Adirondack Sportswoman: Engaging Lake George Winter
By Melanie Houck
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I have a confession to make. I was dreading winter. Let me explain why this confession is so huge and has most of my friends and family wondering just who took over my body. I grew up in western New York in the snow belt of Lake Erie. I couldn’t wait for winter! I loved cross country skiing all my life, downhill skiing since I was nine, and had gotten into snowshoeing in college. Three years ago I got married and moved up here. I was thrilled to experience Adirondack winters. But this year was different. Maybe it was the fact that I’m now all ‘grown up’ and have to shovel my own walkway, pay those big heating bills, or drive on that nasty slushy road. Regardless, in January I decided I needed some essential survival tactics and ways to make the best of the season, or I would go nuts. I decided I was going to get out and snowshoe at least twice a week.
Perhaps many of you feel the same. And maybe you would love to get out and exercise through the long months of winter and get that fresh air, maybe even catching those rare rays of sun. Maybe you feel you are too busy or you just can’t summon up the energy to put on all those layers and make the effort to trudge around in the woods. But let me tell you it is worth it. With some really great recent hikes under my belt, I feel I have finally begun to ‘warm’ up to winter once again. The Lake George region is filled with many wonderful trails, vistas, etc. Two of my recent favorites include UpYonda Farms and Buck Mountain.
If you’re like me and also struggle with having enough time to commit to these activities, UpYonda is perfect for that short hike with a great view. My friend and I got to go there just after a fresh snow (before this nasty rain!) and everything was covered in the pure white stuff. The sun peaked out occasionally, but I must say that even a gray sky is beautiful. With a handy map in pocket and our ‘webbed feet,’ we headed out on the well marked trail.
There was no wind. All was quiet and peaceful. We were the first to break trails, other than the plethora of animal tracks, including deer, coyote and many other critters. The 75-acre farm sits right near the edge of Bolton Landing, close to the lake. The trails through the woods are winding, and gradual uphill, making for nothing too strenuous, but great for a good workout.
The Summit Trail Extension took us up to the top of the hill overlooking the farm and lake. The clouds were low hanging, hugging the tops of the mountains on the other side. We took our triumphant pictures and stood in awe. I found the coyote’s tracks again, and it looked as if maybe he enjoyed the view too. For more details on the view, come explore the trails yourself! We did one big loop in about an hour, and that included frequent stops, pictures, goofing around, etc.
UpYonda Farms is open year round, and from 8 to 4 pm, Monday through Saturday in the winters. They offer various programs in the winter, including a guided snowshoe trek on Saturdays at one. For more information, check out their great website at www.upyondafarm.com.
Remember when the sun was actually out in full force on Thursday January 21st?! I was hugely blessed with the combination of a rare full day off that happened to be gorgeous out, and an adventuresome spirit. I got up and thought, this is it, Buck Mountain here I come! I got directions from the ADK Mountain Club website and had no trouble finding it. I felt a little overwhelmed at the idea of a 3.3 mile hike, one way, when it was already noon, but I was eager for the challenge.
The trail was moderate for the first 2 miles or so. It was beautiful, with many pine and some hardwoods, all covered with sparkling snow. Interestingly enough, only four other people hiked the trail that day, all ahead of me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, for I knew very little about the amount of foot, or ‘web’ traffic hiking trails get in the winter around here. Along the way I also saw some deer tracks, coyote, fox, and maybe a fisher. Both deer and coyote were up on the summit too. It seems coyotes have a ‘hankering’ for a good view too.
As I got closer to the top and it got a bit steeper, I had to rest more. My legs protested and I grew impatient, but finally I hit the summit sign. As soon as I saw the sign, I fell over in relief and exhaustion, then realized how silly that was, when I could crawl just thirty more feet up and fall over in a spot with a great view. I crested the final rise, and left my exhaustion behind. I literally jumped for joy that I had made it, and it was worth it! I couldn’t even take the time to eat my lunch and quench my slight dehydration at first, I was so excited to be taking pictures and soaking up the amazing view. And there’s nothing like a good ol’ dose of Vitamin D to do a body good during the long winter. I felt freer than I had in weeks, all the stress and tension of a busy life melting away with what little wind there was. I wondered why I didn’t push myself to do hikes like this every week.
All too soon I needed to head back. I felt light as a feather and free, all but floating down on the much easier downward climb. Before I knew it, I got to the parking lot. I wouldn’t soon forget this glorious day. I was so proud of myself! I did Buck Mountain in 4 ½ hours but would have gladly taken a few more hours to enjoy it more slowly. I am never a fan of rushing a hike. I’m all for literally stopping to smell the roses in summertime, and in wintertime, taking the time to stop and smell the balsam, inhale the crisp clean air, or just stopping and listening and looking.
Snowshoeing is a fantastic way to get around and ‘stay on top of things’ so to speak, especially as the snow piles up. The modern snowshoes are great for hiking mountains, equipped with cleats for a good grip and traction. Make sure you check conditions on trails, know your weather for the day, and if a beginner at snowshoeing, check out such websites as this: www.backpacking.net for general information and safety tips. Practice safety and caution, especially if hiking alone. Always make sure someone knows where you are! For the first time this year, I also started using ski poles for the more strenuous type hikes and they work really well too. You actually get a bit of a workout in your arms as well.
Some other great hikes I have done in the Lake George Basin include Thomas and Cat Mountain (for more awesome views and a neat cabin on top!) and the Lake George Recreation Center (for some great cross country skiing along some gorgeous trails. Also a great place to go if you only have an hour or two!). For more information on other local hikes, some helpful websites I found include: www.lakegeorge.com and www.adk.org.
Take the time to get outside and enjoy the wonders of God’s creations and what really is a beautiful, wondrous season; winter. I am grateful to remember once again why I can still love and enjoy winter or at least make it go by a little faster. Find out for yourself and get out there!