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A Wild Walk in the Clouds

Take three septuagenarians and two thirty-somethings and find something everyone will like. It's easily done at The Wild Center.

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake NY

When my favorite aunt and uncle made their annual surprise visit (put a bunch of dates on a dartboard, put on a blindfold, and just start chucking darts and your guess will probably be as accurate as mine) I was uncomfortably devoid of entertainment ideas. We're a rag-tag group of unlikely companions, you see? Whatever we do has to appeal to everyone; the master stonemason who can find beauty and great feats of engineering in what seems like a simple retaining wall, the educator with three masters degrees, the Sunday Times Crossword Warrior and retired welder, and then two millennial writers and science fiction buffs who will end up grudgingly doing whatever the grown-ups are but would love to have a great time, too.

I love a good museum. Give me something pretty, something educational, something I have never seen or seen a million times before; I'll spend all day looking at curated wonder. But The Wild Center is something a little different. To be sure, it has the beautiful displays and bits of fun facts of history and science, but when they say that The Wild Center is where the wilderness comes alive they mean it and I don't think I've ever experienced a museum-like it.

Do you remember when you were a kid and you didn't have a care in the world? I do. I remember playing with spiders, getting lost in the Catskills with my other pre-teen friends trying to climb a mountain, hanging from the jungle gym by my knees to see just how much swing I can get without using my hands, climbing up and over the big pillars at the playground and perched defiantly on the top of Chief Big Mac's nose (however did I get there?) at McDonald's Playland. Those were great times. And then there was learning time. Learning time was different. Learning time was quiet. It wasn't where you could run and jump and touch and experience, it was where you could devour knowledge and solve the mysteries of the world and be awed and play-act maturity until it became your every day. In my youth, maybe in yours as well, never the twain did meet.

And that was okay. 

But what a wonderful age we live in - where living and learning can be combined and appeal to every age and every demographic. That is The Wild Center.

An Adirondack Skyline
An Adirondack Skyline

The Wild Walk, the center's newest attraction was our first stop. It's called, by some, the "Highline of the Forest" and that is generally what I expected. A beautiful, if straight-shot, walk over the trees. That would be an incorrect assumption. Branching out like the limbs of a tree itself, this is a museum without walls, this is a learning adventure; its very entrance a bird observatory curated by the natural world, and each step of the way a new experience or new information to delight in or to devour.

In the Wild Walk, the jungle gym of my youth has grown wings to fly but has never really grown up; so much so that I, by all accounts an avowed party-pooper and stick in the mud, was inspired to play haphazardly again.

Walking in a Spider Web
Walking in a Spider Web

If it were just The Wild Walk, I would have been happy, but that is just one part of The Wild Center. The Hall of the Adirondacks is full of nearly hands-on learning; from bog orchids or carnivorous plants like pitcher plants and Venus flytraps to fish like brook trout and sturgeon and then to land animals as small as snapping turtles to as large and lively as river otters or bright and colorful as mandarin ducks to the flora and fauna of our Adirondack ecosystem. The Hall of the Adirondacks presents a unique opportunity to experience the remarkable diversity that may ordinarily go unseen or unnoticed.

But there is more, too. Walking and hiking trails, canoe and stand up paddleboard tours, play areas designed to allow a place for kids to interact with the forest, lecture series and special demonstrations make this museum (can I really call it that? what would you call it?) a gem well worth traveling to see. So what are you waiting for? It's going into hibernation on Halloween.

The Wild Center: Experiential Learning

Sunset through a set of wide bay windows
Sunset through a set of wide bay windows