I saw the headline from a distance, and I rushed to grab a copy of the newspaper. The front page story featured a photograph of the old Firetower on Hurricane Mountain, which had been slated for removal along with the tower on St. Regis Mountain.
Cautiously, I read the story, “In a rare move, the state Adirondack Park Agency’s Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to classify land beneath fire towers on St. Regis and Hurricane mountains as historic, which would let the structures remain and be restored.”
APA approval had been confirmed, and according to the story; both of the mountaintop towers were to remain as “Historic Resources in company with other historic sites in the park including Camp Santanoni in Newcomb, the ruins of Fort St.Fredric near Crown Point, and John Brown Farm in North Elba.”
The fire towers had previously been slated for eventual removal since Hurricane Mountain is classified as a primitive area and St. Regis Mountain is located in the St. Regis Canoe Area.
The DEC may use the towers for administrative purposes, in order to attach repeaters to the towers, to aid radio communications in remote areas.
Although I have connections with both sites, the Hurricane tower is truly a symbol of home. In Elizabethtown, the tower is omnipresent, and it remains as familiar to most folks as their own back door. I could see it while walking to school, or from the gas station where I worked, or the golf course where I played.
Over the years, I spent a lot of time on the summit of that peak in the company of family, friends and guests. As a teenager, it was always a familiar haunt, with a comfortable leanto at it’s base, and access available via two easy trails.
Both the leanto, and the old Firetower Observers Cabin have since been removed, but my memories of the place remain intact. As a teenager, I spent the summer working on a trail crew with the old Conservation Department. The job included clearing brush, moving stones, building bridges and restoring the phone line on the backside of Hurricane.
The leanto was my home away from home for the summer, and although it was only a fifteen minute motorcycle ride from town; it provided true freedom.
Our trail boss also served as the Firetower Observer, which left us pretty well to our own devices. Although we were rarely supervised, we managed to get the job done, and we had a lot of fun in the process.
The trail up the backside is currently in much rougher shape than I ever recall, and the route is now a bit longer, since motor vehicles can no longer drive to the site of the old Observer’s Cabin.
Fortunately, the view from the mountain’s summit hasn’t changed much. There are obviously a few more beaver dams in the foreground and usually far more hikers on top, but the sun still rises over Lake Champlain to the east and it sets beyond the Great Range of the High Peaks to the west.
My memories of the place are the same, and whenever I’m atop the peak the only thing I forget is my age. Climbing a mountain has that affect. The climb up serves to reminds us of the aging process; but the view from the summit always brings out our youth
Thanks to the efforts and dedication of the late Gretna Longware of Elizabethtown, and the many other Friends of Hurricane, the familiar, old gray steel firetower still stands, as do so many fond memories of the place.
On March 12, the state Adirondack Park Agency will hold a public hearing at their headquarters in Ray Brook to determine how to preserve the two mountaintop fire towers.
In October the state Department of Environmental Conservation released a draft unit management plan which outlined the agency’s proposal to restore and allow for full public access to the Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area in the town of Keene and the St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area in the town of Santa Clara.
Both of the towers have been closed to the public since they were discontinued for use as fire observation stations. The Hurricane Mountain tower was closed in 1979 and the St. Regis Mountain tower in 1990.
The APA is set to hold a hearing at 6 p.m. on March 12 to determine whether DEC’s draft UMP is in compliance with the State Land Master Plan.
Public comment on the topic will be open until March 26. The public comments will be presented to the APA board for a final decision at their April or May meeting.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.