You could say that the Adirondacks section of the Appalachian Mountain range, out of every one of its sections from southernmost to Cape Breton, is the finest, and I wouldn’t have a great deal of evidence to argue with you. I would, however, have a large quantity of evidence to support you.
If you look at the state of New York and you start at the northeast corner at Lake Champlain, and draw a line roughly southwest to Binghamton, you can see our route today. It wound in and through that big empty square section of the state and it was an example of what happens when everything is just right. The road is generally a very good one, the fog burned off at a decent hour but stayed long enough to make things interesting, the weather in general was a pleasant mix of sun and enough cloud cover to make for nice light and shadow, and the scenery, the scenery is genuinely jaw dropping.
Everywhere else we have been along the Appalachian Range has had elements that sort of defined the area — think smokey mountains, blue ridge vistas, rushing rivers, granite formations, even the rocky coastline at the northern end. The Adirondacks are the first place where almost all the elements come together. The mountains are heavy and imposing, bejeweled with bold freestone rivers, they rise and fall with periodic notches through which you pass and are granted gorgeous views, and they hold – as if in cupped hands, dozens of deep, shining lakes dotted with tiny villages of neat stone and wooden houses. It’s a little hard for me to believe that with all the ground I’ve covered in the lower 48, this is my first time through the Adirondacks. It won’t be the last.
Of course this idea of a proper mixture is entirely a function of my own ego. Some place that has it all, or gets it just right. Because any place has it right, that’s why it is a place. It may not be to my liking, or your liking, but it is itself, and it is so for reasons we may never know. So judging it right or wrong comes from us, not from the place. Learning to understand and appreciate that is a constant effort for me, and with each reach, each step in the overall journey, I get better at it. But sometimes, like today, the natural structure, the combination of everything, just overwhelms the senses, rings all the bells, and throws you recklessly into such a giddy, gasping, love of it all that your own biases overtake you and the superlatives fly. Guilty as charged.
We flopped over the Pennsylvania border for the night, and found a camp spot along the Susquehanna River. The winds are blowing and a storm is on its way to join us though the farm country south of here, so we will break camp early to try and stay dry on the way out. From here on out, the places get more familiar, but I will try to do a better job of meeting them as they are, where they are, and remembering that somewhere there is something special about them, if I can just get out of the way long enough to find it.