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In 2020, You'll Be Able to Hut-Trip the Adirondacks

A new initiative wants to bring European-style no-tent backpacking to the woods of New York.

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From the first wildflower bloom to the last winter blizzard, the Adirondacks are a haven for hikers. With more than 2,000 miles of trails and 30,000 miles of rivers and streams stretched across 6 million acres in northern New York, users can string together months worth of adventures. Now, a new initiative aims to make that even easier. 

Currently, there is no simple way to link the trails or water routes with accommodations so as to create cohesive backcountry experiences. Hamlets to Huts wants to change that. A nonprofit organization incorporated in 2016, they are working to establish more than 50 routes that start, pass through, and finish in Adirondack communities.

Established by Joe Dadey and Jack Drury, Hamlets to Huts will let travelers hike, cycle, or paddle — or combine all three — over the course of a few hours or several days without needing to carry anything more than a day pack. The routes will combine different types of trails of varying lengths and connect communities in the Adirondacks so hikers and paddlers can sprinkle their backcountry explorations with interactions with local residents and cultural experiences in towns.

By summer 2020, Dadey expects to get the first trips up and running — primarily paddling routes with some hiking or biking. One, a five-night, four-day paddling trip from Blue Mountain Lake to Raquette Lake is nearing completion; only a few bridges need to be constructed for travelers wanting to bike versus paddle on the final leg. Trail and signage improvements will also complete a five-night, four-day round-trip route from Old Forge to Raquette Lake, which offers two days of paddling and two of hiking or cycling available to travelers.

Because Hamlets to Huts’ proposed routes pass through public and private land, dipping in and out of towns, the project is a community effort. Currently supported financially in large part through grants and contracts from the New York State Department of State and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the group is working with state-level and local officials as well as residents on this multi-faceted project. With the help of these stakeholders, Hamlets to Huts hopes to develop multi-day routes with accommodations such as yurts, cabins, and B&Bs; customized maps with navigational, cultural, and historical information for each route; shuttle transportation; and a reservation system linking everything together. “Lodging operators and other service providers are very excited about what we’re looking to do,” Dadey said.

The hut-to-hut system of hiking, popular in Europe and New Zealand, is not as well-known in North America. This model encourages self-propelled travelers to come off the trail to eat meals in local restaurants and sleep in local accommodations before heading back into the wilderness for a new day of backcountry exploration. The overall affect is to foster community and concentrate the land-use impact into areas built to handle it.

While there are still holes in the routes with no accommodations, Huts to Hamlets see them as opportunities

“We plan to own and operate some places of as well as inspiring other entrepreneurs to help us fill some lodging gaps,” Dadey said. “That will create hospitality jobs. And then, over time, we believe by having some anchor businesses in the form of lodging, we’ll bring a critical mass of people, a critical mass of business, a critical mass of needs on behalf of those travelers that will then spur the need for other businesses and support services.” One possible route through the Champlain Valley could see trekkers staying on local farms.

An initiative as expansive as Hamlets to Huts is a decades-long process, but Dadey feels confident the slow-and-steady str will bear fruit. “There are so many moving pieces, from building new trails for making connections to building new lodging to fill in gaps,” he said, “but we think success will breed success.”

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