There are lots of Adirondack trail guides. And there are lots of Adirondack history books. But there aren’t many books that do both equally well.
Licensed guides Russell Dunn and Barbara Delaney have successfully achieved this merger with Adirondack Trails with Tales. The subtitle, History Hikes through the Adirondack Park and the Lake George, Lake Champlain and Mohawk Valley Regions (aside from the quibble that two of those three regions are mostly in the Adirondack Park) gives us a good idea of what we’ll find between these covers.
And what we find are over two dozen hikes that are redolent with history, from Valcour Island in the extreme northeast corner of the Park to Cooper’s Cave near Glens Falls to Canajoharie Gorge in the Mohawk Valley. The latter is permissible to include because the Mohawk is fed by Adirondack waters, though the St. Lawrence and Black River Valleys could have been worked in on the same grounds.
Let’s take a look at one of these hikes, since they all follow the same model. Valcour Island is not your usual hiking destination. For one thing, getting there requires navigating a stretch of Lake Champlain by vessel when it isn’t frozen over (the authors wisely suggest leaving swimming to the deer) or something attached to your feet when it is. And this is not a lake one approaches with a cavalier attitude. But the island has great views, and it’s loaded with history.
Dunn and Delaney begin with such practical matters as difficulty, camping restrictions, historic highlights, and directions to the trailhead (in this instance, a boat launch). There follows a thorough and thoroughly readable trail description, highlighting the sweeping panoramas, historic sites, and such features as an iconic old lighthouse that is operational again and houses a small museum. Next we are treated to an equally engaging section on the island’s history: in a nutshell, it was in the path of military movements in three wars and witnessed significant action in two of them, the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Indeed, the Battle of Valcour, back when Benedict Arnold was on our side, was a key to the Revolution and an exemplar of losing the battle but winning the war. The authors explain it well.
And so we go, to Fort Ticonderoga, Rogers Rock, John Brown’s Farm, Indian Pass, Sagamore, Chimney Mountain, Auger Falls, and more. One comes to realize that there is much more history along the way than meets the foot. The book includes numerous maps and black-andwhite photographs.
The guidebook is a little bulky to bring along on a hike, though you certainly could on many of the short outings it covers. The book is best savored inside your home, but the historical information it offers is sure to enhance your enjoyment of the outdoors.
The volume follows a similar one by Dunn and Delaney on the Capital Region. Dunn also has written guides to waterfalls in the Adirondacks, Catskills, Berkshires, and Hudson and Mohawk Valleys.