"My personal experience and readings convince me that preservation
of wild places is the best of American traditions.
Wilderness is at the heart of the nation.
It tells one generation what is right and lasting about
all generations and about the land itself."
—Michael Frome


Partnering for Wilderness, 1946-2018

By Dave Gibson

Greene and Zahniser leave a picnic at Beaver House.

Howard Zahniser at Mataskared, with Crane Mt. in the Background

Paul Schaefer (Right) with John Apperson, 1947

In July 1946, Howard and Alice Zahniser drove with their children to the Adirondacks for the first time. Howard had started work as the first executive of The Wilderness Society in Washington D.C. the year prior. Howard would begin drafting the federal Wilderness Act of 1964 (66 drafts in all) from a cabin he acquired in the Adirondacks.

Howard kept a journal of his first trip to the Adirondack Park.  The rest of us know about it thanks to his son Ed Zahniser’s small book, Where Wilderness Preservation Began – Adirondack Writings of Howard Zahniser (Ed Zahniser, Editor., North Country Books, 1992). For 72 years the extended Zahniser family, now including the fourth generation, has returned to the same place in the Adirondacks. This August I held a cook-out to welcome them back.

According to Howard’s journal, in 1946 Howard and Alice drove their family from Maryland to Schenectady, NY. They drove to Schenectady via State Route 7 (no Interstate 88 then).  In Schenectady, they met up with Paul Schaefer and his wife Carolyn and their children. Paul was well on route to becoming one of the most accomplished Adirondack wilderness conservation leaders of the 20th century, as well as homebuilder, hunter, fisher, Adirondack author and filmmaker.  The two families drove to the Adirondacks via Northville (no I-87), Wells, and then east on Route 8 to Bakers Mills where they arrived for several weeks at the Schaefer family cottage at the foot of Eleventh Mountain.

From that home base 72 years ago, Howard Zahniser and Paul Schaefer and their families began a lifelong friendship and partnership for wilderness, here and across the country. From their base camp, they explored what is now the Siamese Ponds Wilderness and then what is now the High Peaks Wilderness. From their campsite or cabin porch, Howard and Paul dreamed of a stronger Article XIV of the NYS Constitution (“forever wild”) and a national wilderness preservation system founded upon it. They frequently collaborated about all of this, for the next 18 years. Together, with allies, they achieved much for the Adirondacks and for the country.  Their children learned to fish, climb apple trees, swim and observe wildlife. Some played mountain music, some sang. They came to know local people. They all gained strength, endurance and confidence. Later, Ed Zahniser went to work for the National Park Service. Ed is a frequent contributor to the Almanack. We conspire with him every chance we get.

Paul, having come with his parents and siblings to the Adirondacks in 1923 or so, got to know local Adirondackers. They were generous and helped to support the Schaefers who were from the city and, in 1923, did not yet know how to live and survive a rural life. They learned. Paul and Carolyn, in turn, taught many other city people to feel comfortable in and to love and embrace the Adirondack experience, its residents, and its wild spaces. Paul and Carolyn’s children (and the other Schaefers) spent and still spend many seasons in the Adirondacks. One, Evelyn, with husband Don, has lived and worked in the Park for many years. Though I did not know Carolyn, I got to know Paul Schaefer in his 70s and 80s. I am one of those visitors that Paul helped make welcome in the Adirondacks.

On August 5, 1946, Howard Zahnser’s journal reads, in part: “I saw the sun rise over the hill, was up at 7:30 and after making a fire hiked with Mathias (his son) up the road …to the last house, which is for sale. A great view of Crane Mt. in the distance and of Eleventh Mt. As we came back we heard a breakfast bell and smelled bacon.” From there, they took a day trip to North Creek, “then up to the Hudson and into Thirteenth Lake on a woods road.” Upon their return, before dinner “I read Robin Hood aloud to Mathias, Esther, Karen, Mary and Evelyn seated around the fireplace. We also sat a while on the porch swing, the half moon just down the back of Eleventh Mt. still making a glow around the top like a corona. We thought we saw northern lights.” A given day’s journal entry often closed with: “we sat on the porch talking until midnight.”

The cabin for sale that Howard saw the August 5 day became the Zahniser cabin, still in the family.
On August 5, 2018 Ed and Christine Zahniser, their children, and their children, Ed’s brother Mathias and Ann Zahniser and other, younger, extended Zahnisers joined Evelyn (Schaefer) Greene, Dave Greene and his family, Greg and Ellen Schaefer, along with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve  from all over for a cook-out in this same place. As I started to flip hamburgers, Ed Zahniser’s son Justin announced: “do you know that Maryland is the only state that lacks a designated wilderness area?” Justin appears to be his grandfather’s 2018 wilderness fact finder. It’s a strong and needed inheritance. It was hot, 80 degrees in the shade. Yet, because we all were at 2200 feet we were somewhat cooler than those in the valley below and even cooler than those baking in Schenectady.

Later, some of us sat on the cabin porch talking. We listened as Dave Greene, Paul Schaefer’s grandson, recited from memory and sheer appreciation of the man a speech that the Adirondack hermit of Cold River, Noah John Rondeau, might have given.to an audience seventy years ago. Briefly, we were transported to another time. It was like the hermit was performing right there and then. Dave’s recital was spellbinding. I should journal about it. Howard, were you listening?

(Credit to: Where Wilderness Preservation Began – Adirondack Writings of Howard Zahniser, Edited and with an Introduction by Ed Zahniser, 1992, North Country Books)

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Archived Safeguarding Field Notes


11/06/18 Award Presentations at the 2018 Annual Membership Meeting in Saranac Lake read more>

11/06/18 Latest Test for the Adirondack Park Agency read more>

10/12/18Time to Strengthen Budgets for the Forest Preserve read more>

09/12/18 Will DEC Rubberstamp Steel Bridge over the Cedar River? read more>

08/06/18 Partnering for Wilderness, 1946-2018
read more>

07/15/18 Adirondack Wild Speaks to the APA
read more>

06/11/18 Viewpoint: Time for permit system in the High Peaks Wilderness read more>

05/22/18 State Rushing Process For High Peaks, Boreas Plans read more>

04/20/18 Limit Motor Vehicles and Traffic on the way to Boreas Ponds. Keep it Wild! read more>

03/28/18 Adirondack Wild helps lead opposition to elimination of Forest Preserve taxation read more>

03/06/18 DEC Should End Uncertainty of Old Mountain Road read more>

02/26/18 Judge Upholds Wetlands Denial read more>

02/13/18 Forever Wild and Forever Taxable read more>

01/30/18 Proposal for Boreas Ponds Falls Short read more>

01/11/18 Protect Adirondack Boreal Habitat read more>

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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.

Top left, Moose River ©2010 Ken Rimany; Field Notes photographs ©2011 Ken Rimany. Wild Action Now photograph ©2011 David Gibson

Peter Brinkley, Honorary Chair
Terry Jandreau, Chair
Kenneth J. Rimany, Partner
David H. Gibson, Managing Partner
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Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve    Founded 1945   PO Box 9247 • Niskayuna New York 12309 | ©