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Adirondack History: The Roosevelt-Marcy Trail

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Theodore Roosevelt’s Race to North Creek

The Roosevelt-Marcy Trail in the Adirondacks

Theodore RooseveltIt was September 6, 1901Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was attending a luncheon on Lake Champlain when he learned that President William McKinley had been shot at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. Roosevelt rushed to be by the President’s bedside. After a few days, McKinley began to steadily improve and cabinet members believed it would send out a positive message to the public if Roosevelt carried on with his family’s planned hiking and camping trip to Mount Marcy.

Roosevelt had big plans to get his mind off of the September 6th events, setting off for cabins at the foot on Mount Colden the morning of September 12th. Roosevelt was an accomplished naturalist, seeking out what he referred to as “the strenuous life,” while often frequenting the Adirondacks. Roosevelt was an ardent conservationist, and as president, he established the United States Forest Service, signed into law the creation of five National Parks, and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 new U.S. National Monuments. He also established Bird Reserves, Game Preserves, as well as 150 National Forests and endorsed the National Parks system.

Guided by Noah LaCasse and an entourage of ten, the Roosevelt’s began their challenge up the Adirondack’s highest mountain. Not long into the hike, the group encountered steady rain and slippery trail conditions. The weather came in and out, and the group stopped around noon for lunch at Lake Tear of the Clouds. It’s recorded that as Roosevelt was about to start into his lunch, Harrison Hall, a nature guide, rushed into their clearing with a telegraph that read: “The president appears to be dying and members of the cabinet in Buffalo think you should lose no time in coming.”

It took three and half hours to descend the 12 miles back to the base and once there, Roosevelt decided to stay the night and make the 40-mile trip to the North Creek railroad station early the next morning. But a second urgent plea prompted the Vice President to leave at once. Around 10:30pm that night, Roosevelt started his overnight mad dash aboard a one-seater wagon. Roosevelt had not yet made it to the station when William Loeb, Roosevelt’s personal secretary contacted the station with the news that President McKinley had passed away at 2:15am. En route, Roosevelt had become the 26th president of the United States.

Map of the Roosevelt-Marcy Trail. Courtesy of the US Dept of TransportationThe group would endure several wagon changes as Roosevelt departed from the Tahawus Post Office where he switched wagons at the Aiden Lair Lodge in Minerva before finally arriving in North Creek. The trail to North Creek was long and treacherous, with horses slipping down embankments (one as steep as 75-feet), fog and deep darkness with the group’s only light being a single lantern.

The group finally arrived in North Creek as the morning sun began to rise. Roosevelt was wordlessly handed the telegram with the news.

On the same day, September 14, 1901, in a private ceremony in Buffalo, Roosevelt mourned the death of his colleague and officially took the oath of office.

The 40-mile trail Roosevelt and his crew rode through is designated as the Roosevelt-Marcy Trail. The trail begins in Long Lake by New York State Route 30 and follows NY 28N to its eastern end at NY 28 in North Creek. The trail is exactly 40.2 miles long and the once scant trail is now a scenic byway. Today, visitors can follow Roosevelt’s path at a safer and more leisurely rate, taking in what are considered as some of the most beautiful sights in the Adirondack Park.

Aubree Cutkomp is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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