Adirondack Getaway

Marilyn on our walk around Mirror
Lake on our first afternoon
It has been six months since we have traveled anywhere...other than Buffalo.  Normally we would have had two or three trips under our belts by now including a two-week driving trip to the Midwest to visit family.  In this year of the Covid-19 pandemic, nothing has been the same.  In addition, we, especially Marilyn, went through her Mom's final months of life and then the stress of settling the estate and selling the house.  With all that behind us, we decided to spend four days in Lake Placid.  We also decided that we would not listen to or watch any news while we were traveling and during our time in Lake Placid.  We walked and hiked and ate good food and enjoyed each other's company without becoming emotionally ensnared by the latest outrage in the national news.  It was just a relaxing time.  You know, the kind we used to have before the pandemic, the political battles, climate hurricanes, climate fires, gun violence, etc.

View from our balcony:  pool, Mirror Lake, 
Cobble Hill right and Mt. Whitney to the left 
(I think)

We arrived about 3:30 and checked into High Peaks Resorts and checked out our room with a view of the swimming pool and mirror lake beyond.  We also saw Cobble Hill which we would get to know intimately the next day.  We decided to walk around Mirror Lake, about a 2.6 mile loop with a paved walkway.  It was a good introduction to the Village of Lake Placid since we walked down Main St. past the restaurants and shops we would explore later.  The sun was out and the temperature was in the seventies.  Just perfect.  We ate in our room.  We had company the night before and I had prepared a Cajun Stew in the Ninja Foodi.  We brought the leftovers along and used the microwave to reheat.  Oh, and we did not watch the news and hadn't listened to any on the drive up!  You can see more photos of our first day in Lake Placid here.


Cobble Hill at sunrise with fog layers
The next day I was up early to see what sunrise would be like.  I found the lake covered with layers of fog which created all sorts of interesting photo opportunities.  I walked down to the south end of the lake and captured a lot of images as the scene changed with sunlight and the dissipating fog.

Mirror Lake lives up to its name.  With little wind the surface creating some stunning reflections.  Since no boats with motors are allowed, it a calm and peaceful lake at any time of the day.

Once the sun was up over the hills, I was able to capture a nice panorama image from the south end.


Lake Placid from the south end of Mirror Lake.


You can view more images of sunrises at Lake Placid by clicking here.

Marilyn resting before our descent

After breakfast we decided to take our first hike to the top of Cobble Hill.  This was on the other side of Mirror Lake opposite our hotel.  We walked to the trailhead, about 1 mile and then began our ascent.  There are two routes to the top.  The shortest was also much more difficult.  Here is what one review said.  "About halfway to the summit, it gets steep and a little challenging. Before reaching the summit, there is a steep rock formation to cross. A rope is in place to help you get across this area."  Well, that was more than enough to convince me that we would take the longer route to the top.  That was challenging enough but at least there were no ropes, for goodness sake.  It probably would have been better to take a less challenging hike for our inaugural but we made it there and back.  About a five mile trip include walking to the trailhead and back.

You can see more photos of Cobble Hill by clicking here.


We rewarded ourselves with a delicious dinner on the deck of Jimmy's 21 Ristorante across Main Street from our hotel.  While the weather turned coolish at sunset, we had mostly finished dinner by then.  I  had a swordfish entree that was done to perfection.  I know from personal experience how hard it is to get it just right.  According to my Fitbit, I had burned more than 3600 calories that day and so our dessert of Belgian chocolate seemed justified...as though we needed any justification other than "We're on vacation!"

The next morning was overcast with a chance of rain so there wasn't much in the way of a sunrise.  Of course, I was out just to make sure.  I was able to get a nice photo of two cormorants on a swimming dock just offshore.  The one on the right is in a characteristic pose in which it is drying its feathers after some morning fishing.


We decided to spend the day close to Lake Placid because there were two attractions just outside of town.  We spent the morning at the John Brown Farm, a New York State Historic Site.  Most of us know about John Brown from his song based on a Methodist Camp song entitled "Say brothers will you meet us" composed in 1858 by William Steffe.  By 1861 Union soldiers used the melody to sing about John Brown.  

John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave (3x)

But his soul goes marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah (3x)

His soul goes marching on.

There were many variations and additional lyrics, all created by Union soldiers.  When Julia Ward Howe heard the soldiering song, she decided to write lyrics that were more uplifting and thus wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Read more about the history of the song by clicking here. 

90 and 120 meter towers from
John Brown Trail
It turns out that Brown's body is a-moulding just outside Lake Placid in a grave on his farm.  The site is located next to the ski jump towers built for the 1980 Olympics.  We began with a perimeter trail that provided some views of the towers.  We approached the farm from behind which provided a good view of the pond, farm home, cemetery and the visitors center.  The John Brown Farm State Historic Site is one of 40 such sites.  Since New York was one of the original colonies, these sites cover much of American history reaching all the way back into the late 16th Century.  Twenty-two of the 40 are also National Historic Sites, including the John Brown Farm.

Farm House across the farm pond
Brown did not build the home.  He purchased the farm around 1850 and settled his family there before he went off to Kansas where he led armed anti-slavery militia in what would be a preview of the Civil War.  His sons were active in the Kansas efforts to keep slavery from becoming legal in Kansas.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act had been passed by the U.S. Congress on May 30, 1854.  As a result, the residents of Kansas and Nebraska were to choose whether or not to permit slavery.  This, in effect, repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery north of latitude 36°30´.   For most of his adult life, Brown was active in the abolitionist movement.  He traveled the country giving talks against slavery.  He was active in the Underground Railroad and raised money for the cause.  Eventually, he found himself involved in direct action using violence to bring about social

change.  He led a group of abolitionists in what became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre (1859) in which five pro-slavery citizens were taken from their homes and killed with swords.  "The massacre was the match in the powderkeg that precipitated the bloodiest period in 'Bleeding Kansas' history, a three-month period of retaliatory raids and battles in which 29 people died."  (Wikipedia)  Brown returned to his home eventually but spent only three weeks or so before he left for the raid on the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry VA.  That ill-fated venture resulted in Brown's arrest and execution along with seven survivors.  Two of Brown's sons were killed during the attack.  After his execution, his body was returned to New York and he was laid to rest in front of the farmhouse.  Among his final words were the following:  "I, John Brown, am quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done."

The living room

The house was very interesting and provided a view of what life was life in Andironacks in the mid-19th Century.  Brown had two wives and 18 children but only the younger ones would have been left in the family by the time of his death.  In fact, few survived into full adulthood.


One question I had was why did John Brown move his family to this remote location.  The answer opened my eyes to a remarkable project of the mid-19th Century.  In 1846 New York passed a law that required free black men to own 40 acres or a house in order to register to vote.  This requirement applied ONLY to free black men.  No one else had to meet these requirements.  " Gerrit Smith, a wealthy abolitionist and landowner, gave away 120,000 acres of land to 3,000 black New Yorkers in 40 acre lots, creating the community of Timbuctoo. It created rural land ownership and self-sufficiency for black people as an alternative to urban city life; gave black men access to the right to vote, and was an alternative response to the influx of Irish and white immigrants competing for urban employment." (Wikipedia)  By 1855 the project had failed due to the difficulty of farming in the Adirondacks, the settlers' lack of experience in homebuilding, and the bigotry of white neighbors.  There is no physical evidence remaining of this imaginative endeavor.  The history of Timbuctoo is told in a well-done exhibit in the Visitor Center at the Farm.  It was an unexpected reward for visiting this historic site.  You can learn more about Dreaming of Timbuctoo by clicking here.

Whiteface Mountain from a trail in 
Henry's Woods

In the afternoon, we hiked the trails in Henry's Woods, just outside Lake Placid.  There is a perimeter trail that encircles a plateau and various trails that crisscross and climb up the top of the plateau.  It was an easy hike but a bit longish.  We were rewarded with several nice views of Whiteface Mountain but mostly we just enjoyed the walking and the talking.  We stopped from time to time to just take in the views.


On our final day we decided to check out a wildlife preserve at the base of Whiteface Mountain.  Frankly it was a bit disappointing.  I felt like we were in a down market Tiger King world but we did learn a lot about wolves and black bears.  They had two of
each there and the keepers were very interactive.  We learned some valuable information bout bears.  If you encounter a black bear, the first thing you do is take your phone and take a photo before they run off in fear of you.  If you encounter a brown bear (There are no brown bears in the Adirondacks.) slowly back away.  If you can't do that, lay down on your stomach with your pack on and play dead.  However, if the bear begins to eat you, definitely fight back!  Didn't learn much about wolves except that Hollywood has given them a bad image.  We did get a nice photo, however.

With that behind us, we turned for home and ended our relaxing getaway with a nice takeout dinner at home.

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