Adirondack State Park. Established in 1885, this mountainous wilderness of 6.1 million acres is home to over 10,000 lakes, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and slightly more than 100,000 full-time residents (via
Wikipedia). To put its size in perspective: that’s more acres of land than the entire state of New Jersey, which is home to almost nine million people! A rugged, isolated land, the Adirondacks are for people who enjoy the outdoors: boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, snowshoeing, snowmobiling… these are just a few of the activities that you can find there.
The Adirondacks are also one of my wife and my favorite destinations, and so with New Jersey and New York’s re-opening proceeding in lockstep, we felt comfortable enough to venture from our home and travel to the isolated, northern reaches of the state of New York. While I have visited the Adirondacks several times, each trip is a new opportunity to learn more about this majestic wilderness.
Adirondack State Park
Our July 4th weekend destination: Adirondack State Park. This has become one of my favorite destinations, as I described in previous blog posts, such as my visit to Lake Placid and my exploration of one of the Great Camps.
Departing after lunch on a weekday, we hit mercifully little traffic on the New York Thruway, and for at least a little while had beautiful blue skies.
When it comes to the Adirondacks, I (Heart) New York! With last week’s passing of Milton Glaser, creator of the “I Love New York” logo, my wife thought this photo, taken at a rest stop off the highway, would be appropriate.
As we ventured closer to the Adirondacks, we drove through one of the worst lines of thunderstorms I have ever encountered. The wind-swept rain was so heavy that at times I could not see the edge of the road. Exciting stuff!
Thankfully, after about a half hour, we were out of the storms and had clearer skies for our required stop at Kayuta Drive-In, my favorite Adirondack-area ice cream shop. Now that I’ve had my vanilla shake from Kayuta, summer can officially begin!
Arrived! After about six hours of driving, we pulled into our destination in the Adirondacks. A quick change into our bathing suits and it was off to the lake for a refreshing swim! The Landscape
The more than 10,000 lakes in the Adirondacks are the heart of much of the industry, wildlife, and tourism of the park. Fourth Lake, part of the Fulton Chain of Lakes, provided a great backdrop for a gorgeous sunset.
While any time of day is great for photography in the Adirondacks, sunrise and sunset can be especially eye-catching.
Photographic opportunities abound in the Adirondacks… even a flag on July 4th becomes more dramatic with a lake and mountains in the background!
We were treated to a full moon over the weekend, leading to some really cool photographic opportunities.
A full moon, the clear skies of the Adirondacks, and a 100-400mm Canon zoom lens? Success.
Someday, I should write a post entitled, “Roads of the Adirondacks.” There are several stretches that I would recommend to anyone who considers themselves a serious driver. For example, Route 28 (pictured), which crosses through the Adirondacks, is full of sweeping turns, s-curves, blind crests, off-camber bends, and a 55-mph speed limit, all with the glorious mountain skyline in the distance. My Accord got quite the workout this weekend!
After washing, waxing, and detailing my Accord, Quiver Pond, situated along South Shore Road, made a cool backdrop for a photo session. Maybe Honda should consider filming its next ad campaign up in the Adirondacks! Trains
Before the age of the automobile, trains were the primary way to access the Adirondacks in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The spirit of the great trains lives on to this day with the Adirondack Railroad, a train route that begins in Utica and runs through the park to Lake Placid. This is Thendara Station, built in 1892, located in Old Forge (you can read more in this article in the Adirondack Almanack).
The station now houses a small museum that focuses on train operation in the Adirondacks in the 19th and 20th centuries. Speaking of railroads… while doing research for this post I learned that the Adirondacks were a major route for the Underground Railroad, the pathway that escaped slaves took to freedom in Canada in the early 19th century. The North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association has a museum in Ausable Chasm, NY. Although currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is on our list of places to visit in the Adirondacks in the future!
With the Adirondack Scenic Railroad closed due to the COVID-19 shutdown (it will re-open during Phase 4 of the NY plan), the station was deserted, aside from some railroad yard workers. I asked if I could poke around with my camera, and they told me to enjoy myself, as long as I was careful! This engine, an ALCO “1600 Horsepower Road Switcher” was built in the 1950s and was designed to both operate trains on main lines and to move train cars around a railroad yard. Retired in 1981, 8255 is a museum piece at Thendara.
Another museum piece is New York Central 705, built in 1941 by EMD, which has been a museum piece at Thendara since 1992. Now owned by heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, EMD is most famous among train enthusiasts for producing the E1 diesel locomotive, the heart of Santa Fe Railway’s Super Chief.
Several coach and cargo cars are also on display in the train yard. You can find out more about the historic equipment owned by the Adirondack Railroad by visiting their website. Hiking
Adirondack State Park is home to seemingly countless hiking trails. On a beautiful Sunday morning, my wife and I decided to explore the trails around Moss Lake.
The 2.5-mile trail travels the circumference of Moss Lake. Although the northern and western rim trails involve steeper ascents and descents and rockier ground, the southern and eastern rim trails are relatively flat and smooth. Overall, it made for an excellent workout!
One of the coolest features of Moss Lake is how much attention has been paid to accessibility. Moss Lake has a parking lot reserved for guests with disabilities. Several campsites are designated as ADA-compliant, including the one pictured here, which even has a wheelchair-accessible outhouse. In addition, the trails along the southern and eastern rim could be accessed by a wheelchair rider. Good stuff!
At times, bridges allow you to cross narrow sections of the lake, and the breeze over the water offered a cool respite from the summer heat.
The view from the bridge was… you know… kind of acceptable (by which I mean absolutely gorgeous!).
The final stop along the trail wasn’t a bad payoff for an hour of hiking!
After leaving Moss Lake, we drove further up Big Moose Road (another fun drive!) to visit Big Moose Station. Built in 1926, Big Moose Station has the highest elevation of any train station east of the Mississippi River – 2,044 feet above sea level. Although no longer operating as a train station, Big Moose has found new life as a popular local restaurant. The Food
Another of our favorite stops is The Donut Shop in Eagle Bay. Serving exactly two varieties of donuts (plain or cinnamon), The Donut Shop is a must visit location! Although it is called “The Donut Shop,” what you actually order is a fry cake – it’s a donut made without yeast, offering a different texture than the traditional donut. It is believed to be a recipe that goes back to the region’s Dutch settlers (you can read more about the fry cake in this article in the Rochester City Newspaper).
To quote the philosopher-poet Homer Simpson: “Mmmm… donuts… good…” I rarely, if ever, eat donuts anymore, but I’ll make an exception for two: the cinnamon donuts (fry cakes) from The Donut Shop and the buttermilk donuts at Hangar B in Chatham, Massachusetts. Also, if you’re looking to make some money, The Donut Shop is currently for sale as a turn-key operation. Any takers?
Although we cooked at home for most of our meals, we splurged with takeout from Billy’s Restaurant, an Italian eatery in Old Forge.
Billy’s is not only one of my favorite establishments in the Adirondacks, but it’s one of my favorite Italian restaurants anywhere! Although COVID-19 restrictions prevented us from enjoying the ambience of the restaurant, the food was excellent, as always. My wife enjoyed the shrimp scampi with gluten free pasta while I indulged in the shrimp and scallops fradiavolo. So good! Bonus points to Billy’s for an excellent contactless pickup system. Well done! Wrapping Up
Sadly, our time in the mountains drew to a close and we began our long drive home. I would like to give special mention to the seriousness and care that I saw on display regarding social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions while in the Adirondacks. Everyone was wearing masks, care was taken to make sure that adequate space was given between groups of people, and restaurants and businesses, for the most part, had clear directions to ensure adequate distance indoors. Even on hiking trails, people wore masks and gave plenty of room between themselves and other hikers. It was good to see such care being given, and it deserved mention here.
With clear, sunny skies and little traffic, we had an easy drive home.
We arrived at home, and along the way, my Accord broke the 155,000 mile barrier. Although my wife’s Grand Cherokee is the vehicle of choice during our winter trips to the Adirondacks, my Accord is our summer ride. Its fuel efficiency, powerful engine, and sporty handling make it a blast to drive on those twisty mountain roads.
It was a great holiday weekend in the Adirondacks, full of swimming, hiking, photographic opportunities, history lessons, and delicious food! I hope you enjoyed reading about our excursion to the mountains as much as I enjoyed writing this post!
My next post is going to have a cool new hike my wife and I discovered close to home, some automotive updates (both my Accord and my wife’s Grand Cherokee ended up needing repairs at the same time), and a long-promised interview with another high mileage Honda driver.
And thanks, as always, for joining us on another journey down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.