Sometimes, a small change in perspective can make a world of difference.
Thousands of visitors to New York’s High Line have discovered that to be true since the wildly popular elevated park first opened in 2009. And now, the new Wild Walk, which is now open in the heart of the Adirondacks, is doing for the forest what the High Line did for the urban landscape. Basically, it lets you see the forest through the trees. Literally.
Less than a year old, the Walk Walk was constructed on the grounds of the Wild Center, an 81-acre museum complex that delves into the natural world of New York’s Adirondack Park. Designed by Charles P. Reay, the innovative walkway takes you up and over the forest canopy for a truly breathtaking view, and a revelatory look at the dense and expansive landscape.
It was designed in three stages. First, with a state-of-the-art 3D computer modeling program in NYC (the steadily rising floor, which was made to be almost completely wheelchair accessible, had to meet platforms at very precise angles.) It was then built on the site of a steel fabricator close to Syracuse, before being completely dismantled and reconstructed on the grounds of the Wild Center near Tupper Lake, about a five-hour drive from New York.
What makes the Wild Walk so unique? As museum guides are quick to point out, even if you ascend the state’s highest point at Mt. Marcy, you still remain at ground level. When you climb to the top of the Raptor’s Nest that crowns the Wild Walk, you have a unique, and one-of-a-kind, view. One that’s almost more akin to flying than hiking.
When you first start your journey up the Wild Walk, you encounter a section dotted with 32 bird feeders that attract a large variety of species native to the Adirondacks (as well as a 6,000-volt electric fence to keep out bears, yikes!). The twenty-seven steel cone towers that dot the walkway were constructed with 84 tons of steel, and are meant to represent conifers. They’re the same height throughout the pathway and serve as an easy guide for just how high you’ve climbed over the course of your journey.
Splat! One of the first major exhibits on the walk is one dedicated to the insects and spiders that make their homes in the trees of the forest. You’re able to climb on top of a model of a spider’s nest 24 feet above the ground to get a better of their (turns out, quite horrifying) life. The giant spider guarding the nest has been nicknamed “Paulina” by the museum since she was constructed in Poland.
The highest point of the Wild Walk, where the average adult’s eyes will be 45-feet above the ground, is the Raptor’s Nest, where you have a clear view of the gorgeous vista—including landmarks like the Whiteface Mountain and Seward Range. The nest may seem gigantic, but it’s actually only a tiny bit larger than the biggest bird’s nest ever found. AKA it's basically a Raptor Luxury Condo.
Across a Swiss Family Robinson-like swinging bridge is the Twig Tree House, which gives visitors even more insight into the fauna of the forest. Exhibits inside the structure (which actually resembles much of the architecture in the area) show how woodpeckers methodically carve out their homes, and displays examples of real-life bird’s nests that you can find in the forest.
One of the most visually-arresting sections of the wild walk is the Snag, a model of a dead Eastern White Pine that you are able to explore from the inside. The Eastern White Pine is the largest tree in the Adirondacks, and is therefore extremely prone to getting hit by lighting or knocked over by large gusts of winds. (It's not a very lucky tree.) As a result, hollowed-out trunks, or “snags,” are often teeming with life, some of which you can see examples of in this model. It was made by taking high-resolution 3D scans of the bark of actual pines on the Center’s grounds and is exactly four and a half times the size of a normal tree.
Want to check it out for yourself? The Wild Walk and Wild Center are open daily from 10am to 6pm. $20 Adults; $13 Youth (5-17), 4 and under free