Having spent my summers in the peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, I was not sure what to expect of the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.
I was aware of the Adirondack’s reputation. Native Americans knew the damp, cold hills as the Dismal Wilderness and early European explorers figured they were right. The Romantic Movement of the 1800s, however, found the remoteness to be nature’s haven from the evils of industrialization. Romantic art bathed the morning mists in glowing reds and yellows. Popular poets and essayists inspired adventurers back to our primitive selves. Summer camps sprang up.
Me? In the summer of 1970? Well, I didn’t expect it to be the young Western mountains I knew from the Sawtooths, with a maximum altitude of 10,751 feet. And I knew the Adirondacks (maximum altitude 5,344 feet) were a more rugged area than the beautiful Catskill Mountains (4,180 feet) where I had spent the last year.
Me? Between curiosity and new adventure, I was all in.
The Romantics were right when they painted the Adirondacks. The scenery is stunning and the air is as bracing as any I have enjoyed on a mountain morning.
Even with all the glory of nature, however, what has stuck with me over the years was discovering how two centuries of providing the wilderness experience has left the “campgrounds.”
Heading into the upper Adirondacks where we knew there was a place to make a base camp, my thoughts were a site with a designate fire pit and a trampled down area to toss a sleeping bag. Just like every other wilderness campground I had ever encountered. To my surprise a house was waiting for us!
OK. In the Adirondacks it was called a “lean-to.” But to me it was a three-sided house. It had a wood floor. It faced a well constructed rock fire pit that included seating on rocks and logs. And the structure was thoughtfully placed with its back to the wind.
A flat spot to sleep with no rocks or roots poking through sleeping bags? Protection from wind and rain and morning dew provided with a solid roof?
Now that’s Adirondack posh!