Who will fill the boots of the old-timers?
As noise from vehicles and similar human contraptions continue to intrude on our everyday life, the solitude and silence of wild lands continues to attract travelers to the region.
The opportunity to fully escape evidence of the modern world is no longer achievable in more than 95 percent of the North American landscape, even in some of the most extreme environs.
Star gazers recognize the new reality, as they continue to search for dark skies that are uncluttered by planes, satellites and the accumulated ambient light common to urban population centers. Even the dark skies of the Adirondacks cannot escape the glowing menace of light pollution. Witness the steadily growing glow of the once dark night skies of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and even in tiny Ray Brook, where the lights of two correctional facilities, three state offices and the increasing glow of nearby Lake Placid’s 24-hour-a-day business agencies creates a perpetual glow that hangs over the community.
It’s not just the night lights or the glow that intrudes on the wild quality of the nearby wilderness. Increasingly, noise pollution has become an issue. A recent Acoustical Society of America report indicates transportation noise is audible in many wilderness areas during 30 percent or more of daylight hours. It is even worst during evening hours, when sounds can carry farther.
Fortunately, hikers, paddlers and campers may never again have to listen to the piercing blast of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s blaring train whistle. The train whistle could be heard at a distance of more than 12 miles on a still night, and even farther over water.
Although the wash-boarded back roads of the Adirondacks may not pose much of a threat in terms of noise pollution, the rumble of tractor trailers on the Northway can be heard for miles. In fact, the regular rumble of rumble strips on I-87 near the North Hudson exit continues to intrude on the seemingly impenetrable silence available in the wild lands surrounding Elk Lake.
However, it’s not just the road noise, light pollution or the increasingly crowded trails that pose the greatest threat to the future of our local woods and waters. I am more concerned with the attention, advocacy and actions of the next generation.
I wonder who will fill the boots of the old timers who have passed away. I also worry if newcomers will continue to come, and if so, how will they treat the woods and waters?
It may be due to the fact that I simply don’t travel the same trails, or paddle the same waters the younger paddlers, hikers, backcountry skiers, bikers and anglers do. I will admit, that I tend to avoid popular routes and easy-access areas. However, I also get around a bit more than the average outdoor traveler, on both public and private lands.
Maybe I’m just viewing the scene through jaded eyes, but it appears — through my experience in the field and on the waters — there has been and continues to be fewer and fewer youth enjoying the outdoors.
I can’t point to any scientific studies that verify my observation; it’s just a casual observation. However, it is a glaringly obvious one to me.
Over the course of my time in the woods, I’ve had the good fortune to hike, fish, hunt and paddle with many families. I watched them grow, with many now on the third generation. Although they may no longer want to take a long hike or a long paddle, they have an unbridled enthusiasm for the local woods and waters.
It’s obvious the time they’ve spent in the Adirondacks has had a profound affect on their collective development. Many are now parents themselves, and they have come to recognize the benefits of the outdoor life. They often ask my advice on the best way to introduce their own children to the outdoors.
Wild life on wild lands
The human species evolved over the course of time to be considered the apex predator on the planet. Notice, that I did not claim they are the brightest, happiest or the hardest-working creatures.
The evolutionary process occurred almost exclusively in the outdoors, where humans belong. Exposure to outdoor tasks breeds awareness, creativity and problem-solving skills, which can lead to increased self-esteem, confidence and a better grasp of abstract ideas.
The outdoors presents a wild university that provides humans with an opportunity to discover who they really are.
Nature has a way of presenting things in a concrete manner, helping us to uncover the dynamics of weather, the cycle of life and an understanding of our place in the world.
Clinical studies confirm that sunlight, waves, waterfalls and even trees can elevate our mood, reduce blood pressure, control pain and enhance our ability to heal.
Humans who are able to view natural scenes from their windows actually heal faster and recover faster than patients without a view of nature. It may be the reason I spent my school days staring out the window!
The angling report
Black flies have now drawn their first blood, and brook trout are biting as well.
On the streams and rivers, Hendrickson mayflies are now in the air and the new season appears to be off to a good start.
Lake trout continue to be taken on Lake Placid, Mirror Lake, Upper Saranac, Moose Pond, Hoel Pond and Tupper Lake while trolling and casting lures in fairly shallow waters near the drop-offs and shoals.
While the rivers and streams have been spotty, due to a rather erratic hatch schedule, the brook trout ponds are fishing quite well.
All the usual natural indicators are on target for a breakthrough weekend, with grand blooms of marsh marigolds in the marshes, snapping turtles gathered to breed on the sandy riverbanks and fiddlehead ferns set to unfurl. I’ve already had a few fresh fish fries, and I look forward to enjoying some more.
Get out now!