Would’ja look at that. I never thought I’d see it, but the New York Times finally directed her millions of readers to cast their gaze—and yen for travel—north of the City and into the Adirondacks.
The Park is now one of the paper’s recommended 46 places to visit in 2013, which might mean it will empty out again in ’14, but still.
As I read this, I’m watching morning light touch the far side of a frozen Adirondack pond. My wife and I are staying at a great camp, not too far from the Adirondack wilderness where we met. We’re in a simple cabin Thoreau would love, maybe even recognize. Looking outside, I’m seeing the kind of landscape he called “the boundary of Elysium.”
Out front, I can see a few rustic buildings and the family car. But out the back door, there is only life: evergreens and sumac, mostly, then the pond and thick stands of dark pine. Nothing man-made. This cabin is a portal to wilderness.
We could put on our skis, go across the pond into the woods and commune with Thoreau’s muse. But the temperature is above 40 and the snow is mush. The thin-ness of pond ice is now an existential issue, giving us a great excuse to do nothing.
But first, there’s a sturdy stack of wood on one side of a big stone fireplace and a basket full of newspapers on the other. Yes, like bookends. The matches are on the mantel and I have a “Y” chromosome. So fire it is.
At home, we have a wood stove and fire-starting biscuits made of sawdust and wax, no newspapers needed. But here, it’s old school. So I grab a travel section—on skiing, ironically enough—and start separating the pages.
The drip-drip-drip of this January thaw turns into the click and whirr of my mental movie projector. In an instant, there’s my oldest brother—in his early teens—sitting in front of the fireplace in our childhood home. He’s poring over month-old editions of the morning Journal Herald or the evening Daily News. This scene was the precursor to many of the fires of my earliest memories. Before rolling up each page, he had to re-read it. Both sides.
And so the trip here has become far more than an hour-long drive and a two-night “getaway.” I’ve returned to my childhood and I’m seeing—nearly 40 years later—my brother’s interest in the written word. I’m also seeing, for the first time, that his example made it OK for me to have the same interest.
Which is why I am now reading each page of this travel section (yep, both sides) before rolling it up and tossing it into the fireplace. My reverie has me grinning ear to ear.
The Adirondacks do this—offering space and quiet that spark the better parts of our brains—as well as any place on earth. In many ways much better. I can hear a sniff of protest from a few of the more remote destinations in Alaska and northern Canada. And to that I can only say, “Pffft.”
Let me tell you what I didn’t do after my wife reserved this cabin:
I didn’t search for—and fail to find—the lowest price on a plane ticket. I didn’t have to make my way to the airport, take off my shoes, hold my hands high above my ears and get irradiated as I stuck out my butt (the mooning pose isn’t required, just political speech). And I didn’t have to endure the airlines’ ongoing efforts to combine the crowd-control strategies of slaughterhouses with the comforts wrought by fish packers.
The way we travel matters. A lot. Airlines try to get it right. And that’s great and laudable. But whoever gets the blame—the carrier, air traffic control, TSA or the great big deity in the sky—the potential to profoundly muck up air travel is just about limitless.
Delays, missed connections, cancellations and all the other conditions afflicting commercial air service wreak hell on a traveler, body and soul. Thusly mucked, would my trip to Yellow Knife or Barrow be as sweet or epiphanal as my stay in the Adirondacks?
Who knows? The point is—as flying completes its transition into the most universally loathed form of transit (watch out local bus routes!)—seekers, yearners and the overly luggaged will be looking to visit places that don’t require enduring the jailhouse intimacies now plaguing commercial flight.
More importantly, the traveling class wants to step into a different world—or at least off the hamster wheel of workaday life. They want a portal, like this cabin—like the Adirondacks. For those in Syracuse, Philadelphia, PA, New York City, Boston and the thousands of towns in between, the New York Times just named a place that has all these attributes.
Millions of travelers now have another reason to look north and wonder about the Adirondacks—and what they’ll find here.
Whatever it is, I hope it’s every bit as sweet as what I’ve found.