I sometime wonder if Erik Schlimmer and I live in parallel universes. I don’t know Erik very well and we’ve never met face to face, but I can understand why he’s so fascinated by hiking in the Adirondack Park and the region’s unique history. It’s the same passion I have for hiking and exploring New Hampshire’s White Mountains, researching its past, and protecting its future.
New York’s Adirondack Park is the largest state-protected park in the lower 48 . It is huge, containing 6.1 million acres of forest, ponds, lands, and mountains, including the Adirondack High Peaks, a range of 46 mountains all above 4,000 ft in height. By comparison, the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire is only 770,000 acres in size.
Surprisingly few hikers are aware of the history behind the Adirondacks, the White Mountains, Vermont’s Green Mountains or Maine’s Baxter State Park and their role in the development of the hiking trails, rock-climbing, and mountaineering in the United States. The birth of the National Scenic Trail System, Leave No Trace wilderness ethics, trail construction and maintenance techniques, and the wilderness conservation movement, all have their origins in these northeastern outdoor communities.
Known for creating the Trans Adirondack Route, a 265 mile hiking route across the Adirondack Park whose boundaries are often designated by a blue line on maps, Schlimmer’s latest book is History Inside the Blue Line: Place Names of the Trans Adirondack Route. Painstakingly researched, Eric uses primary historical sources to go back in time and learn the origins of the places names used in the region, reading personal journals of the Adirondack’s early settlers, looking up old property records and maps, and tracing family relationships through church and town records to dig up the stories and folklore behind the 125 locations covered in the book. Ranging from a paragraph to several pages in length, the origin of each place-name is explained in-depth. History Inside the Blue Line contains a wealth of arcane details that will delight anyone who plays in the four season wonderland of the Adirondack Park.
While the audience for this book is relatively small and probably limited to Adirondack diehards, local residents, and historians, I can understand why Erik undertook this project because I understand his relationship to the Adirondack Park. Erik is more than a hiker. a trail maintainer, or a highly vocal Adirondack evangelist. He’s become a Adirondack Steward, as interested in the history of the Adirondacks and the people who loved the land before him, as he is in the region’s future. If you love the Adirondacks and have an insatiable desire to learn all you can about them (the sure sign of a steward), then check out Schlimmer’s History Inside the Blue Line.