"I can go inside now, confident that the youth of distant tomorrows
will backpack down winding forest trails, glimpse the sliver of a wildness lake
shining through the trees, and gather round their crackling campfire."
—Paul Schaefer


Students Visit a Wilderness Retreat; Discuss Why Wilderness Matters
by David Gibson, Partner


Carved 'Beaver House' sign - by Paul Schaefer.
Photo © Ken Rimany

Beaver House. Photo © Ken Rimany

Hand hewn beams, plank floors, fireplace and trophy deer greet visitors, all. Photo © Ken Rimany  

Documentary Film students arrive, ready to start filming and interviewing David Gibson. Photo © Ken Rimany

Students checking sound, lighting and equipment.
Photo © Ken Rimany

Interviewing David Gibson on Matters Adirondacks, Wilderness and Paul Schaefer. Photo © Ken Rimany

Up the road at the Zahniser's family cabin.
Photo © Ken Rimany

The Wilderness Line, denoted by a copper bolt installed in a rock by State Surveyor Albert Davis in 1932.
Photo © Ken Rimany


Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve occasionally uses "Beaver House," a wilderness cabin in Warren County near the Adirondack Park’s Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area, for informal training and dialogue about why wilderness matters. Students of all ages come to learn, refresh and renew themselves in this special place built by the most effective leader of wilderness coalitions that the Adirondack Park has ever seen, Paul Schaefer, founder of Friends of the Forest Preserve. I have an ownership share in the cabin.

This past month, a small group of students studying documentary filmmaking from Burlington College visited Beaver House to interview me about New York’s "forever wild" Constitution, its history, what it means, and how wilderness preservation fits into the overall fabric and communities of the six million-acre Adirondack Park. We also spent a good deal of time talking about Beaver House itself, the Schaefer family, and how this landscape shaped Paul’s life as a conservationist, hunter, fisher, guide, author and director of two award-winning Adirondack documentaries.

After the interviews were over, the students walked further up the road to see the cabin still owned by the Zahniser family. Howard Zahniser was chief lobbyist and draftsman of the National Wilderness Preservation Act. Thanks to Paul Schaefer, he bought this camp shortly after he became executive secretary of the Wilderness Society in 1946. Zahniser returned here frequently during the 18 years and 66 drafts required to enact the Wilderness law of 1964, thereby cementing a close friendship between the Zahniser and Schaefer families that continues to this day. The students engaged in a short discussion with us about land use and wilderness that Zahniser and Schaefer would have appreciated, and then we walked up into the woods to the State Land line denoted by a copper bolt installed by State Surveyor Albert Davis in 1932. The students straddled the Wilderness line, which brought to mind Howard Zahniser’s quip that Wilderness is "where the hand of man has never set foot."

After packing up to leave, the students wrote very movingly in the cabin’s logbook about how their brief time at Beaver House affected them. One wrote, "thanks for helping us be the change we all want to see." Another wrote: "I found answers here to the question I have long asked myself – why does wilderness set me free?" He added: "Please leave me a list of chores to do around camp – I would love to return."

Paul Schaefer writes in Cabin Country that he built Beaver House in the early 1960s. Hunting friend Don Hall helped pick out the site between the old log cabin once owned by Johnny Morehouse, and Howard and Alice Zahniser’s camp up the road. Don told me he thought the year was 1964. The site had great views of Crane and Eleventh Mountains, and the meadows down the valley which were quickly reverting to forest.  Paul decided to build it to resemble the Adirondack Room at 897 St. David’s Lane in Niskayuna, with large, hand hewn beams, open gable ceiling and plank floors of pine. The beams came from an old house "older than the hills" on Sanders Avenue in Albany. That house in Albany was known locally as the "beaver house." There were empty vats in the building.  This evidence plus the sweet musty odor emanating from these beams during sanding convinced Paul that the beams might have been impregnated with the musk of beavers processed for their furs.

Paul writes in Cabin Country that he worked weekends with brother Carl to construct Beaver House. He wanted the cabin to be somewhere between a home and the "simple life we knew in wilderness tents," "for occasional overnight stays", a "gathering place for hunters on their way into the wilderness, and a place for conservationists to plan strategies for the continuing battles to retain the wild-forest character of the Adirondacks," a "refuge from the hustle and bustle of the life that I was living, a place to sit in front of the fireplace, alone or with friends, anticipating the trip on the morrow or reliving the adventures of the day."

Currently the cabin is used by its owners and guests just as Paul hoped – for occasional visits and overnight stays, sitting by the open fire, or simply enjoying the views of Crane Mountain from his old wooden rocker, and breathing in the mountain air which, as Dan Berggren’s lyrics of his song by the same name goes, "blows away all the cares that build up day to day." The cabin is an informal place of learning, a retreat, a base camp to foray out into the Wilderness, and as a place to strategize, dream and contemplate more of the natural world that we are so fortunate to have in the Adirondacks. 

Posted 06/13/12
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07/02/12 A Visit to the Hadley Mountain Firetower
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06/11/12Students Visit a Wilderness Retreat; Discuss Why Wilderness Matters read more >
05/03/12 Fifty Years of Caring for the Upper Hudson River read more >
04/08/12 Aldo Leopold's Greenfire Movie screening
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ADK ALMANACK - Writings by David Gibson

Wilderness 50th

The mission of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is to advance New York’s ‘Forever Wild’ legacy and Forest Preserve policies in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and promote public and private land stewardship that is consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research.

Photos ©2011 Ken RImany

Peter Brinkley, Honorary Chair
Terry Jandreau, Chair
Kenneth J. Rimany, Partner
David H. Gibson, Managing Partner
Mobile: 518.469.4081

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve    Founded 1945   PO Box 9247 • Niskayuna New York 12309 | ©