Crisp fall air in the northeastern Appalachian Mountains will soon signal trees to splash entire hillsides with red, yellow, and orange as far as the eye can see. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hopes that many future generations of hikers will be able to enjoy similarly colorful views to the horizon. However, they need your help to monitor the health of the mountains.
Growing urban populations and the smoggy haze resulting from increased air pollution threaten these beautiful alpine views, and the health of hikers themselves. To better understand patterns of poor visibility in the region, the AMC is enlisting hikers to report on visibility conditions from specific peaks by taking a photo and filling out a report form. Researchers want to understand how the haze affects your view, as well as your health and overall recreational experience.
While you’re out there hiking, take a look down by your feet to see which plants are hardy enough to survive a few thousand feet up. The AMC is also monitoring the fruiting and flowering patterns of many delicate alpine species, including the cushion plant (shown), the mountain avens, and the mountain cranberry. Flower-monitoring can be done on-line, once you’ve created an account, and will help scientists understand how plants are responding to changing weather conditions, including earlier, warmer temperatures. Remember to stay on the trail though — a few errant footfalls can undo years of growth for these little guys!
The AMC would love to analyze as many observations as you are able to submit. Feel free to send in sightings one at a time, or join the Adopt-a-Peak program and commit to visiting the same section of trail multiple times in a year in order to track trends in the flowering of flora and the visibility from your chosen peak. Monitoring is needed in all northeastern US alpine areas – from New York to New Hampshire and Vermont to Maine.
What are you waiting for? Head out for a hike this weekend – and take a few photos for science while you’re at it!