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Avalanche Lake Trail to close this week

August 15, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE , Lake Placid News

RAY BROOK - The state Department of Environmental Conservation will close a popular hiking trail in the High Peaks this week so that work can be done on an historic section of the trail.

The DEC said in its weekly High Peaks bulletin that the Avalanche Lake Trail would be closed for 10 days while a Student Conservation Association trail crew completed work on the famous Hitch-Up-Matildas boardwalks.

Hikers will still be able to reach Avalanche Lake via the trail, but will be unable to proceed on to Lake Colden. Likewise, hikers coming from Lake Colden and the Flowed Lands will not be able to go farther than the southern end of Avalanche Lake.

Article Photos

The Hitch-Up-Matildas, seen here in March 2014, is a set of boardwalks bolted into the side of a cliff that dives in Avalanche Lake in the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
(News photo — Justin Levine)

The Hitch-Up-Matildas are two sets of planks bolted into the cliff face along the northwestern shoreline of the Avalanche Lake. The lake area itself is also a destination for rock climbers and because of the famous Trap Dike which cascades down to the lake from the side of Mount Colden.

According to Seneca Ray Stoddard's 1874 book "The Adirondacks," the name of the feature came from a rather humorous story.

Before the planks were added, a local guide by the name of William Nye was taking a party of tourists through the area when they came to the southern end of Avalanche Lake. Nye said he would be able to carry the women in the party across the lake, utilizing a shelf in the rock that was a couple of feet wide.

But the shelf was well underwater, and at the lowest point the level of the lake came up to Nye's arms. One of the women, Matilda Fielding, said she would be carried since building a raft to take them across would take too much time.

Nye leaned against a rock and had Matilda climb on his shoulders, which, according to Stoddard, was quite unlady-like at the time.

As Nye carried her across, they reached the deeper part, and as she was hoping to not get wet at all, became uncomfortable.

"I had just barely got into the deep water, steadying myself with one hand against the rocks and holding onto her feet with the other," Nye told Stoddard. "When, in spite of all I could do, she managed to work half way down my back.

"'Hitch up Matilda! Hitch up, Matilda! Why don't you hitch up?' screamed Mr. Fielding," according to the Nye account. "The more he yelled 'Hitch up' the more she hitched down."

The current system of planks anchored to the rock wall was built in the 1970s, and was damaged in the flooding that occurred with Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Prior to the installation of the boardwalk -- in the earlier part of the 20th century - there was a system of floating logs chained to the rock wall.

The trail is a well-used throughway in the High Peaks, taking hikers and campers from the Adirondak Loj to the Lake Colden camping area, and providing access to numerous High Peaks.

The trail will be closed from Tuesday through next Friday, Aug. 25.

The DEC is also warning hikers of other trail issues in the High Peaks, including on the Calamity Brook Trail and the Lake Arnold/Feldspar Brook Trail, both of which are also used extensively by those hiking in the High Peaks.

The DEC used the weekly report to remind hikers that there is extensive bear activity in the High Peaks, Giant Mountain and Dix Mountain Wilderness Areas, with numerous reports of bear and human encounters.

For more information, check out the weekly outdoor conditions bulletin at



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