Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Making Memories While Cross-Country Skiing

~Article written and pictures taken by 
Linda Grace 
Publicity Clerk, Old Forge Visitor Information Center

I have had the feeling of gliding inside a snow globe, when cross-country skiing at the Thendara Golf Course on a clear blue day.  The open sky allows the sun to glitter through the tree-lined course and reflects off the white, untouched snow.  But the day that my friends and I head out, it is not a picture-perfect day.  It wasn’t too cold, but the skies were grey and less than ideal, but you don’t need a perfect day to have a great adventure.  Fun and friendship were calling and the display of the sky and landscape gave us a magical feeling.

We decided to be ambitious and cover both loops which add up to about three miles of fairly easy to moderate skiing.  We started out on the left trail heading to the upper nine. This is the easier loop of the two and it is a perfect run for beginners and families. It winds along the outer perimeter of the golf course with a few small hills. This is all open and on windy days, there is virtually nothing to block the wind. But on calm or mild days, like the one my friend and I were enjoying, the open landscape can give you a freeing sensation.

One time, I did this loop with a beginner skier.  She said that this loop was good place to start since it was groomed real well and fairly flat. She said, "The beauty and tranquil quiet...(the fact that) there is no worry an embarrassing fall or another skier running you over.  This is a perfect place for a first attempt..."

My favorite loop is on the lower nine. It is the trail that heads right (east), from the parking area. This trail is longer at about 1.75 miles with a few easy ups and downs, which provides thrills on the downhill launches. My friends and I laughed as we whooshed down the first of these hills and my dog chased playfully alongside me.  We become quiet and spell-bound while skiing among the wonderful snow covered spruce trees and then back out in the open where we could see the expansive sky and landscape. It is truly a trail that gives you the best of both worlds. 

We breathed in the fresh crisp air as we followed the trail as it overlooks the nearby Moose River and its snow-covered bridge.  We talked about summer when we paddled down the Moose River and used the bridge for a canoe/kayak carry around the rapids.  Such conversations of summer reminiscing mingle in with the many winter adventures which have been made while skiing on the golf course.  

We glided around a bend, flew down another small slope and then raced up the next hill. Sometimes, when we are in the present, we do not realize that we are making a memory that will be cherished again and again. But, somehow, I became aware that this IS one of those moments that I will hold dear.  
The Moose River Bridge

To get to the Thendara Golf course from Old Forge, drive south on Route 28 and turn right on Fifth Street. Although it is free to ski here, these ski loops are groomed by a local volunteer, and donations are welcome and appreciated. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

~Written by Linda Grace~
{formally Linda M. Heistman}
Publicity Clerk, Old Forge
Visitor Information Center

Picture by Kurt Gardner

On Monday, we received our first significant snowfall (up to six inches in some areas). This snow was soft and not quite right for cross-country skiing yet, but Monday night’s cold temperatures created a thin layer of ice on Old Forge Pond. The frigid air is also starting to drive the frost into the ground. It got me thinking of how, very soon, we will see conditions for early season winter recreation including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. 

The crisp, cool air brought me to life as I shoveled the snow off my front steps. I thought of how wonderful it feels to glide along on skis, breathing in clean, fresh air and taking in the snow-covered beauty of the landscape. I am longing for the side to side skating motion and the through the woods and up a hill workout. I am also looking forward to the fun of snowshoeing -- a great way to take a hike in the winter.

Picture by Michael Farmer

I pictured the well-groomed trails where many happy memories of skiing or snowshoeing have been created and will provide many more fun times ahead. I dreamed of the beautiful Thendara Golf Course with its snow globe-like, wide-open views of the sky and trees. It offers fairly easy to moderate skiing and beside-the-trail snowshoeing. It is a great spot for family recreation. 

Picture by Kurt Gardner

Maple Ridge offers the skier or snowshoer groomed trails that lead through the wonderland of snow-covered woods. The sparkling sun shining through snowy pines makes it seem like you are moving through a magical fairyland.  These trails also offer some historical interest and the terrain is up and down making this adventure a little more challenging. 

Picture by Michael Farmer

The approaching winter will soon be a reality and I have my skis and snowshoes all ready to go! How about you?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Stillwater Fire Tower

 ~Article written and pictures taken by Linda M. Heistman,
Publicity Clerk, Old Forge Visitor Information Center.
I find it quite fascinating that Verplanck Colvin was out surveying all over the Adirondacks, even before there were any decent roads. He was the one who oversaw the building of the first wooden Stillwater Fire Tower in 1882. Colvin was a pioneer in both exploration and in conservation. While tree cutting and the lumber industry were still destroying our woods and clogging up the waterways, Colvin was one of the leaders trying to protect, restore, and preserve our wilderness areas.

Colvin’s original wooden fire tower on Stillwater Mountain was replaced by another wooden fire tower in 1912. Then in 1919 the steel fire tower was built, and this is the one that still stands on Stillwater Mountain today. But in 1988, the tower was closed because it was in need of repairs.

In 2009, the restoration process of the historic fire tower began. It was reopened in 2016, with amazing results. The tower offers views that boast sights of some of the high peaks to the east, and the wind towers of Tug Hill to the west.  It is educational as well. In the cab at the top of the tower is a very helpful map, with a pointer that helps sightseers know what they are looking at. The corners of the inside of the cab are marked with each direction - east, west, south, and north.  
Many hard-working volunteers, The Friends of Stillwater Mountain, and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have truly made this a great monument.

The best part about this tower is that it’s a very easy 2-mile round-trip hike, making it an adventure that the whole family can enjoy.

You can find this fire tower trail by turning off of Route 28 onto Big Moose Road  in Eagle Bay, NY. Drive all the way to Big Moose, to where the pavement ends and a backcountry dirt road begins. This dirt road has a sign that reads “Stillwater 10 mi”. 
Where the pavement ends and the dirt road begins
Follow this road about 7.5 miles to the trailhead parking on the left. This trip will be a good memory, but it does take some planning to do it, as it is about a half hour to 45 minute drive from the beginning of the Big Moose Road to the trailhead.
Trailhead for Stillwater tower


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Trail to the Historic Lock and Dam

~Articles written and pictures taken by Linda M. Heistman,
Publicity Clerk, Old Forge Visitor Information Center.

Anyone who has driven or walked over the Green Bridge in Thendara, has not been disappointed with the beauty of the Moose River from that vantage point.  On the southwest side of the bridge, right at the curve, there is a small parking area for the trailhead for the Lock and Dam trail. This easy (mostly flat) two mile hike is a favorite trail of both locals and visitors alike. Many locals enjoy it as a place to meet friends to walk their dogs, or make it part of their running routine. It is conveniently close to town, but feels like you're away from it all. The trail is well-groomed and well-marked, making it a family friendly trail that most anyone is able to negotiate.  

Each season offers its own uniqueness to the trail, making it a special place to go and return to often.  There are only a few spots on the trail that can get muddy and wet at times, but on nice days, a stroller could even be pushed on most of this two mile round trip. Once the lock and dam is reached, there is a nice area for bird and wildlife watching, a picnic, fishing, swimming and/or skipping stones on this picturesque branch of the Moose River.

In the winter, the sun sends its magnificent rays through sparkling snow-covered tree branches, while the snow provides for a beautiful, easy ski, hike or snowshoe through the fairytale-like woods.

Spring brings its own awakening beauty as it buds with new life. By summer, the trail teems with abundant ferns and other lush greenery. My favorite season to take this trail is in fall when the few views of the Moose River are most vibrant with color.  In fact, the whole trail offers outstanding splashes of color not only in the trees but in the brush and land that borders the mystical curviness of the Moose River.

The trail starts off into the woods and is very flat until about 0.4 miles; where there is a short, fairly easy hill.  Loose, slippery stones seem to make this small hill seem steeper than it really is.  Hike assured that once you successfully reach the top, you will know that you have completed the most challenging part of the trail.  Still, this is an easy uphill, really, compared with many other inclines in our area. After the hill, the rest of the hike is an enjoyable, very level, well-trodden path until it almost reaches the dam. At about 0.9 miles there is another trail that turns off to the left and follows a snowmobile trail up a hill known as Humphrey Hill.  At this point you have almost reached the lock and dam. As you approach it, you may be able to hear the water rushing over the dam. The very last part of the trail becomes more like a gully as the trail slopes down to an open grassy area at the top of the picture perfect falls. The grassy section before the falls is where down-stream paddlers get out and carry their boats around the dam. A short side trail to the left (south) of the dam leads to the bottom of the lock and dam.

The lock and dam was originally built in 1888, in order to improve the very rough transportation conditions of the time. A train would carry passengers coming from the McKeever area (what was called the Moose River Settlement) to “Jones Camp” which used to be located near the lock and dam. The passengers would then board a steamboat named "The Fawn” and continue up the river to the Fulton Chain of lakes. 

How to get there:

From the south on Route 28 North to Thendara, pass the Thendara Railroad Station on the right, drive under the “New York Central” railroad bridge and turn right onto Beech Street (before you get to the Steak House restaurant). Beech Street curves to the left after 2 blocks and becomes Green Bridge Road and then curves to the right and passes over the Moose River. Immediately after crossing the bridge, there is a small parking area to the right. This is the parking area for the trail.

From Old Forge and points north, follow Route 28 South to Thendara.  Just before the Steak House Restaurant, veer slightly left onto Forge Street to the left of the restaurant. Turn left onto Beech Street. Beech Street curves to the left after 2 blocks and becomes Green Bridge Road and then curves to the right and passes over the Moose River. Immediately after crossing the bridge, there is a small parking area to the right. This is the parking area for the trail.

For more information of the history of the lock and dam, here are some references:

Charles Herr, The Fulton Chain Steamer ‘Fawn’, Adirondack Almanac. Retrieved from http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2013/10/fulton-chain-steamer-fawn.html.

                Palmer, Richard F. (copyright 2008) Wooden Rails in the Adirondacks: The “Peg Leg” Railroad .

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

McCauley Mountain-Maple Ridge Multi use trail system

~ Article written and pictures taken by Linda M. Heistman, 
Publicity Clerk, Old Forge Visitor Information Center. 

Mid-September was the start of bear hunting season, and now the deer hunters are out trying to get their game. Hunting season lasts long into December. I truly respect hunters and understand the need for them in our back country, but as a hiker and trail runner, I find this season difficult. I know I can, and often do, run the roads during this time. Still, there is something about my mornings beginning in the wilderness which just makes my day. I realize that there are others who feel the same way and so I have decided to write about trails which will help us keep a respectable distance from hunters.

Town-owned McCauley Mountain to Maple Ridge offers a multi-use trail system, with biking and hiking for three of our four seasons and it offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. This means that there is no hunting here, and in the winter there are no snowmobiles.

I must admit that I really didn’t like the thought of this maze-like array of trails, because I am the kind of person who really likes to go somewhere and see something.  The area at first seems a little confusing, and it definitely calls for a use of a map, as well as keeping a careful eye out for trail markers. After studying the map of the area, I realized that there are only two main trails with many side trails weaving in and out of them.

I decided I’d at least give the two main trails a try. Have you ever seen a movie trailer that features all the best scenes of the movie? Well this blog is kind of like that. I describe the best of this hike right here, but I am not like those writers who give people every detail of the hike. I like to leave some things for the adventurers to discover for themselves.

Gray Lake
Following the signs to McCauley Mountain, drive past a parking area and garage on the left. The trail begins on the left shortly after the brown Yurt. The blue diamond trail and the yellow trail start off together. I decided to follow the yellow trail, which is called The Wall, going in a northeastern direction, and then winding around to go west to the Grey Lake Trail. After a short ascent heading north again, the fall colors were at about 30 percent on the day of my hike. I thought the trail wouldn’t give me a view of anything but trees, but it opened up and offered a colorful vista of Grey Lake.

I followed Slalom Trail then began following the blue diamond trail up Boy’s Hill and started up a small incline of the Abenaki Trail. After the hike up the hill, I was rewarded with a picnic table and some Adirondack chairs perfect for a rest. They face a tree line offering glimpses of McCauley’s downhill slope. This area is also near where they had the slalom ski run, although it is hard to tell, because of all the tree growth.

The old truck at the top of Abenaki Trail
I continued up this trail and got to see historic ski tow equipment. People who grew up here have the advantage of hearing the stories from past generations, so I picked some brains about the old time tows. I also did some research on line and in the library. What I learned is that the tow was created by attaching a rope to the axle of an old truck’s wheels after the truck was mounted securely. As someone ran the truck, the truck’s wheel axle would turn and become the pulley for the tow rope. One year after obtaining their first tow rope, the Old Forge Winter Sports Association voted to get another tow line. Old Forge Hardware provided the rope and the equipment. The old truck used to run the second tow line is the one which remains on the top of Abenaki Trail today.

After visiting this historic truck, I continued following the McCauley Trail around where it joins up to Mocha’s Loop and goes over to the former Maple Ridge ski hill. This ski area was started in the 1930’s with a single rope tow. The town continued using this mountain for downhill skiing into the 1990’s. There is equipment left here, as well, that tells of the bygone era.

Ski equipment at the top of  Maple Ridge 

I followed the Maple Ridge yellow/orange trail to the Girl’s Hill and took the D Loop cutoff and Reggie’s Loop Cutoff and back to the blue diamond McCauley Trail back to my starting point.

To say the least, my original opinion of this area has changed. I now see it as a good getaway, with the option of a full-day, partial-day or short hike into a quiet place in the woods.

[For more information on Maple Ridge, one can read the book Lost Ski Areas of the Adirondacks by Jeremy K. Davis.]

How to get there:  From Old Forge follow the signs to McCauley Mountain. Park at the closed gate and walk on paved driveway pass the brown yurk on the left and trail is on the left. 
Trail head from McCauley enterance

Top of Maple Ridge overlooking Old Forge

Another way to access this trail network is from Park Ave. The parking area is right across from the Town of Webb School. The trail heads straight up the hill to the Maple Ridge Trail, where there’s a picnic area lookout over Old Forge.

This trail system offers easy to moderate trails ranging from half a mile to 1.5 miles. For a map of this area click below: