John Sanford, the writer who placed a series of novels and stories in Warrensburg, once recalled, “In the spring of 1931, when Nathanael West was writing his second novel, Miss Lonelyhearts, I was working on my first. Neither of us was progressing… and when West proposed that we get away from the city, I turned up the right place to go. I’d met an upstate game warden, and through him, we obtained, for $25 a month, a seven-room cabin in the Adirondacks, together with a forest preserve of 1,200 acres and a 50-acre pond – Viele Pond, it was called. There in that private realm, we wrote, fished, swam and shot away the summer.”
That Adirondack Forest Preserve that accommodated West and Sanford so hospitably in the 1930s is about to be enlarged by another 836 acres.
The Open Space Institute has announced that it has purchased a tract just on the other side of Harrington Hill from Viele Pond known as “Huckleberry Mountain Forest,”
Both tracts lie off Alden Avenue in the town of Warrensburg and border the Hudson River.
Until recently, the Huckleberry Mountain property was on the market for $450,000, offered to prospective buyers as a timber-rich investment or for private recreational purposes.
According to the Open Space Institute, the land has been considered “a high priority acquisition in the region for decades” by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and “was secured by OSI at the request of the DEC.”
The land will ultimately be purchased by New York State and added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, OSI stated.
“OSI is delighted to continue our commitment to the Adirondack Park, an international treasure right here in New York State,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “The Huckleberry Mountain Forest property will ensure the preservation of beautiful scenery and buffer the Hudson River, while keeping the land in the hands of the public.”
Nathanael West completed Miss Lonelyhearts one year after the two writers spent the summer at Viele Pond. Both moved to California to work in the film industry, and less than ten years later, West died in an automobile accident.
Sanford would live until the age of 98, dying in 2003. He never returned to the area. But in 1997, a Lake George area resident sent him some photos of the pond, which elicited this response: “I actually cried out, ‘My God!’ to an empty room. West’s biographer has told me that the cabin is gone. (And) the pond has changed, but the woods are as they were, and they evoked memories of a summer now sixty-five years gone.”
Once it is part of the Forest Preserve, the Huckleberry Mountain Forest will be accessible to the public, the DEC stated.
“The Huckleberry Mountain Forest will offer outstanding recreational opportunities for hiking, camping, sightseeing and fishing, and I applaud OSI for their work in preserving such a valuable natural resource,” said DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos.
The land is expected to be classified by the Adirondack Park Agency and the DEC as Wild Forest, a less restrictive category of state-owned land than Wilderness.
Like the surrounding lands, it will be considered part of the Lake George Wild Forest, which currently consists of more than 71,000 acres in Warren and Washington Counties.
A version of this post was first published on Lake George Mirror Magazine.