July 11, 2019
I have been introduced to something new here in the Adirondacks and once again, I have fallen oh-so-madly in love. Being a gal who seeks adventure — anything to test my physical strength and endurance capacity — it was pretty much a sure bet that sticking me on two wheels and a dirt road in the middle of the Adirondack woods to go explore would end in a whole new love affair for me.
Gravel biking is hitting the cycling scene hard and I am stoked that I live in an area that is plentiful in places to explore on a gravel bike. Being an endurance athlete, biking is a huge part of my life, and as I was training for more triathlons this year I started to want something more, something new. That is how I came across gravel bike races and that is what sparked the flame. Of course, I immediately signed up for my first gravel bike race, and since I have a soft spot for being out in the wilderness gravel biking is the perfect way to explore this amazing area while still being able to ride an equal amount of distance as I would road biking.
Happy birthday to me!
My birthday was rounding the corner, and what better way to spend it than by riding a gravel bike through a part of the Adirondacks that I had never been to. It was a hot summer day, about 90 degrees, and my coach had planned the whole adventure with a great group of people. We set out early to the Kushaqua Conservation Easement Tract, a 19, 000-acre tract that is part of the conservation easement lands in the northern Adirondacks. This area features cliffs on the southern exposure of Loon Lake Mountain, the Sable Mountain Range, Mountain Pond, and the headwaters of the North Branch of the Saranac River. It is a private easement in agreement with the private landowner that allows public access while protecting open space by limiting development.
We were all pretty excited to go check out this part of the world on bike! Kushaqua Conservation Easement Tract is chock full of dirt roads, old logging and skidding trails that are perfect for a gravel biking adventure. The area is also used for all sorts of other activities like hiking, fishing, skiing, and snowshoeing.
19,000 acres of adventure
The bikes were loaded up and we headed out on our adventure — it took us about 30 minutes to get there from Saranac Lake. We arrived, unloaded our bikes, geared up, and headed out into the hot sun for a lot of fun!
When heading out on an adventure like this definitely make sure you are well prepared. You will want to have a spare bike tube and kit to change a tire. We lucked out and only had one person in our group get a flat, which is totally normal for this type of biking. If you are visiting without a bike or appropriate gear head to Human Power Planet Earth, right downtown, and they will get you everything you need to have a great day gravel biking. You will also want sunscreen, plenty of water and electrolytes, and don’t forget to bring food! If you are planning on being out for a while exploring. Always be prepared! The area is very remote and we only ran into one person the entire time.
Our group rode for about 30 miles that day and it was the best 30 miles ever. We biked on varied terrain, riding anything from relatively packed dirt roads to loose gravel and boulders, deep surfy sand, and then some very off-road-type logging roads that consisted of mud puddles, roots, ruts, tall grass, and the most magnificently huge ferns I have ever seen in my life. Seriously, they towered nearly as tall as me! It was a unique area full of wildlife and one of the most beautiful parts of it was biking through clouds of thousands of butterflies. I have never seen anything like it before, that many butterflies in one place.
When biking at Kushaqua you can expect a full day with miles of big hills and fun, fast downhills. Our speeds ranged from carrying our bikes through the woods to moving at about 24 miles per hour on gravel! It truly was right up my alley and the perfect way to celebrate another trip around the sun. I can’t think of a better way to start a new paragraph in the next chapter of my life than by exploring the Adirondacks in a whole new area in a whole new way, and I loved every second of it.