Unfortunately, Murray had laid it on a bit thick. "In the Adirondack wilderness the lumberman has never been," he wrote, and he boasted of landing a pair of huge trout with one cast of his rod. It may well have been that when Murray first came upon the Adirondacks, large trout were not unusual, but such fish were the result of 10,000 undisturbed years, and they proved easy prey to flies, spoons and worms. Murray was branded as a liar, and the tourists who read his book became "Murray's fools."
There was still another problem—blackflies, which spend their larval and pupal phases in swift streams. They are the pests of the Adirondacks, which have no poisonous plants or snakes. Blackflies bite freely and leave large welts that can be painful for several days. By comparison, mosquitoes are a pleasure. Blackflies, which are at their peak in June, don't hum or buzz; they put all their energy into the sting. In other regions of North America, biackflies are reported to have bitten sheep, cattle and horses to death. For generations they have cast a grim shadow over the glories of the Adirondacks, and it is estimated that the potential economy of the park is reduced 40% to 50% each June by the nuisance they pose.
Despite the flies, the lumbermen and Murray's exaggerations, the tourists came. Between publication of Murray's book in 1869 and the year 1875, the number of hotels quadrupled from 50 to 200. The rich flocked to the mountains in that gilded age, seeking surcease from the pressures of Wall Street in opulent log cabins with stone fireplaces and mounted deer heads and within earshot of the call of the loon. J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Alfred Vanderbilt and William Whitney all established sumptuous "camps." William West Durant, a railroad tycoon, developed a dwelling that combined the rough materials of the log cabin of the region with the graceful lines of a Swiss chalet, which set the style for the rich. Once he had his builders construct a chalet copied from a Swiss music box, and he thought nothing of inviting friends to come 300 miles north from New York by rail, and then 40 miles by sleigh for the novelty of celebrating Christmas in the wild.
By 1892, the state estimated, a fourth of the Adirondack was held as preserves by individual owners and clubs. Some of them released a host of exotic animals, including wild boar and elk. The elk hung on the longest, but they were probably done in by the brain-worm parasite carried by the white-tailed deer.
Although the affluent often angered locals with their high-handed ways and no-trespass signs, there is no doubt that they and some of their offspring came to love the wilderness and sought to protect it in the Adirondacks and elsewhere across the country. Examples abound. Harold K. Hochschild, now 87, the former chairman of the board of the American Metal Company, founded the superb Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain and served as chairman of the Temporary Study Commission which recommended the creation of the Adirondack Park Agency. Then there is the Marshall family. Born in 1856, the son of German-Jewish immigrants, Louis Marshall completed Columbia Law School in one year and went on to become a noted attorney and philanthropist who espoused a wide number of causes ranging from Zionism to conservation. He began visiting the Adirondacks in his 20s and later was instrumental in having the Forever Wild clause inserted in the state constitution. His son, Robert, who died in 1939, became a forester, explorer and writer. Inspired by the Adirondacks, Robert, one of the founders of the Wilderness Society, set in motion the national policy for wilderness preservation. Robert's brother, George, is the only person ever to serve as president of both the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club, while brother James, an attorney who is also an Adirondack advocate, is a founding trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the leading public-interest groups in the nation. "The enemies of wilderness, the forest industries, the miners, the grazers and others, call us elitists," James Marshall wrote recently. "Personally, I do not regard this as a bad name. Throughout history elitists have taken the lead."
No one in Adirondack history was more of an enthusiast for these mountains than Verplanck Colvin of Albany. He began mapping them when he was only 18, and when he was 25, the state legislature appointed him superintendent of the Adirondack Survey. Starting in 1872, Colvin clambered up and down the mountains for 28 years, only leaving to return to his cluttered office to write his reports. In his first year, his discovery and description of the highest source of the Hudson as "a minute, unpretending tear of the clouds" gave the two-acre pond its poetic name. In his passion to map the mountains, Colvin did without food ("Supperless we made a bivouac under a sheltering ledge") and endured discomfort ("The snow entered our clothing despite all care, and it was impossible to prevent frequent falls over hidden rocks and tree trunks"), all the while driving himself and his guides ever onward, upward and downward.
Colvin was among the first to urge that the state establish an Adirondack preserve, but in his later years he wandered the streets of Albany babbling to himself and talked of building a railroad through the mountains he had sought to save. He died in 1920, a forgotten figure; on his deathbed he autographed his paddle, which he said he had dipped into some 250 unexplored lakes in one year.
Today Colvin's writings are best remembered for a description he wrote of the Adirondacks in 1878: "Elsewhere are mountains more stupendous, more icy and more drear, but none look down upon a grander landscape in rich autumn time; more brightly gemmed or jeweled with innumerable lakes, or crystal pools, or wild with savage chasms, or dread passes; none show a denser or more vast appearance of primeval forest stretched over range on range to the far horizon, where the sea of mountains fades away into a dim, vaporous uncertainty.
"A region of mystery, over which none can gaze without a strange thrill of interest and of wonder at what might be hidden in that vast area of forest covering all things with its deep repose. It is not the deer of which we think, treading the deep rich moss among the stately tamaracks; nor the bear, luxuriating in the berry patches on the mountainside; nor the panther or the wolf in their lonely and desolate wilds, seeking their feast of blood: we gaze downward from the mountain height on thousands upon thousands of square miles of wilderness, which was always one—since forest it became—and which hides today as it has hidden for so many ages, the secrets of form, and soil, and rock, and history, on which we ponder. Huge are these almost undecipherable pages of the world's annals; enormous and difficult to read; yet there are marks and traces here and there which tell in a brief, irregular and fragmentary way—to those able to decipher such inscriptions—the prehistoric growth of continents; the origin of rivers; the spread of vegetable and animal life, and the approach of man."
Colvin's call for an Adirondack preserve found many allies. Fishermen and hunters urged the establishment of a preserve on state lands, and so did physicians. Impressed by Dr. Edward Trudeau's work with tuberculars at Saranac, physicians said that because of the clean mountain air, the state should make the Adirondacks a regional sanatorium. (A number of Adirondack residents are descended from tuberculars who came to take the cure, and Trudeau's grandson, Dr. Francis B. Trudeau, is the voluntary medical adviser to the Olympic biathlon and cross-country contestants at Lake Placid.)