Unsolicited advice on many topics from an outdoor writer

Below are my answers to questions that I did not receive from readers who sought my sage advice on several outside-related topics.

Dear Herb: We are considering buying a new vehicle for our outdoor adventures and we only have a few models left. How important is clearance for rough dirt roads in the Adirondacks?

My philosophy on vehicle clearance is pretty simple and goes like this – meh. My car has about a copy of the ground clearance of “The Complete Walker” by Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins. If the road is too rough for that, I can always get out and cycle or walk the rest of the way. I mean, that’s why I went there anyway, right?

Also, I think you’re looking at the wrong side of the car. The real value of the car is whether you can fit a canoe and a bike rack in it. Every car looks better with a canoe or bikes on it. I’m amazed that Car and Driver magazine hasn’t figured this out yet.

Dear Herb: I waited all winter to go mountain biking but spring trails are often muddy. Is it always good to go out?

We are fortunate to have several excellent mountain bike trail systems in our area. On weekend days you will often see groups of volunteers going out with tools, maintaining trails or creating new ones. Some trail networks, like Slate Valley and Wheelerville, have Facebook pages that update trail conditions. These should help you with your decision.

But I understand, the wait is hard and deep down you know not to ride on muddy trails but to want to cheat a little. If you’re hiking wet trails, just use a tracking app like Strava and then link it to your home address. Then post what you did on the app. This way, after ruining their trails, these volunteers can come to your house and beat you with these tools. Or at least dig your garden.

Dear Herb: Is the Empire State Trail good for kids?

The short answer is yes. The Empire State Trail is good for everyone, especially now. There is ample evidence that children, aided by social media and the pandemic, have poor mental health. I’m not a mental health expert, but I believe the outdoors and bikes can help. You don’t hear stories of people leading happy, fulfilled lives until one day they started riding bikes and then their lives drifted off into mental darkness. It’s almost always the other way around – bikes are the healers.

The long answer to your IS question is “primarily”. I deeply love the Empire State Trail and think it’s one of the best things New York has ever done. That said, I think the Buffalo to New York section of the EAST is a “trail,” a largely off-road path where people can ride away from traffic. The EAST north of Fort Ann is a “road” that often follows busy roads and is best suited for adults. I also think any New Yorker who can do it should cycle or walk EAST from Buffalo to New York at least once in their life.

Dear Herb: Who do you endorse for governor in 2022?

Gah! You, my friend, have the wrong mailbox! I think you’re looking for Casey Seiler or Chris Churchill or someone who knows something. My only political belief is that we could pick any random name from the list of Adirondack 46Rs and have them rule our state and we would probably be happy with the job they are doing. Of course, none of them would want the job because they would rather go hiking.

Dear Herb: Every year the DEC advises hikers to avoid the High Peaks trails during mud season. Then they offer a list of alternative hikes but these hikes are all short compared to the High Peaks. How can I prepare during mud season for the longer hikes I want to do this summer?

If you have a bike, I suggest cycling from home on one of these “short” rides. Or, if you are driving to one of the short hikes, instead of parking at the trailhead, park five or ten miles from the trailhead and walk there. Also note that the DEC does not say you should just choose another hike. You can choose maybe five short hikes, get up really early and try to do them all in one day.

Dear Herb: My husband is a “bike addict” who doesn’t want to get rid of his bikes and wants more. Our garage is full of bikes and we can’t put our car or anything in there. How can I convince him that he doesn’t need all those bikes?

First of all, there’s no such thing as a “bike nut”. It’s people who don’t ride bikes who are “crazy”. Second, I know my wife, Gillian, asked you this question. The cars are pretty happy in the driveway protecting my copy of “The Complete Walker” from the rain. Third, it was either Archimedes, Einstein, or Jeff Pepper of CK Cycles in Colonie who came up with a simple formula for the proper number of bikes someone should have. The formula is:

N+1 = the correct number of bikes to own.

N = how many bikes you own now.