Pardon the wordplay, but Blind Mellon would be having a field day right now in the Hudson Valley ("No Rain"... get it?). Drought conditions bring the elevated threat of wildfires, and many Dutchess County residents are worried about what that may mean this Labor Day Weekend.

Wildfire Risk in New York

I've unfortunately had the experience of living though a devastating wildfire. When I lived in Sonoma County, CA, the 2017 Tubbs Fire caused over $1 billion in damages when it ravaged countless homes and businesses and claimed 20 lives. While we aren't currently in the same drought here in the Hudson Valley just yet, the combination of increased foot traffic on our hiking trails during the upcoming holiday weekend and the dry conditions make many people worry it could be a recipe for disaster.

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"Mt. Beacon [is turning brown]", a recent Facebook post began.  "34 years ago the mountain caught fire because of drought... It’s becoming a fire hazard again, and yet all of the trails are still open". The post went on to lament the lack of extra signage warning visitors of the increased fire dangers.

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Wildfire Danger in Dutchess County, NY

"Neighbors are concerned over the upcoming holiday weekend and mobs of hikers… Signs should be posted regarding the hazard… some people just don’t use common sense when it comes to starting campfires or lighting firecrackers or who knows what else" they shared. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) seems to agree.

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Drought Conditions in the Hudson Valley

According to the NYDEC, the Hudson Valley is currently in a drought "warning". The fire danger map, however, lists the Hudson Valley in a "high danger" area (above). The NYDEC says that "high-intensity burning may develop on slopes or in concentrations of fine fuels." Unfortunately, Mt. Beacon seems to currently fit that description.

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"Close the trails now!", demanded one Beacon resident. "The leaves on the Taconic are changing/drying out too. So worrisome", added another. While no plans seem to currently be in place, the NYDEC reminds residents to never leave a fire unattended, and to make sure they are completely extinguished before leaving. To be on the safe side, however, how about we don't start any at all until the mountains turn green again?

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Taking a hike doesn't mean you have to punish yourself with a difficult hand over hand climb to some remote mountaintop. At least it doesn't mean that for this writer! Here are 9 hikes you can take which, for the most part, are more like an enjoyable "walk in the woods." And remember, the view from the top when you finally get there is always worth the trip!

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