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75 Years and Climbing!

By Anne Bailey | Photos Supplied

The Algonquin Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club celebrates its 75th birthday this year. Founded in 1948, the original Secretary-Treasurer Emily Ladue reported, “It was the enthusiasm and the persistence of Wayne Byrne and Bill Ladue, with advice from Mr. Borden Mills (of Albany) that rounded up 34 interested persons to organize the chapter, chartered officially by the ADK on March 6. The name Algonquin was chosen for several reasons: It brings to mind the Indian tribe who inhabited this territory three hundred years ago; to certain members it signifies the favorite mountain, and it typifies our interests rather than localizes our homes. Small groups have been skiing this winter of 1948 from Placid to Stowe, Tremblant to Pico, and four diehards climbed Marcy.”

From the adventuresome beginnings of our small chapter, Algonquin now numbers nearly 300 members, but, to my knowledge, none of them climbed Marcy this winter. The mission of the chapter has expanded far beyond map making and maintaining trails. We are involved in the conservation of natural resources, all season outdoor recreation, and the education of members and the public through programs and workshops. The chapter is one of 27 state-wide, operating under the auspices of the main club, adhering to its goals and fiscal practices. The Algonquin Chapter also networks with the Town of Plattsburgh Parks and Recreation program, the CATS trail offerings, the activities at the New Land Trust, the Adirondack 46’ers organization, and others.

We meet once a month in the Old County Courthouse Building in downtown Plattsburgh from October through May. The public is welcome to attend our programs on a wide variety of topics and to join us for fellowship and refreshments afterwards. Last October “time traveler” Sharpie Swann took us to see the Adirondacks 100 years ago. His photos detailed the era of extensive logging and clear cutting of old growth forests. Comparing the devastation to today’s forested land gave us a better understanding of the movement to preserve the wilderness which was the stimulus for the founding of the ADK in the 1920’s. Bill McKibbon, climate activist and author, recently upheld the Adirondack Park as a beacon of hope in the time of climate crisis. Given a chance, the wild lands will regenerate, as we see how the forests and clean fresh waters, indigenous plants and animals, have restored themselves here in the past century.

In January we were introduced to the beautiful historic home of Adam Kessel at Port Douglas, where pioneers of the early American film industry met and worked. Charlie Chaplin was there! Later in the winter, Maddie Webb, an outreach educator of the ADK, gave an illustrated lecture about owls. She taught us how to identify local species, if we are lucky enough to spy one in the wild. Members Ray and Lola Johnson took us on a canoeing adventure along the wild Mt. River in the Northwest territories, and the intrepid father-daughter team Justin Schultz and Kaylee Corcoran shared photos and stories of conquering the 46 High Peaks, including three bear encounters. (As an aside, this author has been hiking in the High Peaks for over 70 years, and only encountered a bear once. He was blueberrying, and he wasn’t bothered a bit by me.)

All are welcome to join us for more interesting programs in the coming fall. Chapter picnics at Point au Roche in June and September frame the summer season.

This anniversary year we have a wide array of rich and varied outdoor activities, with outings listed in the Press Republican, on our Facebook page and on the ADK web site. Come along. The public is welcome to sign up for an outing with an experienced leader. We hike, we paddle, we bike, we ski, we snowshoe, and sometimes we just take a little walk around town.

Recreation is a great way for newcomers to learn about the unique natural environment of the Champlain Basin and the Adirondack Mountains. Among our members are experts in ornithology, geology, botany, wildflowers, animal tracking, and natural history. Any one of our outings may include a brief outdoor education lesson: No tests.

Algonquin Chapter members have been involved in many service projects in the community, volunteering generously of their skills and time. Those who enjoy the trails and activities at Point au Roche can thank the efforts of Wayne Byrne, Jim Dawson, Bob and Helen Booth, and Irene Cottrell, who worked tirelessly to assure the public ownership of the land in 1978, as this 856-acre preserve could have been sold for residential development. For two generations local families and their friends have been able to explore Point au Roche instead of encountering “Private, No Trespassing” signs. Members helped to found Friends of Point au Roche to establish a Nature Center, expand the naturalist programs, and to maintain and clear the trails. Members also serve on the Boards of other local environmental organizations such as the New Land Trust and the Friends of Poko.

While many people adopt children and pets, our members adopt lean-tos. These three-sided wilderness shelters offer refuge for campers throughout the Adirondacks. Adopting a lean-to entails checking the structure, and the latrine, for damage and needed repairs before the active hiking season.

For the past few years, members Nancy Olsen and Marilyn Smith have worked with fourth graders in Plattsburgh’s Monty Street and Oak Street schools in the “Three Seasons at the Loj” program, funded by the chapter. The students and their teachers work together in the classroom, write journals and enjoy field visits at the Loj property. Everyone enjoys seasonal activities like hiking and snowshoeing, as they learn about “Leave No Trace” principles, outdoor preparedness, and natural history. Many young lives have been transformed and enriched by these experiences.

For specific lectures on environmental topics, the ADK offers daily nature walks, evening campfire talks, naturalist-led interpretive programs and more. These events take place at the Cascade Welcome Center on Route 73, and the Adirondack Loj near Lake Placid. Skills workshops, guided trips into the High Peaks, and youth and teen programs are also part of the offerings of the main club. The Loj is on Heart Lake, and campers can reserve beautiful lean-to sites, which become base camps for exploring endless miles of trails.

If a person or family wishes to join the Algonquin chapter, the information is on the Web. Member benefits are: All club outings, a magazine, discounts at the store and lodges, free X-C skiing on the groomed trails of the Cascade Welcome Center and at the Loj, not to mention new friendships with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts. Our activities and events are publicized in a quarterly newsletter Mountain Topics, as well as in the local media. Further information is available on a Facebook page “Adirondack Mountain Club, Plattsburgh” and on the Web at

Adirondack Mountain Club Cascade Welcome Center 4833 Cascade Rd. Lake Placid, NY 12946

ADK LOJ, High Peaks Info Center 1002 Adirondack Loj Rd. Lake Placid, NY 12946 (518) 523-3441

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