on Lake Colby: This small lake just outside the Village of Saranac
Lake is especially peaceful at sunset. During a summer day, it can be packed
with swimmers trying to cool off.
Guide: In the nineteenth century, only the well-to-do had the means
to vacation in the mountains. They were escorted by a guide, who paddled
the boat, cooked the meals, skinned the hides, and entertained his guests
at the evening campfire.
Wilderness is not often associated with New York
State, or, for that matter, anywhere else in the eastern United States.
But, sitting proudly in the northeast corner of the state, lie the Adirondack Mountains. It is one of the largest
parks in the country, bigger than Yosemite, bigger than Yellowstone. When
it was created in the late-1800's, the purpose was to protect the forests
of the Adirondacks, and the watersheds that begin there (the Hudson,
the Mohawk, the Black, etc.). This great resource was almost lost. Most
of the virgin forests had been cut down, or burned down in fires caused
by steam locomotives.
But there was hope. The voters of New York wisely decided to keep
the Adirondacks "forever wild," a rallying cry now for over a century.
The forests gradually returned, and a very special place was preserved.
Or was it? The Adirondack Park is a strange mixture
of state-owned forests and privately-owned commercial zones. You can climb
one of the High Peaks in the morning, and eat at Burger King for lunch.
You can shop in Old Forge and canoe
Second Lake in the same day. The full-time population of the park
is a little over 100,000. But in peak season in the summer, or on a nice
fall weekend, the tourists flock to experience nature. Lake Placid, Lake George, and Inlet have traffic jams and the
parking lots for the more popular trailheads are packed. Like the more
famous parks of the West, are the Adirondacks in danger of being "loved
to death?" As a geographer, you should be ready to observe the delicate
balance between preserving wilderness and catering to a tourist-based economy.
There are many ways to experience the Adirondacks. There are several
good highways that criss-cross the park. The scenery is spectacular,
even from the car. But you need to get out and walk! And I don't mean
walking the shopping district of Lake Placid (even though it is a very
interesting geographic adventure in its own right). You need to get out
on the trails. Maybe climbing Mt. Marcy
(the highest point in New York) is not for you. There are many short trails
throughout the Adirondacks that are guaranteed to restore your spirit.
They are mentioned below. The waterways of the park have their own special
charm, and you should get out on them, too. Canoe, kayak, or paddle-boat,
it doesn't matter. Just do it!
There are a few facts about the Adirondacks you need to know for
the journey begins. First, the mountains themselves are very unique.
They are not, as many people believe, part of the Appalachian chain, but
they are actually an extension of the great Canadian Shield. The
rocks that make up the mountains are very old, over one billion years old,
to be more exact. They were the roots of ancient mountains, and they were
compressed by the collision of plates. Only recently, starting a few million
years ago, the land began to rise. And it is still rising! This means that
the Adirondack Mountains are a paradox of sorts. The mountains are young,
and the rocks are ancient.
You are now ready to travel through the Adirondack Mountains.
Follow this link to find out "What You Should See."
Go to the next section!