Mercedes Matzen: How to Safely Hike the Most Popular Hikes in the Adirondacks

For a hiker in the Adirondacks, the best part of the day is right before dawn. “It’s when everything is especially quiet,” says Mercedes Matzen, a business analyst for Capital District Physicians Healthcare. “There’s also an anticipation in the air because you’re just about to start out on an incredible hike. You know as you pour the coffee or orange juice that you’ve got the best day ahead of you.”

Mercedes Matzen clearly loves the outdoors, evidenced by her successful summits of Cascade Mountain and Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks. “I haven’t climbed all 46 High Peaks yet, however,” she says. “It’s on my bucket list.” She is enthusiastic about the beauties of Northern New York’s mountains and is always willing to pass on what she’s learned over her years of hiking in this pristine region.

Be a guardian of the Adirondacks wilderness.

“‘Leave No Trace’ should be every hiker’s motto,” Mercedes Matzen says. “Nothing is worse than seeing trash on the shore of a spectacular mountain lake. Even if the trash isn’t yours, please pick it up and pack it out with the rest of your garbage.”

Plan for your Adirondacks hike and convey it to several people back home.

Always have someone at home know exactly where and when you’ll be going. “It can make such a difference if there’s an emergency,” says Mercedes Matzen. “Along those lines, remember to bring on your hike a compass and GPS as well as trail maps. That way, no matter what happens, you’ll be able to return safely at the end of your hike.”

Take precautions against the Adirondacks sun.

Even on cloudy days, come prepared with sunscreen, a hat, lip balm, and sunglasses. “You can get sun poisoning, or a blistering sunburn if you don’t protect yourself while hiking in the Adirondacks,” says Mercedes Matzen. “Keep putting it on throughout the hike, especially if you sweat, and you’ll lower your risk of getting burned.”

Assume the Adirondacks weather will change and you will be on the trail after dark.

It can get cold in the Adirondacks even during the summertime, so the wise hiker brings layered clothing to cover all possibilities. “Think jackets, sweatshirts, sweatpants – anything that can be peeled off or quickly put on,” Mercedes Matzen advises. “It’s amazing how quickly the weather can change from warm and pleasant to cool.” She also recommends extra batteries and several strong flashlights. “Divide those up between you and your hiking buddy so that the crucial equipment is not carried just by one person.”  

A good first-aid kit, fire tools, and other supplies should go with you on the trail in the Adirondacks.

Make sure that you have all the essentials in your first-aid kit and that you know how to use them. “I try to keep mine very organized,” Mercedes Matzen says, “so that if there is ever an emergency, I can easily find what I need. Also, let the first-aid kit be the last thing you pack in your backpack. If you sprain an ankle or cut yourself, you don’t want to have to search through your backpack to find your first-aid kit. 

Mercedes Matzen keeps her matches in a Ziplock bag to protect them from getting wet. “I keep my Swiss Army knife in there, too, because it helps me find it more easily. Otherwise, it would just slide down to the bottom of my backpack and get lost.”

Be wise about the food you take on your hike in the Adirondacks.

Think vegetables, nuts, seeds, fresh or dried fruit, and the old, reliable favorite: peanut butter and bananas. “I like a lot of variety,” Mercedes Matzen says, “but whatever I bring, I try to make sure it balances well with all the other gear I’ve got in my backpack. Even food can be heavy if you bring too much of it.”

Water should be at the top of the list for your Adirondacks hike.

“How much you bring will depend on how hard the hike is,” Mercedes Matzen explains. “It’s recommended that you bring a ½ liter per hour of moderate exercise, but that will increase the more strenuous the hike becomes. Just remember to keep drinking so that dehydration doesn’t hit you.”

Hiking alone in the Adirondacks is inviting danger.

While many people like the solitude that they experience in the Adirondacks, hiking without a buddy can result in danger. “All it takes is for you to twist your ankle and to have no one there to help you,” says Mercedes Matzen. “It’s wise to always hike with a friend so that just in case the worst happens, they’ll be there to help you back down to camp, where you can laugh later about your misadventures.”

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