At Pack Forest Paul told us he took one of his best and luckiest shots. Wanting to capture the public’s imagination with something as ancient and compelling as a 500 year old stand of white pine, Paul was at a loss with the scale and the difficult angle and the lighting until the clouds parted for an instant and sun suddenly shot through the forest canopy.
Paul clicked, the shutter opened. Opportunity and preparedness aligned.
Paul told us that his photo was in demand all over the Adirondacks and the country, including in Washington, DC, where a representative of the USDA Forest Service put it on the wall. By the 1960s, the photo came to represent the urgent need to expand the Forest Preserve, protect the Adirondack Park’s remaining old-growth forests, and plan and care for the entire Park, public and private. It has been used in many publications since then, including Defending the Wilderness: The Adirondack Writings of Paul Schaefer (Syracuse University Press, 1989).
Paul liked this photo in particular because the ancient grove it captures is part of the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Pack Demonstration Forest. The forest was donated by Charles Lathrop Pack in the early 20th century for purposes of forestry education and silviculture at the College of Forestry, Syracuse (now SUNY ESF).
Growing up as he did when money was scarce, including public funds for to buy more Forest Preserve, Paul Schaefer encouraged private philanthropy as one of the principal ways to conserve critical places in the Adirondacks. The fact that this old-growth stand withstood the Royal English Navy in the 18th century, much less rapacious lumbermen of the 19th century, wind and hurricane, and 20th century development, and was the result of a donation by Charles Lathrop Pack surely brought Paul back to this spot many times. This grove has surprised and inspired countless students and visitors since, who if they don’t know the rest of these 2,500 acres at Pack Forest, surely know about the Grandmother Tree and this great stand. Today, Pack Forest is the site of NYS DEC Environmental Education Camps, and is training ground for many a SUNY student and many a future steward of the Adirondack Park.
During the Adirondack Park Centennial year, 1992, photographer Mark Kurtz of Saranac Lake invited a number of people involved in Park affairs to be photographed, each in their favorite place in the Adirondacks, and to write the caption below the scene. Due to Paul’s influence, I chose this great white pine forest as my place, and wrote as my caption the following:
I stand at this most public and private of places – publicly traveled, decidedly private in its mood and in my thoughts. The image of these remnant and giant pines, still vigorously dusting the fine air aloft, graces the office of a forestry official in Washington, DC, a photograph taken by Paul Schaefer decades before at a moment when sunlight streamed through skudding clouds to light up this splendid grove, seeded centuries before. Protected trees spared from the axe and saw. Without mentors, nothing inspiring would have occurred here, nothing kept and passed forward to hands less calloused than his which once held the camera, but eager to receive all the same. So, we must all return once in a while to places where veterans stand, look ahead, and be ready when the sun lights up the grove and the path through it.
Photo by Paul Schaefer.