It’s been said by photographer Gary Randorf, Clarence Petty, and others, that ninety-five percent of the entire Adirondack Forest Preserve, Wilderness included, is within about five miles of one of the more than 5,000 miles of roads in the Adirondack Park.
That statistic has been newly confirmed by two wildlife ecologists who say they have identified the most remote spot in New York State, located in the High Peaks Wilderness – just 5.3 miles from the nearest road, and a less than a half-mile from the popular Northville-Placid Trail.
Rebecca and Ryan Means of Florida have been on a mission to identify, travel to, and document the most remote locations in all 50 states and recently came to the Adirondacks – with daughter Skyla in tow and Adirondack Explorer writer/photographer Josh Wilson along to report – to find ours.
Through their project Remote Footprints the pair have calculated the statistics for 19 states so far, the most remote was found in Florida (17 miles from a road), the least remote in Connecticut (1.1 miles). The average distance from a trail was just .2 miles. Remoteness in the Adirondacks doesn’t stack up much better, says Rebecca Means. “Two factors took away from the remoteness. The first was that there was a well used lean-to shelter within 0.75 miles of the spot and the second was that the spot was steps off of the Northville-Placid Trail. We have nothing against trail systems and in fact celebrate this form of travel but from a qualitative sense, you don’t feel very remote when you are traveling a well-used path. ”
There was no cell phone service at the Adirondack remote spot, and no invasive species were discovered. They hiked about 13 miles of trails to reach the location (rather than bushwack). Several times during their short stay at the remote spot they heard planes overhead before and after they began their 15-minute assessment, although they did not hear the sound of humans during their assessment period. Afterwards they discussed the nature of remoteness “We had a great discussion about this idea while camped out in the lean-to the night before documenting the spot. Remoteness really is a qualitative feeling,” Rebecca Means said. “As scientists though, we want to focus on a quantitative definition that can be standardized across states, assessed remotely (i.e. using GIS data), and more importantly repeatable in the future. We hope that in 10 years someone (us?) reassesses the remoteness of our country and compares the results to what we’ve found.”
“What shocks us most of all is that it is so darn difficult to actually get very distant from a road almost anywhere. You have to possess advanced computer skills to even identify where remaining roadless areas are, and then, travel hundreds of miles just to get to a sufficiently large roadless area. Many of our greatest conservation lands, themselves, are still being developed with roads. In the end, it is all about trying to wean ourselves off of our addiction to unsustainable and un-ecofriendly fossil fuels while trying to preserve all remaining roadless areas for the benefit of wilderness seekers and wildlife,” Means wrote in a piece about the trip for her blog.
When I asked what she thought of the Adirondack Park she had this to say: “We very much enjoyed learning about the politics of the Adirondack Park and how the people of New York have created this amazing conservation area that is managed with multiple-use in mind but with multiple entity input and planning. It is inspiring being a midst the lands and people that shaped and influenced our great Wilderness Act of 1964.”
Photo: The Cold River near Ouluska lean-to and the most remote spot in New York, not far from the hermitage of Noah John Rondeau. Photo courtesy Remote Footprints.