ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — Rangers here are hoping to avert what has become a sort of New Year’s Day tradition – a backcountry rescue.
For the past two years, rangers have been called to assist hikers or visitors who walked up Cadillac Mountain to see the sunrise on New Year’s Day.
In both cases, those visitors were unprepared for the severe winter conditions they encountered.
Although most of the mountains and roads and trails in the park remain snow free, many have extensive patches of glare ice. And, warned Ranger Richard Rechholtz, hypothermia can set in quickly, especially on the park’s many windblown and treeless summits.
“Every year, we have 30 to 50 people who head up the mountain for sunrise,” Rechholtz explained. “Many are not prepared for the arctic-like conditions,” he added.
Wind chills easily can run well below zero. In past years, it appeared that some hikers set out on a lark, often leaving in the early morning hours, some wearing only sneakers for walking in deep snow. Even those choosing to walk up on the motor roads will encounter large patches of ice and should have appropriate footwear and ice cleats.
Flashlights or head lamps and sufficient batteries for several hours of walking also are recommended. “Getting to the top before sunrise usually means folks start out around 2 a.m.,” Rechholtz said.
Rechholtz reminded visitors that no camping is allowed in Acadia outside of Blackwoods Campground in the winter. Tents and other portable shelters are not allowed on the summit of Cadillac or in other areas. All fires also are prohibited.
Alcohol consumption is prohibited on beaches and in parking areas.
Ice on most Mount Desert Island lakes and ponds, including those in the park, remains thin to non-existent. Caution in venturing out on the ice is recommended, even though the ice fishing season officially begins on Jan. 1.
When the closed motor roads are snow free, bicycling is allowed in both directions, even on stretches normally designated as one way, Rechholtz said. One-way rules must be observed on areas open to motor vehicles such as the Ocean Drive, he added. Riders are allowed to walk their bicycles against traffic.
As on any winter day, rangers will be on patrol over the holiday, Rechholtz said. “We want people to have fun and enjoy ringing in the New Year in the park,” he said. “We also want everyone to be safe.