In 2014, the Discover the Adirondacks series of guidebooks has reached an important milestone: its fortieth birthday. The series began in 1974 under a different name, with a single book that covered just one part of the Adirondacks. It was intended by its author to illustrate that there was more to the Adirondack Park than just the High Peaks, where the majority of the non-motorized trail building had occurred. When philosophical differences led to a split with her original publisher, she found a new one and proceeded to accomplish the unprecedented: a detailed, eleven-volume guidebook series that covered every region in the six-million-acre park. To mark the occasion, I have taken the liberty of writing this short history of how the Discover series came to be—with hints of where it might be going.
In 1974, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) published a compact volume called Walks and Waterways: An Introduction to Adventure by Barbara McMartin Patterson. It was a guidebook that suggested ninety-eight walks and paddle trips in the space of about 170 pages, covering an area that ranged from Stratford to Speculator in the southern Adirondacks. The book featured five small pullout trail maps that had been drawn by a cartography student at Briarcliff College, and it was adorned by dozens of pencil sketches drawn by the author. It was intended to be “an encyclopedic list of all the paths and water routes,” as well as “a guide for the amateur explorer, in order that he can better enjoy the forest paths, canoe trips, and automobile routes.” It was, in fact, the first guidebook that McMartin would publish, and the nucleus of what would grow to become the future series.