ALBANY, N.H. — The January ice storm that struck thousands of people where they live is about to hit them where they play.
Thousands of trees in the mountains of northern New England and Quebec lie uprooted across and along hiking trails, turning them into unhappy trails.
The danger has dozens of US Forest Service rangers and volunteers racing to clear hundreds of miles on the most popular trails. Their deadline: Memorial Day, when millions of hikers and campers arrive in the mountains.
In Vermont, fallen trees are blocking a 2.3-mile section of the Long Trail near Brandon, and a hiking club worries the entire Long Trail won't be cleared until August.
Despite widespread damage, prospects are better at popular Mt. Chocorua in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
"I've lived here all my life and I've never seen anything like it before," says Jeff David of Laconia, a wilderness ranger working the Champney Brook Trail on Chocorua. Mr. David has been leading a crew of five trying to clear trails that stretch about three miles up the mountain. They have been covering about a half mile a day.
In Maine state parks, most trails are passable.
"Overall, we're in much better shape than I thought we were going to be," says Susan Benson, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation.
The cleanup will be slowed considerably in forests in congressionally designated wilderness areas. They must be kept pristine, and that means no chain saws or other motorized equipment. Using two-person hand saws, it could take years to clear all wilderness-area trails.
But help is on the way. More than 100 volunteers have adopted trails to clear, and the Forest Service has advertised for people off the street. College students are expected to help, along with many climbing clubs. The Forest Service also has organized a volunteer weekend.