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Homesick for The Adirondacks ... even in winter ...


A couple of things conspired in recent days to compel me to start musing once again about my beloved Adirondacks. One, the growing television promotional coverage to try to hype up interest in the upcoming Winter Games, and two, the re-running of a special on the Adirondacks on public television a couple of weeks ago.

Seeing all those places where I rambled around in the late 1970s and 1980s makes me start thinking about a return visit, though I can resist a bit more easily in the dead of winter than I can in warmer months.

But despite my aversion to actually partaking in winter sports that don’t involve the gentle click of billiards balls in smoke-filled taverns, I must tell you that if you’ve never visited the Adirondacks – regardless of the season – you’re missing one of the great American treasures.

And we have a New York State Legislature that was arguably 100 years ahead of the curve in 1885 when it created a “Forever Wild” State Forest Preserve to thank for that. At a time when the giant business tycoons ruled the earth, or at least our little corner of it, New York State saw fit to set aside more than 6 million acres of land for special protection for future generations, creating a unique national park that encompassed – roughly speaking – equal parts of state-owned and privately held land.

It was from the beginning – and remains today – an uneasy alliance of seemingly conflicting interests, but in truth both groups held/hold one prevailing joint interest: the preservation of one of the most beautiful regions in the country for generations to come.

As I did the first time, I got a kick out of watching the PBS special “The Adirondacks,” which included interviews with a number of people that I knew 30 years ago when I was working in the Saranac Lake/Lake Placid area as a bureau reporter for a Plattsburgh newspaper.

Starting with details about the Trudeau Sanitorium and the cure cottages for tuberculosis patients at the turn of the century – think Christy Mathewson – the footage included shots of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Parade and some of the spectacular ice castles that are constructed along the banks of Lake Flower every winter.

That carnival, by the way, is the oldest in the country, dating back to 1897. Famed cartoonist Gary Trudeau, the creator of “Doonesbury" and the great-grandson of Dr. Edward Trudeau, used to create a pin design every year using many of his strip characters, with the pins then mass produced and used as a fund-raiser for the carnival. As you can imagine, the pins were collector items from the start; for all I know, he may still be doing it, though 30-plus years is a long time.

I would have included a photo here of one of the pins but couldn’t easily engineer it. My ex-wife saved all the pins from those days, and that was only fair because she once was an official part of the parade, marching down Main Street in the sub-zero temperatures in a Billy BlueBird costume, the official Mascot of the Empire State Games.

Those games are traditionally held within a couple of weeks of the Winter Carnival, and are sponsored by the New York State Department of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation.

That seems appropriate enough; my old employers are also one of the sponsors of the Adirondacks special on PBS ( As they say, check your local listings.

I probably will blog a bit more about that grand area as I revive what memories I have left of the 1980 Winter Olympics over the coming weeks as the Vancouver version gets underway.