Every year for the last eight, my friend Kelley and I spend a week camping and hiking. She lives in Boston, and I'm in San Francisco. We've been all over visiting some of the country's most incredible parks and forests both east and west. The Smoky Mountains and Yosemite are among our favorites. This summer, we spent a week in the breath-taking Adirondacks on a Sierra Club sponsored camping trip.
This area is famous for beautiful lakes, thousands of miles of hiking trails, and outdoor recreation opportunities. Bald eagles, moose, beavers, bobcats, and a host of migratory songbirds inhabit its 6.1 million acres.
We were lucky enough to have an awesome guide on this Sierra Club Outings trip – Karin Tate.
Sierra Club Outings Leader Karin Tate (left) and Sierra Club Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon (center) on a recent trip to the Adirondacks.
Karin's been an outings leader for more than 10 years who says she loves sharing places with people who are experiencing them for the first time. She especially loves leading people through the Adirondacks.
You get to spend a lot of time talking while hiking, and we learned that Karin has led trips in the Adirondacks most years since she started leading.
She was as cook on her very first trip with Sierra Club, and that eventually led to the trips she leads now. Her family has a small camp, a log cabin, on an island in the northern part of the Park, and she loves the Adirondacks for their beauty and the diversity of its landscape (lakes galore, rivers, mountains, small cities and towns). She says it gives her great pleasure and satisfaction to share all of this with others.
I can tell you that Kelley and I were blown away by her level of experience and knowledge. She’s hiked almost all of the Adirondacks 46 peaks!
She talked with the group about protecting beautiful places too. We spent some time discussing our Adirondacks to Acadia project, which aims to protect the last great forests of the East.
The Adirondack State Park is the largest park in the lower 48 states. Karin told us that it was created many years ago by people who were appalled at the savage clear-cutting of the forests and other degradations of the fragile environment. She said that they must have felt like she does now that preserving as much of the wilderness as possible is essential for the health, well-being and future of us all.
She sees the park an interesting model for others to emulate because of its balance of diversity.
Did you know that there are many different zones in Adirondack State Park -- from wilderness to fully developed small cities? Balancing the interests of the many constituencies that exist within its boundaries is an on-going challenge.
That’s why the Sierra Club is committed to our Adirondacks to Acadia campaign -- we want to build, extend, and protect wildlife migration corridors while also addressing social, economic, and cultural needs of local communities from New York to Maine. (Stay tuned next week for my blog about our work in Maine.)
That protection will also, of course, protect areas that make perfect outings. Karin is quick to recommend Sierra Club Outings as a vacation option to anyone who asks, and now that I've been out with her, I do too! I love that they’re run by committed and knowledgeable volunteers just like Karin.
My friend Kelley is thinking about becoming an outings leader, so we asked her what it’s like. Karin reminded us that there are many different types of outings, but one thing they all offer is fun! The pleasure of experiencing a beautiful place with a group of people is rewarding in and of itself, and this experience leads to a better understanding of the necessity of preserving our many wonderful places. Even on a service trip, re-establishing a fragile ecosystem by pulling up reluctant weeds can bring a feeling of satisfaction. Check out the full listing of Sierra Club trips here.
We must all work together to protect our nation’s most special places. These millions and millions of acres of forestlands in the northeast are some of our nation's last great forests. Let's keep them protected so our kids and grandkids can enjoy them just as much as we do. And in the meantime, let's get away from our desks and TVs and explore every inch of them.