"W" Mountain Sparks Much Interest, by Fay Welch

Editors Note:

No greater authority or better interpreter of forest recreation can be found than Fay Welch. He started his outdoor experience as an Adirondack guide and later graduated from the College of Forestry at Syracuse University where he served as a special lecturer in forest recreation for many years. These lectures covered camp counseling, camp directing, camp consulting and on directing outdoor leadership programs. He is the author of over 100 articles and booklets dealing with camping, skiing and other outdoor activities.

In the middle 1920s Fay came to Chateaugay Lake and established Tanager Lodge on Indian Point. At the present time Fay, Mrs. Welch and two sons Jim and Tom make their home at Erieville, New York and in the summer operate Tanager Lodge, an outdoor camps for boys and girls.

A recent letter from Fay Welch to Dr. Sweet

Erieville, NY, 2/8/70

Dear Doc,

When I receive the “Record” I always look at the Rotary news, and the recent notes about the “Caves on W Mountain” are responsible for the following remarks:

Charlie Merrill guided 3 or 4 of us from Tanager Lodge to the vicinity of the so-called Bat’s Caves in the latter ’20s. (I say vicinity because one of us actually located the entrance). The caves are not on W Mountain but are located on a shoulder of Norton’s Peak, about one mile east of the easternmost peak of the W.

With our campers and counselors we (Ted, “Wiggie”, Him or I) have made trips to these caves almost every year since the 1920s — sometimes 2 or 3 trips in a single season. I have only been down in the caves as far as I can walk upright, but some of our staff have slithered around in the mud to a distance of three times the length of a 60 foot rope, or 180 feet. We also discovered a second entrance – only possible for a thin man to get through.

In chapter 45 of Charlie Merrill’s “Old Guides Story”, which appeared in the Malone Evening Telegram in 1930, Charlie tells about his father, Darius Merrill, discovering a cave on W Mountain.

Personally I believe the “Bat’s Caves” we know are the “Caves on W” for several reasons. 1) Charlie Merrill guided us to these caves and never said anything about any other caves. 2) These caves we know are on a high ridge connecting Norton’s Peak and the W – and might be considered as on part of the W range. 3) I have never found any signs of caves on the 3 peaks of the W., which I have climbed repeatedly (3 times one summer), nor have any members of our staff. I have also, on two occasions, walked the ridge from W. past the Bat’s Caves, to Norton’s Peak, and saw no signs of other caves.

From Indian Point I can point out to you a spruce on the ridge that is within a hundred yards of the entrance. My son, Jim, says that from the top of Norton’s you cannot miss seeing the cave entrance. He and some of our older campers marked the trail to the caves from the top of Norton’s with tin can tops painted red last summer.

So much for the facts about these caves. There is also, as you know, a lot of fiction.

Our best to you and Phyllis,

As ever,