Late last year, our NYS DEC removed a cabin atop Thomas Mountain in the Lake George Wild Forest. The cabin, dating to the mountain’s former private ownership, had been vandalized and had become a public hazard. Its presence was also a violation of Article XIV, Section 1 of our NYS Constitution. DEC did the right thing to remove it.
Restoration of the former cabin site was a logical next step, and Arbor Day the right occasion. Adirondack Wild was very pleased to be invited by DEC to collaborate. We reached out once again for volunteers to the Youth EdVenture and Nature Network (YENN).
This past week eight youngsters and four adults from YENN in Albany joined me on behalf of Adirondack Wild and DEC Forest Rangers Chuck Kabrehl and Evan Donegan on Arbor Day to green-up the former cabin site.
YENN’s mission is to help transform the lives of urban youth through experiential teamwork in the outdoors. Adirondack Wild seeks to train and engage with youth who will be the future advocates and stewards of the Adirondack Park. Forest Rangers are the DEC’s field ambassadors and guardians in green.
It’s been an inspired partnership and this year was no exception – our 7th year of collaboration. The service day was started by YENN founder Brother Yusuf Burgess (Abdul Wasi) with Adirondack Wild and DEC Forest Rangers and Foresters. It continues in Yusuf’s memory thanks to YENN leaders Cherrie Burgess, Jaimz Edwards and others, DEC (including DEC Saratoga Tree Nursery and Operations Division), and “ed-venturous” young men and women of all ages.
For many, Thomas Mountain was their first uphill hike in the Adirondacks – especially challenging for several who were not, in their words, “nature people.” Their courage and determination overcame any limitations.
We gathered at the trailhead with weather threatening, to meet DEC Forest Rangers Evan Donegan and Chuck Kabrehl. The Rangers and DEC Operations crew (Warrensburg) had positioned our tree planting tools and young trees (courtesy DEC’s Saratoga Tree Nursery) on the mountain earlier in the week.
The hike up Thomas was adventurous for many and challenging for others who had never or rarely hiked before. All of us were stretching muscles out of winter hibernation. We encountered rocks and snow fields on the way up. Step by step, “no pain, no gain,” with encouragement and determination, the whole group made it.
The expected rain did not fall. The sun shone through the clouds. Along the way we tasted the wintergreen inner bark of young silver birches, saw shades of spring green unimaginable a few days earlier, found red eft salamanders migrating across our trail and heard broad-winged hawks, just arrived from South America, soaring above us.
At the summit, came the grand view of Lake George to our east, Prospect Mountain to our south, and Hadley, Crane and Gore Mountains to our west. The changeable colors of the day were awe inspiring.
One young man said on the way back down, “If I knew how great the view would be I would never have complained about the hike up.” His name was Thomas. This was “his mountain.”
After some refreshment at the summit, the Forest Rangers Chuck and Evan taught the YENN volunteers how to plant young northern white cedars and white pines where the former cabin had been. These Rangers are excellent role models as well as instructors. They know when to intervene, what to say, and when to step back, and they clearly enjoy working with young people
Nearly 100 trees were planted to keep future hikers off the site and allow it to re-vegetate. Everyone pitched in. The rocky soil did not give way easily to our tools and the results will only be proven over time, but the Rangers were pleased with our stewardship efforts.
Afterwards, the rain did pour down, but we were off the mountain by then. All received our Adirondack Wild pin as a small token of appreciation. We drove to Lake George village to celebrate our hard work with pizza at Giuseppe’s Pizzeria (it was excellent). Mother earth had been kind to us and we tried to be kind to her in return. Our young trees back on the mountain were being watered by the rain. Ours was a fine bit of teamwork on behalf of the Adirondacks and in memory of one of its finest stewards and youth educators, Brother Yusuf.
Photos, from above: DEC Forest Ranger Chuck Kabrehl teaching a young YENN volunteer to plant a tree at the former cabin site; and Adirondack Wild’s Dave Gibson helps a youngster with the tree planting on Thomas Mountain.