Snow had been falling here seemingly every day for a few weeks, punctuated by a few big storms which rapidly increased its measure in the woods. With each day, Wren and I had been taking full advantage of the bounty, going on snow-filled walks and practicing our animal tracking skills, while I attempted photos of snowy landscapes.
Last week we tried to combine those activities when we set out to ski the Jackrabbit Trail off McKenzie Pond Road in Saranac Lake. The ever-increasing depth of our snow had been making the trail better and better, and I wanted to check it out. We were not disappointed.
Although cliché to put it this way, the trail was in fact a winter wonderland – with snow piled deep in the woods, and the boughs of balsam and spruce bowed beneath the weight of their burden. Many of the low branches created sort of caves around the base of the trees – good places to look for a snowshoe hare – but we only found the enormous tracks of these denizens of Adirondack forests, left in the fresh powder of the previous night.
Racing Wren and Finding Signs of Wildlife
As is usually the case in the winter woods, birds along the trail were largely silent, but we did watch a croaking Common Raven overhead as we crossed the opening for the powerlines. One of the best things about the Jackrabbit is its rolling terrain, and we slid down one hill to climb the next, Wren racing me each time we crested a hill – she knows I pick up speed on the downs. As we leveled out after each descent she glanced over her shoulder to check on me (I think she’s really just showing me up after she’s won) and then slowed to match my new pace. At the stream crossing about a mile along the route, she reversed this trend and slipped off the trail to smell the travels of animals during the night, and I zipped ahead of her across the bridge and led her up the other side. She eventually passed me again once the trail widened out.
The trail beyond the bridge levels out for about a mile, leading through a low swampy coniferous forest accented with white cedar, and we made good time on the well-kicked in track, me slowing our progress by constantly stopping to take photos of each beautiful scene. At one of these stops we came across a small flock of Black-capped Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets which included a Brown Creeper, and we stopped to listen to their soft, high-pitch notes from the trees.
McKenzie Pond and the Soft Sunlight in the Forest
Just after that, we bumped into a friend who was skiing with his dog which through playful pestering coaxed Wren into racing pell-mell through the snow. The two get along well and we skied briefly together until I parted from the main trail to check out McKenzie Pond while they climbed part of the big hill which leads over the pass towards Lake Placid.
The pond sat picturesque beneath the thick layer of snow, but we didn’t try out the ice. I could see the boundary of the pond was soft, wet, and the ice was poorly formed, so I stayed back and contented myself with a few photos from the shoreline. Then we returned to the main trail to climb a short portion of the big hill so we could enjoy sprinting to the bottom. As we wound our way back through the coniferous forest and past the bridge, the low, slanting sun rays kept creating soft pastel colors on the white canvas of snow, as they were sifted and screened by the branches of the trees. This constantly composed new scenes which begged for me and my camera to stop and capture the moment. I tried to do this but I fear the results do not do the soft-light colors and silent, cold woods justice.
My efforts did allow our friends to catch up to us on our way out and once again Wren and her friend chased each other through the deep snow, adding in a third friendly dog at one point. We all returned to the car tired, but happy to experience such a splendid afternoon and evening.
Even though our temperatures have now warmed, we are still hanging onto our base and more snow will be coming soon - offering more cross country skiing. Plan your next winter outdoor adventure by checking out our lodging and dining pages.