Looking back at 2014 in the Adirondacks, there were so many memories of Saranac Lake. I decided the only way to narrow them down was to look at each of our lovely, distinctively different, four seasons. Each one has its own events, traditions, and activities.
Each one has its own special charm.
The 2014 Winter Carnival “Ice Palace” (the term we use regardless of the structure) was an impressive marriage of form and function. With building blocks that are literal blocks of ice out of the lake, and a Celtic theme for the year, a castle was an almost inevitable choice. And what a castle it turned out to be!
While it was a soaring, grand, size, it was the ice sculptures which drew the most oooo’s and aaaaah’s. There were the matching carved thrones, the armored warriors guarding the entrance, and the life-sized unicorn out front, but everyone was talking about the fifteen foot dragon rearing its head over the castle walls.
People explore the castle by day, when sunlight makes the whole structure glow, and by night, when strategically placed colored spotlights highlight the ice sculptures.
A new Winter Carnival activity became a personal favorite. I watched volunteers build a mini-golf course all week. When Arctic Golf opened, I was the first player and my friends and I had a grand time getting the bright orange ball around the many obstacles. I loved the snowman with the tunnel in his tummy and especially the sculpted ice Stonehenge.
With ten days of festivities, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors of all ages to make memories and find your own favorite activity. From the parade through downtown to the fireworks at the beginning and end, join us at this 10 day festival. Make plans for Winter Carnival.
Seeing the Hotel Saranac getting restored to its former glory was a highlight of the spring, when construction began. This downtown hotel has long been a focal point of the community. There are many warm memories of the proms, weddings, anniversaries, and birthday parties held in its ballroom. The soaring six stories dominated the Saranac Lake skyline while its shops and restaurants were a popular gathering place. It’s no wonder it was a popular subject for postcards in the many decades since it was built in 1927.
It was part of the wave of “fire-proof” hotels that had sprung up after terrible fires had destroyed the wooden ones from the turn of the century. At one time, Saranac Lake had thirteen of them… and a dozen have since burned down. But the Hotel Saranac not only endured, it became an iconic part of the town.
The new owners are planning to revive the Arcade which was closed off in 1977. This architectural feature ran the width of the building and housed many popular shops. I’m personally looking forward to visiting the second floor terrace again, which was a marvelous space off a lobby which features ornamental beams, beautiful fireplace, the original Italianate chandeliers and a marble staircase. This floor also has a grand ballroom with oak panelling and French doors. It’s very Old World and elegant.
Everyone in town is thrilled to have this hotel back in action again. Visitors will benefit from the increased space, and we will all enjoy the return of this wonderful spot for a party, get-together for social groups, and a setting for the most photogenic of weddings.
There’s much to enjoy in our historic downtown.
The highlight of my summer was canoeing the Seven Carries. This nine mile route features short portages between seven wilderness ponds and three lakes, each one with unique beauties and special features. It makes it easy to move swiftly through the landscape, much as the original inhabitants did. It is a great way to see the most scenery in a single day.
This canoe route was created and christened by the earliest Adirondack visitors from over a century ago. The Seven Carries once went from one grand Adirondack hotel to another. There was a horse-drawn wagon to take these wilderness explorers from Saranac Inn to Little Green Pond, and let them end the day at Paul Smith's Hotel on Lower St. Regis Lake, now the site of Paul Smith's College.
I was captivated by the sweep and grandeur of St. Regis Lake, with its many islands and views of distant mountains.
While the hotels are gone, and we tie our canoes to SUVs instead of wagons, the wilderness has not changed at all. The same ponds, forests, and islands are ours for the exploring. We marvel at the same mountains and paddle under the same endless blue sky. It's an extraordinary trip.
Read more about paddling the Seven Carries.
It was a perfect fall day when a friend and I set out to move closer to our Sixer badge by climbing St. Regis Mountain. The Saranac Lake 6er Hiking Challenge is to climb the six peaks which ring the town. They are McKenzie (3861'), Ampersand (3365'), Scarface (3060'), Haystack (2878'), St. Regis (2874'), and Baker (2340'), and since we have both climbed Baker, St. Regis was next up.
But that is not the only reason we chose this mountain. It is known for its marvelous views from the many vantage points at the nearly bald summit. It is a route that is not technically challenging, requiring more stamina than expertise, and has a broad, well-marked trail.
While any time can be a good time to climb a mountain, hiking in fall features cool temperatures to offset exertion, and a vista of blazing colors once you reach the peak's summit. A lot of the time, we were walking on a brilliant carpet of fallen leaves, giving the path a fairy-tale setting.
The route to the peak passes through many levels of forested ridges and some of the finest glacial errata (boulders, that is) in the area. The final leg is through steep stone staircases and then a quick rock scramble to the many-tiered summit.
Our trip provided ample support for all the people who said St. Regis Mountain was their "favorite Sixer." The view is considered to rival Ampersand, and for a less strenuous climb. Still, every Sixer has its own delights and challenges, and these are only a few of the many wonderful paths we can choose.