In his seminal 1869 book, Adventures in the Wilderness, William H. H. Murray is less than enamored with the southern Adirondacks. He calls the area “the least interesting portion of the Adirondacks. It is the lowland district, comparatively tame and uninviting.”
We lowland residents would not agree.
Is the Adirondack High Peaks region less appealing because the Rocky Mountains are higher? Do the waterbodies of the area suffer in comparison to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota? Do the splendid attractions of the High Peaks render the remainder of the Adirondack Park irrelevant?
Higher and bigger is not always better. Foothills offer a different and no-less-valid experience. Even the southernmost portion of the elevated plateau that distinguishes the Adirondacks has allures that are not diminished by the superlatives of other regions.
There is natural beauty everywhere within the Adirondacks.
OK Slip Falls is impressively high. The view is well worth the hike to see it. But that visage does not diminish watching the enjoyment of the falls on Goldmine Stream. The water crashes through a jumble of rocks where the trail meets the stream. Upstream, a series of waterfalls splash over the almost gold-colored rocks. One might enjoy sitting on them during a hot summer day.
Paddling the Raquette River is a splendid journey through a floodplain. But no less so than the West Branch Sacandaga. There are herons and kingfishers galore, and a number of beautiful little lakes along the way. One favorite is Good Luck Lake, where every July, the pickerelweeds lining the narrow access provide an amazing violet-colored show.
Like many of the high peaks, climbing Cascade Mountain is a significant accomplishment rewarded with a stupendous view. But one does not need to be above 4000 feet to have the same thrill. Snowy Mountain has a similar wonderful view, and though it does not quite reach the arbitrary cut-off, its ascent is just as taxing.
These comparisons do not matter. The southern portion of the Adirondacks will never match the grandeur of the High Peaks. But life in the Low Peaks is no less grand. The wild nature of the Adirondacks permeates.
Within walking distance of our home just inside the Blue Line are a myriad of features that are taking a lifetime to explore.
A few hundred yards into the forest, the trail is nearly the only evidence of man. The wisps of long-unused logging roads beckon one to leave the trail and follow deep into the forest until they disappear. A compass, map, and GPS ensure your safe return. Or your tracks in the snow.
Walking upstream beside the tributaries that run down to the lakes where one paddles will take you past pretty little waterfalls that you would otherwise never see. Upstream, you can find ponds where the beavers are so unaccustomed to humans that they’ll go about their business while you watch.
You are never alone. The land, water, and air support innumerable creatures most active when human presence is minimal. The fish, the turtles, and the amphibious salamanders move below the surface. On the water, one often sees any number of geese, ducks, and a few loons. Ospreys and eagles fly overhead while the chickadees and warblers flit through the trees.
Deer appear often, and occasionally in the wrong places, as drivers of damaged vehicles will attest.
The less-commonly-seen creatures keep you alert and searching. The bears are all around, but smart enough to make themselves invisible most of the time. The same is true for the fishers, porcupines, and coyotes.
Hearing an owl at dusk is not unusual. Actually seeing one is.
And not the least of the benefits shared throughout the Adirondacks is fresh and clean air. Heartily inhaling the pine-scented gases “tastes” great. It makes one want to breathe it forever right here in the Low Peaks.
And when breathing’s time is done, under those pines is where our ashes will be spread.
All photos by the author