On rivers all across the Adirondack from North Creek to Plattsburgh and west to Old Forge, there are outstanding venues for competitive whitewater paddling as well as flatwater racing competitions. Unfortunately, not a single High School in the park sponsors a Varsity Whitewater or a Flatwater Paddling Team. Currently, Olympic Paddlers compete in both Flatwater Sprints as well as Whitewater Slalom contested in Olympic competition.
A few weeks back, I published a story titled The Outdoor Gym. The point of the story was to illustrate the numerous health and fitness benefits available through local outdoor adventures.
In the article, I stated it is important to provide local youth with the understanding and knowledge of the local environment since it is a key component in shaping their character and fostering an independent understanding of natural processes.
The importance of understanding and utilizing the local woods and waters is a vital component of Adirondack culture and heritage.
So too are the health benefits of participation in activities such as paddle sports, skiing, hiking, climbing, hunting and fishing.
When children learn to use and enjoy the land, it has value, and if they value it, they will want to protect it.
I closed the story with a personal opinion, which was based on casual observations rather than extensive research claiming, “If ever there was a generation that needed a complete command and understanding of natural processes; this is the one. They will be the next generation of paddlers, birders, skiers, hunters and hikers. Or not!”
They will also be the first generation of Adirondackers to face and confront the challenges presented by global climate change.
I expect they will have a much more difficult row to hoe than previous generations.
I close with two letters received in response to the article. The first letter comes from a former High School Physical Educator. The other was written by a standout high school athlete.
Dear Mr. Hackett:
I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated and agree with your recent article in the Valley News.
As a former physical educator, I am appalled at how few children appreciate the outdoor activities the Adirondacks offers in abundance.
Yearly, we took a group to climb one of the local peaks, even managing Cascade for a group. Although, fitting it in with all of their academic classes was a big challenge.
They were enchanted to view the summit and to have challenged themselves and attained the summit. And it was always great fun to be in the wonderful outside.
We also tried to include many lifetime activities in our curriculum, such as cross country skiing, cross country running, archery, tennis, swimming, and even downhill skiing.
The opportunities were too few, and the off campus events numbered only once per year, but it gave them a taste and it was especially gratifying to see the excitement in students who found team sports not to their skill level or taste.
I am very sad to see the children spending time in front of the computers and not enjoying the wonders of the out of doors.
As you so clearly stated, being outside is healthy, relaxing, reinvigorating calming and stress reducing.”
I just read you’re article about the Outdoor Gym. I bet you spent all of your time outdoors because you weren’t a jock in High School.
It was different for me. I was a real three sport athlete, playing baseball, basketball and football, when I grew up. And I have a trophy case in my home full of all my awards I earned to prove it.
They really were the best years of my life, no doubt at all! But I earned all of them the hard way.
Besides all those trophys and the Varsity Letters, all the hits and tackles and bruises ever gave back to me is a bum leg, a few less teeth and a bad back.
I played all three sports, and I was a captain in two of them. I never even had to play JV. I was a real four-year hero. But, that was forty-three years ago and most folks don’t remember me anymore.
I’m pretty lame now too from all them hits and I don’t get around too well anymore. Sports were my life, that’s all that mattered to me.
Now all I do is watch them on TV. I haven’t thrown a baseball in years, and you know what? It’s kind of sad because I used to have a really good arm like Johnny Podres.
But I’m sorry I never learnt to fish or hunt, even though I see deer and turkeys on my land now a lot.
I wish they could a taught me how to shoot a bow, or to fish and paddle a boat at my school because maybe I could get out more today. Keep talking and writing about this subject and maybe there are more happy kids, and fewer old guys like me that can’t get around no more.”
Varsity Bass Fishing Teams: Not on The Big Lake
Recently, the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau and the City of Plattsburgh announced Lake Champlain will host a total of six professional bass fishing tournaments this summer.
Once again, The Big Lake has been listed as one of the Top100 bass fishing lakes in the United States by Bassmaster Magazine.
This year, the Pro Bass tournament season will get underway on the Big Lake with the Bassmaster Weekend Series beginning on June 14.
It is expected the Bass Tournaments will attract roughly 2,000 anglers to the Lake Champlain region.
Although there will be thousands of Pro Bass anglers enjoying the bounty of the Big Lake, there’s is not yet a single High School Varsity Bass Fishing Team competing on either side of the lake.
The situation is the equivalent of having one of the country’s most popular professional sports stadiums in your backyard, and yet none of the local schools have a chance to play there.
But it doesn’t stop there. The same situation continues across the Park throughout the year, as an estimated 12 to 15 million visitors travel to the Adirondack region to play on the whitewaters of the mighty Hudson or the Black River. Or to backpack the Northville Placid Trail or mountain bike the old, logging roads or the recently established biking trails.
Many more come to hunt and fish among the nearly 3 million acres of state Forest Preserve lakes and lands. Other paddle sports enthusiasts come from across the country to compete in the annual Adirondack Canoe Classic or to paddle historic canoe routes located throughout the heart of the park.
Thousands more come to ski or snowshoe the groomed trails at ski centers or to challenge the ungroomed backcountry trails.
Fortunately, there are Varsity level Nordic and Alpine Ski Teams at several local schools.
Other visitors flock to the High Peaks to become ‘46ers, or to scale the soaring rock cliffs of the Cascades, Chapel Pond or Poc-O-Moonshine.
And again, I am left to wonder, what percentage of local youth have an opportunity to pursue similar adventures in their own back yard?
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.