First things first: The fall foliage in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, home to the largest swath of publicly protected land in the continental United States, is super intense. An intoxicating riot of reds and yellows and oranges and purples, the Adirondacks are on fire. And they’re on fire now.

Despite having one of the longest fall foliages seasons in the Northeast, the autumn colors (courtesy the yellow birch, the American beech, the quaking aspen and the iconic sugar maple among others) tend to ebb on the early side in Adirondack Park, which, at over 6 million heavily forested acres, is vast, rugged, primal, larger than the state of Massachusetts.

And just like the evanescent nature of this once-a-year burst of vivid color, the newest and most architecturally stunning place in which to peep these turning leaves in the Adirondacks won’t be around for much longer — until Oct. 12, to be exact.

Opened to the public last July, Adirondack Park’s Wild Walk, a $5.5 million aerial walkway that lifts visitors from the ground and into the forest canopy, was pretty much custom-built for this time of year, however fleeting. An Ewokian fever dream come to life, this 1,250-foot treetop trail is located on the 81-acre Tupper Lake campus of the Wild Center, an acclaimed and very much interactive natural history museum best known for flexing its muscle in the green building sphere as New York’s first LEED-certified museum.

The High Line-inspired Wild Walk at the Wild Center, Adirondack State Park, New York.Photo: Wild Center/flickr

Due to its, well, elevated status, the good folks at the Wild Center haven’t shied away from comparing their aerial attraction to New York’s other famed elevated walkway: the High Line.

The Wild Walk will open up a chance to walk among the trees at a height that matches the High Line.

Such comparisons may be a wee bit tired at this point considering that High Line-y projects have been popping up left and right with increasing frequency. Most recently, a disused railway-turned-park scheme has been picking up financial steam in London, a city that's aerial attractions include a giant observation wheel and a slide-laden observation tower with a controversial "floating paradise garden" spanning the Thames on its way.

And besides, the Wild Walk is nestled deep in the wilderness of Quebec-bordering Franklin County, New York, while the High Line and its ilk are largely situated in dense urban environments. Most of these adaptive reuse-focused linear park projects breathe new life into old and forgotten city infrastructure. As pointed out by Dezeen, probably the closest thing out there to the Wild Walk is the Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa.

So does the mere fact that the Wild Walk is an elevated walkway — a spectacularly sited one, at that — justify the folks at the Wild Center referring to it as “the High Line of the forest?”

The High Line-inspired Wild Walk at the Wild Center, Adirondack State Park, New York.Photo: Wild Center/flickr

While evoking an internationally renowned Manhattan tourist attraction in promotional materials certainly doesn’t hurt, the Wild Center does an expert job at elaborating on the initially shaky analogizing. And as the Wild Center explains, the similarities aren’t so much about height but about affording museum-goers, particularly those who have previously walked the thousands of miles trails weaving throughout Adirondack Park, a dramatic shift in perspective.

Explains Derek Prior, a graphic designer with St. Louis-headquartered global architecture firm HOK, in a media release issued just prior to the walkway's grand opening:

“It’s surprising when you get up there to suddenly see things in a way you’ve never seen before. It’s not that you might have never climbed a tree, or looked out a window at a scene, it’s simply that walking along the treetops is a place you have never been, and because of that, you just see everything in a different light, and can start to imagine how our regular point of view is so limiting.”

He adds: “We know how almost infinite nature is and that we can scratch the surface of seeing and knowing it, this is a chance to scratch something brand new, and look into nature from a point of view that can be mesmerizing. Hopefully, like the High Line, people will carry that perspective around with them, and come back to refresh it.”

The High Line-inspired Wild Walk at the Wild Center, Adirondack State Park, New York.Photo: Wild Center/flickr

The Wild Walk website picks up where Prior leaves off:

Wild Walk will take visitors up a trail of bridges to the treetops of the Adirondack forest. It’s designed to transform the way we see into the natural world by offering up the perspective of the rest of nature.The world is wildly different for animals that see, hear, smell and feel the world in ways that we can only imagine. Every other species that lives in the Adirondacks sees and senses the world differently from us. It’s an amazing idea, and one people will be able to get a feel for on Wild Walk.

While Prior has supplied both lovely musings about the nature of the project and environmental graphic design expertise, the venerable Charles P. Reay can take credit for the actual design of the Wild Walk. The architect of record is New York-based studio Linearscape.

Reay, who also designed the aforementioned LEED Silver-certified Wild Center museum complex while still a senior vice-president at HOK and also played a key role in the design of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., got his big break in 1964 as a young architect working under the employ of Charles Eames at the New York World’s Fair (for the IBM Pavilion, to be exact).

The High Line-inspired Wild Walk at the Wild Center, Adirondack State Park, New York.Photo: Wild Center/flickr

Says Reay:

I wanted The Wild Center building to pay homage to the historic architecture of the area, so it grew out of that landscape and meets the Adirondacks in its own terms. It seemed very appropriate to me that Wild Walk would come out of wedding the structure, the art, or architecture or whatever you want to call it, and let it be an outgrowth of the forest. The idiom is the forest. It is not trying to build the forest and hide that we built something, but to let the tree forms be a statement of a simplified natural form. I wanted to take the Adirondack forest at its most essential forms.

While the turning leaves are currently the main event at the Wild Walk, Reay’s trail-in-the-sky offers numerous other notable attractions. Several of the Wild Walk’s features are geared specifically toward restless, pint-sized visitors whose attentions spans aren’t quite compatible with hardcore leaf peeping or prolonged vista appreciation sessions — or at least yet.

For starters, there’s suspension bridges, a giant rope “spiders web,” a massive dead tree trunk (made from fabricated concrete) with an interior that can be explored and a human-sized bald eagles nest that, at 42-feet up, serves as the “highest point of Wild Walk, and you're invited to rest here and look out across a forest that stretches as far as you can see. It's home to trillions of lives, spinning away forever. We share this world with all those lives. It's fascinating to sit in the nest of a great bird, and absorb the view and all it houses.”

A red tail hawk at the High Line-inspired Wild Walk at the Wild Center, Adirondack State Park, New York.Photo: Wild Center/flickr

Another key feature of the Wild Walk, with its rusted pine cone-shaped Corten steel tower posts and grand total of nine bridges, is Feeder Alley. Described as a “60-foot-long enclosed bird observation zone,” Feeder Alley is a sort of avian mess hall outfitted with a whopping 32 bird feeders for the 72 known species that frequent the area.

While certain sections of the Wild Walk are jungle gym-y in nature, the main elevated walkway is completely accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities.

And then there’s those leaves — those fierce, fiery, crimson-flushed leaves. Visiting the Wild Walk now gives visitors the opportunity to take in the Adirondacks’ famous foliage from a perspective previously reserved for birds and other assorted critters of the forest. There’s also special fall educational programming along the trail that offers further scientific insight into those breathtaking colors.

Again, Wild Walk closes for the season on Oct. 12 and will reopen for its first full summer season next Memorial Day when the surrounding landscape is lush and green and new again.

Via [Dezeen]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

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