In the early 19th century, the region of upstate New York now known as Adirondack State Park was a remote and forbidding wilderness. However, over the years, it acquired a reputation as an excellent location for hunting and fishing, and visitors from more urban areas began to venture northward. Once there, they would employ locals; hardy men (and a few women) who resided in the forests and mountains year round. These locals, who had long since learned how to eke out an existence on the land, earned extra income by shepherding visitors on their hunting and fishing expeditions. The legend of the Adirondack Guide was born – guides would make camp, prepare meals, track animals, lead boats across lakes and down rivers, hike through trails, and regale their guests with tales of life among the mountains (via
I recently gave a tour of the western Adirondacks to a friend who was visiting the park for the first time. In the spirit of those guides of old, we hiked two mountains, visited a waterfall, drove down a scenic road, sampled some of my favorite local food, and swam in a lake. I had a great time seeing the park through the eyes of a new visitor, and we filled quite a bit of adventure into a short weekend.
Come along then, and let me be your Adirondack Guide:
An Adirondack Guide
The Journey North
On our journey up to the Adirondacks, we made a stop near Rome, New York, to visit with a relative and then explore a nearby historic monument.
The last time we drove up to the Adirondacks, we encountered whiteout conditions along the NY Thruway. This drive, featuring partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the high 70s, was far more pleasant.
Our relative suggested we check out Fort Stanwix, a British fort built in what is now the city of Rome. Grace, my wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, was our chosen ride for this trip. My Accord is being held in reserve for a much longer road trip in a few weeks – more on that to come!
Our exploration began with a quick visit to the Fort Stanwix National Monument Visitor Center. Two National Park Service rangers filled us in on the basic history of the fort. Upon finding out that we were from New Jersey, one of the park rangers shared with us that she, too, is from the Garden State, and that her mom lives only a few miles away from our home. My wife remarked later that when we travel, it’s uncanny how many people we meet who have ties to the Third State.
Fort Stanwix National Monument is actually a recreation of the original fortress. Built in 1758 by the British to protect the Oneida Carry, a major east-west trading route, during the French and Indian War. Long since torn down, the fort was reconstructed in Rome in 1976 (via Wikipedia).
It is during the American Revolution, however, that Fort Stanwix gained renown. British forces besieged the American-defended fort, but were unsuccessful in their attempts to capture it. Their inability to capture Stanwix would play a role in their defeat at the Battle of Saratoga (via Wikipedia).
A cannon stands in the middle of the parade grounds of the fort. The Second Treaty of Fort Stanwix was signed here, a peace treaty between the American government and the Iroquois nation. Agreement among Iroquois tribes was not universal, and the treaty had the end result of fracturing the Iroquois League, an alliance of tribes (via Wikipedia).
The reconstructed fort is designed to evoke life as it would have been for American soldiers during the Revolution. These quarters were used by Commandant Peter Gansevoort, who commanded Stanwix during the Revolution.
Volunteers, dressed in period costume, were stationed around the fort to share information about life at Stanwix during the Revolution. In one of the soldiers’ barracks, I watched a volunteer disassemble and clean his musket.
As folklore has it, the American flag was flown over Fort Stanwix during the British siege of 1777, the first time the stars and stripes was used during combat (via Wikipedia). We enjoyed our time at Fort Stanwix, but we had to depart… other destinations awaited!
Summer in the Adirondacks can’t truly begin without a stop at Kayuta Drive-In, located in the town of Remsen. Established in 1963, this restaurant is an Open Road Ahead favorite for its ice cream shop!
That’ll be a black raspberry ice cream for my wife, and a vanilla shake for me. Summer is officially here!
Ah, it’s good to be back in the Adirondacks! Seeing the lakes and mountains are like reconnecting with old friends. After dinner with our dear relative, it was an early night for me. I set my alarm for 5:30 am the next day, to meet up with a friend and tackle a mountain climb bright and early. The ADK Tour
How much Adirondacks can you cram into one day? We were about to find out. I picked my friend up from his hotel in Old Forge at 7:00 am, and set off for our first destination.
We began our day with a climb to the top of Bald Mountain. On the peak is Rondaxe Tower, one of twenty-five remaining fire towers in the Adirondacks.
Longtime readers may remember my first climb up Bald Mountain a few years back. The hike begins with a fairly easy trail for the first quarter of a mile – flat ground, with only a few rocks and tree roots to avoid.
Quickly, however, you encounter the steeper uphill approach, where bare rock face requires quite a bit of scrambling to climb.
I made sure to lead my friend safely over this massive bridge.
The climb is steep, but you quickly clear the tree line. The reward for your efforts? Amazing views of the surrounding landscape as you continue your hike.
After 45-minutes, we were at the top of Bald Mountain. Suppressing my fear of heights, I joined my friend as he climbed the steps to the top of Rondaxe Tower. Built in 1917, the tower was decommissioned at the end of the 20th century as newer technologies in forest fire detection emerged. After falling into disrepair, Rondaxe Tower was restored in the early 2000s and is now open to the public.
I left my camera bag at home and instead brought my drone to try my hand at a bit of aerial photography. With clear skies and zero wind, it was ideal weather for some flying practice.
I’m still learning to translate my skills with a camera to the more three-dimensional options offered by the drone. With this shot, I tilted the drone’s camera downward slightly while gaining elevation in order to emphasize the trees in the foreground. I’m pleased with the results!
Although summer in the Adirondacks can often mean crowds, we had the summit entirely to ourselves. After a few more minutes of drone flight, I packed up my gear and we headed back to the car to depart for our next destination.
A good Adirondack Guide would be responsible for providing food for his or her guests, and so breakfast was our next stop! We visited the Tamarack Cafe in the town of Inlet to fuel up for our next adventure.
I ordered a sausage and egg sandwich on a bagel, and my friend went with an order of pancakes. Refreshed, we had a few stops to make around town.
No trip to the Adirondacks is complete without a visit to Blue Line Coffee House. My wife had an Americano (right) while I greedily slurped down a Birch caramel and vanilla latte (left). My friend was perhaps the most adventurous – he ordered a turmeric and ginger latte. How was it? We were three highly satisfied (and caffeinated) adventurers!
What goes well with coffee? Donuts! We stopped by the The Donut Shop of Eagle Bay, one of my favorite spots in the Adirondacks. I usually pick up donuts at 7:00 am, right when the shop opens, but today I arrived much later in the morning, and the parking lot was packed. It’s always good to see a small business doing so well!
I’ll have a cinnamon sugar donut, please!
My wife joined us for our next stop: Buttermilk Falls, a waterfall in Long Lake, NY. She was channeling her own inner-Adirondack Guide. Although the majority of guides were men, there were several women who also made their living shepherding visitors through the wilderness. For instance, Julia Burton Preston was one of the first licensed female Adirondack Guides in the early 1900s. You can read more about Julia’s life in this fascinating article from Adirondack Experience.
Longtime readers will remember my previous visit to Buttermilk Falls. During that visit the waterfall was relatively calm. On this trip, Buttermilk Falls was a torrent of water that sounded like a jet engine at takeoff.
With winds still relatively calm, I put the drone aloft for the second time. It was fascinating to look down at the waterfall from 200 feet in the sky.
Buttermilk Falls sits on the Raquette River, which connects Long Lake to Raquette Lake. We enjoyed our time at Buttermilk Falls, but it was soon time to depart and head to our next destination!
On the way back, we swung past Blue Mountain Lake for Grace’s mandatory glamour shot.
After a light lunch, it was time to tackle hike #2… an ascent up Eagle Cliff in the town of Eagle Bay. Eagle Cliff, which offers brilliant views of Fourth Lake, has been detailed previously in this blog. Fun fact: if you use Google and search for “Eagle Cliff Eagle Bay,” The Open Road Ahead is the first result. Cool, eh?
The trail begins with another massive footbridge to cross challenging terrain. Ahem.
Rocks. Why did it have to be rocks? The trail up Eagle Cliff quickly turns into a scramble up a hillside filled with decaying leaves, tree roots, pine needles, and rocks. Lots and lots of rocks.
Exposed rock face means that you are nearing the top of the hill.
The reward for your hiking efforts – a beautiful view of Fourth Lake and the town of Eagle Bay.
With winds still almost nonexistent, I decided to put my drone in the sky for the third time, this time photographing Fourth Lake from three hundred feed above the top of Eagle Cliff.
I then turned the drone to the northeast and photographed some of the surrounding scenery. Unfortunately, all the day’s aerial action had worn out the battery on my drone, and I began receiving a “low battery warning” from the controller. Then, the drone automatically turned around and began heading back to my location, so as not to run out of juice before being able to safely land. Ain’t technology something?
After two hikes, it was time to cool off with a swim in Fourth Lake. When I say “cool,” I mean “cold.” The water temperature was 63 degrees… brisk!
For dinner, we had pizza from Screamen Eagle, a local pizzeria. We were so hungry, that there exist no pictures of the dinner – as soon as it was on the table, we were tearing into it like a pack of velociraptors during feeding time in Jurassic Park. We did introduce my friend to another upstate NY treat – vanilla half moon cookies. Hemstrought’s Bakery in Utica create the half moon cookie, and has been using the same recipe since 1920.
After a fun day, it was time to take my friend back to his hotel. It was a lot of fun showing him around the Old Forge section of Adirondack State Park, and seeing the park through the eyes of someone who has never visited. It was certainly an action-packed day!
To give my readers a better sense of some of our adventures, I stitched together this short drone video of Bald Mountain, Buttermilk Falls, and Eagle Cliff:
The beautiful weather continued for the day of our return trip, with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70s. After saying goodbye to our relative, and taking one last look at Fourth Lake, we were on the road, heading home.
We stopped in the town of Warrensburg to pick up some lunch at Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse. Established in 1943, Oscar’s is a butcher’s shop that has been serving the Adirondacks for almost 80 years. Television chef Rachael Ray, who was born in Warrensburg, has named Oscar’s as one of her favorite NY food spots.
We found a small park overlooking the Richards Avenue Bridge and sat down to a picnic lunch of turkey salad from Oscar’s, gluten-free crackers, and sticks of carrots and cucumber. It was a light, refreshing meal with a beautiful view… perfect for a quick pit stop before the final leg of our drive.
We arrived at home around dinnertime, the Jeep once again soaking up the miles with ease. 87,000 miles is right around the corner… onward! Wrapping Up
“Before railroads and automobiles, travelers depended on the quality and skill of North Woods guides to show them the region’s natural beauty.” -Charles Herr, Adirondack Almanack.
While I have jokingly referred to myself as an “Adirondack Guide,” I use the term tongue-in-cheek. True Adirondack Guides do still exist, and must pass a rigorous licensing process from the State of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Their knowledge must include CPR, first aid, water safety, camping safety and sanitation, survival skills, and land navigation.
Although I have only been coming to the Adirondacks for a little over four years, it was rewarding to know enough of the local scenery and attractions to act as tour guide for my friend. It was a fun-filled weekend, and I hope you have enjoyed this brief write-up from your very own Adirondack Blog Guide.
And thanks, as always, for taking the time to read through this journey down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.