Recently, while crossing a log that spans a brook in my back yard, I experienced an epiphany of sorts. Balanced on that birch, I realized that while sharing adventures in natural settings, there will always be opportunities for building bridges.
These spans may be as insignificant as a simple link between the opposite sides of a small mounain stream, or as powerful as the forest-forged connections between family members and small mountains, open fields and old friends.
This connection, which serves as a reattachement to our own nature, is a key component of outdoor travel, adventure and discovery. It also serves as one of the most important links to connect the various North Country communities with an unrivaled commonality.
As I crossed over the brook, I was not just getting to the other side; I was recapturing a unique sense of adventure and discovery that has happily haunted me since my youngest days. It was an experience that provided me with a sense of place; where I knew I belonged.
This same sense of belonging was readily apparent last week at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, when I visited to attend the second annual Adirondack Day.
It is an event that was developed to allow students from local school districts an opportunity to showcase and share their accomplishments in achieving academic 'challenges' designed by the Adirondack Curriculum Project, (ACP).
The ACP was formed in 2003 by a group of individual educators, schools, businesses and organizations, with the purpose of fostering increased public understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of the Adirondack region's natural and cultural resources.
The organization hosts a Web site which offers a long list of projects or 'Challenges' that permit schools to incorporate aspects of the region's history into the educational process, at www.adkcurriculumproject.org,
In 2005, the NYS Conservation Council selected the ACP for their annual "Conservation Education Organization" Award for their continuing efforts to bring the Northern Forest into the classroom.
Last week, students and teachers hailing from Tupper Lake, Newcomb, Indian Lake and Potsdam school districts traveled to Tupper Lake to present their Adirondack Challenge projects. Their efforts included original poetry inspired by Adirondack art, a presentation about Adirondack animals, a reader's theatre presentation, a display about Adirondack habitats, artwork created out of leaves, and a combined musical effort that included the voices of all the students.
Not only did these efforts meet or exceed New York State Board of Education Standards, the students discovered the unique commonality they all share in the culture of the Adirondacks. In a similar manner, they all crossed an Adirondack creek on the same log bridge.
Funded by the Pearsall Foundation, the event was more than just a fun-filled day of learning, it provided an opportunity for the students to broaden their horizons. It also allowed them to discover the common thread that is woven into a tapestry of local culture that they all share.
Seniors from Newcomb joined second graders from Tupper Lake as part of a North Country culture that has endured for centuries before them, and if their combined energy and enthusiasm is any indication; it is a culture that will exist well beyond their time.
Although I consider myself a conservationist, I am also a preservationist, but not in the common sense of the word. I believe in preserving our way of life, the heritage of outdoor sporting pursuits and the numerous North County traditions that make our region unique.
These traditions, which include a love of the outdoors, respect for nature and an overwhelming sense of belonging, are also regularly amplified by the seasons.
We suffer the similar sting of winter and bleed equal pints of blood during blackfly season. We travel the same rutted roads in mud season and enjoy the same sweet summer waters.
But it isn't just hardships that serve to bring us together, rather it is the many simple pleasures of life in the North Woods, where we know and appreciate our neighbors and the surrounding woods and waters with equal enthusiasm.
These are just of few of the common threads that I discovered as students from Potsdam joined with those from Indian Lake, Newcomb and Tupper to sing about the Adirondacks.
Their voices formed a bridge that continues to span the generations. It offered a combined note that served to connect the many special places that each of them calls home. Regardless of where travels will take them, eventually this will always be their home.
In their young faces, I saw the future of the park and as much as I enjoyed the performance, it was also sad that there weren't more adults around to hear their song. We could all use a little refresher course.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org