Lost hikers, Teddy Roosevelt and more

A loon on Henderson Lake with Wallface Mountain in the background.
(Provided photo — Joe Hackett)

A loon on Henderson Lake with Wallface Mountain in the background. (Provided photo — Joe Hackett)

Last week’s column focused on the search and eventual rescue of a soldier from Fort Drum who had become lost on St. Regis Mountain while hiking. The missing soldier, a member of the famed 10th Mountain Division, was eventually located on the second day of search efforts. He had managed to build a shelter to ward off the rain, and was located safe and sound on the following day.

A week later, NYSDEC Rangers and a team from the Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks (SARNAK),were back in the woods again, searching for an overdue hiker who was last seen near Wallface Mountain in the High Peaks Wilderness. The most recent search is one of long list of searches that have been conducted this season. 

Reportedly, Alex Stevens, a 28-year-old, 5 foot 11 inch, 220 pound, white male with blue eyes and brown hair from Hopewell, N.J. was last seen wearing sandals, shorts, and a dark blue t-shirt. 

The route through Indian Pass, which is located at the base of Wallface Mountain, is not well suited to hikers wearing flip-flops. Stevens had signed in at a trail register located near the Upper Works Trailhead near the former village of Tahawus. He has not been seen since.

The recent search and rescue operation is just the latest in a steady stream of operations that have blossomed across the region this year. There has been a steady stream of hikers and paddlers invading the Adirondacks, and the trails have been packed and the parking lots continue to overflow on weekends and holidays.  

Traffic on the trails this season has best been described as a steady stream of humanity, with a view that offers little more than butts, boots, elbows and backsides. Unless you’re the lead dog, you’ll be chasing butts all day long.   

At popular rest stops along the way, the nearby woods have sprouted fields of toilet paper tulips. Although the DEC continues to do the very best it can with the hand it’s been dealt, it has become painfully evident the Adirondacks have been over sold and over marketed, to the detriment of both visitors and locals alike.

In the course of a 40-plus-years professional career, I’ve never encountered such a situation. Overall there has simply been too much marketing, overselling and not enough control. The danger of overselling the region is evident, and the backlash is always worse than the deed. Human nature, being what it is, can be very cruel. It tends to highlight the negative features and relegate highlights to an after thought. 

The tremendous growth of Ultra-Sports tourism continues to impact the vacation

experience in all quarters of the Tri-Lakes region. Even such traditional pursuits of as hiking,swimming, fishing and biking have been incorporated into a competitive concept. Anglers no longer fish for their meals; they compete in events that allow them to use only Two Flies in a timed event that’s determined by the combined total length of the fish they land. 

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t believe angling was ever supposed to be a competitive event, unless the competition is strictly between the angler and his quarry. It is a pursuit that has been held up as the epitome of relaxation. To turn it into a competition flies in the face of the very reason we fish. We don’t fish to win. We don’t really fish to capture anything; we fish to lose it. When we stalk trout, with a rod in hand, all of the concerns and problems that life happens to throw our way, simply disappear. Angling is, after all, a consumptive sport, but when properly pursued, the purist competition will always be between the angler and a fish. 

Roosevelt returns to Tahawus 

In 1901, Teddy Roosevelt left the sleepy mountain community of Tahawus, in the capable hands of Adirondack guide, Mike Cronin; who had accepted the responsiblity of transporting Roosevelt over the rutted roads and through the dark woods. Fortunately, Cronin was up to the task, and he promptly spirited the vice resident off to the train station in North Creek in time to catch a train to Buffalo, where the mortally wounded President William McKinley had been shot by an anarchist. With the assassination, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who was only 43, was in line to be the 26th and youngest president in the nation’s history (1901-1909).

By that time, Roosevelt had already spent a fair bit of time in the region. He often stayed with relatives, the H. D. Minots, who maintained a camp on the Middle St. Regis Lake. He penned his first book about wildlife there titled, Birds of Franklin County: Birds Of The Adirondacks, The Summer Birds of the Adirondacks of the Adirondacks in Franklin County, by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. and H.D Minot.

This weekend, Roosevelt returns to Tahawus to celebrate the community’s annual Teddy Roosevelt Celebration. Events will be hosted all over with will be nature walks, demonstrations, sea plane rides, a fishing derby, dinners, fireworks, activities for kids and families and more. The event provides a glimpse of what life was like in small town America, before the electronic age.

“All life in the wilderness is so pleasant that the temptation is to consider each particular variety, while one is enjoying it, as better than any other. A canoe trip through the great forests, a trip with a pack-train among the mountains, a trip on snowshoes through the silent, mysterious fairy-land of the woods in winter–each has its own peculiar charm.” Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Rider, rancher, naturalist, U.S. President and Adirondack adventurer.

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