Lake Placid

The best thing about Lake Placid is how close it is to Keene, an inviting mountain town at the intersection of craftsmanship and rustic living. There’s no doubt Lake Placid enjoyed its heydey hosting the 1932 and 1980 Olympics. Today, the natural scenery is still beautiful but the village itself is more tchotchke than charming.

I booked a room at the Lake House at High Peaks Resort, justifying the cost because kayaks and paddleboards are included. The rooms’ private balconies overlook a parking lot next to the lake, so I was disappointed with the hotel itself…but kayaking Mirror Lake was everything I hoped it would be.

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I would’ve loved to stay next door at the historic Mirror Lake Inn ($$$$)—where flowers of every color were in full bloom!

I’ve been pining to visit the Adirondacks for ages. I’m from “Upstate New York” which non-Upstate New Yorkers classify as Westchester County or the Adirondacks. The region welcomes you right in with its namesake chair, which seem to be a household staple.

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With how vast the Adirondacks region is, it can be hard to know where to start. The 2016-17 Adirondacks 4-Season Guide calls the Adirondacks a “6-million acre checkerboard of public and private land” that is “larger than the combined areas of Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Great Smokies and Glacier National Park.”

Driving east, I took scenic byway Route 28 through Old Forge, Inlet, Blue Mountain Lake and Tupper Lake all the way to Lake Placid. This route is lined with painted historic houses converted to diners, roadside BBQs, pizza parlors, pancake houses, ice cream outposts, donut shops and antique shops. Many enterprising homeowners sell camp wood roadside and occasionally rustic furniture too. You’ll find a gas station every couple of towns. Just about every town has an auto body shop, which seems to be reliable local employment.

I had virtually no cell phone service except in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. In between those two villages is Tail ‘O The Pup BBQ. The food is average, but the setting was wonderfully campy and cliché, just as I’d hoped it would be.

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The Adirondacks has all the makings of unforgettable childhood summers, as long as you can avoid Black Fly season. And, there are a number attractions built to give parents a break: The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake and The Wild Center in Tupper Lake to the east of Lake Placid, High Falls Gorge to the north and Stone Bridge and Caves to the south. (There’s also Ausable Chasm to the northwest and Fort Ticonderoga to the southwest.) But with just a little research and creativity, it’s easy to find better sites to enjoy—and for free. Start by checking out this interactive regional map and list of scenic drives. If you need a guide or gear, shops in Saranac Lake like Adirondacks Lakes & Trails Outfitters and St. Regis Outfitters offer both, including solo day trips and group overnight trips.

I discovered three Lake Placid shops I liked. At The Scape Cafe at Green Goddess Natural Market, the Avolicious grilled sandwich was tasty and made with high quality cheddar cheese and sun-ripened tomatoes. Nearby, the Lake Placid Rug & Home had a nice collection of knockoff and authentic rugs with traditional and tribal patterns. In the village, I picked up a bottle of Ripe Peach White Balsamic from Saratoga Olive Oil Company.

Because of that last shop, I tasted the best maple syrup of my life, produced by Black Rooster Maple. And because of that tasting, I got really excited when I spotted Black Rooster Maple farm in Keene while driving south on State Highway 9N. Boy, am I glad I pulled over.

The maple shop had already closed for the night, so I stopped in The Brew Castle where I met owners Wendy and Ben. It was awesome to see how they’re revitalizing the region through small business entrepreneurship, building off of success they’d seen in Vermont. Wendy and Ben believe in “shopping local and supporting local businesses to enable a vibrant mountain town community” (Lake Placid News). Thanks to their kind recommendations, I enjoyed Big Crow Trading and Dartbrook Rustic Goods (stunning collection!) across the street as well as The Birch Store and SubAlpine Coffee further south in Keene Valley. This region is remarkably different than any other mountain town I’d seen.

Just south of Keene Valley is probably the shortest hike in all of the Adirondacks. Traveling solo, walking 0.3 miles to the base of Roaring Brook Falls was a nice way to enjoy nature without feeling too isolated.

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I spent one night further south in Schroon Lake at Silver Spruce B&B, giving me the classic Adirondack experience I was looking for. Innkeepers Phyllis and Eldon showed me around the property, built in 1790 with a major addition in 1920. It was so kind of Nancy, the innkeeper of Adirondack Pines Bed & Breakfast, for recommending that spot when her whole house was full.

The next morning, I hiked up Severance Hill—a vigorous 1.2 miles up to a gorgeous vista.

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Next time I make it back to the Adirondacks, I’m bringing friends and beelining for the high peaks in Keene!

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