Where's the trail?

I was still a teenager, when I began working for the recently created, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in the spring of 1974. My first assignment was as a laborer with a Trail Crew tmaintaining the hiking trail to the summit of Hurricane Mountain, near Elizabethtown.

The Fire Tower Observer was our supervisor, and he had a real bad attitude with the new agency, which he called the blankety-blank, "Department of Eternal Consternation".

He regularly complained that the new agency, which replaced the venerable, old Conservation Department, was composed of "more fools than tools", especially since we went through equipment faster than the department could afford to replace it.

Trail work was a muddy, buggy and backbreaking endeavor. We were particularly hard on the equipment after my fellow laborers learned if they broke the handles off enough shovels, our efforts would be relegated to trimming bushes and whipping weeds; rather than moving boulders and installing water bars along the steep trail.

At the time I was an avid hiker, often climbing in the High Peaks with Geoff Carleton, a well-known birder from Elizabethtown. For me, the trail work was entertaining, with a mix of hard work and the pleasure of being in the woods.

But when the camping season opened in late June of 1974, I was fortunate to transfer to Lincoln Pond State Campground, where I began a five-summer stint as a Lifeguard. Although I actually enjoyed the trail work and the mountaintop vistas, the view on the beach was much better for a teenager.

In 1974, the department's hiking literature indicated that there were a total of over 2000 miles of marked hiking trails within the Adirondack Park. In 1980, Essex County tourism brochures touted the same 2000-mile tally. In 1990, I Love New York tourism still maintained that there were 2000 miles of maintained trails.

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