The Adirondack Mountains are beautiful year-round, but the colorful montage of leaves and crisp fresh air make the region a fall favorite. For those who have always wanted to but haven’t yet explored the Adirondacks, there is no time like now to start an adventure. The massive size of the park can be intimidating for beginner hikers but Tim Starmer, author of Five-Star Trails in the Adirondacks: A Guide to the Most Beautiful Hikes (Menasha Ridge Press, Birmingham, Ala.; 283 pages; $15.95/softcover), makes navigating 40 popular hikes seem like a breeze.
Starmer is owner and operator of New Heritage Woodworking, located in Jamesville, a construction company that designs and builds timber frames, but that’s only his day job. Starmer is a longtime outdoor enthusiast who explores the wilderness whenever possible. His footprints are on every trail highlighted in the book. He describes in detail the trails, sectioning them off into subcategories of location and degree of difficulty (based on a 1-to- 5 scale). Each trail is numbered for easy flip-through access. The book is well organized, but rugged in its appearance. Even though the pictures are black and white, Starmer paints for the reader a mental picture of every hike with each trail pro file described. The book contains a map, elevation profiles and GPS trailhead coordinates.
There are many different resources for information on the Adirondacks, and one prominent local source is the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1922. The club is set up with 27 local chapters with a membership of 35,000. Dick Lightcap, a former chair to the Onondaga chapter and an expert hiker for more than 15 years, describes the Adirondacks as “a place for every level of hiker; beginner to expert, there are trails for everyone.”
Referring to Starmer’s guidebook, Lightcap calls it “valuable information, particularly for people who are not familiar with the area.” Starmer separates the trails into sections such as most difficult hikes, easiest, best for children and more. Lightcap agrees with the layout Starmer chose: “It makes it easy for beginners to select easier hikes when starting out.”
Lightcap points out that there are other sources to navigating the Adirondack trails, including ADK guidebooks and Adirondack magazine, both developed and updated by the Lake George ADK office. These resources are where you can find the most recently updated information.
The Adirondacks are forever changing due to natural wear and tear. For example, with the recent surplus of wind and rain produced by Hurricane Irene, the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation has closed a number of trails deemed unsafe for travel, due to flooding and debris. But not to worry: Even with some higher peaks being closed, many trails are still passable (go to adk.org for the latest updates before you head out).
“Know where you are going!” Lightcap partially jests when asked to impart the most vital advice on hikers. “It’s not like there is a house on every corner where you can stop and ask for directions. You are in the woods and it is easy to get lost if you don’t have the right equipment.” By that he means “a map and compass, which you know how to use.”
Knowledge of the area is necessary when it comes to hiking in the Adirondacks; that is why it’s important to carry guidebooks such as Starmer’s on the trails. Lightcap stresses the importance of supplies: Every hiker should have certain things with them no matter the planned duration of their hike. Those supplies are food, lots of water, layered clothing appropriate to the season, rain gear or snow gear, toilet paper, first aid supplies, flashlight and a cell phone; be warned, though, that you may not have service.
One destination that Lightcap spoke highly of is the Adirondack Loj (pronounced “lodge”), located on Heart Lake near Lake Placid. “It’s historic, convenient and a central location to many trails, an all-around good place to experience many facets that the Adirondacks have to offer,” he notes. Visit adk.org for information. The Loj is open to the public, but you do need to make reservations at the website.
Remember, hiking isn’t a difficult activity, as long as you are well outfitted. “There are so many places to go, a multitude of trails and so many clubs across the state that support hiking, by building and maintaining trails,” Lightcap says. “There is almost a limitless amount of trails that people can go to.” Sure the Adirondacks may have physical boundaries, but the amazing experiences any hiker, novice or experienced, new or old, can enjoy within the Blue Line are limitless.