This past June, ADK’s Professional Trail Crew spent four weeks building over 400 feet of bog-bridges on both sides of Boundary Peak! No, it’s not to keep climbers’ boots nice and dry. It’s all part of Dr. Edwin H. Ketchledge’s (1924-2010) long term plan for the Algonquin-Iroquois traverse, his favorite corner of the Adirondacks. Dr. Ketchledge was an alpine researcher, professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, past president of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers, chair of ADK’s Natural History Committee, and founder of the Summit Steward Program.
My involvement in a Forty-Sixer writing project gave me the opportunity to request an interview with “Ketch” as he was kindly called. The several hours I spent with him on October 18, 2004, talking about his life passion and accomplishments will always stay with me. I found him somewhat depressed. He talked of how much more he would have liked to have done and about how worried he was that it was maybe all for naught, even though I told him that things were improving significantly and about the dedicated and highly qualified people who were following in his footsteps. I think he terribly missed the mountains he cared for all of his life. A profoundly religious man, he was seriously wounded in the 10th Mountain Division Italian campaign and believed he owed his life to the goal he then was given. The scars of war were and always stayed deep but as soon as he was back home his path was clear. With an undergraduate degree in forest management, Ketch went on to receive his Masters and Ph.D., specializing in the botany of the High Peaks region. He started working with volunteers in 1955! The rest is history.
It was only a couple of years later while visiting Iroquois once again that I realized he had planted a seed in my mind. At the time it was obvious a partial re-route of the herd path to protect the vegetation was not a sensible option as it had already been rerouted in 1975. The only way to restore vegetation and stop the ever-widening of the herd path before and after Boundary was to build a number of bog-bridges wherever needed. It seemed possible since bog bridges were already on Marcy and Esther. Maybe those were not quite above tree line but perhaps… When I first suggested the idea to people, the expression on their faces read “Yeah right, crazy old woman”. They would say, “great idea but impossible to realize”. But Gary Koch, my friend and decade-long trail steward partner, was enthusiastic from the beginning. Another dedicated volunteer trail worker and 46er Treasurer, Phil Corell, who personally knew and admired Ketch’s work, was an early supporter of the project.
It took me a good year to do what I considered necessary homework before meeting with Kris Alberga, Regional Forester (DEC), in late 2009. Mr. Alberga was immediately in favor of what was from then on going to be the Dr. Ketch Project and took care of the necessary first steps. Soon Forest Ranger Jim Giglinto (DEC), Neil Woodworth (Executive Director, ADK) and Julia Goren (Coordinator of the Summit Steward Program, ADK), were part of the advance team. Nevertheless a dream is only that until someone can carry it forward. 90% of the herculean task was still ahead. Wes Lampman (North Country Operations Director, ADK), accepted the challenge. His dedication, knowledge and perseverance made all the difference. When funding from DEC, Alex Radmanovich, and Gary Koch came up short, Wes approached the Forty-Sixers, sealing the deal.
Our deepest thanks and admiration go to not only Wes but to every member of his Professional Trail Crew (Zachary Campbell, Jon McDonald, Rebecca VanDerWende, William Bryan, Harry Noone, Ryan Graig, Dove Henry, Adam Johnson, Tristan McDonald, Sarah Nadeau) and ADK Trails Coordinator, Andrew Hamlin.
Dr. Ketch is still leading us and forever will…