In early November a group of us had hiked into Black Pond and Long Pond. We vowed to go back to check out the Woods and Waters trail. At the end of November we returned for another hike via the same entrance, the Black Pond trail. For some reason Paul Smiths seems to get more snow than the surrounding areas; I knew that as I grew up in Paul Smiths. However, all of us were witnesses when we returned on our 2nd visit, once we hit the ski trails there was plenty of snow, we vowed to return with skis!
Where is the Woods and Water Trail?
The Woods and Waters trail, along with many other trails, is located at the VIC (Visitors Interpretative Center), an educational center located in Paul Smiths with 2,800 acres open to the public throughout the year. There is a fee for winter usage; however, there is no charge during the other seasons. They offer guided outings, special events, exhibits and many educational programs for adults and children. To get fully informed check out their website and sign up for their newsletter. To reach the center from Saranac Lake drive west on Route 86, at the intersection of Route 30 and 86 take a right towards Malone. You will see the VIC signage on your left approximately one mile from the intersection.
Back to the VIC with skis!
This winter has been a particular tough one for us downhill and cross ski enthusiasts as Mother Nature has had extreme moods! Dealing with those moods and busy schedules we weren’t able to return until January 21. My desired destination was the lean-to between Black Pond and Little Black Pond. Some of us had paddled and hiked to the lean-to and we were anxious to ski to it!
Meet the skiers!
Barbara, a friend from Saratoga, loves to cross country ski and is always willing to get out. When I contacted her, she replied, “Yes, I just want to ski! I don’t care where we go!”
Trisa and Dave, from Saranac Lake, are always willing to get out; I don’t think they experience much down time with all their outings, trips, and volunteering! They hustled to arrive at the intersection after meeting other obligations by 11 a.m. Another friend Paul, an avid downhill skier and great chef, I must add, was excited to go as well. Paul, like Barbara, was game to go anywhere; he just wanted to ski! Where to get on the trails? You may enter the trail system at the main entrance or after purchasing your day pass you can enter the trails 2.5 miles from the intersection on the Keese Mills Road, via the Black Pond trail. Back in November we decided we would access the trails via another entrance off the Keese Mills Road as the Black Pond tail can be very challenging for the best of skiers. Our point of entry was on the right hand side of road shortly after passing the horse stables on the left. There is VIC signage at the small parking area.
25 miles of trails!
Yes! That is correct, there are 25 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails! There are snowshoe, classic cross-country, and skating cross-country trails.
My plan was to access the Easy Street trail and then turn onto the Woods and Waters Trail which would take us to the lean-to, a dry place to sit for lunch! Being I am not good with a map, I handed one to Dave at the beginning of the trip. Dave an avid outdoorsman has guided many outings. Easy Street is really easy and fun!
From the moment we stepped over the bank we were in awe! So much snow! In no time at all we were on the Easy Street trail, a wide easy trail and in no time at all I led the group in the wrong direction! Although I turned onto the Woods and Waters trail, I went left when I should have gone right! Dave knew I had turned in the wrong direction, but bit his tongue until I was confused at the next intersection. We had not gone far out of our way, so, after a good laugh, Dave took the lead. I gladly relinquished leadership!
What you see!
Barbara and I stopped periodically to take pics, and all of us stopped occasionally to catch our breath or to remove a layer of clothing. The hills were rolling, but none were difficult. We saw educational kiosks and sap tubing which transports the sap to the VIC Sugar House as we glided through the forest. It was beautiful and so peaceful.
Sap tubing MacGyver to the rescue!
In order to get to the lean-to we had to continue on a portion of the Woods and Water trail which was not groomed. The snow was dense, Dave volunteered to break trail, he was followed by the ladies, and luckily Paul volunteered to be sweep. Trisa's strap which broke early on became more of a problem in the deep snow. Paul became MacGyver and used his skills to repair her pole strap with a wire, wire cutter, and duck tape. The supplies were provided by a couple snowshoeing and skiing behind them.
Just as we began to eat lunch another skier arrived. He has residency in Westchester County and Lake Placid. Then three ladies came by on cross-country skis. They headed across the footbridge to Long Pond. We didn’t linger over lunch as it gets cold sitting around!
As we were leaving another lady appeared on foot with 2 dogs. She was from Saranac Lake. The lean-to appeared to be a popular go to place! We headed out as soon as we started to get chilly. Taking a detour on the Skidder trail shortened our trip, however, it was good as Barbara wanted to be home before dark.
Back at the parking lot, we thanked Paul for repairing the pole strap. Barbara said she would make the long trip back for another outing and we all said we wanted to return as well! There is so much to do in this region every season! Get outside and enjoy Saranac Lake and the surrounding communities!