It has been an interesting summer in the Adirondacks; where the weather has been mostly fair, the fishing's been fine and the tourists and campers have been quite manageable.
Until the downpours of this past weekend, rain had been almost non-existent for most of the month. However, the weekend certainly ushered in a distinctly autumn-like feel to the weather, with cool temperatures, high winds and a scattering of leaves. If this is any indication of what's to come, fall can't be far behind.
While most local hotels have reported a downturn in guests this season, many of the region's campgrounds have experienced a banner year. Across the country, parks and campgrounds have noted a significant increase in visitors. Sales of tents and camping related gear have also shown a noticeable increase.
Along with all of the new campers in town, it has also been of interest to note a number of high profile, political figures that have enjoyed the Great Northwoods, this season.
In the span of less than a month this summer, the region has hosted the current New York governor for a camping trip and whitewater rafting adventure, while the current attorney general and prospective state governor took his children on a fishing and camping trip in the park. To top it off, a former U.S. president spent his time in camp, hiking, paddling and mountain biking.
Last week, while whitewater rafting with the Lake Placid Rafting Company, I ran into Pete Burns, owner of Beaver Brook Outfitters in Wevertown. Pete, and his wife Dana, were busy running the rapids after spending a night in camp with Gov. David Paterson and his family. The crew consisted of four rafts, in addition to a huge supply raft.
Pete explained that the governor, a regular guest, had enjoyed a "nice weekend on the river full of camping, swimming, fishing and jumping off the rocks. They did a lot of fishing for smallmouth bass, fallfish and one guy even caught a really nice brown trout. There were a lot of comments about getting away from it all."
For those seeking a place to get away from it all, there are few places better than the Hudson River Gorge, which is almost inaccessible without a raft. Conveniently, cell phone reception is also non-existent.
In early August, former President George Bush and his wife Laura, spent a long weekend at Camp Topridge on the Upper St. Regis Lake, as guests of the Harlan Crow family. Mr. Bush kept busy hiking, boating and mountain biking in anonymity, until he was eventually spotted by a group of birders while biking along an old railbed near Onchiota.
Back in July, Andrew Cuomo, the current attorney general and potentially the next governor, traveled throughout the Adirondacks, driving an RV. Although he was on a campaign swing, Mr. Cuomo combined the visit with a few days of camping and fishing with his daughters.
I enjoyed an afternoon of fishing with the whole Cuomo crew on the Lower Saranac Lake and I was impressed with Mr. Cuomo's knowledge of the local lake, which he had visited as a youth with his father. It was enlightening to learn that he really wanted the opportunity to share a similar experience with his own children.
It was obvious they were an outdoor family, as the girls were not the least bit squeamish about handling fish or bait. And they were also highly competitive, as a raging battle continued throughout the afternoon for the largest fish of the day.
Regardless of political affiliation, high profile visitors have always proven beneficial to the region's tourism-based economy.
Visits to the park by political figures are nothing new, a point that is well illustrated by the upcoming Teddy Roosevelt Weekend in Newcomb. A century after his visit, TR remains a tourist draw. The event is scheduled for Sept. 9-12. For further information please visit www.newcombny.com/TRWeekend.
When President Calvin Coolidge took over White Pine Camp on Osgood Pond in Paul Smiths, the property became an instant tourist attraction, and remains so to this day.
Whenever such personalities visit, their presence attracts attention, which serves to generate much needed exposure for the area. Their visits lend a certain cach to the allure of the Adirondacks. I'd far prefer news stories touting the attraction of a vacation in the Adirondacks, instead of a story about the Hamptons, the Finger Lakes or Saratoga.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org