The Wild Adirondacks
by Tony Beaver
The majestic mountains of the Adirondack Park, in my opinion, are home to the most beautiful scenes within a thousand miles. From the top of an open, rock-covered peak to the streams and rivers that wind their way through the pine and hardwood forests, and even to the bogs with deteriorating trees that lie in the valleys, this is my favorite place to be. Tension disappears and I can become part of the wild with the animals that inhabit these mountains.
When I venture into this area, I can feel the calmness, beauty, serenity, and yes, even the harshness of this environment. I feel the quiet, and at the same time, hear the rushing waterfalls, and the whipping wind. I can feel the seasons--from the refreshing spring air to the bitter cold that traps the wildlife in a struggling game of survival. From the bland white blanketing of winter to the rainbow-colored hills of Autumn, the Adirondacks are peaceful and yet harsh and life-threatening to the unprepared.
When an individual becomes one with these mountains and has the patience to see what is before their eyes, he can experience life as it was meant to be. There is no pounding of machinery, no foul smell from exhaust or from a local factory. Instead, the air is pure and clean. Even the odor of a stagnant cedar swamp is pleasurable. All sounds are those of nature--from the lapping of waves on a small beaver pond, the rushing water of a stream as it scrambles over rocks or down a waterfall, to the swishing sound of the wind winding its way through the trees.
The only conversation is between the animals that make this world their home. The squirrels and chipmunks chatter as they scurry from tree to tree, gathering their winter food, or playing a friendly game of tag. The coyotes howl to each other when the sun is low over the mountains. Chickadees are constantly chirping and the blue jays warn all creatures of something out of place.
The Adirondacks continually put on a show of nature. The panoramic rainbow-colored view of autumn and the blue and red lichen that grows on the rocky peaks will never be recreated by an artist's paintbrushes. The thunderstorms, with winds that make shoreline trees reach for the bullet-riddled water, have the power of a freight train and can sometimes clear a mountainside. The snapping of dried, decayed hardwoods is silenced by the booming crack of thunder.
Adirondack evenings, which ooze a cool misty fog, have a magic all their own, but it is the mornings I find most invigorating and magnificent. As the sun rises from the valley behind the towering hills on the opposite side of a glass covered pond, the sky turns pinker than the brightest flower, and the crystal-clear reflection makes it hard to tell which way is up. The rainbow trout arches its dark green back out of the water while the native brook trout, with red spots surrounded with blue halos, sips from the surface, both feeding on the sometimes annoying, but nevertheless essential, insects of the Adirondacks.
Even in the months of summer, I can feel the biting winter cold at night, for it is never far away in the Adirondacks. The local animals know this and work continuously, readying themselves for the inevitable continuation of the seasons. Unlike humans, they instinctively know that time cannot be wasted fighting with neighbors. They live apart, yet together. They live and they let live. After autumn's short-lived fiery display, when winter arrives and things become dead still, mother nature drapes her white sheet over the cadaver. But for those who are prepared and willing to look deep into her body, life can still be found, for she is not truly dead. It is as if these mountains have actually fallen into a deep coma, only to be awakened by the warmth of spring. It is then that the adolescent inhabitants wander about, looking for a new piece of property to adapt to.
If I sit still and quiet in these woods, the wildlife comes to me. I am then truly a part of their world. The red fox, looking for a small rodent to pounce on, tiptoes through the heavy underbrush. The whitetail deer go about their business, gorging on buds and nuts, until they happen to wander downwind of me. Once they catch the intruding odor of a human, they snort and pound the earth with a hoof, trying to make the trespasser move so it can be more easily seen. Then the flaring white tail bounds into the darkness of the forest. The ruffed grouse bursts from its camouflaged cover, leaving a sphere of dead leaves floating to the ground. And the black bear, large, powerful, and deceivingly clumsy looking, can be very quiet. By the time I realize he is there, he is close enough for me to notice his dark, course, shiny coat, with dirt on his face from digging grubs and other insects from rotting stumps. But he is more frightened of me than I of him, and crashes through brush as he heads for the next hill. These close encounters make my heart pound hard enough that I am sure these creatures must be able to hear it.
But the most exciting times I have spent in these woods is when I catch a glimpse of animals that some people consider extinct in these mountains. The timber wolf, for instance, still hunts in this area. I know, for I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to see him. A much larger canine than his cousin the coyote, the gray coloring on his head gradually faded to a bright silver coat. Then there was the wolverine whose fur was glistening black with a brown stripe down each side of its body and a head that was not unlike that of a miniature bear. It waddled like an overstuffed duck until it saw me, then wasted no time turning tail and returning to what it considered a safer place.
No matter what the "experts" say, I know these creatures are here, and the thought that some people want to destroy this thread of bygone days, when free truly meant free, by developing this area is vile and disgusting. The trees and streams that have been formed over thousands of years will be replaced by the offensive intrusion of concrete and blacktop. No longer will the spine tingle from the close flush of a partridge, the howl of a coyote, or the shrill cry of a loon after dark. No longer will the Adirondacks be a place of peace and beauty.