How to Hike During Mud Season in the 'Daks

The valleys and lower elevation mountains are starting to thaw, the grass is starting to appear again, and things are starting to warm up. All tell-tale signs that mud season is here.

In the Adirondacks, we know this also means that trails will soon be a lot more crowded. In the last few years, the number of people who want to get outside in the Adirondacks has steadily increased, and for good reason: It’s beautiful! Total visitors in the Adirondack Park has risen from 10 million in 2001 to more than 12.4 million in 2018. Of that, 88 percent of visitors come to the Adirondacks to hike, so we may see a record number of hikers this year.

But right now, just as hikers are awakening from winter hoping to get out and enjoy the trails, the trails are at the height of their vulnerability. Between mid-April and early June when the snow melts and the spring rain begins, the ground is still semi-frozen and it causes muddy conditions that cause irreparable damage to trails as people trek across them.

The good news is that there are a few things that you can do to stay on the trails this spring without damaging them.

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Follow Leave No Trace

The best way you can help protect your public lands is to Leave No Trace. Following the first principle—Plan Ahead and Prepare—will help you follow the other six, keep you safe, and protect the wild place you’re visiting:

  • Research your trip ahead of time, overestimate the difficulty of a hike, consider the needs of everyone in your group
  • Know the rules and regulations of the land you are visiting. Lots of public lands and specific trails are seasonally closed to hikers to prevent damage.
  • Check the weather and trail conditions before you go so you can pack and dress accordingly.

Walk Through, Not Around Mud

Wearing waterproof shoes will make sure that you’re always comfortably able to walk through, not around mud, preventing trail damage.

When hikers step through flat areas with insufficient drainage, it makes a mud pit. Then hikers tend to step around a mud pit, making the mud pit even larger, and larger. Then hikers will step around the mud pit, and trample vegetation around the trail, creating “herd paths”. Then these herd paths become muddy themselves and the cycle continues. Make sure to stay on the trail to prevent trails from widening needlessly.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Choose Your Hikes Carefully

Steep trails with thin soils are the most at risk for damage during this time of year, so picking a trail at lower elevation is the best thing you can do to help reduce your impact. A south-facing trail is generally a good pick because the trails are drier.

Near the High Peaks Region, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation suggests a few alternatives that will give you a great experience, without compromising the trails. These other hikes would also make great springtime alternatives. Or, for a different, less crowded experience, try one of the many low elevation loop trails in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, Cranberry Lake Wild Forest, or West Canada Lake Wilderness.

 

In the Adirondacks, we generally use this time of year to let the trails rest and plan our adventures for the next season. But if you must itch the hiking scratch and enjoy the Adirondacks, please do so responsibly.  


4 Steps to Safe Stream Crossings

Springtime means water. With rain in the forecast and the temperatures inching higher and melting the snowpack, streams and rivers swell to their highest levels of the year, which for hikers and backpackers, can make traveling through the woods more difficult. Stream and river crossings might be an important part of your trip, but with them raging, it might also be the most dangerous part, which makes knowing how to get from one side to the other an important skill to have.

While your hike might depend on a river crossing, though, it’s important to know the limits of your abilities and not take unnecessary risks. Sometimes water levels can be high enough that a safe crossing just isn’t possible. Know your limits and don’t be afraid to turn around. That hike will still be there in the summer when water levels have dropped.

But if a crossing is something that you can achieve, follow these steps to get across safely.

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Step 1: Scout for a Spot

When crossing over swiftly moving water, looking for the perfect spot is the most important step to safely cross. Don’t automatically assume that a direct line from blaze to blaze on either side of the river is the path you should follow. The amount of water flowing downstream won’t be consistent on every section of the trail, and the safest crossing point will be different due to weather conditions.

You should stay clear from bends where the water speed picks up, instead look for where the river widens. This means that the water in that area is much shallower, making it a better spot to cross. Take a look downstream and consider what you’re up against if you do fall. If you see any stuck logs, debris, or rocks that you wouldn’t want to come in contact with, find another spot. Check the other side of the stream for a solid exit point to get you back onto dry land as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that when the river bank is steep, the chances of slipping back into the water is high. Look for a lower exit point to cross safely.

Courtesy: Anastasia Petrova
Courtesy: Anastasia Petrova

Step 2: Unstrap Your Pack

Before crossing over, unclip the hip and sternum straps on your pack. In the event that you lose your footing and fall in, your pack should be easily removable from your body, so that it doesn’t fill up with water and compromise your mobility. If you find yourself in this situation, drop the pack and save yourself first.

Always keep your shoes on when crossing. Good footwear will provide much better footing, traction, and protection rather than crossing barefoot, even if it means your boots will be wet—don’t worry, they will dry.

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Step 3: Cross the Stream

You should always face upstream and shuffle sideways slowly. Using trekking poles can make a big difference in helping keep you supported. If you don’t have trekking poles, grab sturdy sticks to help make things easier. Make slow, steady movements in a slightly downstream direction toward the opposite side of land. It’s important that you maintain a point of contact with the bottom as much as you can, so only move one foot once the other one is fully stable.

If you are hiking in a group, use that to your advantage: Crossing in groups can assist with maintaining stability. For groups of three, try forming a triangle, facing each other while holding onto the waist of the person next to you. Put the strongest member of the group on the upstream side and move together slowly. For groups of more than three, stand in a line while facing the current, keeping the strongest person in the lead bracing with trekking poles, while everyone else holds onto the waist or pack of the person in front of them. Simultaneously take small steps together in one set direction and one foot at a time.

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Step 4: Swim Out

Swimming should only be attempted in flat, calm water, but if you accidentally slip and become submerged, drop your backpack, point your feet downstream, and get on your back—this will allow you to use your feet to defend against hazards and keep your head protected. Swim quickly to shore.


Tradition or Truth in New Hampshire’s White Mountains

The goal of climbing New Hampshire’s 48 mountains over 4,000 feet in elevation and joining the Four Thousand Footer Club has a 60+ year history dating back to 1957. However, over the past few years, the United States Geographical Survey (USGS) has been re-examining the topography of the White Mountains using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), and has made a shocking discovery: at least one of the 48–Mount Tecumseh, the shortest of the 48 4,000-footers—is actually 8 feet shorter than previously thought, putting this now-3,995 foot peak in jeopardy of being excluded from the AMC’s list of recognized 4,000-footers. And while 8 feet is small potatoes in most contexts, for the list-conscious hikers among us, it’s a huge deal.

But, the potential “losers” list may be broader than just Tecumseh. To date, the USGS hasn’t yet made all of the survey data collected public and the AMC has only evaluated the new information pertaining to 26 of the 48 4,000-footers. Still, with more accurate mapping technology available and more survey data to be reviewed, it’s safe to assume that low-lying 4,000-footers besides Mount Tecumseh could be in jeopardy of losing their status as 4,000-footers. Mount Isolation (4,004 feet) and Mount Waumbek (4,006 feet) are two candidates that come to mind. “The NH45” doesn’t have the same ring.

Of course, during the new survey, some mountains could find themselves picking up elevation. For example, at 3,993 feet, Sandwich Dome is just 7 feet shy of the magical mark under the old standards—is it possible it’s “grown”?

Likewise, some peaks could see their prominence (to qualify as a 4,000-footer, a peak must have a minimum rise of 200 feet from all surrounding peaks) increase, thus making them new additions for the 4,000-footer list. Indeed, according to the new data, Guyot now has sufficient prominence on the side facing South Twin. However, the data from Guyot’s other side has either yet to be released or analyzed. But if substantiated, it would mean that a full Pemi-Loop would net a peak-bagger 13—not 12—4,000-footers in one trip.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

How Will This Affect List-Conscious Hikers?

Revising the list of 4,000-footers in New Hampshire is certain to send shockwaves through the peak-bagging community. For many pursuing the NH48, this will surely alter their plans—possibly adding new peaks to their lists while subtracting others. For those with more committed projects—like gridding—changes to the list could significantly complicate their quests. Meanwhile, for those competing for a fastest known time (FKT) for completing New Hampshire’s 48 4,000-footers, subtracting Tecumseh could save a speed-hiker a couple of hours (including drive time, of course).

The flux in elevations of the New Hampshire 48 thus begs the question: How, if at all, will the AMC adjust the list? Will it just change the list to reflect the mountains’ true elevations? Or will it continue to include some of these now-“lesser” peaks on the list even though they no longer technically qualify? Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time the list keepers in the Northeast have faced the question.

History of AMC Changes

In the past, the AMC has adjusted the list according to a peak’s true elevation. In fact, the story of the New Hampshire 4,000-footers begins with just 46 peaks, ironically mirroring what was thought to be the number of Adirondack peaks over 4,000 feet in elevation. It wasn’t until the USGS published a new South Twin Mountain quadrangle that the New Hampshire 4,000-footers became 48 with the addition of Galehead Mountain in 1975, followed by Bondcliff in 1980. The most recent change came in 1998, when new survey data lead to Wildcat D replacing Wildcat E on the list of 4,000-footers.

Despite these changes, the AMC has not, to our knowledge anyway, ever just subtracted a 4,000-footer from the list. Indeed, even when they swapped the Wildcats, they made clear that ascents under the old standard would still “count.”

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

An Adirondack Tradition

With a tradition dating further back than New Hampshire’s (Robert Marshall, George Marshall, and Herbert Clark first completed the Adirondack 46 in 1925) more than 10,000 hikers have followed in their footsteps since, according to the ADK46ers—the ADK46 list is more steeped in tradition than true elevation, as more recent USGS surveys have shown 4 peaks to fall short of 4,000 feet, while one peak found to meet the essential elevation has been omitted (MacNaughton Mountain). Despite the updated information, the ADK46ers continue using the same list of 46 peaks that was used back in 1925. And, as two Tecumseh traditionalists—to be clear, we’ve hiked the mountain a lot—this could be a great solution in New Hampshire as well.

 

Given all this, what do you think the AMC should do? Would you be excited to see a new list and a new challenge? Or, would you prefer the AMC keep the tradition of the 48 alive? We want to hear! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


3 Low-Elevation Vermont Hikes for Mud Season

Days are longer, the sun is shining, and temperatures are becoming more tolerable. This seems like the perfect time to dust off those neglected hiking boots and hit the trails. However, the end of winter marks the beginning of mud season.

Mud Season?

This is the time of year with snowmelt, heavy rains, and completely saturated hiking trails. During mud season trails are often closed to help preserve landscape and fragile alpine foliage. As hikers tramp on wet soils, they result in erosion, damage to the trail, and destruction of surrounding vegetation. In Vermont specifically, the Green Mountain Club asks hikers to stay off muddy trails until Memorial Day weekend. The trails that are usually closed are above 3,000 feet, such as trails on Mount Mansfield, Mount Ellen, Camels Hump, Smugglers Notch, and most parts of the Long Trail.  It is recommended to hike at lower elevations, stick to trails with southern exposure (which are often dryer), avoid spruce-fir forests, and to walk though the mud rather than on the vegetation beside the trail—or to just turn around altogether.

So, do you just stay inside? Of course not! There are plenty of opportunities for hiking outside during mud season in Vermont, if you know where to look.

Credit: Carolyne Riehle
Credit: Carolyne Riehle

Mount Philo

One of the best Vermont hikes in and out of mud season is Mount Philo in Charlotte. While the summit may seem low at only 968 feet, and the trail only .75 miles long, the views of the Lake Champlain Valley are well worth it. This is a wonderful hike for the entire family, a great challenge for beginner hikers, and extremely enjoyable for the more experienced.  On the summit you will find welcoming Adirondack chairs allowing you to relax and enjoy the views, the 1930’s Lodge house that has grills and nearby restrooms, and plenty of picnic tables to bask in the warmer weather. Even if the trail is too muddy, you can always walk up the access road to reach the views. There won’t be any vehicles using the access road in the early mud season, making it a safe trip.

Credit: Carolyne Riehle
Credit: Carolyne Riehle

Mount Elmore

A bit more challenging mud season hike is up Mount Elmore (2,608 feet) in Elmore State Park in Wolcott. This is a 4.3-mile loop via the Fire Tower Trail and the Ridge Trail.  The best part of the summit is the fire tower—On a nice day you can see all the way to Mount Washington from the top. However, the view from the Fire tower isn’t the only extraordinary thing to see: A quick side trip brings you to Balanced Rock. This is a giant boulder that appears to defy gravity as it remains poised at a ridiculous angle on the smaller rock below.  After the hike, you can enjoy the warmer temperatures with a snack on Lake Elmore beach, embracing the beginning of spring.

Credit: Carolyne Riehle
Credit: Carolyne Riehle

Island Line Rail Trail

If you really want to make sure that you are not harming the fragile trails during mud season, it may be time to check out the Island Line Rail Trail that runs from Burlington, through Colchester, all the way to South Hero. This is a 14-mile asphalt and gravel trail that rolls through the Burlington waterfront, crosses Lake Champlain on the spectacular Colchester causeway, and finishes with a bike ferry to cross a 200-foot gap to South Hero island.  Throughout this trail there are views of the Adirondack Mountains across Lake Champlain, as well as beach spots to stop and rest. Once you reach the Colchester Causeway you are sandwiched between views of the Adirondack Mountains to the west and the Green Mountains to the east.  If you would rather not walk this, you can always rent a bike at one of the local shops in Burlington.

Remember to use discretion when you are on the trails, and turn around when the mud becomes too much. These trails are meant to be enjoyed for a long time, so please help make sure they remain preserved.


Don’t Be a Fool: Stop Doing These 10 Things While Spring Hiking

April Fool’s Day is a time best known for pranks and jokes. It’s also a time of tricky conditions in the mountains as winter gives way to spring. Mud, ice, snow, unexpected weather, high rivers and more can all add challenges to spring hiking that we don’t see year-round.  Keep reading to avoid being the joker who gets caught unprepared hiking this spring.

1. Lighthearted Layering

Don’t get the wool pulled over your eyes by the warm weather in the parking lot. Instead, be prepared to add layers to your body as the early spring weather in the high mountains rarely aligns with the warm, sunny conditions you had down low. Wide-ranging weather is common this time of year and often a hike that starts in short sleeves will end in a heavy puffy coat.

2. Footwear Folly

Trail runners might seem like a good idea at the car but could be closer to clown shoes up in the alpine. The additional height of hiking boots keeps snow from scheming against you and sneaking in the top of your shoe. Even better, waterproof footwear keeps you from being bamboozled by wet feet while providing a little extra warmth.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Not-So-Silly Snow

The absence of snow at the trailhead is a common hoax this time of year, tricking hikers into leaving their snowshoes behind. Colder temperatures, more snowfall, and hiker traffic packing down snow on trails can cause it to linger at higher elevations throughout the spring—making snowshoes necessary to avoid being duped into post-holing through unexpected snow.

4. Traction Tomfoolery

Melting snow, spring rain, warm days, and cold nights all conspire to make mischievously icy trails. Pack a pair of traction devices for navigating this tricky terrain and to avoid senseless slipping.

5. Muddy Monkey Business

Trying to avoid mud in the spring is a fool’s errand in the Northeast. When you encounter mud while hiking, either stick to hard surfaces to avoid it or walk through it, as walking around it on soft surfaces widens the trail, damages the delicate ground, and leaves behind a long-term record of your mischievous misbehavior.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

6. Worrying Water Crossings

Snowmelt and spring rains increase runoff, swelling mountain streams and rivers, making otherwise benign water crossings deceptively difficult. No laughing matter, take the time to find the best place—i.e., where the water is shallow and slow-moving, or where rocks protruding above the water’s surface form a natural bridge—even if it means spending a few extra minutes searching up and downstream.

7. Trekking Pole Trick

Carrying trekking poles is an easy way to avoid being the butt of the joke when it comes to mud, ice, and water crossings. There are so many reasons to use trekking poles, including that they let you probe mud and water depth, and help increase balance and stability while making tough crossings and moves on slippery rock.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

8. Deceived by the Dark

The days are still short this time of year, heightening the risk of getting benighted. Don’t get hoodwinked and hike without a headlamp; Hiking in the dark is a punchline no one wants to hear.

9. Wait for a Less Foolish Day

Sometimes the conditions just don’t line up—treacherous water crossings, too-slushy snow, and unstable weather are just a few pranksters that can disrupt even the best-laid plans. If things don’t look right, consider picking a different objective or call it a day early.

10. Whacky Weather

It’s undeniable that spring is known for its comically inconsistent conditions. One way to avoid being a victim of this practical joker is by checking conditions. In New Hampshire, the high summits forecast from the Mount Washington Observatory is a great resource for gaining info on expected weather while websites like New England Trail Conditions use community-based reporting to deliver up-to-date trail conditions.

 

Have a spring hiking tip that’s kept you from playing the fool? If so, we want to hear about! Leave it in the comments below.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

How to Choose Hiking Footwear

Your footwear might be the single most crucial piece of gear that comes with you on a hike. The interface between you and the trail, your sneakers, boots, sandals, or other shoes (alongside your socks) protect you from whatever’s on the ground, keep you comfortable as you move across it, help support your load, make it easier to move across the terrain, and more. So, naturally, there are tons of footwear options out there for hikers. Finding the right one for you is a little bit like dating: Choosing the right features, components, and fit is a time-consuming and research-intensive process. But if you do a lot of hiking, having your dream shoes will keep you moving farther, faster, more comfortably, and safer. So where should you begin?

READ MORE: How to Choose Socks

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What to Look For in Hiking Footwear

The “boot wall” at your local EMS can be an intimidating thing—shoes of all different shapes and sizes, colors and materials, weird “GTX” letters in the name, and more. Knowing your way around some of these different features and characteristics will help you narrow down your options and pick the right boot for what you want to do.

Height

Each type of hiking footwear hits at a slightly different place on your ankle, and even a few inches can make a big difference in your comfort and ease of movement, but the best height for you depends heavily on the terrain you plan on hiking, how much weight you plan to carry, and your personal preference.

High-cut boots extend well above your ankles and do a good job of supporting them, preventing injury. Especially if you’re carrying a heavy load (like when you’re backpacking), or on a rougher trail, they help avoid rolling ankles, and other strains to those joints. They also help stop dirt from getting into your shoes.

Low-cut shoes—which don’t extend very high at all and fit like sneakers—are lightweight and easy to pack. They’re good for well-maintained trails where you won’t be carrying much weight and want to move quickly with as little weight on your shoes as possible.

Mid-cut boots are the best of both worlds: ideal for when you’ll be carrying a some weight in your backpack, and/or when you need a little more ankle support to hike in dubious conditions.

Waterproofing

The difference between waterproof and non-waterproof boots is pretty self-explanatory: Waterproof boots will help keep your feet dry splashing through puddles and mud, or skipping across streams. However, when wearing a waterproof boot, you will sacrifice some breathability, so on a hot dry day, your feel are more likely to feel damp from sweat in a waterproof shoe than they would in a non-waterproof shoe. Also keep in mind that the waterproof membrane in footwear can’t keep you dry if you step in water that “overtops” the boot, and if that happens, a waterproof membrane could make it harder for your shoes to drain that water than they would without a membrane.

GO: Waterproof Shoes | Non-Waterproof Shoes

READ MORE: Maintaining Your Waterproof Shoes and Boots

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Materials

Most hiking shoes and boots are made with a combination of nylon and split-grain leather or suede. These boots are lightweight and consequently less expensive, and they also are easy to break-in. Other hiking boots are made of full-grain leather. These are durable, heavy, and sturdy, but take longer to break-in and will feel a little stiffer on your feet (at least at first).

Outsole and Midsole

The outsole of a shoe or boot is the bottom of the boot—the part that touches the ground. Outsoles have different types of lugs or grooves to help you grip the terrain. A shoe or boot’s midsole is in the middle of the shoe and affects flexibility or stiffness and cushion. Most lightweight hiking shoes have a soft sole that lets your foot wrap around uneven terrain on easy, short hikes, but soft-sole boots won’t be comfortable if you’re carrying a lot of weight. Hard-sole backpacking and mountaineering boots are the way to go for any trip that’s more intense. Because the soles are stiff and strong, these boots can handle extreme terrain and help you carry lots of weight — but as a trade-off, the lack of flexibility might hurt your feet.

Also pay attention to the material that makes up the outsole. Firmer, more durable rubbers will last longer in all sorts of terrain, but softer, stickier rubber will grip rock and other surfaces better, giving you greater traction.

Upper and Lacing

The upper of a hiking shoe or boot is the part that covers your toes, the top of your foot, the sides of your foot, and the back of your heel. As you consider which hiking shoe to purchase, you’ll want to make sure the upper is very durable and is also breathable—check to see whether it’s made of a lightweight (but still sturdy) material that will let air circulate around your foot. The upper of a hiking boot is also the part with the laces. Look for locking eyelets and sturdy laces to get a precise fit, especially on taller, stiffer boots.

Crampon-compatibility

Most mountaineering boots are crampon compatible. If you’ll be hiking and climbing in snow or ice, you may want to purchase a pair of crampons to attach to your boots. Crampons with a semi-rigid construction and horizontal frames are the best choice to attach to leather hiking boots. For simply walking in the snow, lightweight crampons will work fine. More strenuous activities such as waterfall ice climbing call for steel crampons that can handle tough terrain.

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Types of Hiking Footwear

There are a handful of broad categories for hiking footwear, all of which feature a specific combination of the features above which make them well-suited for a specific activity. Keep in mind: None of these options are only good for a single activity. While some may be better-suited for a specific type of hiking, you’re not locked-in.

Trail Running Shoes

Trail running shoes are actually a type of running shoe—they look more like sneakers than hiking boots—but they work just as well for short hikes, too. They typically have a very grippy outsole and are a durable shoe, making them ideal for any type of hike, even terrain that’s more technical. Trail running shoes are reinforced for extra protection, especially around the toe area. And like many types of shoe, you can choose a pair that has extra cushioning or one that’s more minimalist. Compared to other boot types, these are super light, making them as popular for short hikes as they are with long-distance hikers.

Light Hiking Shoes

Low-cut, lightweight hiking shoes are excellent for novice hikers not carrying a lot of weight or for anyone who’s planning a short day hike on flat terrain. Most hiking shoes are lightweight and flexible. However, they’re more durable and sturdy than trail running shoes. Some are waterproof with an extra lining while others focus on breathability, circulating air around your foot through a mesh upper. Hiking shoes are generally fairly painless to break in.

Day Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are different from hiking shoes in two big ways: They hit higher on the ankle and they have a stiffer construction, offering more protection. Hiking boots are more protective and supportive, but they’re also heavier than hiking shoes. Wear them when you’re heading out on a hike with lots of weight on your back. Hiking shoes are durable, but not quite as sturdy as backpacking boots.

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Backpacking Boots

Backpacking boots have a high ankle cut and are durable, stiff, and supportive, which makes they great for the hikes when you have a long way to go and a lot to carry. Good for just about any kind of terrain and any kind of weather, backpacking boots have aggressive outsoles (sometimes with a place for snowshoes or crampons to attach) and need to be purchased well before your hiking trip so you can break them in.

Mountaineering Boots

Planning to hit the outdoors and do some ice climbing or snowshoeing? Mountaineering boots are the best choice for you. Tall, stiff, and insulated, mountaineering boots are designed for extreme conditions and extreme activities in ice and snow. Most mountaineering boots are meant to be used with crampons.

Performance Sandals

Performance sandals are made for rafting and other summertime adventures. Their textured no-slip sole grips the ground, allowing you to take short hikes with no problem. Make sure you find a pair of sandals that has good toe protection and that are easily drainable.

Approach Shoes

Approach shoes are almost like a cross between hiking boots, climbing shoes, and trail running shoes. Their sticky rubber sole means they’re best used for anything “approaching” rock climbing destinations, so if you anticipate doing some bouldering or rappelling on your hike, wear some approach shoes to help you tackle the terrain leading up to the bouldering problems. Approach shoes are comfortable and okay for long distances, but not good for rough terrain or when carrying lots of weight.

GO: Trail Running Shoes | Light Hiking Boots | Backpacking Boots | Mountaineering Boots | Multi-Sport Sandals

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Trying Hiking Footwear On

It can be hard to truly get a feel for a pair of shoes if you’re trying them on in-store, but there are still some things you can do to see how they’ll perform on the trails.

First, come prepared. When you go shopping, wear or bring the socks you’re planning to hike in, and also bring along any insole or footbed inserts you might use. Second, walk or even jog around the store. Walk up and down a set of stairs or a ramp if you can. Finally, make sure the shoes have enough space for your toes, that they provide good arch support, and that your heel doesn’t lift or move (if it does, you’ll get painful blisters). Try different lacing techniques to dial in the perfect fit for your foot shape.

After purchasing the shoes, wear them around your house or try taking them on a short, easy test hike so you can be absolutely sure they’ll work for what you need.

Be prepared to break in your new shoes or boots — this is another good reason to take a test hike before the big day. Listen to your feet and put in the time: A quick fix—such as soaking your boots—probably won’t be a lasting one.


Popular Adirondack Trailhead Parking Lot Closing for Spring and Summer 2019

Starting this spring and continuing through the summer, a popular trailhead from Keene Valley, New York, into the Adirondack High Peaks will be closed to public traffic.

The Garden Parking Lot will be closed to vehicles during to the replacement of a bridge over Johns Brook on the road leading to the parking area. The Garden is one of the primary access points for hikers entering the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, including the Johns Brook Valley, the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Johns Brook Lodge, Big Slide Mountain, northern access to the Great Range, as well as the Phelps Trail up the north side of Mount Marcy, among other trails.

Construction work on the bridge will begin as early as road conditions and weather permit, according to Keene town officials, and is expected to continue through the summer.

The only access to The Garden Trailhead will for hikers who park at the Marcy Field Parking Lot, north of town, and taking a shuttle provided by the town which has been running for the last several years. The shuttle, which costs $10 round-trip per hiker, is expected to operate seven days a week during peak season, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m, but town officials note that a lack of bus drivers could cause alterations to that schedule.

“The town recognizes that this is a major disruption during the nicest hiking weather, but the bridge replacement is critical,” a news release from the Town reads. “The current bridge is in such poor shape that the town can’t run plow trucks over it safely.”

The Town will update this website with current information on the shuttle, as well as its schedule.


This Hike is a Blue Square: The Problems with NYS's Plan to Rate Hikes Like Ski Runs

The New York State Assembly is currently considering a bill that would rate the difficulty of hikes in the same manner in which ski areas rank the difficulty of their trails—black diamond for experts, blue square for intermediates, and green circle for beginners. According to New York State Assemblyman Chris Tague, the bill’s sponsor, the purpose of this trail-rating measure is to improve hiker safety. But this also begs the question—how does slapping a circle, square, or diamond at a trailhead do this?

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While the bill may provide a very generalized assessment of difficulty, it doesn’t say anything definitive about what a hiker is “in for” on a particular trail. Nor does it explain what hikers should be carrying in their packs in case of emergency. This is information that has historically been included in guidebooks and on signage found at many trailheads. Why not refocus this bill toward improving the existing information by consolidating it into an online region-by-region guidebook, then posting detailed trail descriptions at trailheads? That way hikers could easily research their objective before they left home and, if it was a last-minute outing, read about the hike at the trailhead. From websites giving detailed trail descriptions, (such as our Alpha Guides) to dedicated enthusiast websites, to personal blogs, much of this information already exists and consolidating these sources would give hikers a much better picture of what to expect (mileage, elevation, terrain difficulty, etc.) than a single symbol.

From websites giving detailed trail descriptions, to dedicated enthusiast websites, to personal blogs, much of this information already exists and consolidating these sources would give hikers a much better picture of what to expect than a single symbol.

A second concern with the proposal is that it doesn’t account for seasonal and weather-related changes to trail conditions. Consider a situation common to hikers in the Northeast, where icy conditions, a winter snowpack, or a water crossing with high water turn a moderate hike into an epic. Diligent hikers do their research, seeking out an up-to-date picture of what to expect on the trail before they leave home. Is New York going to similarly dedicate staff to changing that green circle into a black diamond when conditions warrant? More so, where community-based websites are already filling this role, aren’t the State’s resources better allocated to helping foster a state-wide trail condition forum like NewEnglandTrailConditions.com or TrailsNH.com (which already cover some of the state’s higher peaks)?

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A third problem is that difficulty is incredibly subjective. Simply scroll through the comments on some of the hiking pieces we’ve written for goEast or on a website such as AllTrails.com and it quickly becomes clear that one person’s easy hike is another’s nightmare. And it’s not just the web where the subjectivity influences trail descriptions and level of challenge—hikers are rarely in sync with the suggested completion times found in popular guidebooks. Once again, the ever-changing nature of trails and weather can play a role in this. Dry conditions and mild temps can make for an easy ascent one day, while slick, wet trails or heat and humidity can lead to struggles the next. It’s not dissimilar to a problem shared by many ski resorts—shred a black diamond run that’s filled with snow and it may feel easy, but encounter it later in the day when the snow has been scraped off and the challenge rises exponentially.

Simply scroll through the comments on some of the hiking pieces we’ve written for goEast or on a website such as AllTrails.com and it quickly becomes clear that one person’s easy hike is another’s nightmare.

It’s not only the dynamic nature of trails that make using a single rating to define their difficulty a problem, but the question also arises, what do we, as hikers, think is difficult? Will the ratings merely be based on mileage and elevation gain? What about the quality of the terrain? After all, a rough and rocky trail is much slower to navigate than a smooth trail. What about how rapidly the elevation is gained? Many of us find a slow, gradual ascent easier than a steeper, more direct ascent. Then, of course, there are technical bits such as water crossings, ladders, and steep sections which, depending on experience and comfort level, will feel easy for some and turn others around.

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Finally, what happens if hikers are planning on using multiple trails? Do two greens equal a blue? Or, three greens equal a black diamond? It seems to us that this system could quickly cause more confusion than it helps to clarify. In addition to sowing confusion, could rating hiking trails like ski runs lead to complacency? For example, would hikers be encouraged to leave behind essentials such as a headlamp because a trail is a green circle?

Do two greens equal a blue? Or, three greens equal a black diamond?

Interest in hiking and exploring our wild places is on the rise and thinking about how to make our trails safer and more inclusive should be on the top of people’s minds, especially those in charge of managing these places. But, while we feel like the New York’s heart is in the right place, we don’t think that rating hiking trails like ski trails is the solution they’re looking for.


How to Choose Snowshoes

Whether you’re heading into the mountains or just getting a little exercise, snowshoes are a key piece of gear for winter exploration. They make winter travel easier and more efficient by dispersing a person’s weight over a large surface area, providing flotation, and preventing them from sinking into the snow. Can’t figure out what snowshoe is right for you? Keep reading to discover which features and benefits are best for you in a snowshoe.

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Terrain

Snowshoeing means different things to different people. For some, snowshoes offer access to untracked powder deep in the mountains; For others, they are simply a way to enjoy the outdoors in winter. Because of this, snowshoes are designed to perform in a wide variety of terrain and applications, making the knowledge of how and where you’re going to use them one of the simplest ways to narrow down your snowshoe choice.

Hiking and Recreational Snowshoes

Designed to handle conditions encountered by the majority of users, recreational/hiking snowshoes are capable of handling all but the steepest and iciest terrain. They’re built for comfort and ease of use with enough traction and technical features to handle moderate terrain and hiking off the beaten track. Most snowshoes fall into this category.

Mountaineering and Backcountry Snowshoes

Mountaineering and backcountry snowshoes are designed for people going deep into the mountains and tackling demanding terrain. They feature more aggressive crampons (and, in many cases, serrated side rails and rear crampons) than hiking/recreational snowshoes for improved performance in steep and icy conditions. Since users in this category will be traveling far from civilization, mountaineering/backcountry snowshoes are built using burlier and more rugged materials and are typically field-repairable. Lastly, many snowshoes in this category have bindings designed to accommodate bulkier boots such as snowboard or mountaineering boots.

Running

Running snowshoes represent a small niche of the snowshoe market, but are popular for people looking to take a break from pounding the pavement during the winter. Running snowshoes tend to be shorter, narrower, and lighter than other snowshoe styles, sacrificing some flotation to facilitate a more natural running motion. Additionally, the bindings found on running snowshoes are designed to accommodate sneakers, rather than boots.

Pro Tip: To ensure your feet stay warm and dry, wear waterproof trail runners and ankle gaiters with your running snowshoes.

GO: Snowshoes for Gentile | Rolling | Steep Terrain

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Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s Snowshoes

Men’s (typically also considered unisex) snowshoes are designed for bigger bodies carrying heavier loads and come with bindings designed to fit larger boots. Conversely, women’s snowshoes are engineered for smaller people, lighter loads, and smaller feet. Women’s-specific snowshoes also frequently feature a tapered tail to account for a woman’s narrower stride. With that being said, many women can still be comfortable wearing a men’s/unisex snowshoe.

Children’s snowshoes vary by age, but most are built to be easy on and off. Snowshoes for younger children are typically made for backyard use rather than backcountry, but snowshoes designed for older children incorporate the technical features found on adult models.

GO: Men’s Snowshoes | Women’s | Kids’s

Courtesy: Tubbs Snowshoes
Courtesy: Tubbs Snowshoes

Sizing Snowshoes

Snowshoes work by dispersing a person’s weight over the surface area of the snowshoe—therefore, it’s important to get an appropriately-sized snowshoe for the load it will have to carry. Every snowshoe comes with a recommended weight range, which should be consulted before purchasing.

As a general matter, if you’re under 150 pounds (with gear), you should be looking at snowshoes in the 21 to 25 inch range. For folks between 150 and 200 pounds (again, with gear), consider a snowshoe in the 25 to 30 inch range. Finally, for individuals weighing more than 200 pounds (including gear), look for a snowshoe over 30 inches. Balance this, however, with the terrain you’ll be traveling in—in deeper snow you’ll want a bigger size, while on well-packed trails a smaller shoe will be easier to use.

Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb is to choose the smallest snowshoe available that is capable of carrying the load and handling the conditions you anticipate encountering, as smaller snowshoes are easier to walk in and weigh less than their larger brethren. This is especially true for hikers expecting to snowshoe predominantly on packed trails.

GO: 40-90 lbs.80-150 lbs. | 120-200 lbs. | 170-250 lbs. | 220+ lbs.

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Construction Type

Today’s snowshoes fall into two different types of construction: wrapped frame and plastic decking.

Wrapped Frame

Most snowshoes are constructed using the wrapped frame model. Wrapped-frame snowshoes take their cues from the traditional wood-and-leather snowshoes of the past, updated with more modern materials like metal and rubber. Wrapped-frame snowshoes deliver a nice balance of light weight and performance and are well suited for use in soft snow.

Plastic Decked

Plastic-decked snowshoes have become increasingly common in recent years. Unlike wrapped-frame snowshoes, plastic-decked snowshoes typically do not feature a separate frame—rather, the frame and deck are a single piece, making them more durable. Plastic-decked snowshoes are more packable than wrapped-frame snowshoes, but frequently are only available in one size, ruling them out for users headed for deep powder (although some modular snowshoes come with “tail”-like extensions).

There are a few exceptions when it comes to snowshoe construction, most notably the MSR Lightning series snowshoes. Rather than using a tube frame, MSR Lightning snowshoes feature a metal frame with serrated edges (and a rubber decking) to provide a snowshoe that blends the advantages of both wrapped-frame and plastic-deck snowshoes.

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Crampons and Traction

A clear indicator of a snowshoe’s intended use is the design of its crampon and the traction system. The more aggressive the crampon, the more advanced terrain it’s built for. For example, a basic recreational snowshoe might have a simple toe crampon, while a mountaineering snowshoe will feature a toe crampon, a heel crampon, and side rails for additional traction in steep terrain. More so, crampons designed for steep and icy terrain will also typically be more aggressively-shaped to provide purchase in gnarly terrain. It’s also common for snowshoes designed for more extreme terrain to be outfitted with traction systems made of more rugged materials—switching aluminum construction out in favor of steel.

Bindings

There are two things to consider when looking at a snowshoe’s binding: how it attaches to your foot and how the binding interacts with the snowshoe.

Manufacturers use numerous ways to connect the binding to your foot. In fact, it’s common to see multiple connection methods used on the same snowshoes. Popular binding closures are webbing straps, rubber straps, snowboard-like ratcheting straps, and Boa dials. Webbing and rubber straps are the most utilitarian binding systems (and allow for replacement in the field), while ratchet straps and Boa dials are more easily adjusted and easier to use.

Whether the snowshoe’s binding is “fully rotational” or “fixed” also impacts its performance. A fully rotational binding is attached to the snowshoe with a pivot or hinge and delivers a wider range of motion than what’s offered by fixed bindings. Rotational bindings allow for a more natural stride and make it easier to gain purchase on steep slopes.

Alternately, fixed bindings attach the binding to the snowshoe with a strap or band. Fixed bindings bring the snowshoe tail up with each step, making them ideal for activities like running where a rotating snowshoe could present a tripping hazard.

Heel Risers

Heel risers, also called heel lifts or climbing bars, have become increasingly common on many snowshoes and are particularly beneficial on mountaineering and backcountry snowshoes. Heel risers can be flipped up to support the heel when ascending steeper terrain, putting the foot in a more natural position for increased comfort and less strain.

 

Do you have a favorite snowshoe model or a suggestion for something new snowshoers should be on the lookout for? If so, we want to hear about it—leave your suggestion in the comments below!

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Be My Adventure Valentine: Romantic Outdoor Date Ideas for You and Your S.O.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and surely the outdoorsy readership of goEast won’t be keen on celebrating inside. If you’re in need of inspiration, we’ve gathered a winter’s kaleidoscope of romantic, adventurous, and outdoorsy date ideas. There are options for all levels of exposure and comfort, from ice skating in America’s oldest public park to 100 miles of snowshoe masochism to learning new skills so you can enjoy the outdoors for a lifetime to come with your sweetheart.

Courtesy: Destination Moosehead Lake
Courtesy: Destination Moosehead Lake

Something Sweet Awaits in Maine

Nestled in the great north woods of Maine, Moosehead Lake is an island-studded getaway. Spend your days snowshoeing, ice climbing, or skiing, then come back for an evening of scrumptious chocolate sampling (to replenish your carbohydrate stores, of course). Destination Moosehead Lake’s 15th annual Chocolate Festival offers over 40 delights for your sampling pleasure.

Nothing Says “I Love You” like 100 Miles of Misery

Step out into the scenic woods of the Green Mountains, and keep stepping, and then don’t stop stepping until you’ve gone 100 miles (or about 195,000 steps if you’re counting). That is what’s in store at the Peak Snow Devil Snowshoe Ultra for the couple that wants to test their mettle, and see how each partner holds up under the long haul.

Courtesy: Muddy Paw
Courtesy: Muddy Paw

A Howliday Treat for Fans of Furry Friends

Have you gone dog sledding before? What is the chance your partner has? Bingo!… one of the pack leaders, is ready to take you on a dog sledding tour through the woods of Jefferson, New Hampshire. Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel has over 80 handsome canines, many of which are rescues from “ruff” backgrounds or second chance adoptees. Tours range from 1.5 to 3 hours and you can choose to sit bundled up in the toboggan (cozy!) or try your hand at mushing too.

Courtesy: Peak Resorts
Courtesy: Peak Resorts

Are You in a Serious Relationship with Skiing—and Your Partner?

What’s more special than a day on the slopes with your one-and-only? Well, popping the big one before shredding a steep run might make your ski day extra special. Just imagine: Blue skies glimmering against snow-covered pines, and fresh pow waiting for you to say, “I do.” Thanks to Mount Snow, you’ll be riding on Cloud Nine before taking the first run of your new lives together.

The Best Partner Is a Climbing Partner

Not every winter sport has to do with ice or snow. If you enjoy bouldering in the fall, try your hand at winter climbing where the added friction might be just what you need to send your next problem. Pack a thermos full of hot chocolate, bring a kangaroo pouch full of hand warmers and enjoy the day out at the crag with your favorite climbing partner.

Check out the bouldering at Lincoln Woods, Rumney, Pawtuckaway, or these great local gems close to Boston.

Stay Close to Home and Enjoy a Winter Classic

Ice skating is a quintessential winter activity in New England, and it has a long history at the oldest public park in the United States. Frog Pond is considered one of the best outdoor skating rinks in the country, and for good reason: Its airy setting is nestled among historical brownstones and stately elms. If you don’t live close to Boston, you are sure to find an outdoor rink close to you.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Take Your Relationship to New Heights   

New Hampshire offers 48 mountains over 4,000 feet and the winter offers a chance to fall in love with your favorite hikes all over again. You don’t have to go high or hike far to enjoy a winter trek though, there are plenty of trails you can do in a half-day or even a few hours. If you are an ambitious couple, try the Lion Head route up New England’s highest peak.

 


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Nothing beats Sundays at Frankenstein⛏️

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Level up Your Relationship with a New Skill

The winter offers exposure you simply don’t get in any other season: Blustery white-out mountain conditions and serpentine columns of frozen waterfalls let you enjoy the cold in a new way. With an EMS-guided Introduction to Ice Climbing course, you can gain a complete understanding of the fundamentals in one-day, so you and your partner can pursue ever more adventures, together!

Courtesy: The Ice Castles
Courtesy: The Ice Castles

Be the King and Queen for a Day

Ice slides, ice towers, ice tunnels and arches with hanging icicles, oh my! If you grew up in New England there’s a good chance you built a snow fort as a kid, and loved it. Rekindle that magic with the adult version of the snow fort, the majestic Ice Castle, fit for a king and queen. There is plenty to explore with your date, from towering spires that rise like icy sentinels to dungeonesque tunnels you can crawl through like an arctic mouse. There is even an ice slide to cap off your romantic day together.

We wish you all a fun and safe Valentine’s Day adventure! If you go on one of these dates, please tag us on instagram using the #goEast hashtag.