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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bob Marshall’s booklet online

Bob Marshall was one of the original Adirondack Forty-Sixers, but he thought he was born too late. He would have preferred to have lived in the nineteenth century, before the Adirondacks were overrun by civilization.

Bob Marshall

Bob Marshall

Well, Bob is now part of the twenty-first century.

John Warren, the guy behind the Adirondack Almanack, reports in his blog that a number of old Adirondack books have been digitized and put online. Among them is Marshall’s 1922 booklet The High Peaks of the Adirondacks. It can be read online or downloaded for free.

Marshall wrote the booklet after he and his younger brother, George, and their guide, Herb Clark, climbed all the peaks in the Adirondacks that surpass four thousand feet–or so they thought. At the time, they believed there were forty-two such peaks, but they later discovered they had missed four and climbed them as well. Subsequent surveys revealed that four of these forty-six peaks are less than four thousand feet, but peak-baggers still adhere to the traditional list established by the Marshalls and Clark.

Marshall’s booklet was the first publication of the fledgling Adirondack Mountain Club and, in effect, its first guidebook. In it, he briefly describes how they climbed each mountain, and he rates the view from each. His favorite view was from Mount Haystack: “It’s a great thing these days to leave civilization for a while and return to nature. From Haystack  you can look over thousands and thousands of acres, unblemished by the works of man, perfect as made by nature.”

The Marshalls and Clark were hiking at a time when the scars from logging and  forest fires were a common sight in the High Peaks, and these influenced his ratings. He complained about the slash and burned territory on Rocky Peak Ridge and proclaimed the view “hardly worth the trouble to obtain.” Today, the hike to this summit from New Russia is thought by some to be one of the best in the Adirondack Park.

Physical copies of The High Peaks of the Adirondacks are rare today, but it was reprinted in Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks: Writings of a Pioneering Peak-Bagger, Pond-Hopper and Wilderness Preservationist, which I edited and published in 2006.

Marshall was a student at the New York State College of Forestry when he wrote his booklet. He went on to work for the U.S. Forest Service, explore arctic Alaska, and help found the Wilderness Society. He died in 1939 at age thirty-eight. The following year, the federal government established the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana in his honor. One of the Adirondack High Peaks, Mount Marshall, is also named after him.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

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