What I did this weekend on the Adirondack Coast……….. the Wild Center in Tupper Lake

It feels like it has been quite a while since I sat down to share my experiences on the Adirondack Coast. I haven’t slowed down at all, and have been trying my best to keep track of all that I have been up to. A few weeks back on a fairly chilly day, my hiking partner and I chose a cozier indoor venture away from our typical winter hiking.

The Adirondack Park is the largest Natural Park in the Lower 48 states. Yellowstone, Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smokey National Parks can all fit within the Adirondack Park’s 6.1 million acres. Nestled within this 6.1 million acre natural wonder sits The Wild Center. The Wild Center has been telling the natural story of the Adirondacks to visitors since 2006 bringing them ever closer to understanding the natural world around us.

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We chose to visit The Wild Center in order to gain better perspective of this world we often visit. The prospect of learning more about the rocks, trees, water and wildlife was exciting. I envisioned that we would leave this place with our brains bursting with new knowledge. We did.

The instant we walked through the front door it was apparent that this place truly is all about the world outside. The Hall of the Adirondack’s floor-to-ceiling windows give the sense that, although indoors, the outside world is the true star of this show. The Adirondack inspired interior of the building brings in the stone, wood, water, and trees from the surrounding acreage.

We arrived early to get a head start on the day’s activities. During the winter months, The Wild Center is open Friday-Sunday from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. We were the first to arrive and passed through the doors promptly at 10:00 am. We were warmly greeted by the staff, given our day’s schedule of Naturalist Programs and Films, and a brief explanation of the facility.

We made our way from the Hall of the Adirondacks to the Main Exhibit Hall. The layout is designed to begin at, well, the beginning. The Glacial Ice Wall at the beginning of the Living River Trail represents the intensity of how the last ice age shaped the land into what it is today. Fascinated by the power of nature, I intently read every line of every plaque, scraped stones together, and felt the ice while the Glacial Ice Wall shifted and groaned.

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Passing the Glacial Ice Wall, the Living River Trail moves on to the lowest elevations of the lakes, ponds, and bogs of the Adirondacks. here is a showcase of living creatures commonly found at these locations as well as interactive sensory gadgets demonstrating the sounds of wildlife and, of course, the smells. I now know what a mink smells like and I’m pretty content without coming across that smell ever again.

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The lowest levels, the bogs.

There’s so much to see and learn along the way. The Trail has the appearance of being outdoors, but there are these handy little markers indicating what it is we are looking at. We often question each other on the types of trees or flowers we are seeing while out on the trail. These handy little markers could prove useful . If we didn’t know we were looking at Trillium, we just read the sign. It’s not quite so simple in nature to identify your surroundings, but with the help of a visit (or many) to the Wild Center, you would be able to identify a few things you had questioned in the past.

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The rivers and the forest floor.

I could spend hours upon hours along the Living River Trail alone. Reading all the plaques, peering into all the habitats, and of course hanging with the always playful Otter, but there’s so much more to see and do here! The Living River Trail ends at the highest peaks of the Adirondacks high up into the alpine zone to highlight the very rare, endangered life aloft and the efforts to protect this delicate landscape.

The Alpine Zone
The Alpine Zone

In addition to the fish and wildlife found along the Living River Trail, the Wild Center also keeps many other animals on site for animal encounters. Throughout the day, naturalists bring these animals out to the Hall of the Adirondacks for special presentations. Today the Barred Owl captured our attention. Many of the animals in the Wild Center’s living collection are not able to live outdoors on their own any longer due to injury or illness, but were given a new lease on life living at the Wild Center. The Handler explained the habits of the illusive Barred Owl to the crowd and took time for questions and photos.

The Barred Owl
The Barred Owl

Our next stop, The Wild Center’s newest attraction, Planet Adirondack. Planet Adirondack brings visuals of our world into a whole new perspective. Planet Adirondack presents weather patterns, world temperatures, and even human connection on a global scale. The giant orb centered in the room shows real time events that impact the Adirondacks and the rest of the world.

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After five hours, we were running short on time. We had missed out on a few of the other exhibits inside. The Find out Forest that the Living River Trail surrounds is filled with high definition video screens where the viewer can select which video they would prefer. Unfortunately we hadn’t left ourselves adequate time to sit and watch all of the films available. The Flammer Panoramas Theater just off the other side of the Hall of the Adirondacks was also missed on this visit. The Flammer Panoramas Theater features the screenings of Carl Heilman’s Wild Adirondacks, and  the award-winning film “A Matter of Degrees” narrated by Sigourney Weaver.

After finishing our lunch in the cafe, we headed outside for some time on the trail system that surrounds the Wild center. The Outdoor trails are open year round for hiking and snowshoeing. There are daily guided hikes with some of the Wild Center’s naturalists available to answer any questions visitors may have. Similar to the Living River Trail, the outdoor trail has labels in key areas.

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We didn’t get to see all of the many exhibits of the Wild Center, but gained so much on our trip. Next time I’ll be sure to visit the Flammer Panoramas Theater and the Find Out Forest first . If venturing outside to visit nature first hand is not your thing, or if you are looking to learn more about your surroundings on the trail, The Wild Center should definitely be on your to-do list.

Visit the Wild center at http://www.wildcenter.org

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