A Tower & A Rock

On top of Azure Mountain, precariously near the brink of its precipitous southwest face, sits an immense boulder.  I suppose it is a glacial erratic, transported from who knows where by incomprehensible tons of ice and left behind like refuse when the ice retreated north 10,000 years ago.  It has always fascinated me, mysterious monolith perched there like a gargoyle high on a Gothic spire.

Within sight of my rock, nearby upon the true summit of the mountain, stands a fire observer's tower.  It has been abandoned for some years now, but I can remember, when I climbed this mountain as a child, winding my way up the spindly stairs - my heart nearer my throat with every step - and being shown by the observer how to pinpoint on his map a suspicious plume of smoke.  It stands now like an erector set deserted by a young boy grown up.  But it, too, fascinates me.  Who built it - and how?  What manner of men passed hours at a time in its crow's-nest of a cabin, scanning hundreds of miles of forest for signs of a fire that might destroy everything in sight?  What fires never raged thanks to the use of this decaying hulk?

A tower and a rock.  Man and nature.  Most of Adirondack history over the past two centuries or more can be condensed in these two ideas.  To trace Adirondack history is to trace man's relationship with nature. 

Neal Burdick

A Century Wild (1885 - 1985)
Essays Commemorating the Centennial of the Adirondack Forest Preserve
Neal S. Burdick, Editor
The Chauncy Press, Saranac Lake, N.Y. 1985