Tuesday, October 6, 2020

More than pretty pictures

Now and then we hear complaints that all of our pretty photography, and some of the accompanying writing, only serves to drive visitors to parts of the Adirondacks that don’t need or can’t handle any more pressure.

This is the Instagram problem that we hear so much about, with complaints about those who geotag their gorgeous hiking shots, enabling online viewers everywhere to stampede to the same vistas.

It’s something we’re sensitive to at the Explorer, which is one reason we try to feature outings all around the park, and not just in hot spots like the High Peaks. It’s also why I’ve led this with a rainy-day shot of the rusting lawnmower that the previous owners of my home left out back when they moved on. (If you can find it, it needs some attention.)

Still, we are a journalism organization with a mandate to help people understand how to enjoy the Adirondacks and to provide independent scrutiny of its management and protection. This reminds me of the National Park Service’s mission — which includes both preserving and providing for the enjoyment of America’s iconic public lands. These goals can seem in conflict, especially in highly attractive hiking locations, and it’s difficult to find the right balance. When we show what the High Peaks look like, it might be out of reverence, or sometimes to illustrate the crowds that everyone’s talking about, and what brought them there. We cannot adequately document for readers the important stories of the High Peaks management dilemma without showing what we’re talking about.

But then, we also hear about it when we let people in on relatively unknown gems, like the Sable Highlands areas that former editor Phil Brown wrote about this summer. When we post such stories online, some commenters immediately react with disappointment that the hiking hordes will now barge into some other formerly quiet corner of the park. We’re sympathetic to those concerns, generally, but we also try to weigh whether the area we’re covering is legitimately at risk. In Phil’s case, we think not. After all, much of his series was about how these particular conservation easements on private lands allow access but don’t have much more in the way of amenities than dirt roads. (The state had planned to provide more when it bought the easements.) In this sense, these were stories not just about little-traveled routes that a few more people might enjoy, but also about government promises that haven’t come true.

As I said, it’s a balance, and I don’t expect we’ll always strike it perfectly to everyone’s satisfaction. But whatever else we may do along the way, you can expect us to keep celebrating the park’s beauty and solitude, and to keep explaining the options for maintaining it.

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Brandon’s “Explore More” weekly newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Brandon Loomis

Brandon Loomis is editor of Adirondack Explorer.

7 Responses

  1. Bill Ott says:

    Mr. Loomis,

    I think a rusting lawnmower photo contest is in order. Entries could be from anywhere in the Adks where motors are allowed. Ideas for weird photos just stream into my head. Let us have some photos.

  2. Zephyr says:

    I have zero sympathy for those that complain about you writing and showing the great places in the Adirondacks. It isn’t their wilderness, or your wilderness, or my wilderness–it is owned by all the people of New York State, and is there for all of us to enjoy. Unfortunately, some seem to feel that the way to preserve and protect this wonderful place is to keep everyone else except for themselves away.

    • Pete says:

      I never thought much about keeping everyone else out until recently when the amount of trash, fires in the wrong place, trees cut, improper “bathroom” practices, etc. started to increase.

    • Balian the Cat says:


      I think there there is middle ground to be found here. Would you feel the same way if an internet incited flash mob took over a public library? I understand that you advocate for a particular user group, but the bottom line is resource protection – “we” do not have the right to trample beloved places or over use sensitive areas simply because we pay taxes to the state of NY. I know you know this and I understand what you are saying, but there has to be space between kick the doors down and keep the doors locked.

      • Zephyr says:

        The Almanack isn’t promoting flash mobs, which is why it is important for them to share information. Sharing great photos along with editorial about great places, along with information on how to responsibly visit those places, is better than trying to ignore they exist. In this social media era there will be no secret places, so it is better to describe them in a responsible manner along with the correct messaging about protecting the resource.

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