Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hating on the Adirondacks infamous Shorey Shortcut

Mount Haystack - Adirondacks, NY
Spring views of Mount Haystack from the Shorey Shortcut

By Adirondack -and Northeastern US- standards the Shorey Shortcut is a pretty tame trail. No mud pits to wallow in, bogs to wade through, or talus fields to hop over. No 1000ft dry slabs with (unecessary) cables or steep muddy runout slabs without cables, and no viscous scrambles through boulder fields with rocks the size of houses. Yet, this trail is infamous- perhaps even hated- throughout the hiking populous.

Barbara McMartin, in her Discover the Adirondacks guide book series, hates on the trail. Barbara wasn’t exactly an explorer confined to the most well footed trails. Her guidebooks are filled with adventurous, off the beaten path and often trailess hikes that are devoid from many guidebooks. I should note, Barbara was a damn good descriptive writer as well. Some people hate that she turns what might be a paragraph in the ADK guidebooks into 3 pages in her books, but like Don Mellor and Paul Jamison, she fills her guides with superb writing and historical narrative. So, I was expecting the Shorey Shortcut to certainly be everything it is famed to be.

What’s more, in spite of not being horrific in any way, the Shorey Shortcut even has a few unique views, and some some nice glacial erratics to keep things interesting. Calls to replace this trail have been sounded for some time, though they seem to be based on folklore more than reality. Shorey Shortcut is the trail version of the fishing tales, “the one that got away.”

My guess is the misnomer is the issue. "Shortcut" implies some sort of shorter route, and the Shorey Shortcut is neither shorter, nor gives any sort of elevation edge to the trails it accesses.

Most people comment that it "needlessly" ascends a virtually view less nubble, only to descend again; so what? It"s called hiking, and if you are on the Shorey Shortcut you hiked at least 6.9 miles from somewhere to get there. What is a couple of hundred feet of generally pleasant hiking over a nubble in the scheme of things?

Since I don't hike in the eastern high peaks often in the summer, my experience on the Shorey Shorcut was limited to winter. Terrain in summer and winter is vastly different. What might be a 20ft ledged scramble in summer is a 5ft ledge in mid winter. A long rock slab might be an easy snowshoe slope in winter, or it could be a sheet of ice with ascent made easy via crampons. If the snow is very deep, what might be a scrub covered mountain side in summer, could now be a completely snow covered 1000ft slope that requires technical skills to ascend or descend. Low angle ladders all but disappear, while vertical ladders shrink or aren’t needed. Mud pits, boulders, roots and scrub are usually below several feet of snow, usually frozen. Some trails are easier, some harder. The change is drastic indeed, so it’s never fair to comment on a trail based on winter or summer hiking alone.

Now with more perspective I can say, enjoy the hike. The Shorey Shortcut is just another Adirondack connector trail, and undeserving of it's infamy. And quite frankly, I’d take the Shorey Shortcut long before the more traveled Orebed Trail.

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