The end of summer vacation. Thoughts turn toward children returning to school, the approach of Labor Day, and the beginning of fall rituals like football and back-to-school sales. For some, however, it means time for one last road trip to mark the closing of the summer season. Of course, in 2020, options are far more limited for adventures than in previous years. However, when you live close to a national treasure such as Adirondack State Park in New York, a road trip adventure with safe social distancing is readily at hand.
For the third time this summer, my wife and I headed northward from New Jersey to the mountains of upstate New York. After a
previous trip to visit Moss Lake and another to hike to Cascade Falls, we had a new destination for this trip: Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake, NY. Beside seeing a gorgeous waterfall, we also visited with a favorite relative, stood atop a mountain, ate fantastic food, and enjoyed the natural beauty of the Adirondacks.
Adirondack State Park
What should now be a familiar sight for my readers: Adirondack State Park, one of the largest protected wilderness areas in the nation.
On a gorgeous summer day, we set off yet again for the Adirondacks. Although there were a lot of cars on the NY Thruway, we encountered very few slowdowns.
The past few trips I’ve stopped at the New Baltimore service area to take a picture of my Accord with this sign. We decided to give Grace, my wife’s 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, a long-distance run and take her up to the mountains this time. Along the way, we made sure to recreate the photo with the Jeep!
Arrived! We would be spending the weekend with a dear relative of my wife. After catching up and unpacking, it was off to visit Fourth Lake in the town of Inlet. Buttermilk Falls
Our destination: Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake, New York. Located in the heart of the Adirondacks, this gorgeous waterfall was the primary sightseeing destination of our trip. This is the second “Buttermilk Falls” we have visited this summer – the first was located in the Delaware Water Gap.
Departing in the early morning to avoid the midday heat, we headed northward to Long Lake. NY-28N (pictured) is fast becoming another of my favorite roads to drive.
Arrived! Compared to our previous waterfall misadventure in New Jersey, hiking and trail signs throughout the Adirondacks are well-marked. We parked on the side of the road and set off on a short walk to the falls.
Although the waterfall is not far from the road, the path through the woods can be a bit tricky. While some portions are well-defined (such as this boardwalk), the closer to the falls you get, the steeper and rockier the trail gets. Add to it a carpet of dried pine needles covering everything, and keeping your footing can be a bit tricky. Wearing good hiking shoes and bringing a hiking staff isn’t a bad idea.
The trail leads you to the top of the waterfall. I have never been so close to so much rushing water.
Climb down the rocky hillside and make your way along the shore to get a glimpse of the falls. I had a photo in mind, but from the shore I wasn’t able to compose it. Looking at the rocks strewn across the stream, and summoning a bit of courage (or stupidity) I set off, hopping between rocks until I reached the middle of the stream. I was proud of how well I maintained my balance – I almost fell in only twice.
That’s more like it.
One of my favorite photos from the trip. In a previous post, I offered some tips on photography. Here is another: to create a waterfall with milky streaks of water (as opposed to individual droplets), slow the shutter speed of your camera as far as possible. To avoid taking a blurry photo, you’ll need to bring a tripod to keep the camera steady. While the previous two photos were taken at 1/250th of a second, this image was shot at 1/8 of a second.
After spending a half hour at Buttermilk Falls, we set off to return back to our relative’s home. Along the way, we passed Blue Mountain Lake, one of my favorite scenic stops in the Adirondacks.
If Honda or Jeep ever asked me to photograph their vehicles for an ad campaign, the Adirondacks would be my chosen backdrop.
A quick story: several roads on our route were undergoing repairs and were restricted to one-lane at a time. A signal person would hold up a sign saying “STOP” when oncoming traffic would be allowed to pass, or “SLOW” when you were permitted to drive. At one construction stop, the signal person, a college-aged young woman, waved us over. My wife, who was driving, rolled down the window. The woman handed us a bag of animal crackers and asked if we’d be willing to deliver them to her friend who was directing traffic at the other end of the site. “Sure?” was our bewildered response. So we carried these Avengers-themed animal crackers across the construction site, where the cookies were happily received by the friend, another twenty-something woman. Perhaps one of the oddest driving experiences we’ve ever had.
From roadside views like this, to random requests from strangers, the Adirondacks are always memorable! McCauley Mountain
On a drive to the supermarket, we passed a sign advertising the at McCauley Mountain. Located in the town of Webb, McCauley is a 2,800-foot peak that is home to a winter ski resort. Intrigued by the chair lift, we decided to do some research. Summer Scenic Chair Lift
During the months when McCauley Mountain is covered in snow, the chair lift ferries skiers to the summit. During the warmer months, the chair lift remains open to give visitors a beautiful view of the mountain and surrounding country as you ascend to the summit.
After paying our affordable entrance fee of $6 per person, my wife and I boarded the chair lift. Now, bear in mind two things. First, as I do not ski, I had never been on a chair lift. Second, as my readers well know, I am terrified of heights. Despite my clammy hands, hyperventilating, and heart pounding in my chest, I did manage (through barely-open eyes) to take in an amazing view.
After approximately five minutes in the chair lift, we were on the summit of the mountain. The view from the top was spectacular.
As I am not a skier, my wife gave me a crash course on the different types of ski trails. Fun fact: a black double-diamond trail with no snow on the ground looks like a good way to plummet off the mountain.
From an observation deck at the top of the mountain, you can see Second and Third Lakes in the distance.
Once again, my new Canon 100-400mm zoom lens continues to impress. This close-up of Third Lake was taken at the exact same spot as the photo above.
From another vantage point, we had a view down toward the town of Old Forge. With the help of my zoom lens, we could peer down to the Enchanted Forest/Water Safari amusement park.
My wife pointed out two butterflies flitting between the wildflowers. This is perhaps my favorite photo from the entire trip.
See the couple in the chair lift on the left? See how far their feet are dangling from the ground? Just saying.
Before we headed back down the mountain, I went back to the observation deck for one more photo… and to enjoy the view for a few more moments.
While my heart was still in my throat, I was able to sit back and savor the view on the way back down. Despite the near-certainty that at any moment I’d be plunging to my doom, the view from the ride was truly spectacular.
I made a short video of our trip on the McCauley Mountain Summer Scenic Chair Lift. Although I usually save my recommendations for the ending of my posts, I’ll let the cat out of the bag: if you’re in the Adirondacks during the summer, I highly recommend taking a ride up the mountain! Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely.
Sunsets, Cool Views, and Great Food
One evening, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset while standing on the shores of Fourth Lake.
With far cooler temperatures than in New Jersey, I was able to spend a morning washing, waxing, and detailing the Jeep.
After finishing the wash and wax, I took the Jeep to Quiver Pond, one of my new favorite car photography spots. While photographing the Jeep, I spotted a loon in the distance. I did not have my zoom lens with me, so I decided to head back to Quiver Pond at sunrise the next day to try to photograph it at a time when loons are more typically observed near the shore.
The next morning, I didn’t spot a single loon. However, the sunrise over Quiver Pond was quite the consolation prize!
I loved the reflection of the trees in the pond, and the mist floating above the surface.
With my birthday fast approaching, our relative treated us to a fantastic celebratory dinner at Seventh Lake House, an excellent restaurant.
While restaurants in New York have resumed limited indoor dining, we decided to get takeout and bring our meal home. We started with a crab cake appetizer (excellent!) and fresh rolls (so soft!). My wife had the Cowboy Steak (a spice-rubbed ribeye steak with mashed potatoes), while our relative and I ordered the same meal: the House Specialty Triple Meatloaf (meatloaf baked in a pastry, and served with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables). Not pictured, but equally delicious, were the desserts: the chocolate gateau and the Adirondack Apple Strudel. Yum! Yum! Yum!
Of course, no trip to the Adirondacks is complete without a visit to the Eagle Bay Donut Shop.
So good! Pro tip: the donut shop opens at 6:30 am. Wake up early and get to the shop first thing for donuts that will still be warm from the oven. They’re made fresh every day!
After a wonderful weekend, it was time to head home. The Wigwam Tavern, with the plane stuck in the roof, is my sign that I’m on the return route to New Jersey.
As I spotted the Adirondacks in the rearview mirror, I said farewell… but not for long. We’ll certainly be back again!
After five hours of driving, we returned home. Now nearing 55,000 miles, the Jeep was an excellent companion for our mountain getaway.
We had a wonderful long weekend in the mountains of the Adirondacks. For as much as the Jersey shore has been a major part of my life, this was the first summer when the shore has not been a significant destination. Instead, it has been the Adirondacks that was the vacation spot of choice. The smaller crowds, stronger emphasis on safe behavior, and beautiful mountain air made Adirondack State Park a terrific place to relax and unwind. If you’re in upstate New York, I would highly recommend a detour to Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake, NY. If you are near the Fulton Chain of Lakes region, the McCauley Mountain Scenic Chair Lift is a must-see. Open from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm every day, the lift costs $6 for adult, $5 for seniors and active duty military personnel, $5 for children 7 and older, and children 6 and younger can ride for free.
Thank you for coming along on another journey up the mountain and down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.