Those were the Days
Olympic Lake Placid
21.9.16 , Lake Placid
Following a vigorous adventure at the Whiteface Mountain the day before, this day was characterized by a little bit of everything, color sepia…
Henry's Woods Preserve - When Private Ownership Serves the Public's Good
Skipping breakfast, I wanted to start the day with a short walk. I embarked on a trail recommended by the campground owner – Henry’s Woods.
To my amazement, the entire mountain was privately owned!!! In this case, though, the owner is not the “No Trespassing” type with a gun arsenal in his basement to impose his inalienable right to his property. To the contrary, Henry is an idealistic caring human being who transformed this beautiful land into a publicly accessible natural treasure. He installed beautiful handmade benches carved out of fallen trees around the park, marked trails, added maps, signs and markings. All that was done without impairing or compromising the natural beauty. And the entrance is free.
I started with the Green Loop Trail, then ascended the Red one with some difficulty, but was frustrated I could barely see the view for the trees.
Heading back, I tried the other part of the “loop” expecting better views, but it significantly lengthened the walk. I lost my patience as I was determined to sample some of the Olympic “stuff” as well that day. This was only meant to be a morning wakeup walk.
Wishing to complete the “Loop” and hoping to get some better views in between the trees, I opted for the further part of the Green Loop Trail, which actually made the walk longer.
Frustrated, I started to run. At this point, more trees were too many. Luckily, there was the so-called “Switchback” shortcut to the finish. They thought of everything. By 11:30 I got back to the parking lot! The day was running out.
Still, as I always do, I commemorated some of the amazing mushroom that popped my way:
Can’t beat Mother Nature in inventiveness, especially in the fungi department…
And the beauty of the changing leaves:
The Asian Buffet
By this time I was voraciously hungry. I remembered the waiter’s recommendation of the Asian Buffet near Saranac and put it on the GPS. He said it was “up here”, so I wrongly assumed he meant up the road in town, but apparently “up here” is a relative term… In reality it was an 8-mile drive, but wow, indeed!!! Unbelievable quantities of excellent food. This place had it all, and in abundance: Chinese entrees, Japanese sushi, American classics, seafood, meats and chicken dishes, salad bar, vegetable dishes, soups, fruit, desserts, you name it.
Apart from the waitresses, who seemed borderline anorexic, and me, everybody around the tables was overweight to obese! I must say if I lived in the area and ate here even twice a week, I would turn that way as well… There was something Fellini-ish about that scene, and somewhat surreal. Super-thin non-smiling young Chinese women serving super-fat Middle-Aged voracious white customers an obscene amount of food, and all that in an area that hosted two Olympics. Oh, well…
What I find disconcerting in America nowadays is the nonchalance of obesity, as it gradually becomes the norm. I think it is horrible that people discriminate against others on the basis of weight, but total uncontrolled eating, no bars held, does not sit right with me either. In particular, it is depressing to watch couples who seem to almost egg each other to sample everything offered.
Glory Bygone - The Olympic Complex
Well satiated, I headed on to the Lake Placid Olympic Complex, to be distinguished from the Olympic Center downtown. Very confusing! I was surprised to find out that the complex was several miles out of town, and on the way I actually passed the jumping complex, a bit a-ways from my campground!
Not expecting a long walk, or actually any walk, I did not take water. A big mistake.
First there was the museum which took only a few minutes:
But then there was the outdoors!
I walked along the old bobsleigh (luge) tunnel that was constructed for the 1932 games, then along the new one, constructed for the 1980 games. That one is still maintained and used for practice (Wikipedia says there are only 16 tracks like that in the world today!). Not knowing what to expect, I had no idea there was a beautiful mountain trail reaching the summit of Mt. Van Hoevenberg, luring me to climb.
This is what the Lake Placid Olympic Complex page has to say:
The fastest Olympic winter sports happened on this ribbon of concrete, steel and ice that zigs-zags down the face of Mt. Van Hoevenberg. It’s on this track that the world’s best bobsled, luge and skeleton racers slide, and it’s here that you can see and feel what it’s like to rocket down a mountain. The track is nearly a mile long, making 20 turns while dropping more than 400 feet and at competition speeds exerts more than five times the force of gravity on the racers. (Space shuttle astronauts, for comparison, endure just 3-Gs at launch.)
It’s a demanding and exhilarating course that has become a regular stop on the World Cup circuit and site of the 2012 Bobsled & Skeleton World Championships. The Olympic Sports Complex is also home to 50 km of groomed cross-country ski trails, snowshoe trails and a biathlon shooting range. Athletes in the fastest of winter sports compete near Nordic skiers pacing themselves to outlast the pack!
Well, I was not the person to experience 5G, nor “rocket down a mountain”, but I did walk up the forlorn and abandoned track, taking nostalgic melancholic pics:
Not having planned for this, I stopped somewhere up the grassy path, realizing I could continue all the way to the summit perhaps, but that was not in the stars for today. Then I followed the new tunnel:
The New Bobsled
Somewhere, Spanish music was playing, half empty Coke bottles and some personals were stacked in a corner. Work was being carried out in preparation for the next season.
As to the track itself, there was a separate, a bit lower entry point for women, but that did not bother me. That’s not the kind of stuff that triggers my feminism. I don’t see any point in pretending there are no physical differences between men and women, including some fields where we actually have an advantage, like flexibility, expression and grace. The main question, though, is what you do with it, what adjectives you use, what conclusions you draw.
I believe that, generally, the Olympics management respects women’s abilities and measures us relative to our own capacity. It is remarkable that by now women swimmers outdo what male swimmers used to do 30 years ago, and that is true in several other fields as well. Male gymnasts and female gymnasts are different in style to the delight of all spectators; both clearly demonstrate exceptional competence and are beautiful to watch. Women’s voices and men’s voices ideally merge into beautiful choirs. It makes the world rich and whole.
Sonja Heine and the Olympic Museum
I rushed back from the Lake Placid Olympic Complex to town to “catch” the Olympic Museum before closing time. There I learned about Sonja Heine, her incredible career, her controversial handshake with Hitler. I saw some old costumes and radiant photos of young, brilliant women who would by now be very old or not with us anymore.
Repetition, Discipline, Passion and Dedication, and - My First Ice Hockey Game
Finally, for the completion of my Olympic experience, I had the great fortune to see live sportsmen in action. As I arrived at the 1980 ice arena, a staff person was just executing the last touches necessary to smooth the ice in preparation for a training session. The hockey players soon disengaged from the wall and started skating about. The coach was giving them various instructions they followed religiously. Eventually a game started. I was captivated.
The guys looked great, especially a particular blonde one I set my eyes on… The discipline was amazing. I could not imagine an Israeli team obeying instructions like that – giving respect, squatting at the feet of a coach, following every word, doing their absolute best (“Who are you to tell me what to do?” would be a more likely response…). Maybe that’s why we never win in international tournaments. Individuals do, but not groups. As the signs around the museum explained, it takes: Repetition, Discipline, Passion and Dedication. I filmed enthusiastically, and also took some stills:
The goalies were especially charming. All bundled up and usually shorter than the rest, they were jumping to the rescue, always on alert, blocking or not succeeding to block the balls. It was esthetically pleasing. I was mesmerized. Only when I started to get cold, I finally left the arena.
Behind the parking lot I found a small marked trail: Nature was always lurking just around the corners. To complete the “city” experience I went to see a movie – Tom Hanks “Sully”, very appropriate for the setup and atmosphere. Then I drove back to my dark tent and settled down for the night.