Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I LOVE VERMONT! (and New York was pretty alright, too)

I came across Lake Champlain by ferry today, from Essex, NY to Charlotte, VT, and I am now in - without exagggggeration - a completely new world.  It felt like some sort of sigh of relief and rekindled love affair (because it was only puppy love when I was here before, and now it's for real).  The landscape is greener, people are grounded, friendly, and look you in the eye as they smile, the animals have more energy, all the food is from down the road, there are mountains to see in every direction, the sun is always shining, and root beer flows out of tapped trees all year round!  Really, I didn't expect to feel so comfortable in the Vermont countryside, but sure enough ....  Coming into Burlington, things got more hectic, and I was reassured that I'll never like being in cities that much.  Fortunately, my aunt Julie's friend, Marie called me this morning and offered me her backyard at the edge of the city.  And also quite fortunately, she and her partner are awesome and lovely!  Artists the both of 'em, and they made me dinner and I feel very at home.  Thanks!

So ... I'll back up to where I left the narration last.  If I'm not mistaken, I was typing from the Blue Mountain Museum in the Adirondacks.  Well, I ended up not going to the museum, instead playing the piano for a little bit, then getting back on the bike.  I made it the rest of the way up the Blue Mt. pass, which was way shorter than I had anticipated (3/4 mi total?), then it was some good ADK cruising through bogs and hemlocks.  Made it as far as Long Lake, then turned down a recommended road to find a nice camp site.  Found Buttermilk Falls, not quite like Ithaca's, but fun.  Found a nice campsite where you paddle out, but too expensive.  Finally ended up at a lean-to by a canoe carry spot on the Raquette River.  It was quite perfect!  All to myself, water rushing all night and day.  I thought it was finally my chance to really relax, but after looking through maps and setting up camp, it was dark!  Funny how I still haven't figured out how to make time for yoga/meditation/breathing with regularity, even with a seemingly open schedule.  I just feel like pushing forward most days.  And there is plenty of good mental/physical space on the bike.

So, a 15 mile day was enough rest for my knees, and they were feeling much better as I set off northward.  More stellar ADK cruising, up to Tupper Lake.  The lake itself is different than most, as it has all this grassland around it where it looks like there used to be water.  And, sure enough, I later learned that it used to be much higher, then much lower, then dammed to facilitate log-moving near the city.  Anyway ... at the far edge of town, is the Wild Center, which I assumed was an elaborate petting zoo of wild animals.  Not the case ... first, I met Phil and Heidi, as they were headed back home after camping, and I convinced them to come to the "Great Entrance Hall" at the Wild Center.  Big stuffed Moose, live porcupine and turtle parties.

Then I went on into the museum alone, and found it to be a fantastic celebration of ecology, natural history, education, and wildlife!!  The whole thing is set up very intelligently (and it's the first LEED-certified building in the Adirondacks), with clear and inviting pathways and vibrant displays.  I could go on for paragraphs about the Wild Center, but I'll just leave it at ... you should check it out, if you're interested in ecology, natural history, education, wildlife, the Adirondacks, permaculture, sense of place, botany, etc.  I had 3 hours, and barely made it around the main part.  It could be an all-day affair, for the strong-minded who can absorb so much info.  We're talking olfactory stations, bog-simulating stepping squish pads, marsh sound keyboard, real-life labeled trout stream, above-building-level pond, miles of trails, hours of engaging films.  Well done up there!

After the Wild Center, I tried to make it to some camping, but it was now Labor Day weekend, and things were crazy.  I asked some park officials where I could camp for free, and it was all pretty far (knees hurt too much to push on, and it was getting dark).  So I pushed my bike into the woods near a fishing put-in spot.  I was only a few feet from the water, making it not quite a legal spot to camp, but it was cozy, on a pond/lake/bay, with a bed of pine needles below.

On, again, to the north - I was feeling kind of bummed and pointless.  The whole trip, my emotions are doing triple-time ... I'm rocking out moody like it's going out of style.  So, feeling bummed, tired, frazzled, and pointless, I pull into Saranac Lake, and find myself in the middle of a festival farmers' market.  An old German lady explaining how she makes kraut, a cow on the corner, gluten-free brownies, produce, flowers, sampling of local chefs' creations, harmonizing/kabocha-worshiping/fake moustache-wearing chef contingent, jams, cheeses, maple sugar ... everything you could ask for, in a park on Saranac Lake.  And a band!  This was such a perfect delight to run into, and I was digging it all.  Plus, I saw Fledging Crow Vegetables, who my dad had mentioned to me - I met Lucas as he buzzed about bagging beans and greens and chatted with everyone.  Stocked up on carrots, spinach, and green beans, and asked if I could stop by in a couple days.

Well, I eventually had to leave the market ... I had spoken with some Paul Smiths College folks doing permaculture work.  I got a tip for a lean-to on a pond up there, 12 mi. from Saranac ... so I headed that way, stopped for world-famous Dannelly's ice cream, and turned into the woods where I would find camp.  Pushed the bike a mile or so on the path, and found a great site (i kind of kicked some students out by mistake, but rain was coming and they seemed to be heading out..).  Ate a little, set up camp, read the whole Thanksgiving Address (including my mangled Mohawk version), and slept.  At least twice I could have sworn the high winds and rain knocked the food out of the tree, and at one point there was some animal in the lean-to at my bags.  Shooed it off in a tired stupor.  Food was fine in the morning, though it had become cold!  40 or so, and I realized I left my pants somewhere.  I mean .. i lost my pants.  who knows.  I've got long underwear, at least.

So, I had come to the site one way around the pond, and I tried to leave the other way around it.  I must have missed a turn or something, because I lost the path and had to push my bike for a good hour through the woods to get to the end of the series of ponds.  Needless to say, by the end, I was beat, but I got on the bike and tried to find a 6 Nations museum that I'd seen a sign for the day before.  Got close, but this nice woman and her baby at a home tackle shop told me it was another few miles north.  I figured out that I was feeling ready to leave the Adirondacks, so I went to Saranac Lake again for some food, and continued on to Lake Placid.

The road (86) between Saranac and Placid should be illegal for bikes.  It's hands-down the worst I've been on.  No shoulder, crumbling away where there was, constant traffic (most heavily used road in the ADKs), and people on vacation who don't care too much what's going on with the biker.  The first half of the 8 miles, I was just getting really angry and how dangerous and impossible the situation is.  Then I started talking to the cars and myself in my ridiculous eastern european accent, and suddenly I was having a blast.  And keeping the vibe positive, I was safer and focused.

Made it to Lake Placid, and I think this is truly the tourist center of the Adirondacks.  Out of control, but fun to pass through on the bike.  My knee gave out as I climbed what would be the last hill in NY, and I was conveniently at a nice bicycle shop.  Then I began to descend from 1,800 ft, following the Au Sable River.  If the Au Sable is looking for fans, I am number one!  What a beautiful river valley.  Great ride, all gradually downhill, and as I descended, the zones ascended.  Pretty soon, I felt like upstate new york again, people were playing outside (that weren't tourists), and the vegetation was green along the ground.  I saw a heron, and everything was great.  I guess I had had enough adirondacks.

Noticing my knees had been hurting since the beginning of the day, and noticing also that it was all downhill, I decided I could make Fledging Crow farm that day.  at 65 miles, it would be my longest day yet.  And I made it by nightfall.  I am beginning to fall asleep at the keyboard now ... time to sleep (I'll fill in fthe Fledging Crow portion tomorrow).  night, thunderstorms in vermont!

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE the Wild Center! Can't wait to get back up there.

    And, you do know that the Ausable River is where Frank proposed? Gorgeous river... Amazing...