When I began to explore the Adirondack Forest Preserve as a young adult in the 1990s, the Wilderness and Wild Forest areas had already been established two decades before my arrival. Furthermore, the discussion of which activities and which facilities should be permitted in each state land category had occurred several years before I was born. I never had any say in how the State Land Master Plan was developed; for the first twenty-one years of my life I had no clue it even existed.
But when I finally did discover the remotest recesses of the Adirondack Park, it felt like an epiphany: a light switch had been flipped on, and a part of myself I had not previously known (but always suspected) was now illuminated. Wilderness travel was immediately agreeable to me. It was an immersive experience that engaged my mind and challenged my body; the slow pace and rough edges existed in direct contrast to everyday life, a tonic to suburban normalcy. “Wilderness” was not an abstract concept after all, but a tangible reality into which I could disappear for two days every week.