Adirondacks and Lake Placid, New York ~ July 10 – July 13, 2014

Adirondacks Park, Northeastern New York State

Adirondacks Park is large — 6 million acres, in fact, and although it is a designated protected area by the State of New York, it is not a state administered park.  Instead, the hundreds of campgrounds scattered across the park are individually run either privately or by various public entities.  The park’s lack of having a central authority and website made researching where we wanted to camp within the 6 million acres challenging.  Not that there’s a lack of information on the internet; there is tons of information across numerous websites that we found a bit overwhelming.

We knew we wanted a semi-secluded lakeside campsite close to hiking trails.  After many hours of research spread over several weeks, we settled on Little Sand Point located in the south-central part of the park.  Its website included a couple of picturesque lake photos and one of a campsite.  The description of the campground included the words “serenity”, “nestled” and “secluded.”

To get there, we chose a 150 mile driving route from Plattsburgh, New York that entered the park from the north and took us directly through the middle of the park, along several lakes and through numerous small towns — we were surprised at how rustic and isolated some of the communities seemed.  Although the road was a bit rough for having bicycles on the back, it was a lovely drive.  It is easy to imagine the area as a giant beautiful bouquet of color in the fall.

We arrived at the Little Sand Point campground about 5 p.m. to find that campsites were about 100 feet off of the main highway and that our site was located directly below where the campground’s dirt road turned around.  There were car tracks where someone had missed turning that led directly to where we were to pitch our tent!  Although our site was directly on beautiful Lake Piseco, it was also located next to a house with a barking dog and an upset baby.  The campground was mostly vacant so we walked through other sites looking for a better option.  We found no site with a level tent area, decent fire pit, nor any that were “serene” or “nestled.”

After about 45 minutes of weighing our best options and trying to be positive about this campground, we climbed back into the Escape Mobile and headed north.  Our plan was to stay in Lake Placid unless we found a lodge or cottages along the route where we felt we’d be comfortable.

Lake Placid, New York

We arrived in Lake Placid about 9:00 p.m. with no place to stay.  Trey cruised Main Street a couple of times looking for vacancy signs while I searched from my phone.  Out of frustration, we pulled off of Main into a parking lot and connected a laptop to our mobile Wi-Fi.  Initial results for the few name brand hotels were well over budget, and, I suspect due to the late hour, calls we made to locally owned lodges were not answered.

Just as I began to worry about our situation, I was startled by a sudden knocking and the appearance of a disheveled man at my passenger side window.  A better look at his face revealed that there was no need to worry and I rolled down the window.  In a British accent he asked us if we needed help.  I explained that we were just looking for a place to stay.  Turns out, the parking lot was for a lodge, Wildwood on the Lake, and was owned by the family of the gentleman’s wife – he handled maintenance and supervised the cleaning staff.  He had just stepped outside to make sure something was locked when he spotted us.

He stated that he had a couple of rooms available, that he would ask his wife to reopen the office, and that they’d give us good deal.  This is just one example of several on our North America travels where the solution found us – when and wherever we had a significant need, the universe quickly responded.

We were most grateful, and ended up spending three restful nights on the bank of beautiful Lake Placid.  The inn was rustic, quiet and clean, and its stretch of shoreline more than provided the peaceful lakeside experience we had sought.

View of Lake Placid from the back of WIldwood Lodge
View of Lake Placid from the back of WIldwood Lodge

Lake Placid’s Main Street is the city’s business and tourist center and runs along the west bank of Mirror Lake – not Lake Placid.

Main Street, Lake Placid, New York
Main Street, Lake Placid, New York

Although Lake Placid is nearby, it is the much smaller Mirror Lake that is the hub for water related recreation, lakeside dining and accommodations.

Trey had no luck with the fish in Mirror Lake
Trey had no luck with the fish in Mirror Lake

We enjoyed strolling and window shopping along Main Street.  This charming city is a mix of early 20th century buildings at its center, bookended by expansions resulting from the 1980’s Winter Olympics economic boost.

Both the 1936 and 1980 Olympic Centers sit at the south end of Main along with the outdoor skating area where Eric Heiden won five gold medals for the U.S.

Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY
Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY

The original 1936 center is now a museum commemorating both the games.

Original Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY
Original Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY

The village  now hosts an annual Iron Man competition.  This was the cause for our difficulty in finding accommodations.  Athletes were beginning to arrive to acclimate and train for the July 27th race.

Recreation

Trey heading out to fish on Lake Placid - caught a small bass
Trey heading out to fish on Lake Placid – caught a small bass

One afternoon we rented a canoe and slowly paddled around the perimeter of the Mirror Lake — two swim lanes had been set up in the middle of the lake for the Iron Man competition and several swimmers were using them.

When we completed our circle the sun was low in the sky and the other watercraft and swimmers were heading to shore.  We instead headed to the middle point of the lake to get check out the swim lanes.  Soon after, we found that we were alone on the lake – it was entirely ours.  A gift.

Sun beginning to set on Mirror Lake
Sun beginning to set on Mirror Lake

As stated in the “About” page of this blog, Trey and I both were responsible for the care of our ailing parents.  Over a period of 10 years from April of 2001 to August of 2011, we did our best to ensure they were safe, well cared for, and maintained the best quality of life possible despite their various diseases.  The latter part of this period was particularly stressful.  A frequent fantasy of mine was to row a canoe out to the middle of a calm, empty lake and simply lie down in the canoe, look at the sky, and in that moment be responsible for nothing.

Trey snapped this one of me enjoying the serenity of Mirror Lake
Trey snapped this one of me enjoying the serenity of Mirror Lake

I have learned when one receives a gift, it should be embraced and appreciated fully.  So, I laid down in the canoe, and simply admired the sky, feeling so very grateful for the peace that I now enjoy.

As for Lake Placid, we also experienced it via the Peninsula Nature Trails that wind through a landmass on the southern part of the lake.  The trails provide a wonderful natural retreat within walking distance of the city.

Lake Placid's Peninsula Trail
Lake Placid’s Peninsula Trail

The trails’ access point is not well marked – it is simply an unmarked road that appears to be a driveway and is located between the Comfort Inn and Howard Johnson’s restaurant.

The Village of Lake Placid is a bit off the beaten path, particularly for us Texans, but it was a wonderful refuge and allowed us to experience the beauty of the Adirondacks.

Main Street, Lake Placid, New York
Main Street, Lake Placid, New York

Food

My favorite Lake Placid meal was enjoyed at Milano North.  It was well out of our budget but at least we were satisfied that we received what we paid for.  Milano North provided a comfortable, but upscale setting and, for me, the best formal fish dish experienced on our trip.

Baarramundi with Coconut Rice, Milano North, Lake Placid, NY
Baarramundi with Coconut Rice, Milano North, Lake Placid, NY

Trey preferred the spaghetti and meatballs at Jimmy’s 21, which offers an affordable and quality dining experience on Mirror Lake.

The Breakfast Club is a popular breakfast spot and we found that the food was well worth the wait we encountered on both of our visits — yes, it was good and reasonable enough to merit a return trip.

Robin, Lake Placid, NY

New England ~ July 8 – 10

Jackson, New Hampshire

Our first evening in New England was spent in the village of Jackson, New Hampshire.  We chose Jackson solely for its close proximity to Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the White Mountains and all of New England. However, Jackson also provided us with an idyllic small town New England experience.

Covered Bridge, Jackson, NH
Covered Bridge, Jackson, NH

We stayed in the middle of town at the Historic Wildcat Inn & Tavern – a very well maintained old ski lodge that includes a long wooden bar, great restaurant and beautiful courtyard.  The inn is family run and reservations are handled by phone and logged in a large hotel register.

We arrived well before sunset allowing time for a leisurely stroll around the quiet village after settling into our room.

Ellis River, Jackson, NH
Ellis River, Jackson, NH

Following a path along the Ellis River, we came across a golf course and decided to return via the cart path since it was in the evening and appeared that no one was playing between us and the club house.

We found the club house to be open and Trey was glad he could inquire about green fees and club rentals.  The gentleman closing up set Trey up with a great deal, an early morning tee-time, and also gave him a handful of good condition golf balls from those found around the course.

Wentworth Golf Club, Jackson, NH
Wentworth Golf Club, Jackson, NH

Jackson seemed to mostly consist of lodges, inns and beds & breakfasts.  The village did not have many restaurant options and other businesses seemed to close with the sun, making our decision for dinner an easy one.  Luckily, we had inquired about dinner options early enough that we were able to make reservations at our inn’s restaurant – they require reservations for meal planning purposes.  Plus, we pleasantly discovered that their great food makes them a popular choice for locals.

Salmon Salad, Wildcat Inn and Tavern
Salmon Salad, Wildcat Inn and Tavern
We couldn't resist trying the locals' favorite French Onion Soup
We couldn’t resist trying the locals’ favorite French Onion Soup

We rose early the next morning and enjoyed breakfast together at Sarah’s Yesterday Restaurant before Trey headed to play golf at the Wentworth Golf Club.

After soaking up some sun and reading in the inn’s courtyard, I decided to catch up on laundry.  The nearest Laundromat was ten miles away in Conway, but was a nice drive and timing was perfect for me to wash, dry and fold and get back to Jackson just in time to meet Trey for lunch at the club house.

After checking out of the Wildcat Inn we backtracked eleven miles to the Mt. Washington Auto Road – an 8-mile road that slowly winds up Mt. Washington to its 6,288 foot summit.

Mt. Washington's Auto Road
Mt. Washington’s Auto Road

The auto road has always been privately owned and the fee to access it is not cheap at $28 per vehicle/driver, and an additional $8 for each passenger.  The road was completed in the 1850’s, so obviously was not always referred to as an “auto-road.”

At the base we were instructed to keep our car in second gear and warned of the potential for high cross winds.

We knew of the dangerous winds as that is the primary draw to the mountain — the highest recorded earth surface wind gust was measured on the summit of Mt. Washington at 231 mph in the 1930’s.  This fact had me a bit apprehensive, particularly when we ascended above the tree line and the road went from tree-lined pavement to a mix of dirt and gravel with steep drop-offs.

View of the Mt. Washington Auto from mile post 7
View of the Mt. Washington Auto from mile post 7

The ominous clouds to the west only added to my nervousness.

On Top of Mt Washington
On Top of Mt Washington

However, once we arrived safely at the summit, my heart rate returned to normal and I truly enjoyed the majestic panoramas surrounding us.

Panoramic view above Tuckerman's Ridge, Mt. Washington, NH
Panoramic view above Tuckerman’s Ridge, Mt. Washington, NH
Trey @ the Summit, Mt. Washington, NH
Trey @ the Summit, Mt. Washington, NH

A weather research center continues to operate at the summit, along with an observatory and museum.   We also found a restored hotel and a cog railway at the summit that was completed in 1869 to provide travelers quicker access to the summit before the invention of automobiles.

Tip Top House, Mt Washington, NH
Tip Top House, Mt Washington, NH

We left beautiful New Hampshire wishing we had scheduled more time there, but at the same time were anxious to experience Vermont.

Inside Jackson's covered bridge
Inside Jackson’s covered bridge

Grand Isle, Vermont

We crossed the bridge onto Grand Isle in time to witness an amazing sunset; the result of a dissipating thunderstorm that we were glad to miss.

Sunset, Grand Isle VT 2

The Adam’s Landing bed & breakfast we had reserved sat directly on the western shore of Lake Champlain facing New York state.

Sunset, Grand Isle VT 8

After settling in, we headed for the only late dinner option on the island. I think that the veggie pizza we shared at McKee’s Island Pub & Pizza was the best pizza of our travels. Although, I have to also recognize that we were particularly hungry, and we didn’t really eat a lot of pizza during our six months on the road.  It was delicious, nonetheless.

We were very grateful to be served a homemade breakfast the next morning, complete with pancakes and Vermont maple syrup.  It provided great fuel for exploring the islands via one of its many bike routes.

West Shore Rd, Grand Isle, VT
West Shore Rd, Grand Isle, VT

Lake Champlain is 125 miles long and its linked islands provide biking enthusiasts a great route for riding the lake’s entire length from Quebec, Canada to Essex County, New York. We chose a manageable 12 mile loop that kept us on the northern end of Grand Isle, cut through the state park and took us along both the western and eastern shorelines.

Grand Isle Farm
Grand Isle Farm

It was a beautiful, cool, but sunny morning – perfect for taking time for bird watching and enjoying the scenic farmland and views of Lake Champlain.

Grand Isle, VT

It was then time to say good-bye to our lovely hosts and take off for the Adirondacks.

Adam's Landing, Grand Isle, VT
Adam’s Landing, Grand Isle, VT

The ferry crossing at Gordan’s Landing was a short drive away and we were able to drive immediately onto the ferry crossing Lake Champlain for Plattsburgh, New York.

Crossing Lake Champlain
Crossing Lake Champlain

This was our first ferry experience and we entertained, or perhaps annoyed, the other passengers with our excitement and wonder.

In the middle of Lake Champlain
In the middle of Lake Champlain