Lost in dark on Haystack Mountain, hikers burned clothes for torchlight

RAY BROOK — Two hikers, who apparently didn’t bring headlamps, burned their clothing for light after getting lost in the dark on the trail to Haystack Mountain recently, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

This occurred on the Haystack Mountain in Ray Brook in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness, not the taller one near Mount Marcy in the High Peaks Wilderness.

DEC public information officer Erin Hanczyk said burning clothes does not work for light and is not a recommended practice.

This summer has seen a high number of hikers, many of whom have gone into the wilderness unprepared and have required help from forest rangers, summit stewards and others. Rangers have been busy the past few months assisting and advising newcomers seeking outdoor adventures.

DEC Forest Ranger Rob Praczkajlo made contact with the two women, who had gotten lost at around 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, and assisted them back to the trail, according to Hanczyk.

In the fading daylight, the women had wrapped several layers of their clothing around a stick and were using it as a torch to find their way back.

“The women advised they would be able to hike out from there,” Hanczyk wrote in a press release. “Praczkajlo waited at the trailhead for the women to arrive. When they did not make it to the trailhead by 10:15 p.m., the Ranger hiked in to assist the hikers. The women were escorted the remaining distance to the trailhead.”

Hanczyk said any fires in the backcountry should only be done in designated fire pits.

“If a night in the woods is imminent, locate down and dead wood to start a small, controlled fire and be sure the fire is completely extinguished before walking away,” Hanczyk wrote.

She also said hikers should prepare for unplanned emergencies when going into the backcountry.

“This includes packing the proper equipment like headlamps, extra batteries, first aid kit, plenty of food and water, and extra layers of clothing to stay dry and warm,” Hanczyk wrote. “Carry a fire-starting kit as part of your emergency supplies.”