Yowza, Yowza. The stage is set for the final showdown of the 2009 Adirondack Bracket. And we could not have scripted a better narrative for the ultimate contest within the Blue Line. Monday’s championship will pit Stewart’s Shops against the Northville/Placid Trail. In a tournament determined by coin toss what could be more appropriate than a climactic face-off between paragons of the Adirondack Park’s two principal (and often opposing) faces.
Headquartered in Saratoga Springs, Stewart’s shops have spread across the park since the company’s early years in the 1940s. Today, the shops have become a major social and commercial focus for more than twenty Adirondack communities: their bulletin boards and picnic and cafe tables a wellspring of local information, gossip, lore, and right-of-center opinion. Stewart’s employees own one third of the privately-held company. But the pride of Stewart’s Shops is their award-winning fresh and local dairy products: gathered from 50 farms around its Greenfield plant, bottled the same day and available to customers within 48 hours. As well, the company’s many inventive ice cream flavors remain popular year after year, despite the ill-advised discontinuance of lemon meringue in 2002. Finally, as an economic engine, the gas pumps at Stewart’s provide a critical link in the Adirondacks’ carbon-based tourism.
The famed Northville-Placid Trail is a ten day, 120+ through-hike into the Adirondack’s wild soul. Starting in Northville, where the Sacandaga River flows into Great Sacandaga Lake, the trail winds through the towns of Northampton, Benson, Wells, Lake Pleasant, Arietta, Indian Lake, Long Lake, Newcomb, Harrietstown and North Elba. The scenery traces a path upward, northward and backward in time, shedding layers of culture from village to hamlet to the hermit haunts of Noah John Rondeau. It offers neither the crowds nor the high-altitude thrills of the 46 High Peaks, but the rewards for the bold and the fit are a feast of the finest land and waterscapes the Adirondacks offer.
Will the Northville-Placid Trail leave Stewart’s Shops blistered and exhausted, hitchhiking home? Or will Stewart’s simply walk all over the NPT? Come back Monday at 3:00 to find out.