The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Rick Brockway

May 10, 2013

People make the outdoors even better

Too many people take things for granted.

If it wasn’t for a group of dedicated folks, things wouldn’t be the same.

Last summer, a huge, old pine tree fell and destroyed the Mud Lake lean-to along the Adirondacks’ Northville-Placid Trail. A lot of people used this lean-to, so it was a vital part of the wilderness hike. The problem was, there is no road or vehicle access, yet the lean-to was rebuilt.

It wasn’t done by the DEC with taxpayer dollars. Volunteers carried new lumber and bundles of shingles across the White House foot bridge and over the mountain. It was a 2.5-mile hike, but today the lean-to is repaired and ready for use.

A lot of people volunteer their time to maintain the many miles of trail and bridges in the backcountry. But there are other things that these people do to make your wilderness visit more enjoyable.

If you hike to the Balsam Lake Mountain fire tower in the Catskills on any weekend after Memorial Day, you’ll find Laurie Rankin. She, too, is an outdoor volunteer. She hikes to the tower not as a job but as a “labor of love.” Laurie is very familiar with Balsam Lake Mountain. Her father was the observer at the fire tower from 1959 until 1970.

In the Adirondack High Peaks, Summit Stewards spend their days on several of the state’s highest mountains. Why you might ask? The Adirondack Mountain Club, Nature Conservancy and the DEC want to protect the rare ecosystem and educate the public about the unique alpine zone.

About 11,000 years ago — when the ice age ended and the vast glaciers receded — a unique area was left on the tops of 16 Adirondack peaks. There are fewer than 80 total acres that comprise this alpine zone. In this area, the soil is scarce or non-existent, the winds and snow create a frigid, inhospitable winter environment, and the total growing season is about 60 days annually. Very little vegetation made up of mosses, grasses and sedges grows there and are extremely fragile.

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Rick Brockway

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