Wild Walk

The
Thirty Foot
Surprise

Getting off the
ground is pretty
elevating

When the High Line opened in New York in 2009, it surprised people. Perhaps they felt that from windows and bridges and on movie screens, every angle of the city had been explored. It turned out that a simple change of perspective opened up a brand new way to see New York.

In his review in The New York Times, then architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff described the effect this way. “... as mesmerizing as the design is, it is the height of the High Line that makes it so magical, and that has such a profound effect on how you view the city. Lifted just three stories above the ground, you are suddenly able to perceive, with remarkable clarity, aspects of the city’s character you would never glean from an office….The High Line is the only place in New York where you can have this experience — one that is as singular in its way as standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.”

The Adirondacks are traversed with trails, but even the one that ascends to the state’s highest point on the peak of Mt Marcy, a summit five times higher than the deck of the Empire State Building, leaves the walker always at ground level.

Wild Walk is a chance to walk among the trees at a height that matches the High Line. “It’s surprising when you get up there to suddenly see things in a way you’ve never seen before,” said Derek Prior, who led the graphics team for the project. “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 in 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, that seemed pretty big, is really just fractional.”

A Trail Across the Treetops

Into another world

Wild Walk takes 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 can feel on Wild Walk.

Did you know that bears can see the past? Their noses signal what’s happening now and what happened yesterday. It would be the same as if you could see people walking through your room now and the faint ghosts of people who walked through last night.

 

There are snakes that catch smell on their tongues, animals that feel their way around the woods with a sense of touch twenty-times more powerful than our own highly sensitive finger tips. Some animals live in 3D worlds built from sounds and smell instead of sight, and others see a world so different it would be unrecognizable to us.

The Wild Walk experience includes a four-story twig tree house and swinging bridges, a spider’s web where people can hang out, and chances to just sit and observe the forest below. There’s a full-sized bald eagle’s nest at the highest point where visitors can perch and imagine.

You,
Look
Like
an
Animal

Nothing sees the forest quite like we do

We’re different. We may have once stalked the forest like other animals, but the skills are vanishing. We might have listened quietly for dinner to come our way, or scouted the woods for shelter, or sniffed a gathering storm. Wild Walk is an invitation to feel that way again, and to see the world once more the way the wild world still does.

Animals don’t have life spans, they have daily odds, and the odds, every second of the day, are long. Think of the bird that hatches hundreds of eggs in its life. Of those 100, only one survives to make its own eggs. Do the math and you’ll see. If more than one baby bird lived on, the birds would do what we have done - multiply their populations. So to be that 1 in 100 requires serious survival skills, finding food and shelter and all the while ducking away from danger in the form of weather, accident or another creature’s hunger.

For most of us a walk in the woods is a peaceful reverie. Wild Walk certainly has chances to contemplate the infinite web of life that spins around us, but it also has chances to clamber across an unstable surface too, and to balance off the ground and sense a little of the fleeting life of the forest.

Rise Up

Everything changes when you leave Earth

If you began at the ocean’s floor and swam up toward the light, you would see the life around you change as you ascend. The creatures of the tidal pool are different from those of the deep. The same variation happens in the forest. Every rise from the floor is a new neighborhood, populated in different ways, by different creatures. There are birds the most avid watchers rarely see because they live such high lives, skimming through the uppermost branches. There are birds that love the tops of pines, and birds that scour the ground under birches, and they rarely meet. You would not expect to see an eagle on the ground or a fox hunting along tree branches. And the same applies for thousands of less storied creatures, including some that never set foot on earth.

Our own human view is usually head high, and when we see a picture taken from another perspective it often surprises. Put a camera looking up through the moss, or looking down from on high, and you see something new.

At Wild Walk, you can ascend, foot by foot, leaving the view we see most often, and wander into planes you may not have seen since you scraped your younger legs up a tree trunk.

The world is filled with amazing things, and it is worth leaving the comfort of the familiar ground to see more, and see from another point of view.

The Snag

Life After Death

The tallest trees in the Adirondacks are white pines.

The tallest white pine in the modern Adirondacks measures in at just over 160 feet. It’s also the tallest tree in New York, and neighbor to four others each taller than the Statue of Liberty from her base to torch. White pines, sometimes soloing high above their neighbor trees, are prone to lightning strikes and snapping off in gales, and when that happens, they turn into towering trunks called snags teaming with life that burrows into their softening wood.

Wild Walk’s snag is a giant among the giants, big enough for a stairwell inside, and four stories tall. It let’s you imagine how massive the snags are to smaller creatures who flock to them for shelter. Think of all the places you could live in the forest, and then imagine a hole high up on a sheer wall of wood, dry, warmed by the sun, safe from the meat-eating heavyweights and their big appetites. Snags are home to more life in their own afterlives than when the sap still pumps up their towering stems.

A Nest With a View

You'll See

Look up into a white pine, and with a little luck you'll see the nests of bald eagles near Wild Walk. This is your chance to climb into one of those nests. It's 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.

Suspend Yourself

Silk Road

What would it be like to live on a web, hanging on a thread above the forest? The Spider's Web at Wild Walk is your chance to lay in wait, or walk across a web woven above the ground. We can't give you hollow fangs, four eyes, or the ability to manufacture silk, (or the stomach to eat your web and recycle the silk for that matter) but we can demonstrate some amazing spidey stories while you hang out and enjoy the suspense.

Early Reviews

“You've never seen the Adirondacks like this before.” Travel + Leisure

“This Museum is so well done that we felt the wildness in all of our hearts. Thank you Wild Center.” Tripadvisor review

“An Ewokian fever dream come to life.” Mother Nature News

“Have worked in many museums throughout the world, and this one tops them all. Something about the perfect combination of information and experience. Or maybe it's simply the vibe. Don't miss it.” Tripadvisor review

Winner of the Excellence Award - Society of American Registered Architects - Celebration of Architecture & Design Prize

Wild Walk By the Numbers

  • 3,640

    Pounds of bird food projected
    annually for Feeder Alley

    chickadee

    or the weight of 145,600 chickadees

  • 6,000

    Number of volts for bear proof
    fencing to keep bears from knocking
    over feeders the same as a big
    charge from 10 electric eels
    zapping all at once

  • Tree Tower

    84

    Tons of steel used to fabricate the
    27 Tree Towers that hold Wild Walk

    …that's 14 orca whales

    14 Orcas
  • 15,240

    Number of feet of bridges on Wild Walk

    Not human feet, flying squirrel feet. Flying Squirrel

  • 45

    Height in feet an average
    adult’s eyes will be at highest point

    7 Jordans

    … that’s Michael Jordan standing on his head 7 times.

  • 72

    Number of known wild bird species that come to the Wild Walk site. That’s 19 more bird species here than all the mammal species that call the Adirondacks home

  • 65

    Minutes ACF* from the top of Wild Walk
    to the furthest mountain
    summit visible.

    *As the crow flies, which is
    about 25 miles per hour.

    25mph Crow
  • 3,000,000

    Estimated number of wing flaps taken by blackpoll warblers on their fall migration.

    That's about the number of steps needed
    to walk from here to Miami

  • 50

    Years between designer Chip Reay’s work on IBM Pavilion for 1964 World’s Fair and the completion of Wild Walk

    World's Fair

Designing
Wild Walk

Chip Reay: From the World's Fair To Wild Walk

Chip Reay

Chip Reay

World's Fair

IBM Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair

Charles P. “Chip” Reay led the team that designed The Wild Center. He designed Wild Walk as well.

Reay worked in the Charles Eames studio in 1964. Eames was creating the film and exhibits for the Eero Saarinen-designed IBM Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens, and Reay landed a job there early in his career.

Reay headed Studio E at the global architectural firm HOK, and his work with that firm include central roles in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC and King Saud University in Riyadh. His work has been recognized with awards from The American Institute of Architects, The Urban Arts Institute, The United States National Endowment for the Arts Federal Design Achievement Award, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, the Industrial Design Society of America, AIGI, the New York Art Directors Club and Communications Arts.

Reay’s work on Wild Walk began shortly after the opening of the Center in 2006.

“The Wild Center was an invention in my mind of a new kind of natural history museum, called a museum, but entirely different, something non-collections based that chooses to tell its stories with living things instead of dead things. I wanted to connect everything to the surrounding environment, whatever the scale, not to objects in glass boxes.

Below: Some of Chip’s early
sketches for Wild Walk
Left Right
  • Chip Reay Sketch 1
  • Chip Reay Sketch 2
  • Chip Reay Sketch 3
  • Chip Reay Sketch 4
  • Chip Reay Sketch 5

“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.

“The Wild Center was a culminating project in my life. It began around the time I was thinking of retiring from HOK, soon after the Center opened the Wild Walk idea afforded the chance to add a new piece. It was a chance to try to perfect the vision of The Wild Center, to make it more wonderful. The Wild Center including Wild Walk was unusual for a designer, because I could do the planning, and the building and the exhibits, and the interiors, it’s very unusual to get to do all of that. So it became a fuller expression of my design interests and more cohesive than any project I ever did, because it came in toto from ideas and concepts that were rattling around in my head. Anything done at the scale of the Wild projects reflects a collaborative process that involves the talents of a broad group of like-minded souls... though here, not so many as to become unfocused, and so I was able to guide the vision along the way - to kindle the flame. As a designer it seems to me that if you can meet your imagination and your expectations when you see a project completed, it’s a dream.”

Wild Walk
is Accessible
to All

Bring a friend to the treetops

Wild Walk is accessible to people of all generations and abilities. There will be side paths and options to take, suspension bridges, and stairs down, but the entire main structure, from the trail leading to Feeder Alley all the way to the viewing pod on the final tower platform was built specifically so that it would afford everyone the chance to experience the Walk.