I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?
— Aldo Leopold, 1945
Close to one-third of New York State  is a big, blank space on the map. Most of it is contained within Adirondack Park, a six-million-acre refuge that is an unusual mixture of public and private lands. Forty-three percent of the park is Forest Preserve that belongs to the people of New York. Fifty-seven percent is privately owned by industries and individuals, and devoted primarily to forestry, agriculture, and recreation.
Within Adirondack Park live about 130,000 people in 105 towns and villages, most of which have populations of less than 1,000.
Parts of Adirondack Park are a vast and silent forest, filled with thousands of gleaming lakes and ponds, hundreds of rugged smoke-blue peaks, and endless miles of rushing rivers and streams. During the region’s short summers, vacationers flock here by the thousands to canoe, fish, camp, and hike. During its endless harsh winters, year-round residents eke out livings through factory work, trapping, and logging.
Marking the southeastern entrance to the Adirondacks is Saratoga Springs , a small urban jewel known for its superb horse racing and mineral springs. North of the Adirondacks lie the Thousand Islands , an evocative place-name for the insular flecks scattered up the St. Lawrence River. Most of the Thousand Islands  are as unpopulated as the Adirondacks, home to many more trees than people.
No major airports service the North Country. Most visitors fly to New York City , Albany , Syracuse , or Montreal, and then drive. USAirways (800/428-4322) flies into Watertown in the Thousand Islands area .
Amtrak (800/872-7245) operates daily between New York and Montreal, with stops in Saratoga Springs , Glens Falls , Fort Ticonderoga , Port Henry , Westport , and Plattsburgh . The scenery along the way is spectacular.
Among bus companies, Adirondack-Pine Hill Trailways (800/225-6815) is the only one that provides service throughout the Adirondacks. Greyhound (800/231-2222) travels to Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls, Plattsburgh, and the Thousand Islands.
By far the best ways to explore the North Country are by car, canoe, and foot. The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA, 22 St. Bernard St., Saranac Lake, 518/891-6200, www.adirondack.org ) publishes a good map that outlines scenic and historic driving routes; copies can be picked up for free in most tourism offices.