Making our way north from Niagara Falls over roughly 10 days, we hit the Adirondack Mountains and the towns of Ticonderoga, Lake Placid/Saranac Lake, and an overnight in tiny Baldwinsville.
We are from the West Coast. Also, most of our geographical knowledge has been gained from watching Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York go on vacation. So, we wondered, how do the Adirondacks differ from the Catskills and/or the Poconos and/or the Berkshires, all popular locations for mountain- and lake-loving New Yorkers?
|Highway 431 through Wilmington on the way to Whiteface Mountain|
The Catskills are more of a dissected plateau than a series of mountain ranges, with 35 high peaks and 6,000 square miles, possessing lots of history and nostalgia, and a name that makes no sense, because everyone knows cats don’t have any skills, except giving attitude.
The Berkshires, with 2,100 square miles, are known for having more culture, with a more sophisticated, upscale feel. This the land of “free thinking” and a “I can do what I want and you can’t stop me, neener neener neener” air.
The Poconos, 2,400 square miles, has lots of rolling mountains and babbling streams, but their “wildlife” includes lots and lots of city folk escaping New York City for the weekend.
The Adirondacks are a continuation of the Canadian Shield mountain range, and are perfect for people who like to be active outdoors. Counter-intuitively, they also have a big lazy chair named after them. The Adirondacks is a 6-million-acre protected patchwork of public and private land, bigger than the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Great Smokies and Glacier NP … combined!
It’s got a laid-back, outdoorsy vibe that’s just right for exploring!
Ticonderoga is a historic city, with battles and maneuvers held here during the French and Indian War and also the Revolutionary War. Who knew that revolutionary soldiers like to play pickleball?
Despite its storied past, Ticonderoga is perhaps best known for its famous No. 2 HB pencils, made from locally mined graphite. (“Millennials, a ‘pencil” is a thin tube of graphite wrapped in wood that when applied to paper, can be used instead of the Evernote App for making lists.”) Ticonderoga means “land between two waters,” and indeed we are surrounded by water all around.
The 18th-centry Fort Ticonderoga, constructed by the French and occupied at one time or another by just about everyone, is also located here. We skipped the “regular” tour in favor of a special “Gossip Tour,” touching on juicy topics of interest to our childish minds, including drunken soldiers, stolen wives, unsolved crimes, and attempted murder. Philip declared the tour to be too much high crimes and misdemeanors, and too little sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, therefore proving himself to be the most childish of the two of us.
With a patriotic pedigree, Ticonderoga seemed to the perfect location to spend 4th of July. We also thought this because they promote it as “Best Fourth in the North.” Perfect! But, not. It was all pretty lame. Example: “Food, vendors and ride in Bicentennial Park!” turned out to be a jumpy house, one ferris wheel and a churro stand. But the uncrowded streets meant Sprinkles got great front-row viewing of the parade….
… which was also lame. One of the floats was literally a guy pulling his boat down the parade route. Not a red-white-or-blue decoration to be seen anywhere on it. Just a truck, and a boat. Was he actually an entry, or just got lost and wandered into the parade? We still don’t know. BUT … behold the winner of Best Float … by the local plumbing supply store, and accompanied by the 50s song “Splish Splash.” Yah baby!
Swoon-worthy Lake Placid is perhaps best known-as the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.
It was here that the “Miracle On Ice” occurred, the Olympic victory by the U.S. team (average age: 22, and who had only been training together for six months) over the “unbeatable” Soviet team, that led to the Gold Medal. This event has been called the “Greatest Sporting Event of the 20th Century” and was immortalized in the terrific movie “Miracle.”
Young hockey players train here throughout the summer, hoping a little of that Olympic mojo might rub off on them and give them their own miracle someday.
My t-shirt below shows star Goalkeeper Jim Craig’s signature mask … with two Lucky Charms on either side! You know I HAD to have it!
In the Lake Placid Olympics Museum, they even have the ACTUAL goal from the Miracle game!
The small ice arena in the Olympic Complex hosts a “regular” ice show on Saturday nights, but we chose instead to attend “Freaky Fridays,” where students are allowed to do all the goofy, silly, and daring moves they cannot do in regular competition.
Of course, the crowd pleasers were “Madonna,” “Britney,” and “Justin,” which was freakin’ adorable until 6-year-old Madonna started skating to the song “Like A Virgin,” when the whole thing got just a little creepy.
Lake Placid’s Olympic facilities continue to be the training grounds for world-class athletes. Even Average Joes like us can try their hand at some of Olympic sports, like rocketing down the mountain on the Olympic bobsled run … but NOT in the summer of 2019 … when they are closed for reconstruction. Boo!!! But, we still got to watch some downhill ski jump training, into a swimming pool … see the guy in blue mid-flip?
Some of the greatest views in the Adirondacks come from the top of Whiteface Mountain, with stunning views as you make the 8-mile climb on wheels.
Once at the top, you can take an elevator up to the tippy-top … but not with a dog. No problem, it’s just a 1/5 mile walk, we don’t need no stinkin’ elevator! Well, hundreds of steep steps later, we understood the presence of the elevator. But oh, those views!
Being way too cool, we ignored the sternly worded sign saying “proper footwear mandatory” and charged up the slick rocks in our flip flops. Of course, sternly worded signs are not erected for no reason. I proceeded to slip almost immediately and destroyed my camera on the way down. Doh!!!
The Lake Placid area is home to many challenging sporting events, including an Ironman Triathlon coming up soon. The famous Adirondack climbs in this area mean that every roadside is littered with toned athletes working on their technique.
As members of Harvest Hosts, we are able to do overnight stays at host properties, including wineries and farms, and the mountains of Upstate New York gave us Abbott Farms in Baldwinsville, outside Syracuse.
Sprinkles has always wanted to live on a farm!
The downside of this stop was cherries. Not because we hate cherries, but because birds love cherries. And since birds love cherries, Abbott Farms employs an automatic computerized cannon sound every few minutes to scare them away. After ducking for cover the first 100 explosions, we finally got used to it, but now we know what it would be like to camp in the middle of a war zone.
Lest you think this RV trip is all fun and games, know that Philip gives up many hours on repairs and maintenance. When you are hauling your house on your back down many, many rutted and rattling roads, repairs are constant. In fact, we have a shockingly large container of screws and bolts in a drawer, representing loose pieces we have found laying around and never figured out where they go. One day, all four sides of the RV are gonna collapse outward at the same time, like in a Saturday morning cartoon, and that will be the end of the Lucky Charm.
Travelers, take note …. of GREAT usefulness on the East Coast is the EZPass toll payment system. An electronic sensor that attaches to your windshield, it allows you to fly through the toll booths that are everywhere around here, instead of having to go through the more-crowded regular lanes and root around the seat cushions for spare change. After much research, we ordered ours through North Carolina’s QuickPass program, because theirs is the only one that covers all 13 EZPass states plus NC, FL and GA. Heads up if you plan to travel through the East Coast … this is the way to go!
Leaving Upstate New York, we loaded Lucky Charm onto a ferry bound for Burlington, Vermont. They advised vehicles’ height could be no more than 11’3″ — Charming is 10’11.” We jussssst fit!
We’ll be in Burlington for a week, but Philip has to fly to Las Vegas for 4 of those days for work.
Being semi-retired (as opposed to fully-retired) has its drawbacks!
Sprinkles and I will patiently await his return for more adventures.