Adirondack communities have always been resourceful; they’ve had to be, necessity being the mother not just of invention but of 180-degree course corrections. When there were no longer enough children to support the Inlet Common School, community members turned it into a learning venue of another sort, where community members of all ages will share their expertise with others.
Similarly, Adirondack towns have customarily squirreled away a few hundred acres that they logged every so often to earn a few bucks to make up for a paucity of state support. But now, some of these towns, such as Keene and Lewis, are discovering these lands have more value as recreational venues.
As the Adirondack region looks for solutions to overcrowding some of these towns are recognizing that they can help by luring hikers away from trails that resemble mosh pits with roots.
When adventurers from downstate are looking for hiking ideas, no one says, “I know, let’s go to Lewis!” The only time its hiking destinations get much of a mention is when someone is in need of help. Yet Mount Fay, to pick one, is a darling little peak with a beautiful open summit that’s accessible by a short bushwhack.
The Town of Lewis, which flanks Rt. 9 north of Elizabethtown, has also transformed its 500-acre erstwhile woodlot into an attractive, multi-use trail system.
Thrall Dam itself is breached, so the lake that was once a popular picnic spot for locals is gone, and it’s since fallen out of favor as a destination. Meantime, the sign to Thrall Dam has beckoned in a plaintive kind of way, a spot we’ve all driven past a million times at high speeds because we had someplace better to be.
To investigate the reimagined park recently, my brother Bruce and I turned at the sign and trundled down a dirt road to an ample parking lot devoid of other vehicles. A couple of helpful map kiosks, along with our skill and native wit, kept us on a clockwise, 3.5-mile loop that more or less followed the park’s perimeter, intersecting here and there with Burpee Brook and its scenic pools and wetlands. Total elevation gain was a scant 300 feet.
To the north are ATV and equestrian trails, but south of the old dam, soft, inviting foot trails weave artfully through the forest. One of these trails is named for Inez Millholland, a dazzling Lady Gaga of suffragists who, at a rally in Washington, D.C., mounted a white horse and sent a throng of jeering men sprawling tuchus over teakettle.
A brilliant and beautiful lawyer, labor activist and writer of playful mash notes to her male worshipers, Inez shattered the prudish, hair-in-a-bun mold into which modern history unfairly pours those women who possessed the temerity to fight for their rights. Had she not died young, Inez today would share space with Susan B. Anthony and Jane Addams.
Thrall Dam and environs were once the Milholland family farm, and her grave site is nearby. Lewis has made the area something of a shrine to Inez, punctuated by a spectacular mountain near the park that now bears her name. The town hopes this open-summited peak will be open to the public soon — when it is, the names of Lewis and Inez Milholland will be a secret no more.
Photo at top: The Thrall Dam trailhead. Above: A trail dedicated to Inez Milholland in Lewis. Photos by Tim Rowland.
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Adirondack Explorer’s weekly “Explore More” newsletter. Click here to sign up.