Residents of Keene and Keene Valley later described that terrifying night—the constant sound of pouring rain did little to muffle the noise of boulders, breaking trees and earth as it crashed thousands of feet into the valleys below, damming up waterways and exposing acres of bedrock in its wake.
From the top of Big Slide mountain there is a panorama containing a few of the new slide tracks along the Upper Great Range. They are easy to spot because they are bright white instead of the dark gray of their older neighbors.
Other mountains also bear scars from Irene. Leaving the Adirondack Loj, there is a slide just before Avalanche Pass whose base is easily approachable, and the cascade waterfall on Cascade Mountain, which was previously hidden by vegetation, can now be clearly seen from Rt. 73, just south of Lake Placid, as a result of a landslide on that mountain.
The landscape’s new look has given a that-wasn’t-there-before edge to some of this year’s hikes, but it has also provided a reality check. The fall foliage, that gentle and predictable seasonal change, provides the starkest contrast against the evidence of an event whose force stripped the landscape of an overwhelming volume of vegetation and boulders and soil without warning last year.
There is something here to be said about respect and humility, and perhaps a question as to why anyone would want to live in such a place. The truth is, it’s hard to turn your back on something you love. Sometimes change can be devastating, but, as autumn reminds us, it can also be good.
Shaun Kittle is a reporter at Denton Publications and an avid outdoor enthusiast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.