It might not have been the biggest Halloween trick in the history of the Adirondacks, but as Dizzy Dean would say, it was amongst ’em.
For years, if not decades, ’dak-o-philes had drooled over the prospect of paddling Boreas Ponds, a Shangri-La (blackflies notwithstanding) that stood out even in a park filled with natural wonders.
Locked away by timber interests longer than anyone had been alive, then subject of a lengthy, impassioned battle over access, the Gulf Brook Road finally opened to the ponds in the fall of 2019 — and was promptly washed out six weeks later on Halloween by a monster rainstorm.
Coming to the Adirondacks as a visitor for a week at a time, it felt as if I was always rushing to a trailhead or a boat launch or a fishing hole. I rigorously, almost militarily, mapped out my schedule to include hikes that must be completed and waterways that must be paddled, and heaven forbid that anything should get in the way of these forced, forested marches.
You miss a lot that way. For example, on each trip to the Upper Works for a crack at peaks like Marshall and Cliff, I would drive Blue Ridge Road from the Northway toward Newcomb without noticing its splendid array of creeks, waterfalls and feathery green tamaracks.
Autumn of 1948 had been a particularly dry season. Forest Rangers of that era often remained at their headquarters awaiting a phone call reporting the location of a blaze. The radio system of that time was poor but most outposts and fire towers were connected via phone line.
Daniel McKenzie, a 27 year veteran, was the Forest Ranger for North Hudson at the time and he lived on the Blue Ridge Road. A Ranger’s work schedule was much different then. During dry periods they stayed available all the time and they worked until the work was done. Ranger McKenzie, by all accounts, wore his uniform almost all the time. The Northway was decades away from construction and North Hudson was a more isolated community. In fact, McKenzie first came to the area prior to becoming a ranger to help construct State Route 9. » Continue Reading.
In 1936, the conservationist Bob Marshall made a list of forty-eight forested areas in the United States that exceeded three hundred thousand acres and that remained roadless — that is, relatively pristine. Evidently, he considered three hundred thousand acres to be the minimal size of a true wilderness.
“We would like to point out that the 300,000 acres is not a roadless area in any pioneering sense,” Marshall wrote in the magazine Living Wilderness (with co-author Althea Dobbins). “Actually, a 300,000-acre tract is only about 21½ by 21½ miles, something which a reasonably good walker could traverse readily in a day if there were a trail.”
Although the Adirondack Park boasts more than a million acres of officially designated Wilderness, where motorized use is forbidden, no single Wilderness Area comes close to Marshall’s criterion. The High Peaks Wilderness — the largest in the Park — covers only 204,000 acres. » Continue Reading.
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