Join the 102 club
The Adirondacks are a mishmash of municipal and county jurisdictions. Take Saranac Lake: it’s a village that straddles two counties and three towns, none of which is named Saranac Lake.
Just to make things more complicated, a town in the Adirondack Park is what’s often called a township in parts of America that appreciate some sense of order. But if we are near Saranac Lake and announce we are going into town, we mean the village of Saranac Lake, not the town of St. Armand, which we may already be in and is one of the three towns that the village dribbles into.
You get the picture.
So add these towns and villages up, and you get 102 that are wholly or partially inside the Blue Line, from the cornfields of Ellenburg (a town with three villages with “Ellenburg” in their names) sloping into the St. Lawrence Valley in the far north to North Elba (which contains Lake Placid and a chunk of Saranac Lake) to exurban Queensbury.
It’s safe to say not many people have set foot in all of these municipalities, but Martin Podskoch has, and he would like it if you would, too. Podskoch, a retired Connecticut schoolteacher turned researcher/writer, has started the only partially tongue-in-cheek Adirondack 102 Club.
In all seriousness, the club, Podskoch explains, is “meant to encourage travelers to visit all of the towns and villages” in the Adirondacks. How better to do that than put out a book? In early 2014, Podskoch contacted community leaders in each Adirondack town and village, soliciting short write-ups. By June, he had 108 responses of varying quality (why six more than there are towns and villages is unexplained). These populate your ticket to membership, Adirondack 102 Club: Your Passport & Guide to the North Country.
We can take issue with “North Country” in the subtitle, for in my neck of the woods that label applies primarily to the lands between the Park and the Canadian border (and may or may not embrace some of the Adirondacks, depending on whom you talk to). But “passport” and “guide” are the key words. For these describe what this book is.
In a nutshell, what we have here is an anthology in the extreme, with 108 authors and Podskoch as compiler, editor, and general quarterback. Each town and village gets its spread, with a history sketch and sections on recreation, points of interest, or activities, as appropriate. We learn, for example, that in Arietta (a town with a hamlet of the same name) one can visit the Riley Tavern, “the only known Adirondack saloon still in its original state.” Services (where to play golf or get your snowmobile fixed), resources for more information, and a photo (a
All that’s not unusual for books of this sort, but what makes this volume distinctive is that each chapter has a form where you can fill in the date of your visit, the weather, your memories, and—here’s where the passport notion comes in—a space where an official from the community can stamp or initial the book, authenticating your visit and thus eligibility for membership in the Adirondack 102 Club.
Kind of like the days when you had to sign a register in a canister on top of each trailless High Peak to prove your worthiness for Adirondack 46er sainthood.
We are not convinced that many people will lug this sturdy tome around to all 102 towns and villages in the Adirondacks, locate someone who holds some sort of official status—not always easy to do in some of these places even when there’s real business to transact—and get him or her to autograph page 129 or whatever, but it’s an appealing idea nonetheless. And the idea, to reiterate, is to get folks into these hidden gems, to discover that there’s more to the Adirondacks than Lake George and Lake Placid and Old Forge—not that we object to any of those fine communities, mind you—and come to appreciate that what may seem like annoying speed bumps on their way to somewhere “important” have fascinating stories, people, and unique things to see and do. If nothing else, this book ought to get a nod of approval from those who harp on dispersal of traffic, and the business it carries, away from the usual centers of attention and into the lesser known pockets of the Park.
Some books of this sort are mostly data—population, per-capita income, diversity, and all that categorizing that sociologists adore. Others are purely anecdotal— fun to read, but they can lack context. Podskoch, as he has shown in his previous books on fire towers and the Civilian Conservation Corps, has a knack for serving up both approaches, keeping both the statistics junkies and the “people” people happy, and in an attractive package at that.