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The Peak: 5,344 feet
When Ebenezer Emmons and his party recorded the first ascent of Mt. Marcy in 1837, they struggled through virgin forest and, near the top, dense scrubby balsam. Today, the stunted pines are parted by well-marked trails from four directions. Still, it’s a long hike-anywhere from 14 to 20 miles depending on the route-and if the weather turns bad or, pity the innocent, the black flies are biting, it’s a mission that may seem endless. The shortest way up is the Van Hoevenberg Trail, which undulates for 2 miles to the postcard-pretty lake at Marcy Dam. Then it’s all uphill. Fortunately, the top is worth the toil: You get 41 other Adirondack peaks surpassing 4,000 feet, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and, as a bonus, a bird’s-eye view of the ski jumps built for the soaring psychos in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
On September 13, 1901, Vice President Teddy Roosevelt was lunching at Lake Tear of the Clouds (the source of the Hudson River) when a breathless guide reported that President William McKinley, who’d been shot by an anarchist in Buffalo, had taken a bad turn and was dying. After an energetic hike and series of all-night wagon relays, Roosevelt reached the North Creek Train Depot to the news that he had become, at 42, the youngest president in U.S. history. The rough-riding big-game hunter, who grew up hiking, fishing, and hunting in the Adirondacks, used his famous big stick to establish five national parks and millions of acres of national forest. No president, before or since, has done more to protect our nation’s wilderness.