LAKE PLACID - Three summers ago, Bobby Clark visited the High Peaks, climbing Mount Marcy and camping at Marcy Dam.
An Eagle Scout as a child growing up in Buffalo, Clark enjoyed the experience so much that he decided he wanted to return. When a job posting later appeared to work for the Adirondack Mountain Club, he decided to apply.
"It was such a positive experience that I thought that, 'Wow, this would be a really good opportunity if I worked and lived up here to become further experienced with hiking and get back into that,'" Clark said.
Bobby Clark works at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center outside of Lake Placid. (Photo — Mike Lynch)
Soon after, he found himself working at the Adirondak Loj on the housekeeping staff. The next summer he transferred to a position at the Johns Brook Lodge, and this past summer he worked at the High Peaks Information Center, where he is currently stationed.
The HPIC is located next to a parking lot for the Van Hoevenberg Trail, which leads to Mount Marcy, Algonquin Peak, Marcy Dam and other scenic spots in the High Peaks Wilderness. The trailhead is the most popular and busiest in the Adirondack Park and attracts a variety of people.
So now, three years after a great experience climbing Marcy, the state's highest peak, his job is to give advice to people looking to go on their own adventures.
"Honestly, it's a great job," said Clark, who lives in an apartment on the property. "I really enjoy getting to help people decide for the right hike for them based on their skill level and inform them of all the weather updates, keeping the facilities clean. (I enjoy) just trying to make it an overall better experience for them and to try to be an accommodating host, especially for those that have never been to the area before."
In the wintertime, Clark said most of the people he has encountered have been experienced and prepared to deal with the elements. They are often people on return trips. However, in the busy summer months, there are more first-time users who need guidance on local regulations, conditions and other basics.
"The main things are trying to push the fact that they understand the rules and regulations for the trails," Clark said. "The bear can regulation is one of the biggest ones in the summer. It's been around for almost a decade now and most people, a lot of people come up and they still think it's all right to hang bear bags. We have to inform them of it, making sure they have the proper bear canister."
Sometimes people's misconceptions about the area lead to humorous stories. For instance, one woman asked if the bear-resistant canisters were portable hiking toilets. Others think the trails up the mountains are more developed like Whiteface Mountain, which has a road up to its summit.
"People ask us where the road to Marcy is," he said. "We've also had one lady insist that there were lights that went all the way to the top along the hiking trail."
The woman didn't believe staff that there were no trail lights, so went out to find out for herself.
The mountains also attract a lot of Canadian hikers and campers, which can pose a communication problem at times.
"There's a little bit of a language barrier between us and some of the customers that come down from Montreal," Clark said. "A lot of them don't even speak English at all. That presents some funny challenges. I've been asked a couple of times if the water was good to drink from the toilet, just generally meaning the water in the bathroom sink."
Those moments add some lighthearted humor to the experience of working at the information center, but Clark said what he enjoys most is helping people. He takes pleasure in seeing people have a good time on a hike that he has suggested.
"It's always great to hear positive reinforcement from the people that you send out on these hikes when they come back and tell you how much they enjoyed it," Clark said. "You can just see the excitement in them that they're raring to go and find their next adventure up here."