We recently had a chance to catch up with hiker Erik Schlimmer, who designs sustainable trails for federal, state, and private agencies, to talk about his latest adventure: The Trans Adirondack Route.
Q: How did you get involved? When was the idea of the route originally thought of and when was it officially established?
ES: The story of the Trans Adirondack Route actually begins in 2005. Up until that year I had done a lot of off-trail travel in the Northeast, and I had hiked a handful of long-distance trails throughout the U.S. I assumed that combining these two pursuits would be a good idea. So in 2005 I planned to traverse the entire Adirondack Park without the use of trails – it was going to be all off-trail. But then, at the last moment, I cancelled this trip. To be honest, it sounded too challenging.
In 2010 I revisited this idea of traversing the Adirondack Park, but this time I planned on using trails. In August of that year I hiked across the entire park by combining paved roads, dirt roads, abandoned paths, hiking trails, snowmobile trails, and a few off-trail sections.
During this hike I had no intention of sharing my route, but when I reached the end, I said to myself, “My goodness, that was a good hike. Others will surely want to hike it.” So I named my route the Trans Adirondack Route, and during the past three years I developed a website, wrote a guidebook, and produced a map set so others could follow my footsteps across the Adirondack Park.
Q: What draws you to this area?
ES: I’ve been exploring the Adirondack Mountains since the 1980’s, and there is still something special about this range. I like its history, the immense portions of trail-less terrain, the size, the environmental protection in place, the quiet, and the mammals. But the wildness is its main draw. For example, of the 500 highest peaks, fewer than 90 have trails to their tops. That’s some wild stuff.
Q: How would you describe the route? Where does it begin and end?
ES: The route is 235 miles long and climbs 25,000 vertical feet from end-to-end, which actually is not a lot of climbing, especially compared to other Northeast long trails. The Trans Adirondack Route begins in Ellenburg Center, N.Y. just nine miles from Canada and ends near the small settlement of Lassellsville, N. Y., which is a half-hour drive from Albany. Some highlights of the route include Whiteface Mountain, the Cold River, the Cedar River, Long Lake, Catamount Mountain, and the High Peaks.
Q: What makes the Trans Adirondack Route different than other trails in the Northeast?
ES: The Trans Adirondack Route is different from other long-distance pathways on several levels. For one thing, since it incorporates sections of abandoned paths and requires some off-trail travel, the route itself is wilder than other standardized long trails. It also traverses the biggest chunks of wild land in the East, including two wilderness areas of nearly 200,000 acres each. Plus the entire route is located in the largest forest preserve in the lower forty-eight. Of course the route is also scenic and visits first growth forest, lakeshores, river valleys, and small settlements.
Q: Do you have an idea of how many people have attempted it?
ES: The route is a newborn, it just debuted in April 2013. With Blue Line to Blue Line: The Official Guide to the Trans Adirondack Route coming out this month, prospective hikers will have what they need to traverse the entire route. A few long-distance hikers have contacted me already, and are anxious to explore this route.
Q: How can people obtain more information about the Trans Adirondack Route?
ES: There are two online sources. On the Trans Adirondack Route website, visitors can purchase merchandise, view photos of the route, visit links, and learn more about the route. At the Trans Adirondack Route Facebook page, visitors can receive updates about the route, get invited to Trans Adirondack Route events, partake in giveaways, and indulge in Adirondack gossip.