Happy women’s history month! In a previous conservation minute, I wrote about the namesake for Esther Mountain (High Peak #28). This month I thought that I would bring you the story behind the only other 46er named after a woman, Grace Peak (High Peak #42). Formerly known as East Dix, it was renamed in 2014 after a long campaign led by the Adirondack 46er hiking club to honor Grace Hudowalski.
Grace was born in Ticonderoga in 1906 and grew up in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains. Despite growing up in a time when women were rarely partaking in hiking and were not encouraged to explore the outdoors, she became an avid hiker at a young age, summiting her first 46er, Mount Marcy, in 1922 at the age of 15. On this hike, she fell in love with these mountains and it forever changed the course of her life. Over the next 15 years, Grace worked her way through the other 45 tallest mountains in the state, finishing her 46er journey on August 26, 1937 on Mt. Esther, specifically choosing this mountain as her last peak as a tribute to the amazing woman that had come before her. With this final summit, Grace became the 9th person to summit the 46 tallest peaks in the state and the first woman to do so.
Grace’s devotion to these mountains did not stop there, in fact it was really just the beginning of a lifetime of love and advocacy for the Adirondacks. She became a founding member of the Adirondack 46ers and was the club’s first president. For over 60 years she was the heart and soul of the organization, serving in many roles, including as their historian where she meticulously maintained the records of the many people attempting to complete the 46er challenge as she believed that the mountains meant something different to everyone and it was important to document these experiences. She personally served as a mentor to thousands of hikers undertaking the journey and shared her passion for the Adirondacks with them by responding to thousands of letters per year from hikers that wrote to her and the club. Many credit their success in completing their 46ers to her. Outside of her volunteer work with the 46er club, Grace shared her love for the Adirondacks through her professional career as a travel promotion supervisor with the state Commerce Department, where she was able to advertise the Adirondacks as a premiere travel destination. Her writing about the park was also published frequently in local publications.
Grace passed away in 2004, but her legacy continues to live on today, not just in the mountain that is named for her, but in the path she paved for the many hikers that followed in her footsteps after her, including myself. I have yet to climb Grace peak, but I feel Grace’s spirit often on the trail, encouraging me to explore another area of the park or while taking in a beautiful Adirondack view. I’ll leave you with one of Grace’s favorite saying, which I find myself turning to on tough days on the trail “It is not important whether you make the summit; it is important how you make the climb.”
This month’s Conservation Minute was written by Carolyn Koestner, LPLC’s Strategic Conservation Planner and GIS professional.