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

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Hear the Footsteps View Post

    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.

    One of the cardinal rules of proper trail construction is to "avoid routing a trail directly up a steep slope." However, another cardinal rule of proper trail construction is to "minimize the number of switchbacks as much as possible," for exactly the reason you state- hikers will frequently attempt to shortcut switchbacks at every possible opportunity.

    The key is to use trails that ascend at an angle to the grade, following sweeping routes across the face of the mountain, with switchbacks used as sparingly as possible. Consider the following two hypothetical trails, both drawn at the same scale and ascending the same mountain:

    The first trail uses 11 switchbacks, and gives hikers numerous opportunities to shortcut those switchbacks. The second trail uses only 3 switchbacks in comparison, yet achieves the same goal of keeping the trail from directly ascending the slope. In the first instance, if hikers cut off the switchbacks, you've got a lot of potential for erosion (and possibly even a herd path that completely circumnavigates the side hilling entirely and ascends directly up the slope). In the second instance, even if hikers continue to cause problems by shortcutting the switchbacks, those problems are limited to three areas only, and there's no potential for widespread impacts.

    In the High Peaks, though, I'm not convinced that sidecut trails that cut across the slope are all that effective at mitigating erosion by themselves. The VanHoevenburg Trail was extensively rerouted at one point between the Phelps Mountain Junction and Indian Falls onto sidehilled trails with switchbacks, and even the relatively flat portions of trail that cut directly across the slope still show extensive signs of impact (including substantial erosion). This stretch of (relatively) new trail also has extensive rock work, especially stone staircases, and these areas have held up a bit better but even here there's problems with hikers walking around the stair cases. The levels of use combined with the fragility of the soils in the High Peaks means that mitigation of all undesirable impacts from foot traffic is probably something that trail reroutes alone won't accomplish.


    • #17
      Good info. Thanks, DS. And I agree, it would be hard to mitigate all impacts in the High Peaks!

      I think a lot of this goes to open-eyed recognition of the human nature of today's hikers, and the (admittedly difficult) job of building trails that will work for them.

      >Stone steps are great. But I see well done jobs, and poorly done jobs. (Both by professional crews.) In the poorly done jobs, steps are down-sloping, or loose, or sharp and pyramidal. Hikers are just going to go around those.

      >Boardwalks have gotten better, with the wise use of treated lumber. But the High Peaks is still full of rotted out, "natural material" boardwalks, with huge nails sticking up. Hikers are just going to go around those.

      >Switchbacks are good, but lately I have seen more and more of the mindlessly built ones, that were made with eyes only on the inclinometer, and no eyes on the terrain features that might be used. When hikers see that they are being led on a long pointless chase as slaves to a 2% grade, they are just going to shortcut those.

      So with today's hiker population, it's very challenging to build a sustainable trail. And getting angry at the hikers is not going to fix anything. And I know the State is way behind on projects. That's why I'm advocating for an additional $30 million for trail maintenance and improvement in the High Peaks.


      • #18
        I always wonder if a sustainable trail could be built up the north side of Seward or Seymour. I think not. I imagine that a completely different route to each summit would be required. I bet people would continue to use the herd paths though.
        Project-100: 100 peaks, one winter.


        • #19
          Does anyone know if these trails are on the states radar for management/maintenance?
          If by chance some day you're not feeling well and you should remember some silly thing I've said or done and it brings back a smile to your face or a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled ~ Red Skelton


          • NumNum
            NumNum commented
            Editing a comment
            Based on Toms comment it's the state.

          • gebby
            gebby commented
            Editing a comment
            Sure. The state maintains trails, but that doesn't mean other groups can't volunteer to help, like the 46ers do predominantly in the Dix range. And if people in Saranac involved with the Saranac 6 don't want to get the training necessary to learn how to do trail maintenance, funds could be donated to get a professional trail crew in there to do so, with the DEC's permission of course. It just doesn't seem prudent to encourage people to do those trails and not give back to maintain them.

          • tcd
            tcd commented
            Editing a comment
            I read in the Explorer that the state has a 5 year backlog of trail projects that need doing. So I'm sure these are on the long range radar, but I would not expect anything to get fixed in the next few years unless something changes in how the state allocates resources.

        • #20
          Originally posted by Neil View Post
          I always wonder if a sustainable trail could be built up the north side of Seward or Seymour. I think not. I imagine that a completely different route to each summit would be required. I bet people would continue to use the herd paths though.
          Your post reminded me that I saw this http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise...nd-ski-trails/
          Doesn't quite make sense to me....but I haven't checked it out on a map either. If I had done that maybe it would make sense.

          "In Ray Brook, the DEC plans to add a trail from Averyville Road to the summit of Seymour Mountain, using parts of a planned mountain bike loop around the base of Scarface Mountain."

          I like the trail to Seymour as it is excepting some water logged sections before the steep climbing. When it gets steep it is worn down do bedrock. Unfortunately, as I see it by inspection of conditions, the general public doesn't like it that way.


        • #21
          Originally posted by Hear the Footsteps View Post
          ... I like the trail to Seymour as it is excepting some water logged sections before the steep climbing. ...
          "Water-logged section"

          I experienced it last Saturday. Wow! It grew since last fall!

          I tip-toed my way through it with poles but I can understand why so many people try to flank it (and expand it in the process). It's quite deep in spots (pole went in over a foot). That section desperately needs to be re-routed to higher ground (to the east).

          ​Anyone know how much leeway a volunteer trail-maintainer has to remedy "problem spots" like that? Based on the Seymour trail's classification, it's not eligible for boardwalks or similar mitigation techniques so I figure a re-route is the only available option ... but are they allowed to do that unilaterally or do they have to consult with the DEC or other organization(s) first?
          Looking for Views!


          • Trail Boss
            Trail Boss commented
            Editing a comment
            It's somewhere along the first 1/2 mile of trail where the woods are still leafy. At this soggy point, the trail has veered away from the brook (~50 feet?) and crosses a fairly level patch of ground ... that's revealed itself to be a sump. There's higher ground to the east but it would take a good 60+ yards of rerouting to ensure the sump sees no further traffic/expansion.

            Anyhow, I expect it'll get worse before it gets better.

          • MTVhike
            MTVhike commented
            Editing a comment
            I don't know the answer to TB's unilateral question, but I think it's not allowed. Probably dropping rocks or branches into mudholes would be OK, but beyond that, ? But, what about cutting trees/branches which fell across the trail? I think these should be removed (or cut through) ASAP, otherwise, people just go around. A good example of this is the herd path up the Boquet forks to Grace.

          • Hear the Footsteps
            Hear the Footsteps commented
            Editing a comment
            The blowdown I'm thinking of is right besides the brook. On more than one time descending I walked on the rocks down the brook then climbed out back to the path after passing the worst of the wet area.

        • #22
          Regarding switchbacks, look at the new trail under construction up Iron Mtn in Elizabethtown. Although I don't think the switchbacks were put in the best places, it's much better than straight up. Also, much of this trail is just flagged so maybe when the trail crew returns, the switchbacks will be moved before they are actually dug.

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