The Fourth of July is considered the beginning of the Adirondack tourist season. Although tourism is the region's primary industry, many local residents rank the annual onslaught of nature seekers and leaf peepers, somewhere just below the winter's first heavy snow, and slightly above spring's bug season.
While these observations are offered in jest, there are certain truths evidenced, especially when roads are clogged with cars traveling at a snail's pace, or if a favorite swimming hole is filled with unfamiliar faces.
Such happenings happen, and when they do, I'm inclined to grin and bear it. After all, I'm beholden to tourist's interests, and it may well be the only viable industry left in the park.
But when the overload becomes too much, I escape to the solitude of a few, safe retreats. Some of my favorite escapes can be found along the untracked trails and secluded ponds of the Cranberry Lake region.
Other such retreats can be realized along remote stretches of the Raquette River, especially in the sections downriver from Tupper Lake.
However, there are wild and remote lands much closer to home. In fact, some may be even wilder. Fortunately, these lands continue to be bypassed by a vast majority of the traveling public.
In a rush to get from the busy streets of Lake George, to the Olympic Village of Lake Placid, most tourists drive right by Exit 29 of the Northway.
They miss out on the Blue Ridge Road, and the wonderful Blue Ridge Falls, as the route travels through the southern fringe of the Adirondack High Peaks Region, surrounded by the Dix Mountain Wilderness, and the Hoffman Notch Wilderness.
As a result they will miss an opportunity to explore the towns of Newcomb and North Hudson, which encompass more trailheads than any other region of the Adirondacks.
They'll miss an opportunity to discover the headwaters of the Hudson and the Raquette rivers, and the chance to visit a magnificent, Adirondack Great Camp by foot, bike or horse and wagon. Reservations are available from Santanoni Wagon Rides at 518-582-2360.
In passing, they forego a chance to take three easy hikes, which lead to three restored fire towers. They also miss out on opportunities to paddle or fish on dozens of remote lakes and ponds. Some of these waters have been in private hands for over a century, and were only recently opened to the public.
It is a rugged stretch of country, featuring a ghost town and a 150-year-old blast furnace, old mines and good times! The locals are friendly, but they are few, with a population of less than 450 year round residents. They are far outnumbered by the resident black bear, whitetail deer and moose wandering on over 60,000 acres of surrounding wild forestlands, which cover about 40 percent of the town.
North Hudson is not too shabby either. It is home to the remarkable Elk Lake Lodge, which is tucked deep in the local forest, on the shores of a crystal clear lake and surrounded by soaring mountain peaks within a 12,000 acre private preserve. Best of all, it is open to the public, for lodging and/or dinner. Reservations are required, at 518-532-7616.
Newcomb is a great place to hike, paddle, fish or bike. The recently repaved Blue Ridge Road offers 17 miles of quiet, scenic, and especially lonely highway.
The route offers an ideal opportunity for road bikers looking for a safe, quiet, biking venue, far removed from the popular and crowded Route 73, just 20 miles to the north.
Newcomb is also home to the 15,000-acre Huntington Forest, a research forest owned by the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Currently operated by SUNY ESF, the Adirondack Interpretive Center offers a variety of interesting programs this summer, including the popular Huntington Lecture Series as well as four new series on fly fishing, working forests, luminaries in the Adirondacks, and films and philosophy.
Additionally, the AIC hosts daily and weekly nature-based programs ranging from interpretive trail walks to special programs.
The Newcomb area is a great area to visit, but please don't spread the word too far, because there has to be someplace for locals to escape the summer's tourist invasion.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org