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Looking back, into the future

Notes from the North Woods

A huge, lone pine, which has managed to maintain a presence atop a rocky outcrop, in the middle of Cranberry Lake, despite the rigors of waves, weather and winter, offers a suitable symbol of the hardiness and stubborn nature of Adirondackers.

A huge, lone pine, which has managed to maintain a presence atop a rocky outcrop, in the middle of Cranberry Lake, despite the rigors of waves, weather and winter, offers a suitable symbol of the hardiness and stubborn nature of Adirondackers. Photo by Joe Hackett.

From an historical prospective, the vast forested lands of the Adirondacks have been in conflict from before the time of recorded time.

The region has been involved in a perpetual mix of natural and political struggles. Minor earthquakes continue to rattle the region, as the earth’s crust rebounds from the weight of glaciers that retreated, thousands of years ago.

Similarly, there continues to be a great political weight placed upon a region, which was once considered a contested land among Native Peoples, with the Algonquin to the North, the Mohawk to the south and the Abanaki to the east.

The territory was once highly valued as a ‘great beaver hunting ground’, until the near depletion of the long toothed, flat tailed, natural resource for which it was named.

Beaver pelts were the original commodity of the New World, as Europeans explorers established trade with the Native People. However, as beaver were eventually trapped to near extinction, the value of the land returned to Couchsaraga, or the ‘dismal wilderness’ it once had been.

Accordingly, beaver were reintroduced into the Adirondacks in the early 1900’s, and in less than a quarter of a century; a trapping season was restored.

This natural rebounding process provides a most appropriate analogy to describe the land, and its inhabitants to this day. Life in these parts continues to mirror an unending cycle of natural rebounds, as civilized societies of man, and the uncivilized societies of nature continue to struggle through cycles of boom and bust.

The wild character of the land has been at the center of the struggle from the very beginning, and it remains so to this day.

Although much of the region was divided into land patents and grants following the various wars, the land remained sparsely settled as settlers largely bypassed it while traveling west on the Erie Canal.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net

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