There are many reasons people travel, though when the Adirondacks is a destination these reasons narrow greatly. The biggest attraction this 6 million acre park has to offer has always been the beauty and tranquility of nature. The Adirondacks are an often unforgiving landscape from which we can learn a great deal. William Chapman White, former New York Times and Herald columnist and author of Adirondack Country (1954), said, “As a man tramps the woods to the lake he knows he will find pines and lilies, blue herons and golden shiners, shadows on the rocks and the glint of light on the wavelets, just as they were in the summer of 1354, as they will be in 2054 and beyond. He can stand on a rock by the shore and be in a past he could not have known, in a future he will never see. He can be a part of time that was and time yet to come.” It is this timelessness that has attracted and inspired many great artists to the area seeking a way of life similar to the one described in Henry David Thoreau’s, Walden. Two of the most prominent of these Adirondack artists, painter Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait and writer/ecologist Anne LaBastille offer extraordinary insight into this enlivening terrain and its history through their works.
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait immigrated to the United States from England in 1850, settling in New York City, but spent most of his time at various painting camps throughout the Adirondacks. Currier & Ives, an American printmaking firm, were largely responsible for popularizing his art by mass producing lithographs of his works. His art often depicted the relationship between hunters and wildlife, drawing many sportsmen to the area. Tait’s paintings romanticized and dramatized the Adirondack way of life giving him acclaim as one of the chief painters of the American frontier, despite never traveling farther west of the Adirondacks.
The painting, “A Good Time Coming,” portrays Tait and guides by a make-shift lean-to at what is known today as Antler’s Point on Raquette Lake. Last summer the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, New York held a special exhibit featuring around 200 of Tait’s paintings, many of which are part of their permanent collection.
Anne LaBastille was a very well-educated woman earning a B.S. in Conservation of Natural Resources, M.S. in Wildlife Management, and a doctorate in Wildlife Ecology. In addition to writing a dozen books, LaBastille was also a contributing writer for the Sierra Club, National Geographic and other magazines. She served on many conservation organizations in the Adirondacks, gave wilderness workshops and lectures along with guided canoe and backpacking trips. Inspired by Walden, LaBastille bought land around a mountain lake in the Adirondacks and built a cabin there in 1965, which inspired her most popular books known as the Woodswoman series. These books documented nearly four decades of her life and relationship with nature. The first book, Woodswoman, published in 1976 describes the building of her cabin which was made of pre-cut logs to avoid cutting down old growth trees on her property. It goes on to further explain her exploration of the Adirondack wilderness and what life was like lacking modern comforts such as electricity and running water. In later years her cabin acted more as a seasonal retreat than a year-round residence, but she always kept her mountain cabin for “refuge, quiet, and as a peaceful place to write and contemplate.”
Although there are many other Adirondack-inspired artists, these two have left deep impressions in Adirondack history just as many brooks and rivers flowing through the forest. If you find yourself searching for asylum from the day to day and desire to get off the beaten path, then come on up to the Adirondacks for a stay at the Adirondak Loj or Johns Brook Lodge. With the largest network of trails in the Eastern High Peaks region, it is easy to reconnect with nature, experience a wide variety of wildlife and just take in the vast beautiful wilderness. Artist or not, the mountains are teeming with inspiration and waiting for you.