Let’s start with the fact that my father fell in love with the Adirondacks when he spent a year doing an internship at the Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville circa 1939-40. Having been born in Vienna where he skied and hiked in the Alps, he was pulled to America’s oldest mountain range. After he did his residency in downstate New York and married his Viennese sweetheart, he came back to Fulton County to the village of Northville to take over the practice of a doctor who was serving in the military––post Pearl Harbor. When the doctor’s tour of duty was up, my parents moved into Gloversville where my father began his own practice. Despite offers to move elsewhere, my father stayed in Gloversville the rest of his life. Expressions of his love for the region are found in the boxes of 35 mm slides he left filled with four-season photos of the Fulton and Hamilton counties.
I was introduced to the Southern Adirondacks at a young age. My parents took us to public beaches in the summer and as soon as we could stand on ice skates and skis, they had us outdoors in the winter. Oak Mountain in Hamilton County was ideal for families with children of various ages as it sported a rope tow for beginners and a T-Bar to the top of the mountain.
One of the lakes I remember enjoying as a child was Pine Lake. They had a big sandy beach, a merry-go-round and you could get an ice cream cone from the local store. Pine Lake is on Route 10, a highway that extends 150 plus miles from just north of the Pennsylvania border to Route 8 in Hamilton County. For years about 6 miles from the end of the highway stood an unusual restaurant called Avery’s. Situated on the western side of the road in a small hill-side clearing, Avery’s was old-fashioned in its menu as well as its ambience.
In addition to its wonderful home-style food and the stuffed animals through the dinning hall, Avery’s was famous for its view. It overlooked a broad meadow bisected by the West Branch of the Sacandaga River. Although Avery’s is gone, from my summer home in Hamilton County I’ve traveled many a time down Rte 10 to play golf at the Nick Stoner Golf Course, to pick berries at the Timberlane Blueberry Farm, or to visit friends who own camps on Caroga Lake. Each time I go by the spot where Avery’s used to be, I want to stop and just stand by the road and look out over that expanse.
With the mountains in the background without a hint of human civilization in sight, that view must look exactly like it did 100 or 200 years ago. Although I named that spot Desolation Ridge in my book, it’s really not desolate unless you happen to be there by yourself…in the middle of the night…unable to move…waiting for death to come.
That my friends, is the nature of the Adirondacks. It is once a place where the whole family can come to play and yet it is also a place where one comes face to face with the natural world, where all pretenses of civilization are ripped away from us, where the winds and rain can blow over your tent, where winters are long and unforgiving and where your cell-phone has zero bars.
For the central character of Last Stop at Desolation Ridge, the Adirondacks is where he has to face who is and who he wants to be. You may want to wrap yourself up in a warm blanket before you open the front cover!