In whatever season as you enter the Adirondacks, one might think it takes a particular breed of man or woman to live in that region. It is not a harsh, desolate, or unhabitable place where life could not exist or succeed. On the contrary, all life, be it plant, animal, insect, fowl, and yes human, thrive copiously. From the first few flakes of snow in the air on an Autumn day to the last snow of a punitive winter, emerge the fresh beginnings of life in the form of wildflower, Oak, Birch, Ash, and the many different types of Pine. Newborns of every species of creature come into being most spectacularly. The yawning Black Bear ambles from its den foraging for food, as Beaver, Otter, and Skunk also begin to sniff the cleansed earth and gather its abundance. The sounds of Loon, Warbler, Hermit Thrush, and Mallard fill the air with their oeuvre of music that causes all within earshot to take pause and listen. The rushing waters of melted snow cascade down mountains into the rivers that will carry it away to the many lakes and an ocean over two-hundred miles south.
If you stand high atop any of the Forty-Six Peaks and look out over the valley’s and lakes below, it will take your breath away, and yes, you might be tempted to stay forever. Some have fallen under its spell and never left. One day soon, I, too, hope to join them on a more permanent basis. But the harsh Winters, hot Summers, crisp Autumns, and uncertain Springtime have caused a few to regret their hasty decision. They did not anticipate how deep the snow would be and how long it would last, or the swarms of Black Flies in late Spring and the drenching rains that can come suddenly and fiercely, followed by a scorching sun making it like a steaming rainforest. It will catch a hiker unaware and most miserable at times. But the primitive bucolic beauty of those mountains, lakes, and streams make it all worth it. Few places compare to these mountains.
So, yes, I would say it does take a certain breed of man or woman to live in this region. There is only about one-hundred-thirty-thousand people who live full time within the Blue-line, and another two-hundred-thousand seasonal residents – like me – who travel from the larger cities. Those born here have a certain quality about them. There is a ruggedness to their appearance and personality. They are libertarian by default, self-sufficient, hardworking, and have a strong sense of community. They are honest people where their word is their bond, and their handshake is their signature. They will speak their mind, if only in a few words, and in a dialect that is a cross between southern Appalachian and French Canadian.
The Adirondack’s is a place where much of its once great industries have dwindled and died off, never to be revived. But the people of the North Country have a strong constitution. Tradition, craft, and the ability to adapt have played a significant part in the lives of those who continue here. And why not? It is how their ancestors came into these mountains. It is in their DNA, and as the days of old, a neighbor is still more than just a friend, but like family. Many folks in these mountains possess more than one skill. They must if they want to survive. Why so many more have not packed up and left this place for a more agreeable economy is baffling to an outsider. But stand on top of Mount Marcy and look down; you will instantly know the reason why. There simply is no better place to be.