Adirondack Adventures and Lake Placid in New York

High mountains and crystal-clear lakes, winding trails and fast-flowing rivers, secluded lodges and four-star resorts – it is all in the Adirondacks. With more than 3,000 lakes and ponds and 2,000 miles of hiking trails, Adirondack Park is a 6 million-acre area where everyone can find his own adventure.

In the middle of the XIX century this area was heavily used as a source of lumber. Deforestation reached tremendous proportions, and caused public concern. In 1885 the legislature established a Forest Preserve, followed by the creation of Adirondack Park in 1892. Originally a place for hunters and trappers, the Adirondacks became attractive to tourists after the publication of William H. H. Murray’s Adventures in the Wilderness; or Camp-Life in the Adirondacks in 1869. Among the admirers of this region were Frederic Remington, James Russell Lowell, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Lake Placid, located in the Adirondacks, hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice: in 1932 and in 1980 when the U.S. Hockey team defeated the Soviet Union by a score of 4-3 in what is considered one of the greatest moments in sports history, and is often referred to as “The Miracle on Ice”.

Every season offers unique opportunities for a visitor. In the winter, tourists come for downhill and cross-country skiing, skating, and snow-shoeing. During other seasons your choices will include hiking, fishing, swimming, rock-climbing, golf – the list can go onâÂ?¦ Accommodations in the Adirondacks are geared to all possible tastes. One can stay in four-star resorts with saunas, swimming pools and golf courses, or enjoy the peacefulness and solitude of a rustic lodge.

The latter was our choice this summer, when we planned our own Adirondack adventure. The Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service provide lodging for hikers, skiers, and all outdoor enthusiasts. It is located off route 73 between Keene and Lake Placid, and consists of two lodges. We stayed in the Guide’s House which had six rooms, several decks and a large, sunny dining room where a sumptuous breakfast of freshly baked goods, cereal, yogurt, omelets and fruit was served every morning. The house is hidden in a secluded valley at the end of a two-mile private road. Rock and River provides excellent facilities for climbers, including a thirty foot indoor climbing wall. Knowledgeable guides including Ed Palen, the owner of the Lodge, make your experience a very special one. We paid $80 per day for our room, which included a private bath.

Our goal during the trip was to hike, and enjoy the beauty of the region. Even though we were equipped with a good trail map, Ed’s suggestions about the best possible routes were invaluable. One of the most memorable, but not the most strenuous climbs, was to Giants Nubble, where the trail leads through the forest climbing steadily, passing a small lake called Giants Washbowl and leading to a rocky knob. From there you can see the lake surrounded by the mountain slopes, while enjoying a leisurely lunch that had been packed for you at the lodge. At the end of July it can be quite hot in the Adirondacks, and we welcomed the opportunity to swim. The water of Chapel Pond was cold and clear, and the small beach never crowded. The pond, or rather a mountain lake, is close to the road, and framed on its southern side by high cliffs; hence its name. This area is very popular with bird-watchers who often come equipped with binoculars, trying to spot falcons nesting in rocky cliffs.

The lodge does not provide dinners; however your choices are not limited to Keene – the closest village. Lake Placid is only a 15-minute ride from the lodge, and offers a great choice of restaurants along with shopping opportunities. We discovered that one of the best places to eat was The Boat House Restaurant (89 Mirror Lake Dr, Lake Placid, NY 12946). The view of Mirror Lake and downtown Lake Placid across the water enhanced our dining experience.

During the summer, Keene valley is one of the favorite destinations for bicyclists. The road towards Keene is picturesque, with mountains and forest-covered hills surrounding the valley on both sides. Hikers dominate the area; many like us stay in lodges and small hotels and go for day trips, while some prefer to spend the night in rustic shelters or tents in order to reach remote locations. We went on our longest hike, an 11-hour marathon to Mount Haystack and back, but usually a 6 or 7-hour day is the norm.

One can argue that it is not necessary to travel far in order to find interesting places to hike. Nonetheless, the Adirondacks are so much more: the mountains are among the highest on the East Coast, lakes provide unexpected relief from arduous climbs, and wild blueberries are the sweetest at the very top of the hill. If you need to prove yourself, even on a small scale, do not miss this experience. I picked up a small rock on Mount Haystack during that 11-hour hike. It is on my desk as a quiet reminder.

How to get here:

By Car – use New York Throughway (Interstate 87) Exit 30 to get to Keene Valley and Lake Placid area.

By Air – The Adirondack Regional Airport (518 891-4600) is located a few miles from Saranac Lake in the hamlet of Lake Clear.

By Train – Amtrak connects New York with Montreal, and there are convenient stops along the way (Glens Falls, Whitehall, Ticonderoga, Port Henry, Westport, Port Kent, Plattsburgh, and Rouses Point.)

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