At the Northville Central School public hearing this past week, about 60 citizens lined up to speak their minds regarding the Adirondack Park Agency’s 2016 – 2017 Amendments to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. These amendments involve the Classification and Reclassification of 54,418 acres of State Lands (Forest Preserve) in the Adirondack Park which include the Boreas Ponds Tract, 32 Additional Classification Proposals, 13 Reclassification Proposals, and 56 Classifications involving map corrections.
As I waited my turn at the microphone, I was very impressed with the respectful sincerity and preparedness of the speakers who came before me. These included folks much younger than me who spoke about wilderness values, the potential of wild restoration, and how such restoration comports with their own personal values. » Continue Reading.
The Draft Recreation Management Plan (Draft RMP) for the Upper Hudson Woodlands – Sacandaga Block Conservation Easement Lands is now available for public review and comment. The lands involved include approximately 6,393 acres in the towns of Mayfield and Bleecker in Fulton County, and the towns of Edinburg and Greenfield in Saratoga County.
A public meeting will be held at 6:30 pm on October 12 at Northville Central School, 131 South 3rd Street, in Northville. The meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to learn more about the proposed management actions in the Draft RMP and comment on the proposals. DEC will accept comments on the Draft RMP until November 11. » Continue Reading.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has announced the route for Cycle Adirondacks — a week-long road bike tour through the Adirondack Park scheduled to take place August 20–27, 2016. This will be the tour’s second year; registration is now open.
The 2016 route starts and ends in Hadley-Lake Luzerne, NY, and includes overnight stops in Ticonderoga, Keeseville, Saranac Lake, Indian Lake and Northville. There will be a “layover day” in Saranac Lake where riders can pedal an optional route that tours Lake Placid or take a day off the bike to enjoy the amenities available in the Olympic Region. » Continue Reading.
Newly opened trail reroutes on the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT) now eliminate many miles of road walking.
The most recent section of reroute, completed this summer, replaces 7.6 miles of walking along State Route 30 and the Benson Road in the towns of Northampton, Fulton County and Benson, Hamilton County with an 8.6-mile trail through a tract of the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest. A bridge over Stoney Creek has not yet been built so a roughly 90-foot ford is necessary, which may not be passable during high water.
On the first Saturday of June the American Hiking Society celebrates National Trails Day. Now commemorating its 22nd year, National Trails Day continues to bring attention to the extensive network of outdoor trails across the Unites States as well as the wide array of activities those trails provide.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the completion of the Northville-Placid Trail (N-P Trail) this year. The N-P Trail, originally called The Long Trail is a north-south foot path that traverses through the heart of the Adirondacks from Northville to Lake Placid. This 135-mile, long distance hiking trail has captured the hearts of many throughout the years.
The N-P Trail was the first major project that ADK sponsored after the organization’s formation in 1922. One of the objectives as a newly formed organization was “to open, develop, extend and maintain trails for walkers and mountain climbers in the Adirondack Mountains,” as stated in the certificate of incorporation. What better way to do that than to build a trail that runs the length of the Adirondacks? Why pick Northville to Lake Placid though? Why not Lake George to Keene Valley? » Continue Reading.
Looking to expand our research to the outer reaches of the Adirondack Park, we set the GPS for Northville and opted for the scenic route through Stony Creek to Sacandaga Lake. Low speed limits and even slower drivers allowed us a leisurely opportunity to observe the views around the Sacandaga and glimpse the lakefront homes. Sport Island Pub, our targeted destination, proved to be easy to find. Its lakefront location, barely off the beaten path, is surrounded by summer homes. Decks on two levels visible from the parking area, wood sided with three dormers poking through the roof, the textured cinder block building left us curious about what we would find inside. » Continue Reading.
Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor to Adirondack Almanack, Annette Nielsen. Nielsen is a noted local food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life. A native of Northville, (she now lives in Salem, Washington County with her husband and son), Nielsen will be writing about Adirondack foodie culture with an eye toward locally sourced foods from forest, orchard, and farm. Her first post will run shortly. Annette Nielsen can be reached on Twitter and Facebook.
Northville is one of the few places that is not on our way to anywhere else in the Adirondack Park. With overnights planned in both Lake Placid and Old Forge in the next two weeks, most places are on the way to or beyond either one of them.
The drive through Hadley and the town of Day along the Great Sacandaga Lake was alone worth the hour and fifteen minutes. Pam was on a trip to Virginia, so I flew solo on this one. However, I did allow my husband to chauffeur. The Timeless Tavern sits on Main Street in Northville amid a row of storefronts in what appears to be a timeless town as well, reminiscent of a Look Magazine Hometown USA spread. Both village and tavern were pretty deserted, understandable at mid-afternoon, but the tavern was open, or almost open. Their hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 4 to 8 p.m. on Sunday; closed Monday. The bartender seemed to be getting the bar set up so it may not have been quite 4:00 when we went in.
The bar area is spacious with lots of natural pine; neat, well lighted, and with simple decor. Several tables, simply and elegantly covered with matching linens, are positioned in the tavern, a few next to windows; the others far enough away from the bar to be able to enjoy dining but close enough to be in on the action. The bar menu features sandwiches, burgers, specialty salads and light entrees in the $10.00 to $12.00 range, while the restaurant entrees are all priced between $17.00 and $25.00. Flagrant Red Sox and New England Patriots fans, owner Tom’s New England accent betrayed his allegiance as we asked where the Yankees memorabilia was. We’ll overlook it.
I made an immediate trip to the ladies’ room. Contemporary and spotless but otherwise unremarkable. When I returned, my husband commented on the men’s room, uncharted territory for me. Displayed over the urinal is a glass case containing several jokes for a gentleman’s amusement, at the expense of we women, I’m sure. Doesn’t the task at hand (so to speak) require some sort of attention? How does one steady the stream while pee(r)ing around the room? Just saying.
An inspection of the beer cooler divulged at least thirty bottled brews, including six or seven Sam Adams choices alone, the usual domestics, and even Molson Golden, which we didn’t even think was still produced. Yuengling, Blue Moon, Sam Adams seasonal and a couple of others rounded out the beer list. The bar is well stocked with several flavored vodkas, Jack daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Jeremiah Weed, Maker’s Mark and American Honey to name just a few.
The Great Sacandaga Lake region of the Adirondack Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and seasonal visitors, though not as commercial as other areas like Lake George and Lake Placid. The Timeless Tavern is open year round and is accessible by snowmobile in the winter. The beer is cold, the staff is friendly and the menu is varied, though a little pricey.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog.
Last week I had the opportunity to interview Olavi Hirvonen and his wife Ann, who own and operate the Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in Benson, near Northville. Olavi competed in the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team., and in 1978 he founded Lapland Lake, which he and Ann have built into one of the East’s foremost cross country ski centers.
Jeff: What events led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Nordic Ski Team in 1960? Olavi: Well, it’s a long story… I was born in Montreal and was brought to Finland when I was eight months old. I was raised there by my grandmother and learned to ski as a youngster. I came to this country in 1949 after serving in the Finnish Army. After being here a couple years and married for a few months, I received greetings from the U.S. Army with special orders to go to Alaska as an instructor in the Arctic Indoctrination School. In the wintertime I taught skiing, snowshoeing, and Arctic survival, and in the summer it was mountain climbing, rock climbing, glacier travel.
Jeff: Alaska must have been an incredible place in the 1950s.
Olavi: I liked Alaska, yes. Good fishing and good hunting, and lots of lingonberries in the woods! [lingonberries are a Scandinavian food staple].
Jeff: Your service in the Army led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team?
Olavi: After the Army I had a ski lodge in Vermont that I was leasing. I had an invitation to go to the U.S. Olympic training camp in Colorado, but we were adding on to the ski lodge in ’59 and early ’60, and I couldn’t take the time to go because of all the work that I needed to do at home. So I trained by myself, until a week before the tryouts, and then I went out to meet up with the team in Winter Park, Colorado, which is at 10,000 feet. I had headaches night and day and didn’t do very well at all. On the fifth day, at a race in Aspen before the tryouts, I came in 26th and I thought I’ll never make it. The day after that we drove up to Steamboat Springs, and I went out to check the course for the first race of the tryouts. All of a sudden I felt like somebody turned the power switch on, like my old self. I came in second in the tryouts.
Olavi: Well, there’s more to the story. Because I hadn’t been trained by the Olympic coaches I was something of a black sheep. I didn’t get to race my best distance, the 30K, which was the first race. I found out the night before the race, and I was very disappointed. Instead I raced in the 15K and the 50K.
Jeff: Which event did you do better in?
Olavi: Well, the 50K, but I had never skied 50K in my life. I didn’t medal, but I ended up being the second US finisher, after breaking my ski. I had to ski on a single ski for more than a mile. I got a ski from a spectator and finished the race. That happened in the first 10K.
Jeff: That’s an incredible story, how did that happen?
Olavi: I stepped out of the track to make way for a Finnish competitor and that’s when I broke my ski. That was Veikko Hakulinen, and he won the silver medal. We became good friends after the Olympics. In the 40K team relay, he came from 20 seconds behind in the last leg to win the gold medal by just one meter. [Veikko Hakulinen was the only athlete at the Squaw Valley games to win three medals. The third medal was in the 15K].
Jeff: And what led you to eventually found Lapland Lake?
Olavi: We were living in Vermont in the 1960s and 1970s, and I had seen Trapp Family Lodge, the first cross country ski center in the United States. My late son worked there as an instructor in the 1970s, and it had been in my mind since the Olympics to one day start something like that.
In 1977 I had built two houses, one that we were living in and one that I was still finishing, and they were both for sale. I thought one of them might sell, but they both did, and so in the spring of 1978 we were homeless and we headed out. My plan was to head into upstate New York, but farther north than here. Driving north on Route 30, I saw the sign for Benson and I thought “I have to make that left.” It was like a magnet, I had not planned to come here. Eventually we found this place. It had cabins, lots of land and a lake, and it was for sale.
When we finally made the deal to buy the property, the lady who sold the property to us, the former owner, wanted to take us out to dinner. On the way to the restaurant she asked me what sports my late son had been involved in [Olavi lost his son Esa in an accident in 1977]. I said biathlon and cross-country skiing, and she said her nephew was on the U.S. biathlon team. So I asked her what’s his name, and she said John Hall. Well, I could hardly believe it because John Hall had been my son’s good buddy in college. That connection must have been the magnet that pulled me here.
Jeff: What were the early years like? Did you operate Lapland Lake as both a touring center and a vacation resort right from the start?
Olavi: Originally, this place was a farm. The lodge was a barn, for cows. In the 1930s, the owner put up some summer cottages but they weren’t winterized. We closed on the property August 3, 1978 and we had the first ski race December 15. There wasn’t much time to work on the trails that first year. We had to jack up all the cottages and put in foundations. I got a backhoe and I dug all of the water lines underground. We worked round the clock to get the place ready.
Jeff: Last year was a really tough year for snow. How did you do?
Ann: We average 117 days of skiing and over 11 feet of snow per year. Last year was our lowest snow year ever (80 inches), but we had over 100 days of skiing. We worked the snow and we were lucky with what we got.
Jeff: How much snow do you need to open?
Olavi: Well it depends on what type of snow. The best is a wet snow, and then cold after that. We can ski with just 2 inches on the lake trail. But six inches of wet snow lets us open just about everything.
Jeff: What’s involved in the trail grooming?
Olavi: At this time of year before the snow comes there’s clearing limbs and trees that have come down, and clearing drainage pipes. In the summer we mow the trails. It’s continuous maintenance. In the winter we groom every day. I’ve got a new 2010 Prinoth Husky Snowcat groomer, I think it’s our fourth snowcat groomer, plus a couple snowmobiles.
Jeff: Do you do all the grooming yourself?
Olavi: Yes, I still do. I have a young man who just started who I hope I can get to groom with the snowmobile, so at least I’ll have a backup if I get sick or hurt. It depends how good he is.
Jeff: How has the grooming evolved?
Olavi: When we first started I just had a snowmobile and track sled. We used mattress springs to break up the snow if it got hard or there was freezing rain. The trails were narrow, and groomed with tracks for classic skiing. Then people started skating, and I complained that people were destroying my tracks. So I widened the trails, bought our first snowcat, and started grooming for both skating and classic. Jeff: Has anyone taken you up on your “Groomer’s Challenge?”
Ann [explaining to Olavi, who apparently hasn’t seen this on the website]: That’s online. We checked with the Cross Country Ski Association, and we don’t think there’s anyone who has more hours of grooming experience than Olavi in North America. One gentleman said he had been grooming as many years, but he was from downstate where the seasons are short. So in terms of total number of days grooming, we haven’t heard of anyone who’s got the depth of experience that Olavi has. It’s been on the website for three years now.
Jeff: The grooming and the design of the trail network seem to have given Lapland Lake the reputation of being a skier’s ski center.
Olavi: From the start I had the idea of making the trails all one-way loops, other than some connecting trails. We have a limited amount of acreage, and I wanted to get as many kilometers of trail as possible and take advantage of the natural terrain. We also get lots of beginners. We have a great ski school and we do a lot of lessons.
Jeff: Olavi, do you still ski?
Olavi: I don’t ski much anymore. I work days, and usually when I do ski it’s in the evening with lights on the Lake Trail or the easier trails with a headlamp. But I find my balance is nothing like what it used to be. I’ll be 80 on December 26. You know your limitations.
Jeff: A number of cross country ski areas have installed snowmaking: Trapp, Mountain Top, and others. Is that something you’d consider here?
Olavi: No, I think it’s too much of an expense to be worth it for us, it wouldn’t pay. So far we’ve been very lucky with our natural snowfall.
Jeff: Where do your customers come from?
Olavi: We get day skiers from the Capital District, Johnstown and Amsterdam, even Kingston and New Paltz. Overnight guests from Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio. We get lots of Canadians and Europeans. About 65% of our skiers are experienced skiers. We get racers early in the season, but later they travel to races. We also have a great volunteer Ski Patrol.
Ann: On weekends we’ll have 300 to 400 skiers. We hit 1,000 once, but it was just too many: people were elbow-to-elbow in the ski shop.
Jeff: How does this winter look?
Ann: Our reservations and our season passes are up. People seem to feel more comfortable spending money.
Jeff: Do you think a ski center can exist on its own as a viable business, or does it need to be paired with an inn or lodging business to be successful?
Olavi: I think it works best with lodging. It gives you something to fall back on, something for the summertime. And lodging in the winter without the skiing doesn’t do very well either. You have to have that combination.
Jeff: One thing that has always stood out is your website and the way you communicate with skiers.
Olavi: That’s Ann. When we met she was a PR person at Ellis Hospital. She doesn’t want to miss a ski report, and quite often she’ll update it more than once during the day. I’ll give her a report while I’m grooming. We try our best to be honest, but sometimes you still get it wrong.
Ann: At the time, I thought I was taking a big gamble spending money on the website, but it’s really paid off.
Jeff: How do you two share the work: the ski trails, the retail shop, the cottages and the restaurant?
Olavi: Ann is really the manager, and I do most of the outside work, the trails. In the winter, after the trail grooming, I come in and work in the ski shop selling skis and doing repairs. Ann gives me a to-do list.
Ann: Olavi may say I am the manager, but he’s really the heart and soul of the operation. He puts so much of himself into the trails and the grooming… Olavi says “I groom it the way I want to ski it.”
Jeff: Thanks very much Ann and Olavi for your time, and congratulations on your continued success with Lapland Lake. Olavi, congratulations on your upcoming birthday, and your Olympic anniversary. Kudos!
Photo of Olavi and Ann courtesy the Finland Center Foundation.
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.
My first backpacking trip was on an abandoned trail.
It was around 1981 or so, and my uncle Evan Bergen of Grafton was keen to take his girlfriend and me on a two-day trip in late November to Cliff Mountain, one of the trail-less high peaks. And he wanted to do it on a trail that had been closed – a route that was originally called the East River Trail.
At the time, I hadn’t realized that my first attempt at backpacking would involve a wet snowstorm, a low of zero degrees, crossing bridge-less rivers on boulders glazed in ice or a snow-covered fallen log, bushwhacking skills and no actual view. Hey, what did I know of backpacking? Included in my external-frame backpack were a full box of raisins and a pair of binoculars – I had not yet realized how heavy a backpack gets after a half-day of walking. It was an Experience. Traveling along part of that route several weeks ago – as reported here – got me thinking about that old trail. Why was it closed? Did anybody miss it?
Turns out the trail was once the primary southern route into the High Peaks. It followed an old road, made of logs, built to accommodate winter logging sleds. The road was built around the 1920s, about the time that the state acquired much of the land from the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (which once owned 40,000 acres and some of the state’s highest peaks).
When hiking became popular, this was the main hiking trail in. Later, the ghost town of Upper Works became the main southern route in via the Calamity Brook Trail, and the longer East River Trail fell into disuse. Goodwin says the trail was closed around 1980, not long before I hiked it.
“There were long stretches of sidehill bridging and corduroy,” he said. “And those were finally collapsing. The DEC didn’t feel there was any reason to restore those bridges or cut lengthy reroutes around them.”
I can certainly speak to the corduroy. On the second day of our hike to Cliff – we made it far as the height of land before the short day forced us to turn around – I was constantly slipping on the trail. Not because I was becoming hypothermic, as my uncle suspected, but because my rubber “Micky Mouse” Army surplus boots kept slipping over the snow-covered logs of the old roadbed.
My 1962 copy of the ADK’s Guide to Adirondack Trails: High Peak Region, describes this trail in the dry prose of the day. The trail at the time departed from Sanford Lake, closer to the Tahawus Mine, and not at the present-day parking lot near the old blast furnace. “The footing is quite treacherous, especially in wet weather, due to slanting, slippery corduroys,” the book even warns (a warning that, apparently, my uncle chose to ignore).
Reading about it today, I’m amazed to see that what took us a day and a half of walking was only eight miles (but there was those slippery rocks and logs, and Lynn did fall into a stream at one point, and then there were those damn raisins, which I didn’t even eat, and those binoculars, which I didn’t even use …).
It also got me wondering about other lost trails. Goodwin spoke of a few in the High Peaks, including some ski trails around Whiteface built for the 1932 Olympics, and a now-defunct route to Dix near the current trail from Route 73. There’s also the trail from Mt. Van Hoevenberg to South Meadow, now closed due to blowdown and a bridge that was washed away, but Goodwin says efforts may soon be underway to reopen it.
Elsewhere in the park there are other ghosts of trails. A 1930s-era map from the North Creek area shows dozens of miles of ski trails used by those who took the Ski Train up from Schenectady, now either part of Gore Mountain Ski Area or lost to roads or overgrowth (several routes still exist that follow the historic routes — one even goes by a 1930s shed for a rescue toboggan).
Further to the south, a route to the top of tiny Cathead Mountain near Northville was lost due to a dispute over private land access.
Do readers know of other abandoned trails? Should the state bring some of them back?
The Schenectady Gazzette is reporting some good news today – the rerouting of the ten mile hike along Route 30 from Northville to Upper Benson that starts the Northville-Placid Trail. In the process DEC is adding six miles to the trail.
Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said work could begin next year on the planned new southern section of the trail starting in Gifford’s Valley, closer to Northville.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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