Since 2001, I have traveled to all of the 102 towns and villages in the Adirondacks gathering stories for my five Adirondack books on fire towers, Civilian Conservation Corps Camps, and illustrated Adirondack Stories. In my travels people have taken me in for the night and shared their home, food, and stories. I have gotten to meet so many wonderful people and seen so many interesting places that I want to share my experience of this marvelous region.
In the Dec. 11, 2005 issue of American Profile Magazine I read about the Vermont 251 Club that was started in 1954 when Dr. Arthur W. Peach suggested the idea of an informal group, the 251 Club, to veer off the beaten path and “to discover the secret and lovely places that main roads do not reveal.” He felt that every part of the state had beauty, history, attractions, traditions, and interesting people.
I have found that most people who visit the Adirondacks just visit one particular area where they have a cottage, hiked, or camped, or they have rented a cabin, motel or hotel. They do not know the Adirondacks unless they visit all the towns and many of the side roads. For eight years I wondered if I might be able to duplicate in the Adirondacks what Dr. Peach did in Vermont.
Then in December 2013 I mentioned this idea to Clark Seaman the Long Lake Town Supervisor. He thought it was a great idea and that I should contact Brian Towers, the President of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages (AATV). I called him and he, too, liked the idea and invited me to speak to the AATV meeting on Dec. 9, 2013 in Lake George. I accepted his invitation and was a little nervous to see what their reaction would be.
At my presentation I proposed to write a book with descriptions of all the towns and villages highlighting their location, history, traditions, and interesting places to visit. I also asked the town supervisors if they would find someone in their town or village to write the description. This would be better than me writing about their town since I didn’t know all of the history and interesting places. I also pointed out to the supervisors that the new club would also be an economic plus for the many small towns that are less visited.
I thought that once the request went out that I’d get replies in a month or two. After many calls and emails to entice someone to write about their town, I had all 102 town and village summaries completed in June, 2014. Most of the writers were the town historians but there were also town supervisors, assessors, chambers of commerce, historical societies, and residents who contributed. They all did a great job of writing and sent photos that would be used in the book and on the Adirondack 102 Club website.
Sallie Way, my sister-in-law and art teacher at Shenendehowa High School (Clifton Park, NY), suggested that I make the book like a passport where visitors would get their book stamped or signed by a resident in each town. She even designed a logo for the club.
This book will be a guide to the travelers in their quest to visit all 102 towns and villages. Members will also learn about the history and fascinating places in the Adirondacks. By getting their book signed or stamped by a resident, they will also get to know the friendly locals and be able to ask them questions such as where there is a good place to eat or an interesting local attraction? Hopefully they will thereby get to know the real Adirondacks.
There are no rules or requirements to be a member. No documents to turn in. One may keep a journal in addition to this book in their quest. There is no membership fee, just a desire to experience the whole Adirondack region. Adults and children of all ages can be members. What a great adventure for families, grandparents and their grandchildren or by themselves. Most members will travel by car while others might use a bike, motorcycle, walk, or maybe a canoe!
Once a member has reached their goal of all 102 towns & villages they will then receive the “Vagabond” award. I chose this name because there was a group of influential men who made trips in the Adirondacks and other parts of the US to get away from their busy lives and learn about nature.
“Vagabonds” is how Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone & John Burroughs described themselves when they took automobile camping trips together in the Adirondacks & other sojourns throughout America to get away from their busy lives. Each man contributed a skill. Edison was the “navigator,” Ford the “mechanic,” Firestone the “organizer” and Burroughs the “naturalist.” A caravan of cars & trucks carried the “Vagabonds,” workers, a cook, camping equipment & a chuck wagon. Ford organized contests, such as sprints, tree climbing, and tree chopping. After dinner they relaxed by the campfire discussing issues of the day. Each Vagabond had his own tent with electric lights. They traveled through the Adirondacks twice. In 1916 they camped near Saratoga Springs, Indian Lake, Elizabethtown, Ausable Forks, Paul Smiths & Plattsburgh. In 1919 they picked their spots as the day allowed: Loon Lake, Long Lake, Lake Placid and Plattsburgh. They were the source of many news stories and their trips led NYS to build campsites to encourage auto camping.
So now begin your quest as a member of the Adirondack 102 Club to not only visit all the towns and villages but get to know the real Adirondacks. Let’s all take the road less traveled!
I promise an enriching journey and encourage you to do so with friends and loved ones with this unique passport in hand. A great adventure awaits! This book is an invitation I encourage you to accept.”
—New York State Senator Betty Little