Climbing two sections of Mount Whiteface, I saw how Nature takes after the Olympic human enterprise, how sunrays reflect back from mountain valleys into space and how a cloud collector in the Adirondacks measures pollution blowing over from Shanghai.
The Great National Playground - Adirondiacks
Welcome to New york State
I took the morning ferry from Grand Isle to Plattsburgh, NYS. While driving road 9, I heard on the radio that three terrorist acts took place in NYC and New Jersey a day or two before. Just now, as I arrived in NYS from the backwaters of Vermont, they were looking for the suspect!!! Welcome to the Big Apple! Driving in the beauty and tranquility of this countryside, though, these news did not seem to have much impact or relevance.
I pulled over at a picturesque farmers’ fruit and veggie stand, Pray’s Family Farms, and bought some colorful appealing fresh produce – apples, oranges, carrots, green onions, tomatoes, lettuce and avocado. I even bought some cheese!
Talking about terrorism to people in this setup seemed surreal, but I made a comment about it to the salesperson, as we do in Israel on such occasions. She and some other buyers responded with sadness and caring for the injured. They also voiced some apprehension and a smidge of anger at what’s happening in the world.
I asked people where the nearest gas station was, missing one about a mile back, and running out of gas. A nice older man told me the next station was about half an hour ahead. I’d be better off retracing my steps and driving the one mile back to the Sunoco. I followed his advice.
The picture below was taken from Google Maps, using the print-screen command and “Paint”. Amazing what can be done! It was lamentable I did not take a pic at the time, but finding it on Google in all its colorful glory made me almost as happy. !
Keene - Not for Vegetarians!
Road 9 turned into 9N just around the Sunoco, and I followed it along the beautiful Ausable River through some picturesque little settlements and into Keene. Everything was a surprise, as I had no idea what to expect here –
A beautiful town house in the natural setting,
On the main street was the iconic “Keene Furniture Store”… Unlike Pray’s Market this was no vegetarian’s haven, but …a lot of mountain atmosphere:
This guy welcomed me in the bathroom.
All I bought in the Keene Furniture Store was one item for $1 – a pretend fuzzy snowball good for squeezing and strengthening aching hand muscles. I actually use it as a hand rest when typing.
Homo sapiens is clearly victorious in the “conquest” of our planet, but that statement does not make me really happy.
Driving past Keene I passed by the most beautiful magical lake I’d ever seen (the Upper Cascade Lake), something so silvery, mirror-like, unworldly and pristine, it took my breath away just observing it come into view. I couldn’t figure out how to stop the car, but promised myself I will on the way back, when I indeed dared to plunge into that sacred water body. Still, admittedly, the initial visual impression was unsurpassed, perhaps unsurpassable. Dipping did not make the magic more penetrable, did not bring it down to my human level. It did take my breath the other way, though – freezing!
So how come I was heading to Lake Placid? Dear friend told me it was a rich people’s hangout and an Olympic Village, which for him was a turnoff. There were much better options I should investigate in the Adirondacks in his opinion. But the guys I met at Lazy Lions raved about Lake Placid.
For lack of other clear destinations in the area, I decided to start there and see what followed. I like the Olympics and watch the swimming, athletics and gymnastics faithfully every four years. Lately, I even started watching the winter Olympics, a foreign sport for Israelis. For me, then, this was an attraction as well as a different kind of travelling experience.
I called several campgrounds, looking for a cheap lean-to. After Champlain I learned about the advantages of lean-tos and wanted “to play safe”. I would have preferred a place by the lake, of course, but knew this would be more pricy.
Draper’s Acres was the only place that actually had a lean-to (and only one!!!). That single lean-to happened to be free past the weekend! The friendly campground even offered their lean-to for the same price as a regular tentsite, a mere $25/night! The extra (lucky) day I spent in the Champlain islands assured I’d arrive at Draper’s on a weekday!
I am learning not to judge people too fast, especially not from phone conversations! When I called the place from Grand Isle, I got the impression the manager was a representative of NY snobbery. This is how I read her voice and reactions. I was dead wrong!!! The truth was the opposite. The lady was 70 years old, and did not look her age at all. She was very pleasant, talkative, helpful and informative. Her grandchild, an energetic and cooperative little blonde, resembled her. At the time of my arrival she was sitting on the counter, flipping her legs in the air, but when her grannie asked her to bring some papers, she willingly jumped down and delivered.
The lady said I was double lucky: her son had just taken off the money machines from the showers, so they were now included in the fee. The feel she exuded was local, cozy and forthcoming. Perhaps booking a bit away from town was not such a bad idea after all… She later confided in me that she moved here when she was 19 together with the love of her life, and never left this gorgeous area since. In the past she used to walk all the trails, but not so much now.
It was very difficult to find my site even with the map given. Driving in circles, I asked people living in the permanent part of the campground where the lean-to was. Nobody knew. It was sad talking to a young woman who showed up around her trailer. She wanted to be helpful, but clearly hadn’t investigated the park beyond the path from the trailer to the office and the bathroom. I got a sense of hopelessness, desperation, poverty. This was life on the edge of the still decent acceptable social spectrum, one notch before falling into homelessness and welfare, if that was even available.
Nice people. You wondered what their personal stories were. Will voting for Trump make any noticeable difference in their lives? Get them out of that hole they are stuck in? For Hillary? If a trailer, then better here, moments away from Lake Placid, surrounded by trees and lakes rather than in an NYC slum, that’s for sure.
I found the new campground to be a little spooky. Except for the trailers, it was mostly empty at this point in the season. The lean-to was located in the midst of the grove, with a picnic table and a fire pit, a bit away from the bathrooms. It was cute and a 100% wooden, but took me two drives and lots of clue memorization to re-find it in the dark… At night darkness was absolute. There was total quiet except for the traffic sounds penetrating through the trees from road 73, Still it was not as freakish as that lonely night in the White Mountains with the howls and the wails…
The bathroom was fairly clean and decent, but I was a bit uneasy about it as there were obvious signs that some invisible people were using it… I made sure I closed the women’s door whenever showering. By the third night some people finally located themselves somewhere nearby. They were camped fairly remotely between the trees, but I could see their fire glittering, hear their car parking. I couldn’t tell if they added to my overall safety level here, or, conversely, detracted from it, so I kept away.
Strangely enough, just as I was setting myself up in the dark campground, my daughter SMS-d me that she was in NYC. It was weird to invite her to this lonely dark campground, though I suggested it of course, and she declined as expected. She was busy with friends and the exciting city stuff, and not quite tuned to her mother’s strange Nature wonderings… Probably better this way…
Lake Placid on Lake Mirror
The lady gave me a fun map of the area. I’ve seen the likes of this map before, but did not realize it was not just for kiddies or for advertising, but a real functional map to go by. Everything on the map was filled with little pictures. The businesses were marked with little signs and icons, official buildings were depicted in, fairly artfully, little boats were drawn in the lake, etc. It was the only map available, but turned out to be just fine.
On one side it covered the general relevant area and on the other, the town in detail. That was the moment I discovered that Lake Placid town is actually located on Lake Mirror… The lady marked for me where a laundromat would be, and also some recommended hiking trails. She warned me twice not to take the Old Military Road.
6 pm, Laundromat at the Olympia Sports complex, off Saranac Ave (Rd 86), Lake Placid, NY
A laundromat is a great place to catch up on writing. It is also a great place to meet people, read, philosophize about Life.
A huge washer swallowed my laundry for the “small” sum of $7.5. I bought a softener packet for an extra $1. Of course there were machines there to change money, break money, sell you everything you might need as long as you feed them quarters, the automatons’ preferred nourishment.
A very nice, easy-going and well-wishing lady was in charge of the operation. Her office with the computer control center was a few steps higher than the main hall, but she was running around a lot, aiding people. I had a problem with a computer error. The machine demanded re- payment when I opened the door to throw in an extra shirt. The operator spent more than 10 minutes to solve my problem. A bit later, and with a huge smile of relief on her face, she finished her shift and went home sweet home. We customers, were left orphaned to tackle the robot systems on our own. Luckily, no further problems arose.
I had a lengthy conversation with a young guy who worked at the sports store next door. He gave me tips about walks the area, but I got the impression he never did any major hikes himself. He allowed me to throw three of my still-wet-items in with his own load. Regardless of the price, it was nice to have the opportunity to finally wash and dry everything properly.
Nighttime at Lake Placid
Once I got my laundry done, and before struggling to find the lean-to in the dark, I stopped in town and walked a bit around to get an idea. In a busy trading post on Main Street, I bought a pine soap with a beautiful smell, and some maple syrup (for myself this time).
There was a sweet small Mexican food joint a bit off the road, where I had wonderful shrimp tacos. The guys, who were not Mexican, were nice, hard-working and talkative. Some interesting people were sitting near me at the outdoor tables. The prices were very reasonable – two excellent tacos for $7. Unfortunately, by the time I asked for another one they were already closing…
Passing all the illuminated cheerful high-end hotels and resorts, I made my way through the town. I exited from the north end into Saranac Rd., making the drive longer than needed. Eventually hitting a dark and forlorn #73, I headed to my dark and lonely lean-to in a dark off-season campground off an obscure Conifer Road. The darkness at my site was so total I parked the car just 1 cm in front of the invisible fire pit. Luckily I did not run over it and bumped the car again… Despite myself I found even the noise of the highway reassuring…
Well, here I was now in the state of New York…
The next day I had the best of all worlds climbing the awesome Mt. Whiteface (or parts of it, to be precise…)