This blog is supposed to be about NYC – and I swear I’ll get back to it someday! But I don’t know, this summer I’ve been feeling the tangents. Last year (or was it already two?) I was really digging the whole city summer heat thing, that kind of slippery concrete fever dream. This year? Not so much. I mean I’m still living the whole city summer heat thing – and I tend to always like what I’m living (cause, you know, what are the alternatives?) but when it comes to the spots I’ve seen that pull on the imagination, they’ve been more of the not-NYC variety: be they suburban Jersey, suburban Westchester, or (best of all) the ole Adirondack Mountains.
I had a fantastic drive through them the other week: shirt off, windows down and the most unbelievable pine and sap laced air I’ve smelled in a long time. Forget the internet; I mean if I lived here I wouldn’t even read the newspaper. Just sniff the air son, just sniff the air. It’s a long way down the Hudson to the city.
Cause of course the Adirondacks are where the Hudson River starts: right around the town of Newcomb on Route 28N, where you can drive across it in about 3 seconds flat (quite a different experience than driving across the Tappan Zee). Though when I say “right around” I mean more like 7 miles down an empty mountain road skirting the highest peak in New York State past not one but two abandoned ghost towns to a cul de sac that gets you sort of near Henderson Lake.
Henderson Lake is where the mighty Hudson officially begins and suffice to say there’s not much going on up there. It seems like a fitting start for a river that officially ends alongside one of the busiest places on Earth. Though I guess the Henderson Lake locale used to be at least a little busier; it takes its name from David Henderson, one of the founders of the Adirondack Iron Works, all the way back in 1826. The Adirondack Iron Works mined iron ore just south of Henderson Lake for a good 30 year period (1827-1857) before finally accepting the fact that they were operating in the middle of a pretty wild wilderness very far away from easy transportation or markets. At the peak of its operations the company employed about 400 men who lived in the (now ghost town) of Adriondac – which even had its own bank for awhile (now owned by Bank of America*). A giant blast furnace still stands as the most durable of Adirondac’s remnants.
Though it turned out the mining wasn’t over yet – it’s just that there was a long break in between. After the Adirondack Iron Works company closed down the whole area was eventually leased to the private Adirondack Club (then changed to the Tahawus Club) for their exclusive fishing and hunting use. With the coming of World War II though (and specifically the need for titanium dioxide) the federal government felt a need for the mine to reopen. A railroad was built into the area (solving that whole transportation problem) and National Lead Industries moved in and got to work, creating the company town of Tahawus in the process (and also apparently using some of the old buildings of Adirondac). National Lead would run the mine here all the way until 1989, when it again closed down – creating the second of the two ghost towns that still linger today.
The region’s biggest claim to fame though (I mean besides the Hudson River I guess) may be the fact that it was basically the spot where Teddy Roosevelt became the 26th President of the U.S., upon President McKinley’s death. Vice President Roosevelt was on vacation with his family in Vermont when McKinley was shot by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz in Buffalo on Sept. 6, 1901. Roosevelt made his way to Buffalo at once but after McKinley appeared to be recovering well – something all of his doctors agreed on – Roosevelt decided to continue his trip in the Adirondacks, staying around Mount Marcy so he could climb the summit: the highest in the state. He was returning from that climb on Sept. 13 when a park ranger brought him word – via telegraph – that McKinley had taken a turn for the worse. Roosevelt took an all-night carriage ride to the train station at North Creek (still in the Adirondack Mountains) and when he arrived at 5:22 am received word that McKinley had died; Roosevelt was now President. Today the Roosevelt-Marcy Trail along Route 28N commemorates the path of that late-night carriage ride. Along the way you’ll pass a plaque that more or less marks the spot where Roosevelt actually became President – aka, the spot where he was when McKinley actually died. The plaque is in pretty rough shape, like most of the other remnants of the past up there; the air smells great though.
* Not actually owned by Bank of America