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Old 05-12-2005, 01:26 PM   #1
Neil
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What are the Adirondacks to you?

What do you see the Adirondacks as?
A playground? Spiritual resource center? A great big gym? A dangerous place? An overrun carnival of summits? A great place to "get lost" in? A last frontier of wilderness that needs to be protected zealously?

Ever since I read Contested Terrain by Phillip Terrie I havn't quite stopped thinking about it.

Over the past couple of years I have viewed the Adirondacks as all of the above. I've done bushwhack trips to seldom visited places and have played my flute on Algonquin's summit while 50-60 people could hear me. I've played hockey on Copperas Pond and I've used the Dacks as a training ground for the Rockies and plan on running to Allen Mountain and back (I better get back,huh?) this fall. I've got a big bushwhack in the works through the Cold River region and hope to do some trail work and finish my 46 this summer. That's a lot of variety.

The region means many things to many people. I even know someone who owes their present day sanity to the Adirondacks.

I hope this thread dosn't come across as flakey but the debate regarding the Trail Run has sharpened my focus and made me reflect on how I feel and what I believe about the area.

Does anybody else have any answers they'd like to share?

(Note: so far I have only visited the High Peaks Region but I will eventually have been through the entire Park)
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Old 05-12-2005, 02:09 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Neil
What do you see the Adirondacks as?
A playground? Spiritual resource center? A great big gym? A dangerous place? An overrun carnival of summits? A great place to "get lost" in? A last frontier of wilderness that needs to be protected zealously?
All of the above?
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Old 05-12-2005, 02:23 PM   #3
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To me the Adirondacks serve as a place to get away from society and reflect on how i should be living my life. The physical aspect is always a plus but thats only a small fraction of why i go out there. To me there is nothing more humbling than being in the woods and at the will of mother nature. It is a last frontier that needs to be protected but it should also be used as an example of how man and nature can live together in a sustainable manner.
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Old 05-12-2005, 03:28 PM   #4
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The Adirondacks is my peace, serenity, clearing of my mind and true love.
A place I changed from being a lonely, scared person, with no self-esteem or self confidence within myself. In which I found true lasting friendships, in which they have enriched my life to the fullest, as well as the climbing of the Adirondack Mountains. Teaching me about myself and life, giving me so much inner-worth, within myself. Giving me a better chance in life. I have overcome addictions through the Mountains, in which makes me a better person today because of it.
I thought Mountain Climbing was to be a part of my life, the rest of my life. Although I can not climb they are still a part of my life but in a different form. The memories, the adventures, the pictures, the Forums, reminincing of stories and the new friends I have made along the way. All in so, enriching my life. "There is no end to climbing mountains, although you are not standing on their Summits."
There is so much more that I could say and tell about this subject about "What the Adirondacks Means to Me," unfortunately though, I do not feel comfortable writing the more intense details of what climbing has done for me. As this chapter in my life, I can't share on the Internet.
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Old 05-12-2005, 05:33 PM   #5
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HOME!!!!
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Old 05-12-2005, 05:37 PM   #6
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Why you lucky SOB!
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Old 05-12-2005, 07:04 PM   #7
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Nothing "flakey" about it -- it's a good question!

As you said, all of the above – for me, but at one time or another. A playground for sure. We go there to have fun, enjoy the mountains (and streams, trails, plants, etc., something we don’t often talk much about here, as though the 46 peaks were "it"). Spiritual resource center? Yes, but this happens for me much more on longer trips rather than dayhikes, and usually the fewer people around, the better. On our Yukon and Gros Morne backpack trips it took three or four days to really begin to sense this, and to shed thoughts of civilization. A great big gym? Nope. Sure, hiking is a great workout, but if that were the ONLY reason I did it, it would be easier to go to the local gym. A dangerous place? Sure, but I don't go there because it is that. I have the 50-minute commute up the Northway from Albany to Saratoga to satisfy that urge! An overrun carnival of summits? To be sure, some of them are, but I try to stay away from the worst of these. However, I do take others to some of the more popular places, knowing that, like Beethoven's 9th, everyone should experience it at some point, even if it is played too often. A place to get "lost" in? Usually not, but I sometimes do like the feeling of "sort of" being lost temporarily, as long as I'm comfortable knowing I'll be able to get to where I need to be. A "last frontier? No, it's only an illusion of wilderness. To be guarded, yes. "Zealously" is a dangerous word.

We've had similar variety -- the high peaks are only a small portion of the park, and we have so much more to check out. You're one up on me, though -- I've never performed music on a mountaintop! As much as I've enjoyed your flute playing in the wilderness, I've always wondered if there were those out there who might regard it as an intrusion not unlike a cellphone. This is not a critical comment at all, and this is not MY thinking, but nevertheless, I've wondered about it.

The most frustrating part for us is knowing that the Adirondacks, as beautiful as they are, are only one park (albeit a large one), and there are just so many other areas to explore that are equally if not more satisfying. This is not to take anything away from those who feel the Adirondacks are "IT" for them, and from those who live and breathe Adirondacks. I truly admire that. It's just not me. Perhaps we came too late in the game to be "at one" with just this park. Nevertheless, we will continue to enjoy it, as we will continue to enjoy other places.

As for it being "home" for those lucky few, I'm sure they have an entirely different perspective.

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Old 05-12-2005, 10:47 PM   #8
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Great post Dick!!

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Old 05-13-2005, 07:54 AM   #9
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HOME!!!!
It's home for me too, and it certainly is my sustenance; it provides the air that I breathe, water that I drink, and a portion of the food that I eat. It will, hopefully, provide me with monetary resources in the near future as well.

-Kev
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Old 05-13-2005, 08:26 AM   #10
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i starting backpacking and canoeing when i was pretty young. before i graduated highschool my friends and i were making monthly trips for weekends in the the daks.
after highschool i was zoomed to germany via uncle sam.
in germany, as a combat engineer i spent much time in the field- that's military term for camping with guns.
that's when i realized what the ADKS were to me.
not mountains. not trees and wildlife. not a last frontier. i had all that in germany.

the adks are freedom to me.
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Old 05-13-2005, 01:02 PM   #11
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the adks are freedom to me.
But "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose"..Kris Kristofferson
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Old 05-16-2005, 12:57 PM   #12
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The Mound

A friend and I were out walking, and I pointed out a mound in the woods with a couple of trees growing out of it. “That mound is what’s left of a tree that my grandfather cut down for firewood but left because it was too big for him to move,” I told her. I never met my grandfather. He died well before I was born, and my father, now passed on, pointed it out to me when I was young as we walked by it one day while hunting. My friend showed polite interest and we went on to talk about how some trees, yellow birch and hemlock in particular, tend to germinate and grow on rotting logs. But she didn’t really understand – and I was unable to explain to her -- the real significance of that moldering mound and the responsibility and the burden that came with it.

It’s not just that mound, of course. It’s the house I live in, where my dad grew up, the cemetery next door where so many of the gravestones trace the history of my family, the traditional deer watches in the woods where my dad and grandfather and my neighbor’s dad and grandfathers watched for deer, the brook that runs by the house, and even the dump of rusting cans and broken mason jars down back. Up on the mountain, there’s a big rock and, leaning against it, some rusted metal roofing. It’s a spot where my great-uncle built a temporary shed for his work horses that he was logging with because it was easier than driving them home each night. Places where I know my father stood, my grandfather stood and my great-grand father stood. I take a deep breath when I think about it; the time stretching back, intertwined with the people and the land that I live on.

Just this spring I found a place in the woods, an open spot on a knoll that has a nice view of the mountain. And I felt my dad’s presence. Somehow I felt sure he had stood there, like I was, and gazed up to the ledges, high up on the mountain. It’s another place for me to add to my web of connections. I haven’t taken anyone there yet. Right now it’s too personal a space to share, like those places in your head.

Sometimes when I am in the garden I will dig something up -- a broken piece of crockery; a rusty square nail; a piece of coal. Even though I never saw it, I know there was a coal stove in what now is the dining room of my house. My aunt tells of it sitting there, red hot in the winter, and the cherry floor, milled from the logs my grandfather cut on the land, show evidence of it in the walnut sized burn marks that pock it. Most times I toss this detritus of the past away as the others before me did, into the rock pile or under the shed so no one will get cut, but sometimes I save them and put them aside to pick up again later and examine and ponder. Which relative or person known to my relative lost this or tossed it away? What was it like then? How is it different now? I feel small and insignificant and overwhelmed at the responsibility that I am burdened with by living in this place.

My friends talk about traveling and living in beautiful, far away places where the snow is powdery and the glacial lakes take your breath away, and I am jealous. Not just because of the experience of living somewhere else so beautiful, but because they have the freedom to do so; they don’t feel the burden and responsibility of deep roots. I have traveled some. I have watched the ocean during a storm and seen it in the quiet fog of the morning, but I will never get to know it well. That would mean missing a thunderstorm at home and the strange beautiful pink-orange light that sometimes happens afterwards; and the smell; and the trees dripping. I might miss the first snow or the last. I would be shirking my responsibility, not shouldering my burden.

When I was a teen, I spent a couple of summer months in the Rockies, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was already exhibiting the first indications of these deep-seated feelings. After being there for four or five weeks, I became homesick. It was not for my friends or my family that I was homesick. It was for hardwoods and ferns and broad-leaved plants and the heavy humid air under the trees on a hot day. In looking back now, I realize that it was probably something else as well. Out there was someone else’s land and I could never take even fleeting possession of it; the investment had not been made. My roots were stuck firmly here and they were tugging me back. Back to the comfort, back to the responsibility, back, I guess, to the burden as well.

The latest property assessment came out. That amount is how much someone would pay for my property; that is what the county says it’s worth. It seems like a lot of money, more than I could pay for it. I’m told that owning land is a great investment; that I could sell it and buy a nice place to retire to, someplace warm. It’s all so meaningless to me. How could I sell this land? What a traitor I would be to let it fall into someone’s hands that has no connection and values it only as an investment for them. To use it and sell it again with no further thought. That’s just not the way it works. They don’t understand the value of it at all. And I still struggle to explain it, even to myself.

I’ve shown my two daughters the mound and the cemetery and the old dump, and told them the stories. They don’t understand yet. I didn’t understand either when my dad told me. I hope they will, someday. And then again, for their sake, sometimes I hope they don’t grasp it as powerfully as I now do. So they won’t be held down and influenced as strongly. It is a burden, a responsibility that follows you around, through the woods, across the pasture, into the barn and down to the river. “There’s a place in the river where in the summer it’s so shallow you can cross and not get your knees wet, and there’s a cold spring that bubbles up partway across,” my father told me. I haven’t found the spring yet. I looked for it when I was young, but I need to go back. I need to find that spring. I guess I need to confirm that connection and the responsibility that goes with it.

Why do I feel these burdens and responsibilities to the land? I don’t know. Nobody asked it of me. I don’t remember my father being troubled by it. Maybe it’s a strange psychosis that I alone bear. We like to joke that the locals are the way we are because of the water. “It’s in the water,” we smirk. Maybe it is. It doesn’t really matter why. I have no control over it, but I find that, increasingly, it both guides me and follows me wherever I go.

Last edited by Adk Keith; 08-03-2008 at 10:37 AM..
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Old 05-16-2005, 01:30 PM   #13
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That was powerful! I bought a shirt the other day that has a guy on a mountain with roots growing out of his feet. The caption says "know your roots". This story made me think of that shirt, you definitely know your roots. You are a lucky man!
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Old 05-16-2005, 01:54 PM   #14
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ADK Keith,

I will second that, of your story being, so powerful and moving. I'm sure your family roots, who have passed on, would be so proud of you, for protecting what was once theirs. Also the fact that you treasure and respect it so. You sure have alot of memories and sentimental values to go along with the family heirloom. You can't put a price tag on that.
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Old 05-16-2005, 02:27 PM   #15
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ADK Keith,
I wish more people felt like you do. Very well said.
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Old 05-16-2005, 09:51 PM   #16
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Great story Adk Keith
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Old 05-16-2005, 11:01 PM   #17
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After I initiated this thread I felt I hadn't been specific enough as to what kind of answer I was looking for. It looks like that was a good thing. Most of the answers have been from a subjective viewpoint which I guess is a result of the question," what are the Adirondacks to you". In actual fact I was thinking from a combination of both legislative/protection and end user personal experience point of view. That wasn't at all clear in the original post.

I myself don't have an answer to the question and am hoping that this "sleeper" thread will go on for a long time as people reflect on the question, read the posts, go hiking or paddling then come back with their input.
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Old 05-17-2005, 09:32 AM   #18
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ADK Keith, thank you so much for the deep post, so much food for thought, especially about 21st-century US culture. In Asian countries (and I would venure to guess in most, if not all "traditional" cultures), the "burden" to which you refer is keenly feelt and deeply respected. An individual in these cultures doesn't see himself as a totally free agent, with a separate and finite life to lead, but rather is respectful of, and feels responsible to, the ancestors that came before and the descendants who are to follow. Modern American culture breaks this continuum in so many ways with its relentless pursuit of material satisfactions. The vast majority of Americans, and the government as our proxy, make choices with no thought about responsibility to future generations.

"When I was a teen I spent a couple of summer months in the Rockies and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was already exhibiting the first indications of these deep seated feelings. After being there for 4 or 5 weeks I became homesick. It was not for my friends or my family that I was homesick. It was for hardwoods and ferns and broad leave plants and the heavy humid air under the trees on a hot day."

As a boy, I went cross country camping with my parents twice, hitting most of the National Parks in the west. When we came home from the first trip in 1964 after 6 weeks, we did laundry and repacked for two weeks in the Adirondacks before returning to school, something had been missing. There is a unique feel to the Adirondacks that runs much deeper for me (sorry subjective) than in many more spectacularly beautiful spots. Sometimes I wonder if it isn't the ancientness of the granite foundation of the Adirondacks that is responsible for the unique feeling. I don't know what it is for sure, but I can feel it so strongly, and it feels like the thread of creation. Funny, but one of the other places I've felt this as strongly was in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

Every hike or paddle or camping trip in the Adirondacks is bittersweet, because little by little our affluence is taking more and more bites out of the forests. In the late 50's Lake George island camping used to be practically a wilderness experience with more kayaks and canoes than power boats (if one can believe it to see the triple-decker ocean-going vessels on the lake today.) My 9-year old daughter loves the woods the way I do, I'm burdened by the changes in the Adirondacks and the rest of the planet that she is going to see in her lifetime.
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Old 05-17-2005, 12:40 PM   #19
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I have been in many places that have no voice.

The Adirondacks "Sing" a sweet song to those who listen.
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Old 05-26-2005, 01:20 PM   #20
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I have become the ADKs

When I was young, I started hiking and climbing the peaks of the Adirondacks. I thought it was a great place to go. It was full of exciting adventures, places to see, things to learn and experience. Each different mountain I climbed became part of my life's existentialist attempt to make sense of the chaotic mess of human civilization. The more I visited the ADKs the more I knew that they were the only sane place left to maintain some semblance of sanity.

After I explored most of the ADKs and finished the 46, the ADKs became a place to be rather than just to go. As Redhawk says, it is HOME! It wasn't a place to visit anymore but a place to return to. There were specific trees remembered on a climb (on the trail up Cascade), soft carpets of moss (in the Sewards) and places where I held the hand of a struggling student trying to reach a "flat spot" on the trail (Marcy). Hundreds of memories that were seemingly planted all over the mountains. I have been fortunate to have had the health to climb most of the peaks 4 or 5 times - mostly in winter - although I've only completed one round. It is only necessary to be in the ADKs, to hear the whisper of the wind through the White Pine trees, feel the gurgling of a stream beneath a snowpack, see the hoarfrost on the hair of loved one climbing with you in January, to begin healing the mental effects of a dog eat dog world.

Now, the Adirondacks have become an extension of me. A place to become whole by simply engaging in the thought of being there or, better yet, to tramp around the woods in a mindset that knows that I'm a part of it and it's a part of me.
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