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Old 09-07-2017, 06:59 PM   #1
Banjoe's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 64
Bike to Hike

Like Zach's recent report, this is pretty long, must be something about biking. I'm not sure what I'm doing that I can't insert images in this post, I think I'm doing the same thing I've done in the past that worked but all I see is the image name, size and number of views. To see them and more, and read about the whole trip you can go to
While the majority of the trip was not in the Adirondacks, I most looked forward to the part that was. My wife and I left our home at 6:15 am and caught a local city bus with racks to hold our bikes to make the first day shorter and eliminate a big climb out of town. She hadn't been riding much this summer and it was our first tour in three years so taking off 15 miles was significant. The bus was almost a half-hour late as it had a flat tire, we tried not to let this portend what may happen on the trip, and thankfully it didn't. We made it 500 miles without a flat on either bike, though I did break a spoke on the last day going up Whiteface.
The first week was all along the Lake Ontario shore and the St. Lawrence River, a change from the initial idea of going through the heart of the Adirondacks and ending up somewhere on Lake Champlain, but it turned out OK as we both got a good deal of what we were looking for. For one, I will never complain about riding over 100 miles mostly downhill with the wind at my back as we experienced on our two days along the St. Lawrence.
At Massena we turned south and headed for the High Peaks, the area I always consider too far to drive to. In this case we got there not only by bicycle, but went the long way to do it. Since we live southwest of the Adirondacks I describe this as entering by the backdoor. During the climb from the St. Lawrence Valley to Meacham Lake Campground an ice cream truck passed us on an especially long climb and I shook my fist at the driver for not stopping. A couple hours later, moments after getting the tent set up I heard the jingle and looked at my wife with disbelief that the truck was cruising the nearly deserted campground. The driver said she saw us on the road and felt bad because she hadn't ridden in a few weeks; in addition to the sale she also got a generous tip which she said she uses to cover the little kids that don't have enough money.
The next day we had a short ride to a cottage reservation in Ray Brook so I decided to see how far I could get up Debar Mountain in an hour before leaving Meacham, then felt stupid for not just telling my wife I was going to summit since we had all day and only 30 miles to ride. Figuring it was a good warm-up hike after a week of only riding and very little hiking I was satisfied anyway.
We got to Ray Brook in the early afternoon and the weather was good so I decided to go up Haystack just to the north, there was a shortcut from the cottage that eliminated about 1.5 mile from the trailhead to make it even more enticing. Almost immediately upon reaching the exposed rock on top with the stunning views of the High Peaks it started raining. There was a 20% chance of rain so I retreated to the cover of the trees and figured it would pass quickly and I could go back up. But another shower soon followed and I just went down, knowing I could go up again the next day with my wife. What I didn't know at the time was I'd left my binoculars behind. Funny that I use them all the time and left them when I scrambled to stuff everything into my pack, including the rain gear I didn't feel like putting on that would have let me stay where I was and keep just as dry as getting under the trees.
In the morning we lounged about, the first day in over a week that we didn't have to pack up and get on our bikes, aided by the fact that we were sleeping in a bed again. I paddled around Wolfe Pond for awhile so my wife could have a leisurely second cup of tea. By the time we headed up Haystack there were people coming down, including a group of about 20 teenagers who were spread out and I had to ask repeatedly if they'd found the binoculars. No one had. We enjoyed the view of the High Peaks for a good long while and just as we left it started raining again, this time there was only a 10% chance. On the way down I had one of those small world experiences and ran into a colleague from home hiking with her family. I also took a detour to the Jack Rabbit Trail with the idea that I'd like to ski it someday and stay at the Placid Lean-to.
The following day a friend who had camped in the state campground in Ray Brook picked us up before 6:30 am to make the short drive, but longer than we wanted to bike, to the Van Hovenberg Trailhead for a hike up Algonquin. After 35 years of camping in the Adirondacks with mostly easy hikes, visits to several fire towers, and two bike trips through the southern part, I was going to finally summit a high peak. I got the fever a couple years ago when we spent two weeks hiking in the Whites where my wife used to live and had been up all the 4000+ footers there many times. I still don't think I aspire to be a 46er, but who knows?
Being a Friday I figured getting there before 7 am was a safe bet and there was plenty of room in the parking lots. The friend with us is a forester and has been doing mostly plant inventories lately so she was anxious to get above tree line and see what she knew, plus she's dating a birder and really getting into that. That can slow down a hike, in a good way of course, and once we got to the summit it meant spending over an hour there talking with the steward and getting plenty of time to appreciate how the clouds changed the light and views. What blew us away the most was seeing butterflies going past as they flew south, talk about perseverance!
Going down I couldn't pass up the chance to add my second summit and went up Wright, had I done more research I may have added Iroquois, but that would have meant my companions waiting around for me much longer so this was probably best. Besides the distance to get to the High Peaks, I've always been reluctant to go based on reports of how crowded they can be and though it was a weekday in late August, I still was amazed to find myself alone on the summit of Wright for almost a half hour. If only someone had reported how amazing the views are up there or posted a picture or two I might have gone sooner.
I caught up to my companions just before reaching the car, I was moving pretty fast so they wouldn't have to wait, and they were going slowly for the same purpose. We stopped to soak our feet in the Ausable River and I couldn't resist going for a dip, so when we got to Lisa G's we were too cold to sit outside on the deck. As in the past, walking around Lake Placid Village blew me away that the Olympics used to be able to be put on for under a billion dollars in a small town.
The next morning we were back to our routine of hitting the road early, and in this case extra early to avoid the traffic that 86 would have on a Saturday. We by-passed LP and took the River Road, probably the nicest stretch of riding the whole trip, not a single car passed us and the mist was rising off the river with great views of Whiteface ahead. I decided I had to ride up it, we only had 40 miles to get to the ferry on Lake Champlain and all day to do it, plus it's another mostly down hill ride. My wife said she'd have no trouble hanging out in Wilmington while I rode up as long as she didn't have to watch my bags, so I stashed them and our tent along the side of the road and started climbing. Got past Santa's Village, passed the turnoff to the Climate Research Center and reached the sign for the toll road 1/2 mile ahead when I heard a sound I haven't heard in over ten years, a spoke breaking. Damn.
I released my brakes (rear wheel) and wobbled back down to my bags for my tools while riding the front brakes enough to keep me going slow, I suffered the humiliation on that steep downgrade of being passed by a runner, and got out my spoke wrench to fix the wheel enough that it would go around without rubbing against the frame. Made it to the bottom, met my wife and we decided to ride slowly to the ferry and if any more spokes broke I'd hitch a ride but that wasn't necessary. We did skip spending any time at Ausable Chasm, one of the destinations of the trip neither of us had been to.
Got to Burlington and picked up a rental car to drive home with a stop at Bolton Landing for dinner with friends. We made plans for an October camping trip at our usual place too far from the High Peaks to get back there but something to look forward to.
A fantastic trip. No bears or moose, but my wife saw a bobcat when it ran up to the shoulder of the road right in front of her before it saw her and reversed course. We each had a close call with collisions, she almost got taken out by a lawnmower that spun around onto the shoulder of the road rather than the lawn, and a van turned right in front of me at the intersection of 86 and 186. The driver and I made eye contact and had a ten-minute conversation in those three seconds where she made it clear to me that even though she could see I was going straight and she was going to hit me, she was going to continue with her turn. My wife was behind me watching and said I should have taken the lane before reaching the intersection. Maybe next trip.
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Old 09-07-2017, 07:36 PM   #2
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Location: saratoga springs, ny
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Nice write up. Lake Placid/ Wilmington is a beautiful area. My wife and I were just up there for the mountain bike festival last weekend.
Sounds like a nice trip!
Hunt when you can, Fish when you can't.
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Old 09-07-2017, 07:38 PM   #3
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Old 09-07-2017, 09:20 PM   #4
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Location: Orwell NY
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It sounds like a very neat trip, good for you and your wife for doing all that riding. It's too bad about the spoke, especially when you weren't carrying a heavy load or going fast (I assume, since you were going up). The ice cream truck story is great. Thank you for taking the time to write this up. It's nice to know that there are more people who like to get to their hiking destinations by bicycle.
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Old 09-08-2017, 11:05 PM   #5
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Location: NJ / Brant Lake
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Nice write-up and photos. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 09-09-2017, 02:09 PM   #6
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Join Date: Mar 2013
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My pleasure, you're welcome. I didn't think any of the photos would post as they didn't show up where I was trying to place them.
As for the recent poll about who dies, I'd give it to mosquitoes for this time of year, though they were only a problem at one campground along Lake Ontario. No-see-ums got into the tent a couple times but if they were no-hear-ums as well they wouldn't have been a problem at all.
Can only imagine (for now) how great it would be to have a rail trail from Old Forge to Lake Placid.
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Old 09-09-2017, 07:20 PM   #7
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: cincinnatus,NY
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Great TR and pictures. It's great that you both can bike and hike at nearly the same level.
I'm not a Hippie, just a well groomed Mountain Man.
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