6:53 PM / Tuesday November 28, 2023

30 Aug 2014

The Adirondacks, “Sanctuary of Dreams”

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August 30, 2014 Category: Travel Posted by:

By Renée S. Gordon

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”  –Lyndon B. Johnson

New York’s Adirondacks State Park is a magnificent gem of extremely underrated value. The 6 million acre park, larger than Glacier Park, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, and Yosemite combined, includes 8,000-sq. miles of mountains, 1,500-miles of rivers, 30,000-miles of streams, 2,000-miles of foot trails and more than 2,300 lakes. It is also home to 66 fish species, and greater than 50 animal and 220 bird species. It is an all-season destination and visitors can engage in every activity from Olympic level skiing to fall foliage viewing.

In 1885, the NY State Legislature designated the portion of the land that the state owned, 2.3-million acre Adirondack Forest Preserve. The park was established in 1892 and in 1894 the Adirondacks were deemed a wild land preserve. It was the first and remains the sole land preserve to be protected by a state constitution. In order to alter the law naming the Adirondacks a preserve, a change in the State’s Constitution is required. Article VII, Section 7 reads, in part, “….shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold, or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public, or private, nor should the timber thereon be sold, removed, or destroyed.”

The Adirondacks, created about 1 billion years ago, is one of the oldest areas on earth and the oldest on the North American continent. Geologically, they are part of the Canadian Shield and not the Appalachian Mountains. When Native Americans entered the region they did not settle in the mountains, but passed through while hunting, at war and trading. At the time of the first Europeans, led by Samuel D. Champlain in 1609, the Algonquin and Iroquois were the main tribes in the region and his party included Algonquin guides. Ratirontaks became “Adirondacks,” “those who eat trees,” and is actually an uncomplimentary Iroquois term they used to refer to their enemies.  

The New York frontier was settled early in the 1700s and played a significant role in the French and Indian War, a territorial conflict between the British and the French. The British constructed Fort William Henry in 1755 on Lake George. It was besieged in 1757 and after the British surrendered they were killed by the Native American allies of the French as depicted in “The Last of the Mohicans.” The French then destroyed it. There are interpretive signs at the battle site and a replica of the fort in Lake George village.

Fort Carillon, renamed Ticonderoga, was France’s response to the British. It was built from 1755 to 1759 on Lake Champlain. The fort saw more fighting during the French and Indian War than any other. It was also the location of the first American victory of the Revolution when, on May 10, 1775, Vermont’s Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys joined with Benedict Arnold to seize the fort. The Battle of Fort Ticonderoga gave hope to the Americans and provided supplies for their army. Fort Ticonderoga offers great tours and wonderful programming. Visitors should check in advance for scheduled re-enactments, VIP Tours and special exhibitions.

The preservation of the Adirondacks can largely be traced to one man, Verplanck Colvin, who began his career as a real estate lawyer. Through his real estate business he discovered his love of surveying. Born in Albany, he combined his love of exploration with his admiration of the beauty of the Adirondacks, and began visiting the less traveled areas of the region in the 1860s. In 1869, he ascended the 5343-ft Mt. Marcy, the highest point in the state, followed by Mt. Seward the following year. He is credited with locating the source of the 315-mile Hudson River. He gave it the name Lake Tear in the Clouds. Indigenous tribes knew it as “Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk”, “the water that moves both ways”. 

In 1872, Colvin was appointed the Superintendent of the Adirondack Survey and subsequently State Surveyor. He held this position for 28 years and during that time advanced the goals of surveying, conserving and preserving the Adirondacks region. 

Seneca Ray Stoddard published a tourist guide, “Adirondacks: Illustrated,” in 1873 and annually thereafter until 1914. It was invaluable because it contained the first visitors’ map and as a result the latter part of the 19th-century, the Gilded Age, saw a substantial increase in tourism. Stoddard was an artist and his paintings, sketches and photographs document the story of the region.

Many of the wealthiest people, the Astors, Roosevelts, Vanderbilts, Carnegies, etc., built Great Camps in the area as getaways from the cities. They designed their retreats to blend into the landscape using local stone and local wood and constructed by local craftsmen with huge fireplaces and decks that took advantage of the views. This form of architecture came to be known as the Adirondacks-style. These “camps” were lavish and luxurious and often far off the beaten path.

Blue Mountain Lake’s Adirondacks Museum presents an outstanding overview of the region’s history. The 32-acre campus houses 24 buildings and features activities, programs, events and special exhibitions. The museum’s collection showcases more than 30,000 objects and 70,000 photographs. A visit to this museum is a must to fully understand the history, people, arts and industry of the area. Plan to spend a minimum of 2.5-hours here just to explore the museum buildings. 

The museum site was originally Miles Merwin’s 11,230-acre lumber camp in the 1860s. One day, a group of hunters appeared in camp and offered to pay for the experience of lodging there. They enjoyed themselves so much that they told friends and soon the owner of the camp decided that he could make more money from providing accommodations than from logging. In 1880, he built Merwin’s Blue Mountain House Hotel. In 1957, the property became the Adirondacks Museum.

One of the first exhibits is a guide boat, a unique and significant form of regional transportation. Early tourists could only travel so far by rail, stagecoach or foot and then, because you are never more than .25-miles from water, it was necessary to travel by boat. An industry sprang up of boat building and guiding. Passengers would hire a guide to walk along and carry a boat. When they reached water, he would row them across and then carry the boat to the next waterway. Adirondack guide boats had to be lightweight and sturdy. During the winter months, the guides made twig furniture and the classic Adirondack chairs. Bull Cottage, on the premises, is fully decorated with rustic furniture.

The Roads and Rails exhibit is outstanding. Galleries are filled with vehicles used to transport people to the camps. An ice hearse is on display. This black lacquer sled conveyed bodies in the winter. The lanterns held candles. A highlight is a private rail car, the Oriental, of the type used by the wealthy to travel to the Adirondacks. The car is nearly 70-ft long, has 6,900-ft. of mahogany, oil and electric lighting and one marble and two onyx washstands. 

One of the more telling stories concerning the rich and the rails is of the woman who disliked the stagecoach ride so intensely that she asked her husband to do something about it. He built her an opulent railcar to avoid the stagecoach, and a railroad track 2/3 of a mile long (about 6 blocks) for the railcar to ride on. 

“Great Wilderness. Great Expectations: Masterworks from the Adirondack Museum” currently displays 120 paintings, prints, drawings and photographs that depict two centuries of regional landscapes. This exhibition augments the museum’s Artist-in-Residence program. 

Garnet Hill Ski Lodge and Nordic Ski Center is both an Adirondacks destination and a wonderful place to enjoy the views of Thirteenth Lake while dining on exquisite cuisine. Garnet Hill offers first class accommodations and a full menu of year-round activities from which to choose. The owners provide exceptional hospitality and service and they will make suggestions and arrangements. Special programs sponsored by the lodge include everything from a tranquil train ride to Yoga, using a stand up paddleboard. The lodge also offers 34-miles of cross country ski and snowshoe trails, boating and free beginner ski clinics. Here you can experience all the Adirondacks has to offer. 

The Summit at Gore Mountain is for travelers who seek a different type of experience. The Summit’s rental townhouses include a dining area, fireplace, family accommodations with bathrooms, kitchens, large living room with fireplace and Jacuzzi. There is outdoor seating; panoramic mountain views and they are the closest accommodations to Gore Mountain. 

New York’s High Peaks Scenic Byway, Route 73, is one of the most picturesque roads in the Northeast. This phenomenal drive is only 30-miles but visitors get views of 46 mountain peaks including both the highest and the lowest. You also pass waterfalls, lakes, rivers and awesome foliage. Driving straight through you can complete the ride in under an hour, but I suggest that you take the day to picnic, hike, take photos and generally soak up the beauty of one of America’s wild land preserves.  

High Peaks Byway is the only route into one of the Adirondacks most recognized destinations, Lake Placid and next week we will visit the closest place America has to Mt. Olympus. Information on visiting the Adirondacks is available online. Remember the region really dresses up for the fall.

I wish you smooth travels!


Now is the time to start planning trips to New York City in order to secure the best accommodations at the best prices. For visits to the city or any other part of the state, the Art-Deco Wyndham New Yorker Hotel is always a great choice. The 43-story hotel was completed in 1930 at a cost of $22.5-million. It was remodeled in 2009 and its original 2500 rooms are now 912 modern guest rooms with all the amenities. The hotel has hosted such luminaries as Fidel Castro, Muhammad Ali, Joan Crawford and JFK. 

Numerous visitors select the New Yorker, not for its proximity to Penn Station, Macy’s, the Empire State Building and Times Square, but for its connection to Nikola Tesla. Tesla was a scientist who, for a variety of reasons, did not receive credit for most of his inventions. A list of his most groundbreaking inventions includes the alternating current, radio, robotics, x-ray, laser and wireless communication. He was an advocate of free energy for the world and conspiracy theorists have had a field day with how they believe the power structure responded to the idea.

We do know that Tesla lived for the final 10 years of his life in rooms 3327 and 3328 of the New Yorker. He died there on January 7, 1943. When he was found his safe, in room 3327, was open and his papers had vanished. He was said to be working on the creation of a “Death Ray” that would alter the face of warfare forever. The United States acknowledged how invaluable Tesla’s work on the particle beam had proven to be in 1947. A plaque is located on the exterior of the hotel and one on room 3327.

The New Yorker’s 24-hour Tick Tock Diner is adjacent to the hotel. The diner serves homemade comfort food with a New York twist. Servings are large and prices are affordable.

Nufoot Cushies are colorful, comfortable, water and germ-resistant, socks with a non-skid bottom. These socks are perfect for wear around the house, but even more importantly, they are ideal for airport wear when going through the scanner. As a traveler, I am always amazed that people go through TSA procedures barefoot when the area is obviously rife with germs. Nufoot socks are foldable and easy to slip on and off.        

The National Constitution Center will celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15th- October 15th. Lectures, events, activities and tours will focus on the significant contributions made by Hispanic and Latino Americans. Highlights of the displays include artifacts referencing the achievements of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and baseball superstar Roberto Clemente.

No matter the weather the popular Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll will take place on Thursday, September 18th from 5:30-8:30 PM. In addition to the bargains, there will be live music and street performances along the blocks from 43rd to 51st Streets and food and drinks will be $1.

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