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THE NEW ADIRONDACKS
BY RAYMOND S. SPEARS
MOMENTOUS change has come Dr. Merriam, sitting on deer runways over the great playground which a along Beaver River, made the notes for
tumble of mountains and laggard his Mammals of the Adirondacks" from administrations have reserved, after a fashion, observations of the foxes and mink and for the public in northern New York. The squirrels and mice that ran down to look at Adirondack Mountains are taking a new hold his motionless but questionable—from their on the imagination of a swift-footed people. view-point-figure. The woodsmen were What was formerly the place where lover real guides, needed by the casual visitor to went with much toil to tryst with nature is pilot him into Smith's Lake or Summer Pond now the picnic ground of the lover and all or Raquette Lake. Hundreds of people in his family, including the baby swinging in a the inner villages had never seen a railway hammock under the balsams.
train or even a steam-engine of any kind. There are four thousand square miles of About 1890, however, a railway was this Adirondack playground. Perhaps three driven from Remsen straight through the fourths of it is open to the public, and all of heart of the Adirondack wilderness. Lands it is available in case of pressing need. There which the State had been accumulating for are thousands of miles of trails, hundreds of scores of years because no one else could miles of highways, scores of miles of railways, afford to own them mysteriously slipped out which cover this rough wooded land with a of the public possession, and over a winter system for wandering around. Every lake the darkest balsam swamps, the loneliest and pond is reached by at least a blazed trail, lakes, the most remote hardwood ridges, and there are few mountains up which a were turned into playgrounds for dilettanteish “ best way " has not been traced.
people who built huge mansions and called In the old days—back in the '80s, for ex- them "camps," who graveled walks through ample-here and there was an eruption of the woods and called them “ trails," and who ** summer boarder” business. Much of this put gorgeous little open yachts on the lakes summer boarder business was a kind of hang- and called them “ skiffs.” over from the Civil War. In Civil War times Hotels were built along the “ new road” many a little cabin deep in the green timber which were fifty miles or so from a highway. wilderness held some citizens who were not Towns dependent entirely upon the railway there for their health. They were there to for ingress and exit were established in the escape the draft. One of the most noted of woods' depths for the profits accruing from Adirondack resorts began when a young keeping summer boarders and utilizing woods guide living in a shanty beside a lake far from products. Localities which formerly hardly “ anywhere” established himself with fugi- a dozen living men had visited were now tives from National duty by boarding them ornamented with cottages and with people and telling them where to fish and hunt. who used bobs on their lines in fishing for
Wolves ranged the deep woods till the '70s; brook trout. venison was openly peddled in the outlying The immediate effect of the railway was to villages ; skin-hunters slew deer by the hun- “kill ” places which were off the railway. dred every summer and autumn ; a million Men who wanted to go deer hunting would acres of the heart of the mountains was sold rather ride on the cars to the very edge of every five years or so for “ back taxes," and the hunting-grounds than to ride fifty miles the bidders who speculated in these lands in a lumber wagon or buckboard to the end would sometimes find return of their money of a carry or a foot trail of five or ten miles' by logging operations.
length, or even more. The number of deer Fulton Chain, Saranac Lakes, Keene Val- along the new railway was immense. Pasley, and two or three other places were the sengers saw as many as forty or fifty in a center of Adirondack summer resort interests. few miles. Many of these deer were now These places were visited by men who cal- forbidden deer, however, for they were on culat that the meat they carried out green private preserves, and trespassers were thrown or jerked would pay the expenses of their off or fined. outings.
The private preserve question became one
THE OLD WAY—THE BUCKBOARD
preserves kept out of the woods. They
private preserves and that large areas were tions have changed very much, in that many burned over, partly through the carelessness of the preserves do not now exclude the of railways, partly through the anger of stranger of decent bearing and careful ways; woodsmen. One preserve of fifty thousand where formerly trails first blazed by woodsacres or so was burned over almost to the men were fenced and the woods roamer last acre, hundreds of forest fire fighters being harshly ordered to take the impossible route necessary to save the great camp." To around outside the lines, now the very boats this day certain private preserve makers visit at the landings are placed at the service of their estates in the Adirondacks only under the passer-by, and perchance a good uncircumstances of great—and necessary- occupied lean-to or other camp is to be found caution, even entering in the night, incognito. hospitably open. Friendliness and mutual
The reason for the feeling against the good feeling have succeeded the early indignaprivate preserves was partly the fact that the tion, mutual recrimination, and angry violence. best hunting, the best fishing, in the Adiron- The Adirondack visitors of old, before the dacks was on those preserves. Isolated by day of game preserves—city men, villagers, fifty miles or more of almost if not quite road- and woodsmen—had developed a kind of less wilderness, the area taken over by the camaraderie, a sort of unwritten woods clubs and individuals was a natural game code, which had lived and changed but park even in primeval condition. There were little during a hundred years of Adirondack thousands of deer, wagon-loads of trout, right sportsmanship, dating back to the good feelin sight of the train passengers, but protected ing that existed between Mohawk Valley by trespass signs and armed wardens, who Dutchmen and Irishmen when they stillwere commonly political associates of the hunted Indians and Tories during and after justices of peace before whom the trespassers the Revolutionary War. This code, which were taken. Worse yet, the private preserves has never been written, was simply a kind of closed the roads and trails leading across to looking out for the fellow who would come the known public lands, to which there was later. In a camp, in a dry place, the man no other feasible access. They excluded the going out would leave kindling and enough people from their own property.
vood for the night. He would leave a few The feeling has largely abated; the condi- matches in a bottle or tin can. He would put the ax up where a porcupine would not gers were thwarted in both their schemes ; chew the handle. He left salt dangling from but the power owners have gained a good the rafters. He left the dishes clean. No deal of ground through a Constitutional camp was locked. All were welcome. amendment which will give them any Adiron
From a condition where every one was dack valleys or lakes, upon demand, if the trying to make things easier for every one else public does not watch the legislators, with to the absolute exclusion, on the plan of the whom representatives of water companies toil great game parks of Europe, was a change that unceasingly along the old lines. even the most law-abiding woods frequenter The pressure on the private preserves never had contemplated till he bumped into began to relax when the game in the prea trespass sign and a burly guard.
served woods was thinned out. The scarcity Neither the free camps nor the absolute of deer resulted from the great forest fires exclusion could prevail. For twenty years a which burned over the lands and from the period of readjustment followed the closing of injudicious logging operations which destroyed the private preserves. The pressure on the the green timber—the evergreen trees—with private preserves was so great that at one the result that the deer had no balsam, time bills were introduced in the State Legis- spruce, and hemlock canopy over them to lature to bond the State to purchase them. keep off the winter winds in the great parks. This was at the time when the owners of Thousands of deer died of exposure. The the private preserves stood almost alone in survivors escaped to the dwindling areas protecting the rights of the public from where the evergreen timber was still unthe forces which demanded logging on touched. Thus the hunting on the private the remaining public lands and the right preserves became less successful than hunt"to fill the Adirondack valleys with mill- ing on lands open to the public. The people ponds at State expense for the advantage of who tried to make a profit off their owners of water power sites. It was a kind wooded estates lost much that was best in of legislative blackmail threat which failed, their vast woods tracts. Along the railway and the water power promoters and the log- was developed a summer resort, where base