Easy Short Adirondack Hikes: Getting close to nature at the Paul Smith's VIC (Saranac Lake)

By Diane Chase

We meet at the Paul Smith’s Visitors Interpretive Center (VIC) to be led on an adventure by naturalist Lydia Wright. My children are acting like they have never been outside. They stand stiffly near the gazebo at the head of the Barnum Brook Trail (.8 miles). I ask what is wrong. I reexamine my words, “We are going to look at nature. It will be fun.” Nothing unusual there, sometimes it takes a bit for them to warm up in a group setting and this activity is full. We are each handed a magnifying glass, which my daughter promptly turns into an accessory, my son a weapon. We are going to start looking at all the changes of autumn.

Wright points to a line of trees in the distance and asks the group to identify them. I can only say in my defense that I do need new glasses. I didn’t know the Tamarack was one of the few conifers that lose their leaves in fall and with that said looks nothing like a Birch. Each does have those lovely golden leaves. “Needles,” my son whispers.

My children are now hovering near the outskirts of the group looking at molds and mosses after the others have passed by, like they really aren’t interested that the Adirondack water is its lovely tea color because of the leaching of tannic acid from the conifer’s bark.

We are shown various plants that birds and other animals will utilize during the winter months. Out of the corner of my eye I see my children on hands and knees finally interacting with the rest. The last thing we do as we take the last corner back to the gazebo is to examine various tree barks. This time I do not volunteer. Everything seems to look like a Birch to me. “Beech,” I’m told most kindly. It is obvious that I am the one, not my children, in need of a guided walk.

The Barnum Brook Trail is the only trail that is a walking trail during the winter months. It is also one of the only handicap accessible trails with its wide graded path and bridge system.

The VIC consists of a 60-acre marsh, ponds, brooks and swamps, Jenkins Mountain, a children's playground, various trails, picnic areas and inside space with touch table and art gallery. It has 6 miles of interpretive trails and 8 miles of backcountry trails for spring, summer and fall use. During the winter, there are 9.5 miles of trails used for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. As always it is free and open to the public.

The Paul Smith’s VIC’ winter hours are Tues-Sat (Nov 1-April 30) 9-5. Trails are open every day dawn to dusk. For a full list of events please call 327-3000

Comments

James said…
Ah yes, the Tamarack. Sometimes called the American Larch. Not to be confused with the Sikkim Larch, which can be found in Nepal on the eastern slopes of the Himalayas.
Diane Chase said…
Thank you so much James! I was also just told that the Tamarack was used by the Algonquins for making snow shoes because the wood is so flexible. I appreciate the additional information.