It takes a lot of feet to protect alpine plants on our summits. There are the feet of the Summit Stewards, calloused and sore, climbing up and down the peaks every day. (Every day! Fun fact: 2014 stewards Jen Maguder, Drew McDonald, Tyra Olstad, Devon Reynolds, and Kayla White will individually climb Marcy and Algonquin approximately 25 times each this summer, hiking about 1,000 miles for the alpine plants.) There are the feet of the hikers, often hot, sweaty, and blistered, carefully walking on the rocks rather

than on the plants. (Collectively this adds up to over 40,000 feet a summer on
Marcy, Algonquin, Wright, Cascade, and Colden!) And then there are the feet
that strap into snowshoes on the first weekend in March, collectively climbing
the 46 on one day, to raise money to support the summits. These feet belong to
individuals with names like ADKJack, Mavs00, AlpineLamb, RockON, Neil, topofgothics,
and WannabeALjr. Never heard of them? These are just a few of the individuals
making up the online community of the ADKhighpeaks Foundation.

You might find it ironic that the Summit Steward program
counts an online forum among its big supporters. Certainly I don’t typically
associate the type of folks who are spending a fair bit of time posting on internet
message boards with the type of folks who are out hiking all the time. (Shows
how little I know.) The members of the ADKhighpeaks Foundation are not only recreationists who love to share stories, routes, questions, and ideas in an online conversation, they’re also recreationists who believe deeply in giving back. According to the Foundation’s site,
We started as a simple group of forest preserve hikers and recreational users that cared deeply about the wild places where we choose to spend our time. Over time, we came to realize that it is up to us to help improve the public lands that we enjoy, making them better for those that follow us.”

Since 2008, the Foundation has been giving grants to
organizations and individuals that focus on “wilderness zone and environmental
protection, safe recreation, public education and biological research.
Funds for these grants are raised largely through a winter gathering where
members collectively summit all of the 46, raising over $4,600 in donations. Among
its other grantees, the Foundation has supported the Summit Steward program,
making it possible for Summit Stewards to have a presence on Cascade Mountain
every weekend from June 1st-Labor Day for the past four years. Thanks
to these grants, we’ve spoken with 16,112 hikers since 2011 on the summit of Cascade. Moreover, the Foundation has pledged to support the Summit Stewards through 2018, which means we’ll continue to have a presence up on Cascade for the next four years!
Financial support is a tremendous gift; the Summit Steward program literally would not be
able to function without it. The ADKhighpeaks Foundation joins the 46erConservation Trust, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and ADK
in making it possible for the program to pay its bills. But the members of the
Foundation provide another, equally important, form of support for the Summit
Steward program.
If, while hiking, you’ve run into Summit Steward Volunteers Jack Coleman, Michael
Cady, Cynda Lamb, Mary Lamb, or Bob Rock, you’ve met the boots on the ground
portion of the Foundation’s support. Collectively, these fine folks have
volunteered 32 days as Summit Stewards in the past two years (or about 7% of
all the days we’ve stewarded since last May.) Along with the rest of the hardy
Summit Steward volunteers, they’ve stood in the snow last Memorial Day, been
eaten by black flies this June, taken hundreds of photos, pointed out peaks,
and answered countless questions (Yes, his name really is Bob Rock) to help
protect our alpine summits. The support of these individuals and the rest of
the ADKhighpeaks Foundation membership in getting the message of alpine
stewardship out to hikers on the peaks and in the forums has been tremendous.
Our tiny alpine ecosystem requires a collective effort for its protection. We’re fortunate
that help comes in many forms, from Summit Stewards to hikers to internet
forums. Together, we can insure that our alpine plants will continue to thrive
and impress the hiking feet of the future.