I've done a fair bit of traveling during my life, and it's always been interesting to note the first impressions of people when I tell them I'm a native New Yorker. Most exclaim, "Oh! I couldn't live like that, not in a big city."
New York is best known for its great city, but there's rarely a mention of its great wilds. However, after I explain the geography and the fact that I actually live closer to Montreal than to New York City, they usually offer a sigh of relief.
Often, the exchange continues with a bit of disbelief as I describe the proportions and wild character of the Adirondack Park.
A young angler looks toward the camera as he awaits a strike on his line.
(Photo — Joe Hackett)
"Really?" they'll usually ask incredulously. "There's actually that much wild land? Really?"
And sometimes, they simply walk away shaking their heads, mumbling, "Just another crazy New Yorker. Too bad! All that smog and crime must've affected his mind."
The reactions aren't really much of a surprise. Even though the Adirondack Park is one of the oldest and largest protected wilderness areas in the nation, it often pales in comparison with those such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and others.
However, in reality it shouldn't. The wild character of the Adirondack region stacks up quite well against nearly any other wilderness region in the lower 48 states. And fortunately, it keeps on getting wilder and wider as additional public lands continue to be added to the Forest Preserve.
It's important for those who claim the state already has enough land to note that wild lands are a precious commodity. They simply aren't making them anymore.
Wild land can only be inherited today, it can't be manufactured or replaced. Fortunately, New York has been stocking away millions of acres of wild land for more than a century, and the natural inheritance is considerable.
Despite the worldwide notoriety of New York's great megatropolis located just a few hundred miles to the south, the Adirondack region remains a closely guarded secret.
However, it wasn't always the case. In fact, the region was first discovered by vacationers during the late 1800s, when they "vacated" the grime and the crime of the cities.
At the time, our nation was undergoing revolutionary changes in the thought, attitudes and habits surrounding the outdoor life, and the various sporting pursuits to be found there. Leading the charge in the change of attitudes were a bevy of writers and artists who traveled through the Adirondack region.
Among the principles leading the way was William H. H. Murray, a preacher turned explorer who often wrote in defense of wilderness travel, explaining "I hold that beyond all other men, clergymen should live as much as possible out of doors. Like plants, they need air, they need sunshine, they need the ministration of the natural. In this way, they become simple, devout. Bold and true."
He continued, "Nature inspires no cowards. Nature begets no pedantry. Nature suggests no bigotry. Neither saint nor sinner can truly worship God while he sleeps under a shingled roof go forth into the open leave the city and go into the wilderness in the open air and there, far from human habitation, make your camp, under the stars gentlemen need to know the value and joy of outdoor life."
The Reverend didn't stop there, explaining, "I think gentlemen, as you recall kindred experiences, that you will agree with me when I declare that loafing is a gift, and one of the best ever bestowed on man. A man doesn't need to be lazy all the while, but off and on as it were, and by spells."
He further noted, "And these spells shouldn't be too far apart! As a rule, Frenchmen are generally crazy, but one of that over-lively race was unmistakably sane when he declared that he 'didn't see why a tired man should wake up unless it was that he might roll over and go to sleep again.'"
Today, more than 150 years later, the words of the old itinerant preacher-turned-woodsman still ring true. Figures show New York ranks as third in the nation in terms of the total numbers of hunters and anglers and sixth in nation as a fishing destination.
Although the Manhattan skyline and its surrounding megatropolis continue to get all of the attention, it appears the rest of New York state remains pretty wild after all the years.
Recently, Governor Cuomo announced NY's Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative, which is a statewide effort that's intended to improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen alike. The effort is also expected to help boost tourism opportunities throughout the state.
The initiative will become effective on Feb. 1, 2014, and it includes measures that are intended to streamline the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, reduce license fees, improve access for fishing at various sites across the state and increase the availability of hunting opportunities in various regions of the state.
Currently, New York ranks among the top states in the country in terms of hunting and angling licenses sold, with an estimated 1.88 million anglers and 823,000 hunters. The same study ranked New York second in the nation in terms of total angler spending on fishing-related items and sixth in non-resident angler spending. This spending generated an estimated $108 million in state and local taxes.
Users must do their part to protect the waters
Anglers and paddlers are reminded to disinfect all fishing and boating gear, including waders, sandals, wading staffs, landing nets and other gear before entering a new body of water.
Since 2007, Didymium, an invasive algae species, has been discovered in the Battenkill and Kayderosseras Creek in DEC Region 5, Esopus Creek and Rondout Creek in Region 3 and the Little Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and East Branch Delaware River in Region 4.
Didymium can attach to waders, particularly felt soles, and this is believed to be the primary mechanism for its spread from its initial discovery location. Wading anglers are encouraged to use readily available alternatives to felt-soled waders and wading boots.
All gear should be dried and/or disinfected before it is used in a new body of water. Fishing nets, wading staffs and even fly reels that holds water on the spooled line can serve as a vector to transport didymium.
Invasives, such as spiny water fleas, Eurasian milfoil and zebra mussels can also be transported via canoes, kayaks and larger boats.
Methods to clean and disinfect fishing gear can be found at the DEC website.