A most incredible thing happened this summer in the North Country. Tupper Lake, a town smack in the middle of the Adirondack Park with a population of 3700 folks, has had 150,000 visitors so far this year! How could that be? And how did that extraordinary happening cause me to take special interest in models of guideboats. That interest became so strong, in fact, that I decided I must have a guideboat model.
In answer to the first question The wild Center, or the Adirondack Natural History Museum, is located in Tupper Lake. After several years of planning and fund raising they opened their Wild Walk on July 4th. The Wild Walk is a walkway among the tree tops with some incredibly well done natural history themes that fascinate as you stroll through the Walk. The folks at the Wild Center expected the Wild Walk to increase their daily summer attendance from 500 visitors to 800. The first month the Walk was open over 2000 visitors per day were coming to experience the Wild Walk. That pretty much was the case through August and into the fall.
Let me take you on a photo tour of the Wild Walk. You start a ground level and gradually ascend to a height of thirty feet. The first tower, at the entrance, opens the way to feeder alley, a long bird blind flanked by bird feeders.
The feeder alley bird blind.
As we move forward (and upward) we come to the Eagles Nest. This simulated Eagles nest is only a little bit wider that the largest one ever recorded. That one weighed over 3 tons. The view from the nest of the Adirondack High peaks is spectacular.
You can now turn to your right which brings you to the spider web. This giant trampoline is great fun for kids. There are clever interactive displays about spiders too so the chance to educate is not lost.
Walk back across and past Eagles Nest and you come to the Twig House. Inside the Twig House are some hands-on displays on woodpeckers. There are bird’s nests of all kinds with no identification. It is up to the visitor to decide who might have made such and such a nest.
The final destination is the Snag, an enlarged version of a white pine snag, or what is left of a virgin white pine after a storm has snapped off its trunk. Inside you descend via spiral staircase and view dioramas showing how the snag provides shelter and, as it decays, provides nourishment for a whole host of animals and plants.
My wife, Fran, and I visited the Wild Walk construction site a year ago last fall. We decided right then that we would volunteer to help out when it opened. This spring we heard that volunteers for “trunk” programs were needed. Not knowing just what a trunk program was all about we signed on anyway.
It turned out that trunk programs were portable exhibits contained in a trunk with rollers. There are four trunk programs; flying squirrels, birds, products of the forest, and fungi. Everything that is needed for each exhibit is in its trunk. You just roll the trunk out of the storage shed and set it up at its station on the Wild Walk.
Now Fran and I weren’t able to make trunk training so we decided to bone up on our own on a trunk topic we weren’t particularly knowledgeable about. I took flying squirrels and she took fungi.
So when our first day on the job arrived we felt pretty confident that we could handle those topics. Not so fast there newbie volunteers. The trunks are already set up and they are birds and products of the forest. I took birds because I knew something about that subject. But products of the forest, what is that all about? So off went Fran to find out.
It turns out that the purpose of the products of the forest trunk was to show how Adirondackers used, and still use, the natural resources of the forest. Three of these were displayed, maple syrup, burls to bowls, and the roots of red spruce for guideboat stems and ribs. So Fran was right at home with this trunk having lived with one who built guideboats for the past 20 years. Here she is at the forest products trunk.
Now we come to the guideboat model thing and how the Wild Walk led me to a search for a guideboat model. The Wild Center interns did an excellent job in preparing the trunk exhibits. I did take exception to the guideboat model in forest products trunk. It is basically a canoe with oars. This model has thwarts (guideboats don’t have thwarts), it has a round bottom (guideboats have a flat bottom) and no decks.
When I talked to the interns they totally agreed that the model wasn’t representative of a guideboat but it was all they could find. Remember, they said, the model can’t be too expensive, must fit in the trunk, and must be durable. Alright, I said, look and see if I can find a guideboat model that meets those specs. That is when I got hooked on guideboat models.
I searched the internet first but could only find modes that were quite expensive, over $1000. The Adirondack Museum had two models that looked promising. By now I was looking at the models more for my own then the Wild Walk. When the Museum had a 30% off one day sale for members I bought a model for less than $200. Here it is.
The more I examined this model the more I was amazed at how closely it resembles a real guideboat. There are eight planks per side and the decks are nicely done. Here is a close-up photo of the inside of the hull.
Something about the model made me think it was very close to being a miniature of a Hanmer guideboat. Here is a full-sized Hanmer guideboat at the Adirondack Museum. Note that the deck and the middle seat back are similar to those on my model.
Another clue was the slant of the stem. The stems on guideboats made in the southwest part of the Park; Old Forge, Boonville) slant outward, those made in the center of the Park (Long Lake, Newcomb) are straight up and down, and those to the north are tumble home, or slope inward towards the midships.
Here is the stem on the Hanmer boat.
I have no idea where this model was made but it is a very accurate copy of a guideboat. I am struck by that accuracy ever time I look at it. Bravo to whoever made it.
Next time we meet the builder of a very exact model of a guideboat.