile apart. They had enough adults to make the split. But they did so only temporarily - fault to the 18 yr old guides who knew better but were pressured by the group. The third time the Ranger came along it was not a request, as each of the two "groups" was given a $100 fine and told to pack up and go home.
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Old 03-24-2016, 11:49 AM   #14
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The happy face was short-hand for "Just kidding!" but thanks for the clarification. Makes sense to have two adults per group.

Your example demonstrates Rangers are reasonable people but they are also sworn officers of the law; ignore them at your peril.
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Old 03-24-2016, 03:28 PM   #15
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Note that the OP said "about 10". If he reduces that to 9, then many problems are solved.
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Old 03-24-2016, 09:21 PM   #16
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The mile minimum separation distance applies only to the High Peaks Wilderness. In that area, the regulations are quite clear- any group that intends to camp on state land in the High Peaks Wilderness must have 8 or fewer people in the group at all times, and must maintain a mile of separation distance with any associated group at all times.

On most other units of state land (including both the Giant Mountain and Dix Mountain Wilderness Areas), the regulations are a little bit less strict. The 9 person limit applies only to the camping aspect of a trip. Legally, larger overnight groups can hike together during the day, as long as they separate into groups of 9 or fewer to camp separately at night. There is no minimum separation distance for how far the groups need to be apart from each other. In theory, this can work well if you have groups that are prepared to separate into discrete, self-contained camp groups with separate tenting, cooking, and campfires (if allowed) that are at least a reasonable distance apart. It still takes a fair amount of planning and experience on the groups part to put this into practice effectively.

It's also worth noting that a single $100 fine is on the extreme low end of the potential range for fines for violating group size limits. Many of the DEC regulations are written so that all group members can be held liable for the conduct of the entire group, and each group member can be issued individual citations- so the fine very well could be $100 for each group member, or $1,000 total for a group of ten (and possibly even greater).
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Old 03-27-2016, 03:58 PM   #17
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I'm so over tired of regulations that I could throw up.
Nine or less, separate tent sites, fines if you violate state regulations.
The high peaks are unique and deserve special rules.
But taking a bunch of kids on a hike in the Silver Lake "wilderness" takes the cake.
We can't recreate "wilderness". That's up to nature after we're long gone.
Any thing else is vanity.
Jim
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Old 03-27-2016, 05:01 PM   #18
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What was the Silver Lake Wilderness Area like just before it became part of the Adirondack Park?
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Old 03-27-2016, 06:05 PM   #19
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I would say that the regulations in the Adirondacks are among the least restrictive of any park or "wilderness" area in the lower 48. You don't find anything as easy as camping with respect to the 150 foot rule in many other wooded backcountry places nationwide.

The regs have been formulated as necessary over time due to past human abuses, to today environmentally protect what we have, while allowing the best possible experience by human visitors. There are reasons for each regulation, most are for the most part meant to preserve the land and waters for future visitors.

Want to wreck it? Just allow huge unregulated groups to come in to do whatever they want at any time with little knowledge or regard to what works and what does not.
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Old 03-30-2016, 02:57 PM   #20
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Want to wreck it? Just allow huge unregulated groups to come in to do whatever they want at any time with little knowledge or regard to what works and what does not.
And this is exactly what happened in the 60's and 70's that lead to the implementation of backcountry regulations, as well as the formulation of minimum-impact ethics like Leave No Trace.

The photos at the end of this research paper are a great example of the benefit that can come from regulations. Undoubtedly, the implementation of regulations prohibiting camping at high elevations in the Adirondack Park (and the enforcement of those regulations) played a significant role in allowing the alpine summits in the High Peaks to partially recover from those impacts.

If the levels of use 40-50 years ago without regulations was enough to cause significant impacts then, just imagine what a regulation-free environment would be like in the Adirondacks today, with usage levels that are much, much higher...
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