Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Hiking helps students cope with COVID

By Olivia Bousquet

Green is no longer the color vibrantly swaying through the trees. The soft reds, oranges and yellows of autumn have overtaken the Adirondack Mountains.

Instagram, Facebook and TikTok are being flooded with smiling faces of new and experienced hikers taking to the trails. SUNY Plattsburgh students have limited on-campus activities, so many have taken to appreciating nature around them in the great outdoors.

For newer hikers, there are plenty of amazing mountains and trails with stunning views. Point Au Roche State Park offers a combination of forest overlooking the lake with several trails. There are four main trail options: the Philip C. Walker Memorial trail, Connor Bay, Long Point and Rams Head. Each varies in lengths from 1.4 miles to 4.1 miles for a hiker’s preferred challenge. While Point Au Roche isn’t a mountain, it’s a great place to get off campus.

The views from the trails don’t compare to the high views on top of a mountain, where the visibility of the Adirondacks expand far into the distance. It’s like looking at a Bob Ross painting.

Rattlesnake Mountain is a heavily-trafficked 2.6 –mile hike in Willsboro. The mountain eases hikers up the trail while gradually inclining before reaching a steeper climb. The trail is well marked and offers hikers variety, from the little creek that flows after heavy rain to rocks scrambling near the peak. The quick hike is worth the view. Hikers can see the expansive horizon of Vermont’s mountain range over Lake Champlain, while still having impressive cell phone service.

“I’ve always liked nature, but I’ve never gotten the chance to hike mountains. Being up here, and being so close — is definitely where it’s at,” new hiker and SUNY Plattsburgh sophomore Maddy Taylor said.

Taylor hiked Rattlesnake and Poke-O-Moonshine mountains. Pok-O-Moonshine has two trails for hikers to choose from: the Rangers Trail or the Observers Path. The Rangers Trail takes hikers up a steep, rock staircase gaining over 1,200 feet in elevation. This trail is shorter but much more challenging than the Observers Path, which zig-zags around the backside of the mountain for a more gradual climb. Poke-O-Moonshine also has an old fire tower at the top, which is open occasionally to hikers.

For moderate or difficult hikes, Cascade and Porter Mountains offer a 6.5–mile round–trip hike near Keene. Cascade has 360–degree views at the top, but with winter approaching, warm layers are needed with the 2,290 foot elevation gain. A waterfall and easy rock scrambles are fun variations for hikers on their way to the peak.

“My favorite part [about hiking] would be the view at the top, the smell of the woods because I love that smell and the company of who I hike with and probably all the dogs I see on the trails along the way,” SUNY Plattsburgh junior Kristen Boerke said. “It’s the views, the fresh air and the good vibes.”

The joy of hiking new mountains was finding one more challenging than the last. You’re able to take on new adventures with friends while embracing the beauty of the world. There is no rush to see how fast you can hike the mountain, so take your time and enjoy your surroundings.

Walking, hiking or biking is just a healthier alternative than spending all day staring at a screen watching TikToks.

COVID-19 quarantine had Boerke itching to be outside. Boerke grew up in Orange County, where hiking was limited and the views were not as expansive as the Adirondacks. She said being nature–deprived in quarantine made her appreciate going outside.

Hurricane Mountain is another great hike in Keene for those looking for a challenge. Hurricane offers two options: the northern approach and the southern approach. The northern trail loops 5.6 miles round trip while the southern trail loops 6.6 miles.

Kate Robbins, a SUNY Plattsburgh senior, works on hiker education and regulations for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. She said rangers and the Department of Environmental Conservation are asking hikers to stay away from the high peaks region because of overcrowding and a lack of resources. But Robbins recommends hiking in the southern and northern regions of the high peaks like Lyon Mountain.

“We’re seeing a huge spike in millennial hikers, and that is primarily due to [hiking] becoming a social fab,” Robbins said about the rise of people posting their hikes on social media.

With the influx of new hikers, it’s important to know hiking etiquettes and tips in order for everyone on the trail to have a good time.

Leave no trace! As simple as it seems, leaving no trace is essential for the Adirondacks’ ecosystem to stay healthy. This means take out what is brought in and do not take away from the environment. Hikers should have proper footwear like specified boots for ankle support and traction. Bring a bag with water, snacks and extra layers. It’s safer to pack extra and not need it than being stuck dehydrated, hungry and cold in the woods.

Step to the side of the trail if you’re passing another group of hikers, or if hikers need to pass you. Social distance is still important to maintain when hiking and certain parts of the trials get narrow, so still bring a mask.

“AllTrails is a really good app for hiking and seeing how long a trail is and how hard it is,” Expeditionary studies senior Sierra McGivney said. “And always check the weather before you go because you know it might be sunny now, but in the Adirondacks that can change in two seconds and can start down pouring on you, and I’ve definitely experienced it.”

However, with winter weather approaching, SUNY Plattsburgh students are going to lose their hiking options.

Snow-covered mountains can be dangerous to hike for inexperienced and unprepared hikers. As a solution, hikers can buy microspikes for better grip in the snow and ice. There are other alternatives, however.

Renting snowshoes is a fun and easy option to experience Upstate during the winter. Skiing can be a great activity for fresh air, but it’s an expensive recreation. Students can go ice skating, which was offered for free with students’ I.D. card at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House last year. Lake Placid would be ideal for a quick shopping trip with friends, and there are opportunities to get pictures by Mirror Lake, which is covered in snow backed by white mountains. The Cloudsplitter gondola ride is about 20 minutes from Lake Placid, which brings passengers to the top of Little Whiteface.

Hiking is free and the Adirondacks have amazing views with hiking trails for all levels of experience. Take advantage of it. Just remember, leave no trace and enjoy the journey.

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