My friend Peggy and I had planned a camping trip to Lake Harris but due to a bout of uncooperative weather, we cancelled and Peggy came to visit me for a few days.
We figured we could hike, bike, or paddle as long as there weren’t downpours. The first full day of Peggy's visit was cold and rainy, so we spent the day reviewing an overseas bike trip for 2018. The following day we decided to bike in Paul Smiths. If the weather didn't hold we had options to visit the VIC or head to Saranac Lake for shopping and dinner. We both enjoy shopping in Saranac Lake, especially at the ECO Living Shop, St. Regis Outfitters, and Adirondack Lakes and Trails, and there are a variety of great restaurants too!
We parked at the intersection of Route 86 and Route 30, near Paul Smith's College. We walked our bikes across the busy highway to the Keese Mills Road, a road I am very familiar with since I grew up here! Our plan was to ride to Bay Pond. The Keese Mills Road is a country road, no bike path, no yellow divider lines, no white shoulder lines, and not much traffic.
As we biked I shared with Peggy little snippets about the area. The stables, owned by Paul Smith's College are managed by the forestry students. When I was a kid, they owned Prince and Leo — Leo was part Belgium and part Clydesdale, a gentle giant! All of the neighborhood kids would visit them and bring treats.
Just beyond the stables was the dirt road that went to sawmill. I recall going there a few times with my Dad. The bridge next to the entrance to the sawmill was called the Iron Bridge; we fished and did stone skipping at the bridge. I have fond memories of Mud Pond, not far from the bridge, where we fished and ice skated when my Dad would clear the snow off for us.
About a mile from the intersection is the first group of houses, one of which was my parents. Many of homes look the same except for the exterior color. One home owner appeared to have mastered gardening! A few homes have deteriorated, but many were updated, though there were no signs of new construction. The fields where we played baseball and the hills where we skied have become forest. Riding on the Keese Mills Road was a trip down memory lane for me!
Approximately two miles from the intersection is where I attended the Keese Mills School. The original section was built in 1867 and in 1911 an addition was added. In 1974, Paul Smith's College gave permission for it to be used as a Youth Hostel. In 1985 it was bought and converted to a family home. As a school house, it had two classrooms, a kitchen, and lavatories off from the clock room. First grade through sixth grade were in one classroom and the kindergarten class was in the other classroom.
At recess and lunch time we played on the swings, slide, and monkey bars, and when we had enough willing participants we played tag, kickball, and softball. In the spring, fall, and winter we would build forts in the woods and slide down the hill on pieces of cardboard.
One teacher taught alls grades from one to six. When I was in 5th grade, 14 students shared one classroom. Each class took turns at the teacher’s desk for their specific lesson. There were no more than four students in one grade; in my grade there were two! The upperclassmen would assist the teacher by doing flashcards with the younger students.
When not at the teacher’s desk for a class, each student was to complete their assignments as stated on the chalkboard. We took turns visiting the local Bookmobile that would park at Paul Smith's College and we would attend religion classes at a private home on a regular basis. The bus driver transported us in her station wagon until she was given an official yellow school bus. We were allowed to walk to and from school if we had a permission slip on file from our parents. The school closed after my fifth year, I then attended school in Saranac Lake, and it was huge change — as well as a long bus ride!
Just down the road from the school on the left is the Presbyterian Church and the church hall. The church looks like a Swiss chalet! Although, it was not my church I always loved it. I often babysat from one to fifteen kids in the hall, while the parents attended church. I was paid a full $1.00 per hour! That was an entire $.50 more per hour compared to my rate when sitting at a family home, no matter how many kids. This church was sold, it is my understanding it cannot be renovated to become a home as it is a historical site.
The famous Camp Topridge entrance is also nearby. I worked at Camp Topridge as a switchboard operator when it was owned by Marjorie Merriwether Post. Being that I was stuck in a tiny office the staff saw pity on me and would get me out for a minute or two. I was shown the dining room table set for Mrs. Post and her guest, the huge freezer full of wrapped meats and a where an entire cow hung, and my favorite - a limo full of furs! Mrs. Post's guest included ambassadors, judges, and movie stars! How I wish I would have kept at least one copy of the guest list! We rode our bikes to the entrance of the camp, if the gate is an indication on how the new owners are maintaining the property I am sure Mrs. Post would be very pleased!
Back on our bikes we headed towards Bay Pond. As a kid, I would ride my bike to Bay Pond with my friend Brenda, there we'd visit other friends that lived beyond the gatehouse and had their own private beach! Back then the bike trip seemed so long, we didn't have road bikes or hybrid bikes, most of us had hand-me-down bikes that had no gears and were often too big or too small for us!
Shortly after we rounded the corner near the gatehouse some huge construction trucks came up behind us. Although there is little traffic on this road bikers need to be aware of the construction vehicles, the good thing is - you can hear them coming! We biked to an aqua colored bridge and decided to head back. After all, we needed time to get home and shower, and then head into Saranac Lake to dine. After our sixteen-mile ride we thought a chicken fajita and a margarita at the Downhill Grill would complete the day!