Aaaah, February! This is the month of many in the Saranac Lake region! Many what you ask? Events, activities, and attractions, to name a few things!
This year in particular is a busy February. We just wrapped up some events from the Empire State Winter Games, and we're smack dab in the middle of the ever popular Saranac Lake Winter Carnival — which is in its 120th year!
Next up, Saranac Lake will host the 2017 World Snowshoe Championships and 5K Snowshoe Shoe-Be-Doo on February 24 and 25. And, talk about cool, the race will be held in the United States for the very first time in the competition’s tenure.
Everyday's cool in SLK
Of course, major events aside, there are plenty of outdoor activities to partake in during the winter months in Saranac Lake. Maybe you enjoy cross-country skiing at Dewey Mountain or along the Bloomingdale Bog trail, or possibly going out to the Paul Smith’s College VIC and taking advantage of their many vistas? There are also some great winter birding opportunities in our area! Perhaps you prefer the steeper life? If so, check out the slopes at Mt Pisgah and while you’re there, hit up the snow tubing!
But, wait! I’m missing one very important, awesome, super-fun activity, you say? Oh, right — SNOWSHOEING! This is my all-time favorite winter activity. It doesn’t require much skill —other than knowing how to walk and getting the snowshoes on your feet. It’s easy enough for beginners, but can thrill those seeking more of a challenge.
I began snowshoeing roughly ten years ago, at the ripe old age of 17. I would borrow my mom’s snowshoes and hit the trails, starting off with leisurely walks through the woods. My love of snowshoeing really took off when I eventually got my own pair of snowshoes a few years later. I’ve hiked a few of the smaller mountains in snowshoes, but none of the higher peaks, yet! One of my favorite snowshoes is Mt Baker, it boasts a relatively short, yet heart-pumping incline, and rewarding views.
With the 2017 World Snowshoe Championships and 5K Snowshoe Shoe-Be-Doo Walking Party right in my backyard, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that this is something I wanted —no, needed — to be a part of. I often snowshoe around 3 miles, so the 5K Shoe-Be-Doo Walking Party seems like something I could handle. Plus, since it has been deemed a "Walking Party," I can go as slow or as fast as I want and have a great time. I recruited my cousin, Molly, to join me in the 5K Shoe-Be-Doo. She is brand new to the sport of snowshoeing, having just received her first pair of snowshoes this past Christmas, so she’s the perfect partner to join me for this “Walking Party.”
Scoping the course
For training purposes (and I use the term “training” very loosely here) and to get a lay of the land, we decided to head out on the 5K course on an ideal winter Sunday afternoon. The weather alternated between sun poking through the clouds, and big, fluffy snowflakes falling through the trees.
Of course I brought my dog, Sam, because he shares my passion for fresh powder. I also like to bring him because he helps (pulls) me up the hills.
Before heading out in to the woods, Molly and I hit up Blue Moon Cafe to fuel our day of adventure. On a late Sunday morning, the place was relatively full, but we were seated right away. Fuel options range from omelets, scrambles, and various versions of Eggs Benedict, to pancakes, french toast, and their amazing homemade bread.
After breakfast, we were ready to hit the trail. Sam got my leftovers, so he was good to go too! We trudged up the first hill, Lake Street, which is where the trail cuts into the woods. The conditions were great for snowshoeing as we had just received a nice amount of snow in the days leading up to our excursion. About 1.5 miles in, we reached Dewey Mountain. There is a sign there letting you know you’re about to enter Dewey and directing you to buy a trail pass at the lodge. Dogs, however, are not allowed on the groomed trails at Dewey, so we turn around, feeling pretty accomplished for the day. Our total trek would be about three miles.
When we reached the car, I suggested walking along the River Walk, which Molly has never been on. I just wasn’t ready to end our adventure yet and neither was Sam. It’s a short walk along the Saranac River, which runs through downtown Saranac Lake. Afterwards, I had another brilliant idea - so we headed to Grizle T’s to check out their self-serve Bloody Mary & mimosa bar! They offer this every Sunday from 12pm-7pm.
We opted for the mimosas. They offer an array of fresh fruit juices along with slices of fruit and berries to add to your drink, if you wish. We wished, and we did. I chose the traditional orange juice and some fresh strawberries.
Molly went for the less conventional grapefruit & lemonade mixture. We topped our juices off with my favorite brand of bubbly, Freixenet (pronounced fresh-eh-net). It comes in an opaque black bottle which feels super fancy, but won't break the bank.
The bar wasn’t super busy due to the fact that it was the week between playoff football and the Super Bowl, so we easily found a place to sit and enjoy our hand-crafted mimosas. There are couches toward the back of the bar or booths in the front. We chose a booth, which to our surprise, came equipped with Trivial Pursuit cards. After enjoying a few rounds of quizzing each other, we hesitantly decided our day must come to an end. But, we left feeling psyched and excited for the upcoming race!
I strongly suggest grabbing friends, family members, coworkers, whomever and signing up for the 2017 World Snowshoe Championships! There are no previous qualifications necessary, you don’t have to be a part of a certain snowshoe club or association, and you can choose your race. If you’re feeling ambitious and want the title of “World Snowshoe Champion,” sign up for the 10K and race against athletes from all around the world and the United States! Perhaps you’re more like Molly and I and want to join in the 5K Shoe-Be-Doo Walking Party! DO IT! We’ll see you out there!
While I mention Blue Moon Café and Grizle T's as great places to begin or end your adventures, there are plenty of other great dining options around town. Also, don’t forget to book your room ahead of time to ensure a comfy place to rest your head after a great day spent in Saranac Lake!