I've always been fascinated with history and the environment, so in picking a topic for this week's blog post I immediately decided to focus on one of the most amazing things Newcomb has to offer - the Adirondack Interpretive Center. It's a nice day trip from Hamilton County or Schroon Lake or Lake Placid or the Lake Champlain Region... I guess you could say it's centrally located for most points in northeastern NY! You can visit and spend lots of time poking around the AIC in the course of a day and throw in lunch as well.

Our first stop in Newcomb was the town boat landing to let our dogs out for a break and swim. It was a cold fall day, but they're labradors and they didn't care! I also discovered Newcomb has a terrific cell phone signal, which is a great bonus for the day! We thought about lunch, but decided to wait til after our visit to the Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) on the Western outskirts of town on the shore of Rich Lake.

An Adirondack welcome in the wilderness

The AIC is owned and operated by SUNY ESF (State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry). SUNY ESF is the only such college in the entire United States, with its main campus in Syracuse. They also run a couple of other outreach programs, including the Forest Rangers School in Wanakena. What better organization to run such a center focusing on the natural world of the Adirondacks.

Upon arriving we were greeted by Charlotte, one of the ecologists at ESF, who was pulling duty today as "super naturalist" at the center the day I visited. She was a wealth of information about the area and the center itself. She's also one of the naturalists who studies beavers. We had a great conversation about beavers because they happen to be one of my very favorite wild animals. They're fascinating and there are lots of them in the Adirondacks. Charlotte showed me around and then I wandered about on my own for a bit. The building is filled with interpretive signage of many kinds, maps, brochures and informational materials. There are also quiet corners where one can sit and read or just contemplate life with a complimentary cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

The kid zone

I found my favorite spot, which happened to be one of the kids interactive displays. There's a table with several copper rubbing stations, a big box of crayons and a lot of colored paper. You can place a paper on one of the copper plates and rub your crayon over it to produce a rubbing of the natural thing that's depicted. Of course, I chose the beaver. Then I made a red tailed hawk. I can imagine kids just love this. I know I did!

The new addition

Paul Hai, who leads the education and outreach programs for the Northern Forest Institute and also manages the AIC, arrived and we sat down to chat in the brand new Northern Forest Room. It's a warm and cozy room with comfortable chairs, exhibits and an interpretive wall which is beautifully done with illustrations and photographs and interactive items. There's a real, stuffed black bear in one corner, inviting you to touch it carefully. There are touchable animal skins, a few stuffed birds, interactive displays and four very large picture windows looking out on the forest with bird feeder rigging. There were no bird feeders that day - I suspected because bears are still out and about and would probably be attracted to them at this time of year. (Reminder to yourself: don't put your birdfeeders up until you're pretty sure the black bears are hibernating. There isn't much they like more than sunflower seeds and they'll do anything to get at them!!) Around the beginning of November there will be a suite of 6 feeders as well as an outdoor microphone and indoor speaker system so you can watch and even listen to the birds in the comfort of the Northern Forest Room. Pretty cool!

AIC programs

Paul and I talked about the rich history of the region as well as the Center itself and the programs it offers throughout the year. Some of its programs are art-based, such as the artist-in-residence program which has included painters and sculptors working on site at the AIC during the summer months. There are winter full moon ski and chili parties, programs for kids and adults alike, and school programs for groups as well as a wonderful program I'm dying to join - guideboat tours (more on that below).

The directors of the AIC have found that most people like immersing themselves in their own sense of discovery on the 3.6 miles of trails surrounding the Center, independent of the programs they offer. You're free to wander the whole property at your leisure and enjoy the solitude, beauty and wildlife it boasts. There are always staff on hand to identify things you'll find around the Center or on the trails, to answer any and all questions you might have, or to just leave you on your own.

One fun event during the year is the Northern Forest Festival on May 28 (the festival takes place annually on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend). A highlight of the festival is the Rubber Loon Race fundraiser where small rubber loons, which are numbered, are dropped off the bridge and race downstream to the finish line. Loons are sold by number via raffle ticket and the winning number pays off some great prizes to the "owner" of that loon. Lots of fun.

The AIC also offers the Huntington Lecture series in July and August, featuring topics about research and science going on in the Park. The topics range from bears to roadkill (honest).

AIC has also created programs to share information on the different ways visitors and residents recreate outdoors, including low intensity use activities such as hunting, trapping, fishing and related activities. Check our calendar of events regularly for special programs and events held at the AIC. Or visit the AIC website for more information.

Historic guideboat program

The AIC has acquired two locally historic guideboats which have been restored to their original beauty. The Center has initiated a Guideboat Program where they will take groups out on guided canoe and guideboat trips. This is included in their kids programming as well. They're in the process of adding some additional historic guideboats to the fleet. The kids will get to paddle or row their own boats and hear some great history about the boats they are rowing as well as information on lake ecology, invasive species and more. This is a hands on activity on the water with conversations about forestry and the human and natural environments, and how they change and how they've been impacted. It is a unique program in that there are few if any like it in the Adirondacks taking place in an historic guideboat on the water. The program is also open to anyone who wants to go out. All you have to do is call 518.582.2000, or email the Center to make arrangements for family or other groups from one or up to six people.

You will thoroughly enjoy yourself on a vist to the Adirondack Interpretive Center and shouldn't miss the opportunity. Take some time to sit by the lake and take in the magnificence of the surroundings. Look for birds in the trees and drink in the serenity and beauty of the Adirondacks.

After leaving the AIC we stopped and had a great lunch at the High Peaks Kitchen and Campground in Newcomb on Route 28N. The food is great and inexpensive and the service is terrific.

Stay and explore

What better way to explore the ghost towns, back roads, and everything the Schroon Lake Region has to offer than spending a few days? Check out our lodging options and book a stay while you do your exploring. See you in the woods somewhere!

This week our bloggers disclose some of their favorite local ADK activities.

Join a wolf gathering!

Bite my… SweeTango?

A taste of creativity (mimosas help!).

Puddle jumping, anyone?

Walk the beaten path.

Surf & Turf: why choose when you can have them both!

Just bead it.