Old guide Charlie Reece used to say, when he told me a tale of the Adirondacks that was hard to understand or believe, "I just don't know ... I just don't know."
"I just don't know" what there is about those majestic, unsurpassed Adirondack mountains that brings us back, time and again, to spend time taking in the picturesque views, the pure mountain air, glimpses of the sparkling mountain lakes and the ocean of greenery. It raises up feeling like no others; feelings that cannot be put into words.
We took a little sojourn to the North Country recently during one of the sunniest weeks of the summer. The weather was picture perfect. We took one of our alternate routes - not our usual Adirondack trail, Route 30 - to go to Lake Placid. It took us up Route 30 to pick up Route 8 above Wells and over to Loon Lake, where I was born, to Route 9. From there, it was a short jaunt up to Route 73 and over to Lake Placid. In total, it was one of the nicest Adirondack tours, bypassing picturesque lakes and mountains along the way. My dad worked on the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics and my mother often told tales of her life in the mountain settlement, so I feel a family connection to that Adirondack destination.
Route 73 is one of the Adirondacks most popular byways. Often overlooked, it has a lot to offer. The drive-offs and parking areas overflow with cars parked along the highway. Kayakers, hikers, picnickers and rock climbers migrate in numbers to enjoy the offerings in the Cascades. The "Keene country" opens up the Adirondack high peaks to the thousands who seek them out. It should be noted Route 73 is not for "speeders;" it can be enjoyed and be much safer when the speed limit or less is observed.
It is easy to see why Lake Placid is sited where it is. It is somewhat overwhelming to gaze at the surrounding forested mountainsides without being impressed with the beauty and grandeur centered in one location. In my estimation, a worldwide search would not reveal any other site that could match the views found in the Adirondacks. Early Adirondack writers noted this and said there was no longer any need to travel to Europe or other destinations to find what we had right here. Little wonder the artists came from far and wide to record the Adirondack scenery on canvas.
While we were touring the northern Adirondacks, we took a side trip over Route 86 to Wilmington, another charming little Adirondack settlement. Our purpose was to share some Adirondack "tales and tools" with the Wilmington Historical Society. Much like other Adirondack hamlets, Wilmington - with its 189 year history - has a loyal group dedicated to preserving the history of where they live. Preserving our history becomes more important as the days go by; those who lived those Adirondack days of yesteryears are leaving us and, with them, goes a vast encyclopedia of knowledge.
The work of the small town historical societies and the small museums is, in total, far greater than some of the world's great archives. Front-line history is "real" history. I was impressed with the research material found in Wilmington and have noted, over the years, other groups have similar collections that we do not often hear about. A big "Thank you" should go out to those who care and carry on the sometimes tedious and thankless job of collecting and preserving our history, especially in the Adirondacks.
Those who realize the importance of recording our history are on a mission. The mission statements of the historical groups tell the story. The Wilmington Historical Society mission statement provides a good summary of their work: their mission is "to collect, preserve, display and interpret the documents, photographs, and artifacts that tell the unique story of how the people of this remote, mountainous small town with big ideas have adapted and survived in the harsh, yet beautiful environment, of the Adirondacks." Well said.