Now and then we hear complaints that all of our pretty photography, and some of the accompanying writing, only serves to drive visitors to parts of the Adirondacks that don’t need or can’t handle any more pressure. This is the Instagram problem that we hear so much about, with complaints about those who geotag their gorgeous hiking shots, enabling online viewers everywhere to stampede to the same vistas.
It’s something we’re sensitive to at the Explorer, which is one reason we try to feature outings all around the park, and not just in hot spots like the High Peaks. It’s also why I’ve led this newsletter with a rainy-day shot of the rusting lawnmower that the previous owners of my home left out back when they moved on. (If you can find it, it needs some attention.)
Still, we are a journalism organization with a mandate to help people understand how to enjoy the Adirondacks and to provide independent scrutiny of its management and protection. This reminds me of the National Park Service’s mission — which includes both preserving and providing for the enjoyment of America’s iconic public lands. These goals can seem in conflict, especially in highly attractive hiking locations, and it’s difficult to find the right balance. When we show what the High Peaks look like, it might be out of reverence, or sometimes to illustrate the crowds that everyone’s talking about, and what brought them there. We cannot adequately document for readers the important stories of the High Peaks management dilemma without showing what we’re talking about.
But then, we also hear about it when we let people in on relatively unknown gems, like the Sable Highlands areas that former editor Phil Brown wrote about this summer. When we post such stories online, some commenters immediately react with disappointment that the hiking hordes will now barge into some other formerly quiet corner of the park. We’re sympathetic to those concerns, generally, but we also try to weigh whether the area we’re covering is legitimately at risk. In Phil’s case, we think not. After all, much of his series was about how these particular conservation easements on private lands allow access but don’t have much more in the way of amenities than dirt roads. (The state had planned to provide more when it bought the easements.) In this sense, these were stories not just about little-traveled routes that a few more people might enjoy, but also about government promises that haven’t come true.
As I said, it’s a balance, and I don’t expect we’ll always strike it perfectly to everyone’s satisfaction. But whatever else we may do along the way, you can expect us to keep celebrating the park’s beauty and solitude, and to keep explaining the options for maintaining it.