Ice. Many people associate ice with its dangers in winter – accidents on ice-covered roads, falls on icy sidewalks, downed power lines, and damage from ice-coated tree limbs that snap under its weight. However, ice is also fascinating! It covers ten percent of the world’s land surface and seven percent of the world’s oceans. The bottom of the ice sheet in Antarctica is over a million years old (via Science Norway). Impurities are necessary for water to freeze into ice, and those same impurities can affect the color of the ice, from it looking transparent to it appearing blue. Water is the only liquid that expands as it freezes. For much of the 1800’s, ice harvesting was a lucrative industry, as ice from frozen ponds, lakes, and rivers would be cut and shipped to homes and businesses to keep food cool during warmer months. The ice cutting industry was worth over a half billion dollars in today’s money (via Just Fun Facts).

Taking advantage of a long weekend, my wife and I returned yet again to Adirondack Park in upstate New York to visit with a dear relative, and enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains in wintertime. While we certainly contended with the dangers of frozen roads and walkways, we also got to experience a time-honored tradition in the Adirondacks: ice cutting.

Please come along, then, on another exciting adventure to the northern reaches of New York, where we will also eat great food, attempt another drone flight, and “become a local,” before stopping by a historic mansion high atop a mountain on our way home.

Let’s begin:

An Ice-Filled Adirondack Adventure

Map of New York state, with red pin in location of Adirondack Park.
No matter how many times I visit, I’m always amazed by the sheer size of the Adirondacks – it is larger than the states of Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
Tree and snow-lined Route 28 in New York.
We had a sunny, if cold, drive to the mountains on a February Friday afternoon. For most of the ride, we had Route 28 through the Adirondacks almost entirely to ourselves. One again, Grace, my wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, would be our vehicle of choice for traversing the icy and snowy mountain roads.
View of snow-covered house.
We arrived at our relative’s home as twilight faded into night.
Moon in sky at night.
Before we went to bed, we noticed light streaming through the house’s windows. My wife was certain we’d left the spotlight on over the garage, so bright was the driveway. It took us a moment to realize that it was the moon that was seemingly turning night into day. Although night photography usually requires a tripod, the moon’s brilliance allowed me to take this photo while hand-holding my camera and zoom lens!
Sunset over Fourth Lake.
We were also treated to a gorgeous sunset on one of our first nights by Fourth Lake. Mother Nature put on quite the show!

Ice Cutting

Ice cutting operation along shore of Raquette Lake.
Owing to cold weather and gray skies, my wife and I had planned to spend most of our time indoors. However, our relative told us of an ice harvest on Raquette Lake. A yearly event, the ice is cut from the lake with tool designs dating back to the early 20th century. The ice is then stored, to be used for ice sculptures, or cooling in the warmer months. Although electric refrigeration has eliminated much of this industry, Raquette Lake ice is still in demand.
Lines cut into frozen lake.
The first step of the ice harvest is the measuring of the blocks of ice to be cut. Lines are carved into the ice to provide precise measurements to the cutters.
Volunteers cutting ice from lake.
Next, the ice is cut using specialized saws, the basic designs of which have not changed in over a century.
Ice blocks floating on water.
The cut ice is then floated toward the shore through an open space of the lake that was created by previous ice blocks being removed.
Workers gathered around conveyer belt bringing ice into truck along shore.
A conveyor belt then pulls the ice out of the lake and into a waiting truck. If you search for “Pocono Manor Ice Harvest in 1919” on YouTube, you will see techniques very similar to what is still used at Raquette Lake in 2021.
Block of ice ascending conveyor belt.
An ice block such as this typically weights 250-300 pounds. We were fascinated by the different colored layers of ice and did some research. The center-most section of the block is known as the primary layer. The secondary layer is the clear ice that has formed on the bottom, while the superimposed layer is the accumulation of snow and ice that has formed on the top after the ice was frozen. If this ice is stored correctly, it can last until next winter.
Snowmobilers parked on ice.
The ice cutting was a popular destination for snowmobilers, many of whom drove across the lake to watch the harvesting in process.
WW Durant ship tied to shore.
You may remember Raquette Lake as the site where I enjoyed an amazing dinner cruise onboard the W.W. Durant a few years ago. All of the Raquette Lake dinner cruises were canceled this past year owing to the pandemic, but I, for one, am keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to take another journey on this cool ship next year.
Red Caboose gift shop in snow.
I’m also looking forward to perusing the Raquette Lake Navigation Company’s gift shop, housed in this old caboose. After spending an hour at Raquette Lake, we walked back to the Jeep to head back home. Although the weather included strong wind, sleet, and rain, we enjoyed our time watching this old tradition continuing in the 21st century. 

The Food

Exterior of The Toboggan Inn
Lately, my wife and I have been packing a lot of picnic lunches during our adventures, as the pandemic has put an end to our restaurant explorations. Fortunately, we were able to indulge in quite a bit of good takeout in the Adirondacks, including dinner at The Toboggan Inn in the town of Eagle Bay.
Blackened fish with french fries and coleslaw on plate.
Voted “Best in the Adirondacks” for 2018 and 2020, The Toboggan Inn is a local favorite. We arrived in time for the Friday Fish Fry -a local tradition- and I savored every bite of my blackened haddock. My head said “baked potato,” but my tummy said French fries… and my tummy won. Add to it the fantastic homemade coleslaw, and it was a deeply satisfying meal (our relative had the fried haddock, and my wife enjoyed the broiled haddock, but I have no shame in proclaiming that I got the best meal).
White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of Eagle Bay Donut Shop.
Early bird gets the… donut! No trip to the Adirondacks is complete without a fry cake from the Donut Shop of Eagle Bay.
Mmm... mmm... mmm....good! I've talked about these fry cakes enough that I'll let the picture speak for itself.
Mmm… mmm… mmm….good! I’ve talked about these fry cakes enough that I’ll let the picture speak for itself.
Two paper cups that say BLUE LINE COFFEE HOUSE
And what better to have with a donut than fresh coffee from Blue Line Coffee House? Whether you enjoy a dark roast with cream (left) or an almond milk latte (right), you’ll enjoy that donut even more with a beverage from the best coffee shop in the Adirondacks.
Exterior of Dough A Deer cafe.
We tried a new spot on our trip – Dough a Deer, a cafe and bakery located in Old Forge, NY.
Sandwich board outside of cafe that has menu and hours of operation.
Specializing in healthier fare, including numerous items that are gluten free, Dough a Deer is one of the newer eateries in Old Forge.
Sandwich on plate.
Our relative had the “Roman Holiday” – prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil balsamic on a ciabatta roll. I had the “Tokyo Drift” (which, as a fan of The Fast and the Furious film franchise, I had to get for the title alone) – pulled chicken with teriyaki sauce and coleslaw on Italian Filone bread. My wife enjoyed the Salami Be Goode (pictured) – salami, roasted red peppers, spinach, and garlic aioli, on a gluten-free ciabatta. How was lunch? A little on the messy side, but absolutely delicious! (Seriously, though, ask for extra napkins).
Table with place settings for three people, chicken, roasted potatoes, green beans, and salad.
Of course, we did our fair share of cooking as well, including my favorite meal from the entire trip – we made a roasted chicken, with green beans, roasted potatoes, and salad. The perfect meal for fighting off the frigid Adirondack weather!

Being “A Local.”

White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in enormous building holding salt and sand.
With temperatures rising unexpectedly and then dropping to below freezing, our relative’s driveway turned into a sheet of ice. We took the Jeep to the municipal complex, where we were allowed to drive right into the storage building for salt and and sand and take what we needed. Spending some time addressing the worst areas of the driveway, I returned to the house and our relative pronounced that I was now officially “a local.” I wear that badge with pride. 

I also spent some more time test-flying my drone. I’m getting better at it. The biggest drawback is that the drone is unstable in anything stronger than a gentle breeze, and can be easily blow off-course. More advanced drones utilize GPS to enable accurate station keeping, even in windy conditions. My little drone has neither the required power nor the technical abilities to remain in place in the air. After landing it on a neighbor’s roof, and crashing it into a tree (both of which were the result of unexpected gusts of wind), I’ve nicknamed the drone “Air Raid.” I hope you enjoy my latest endeavor, a few test flights around Fourth Lake:

View of the Wigman Tavern in the Adirondacks along Route 28.
After a fun weekend, it was time to begin the trek home. Once again, the Wigwam Tavern marked our departure from the Adirondacks, and our journey back to New Jersey.

Olana State Historic Site

Map of New York, with red pin in location of Olana State Historic Site.
As my wife and I were traveling home along I-87 South, we spotted signs for Olana State Historic Site. It caught our interest, and checking the map revealed it would be only a 10-minute detour from the highway. We decided to do what we do best… explore the open road ahead.
Toll booth for Rip Van Winkle Bridge.
Departing from I-87, we headed east on Route 23, before encountering the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Named after the story by Washington Irving, the bridge opened in 1935 (via Wikipedia). 
View of Rip Van Winkle Bridge.
Spanning the Hudson River between the towns of Hudson and Catskill, the nearly one-mile long bridge serves approximately 15,000 vehicles each day. The pedestrian walkway on the right side of the bridge was added in 2018, allowing a view from 145-feet above the river… my fear of heights kicks in just thinking about it. I’ll pass.
Road through Olana State Historic Site.
As we entered the state park, we climbed up the side of a mountain through beautiful tree-lined roads. The park was originally the estate of Frederic Edwin Church, a 19th century painter. Church designed these roads to provide scenic views for visitors as they traveled in horse-drawn carriages.
Exterior view of Olana mansion.
Olana was the home of Frederic Church and his wife Isabel. The Victorian mansion incorporates many elements of Middle Eastern architecture that the couple studied when they were traveling through what is now modern-day Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. The building was Church’s home and studio (via Wikipedia). 
Pillars with ornate designs.
Although the interior of the museum was closed for tours (tours are only offered on the weekend), it was the exterior details that caught my wife’s eye. She pointed out these ornate decorations on the pillars of the piazza.
Patterned design beneath eaves.
Even these ornate, colorful patterns on the cornices were worthy of photographing. Church is best known for his landscape paintings and his association with the “Hudson River School” of American artists, but his artistic vision made a strong impact on the design of his home as well.
Section of house include first-floor window and second-floor window with elaborate exterior designs.
My only regret is that the cloudy skies reduced the brilliance of the colors of the house. I’d love to go back to see it on a bright and sunny day.
Wooden bench and fence made from tree branches.
Even the fences and benches near the mansion were fascinating- I wonder how long it took a craftsman to construct these!
View of Catskill Mountains shrouded in fog.
Despite the clouds and haze, the view from the top of Olana was simply amazing.
Black and white view of Catskill mountains.
Given how washed-out the landscape was from the clouds, I thought I’d try a few shots in black-and-white.
View of Hudson River in black and white.
From the house, you can also see the Hudson River and the surrounding countryside. The trip to Olana was simply terrific. After eating our lunch, we got back in Grace for our ride home.
Car odometer reading 64656 miles
Once again, we arrived, safe and sound. Grace crossed the 64,000 mile mark, and continues to excel as a comfortable long-distance cruiser with an appetite for all-wheel drive adventure.

Odds and Ends

Before closing, I had two updates I wanted to share, automotive and otherwise. The first story comes from Northwest Angle, Minnesota, a small community on a stretch of land that although part of the United States, only shares a border with Canada. During winter, when nearby Muskeg Bay and Lake of the Woods freeze over, the only access is by a road that passes through Manitoba, Canada. Owing to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the residents of the town have been cut off from visitors (upon which their economy depends), along with supplies, as the Canadian  border crossing has been closed. The solution? Owners of various resorts in Northwest Angle banded together to build a 22-mile ice road across the frozen Lake of the Woods. You can read more about this fascinating story here.

Finally, a quick update on the Accord:

2012 Honda Accord coupe, parked beside wooded area.
A recent upward tick in the thermometer meant I was able to give my Accord a good cleaning. It wasn’t as thorough as I’d like, but after months of exposure to moisture and road salt, it’s a good start.
Car odometer reading 167000 TRIP A 92.5
The Accord recently crossed yet another milestone, this time passing 167,000 miles. It keeps purring along, happy accepting whatever road trip opportunities come its way. Onward!

Wrapping Up

Even when I think that I’ve uncovered every possible stone and new opportunity, the Adirondacks continue to show me something new with every visit. In the past few months, I’ve stood atop a 100-year old fire tower, climbed two mountains, enjoyed the cool mist of two waterfalls, swam in a crystal-clear lake, and witnessed a century-old industry remain alive and well in the depths of winter. The Raquette Lake Ice Harvest is an annual event, free to watch, and worth stopping by to check out. Although not in the Adirondacks, if you’re in New York near Albany, Olana State Historic Site is definitely worth a stop to see amazing views and stunning architecture.

As always, thanks for coming along on yet another journey down the open road ahead.

‘Til next time.

8 thoughts on “Ice.

  1. What a great tradition “ice cutting. It sounds like a great trip! You both do so much when you are there and it all sounds so neat! I would like your relatives sandwich though!!! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great trip! It was so cool seeing the ice harvest. It reminded me of the opening scene in Disney’s Frozen. Also-you got some great pics! That moon and sunset were both stunning! It looked like such a fun trip overall. Lastly, I was relieved to see that you took the Jeep so that you didn’t gain too much on my Accord’s mileage. Though I am sure you will pass me by the summer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ice cutting was very cool to witness in person, but I hadn’t thought about the connection to Frozen! I had a trip planned for the Accord today, but an unexpected need for a repair (more on that in the next post) means your Accord is going to stay in the mileage lead for a little while yet. Thanks for reading!


  3. I enjoyed learning about the ice harvest. Neat that tradition is still carried on. I love seeing all of the snow pics. I especially like the night pic of your relative’s home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the snow photos! The ice cutting was really cool – I’m fascinated by jobs that don’t change with time – interesting how, in this case, the old ways are still the best ways. Thanks for reading!


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