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McKenzie Mtn. Saranac 6 good for biz, bad for the trail?

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  • McKenzie Mtn. Saranac 6 good for biz, bad for the trail?

    Sylvie and I did McKenzie on Friday and I was really surprised at how much the trail has widened and turned into a mess since I last did it in non-winter conditions, a few years prior to the Saranac 6 concept. It made me wonder if the "Saranac 6", which is excellent PR for the town, has overwhelmed the trail's carrying capacity. I also wonder if anyone in the town would really care, as long as it brings people and is good for biz.

    We went down the SOA trail to the shores of L. Placid and the difference in the trails is striking.
    1111111111

  • #2
    Originally posted by Neil View Post
    ... I also wonder if anyone in the town would really care, as long as it brings people and is good for biz.
    I can tell you right now..

    Comment


    • #3
      Not sure they care. They've even organized a Saranac 6 race! http://www.saranaclake.com/events/sa...ke-6er-relay-0

      Comment


      • #4
        Lots of marketing, no maintenance. Like the rest of the Adirondacks. Unfortunate, but I still like the traffic for the local businesses. These people have real lives, trying to put food on the table; walking through a little mud is no big deal.

        Comment


        • Trail Boss
          Trail Boss commented
          Editing a comment
          How about $25 to participate in trail maintenance with awards for most tasks completed, fastest crews, etc. Kind of a woodsman/lumberjack event. The town gets better trails that can handle more traffic and attract more hikers.

          Oh wait. That probably involves far more red tape than getting clearance from the DEC to stage a race. The world is lop-sided.

      • #5
        They're charging $25 per person to enter the race. Anyone know if part of that money goes toward trail maintenance?

        In light of concerns about backcountry overuse and misuse, as well as the darts thrown at social media's influence, it seems like staging relay races sends the wrong message. The event doesn't even pretend that it gives something back to the resource.
        Looking for Views!

        Comment


        • gebby
          gebby commented
          Editing a comment
          For the participants, I'm sure it will be fun, but it seems to be a bit misguided.

      • #6
        I did the same route earlier this summer. The McKenzie Trail appalled me too. It was a total relief going over to Moose & down that way -- though I must have gotten off the current official route, since I came out by a Posted sign, with dogs barking. Very embarrassing. It was just a few steps up the paved driveway to the road, though.

        Comment


        • #7
          I've heard there's also been issues at Baker Mountain... not just of the "trail erosion" kind but of the "hikers picnicking on the front lawns of private homes" kind. (The trailhead to Baker is in close proximity to a residential area with a number of private dwellings.)

          Comment


          • gebby
            gebby commented
            Editing a comment
            Is that a private lake that's there?

        • #8
          It's been a while since I've hiked up McKenzie, but as I recall the trail (like many ADK trails) was cut straight up the mountain rather than into switchbacks. I think this outdated and inferior trail design probably impacts erosion rates to a greater extent than increased 6er traffic.

          Furthermore, while in the short term there will be overcrowding issues and environmental problems, I believe in the long run the increased traffic and popularity will do far more to protect the natural resources than to damage them. We live in an era where the mentality that wilderness and nature are unnecessary extras to be sacrificed in the name of development has made a remarkable resurgence. As a result, I see very little downside to the increased traffic. If more people visit, use the trails, and spend their money, then there will be greater public support to preserve the wilderness, not just in the ADK region, but nationwide as well... Once people get a taste of wilderness, they generally abandon any notions that it's "unnecessary." This is particularly relevant with the upcoming referendum on the NYS constitutional convention, which, if passed, would put the Forever Wild designation up for debate.

          That said, I certainly support any move to provide more funding for trail maintenance, LNT education, and steward programs. Maybe the area has reached some kind of carrying capacity, but I think the carrying capacity could be increased with some education and maintenance effort, perhaps cutting a new better designed trail.

          Comment


          • gebby
            gebby commented
            Editing a comment
            I wish I could believe that exposure to the beauty of the wilderness would change people, but seeing all the garbage in some pristine locations convinces me otherwise. :(

          • t46psk
            t46psk commented
            Editing a comment
            It is always sad to see blatant and totally intentional garbage on the trail, but I think good stewardship is a gradual process and most people outgrow the "ignorant hiker" phase and grow into the "responsible steward." Surely I left my fair share of "trace" behind when I was new and uninitiated, but alas by now, I've surely picked up more trash than I have left behind, and I've absolutely done more to support advocacy that I would have otherwise had I not had those more reckless experiences when I was younger. So my thought (hope?) is that the increases in traffic and trail degradation now will pay dividends over the next few years with more forceful wilderness stewards and advocates.

        • #9
          Originally posted by t46psk View Post

          That said, I certainly support any move to provide more funding for trail maintenance, LNT education, and steward programs. Maybe the area has reached some kind of carrying capacity, but I think the carrying capacity could be increased with some education and maintenance effort, perhaps cutting a new better designed trail.
          Protecting the investment. Costs money, therefore unpopular. And, the money has to come from somewhere.

          Money is like beer at a frat party. No matter how much you have, it's never enough.
          1111111111

          Comment


          • #10
            Originally posted by t46psk View Post
            ... the trail (like many ADK trails) was cut straight up the mountain rather than into switchbacks. I think this outdated and inferior trail design probably impacts erosion rates to a greater extent than increased 6er traffic.
            ​That's a theory that is true but in a rather indirect fashion. There's nothing wrong with a trail running along the fall-line if people confine their travel to its centerline. The greatest erosion occurs in the first few years and then, like natural streambeds, things don't change much for decades. However, they often don't remain on the centerline so therein lies the flaw of "fall-line trails"; they can't constrain the human temptation to avoid perceived hurdles (bypass slabs, mud, etc).

            Flowing water is like hiker traffic, as long as it doesn't jump its banks it causes little new erosion. The streambed's appearance doesn't change much over the span of decades (rocks get moved around). When the volume of water increases to cause scouring of the banks, then we get new erosion; the streambed widens and its bends are chewed away. The same thing happens to trails. Foot traffic along the trail's eroded centerline doesn't produce appreciable additional erosion but traffic overflowing onto its edges does cause noticeable new erosion. Hikers who've spent 5+ years in the High Peaks can attest to the noticeable broadening of trails notably wherever there are sections of increased challenge (ledges, mud holes, slabs, etc).


            Here's one example of what I mean:
            ​Along the Algonquin Trail, there's a steep section of bare rock just past the knob we facetiously call "Wrong Peak". It's about 4 yards high and most hikers typically scramble along its left side. Untold numbers of hikers have negotiated this ledge and it's appearance hasn't changed very much ... until recently (i.e. last 2-3 years). I noticed a lengthy bypass trail has developed to circumvent the ledge. It's an example of the "flow" having "jumped its banks" and creating new erosion.

            The overall increase in hiker traffic has also increased the number of hikers who refuse to accept the trail's challenges as-is and seek easier shortcuts, at the expense of the resource. They are literally voting with their feet and, erosion be damned, they want the trail's challenges to be reduced to their level of competence.

            ​Imagine if this behavior was tolerated on public roads. Driving on shoulders, through ditches, and across lawns would be commonplace because, after all, it's not the journey but the destination ...
            Looking for Views!

            Comment


            • #11
              Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post

              ​That's a theory that is true but in a rather indirect fashion. There's nothing wrong with a trail running along the fall-line if people confine their travel to its centerline. The greatest erosion occurs in the first few years and then, like natural streambeds, things don't change much for decades. However, they often don't remain on the centerline so therein lies the flaw of "fall-line trails"; they can't constrain the human temptation to avoid perceived hurdles (bypass slabs, mud, etc).
              I ascended McKenzie on eclipse day and the trail was badly eroded, but I couldn't swear it was worse than when I hiked it six years earlier, when I thought it was one of the most eroded trails I had seen. As for whether fall-line trails are more prone to erosion than side-sloping ones, I'm not sure. The side-sloping ones (e.g. Roaring Brook, the new Hurricane Trail) tend to steadily migrate downhill because as rocks and roots are excavated by passing feet, people avoid them on the downhill side, where the process repeats. And in these cases hikers aren't avoiding actual obstacles, they are trying to escape the inconvenience of lifting their feet an extra two inches. It's not a matter of incompetence, it's just laziness.

              Comment


              • #12
                Yup, "laziness" also applies. Like when people cut switchbacks on the Ridge Trail to Giant. They make a mess to save a few yards of walking.

                ​It's also an example of increased "total volume" not necessarily being the principal culprit but the increased number of ill-formed and/or lazy within that volume. Has the proportion of "ill-informed/lazy hikers" increased relative to the total population of hikers? I don't have any hard data but by the look of some trails (hello Cliff, hi Santanoni Express) it sure seems that way.

                It's discouraging to think the Pareto principle might apply to trail erosion: 80% of the damage is caused by just 20% of the people.
                Looking for Views!

                Comment


                • #13
                  Originally posted by t46psk View Post
                  It's been a while since I've hiked up McKenzie, but as I recall the trail (like many ADK trails) was cut straight up the mountain rather than into switchbacks. I think this outdated and inferior trail design probably impacts erosion rates to a greater extent than increased 6er traffic.

                  Furthermore, while in the short term there will be overcrowding issues and environmental problems, I believe in the long run the increased traffic and popularity will do far more to protect the natural resources than to damage them. We live in an era where the mentality that wilderness and nature are unnecessary extras to be sacrificed in the name of development has made a remarkable resurgence. As a result, I see very little downside to the increased traffic. If more people visit, use the trails, and spend their money, then there will be greater public support to preserve the wilderness, not just in the ADK region, but nationwide as well... Once people get a taste of wilderness, they generally abandon any notions that it's "unnecessary." This is particularly relevant with the upcoming referendum on the NYS constitutional convention, which, if passed, would put the Forever Wild designation up for debate.

                  That said, I certainly support any move to provide more funding for trail maintenance, LNT education, and steward programs. Maybe the area has reached some kind of carrying capacity, but I think the carrying capacity could be increased with some education and maintenance effort, perhaps cutting a new better designed trail.
                  You have an interesting position on this. I not buying into it. I just recently came back from Oregon. They have nice trails. They also have beautiful switchbacks. On one trail in the Columbia River Gorge it took 12 switchbacks to climb 600 ft. Maybe that seems like a lot but straight up it was very step.

                  Guess what. People were still cutting off the corners and bypassing switchbacks creating what they believed is a better and faster route that by the way showed sings of premature erosion. We have our own version of this behavior in the Adirondacks. It's not getting better it's escalating.

                  Don
                  Last edited by Hear the Footsteps; 09-05-2017, 06:39 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #14
                    Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
                    Yup, "laziness" also applies. Like when people cut switchbacks on the Ridge Trail to Giant. They make a mess to save a few yards of walking.

                    ​It's also an example of increased "total volume" not necessarily being the principal culprit but the increased number of ill-formed and/or lazy within that volume. Has the proportion of "ill-informed/lazy hikers" increased relative to the total population of hikers? I don't have any hard data but by the look of some trails (hello Cliff, hi Santanoni Express) it sure seems that way.

                    It's discouraging to think the Pareto principle might apply to trail erosion: 80% of the damage is caused by just 20% of the people.
                    I think of it as similar to the Broken Window theory of crime. Once it starts it's not an 80:20 thing. It's, say, 50:50 or much worse. In other words people see the example and decide it's ok to pile on.

                    Comment


                    • #15
                      Originally posted by Neil View Post
                      It made me wonder if the "Saranac 6", which is excellent PR for the town, has overwhelmed the trail's carrying capacity. I also wonder if anyone in the town would really care, as long as it brings people and is good for biz.
                      The town of course does not own the trails, the state does.

                      Several of the other 6'ers are similarly getting worse and worse.

                      Tom Rankin - 5444W "In the depths of Summer, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible Winter"

                      Proud Member #0003 of ADKHP Foundation
                      Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
                      Past President Catskill 3500 Club
                      CEO Views And Brews!

                      Trail maintainer for the Dry Brook Ridge trail from Mill Brook Road to just past the Lean-to

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