LAKE PLEASANT -- A camp owner in the Perkins Clearing area saved five men from a night in the woods March 5, when the temperature went down to 17 below zero.
The men, from Brooklyn, were completely out of their element and much deeper into the woods than they should have been. None were properly dressed, and none had snowmobiling or woods experience.
They had rented snowmobiles at Village Rentals & Sales in Speculator. Jim Trotta came across one of them while on a late afternoon ride, about three miles off the groomed trail near the Spruce Lake gate.
"I found a single fresh snowmobile track heading towards the gate," Trotta said. "Turning onto the trail, I found a man walking towards me.
"He was sweating and out of breath; combined with a heavy Yiddish accent it was hard for me to understand him, but it became apparent he had run off the trail and got stuck.
The man did not know where his friends were, but said they were also stuck.
"I told him to stay where he was, I would go check out his sled and come back. I found it and got it back up on the trail.
"When I got back to him I told him I had to ride to my camp to tell my partner I would be late for supper. He grabbed my arm and said, 'You can't leave me!'
"I had been a little irritated at him for being someplace he had no place being; now I began to realize he was truly scared. I assured him I would be back in 10 minutes."
TWO MORE MEN
When Trotta returned to the man two of his friends were there on one snowmobile.
"I could understand one of these two much better," he said. "They had been on two sleds, but got one stuck."
And so began hours of toil. "First, we had to get the first machine," Trotta said. "When we got back, the third man had tried to turn around and got that sled stuck.
"I tried to explain how to get it moving, but the rider only dug a deeper hole. I'm not sure any of them had ever done much manual labor, but 'we' got it out."
Then it was on to the third sled. On the way Trotta saw two more sets of men's tracks in the snow, and discovered there were two more in the group.
AND TWO MORE
Trotta found the other two men "barely visible off the trail on a skid road where no one had tried to ride before them. They were in holes dug down to the ground. While getting them out I realized one had a little bit of an attitude."
With four of the snowmobiles now moving, Trotta and the five men headed for the side trail and the last sled. "I told them all not to go off the main road and to walk in behind me to the last sled," Trotta said. "'Mr. Attitude' apparently didn't want to walk and followed me on his sled.
The last sled was headfirst into some saplings. When the others got there 'Mr. Attitude' decided he could get this one out by directing the others to lift it.
"When it didn't budge I suddenly had four really good friends again. By now they were actually getting the idea of how to dig a sled out, so I thought we would be on our way fairly quickly, until Mr. 'Attitude' tried to turn around and we had to dig once more."
NOT PROPERLY DRESSED
All the men were wearing insulated pants, Trotta said, but the first had no jacket, just a fleece pullover. Three wore long black coats. Four wore boots. "I couldn't tell how warm they were, but at least one pair looked closer to a shoe," Trotta said.
"'Mr. Attitude' was dressed in what seemed to be a warm coat, but he had on bright yellow rubber boots like a contractor might wear when pouring concrete. Of course the snow piled in the top of them."
With night setting in and the temperature dropping rapidly, Trotta and his contingent of five set out for Village Rentals. When they got there, "an employee told me they would have closed for the night and looked for this group in the morning if they still had not returned," Trotta said.
"They are all from Brooklyn. They had no idea of the dangers involved. They believed any problem would be solved by calling for help," but there is no cell service back there.
"They had no idea what the Adirondacks are like. I didn't cross any other new tracks on the way back to camp that night, so they would not have bumped into anyone else."
Trotta sees the plight of the five men as a warning for inexperienced snowmobilers and those who rent snowmobiles to them. "I'm hoping this story might prompt some consideration of an industry standard for a required orientation," he said.