When we first started planning this trip I knew nothing about the Adirondacks. I had heard of the mountains/area, but that was about it. I probably would not have even thought to add it to our itinerary, but Grant insisted. So I started doing some research and quickly became overwhelmed. There’s just so much. Now that we’ve spent three days here, I feel like I have a better understanding of the area, but there is still so much that is confusing and overwhelming.
Knowing that we wanted to visit Saratoga NHP, which is southeast of the Adirondacks, and Fort Stanwix NHS, which is southwest of the Adirondacks, we decided to stay somewhere on the south end of the “park.” We ultimately ended up in a campground near the southeast corner, in Chester. There is no real significance to where we ended up, other than the campground is relatively inexpensive.
In yesterday’s post, “Long Live the Revolution,” Grant mentioned that this park is weird. Indeed, there are just over 6 million acres in what is known as “Adirondack Park,” but about half of that land is privately-owned. The southeast part that we drove on Tuesday, near Lake George and Schroon Lake, seemed to be mostly private. Getting public access to any of the lakes or rivers in that park of the park was nearly impossible. It was very pretty, with some interesting towns scattered around, and some folks had some great water views. We did see a few parking areas for hiking, but nothing that was advertised well.
Yesterday, we drove through the southern end of the park on Hwy 8 getting to Fort Stanwix. Again, it was very scenic, but nothing super special. It really just seemed like a nice drive through a forest.
Today, we drove the “inner loop” of the park, through the High Peaks area, and FINALLY started seeing stuff that made it feel more like an actual park. There were lots of well-marked hiking trails, parking for water access and turnouts so you could stop to take in the beauty and maybe snap a picture. Granted, there were still several towns mixed in to this part of the park, but at least is started to feel like an actual park.
What really made it feel like a park was us actually getting out on a trail and doing some hiking! After some research, we decided on Round Mountain. The first description that I found said that it was of moderate difficulty and 5 miles round trip. We generally consider ourselves somewhat experienced hikers – we generally make a point to get out on the trails anytime we can at parks or other areas that offer hiking. So, when the Web site said that there were some steep sections, I questioned it a little, but we ultimately decided that we should be able to handle it. In hindsight, we wish we had chosen a different trail…there were many others that probably would have been a more enjoyable hike and a more enjoyable view at the top.
This particular trail lived up to being very steep in sections, though other sections were just fine. Our biggest complaint going up was that path didn’t seem to make any sense. At times it felt like we were going straight up because it was the most direct way to get to the top. Then just as we thought we were close to the top, it looped around a bit and went straight up somewhere else. The hike that should have taken us about 1.5 hours to get to the top ended up taking about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Granted, some of that is due to Grant’s heart attack last summer. While he can exercise fairly normally, he does have to be careful that his heart rate doesn’t get too high or stay elevated for too long. So, yes, we stopped to rest a lot. I will admit, though, that most of the time I wasn’t complaining about having to take the “extra” rest breaks. This hike put a hurting on both of us, for sure. The last half mile of the hike up went up 1,000 feet! That really hurt.
Once we finally made it to the top, the views were good. I don’t know that I would call them great, especially considering some of the other views we’ve seen around the world, but it certainly was nice.
Then came the hike down. I know that downhill hiking isn’t necessarily easy, but I somehow always seem to forget just how hard it can be! We decided to take a different trail down – we always like to change it up if possible so that we can see a different view. This path was not really easier or harder, just different. It was a little bit more exposed (not as much shade), so that made it hotter. There was A LOT of “sliding” down rocks (there was some of that on the way up, but going down it was much harder). While neither the up or down required “rock climbing,” we were definitely climbing over rocks.
The worst part of the trail was when we seemed to just be following a water run-off. Lots of small rocks, lots of wet muddy parts, the trail was very uneven and not well-maintained. Combined with going downhill pretty much constantly for 2.5 miles… We really were not amused. By the end our quads and knees were definitely feeling it!
Our reward for actually finishing this hike was a stop at the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery. Grant enjoyed the local brews and we chowed down on some chicken nachos. Lake Placid is a lovely little town and one of the few that actually has a few chains (Saranac Lake also had some chain eateries & hotels). Lake Placid also hosted the Winter Olympics twice and has a lot of winter sporting opportunities.
The remainder of our drive around the park was peaceful and mostly traffic free. We passed a lot of lakes and many more hiking trails. Also a lot of little towns (actually, up here they are generally called “hamlets”).
Overall we enjoyed our time in the Adirondacks, but don’t necessarily feel the need to come rushing back anytime soon. There are a lot of things that we didn’t do, but most of them have entrance fees. The northern end of the park, especially around Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, seems to have the most to offer. Perhaps we will visit sometime in the winter and do some skiing or snowmobiling