Yes, we know it’s been a long time since we’ve sent out a blog, and no, we didn’t move to Montana either. In fact a few weeks ago we once again left Andrea’s family in Kentucky and headed north in our trusted steed, Going Broke. After spending a few days with friends in Virginia we drove up through Pennsylvania and on into Upstate New York – Andrea had never seen Niagara Falls and I had a 100km mountain bike race in Wilmington, just outside of Lake Placid.
Going Broke has now taken us 44,000 miles north, south, east and west through North America. When we made the $10,000 purchase the Nissan Pathfinder was in pretty amazing shape, dent free, and displaying little sign of it’s 126,000 mileage. Now, both the front and rear have dents, fender damage, and rusty paintwork. It does, however, look like more of an overland vehicle, a vehicle that has explored almost every US state and a bunch of the Canadian provinces. A recent starter motor replacement, engine oil change, and a Service Engine Light that fixed itself and the faithful SUV once again hit the road with a vengeance!
Niagara Falls was everything I remembered, from neon lights to casinos to an abundance of tacky tourist superstores – what a way to ruin one of the worlds wonders! They should take a note from the folk down at Iguazu Falls in South America.
The falls are still impressive, as they always were, and if you can wear blinkers to remove the rest of the crap then it’s an amazing natural spectacle. Our afternoon arrival from Buffalo and visit to all the American lookouts was extended after we made the decision to hang around for sunset and the illumination of the falls. The drive over into Canada for the fireworks wasn’t worth the effort, and with the amount of mist coming off the thundering cascades the lighting wasn’t so impressive either!
Neither of us will go back to Niagara Falls, although it would be pretty cool to see them frozen solid or completely dry. This leaves only two waterfalls left that we have any inclination to see, Angel Falls in Venezuela, and Victoria Falls on the Zambia/ Zimbabwe border.
From Buffalo it was a 350 mile drive east to the Adirondack region, New York’s huge wilderness area. With hundreds of camping spots available throughout many campgrounds we had no problems finding a site, even over the extended holiday weekend. A couple of nights at picturesque Cranberry Lake, followed by two more at the ADK LOJ would suffice for our first tent experience of 2016. A reservation a year prior may have ensured a lakeside spot at the first location!
Although our main plan was to summit the states highpoint of Mt Marcy there were endless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and boating – even with me suffering from a groggy hip we still hit the trails by foot and bike, enduring the wrath of Spring bugs.
Mt Marcy, standing at 5,344′ is the highest point in the state of New York, making it also part of the Highpointers Club. Climbing the 50 US state highpoints is currently not something we’re aiming for but with me already having completed the big peaks of Denali and Whitney it could be on the horizon. First we had to brush this one aside!
Being an arduous 14.8 mile roundtrip hike makes it challenging for a guy with a messed up hip, but with enough determination still very achievable. Camping at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s LOJ facility gave us easy access to the trailhead, at least saving us from a super early start. The hike in itself was long, rocky and slick, especially the descent. Funny how the route back down is always tougher, with rocks that seem much bigger, and a trail that goes on for what feels like half as long again as the outbound leg.
We were happy to be back down enjoying what was becoming an all too regular couple hour snooze in our 2 person Eno travel hammock.
Wilmington Whiteface 100km
I knew we were going to be in the area so why not sign up for my first race of 2016, a 100km hilly jaunt around Wilmington, ending at the towns ski resort. With a bunch of Leadville 100 slots up for grabs it was worth going all out – highly unlikely to place anywhere near high enough up to take one of the guaranteed entries but a roll down was possible. The weather and a fiercely stacked field was to throw a big heavy spanner in the works!
A 100% chance of rain left me fairly confident that the conditions were going to suck for the entire race, and sure enough as soon as the gun went off at 7am for the start the heavens opened, light at first, becoming heavier as the morning progressed. The first 10 miles were OK, then the downhill jeep roads began, complete with flowing water and slick mud creeping into all the ruts and channels. This was about the time that my front brake pads decided to go AWOL, just when I needed them most! One thing led to another and it wasn’t long before the bike and passenger hit the dirt, fortunately leaving little more than a bent derailleur hanger. Even fat bikes with their wider than normal tires struggle in these slick conditions!
Now not only did I have to be careful on descents due to no front brakes but shifting gear had become a pain in the butt. At the quarter distance point a sub 5 hour was on the cards (giving a prized front 3 corral start in Leadville), disintegrating to a 5:30 finish time, then on to fighting for a sub 6. This was’t going to be my day! The halfway point came and went, skillfully ridden single track was completed, and before long I had finished grinding up the long muddy hills back to paved roads. Somewhere around the fifty mile mark was when the rear brakes also decided to misbehave, probably due to overuse – this made the 2 mile steep Styles Brook Road section hairy as hell. With a little more single track and a final couple of climbs back at the Whiteface ski resort, one being a hike-a-bike downhill due to no brakes, the end came none too soon.
Conditions ensured a far slower than anticipated 5:47, but worse was the 45th in age group placing. There was no way that the ten 40-49 age group Leadville slots would roll down that far! Lottery slots also eluded me ensuring that Wilmington Whiteface wasn’t going to be my gateway to Leadville this year – maybe an entry into Tahoe Trail 100 is on the cards…
This event was still an amazing amount of fun, rain and mechanicals aside, and I wouldn’t hesitate to head back to upstate New York for future events.
Wilmington’s larger neighbor, the home of two winter Olympic games and the flagship Ironman triathlon 140.6 race, Lake Placid is a gem of a town. Surrounded by every outdoor activity an adventurous soul could possibly wish for, we found an amazing attraction with this part of the North Eastern United States. If it weren’t for our travels further north I think we would have hung out here for a while longer. Highlights for us in this small town that packs a big punch – a well stocked Eastern Mountain Sports, coffee shops overlooking Mirror Lake, the Breakfast Club, and our airbnb host extraordinaire, Jerry.
Our visit to upstate New York was far better than expected, an area of the state so far removed from it’s concrete jungle namesake, with cute towns, lakes galore, wilderness, and an easy escape into Canada. We wouldn’t hesitate to head back for further adventures.
May 20th – June 5th 2016