Alpine Regeneration in the Adirondacks

Carrying a rock to the top of the mountain can help transform the Adirondacks.

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New York State is home to one of the nation’s largest forest parks, the Adirondacks.  During the summer season, the Adirondacks are a great place to spend a long weekend.  Although the catch phrase most closely associated with the park is “forever wild,” let me assure you there is definitely a wide selection of fine shopping, dining, and recreation at highly populated theme parks.
Of course, the main draw to the region and the cause of the iconic landscape are the High Peaks, the 46 mountains that reach over 4,000 feet in altitude.  I was greatly surprised at how hikers and climbers can populate just one such mountain during the daylight hours, and still leave room for more.  And, that may be exactly what the mountains themselves need.
Before I began my climb, I was told to carry a rock to the top, that they were used to build a wall, though I couldn’t imagine what a wall on the top of the mountain might look at.  When we finally reached the summit, the mountain’s highest point, it all made sense.
The peaks of the Adirondacks are bare, smooth grey rock, exposed to all the mighty elements, devoid of soil, leaving little chance for new tree growth.  Looking out at the panoramic view, it is easy to see the altitude at which hardwoods taper off, and then many hundreds of feet higher, where even the fir and other softwoods cannot grow.
But in recent years, small rocks, the size of an average fist, by the thousands have been carried to the tops of these mountains by both avid climbers and first-timers (like me!).  The rocks have been used to line the mountain top, creating a shallow lip that prevents soil from slipping and blowing away.  The low stone wall is filled in with soil and the first growth of succession is already flourishing.
This summer, take a short road trip off our our beautiful island and explore a very different landscape.  The beauty of the Adirondacks is not in competition with our shores.  In fact, its health, both ecologically and in regards to tourism, go hand in hand with our own.  And, if you make it to the top of one of the High Peaks, you can be part of the effort to rebuild a mountain.  Don’t forget to bring your rock.
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