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Illegal helicopter flyover and illegal camping.

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  • Illegal helicopter flyover and illegal camping.

    During yesterday's hike, Neil and I witnessed two incidents that I reported to the DEC this morning.

    ​While ascending Marcy's south side, at an elevation of ~ 5100 feet, we watched a (non-military) helicopter fly below us from the east, traverse the saddle between Marcy and Skylight, then rise to circle the summit of Marcy. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo nor its identification number. The summit steward confirmed the helicopter had flown far too low. The DEC indicated it was an FAA violation but not much could be done without the helicopter's number.

    ​Earlier in the day, at 10:30 AM, we met a group of people at the head of Indian Falls. I'm not going to share the details but there was strong circumstantial evidence to suggest they had just emerged from the woods after camping illegally above 3500 feet. A conversation resulted in a tall tale and cagey replies about the location of the next evening's campsite. 5.5 hours later, at 4:00 PM, we met them again. They were merely 1 mile above Indian Falls and ascending. The DEC indicated an AFR would be dispatched to investigate.
    Looking for Views!

  • #2
    Nice. I wonder what the outcome will be.
    46er #9404
    Pics: https://www.flickr.com/photos/145945713@N02/
    http://www.athikerpictures.org/syste...jpg
    https://smokebeard.wordpress.com/

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    • #3
      Possibly thread split here...

      What would one have to do if they were shooting a film in the ADK and wanted some close fly-over footage via drone or helo? Is this something that the DEC would have to approve or be made aware of?

      Seems plausible that this is what was going on. Of course it could have been some wealthy person who doesn't know/care about the regs, but I'm guessing that would exclude any local tour agencies.
      “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” - Ed Viesturs

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      • #4
        According to what I was told by the ranger, an aircraft flying lower than 500 feet above populated areas (and he stressed Marcy was considered "populated") was violating an FAA regulation.

        ​I do not have the experience to accurately estimate the helo's height above Marcy. However, here's what I know:
        If you're standing at the alpine bog on Marcy's north side, the summit is about 400 feet above you. You can discern tiny human figures on the summit. We were on Marcy's south side, only ~250' below its summit and the helicopter appeared not as a small object in the sky, just large enough to hold tiny human figures, but substantially larger.

        It was lower and, importantly, much closer to the summit than most single-engine fixed-wing aircraft I've seen flying over the High Peaks (tour operators). The helo was dark green and its yellow registration number was visible (except I didn't take note of it), it appeared very large in the sky overhead and its noise was intrusive, it was close enough to note distinguishing features of its design, and the summit steward (someone who spends many days atop Adirondack summits) stated the helo was too close to the summit.

        ​So, very likely it was closer to Marcy than 500'. To get close-up footage, the helo operator would probably need to get special dispensation to fly below the 500 foot threshold. Maybe that's what happened, or not.

        ​FWIW, this is the closest approximation to what I saw (Robinson R44):

        Looking for Views!

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        • #5
          Moren more I get the impression people do whatever the fokk they want in the High Peaks with no regard to pesky regulations. The area is becoming a sociological study in what happens when you remove law enforcement from human society. Buzz a summit in a helicopter? Camp out at Indian Falls? Why not when there are no consequences to your actions?
          1111111111

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          • halocline
            halocline commented
            Editing a comment
            Maybe we need a superhero vigilante to keep these villains at bay. There could be some nifty cape designs....and you have demonstrated the ability to cover lots of terrain when motivated!

            Not to make light of the situation, overuse and misuse are really serious problems in the high peaks and no easy or appealing solutions.

          • DayTrip
            DayTrip commented
            Editing a comment
            That's not unique to NY. I see this same level of indifference in NH. People camp where ever the hell they want and make no effort whatsoever to hide it. Last year I got an early start on a hike and found a tent pitched right smack in the middle of a trail at the intersection with another one. All in a restricted use area. Had to go around the tent off trail to continue.

          • Trail Boss
            Trail Boss commented
            Editing a comment
            I recall walking from Flume to Lafayette and noticing several obvious campsites along the way. By ADK standards, they were far too close to the trail and too high up the mountain. I posed a question on VFTT asking if it was legal to camp along this trail and the replies varied from yes to no to depends on which side of the trail (owing to the location of a boundary). The experience left me thinking NH's camping laws must be more complicated than in the High Peaks when even the regulars on VFTT can't agree on them.

            But camping in the middle of the trail ought to be an obvious no-no to everyone (but apparently not). Sorry to hear it's become so chaotic in the Whites.

        • #6
          Giving more credence to requiring a permit to use the High Peaks. One day, perhaps, close the area for several weeks during the year?
          Nothing like being in the woods.

          http://www.gerardsadirondackpics.shutterfly.com

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          • Trail Boss
            Trail Boss commented
            Editing a comment
            You need law enforcement personnel for both suggestions: to check if hikers have permits and to prevent entry to the closed area.

        • #7
          NY does plenty as it is to restrict public access to public lands. Lets not give King Andrew any more ideas. I don't see permits doing anything besides giving people a piece of paper to sign for, which gives that small group of we-don't-give-a-f@@@'ers one more thing to not read or acknowledge.

          Maybe its time to start adding one more sign on the popular trails, right at 3500' that says "no camping beyond this point."

          Not for nothing, but NY's regulations are a little more strict than most places I've been to, and the HP region seems a little more strict than the rest of NY. Not arguing why, just stating a fact. While there's always going to be a few rogues out there who will do what they want until they're caught, the vast majority of people will follow the rules as long as they're aware of them. Maybe more signage really is the next step to creating awareness.
          Last edited by FlyFishingandBeer; 08-18-2017, 01:10 PM. Reason: A Word.
          “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” - Ed Viesturs

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          • DayTrip
            DayTrip commented
            Editing a comment
            More signs won't accomplish anything. We have plenty of signs in NH that do nothing. I used to think that might help but I've come around on that. Rangers handing out citations will be the only thing that accomplishes anything and I doubt most state budgets will ever allow for enough money to make that a reality. And I would agree from what I have seen of my trips to NY that they are more vigilant than other states. NH seems to be descending into an un-managed fiasco. Popularity of hiking has really outstripped the resources available for maintenance, enforcement, etc.

          • Trail Boss
            Trail Boss commented
            Editing a comment
            I know it's easy to dismiss the effectiveness of signs. You see someone doing something forbidden and conclude "Illegal camping! Ahah! The sign failed." However, there are undoubtedly people who heeded the sign. However, do we take note and say "Legal camping! Ahah! The sign worked!" Nope, but a few of those legal campers might've had other plans that were altered when they saw the sign. We can't condemn signs because some people don't comply with their message.

            A sign gets the message out to some people.
            No sign get the message out to no one.

        • #8
          Originally posted by FlyFishingandBeer View Post
          ... Maybe its time to start adding one more sign on the popular trails, right at 3500' that says "no camping beyond this point."...
          ​Like this one?



          ​The group we met at Indian Falls passed this sign (or another just like it along the Lake Arnold Trail). I'd say they fall into the category of "rogues out there who will do what they want until they're caught".

          Looking for Views!

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          • FlyFishingandBeer
            FlyFishingandBeer commented
            Editing a comment
            Yes, exactly like that one, only this one is a little weird because its at 2800' and seems to only imply that camping is prohibited along the Phelps Mt. trail.

          • Trail Boss
            Trail Boss commented
            Editing a comment
            Yes, these new signs are located well below the official 3500' ceiling ... but do save the uninformed some distance and ascent!

            If you think this one's implications are a bit foggy, you should see the one at the junction of the Crossover and Lake Arnold trails. That junction lies at 3430'. The sign is on the Lake Arnold trail and faces hikers who are *descending*.

          • FlyFishingandBeer
            FlyFishingandBeer commented
            Editing a comment
            I don't recall ever noticing that one, but now I'll be looking out for it.

        • #9
          Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post

          ​Like this one?

          I noticed that last time up there. I think you're confirming this, but that's not correct, is it? You can primitive camp well beyond there. Is it saying that there are no more campgrounds beyond there?

          This sort of thing doesn't help.
          ADK 46/46W, Grid 227/552
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          • #10
            Originally posted by autochromatica View Post

            This sort of thing doesn't help.
            I would agree with you Sean since that sign is in apparent contradiction of the regulations (there's a but coming). It was there for a long time, until it was moved to the proper elevation for the last couple of years and now it's back. But...it seems that the DEC has given itself a notwithstanding clause, in that, it can prohibit camping anywhere it chooses, even if the site would otherwise meet the criteria in the regulations.

            Part of the problem may be the longstanding plan to designate campsites in the SMFL corridor and then restrict camping only to those sites. I've been told that one of the tasks of the crew of four that was hired for the summer was to catalog all the existing sites and possibly close some and/or open others. Maybe the DEC anticipates that there will be no designated sites above this sign and has gotten a bit ahead of itself, before the designation process is completed.

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            • Trail Boss
              Trail Boss commented
              Editing a comment
              Correct. There are no designated campsites beyond this sign.

          • #11
            I agree that the sign is likely meant simply to convey the lack of realistic camping opportunities beyond. As TB notes, there's no designated tent sites further up. Yes, one could abide by the 150 foot rule, but there's 2 caveats with this: First, doing so would difficult due to the dense under-story and lack of flat ground. Second, DEC policy is generally to encourage the use of designated tent sites in favor of primitive camping at non-established locations whenever possible. There's a couple of reasons for this policy- it does help to concentrate and minimize impacts overall somewhat (especially in high use areas), and more importantly, your typical backcountry camper doesn't really have the skills to camp primitively at a non-established site in a manner that complies fully with the Leave No Trace Principles. This is especially true in the High Peaks where skill and experience and skill levels tend to be a bit... lower than one might hope.

            Thomas is right, though- there are a couple of regulations that technically make what this sign states enforceable, even if that wasn't the intent. The first is a regulation that states that the DEC can "restrict camping in certain posted areas." I've never seen this used in the High Peaks, but I have seen it used in some state forests with drive up campsites outside of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, where the regulation is used to allow camping with a permit only. The second regulation states that visitors to state land must abide by all instructions contained on any posted signage. In effect, because this is a DEC sign, the instructions it contains are themselves enforceable as per that regulation. I've never heard of this regulation ever being enforced, though (it seems likely that it's one of those regulations that exists mainly as an extra avenue for legal consequences for those times when someone does something really bad).

            The easiest way to clarify any confusion would be to contact the DEC directly and ask.

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            • #12
              I thought camping in this corridor was restricted to designated campsites, i.e. no at large camping.
              Mike

              ADK 46r #8003; 6W
              2nd round: 16
              SL6r #596
              Catskill 3500 21/39; 11W

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              • #13
                Originally posted by MTVhike View Post
                I thought camping in this corridor was restricted to designated campsites, i.e. no at large camping.

                that's the other thing. DEC reserves the right to make certain places off limits, even if they fall within the 150' / 3500' rule(s).

                for example. former designated sites CAN often be 150' from a trail and below 3500' in elevation, but you can't camp on them anymore.

                so "no camping beyond this point" can be taken at face value and doesn't need to imply a violation of those rules.


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                • #14
                  also, that sign at the phelps junction is broken now. i saw it yesterday. tried to upload a photo, but can't see to make it small enough. lol

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                  • #15
                    Originally posted by MTVhike
                    I thought camping in this corridor was restricted to designated campsites, i.e. no at large camping.
                    The regulation states that at large camping will be prohibited when the DEC had determined that enough campsites have been designated to handle the levels use. To my knowledge, the DEC had never declared that enough campsites have been designated, and this regulation has never been enforced.

                    Sent from my XT1575 using Tapatalk

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