Continuing a project started in 2019, ADK’s (Adirondack Mountain Club’s) professional trail crew returned to Mount Haystack—the third tallest peak in New York State—for a two-week stretch to finish constructing a series of cairns on the mountain’s summit. Working from the col with Little Haystack all the way to tree line on the south-facing trail to Panther Gorge, the crew members completed 15 cairns, adding to the 12 that were built last year.

A man building a rock cairn

Cairns, which are not to be mistaken with rock stacks, are 2-4 foot tall rock structures that are placed at regular intervals on open, rocky summits to provide a clear path for hikers. By aiding with navigation above tree line, cairns not only keep hikers safe, but also encourage them to avoid stepping off trail onto fragile alpine vegetation, which can die easily from trampling.

Since the professional trail crew was working in such a sensitive ecological area, this project represented an excellent opportunity for crew members to work side-by-side with the Summit Stewardship Program. Under the guidance of Kayla, the Summit Stewardship Program’s Summit Steward Coordinator, the crew spent the first week of the project learning how to harvest stone without damaging alpine vegetation and how to construct cairns to withstand hurricane force winds. By combining their skill sets, both programs were able to navigate a challenging work environment to complete these important trail features.

A woman walking up a rocky slope

This project was made possible by a grant from the Adirondack 46ers. As part of a three-year commitment from the organization to support ADK’s stewardship efforts in the High Peaks Wilderness, the Adirondack 46ers pledged $41,000 towards the professional trail crew in December 2019, which will also helped fund a project in Avalanche Pass in July.

Photo Credit: Ben Brosseau

To learn more about ADK’s professional trail crew, read more about its recent work at Avalanche Lake, Salmon River Falls, and the NCNST.

Interested in supporting ADK’s professional trail crew and the trails they maintain? You can do so by donating here.

A mountain panorama