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Mentors and outdoor skills

In the backcountry, big game hunters scour the hills for whitetail deer and black bear; while a burgeoning wild turkey population and resident ruffed grouse continue to satisfy even the most savvy bird hunter.

A growing number of festivals currently bring birders of the non-consumptive variety to the park. They capture their winged prey with a pair of binoculars, a spotting scope, long lens or a sharp ear to add to their life list of species. Others come for the wildflowers, majestic forests, waterfalls or the opportunity to photograph magnificent scenery in the magic light of the mountains.

Sadly, despite the multitude of the region's natural attractions, many local residents have never visited them. They simply have never seized the opportunity and some of them never will. Adirondackers are indeed a minority among travelers in the local woods or on the waters.

See it for yourself. Just read the addresses in the log books at the trailheads or the canoe put-ins. Or check out the license plates at local boat launches. Ever wonder what percentage of the 33,000 Adirondack Mountain Club members have a home address with an out of the park zip code? More than 50 percent of Adirondack property owners currently send their property tax payments from a zipcode outside the Blueline.

Children of the Adirondacks have not been purposely deprived of the unique pleasures of the backcountry. Their lack of participation isn't due to some secret APA agenda to lock up the woods. Rather, many local children simply lack the necessary knowledge and skill sets to properly enjoy the land. In some cases, they never took the time to learn the skills necessary for backwoods travel; or just never cared to.

In other cases, it may be because they never had the opportunity. They lacked a mentor, someone to show the way. Typically, this is a role filled by parents, usually the Dad. However, with the national divorce rate now being a little over 50 percent, and more babies delivered to unwed mothers than married women; there is now a shortage of outdoor mentors.

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