Our Region: The Great Adirondack Connector
As my family was first generation European immigrants, the only vacation we could afford was to go relative hopping. Our family’s roots were long as well and thus spread out over several countries. My father would also like to explore, and we would end up in places like Spain, Portugal, and Africa.
As a young child, I remember staring at these historic buildings and sites, and you could feel centuries of history in them. It made me think about how young our own country really was.
Back then, I used to think about how the United States was so young in comparison. I realize now America’s history is also quite old, perhaps even older than Europe's.
When we put our History of Adirondack Food program together, it was important for this interactive experience to be about not only our own story but the evolution of cuisine throughout the Park. Yes, the Lodge is now the longest continually operating lodge in the Adirondacks, but the story really begins with the first peoples, the Native Americans.
While we had our ideas of Native American cuisine in the Adirondacks from four generations of family, we thought it essential to reach out directly to places and people such as the Akwesasne Cultural Museum, Six Nations Indian Museum, and others.
Not only did we learn about their cuisine (and similar to the overall history of food: there is so much more to learn - for us that’s the fun part!) but also the importance of food to the land and the symbiotic relationship of it all. Some may call it sustainability; I would prefer the word biodynamic as we got the feeling there was a strong sense that this relationship invoked more significant nature and spiritual thinking. For example, it was interesting to us what food meant as a community.
Their physical pathways often became the routes for others which, in the Adirondacks, included French and British explorers as well as settlers that came to work the mines, lumber mills and the blossoming tourist trade. Among those settlers were Irish, Germans, Russians, Japanese, Hungarians, Italians and more. The winding Forest Home Road on the other side of Lake Clear that takes you to Saranac Lake is reputed to be one example of an original Native American trail.
Our area also brought diverse peoples from antiquity to modern times for another reason: nature’s pathways, in particular, the waterways. You could travel from the south near New York City up the Hudson to Lake Champlain, then by a combination of stagecoach and utilizing the Saranac River it would lead you west to our region via the Saranac chain of lakes or a combination of waters that make up the St. Regis area. You could also come up from NYC via Utica, north to Old Forge and then east through a series of lakes and rivers that became so popular it is now the site of the 90 Miler Canoe race.
How the Adirondacks Became a Connector
Our waterways also connect us via the Raquette River and others to the St. Lawrence River, Canada, the Great Lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean. This rich basin of water, natural wonder and four seasons of fun that you can see framed from our beach became designated as New York State's only wilderness canoe region: the St. Regis Canoe area.
With the illustrious Saranac Inn Resort, the largest hotel ever built in the Adirondacks that was visited by five Presidents.
Between the Native Americans and the natural waterways, it was no wonder that early inhabitants called our area the “Great Connector.” Later, Lake Clear, in particular, became a key transportation hub (adding the name “Junction”) in the geographic center between the St. Regis chain of lakes with its famous Paul Smith’s Hotel, and Upper Saranac Lake, with the illustrious Saranac Inn Resort, the largest hotel ever built in the Adirondacks that was visited by five Presidents. Lake Clear had its history, plus it is a famous sportsmen’s lake. So popular they created a fishing lure: the Lake Clear Wobbler.
The train and road system further connected us to not only Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, and Tupper Lake but also to Canada, Vermont, and New York City.
However, there is another unique and noteworthy connection: the tuberculosis era that created the Cure Cottage days that lasted nearly 100 years from the mid-1800s to the mid-20th century. Lake Clear itself was a Cure Cottage community. And by the way it wasn’t just the air, it was the therapeutic qualities of the balsam and the pine.
Unlike out west, where they often traveled for the promise of gold or land, since ancient times, our area has played host to a wide variety of peoples for various reasons.
This is why our area became one of the oldest communities and travel destinations in the Adirondack Park. Unlike out west, where they often traveled for the promise of gold or land, since ancient times, our area has played host to a wide variety of peoples for various reasons. From the Native Americans, settlers, sportsmen, and tourists to the lumberman, miners, industrialists, preservationists, and those that came for the “Cure.” It led to all walks of life from the notable to the infamous.
The Legacy Continues
Just as the rich flora and fauna created a state park in 1892 with a “forever wild” clause, there is a vibrant human habitat. Here, you can explore the paths of Einstein who was in Lake Clear, to the stories of the 1920’s Prohibition rumrunners, all a part of our diverse history. There is so much here, and you can create your own thematic experience.
The legacy of our area as a "Great Connector" continues to grow, as today you can not only discover our nature but “reconnect” with yours.