Evolution of the Adirondacks High Peaks Wilderness
The Adirondack History Museum of Elizabethtown, August 6, 2022
2022 marks the centennial of three historic events that ignited public interest in exploring the Adirondack wilderness and climbing the “46” high peaks: formation of Adirondack Mountain Club, publication of Robert Marshall’s High Peaks of the Adirondacks, and Grace Hudowalski’s first ascent of Mount Marcy.
The Adirondack History Museum of Elizabethtown, in partnership with ADK and the Adirondack 46ers, will host a Centennial Celebration August 6th. The event is underwritten by a grant from the Trust and will include a screening of The Mountains Will Wait For You, lectures about the lumbering and fires in the early 20th century, early trails and the use of guides, a retrospective of significant developments in the history of ADK, a social hour following the lectures, musical selections by Peggy Lynn and Dan Duggan and a reception recognizing and celebrating ADK’s historic centennial.
To promote public understanding of this unique aspect of Adirondack history, the Grace Hudowalski Charitable Trust is republishing Marshall’s pamphlet, a precursor to ADK trail guides and a significant part of NY State’s cultural heritage, with an introduction guiding readers through significant events that followed the original publication.
|9:30 AM||Museum Doors Open – Coffee and Refreshments|
|10:00 AM||The High Peaks – A Century Ago (Sharp Swan)|
|11:00 AM||Building the Trails and Making Them Known (Tony Goodwin)|
|1:00 PM||Healing and Empowerment in the High Peaks (Bethany Garretson)|
|2:00 PM||The Mountains will Wait for You|
|3:00 PM||ADK at 100 and the future of ADK (Julia Goren)|
|4:00 PM||Social Hour – Appetizers and Refreshments|
|5:00 PM||Musical Selections (Peggy Lynn and Dan Duggan) and Recognition of ADK|
All-day catering will be provided by Green Goddess Natural Market.
Sharp Swan (The High Peaks a Century Ago) is a long time Adirondack resident being affiliated with Pok-O-MacCready Camps, which was founded in 1905 by his great-grandfather. Sharp founded Cloudsplitter Construction in 1989 and spends as much free time as possible hiking in High Peaks. Sharp graduated from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri with a history degree and a passion for the American Civil War. He has spent a substantial amount of time during the past twenty years in the Seward Range looking for the last vestiges of the Santa Clara Lumber Company (1889-1926) and serves on the board of the Adirondack History Museum in Elizabethtown, New York.
Tony Goodwin (Building the Trails and Making Them Known). Born in 1949 and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, Tony spent every summer in Keene Valley. He finished the 46 at age 11, and then worked seasonally at Johns Brook Lodge (1966-1968), and as Adirondack Mountain Club “Ridge Runner” (1974), and chief of the ADK’s first professional trail crew in 1979. Tony graduated from Williams College 1971 with a BA in History and Plattsburgh State College in 1980 with an MA in History. He worked for the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee as Venue Manager at Cross-Country and Biathlon 10/79 – 4/80 and as manager of Mt. Van Hoevenberg Cross-Country and Biathlon Area from 1981 to 1985. Tony served as Executive Director of Adirondack Trail Improvement Society 1986 until retirement in September 2021. Tony is founder and Executive Director of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council (now Bark Eater Trails Alliance – BETA) 1986 to 2014., editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Guide through five editions since 1985: 11th Edition (1985); 12th Edition (1992); 13th Edition (2004), 14th Edition (2021), and 15th Edition (2021) and author of three guides to cross-country skiing: Northern Adirondack Ski Tours (1982), Classic Adirondack Ski Tours (1994), and Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks (2003) with a new edition of the latter due out before next winter.
He served on the Citizens Advisory Committee to the High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan 1990-1992.
Bethany Garretson (Healing and Empowerment in the High Peaks) is an Environmental Studies and Recreation Instructor at Paul Smith’s College and Clarkson University in upstate New York. She’s a passionate mountain athlete and accomplished writer, and has been published by Outside, Alpinist, and Trail Runner Magazine. In 2020, she made history with Katie Rhodes, when they climbed all 46 High Peaks in the Adirondack Mountains unsupported, becoming the first women to do so. She is a Brand Ambassador for SheJumps, a non-profit that advocates for women and girls to get outside and recreate.
Fred Schwoebel, a current resident of Portland, Oregon, was born in Montana where his love of mountains most certainly began at an early age. From Montana he lived a short time in North Dakota and then on to life in Tennessee where he attended and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Mass Communications. Soon to follow was a career in the motion picture industry as an art director. Fred has one independent film to his credit The Mountains Will Wait for You, which he undertook in 1993 and finally premiered in Lake Placid in 2013.
Julia Goren (ADK at 100 and the future of ADK) is Deputy Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club and has previously been ADK’s Education Director and Summit Steward Coordinator. She is a co-author of the Adirondack Council’s VISION 2050 project and was Director of that project. She is president of the board of Northern Lights School in Saranac Lake, a Steering Committee member of the Adirondack Community Recreation Alliance, and a former board member of the Adirondack 46ers and Waterman Alpine Stewardship Fund.
The Centennial event is open to the public free of charge (donations are always welcome). Seating for the lecture series (9:30 AM to 4:00 PM) is limited to 125 persons. We will have seating for an additional 125 attendees for the reception.
Register for the entire day-long event
9:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Resister for the reception only
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Mountain exploration and wilderness adventuring was slow to start in the remote and wild Adirondack high peaks. Shielded by a vast and seemingly impenetrable forest, most of New York State’s highest peaks remained unknown long after the highest summits in New England had been summited and explored. The Emmons’ party reached “the high peak of Essex” (Mount Marcy) in 1837, almost 200 years after the first ascent of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington and 3 decades after Maine’s remote “Great Mountain”—Katahdin was reached. While Colvin’s survey of the 1870’s explored, mapped, and determined the heights of many of the major summits, as late as 1922 only 14 of the major peaks had trails to their summits. The lack of trails combined with the ravages of lumbering and wildfires deterred recreation in the Adirondack wilderness well into the 20th Century.
In December 1921 a group of hiking, mountaineering, recreational, and tourism interests gathered at the Log Cabin headquarters of Abercrombie & Finch in New York City to discuss creating an organization to build a trail system in the Adirondacks following the model of the trail systems developed by the Green and Appalachian Mountain Clubs in the White and Green Mountains. After several meetings the Adirondack Mountain Club (commonly known as ADK) incorporated, launching a member-based organization that grew to nearly 600 charter members by the end of 1922 and with the purpose of building trails, educating the public, and promoting recreational activities in the Adirondack wilderness.
ADK’s educational efforts began almost immediately in August 1922 with publication of Bob Marshall’s The High Peaks of the Adirondacks. The Marshall family, father Louis, an acclaimed Constitutional lawyer and philanthropist, and sons Bob and George, were charter members of ADK. Bob and George, as teenagers and young men, passed their summer months at the family summer home on Lower Saranac Lake and between 1918 and 1921 identified and then climbed 42 mountains over 4000’ in elevation accompanied by Herb Clark, a seasoned woodsman, family friend and caretaker of their summer home. After climbing the 42 peaks, Bob wrote a short vignette describing their adventures, routes, and observations and ADK published the tale to inform the public and promote Adirondack recreation.The three climbed an additional 4 summits determined to meet their criteria between 1922 and 1925 and on June 10, 1925, became the first of what became known as 46ers, persons who have climbed each of the 46 summits exceeding 4000 feet, a group which today has grown to almost 14,000 persons.
As ADK formed and Marshall’s publication came off the presses, a young 16-year-old north girl from Minerva, Grace Leach (Hudowalski), joined a group of seminary students and their friends in a climb to Mount Marcy. A native of the Adirondacks, Grace grew up with the high peaks in view and lived life guided by the admonition her father offered as she set out on her first climb in August 1922: “It doesn’t matter whether you reach the top, what matters is how you make the climb!”
Reaching Marcy’s summit was a life changing experience for Grace and started her climbing and talking about mountains, a passion that defined her life. She went on to climb all 46 of the Adirondack high peaks, the 9th 46er, a term coined by the 46rs of Troy, a group Grace helped form in the 1930’s. She was the first of many women to mark the achievement. Grace turned that experience and her love of her native NY State into a life of public service, promoting New York’s history, folklore, attractions, and natural resources and helping build the State’s tourist economy. She became an advocate for building trails and shelters, opening more wilderness to recreation, preserving the forever wild character of the high peaks, and encouraging reverence for mountain wilderness.
In 1948, Grace helped establish the social and service organization we know today as the Adirondack Forty-Sixers, Inc., whose members share the common experience of climbing the 46 high peaks. Grace served as the organization’s first president and club historian. Drawing upon a tradition established by the 46rs of Troy, Grace encouraged climbers to write about their experiences boldly proclaiming that “any mountain worth climbing is worth writing about!” For more than 50 years, Grace devoted herself to building relationships with and within the growing community of mountain enthusiasts, kept records for each aspiring 46er and a list of those who had achieved that goal. She received and personally answered thousands of personal letter reports offering encouragement, guidance, advice, support, and friendship, a tradition that distinguished the 46ers all other climbing recognition groups in existence today and forming a unique element of the cultural heritage of the Adirondack region.
In 2014 Grace’s contributions to the State and her beloved Adirondacks were permanently memorialized when the US Board of Geographic Names granted the long-standing petition to rename the summit originally called East Dix as “Grace Peak”. Grace is the only native of the Adirondacks, and the second woman, to be recognized in this manner.