Update – Sept. 23rd, 2018: Finished the #likesforLNT Hike-A-Thon 50k with a loop around the Ausable Lakes including Colvin, Blake, and the Great Range, from St. Huberts.
10 mountains, 31 miles, and 12,200 feet of elevation gain in 12 hours and 40 minutes!
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Dear outdoor enthusiast,
My name is Nico, and I have created this campaign to address emerging concerns about tech use and the Adirondack Park Preserve in upstate New York. I grew up hiking this region with my family, and it is honestly the most important place in the world to me. I even named my dog Adirondack (A word that was derived from the Mohawk name for Algonquin people that literally meant “bark eaters”)!
Anyways, long story short, my family spent 5 years hiking, but mostly struggling, laughing, slipping, and butt sliding down the trails to the 46 Adirondack high peaks together. At some point we got a portable GPS so my dad could answer mine and my sisters constant questioning, and he even began posting online trip reports while we worked up to our finish on Whiteface in 2004, surrounded by family and friends. It was quite a special experience, and I was 13 at the time. It didn’t quite dawn on me at that point, the impact that, not just that day, but the whole experience itself would have on my life. The community that we were a part of in the woods, that was brought together online, provided such an incredible network of friends and support, along with an incredible variety of perspective and expertise. 14 years later, these experiences have grown to significantly shape who I am, now reflecting as a leader and instructor on backcountry trips with college students and teenagers in the Adirondacks for 7 years, until last fall when I moved to the White Mountains in New Hampshire for similar work.
Spending 300+ nights in the field as a guide for kiddos has been both inspiring and humbling. There is a lot of challenge and growth that comes from forming tight-knit backcountry communities, and suffering with a group of peers through driving rain, blazing hot days on exposed ridges, and endless mosquito/black fly bites. But other than determination, one thing has always deeply struck me about these youth. Their curiosity and engagement out in the wilderness is inescapable, despite at times, all of their efforts to remain uninterested. Being out of your element is often an unforgettable experience, whether a dream or a nightmare. When we’re putting ourselves through new forms of stress, and our whole body and mind are engaged in adjusting and streamlining our biological and psychological processes, we often report seeing and feeling life in a more potent way.
The kicker is, this isn’t just true for kids, but all of us. We’re often so engaged and empowered by the wilderness, because it provides that new type of challenge. It is an impactful stray from our day to day routines. So naturally, we’ve taken it to social media, because everybody’s gotta check it out!
And we are. In 2004 when my family finished the 46, we were given the numbers 5459-62 for the four of us. That was the cumulative count of “official” finishers between 1925 when Bob and George Marshall became the first to finish the 46, and 79 years later when my family stood on the summit of Whiteface. By the end of 2017, 13 years after our finish, and the early days of online trip reports and GPS data, the number had doubled to almost 10,900! That’s so special, that these mountains are accessible to that many more people, and their mothers, brothers, cousins, and in-laws are getting out there as well! What existed for information on hikes even 20 years ago, has been vastly expanded upon during the age of internet and GPS, and we’ve been racing to take advantage of, and spread that information further.
Unfortunately, this has also come at a cost. If you’ve been to the high peaks, you’ve seen the thrashed boardwalks, trash, erosion, dangerously crowded roadside parking, mud pits to your hips, and most tragically of all, increasing rescue and recovery operations performed by the Forest Rangers. This has been the cost of increased visitation that comes with cultural baggage that is endemic to these emerging trends. Suddenly, and surprisingly, for the amount of information available, uninformed and eager visitors reign supreme, often fueled by geotags and #vistas.
As more and more people began sharing their information in the 2000’s, platforms and means to do so simplified, and again, the ability to post your own content on the internet grew. The clear rush of fresh information, became a flood of muddy ethics and cultural debris in 140 characters or less. Public lands management had never seen anything like it before, and they were overrun. Yet, they’re beginning to catch on. For at least a decade, national and state conservation organizations and agencies have begun exploring the benefits and risks of these technologies, conducting research, and engaging in social media to inform visitors, but their voices have often been drown out by the rest of the world wide web.
A lot of that world are people like us, and many of us are doing a great job adapting Leave No Trace ethics to the desktop, but we need more of it. As backcountry enthusiasts, we need to follow suit to promote and encourage organizations like Leave No Trace that are expressing concerns with how we are using this technology within or regarding our public lands, and further explore these issues ourselves. We can engage in formal community discussions on shaping digital environments that are welcoming to a diversity of methods and motivations, are educational, enthusiastic, and responsible, being firm and critical when necessary, in oder to keep local and digital communities in the Adirondacks healthy.
As an educator, I see an opportunity to start this dialogue with a population that reigns supreme in the social media world, young adults. Internships and adventurous courses to stand out amongst the masses are en vogue amongst youth these days, and with phenomenons like “digital nomads” trending, we have more youth than ever…well, tangently aware of public lands. This aspect can be improved, and we can do it in a language that is meaningful and relevant to the youth of our society. This demographic will shape the online cultural landscape of the next decade, and I think we can take this opportunity to set some solid precedents.
I would like to raise funds for a unique backcountry course, hosted by YMCA Camp Chingachgook, that combines lessons on outdoor skills, leadership development, a comprehensive Adirondack history, and discussion on emerging practices and ethics for digital use in the wilderness, purely for young adults. In 2020, I would like to see 6-12 participants engage in this program as pioneers in the exploration of contemporary challenges to existing wilderness ethics and philosophies, and on formulating better practices for the future.
50K in a Day Challenge: For every $1,000 raised by #likesforLNT, I will hike/run/ski/snowshoe 50 kilometers in one day as fast as I can.
-Ausable Loop (Colvin, Blake, and the Great Range from St. Huberts): 50 kilometers. Finished: 12h40m (9/23/2018)
-Fort William Henry to Ticonderoga: 67 kilometer hike/run + 3 kilometer swim.
-Indian Lake to Inlet (Moose River Road): 62 kilometers.
-St. Regis Passage: 52 kilometers.
-Cranberry Lake Loop: 80 kilometers.
High Peaks Circumambulation: When the goal of $5,000 has been raised, I will complete an unsupported, full circumnavigation of the Adirondack High Peaks to symbolize a protective circle of support and awareness for the region.
210 kilometers and 24,000 feet of elevation gain.