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When I am planning a vacation, a weekend getaway, or even a day trip to a new place, one of the first things I do is google “family friendly [insert destination here].”  This strategy has led me to find activities that have turned into cherished family memories – hikes in Joshua Tree and Shenandoah National Parks, for instance.  So naturally, it was the first thing I did once we decided upon the Adirondacks as our summer 2018 vacation destination.  Having grown up just south of the region and played there with my family all year ’round, I knew there was an abundance of activities for kids – and that’s why I was surprised not to find many online resources catering toward families with very young children.  That’s not to say the resources aren’t there.  I found travel guides for young families focusing on winter activities (fun, but not what I needed to plan an August getaway) and plenty of blogs with lots of great options – but I had to sift through them to get to the information I needed, or the kids in question were just a little bit older than mine.  (And parents know: every year older makes a big difference.)  So here’s my attempt to gather together a travel guide for a summer trip to the Adirondacks with preschoolers and toddlers.

WHERE TO STAY

Where We Stayed:  Airbnb all the way!  I know there’s some controversy over Airbnb and its effect on the tourism industry in Lake Placid, but I have to say – in our stage of life, having the freedom of an Airbnb (or a VRBO) is critical.  We were able to find a fabulous unit on the top floor of a walk-up apartment building with huge windows overlooking Mirror Lake.  The kids had their own room, which gave us plenty of options after they went to bed (because there’s nothing worse than hunkering down in a pitch black hotel room and communicating by text so you don’t wake the baby from 7:30 p.m. onwards) – we were able to watch the sunset, read, share a bottle of wine and talk without worrying that we’d wake them.  Having our own kitchen really helped, too – we did breakfast and lunch in the Airbnb every day, and even a couple of dinners.  For a family with little kids, it was a dream arrangement.

Maybe Next Time:  When the kids are a bit older, or we have more disposable income and can afford a suite, I’d love to stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort.  The newly refurbished rooms look gorgeous, and I was watching with barely concealed envy as the guests enjoyed the hotel beach and played with the fleet of kayaks and paddleboards.

WHAT TO EAT

Where We Ate:  A lot of our meals were cooked right in our Airbnb kitchen, thanks to a stockup run to the Hannaford right outside of town, and I can’t overstate the ease, convenience, and money-saving points – especially with little ones in tow.  But we did get out and about a fair amount.  With Nana and Grandad, we enjoyed The Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Company (pretty self-explanatory) one evening and Smoke Signals (barbeque, but they had a wide variety on their menu) another.  Both restaurants had good kids’ menus, and the staff at Smoke Signals was especially welcoming to the little ones.  (We’re very conscious of how the kids are received at restaurants, as they can both be unpredictable and Nugget is still in the stage of wanting to do laps around the dining room.)  On our own, we enjoyed our last lunch at The Cottage, which is another must for us in Lake Placid – nice laid-back pub food and atmosphere, and a deck overlooking Mirror Lake – what could be better?  And for afternoon treats, you can’t beat Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery.  We went there three times and I ordered the maple soft serve every time.  I regret nothing.

Date Night:  After descending from the summit of Big Slide, Steve and I celebrated at Big Slide Brewery.  We enjoyed local brews (IPA for him, sour for her) and a hearty, satisfying meal that totally hit the spot after a day of hiking.  There were actually lots of families there, with kids as young as babies, so this would be a good option for a family dinner – you don’t have to do date night here.

Maybe Next Time:  I heard great things, both from my parents and just while eavesdropping on conversations on the beach, about Lake Placid Brewery.  That’s one to put on the list for next time.  For date night, I’d love to check out Purple Saige or Salt of the Earth, both of which had delicious-looking menus and a slightly more sophisticated vibe.

WHERE TO HIKE

Where We Hiked:  Adirondack hiking, even at its easiest, is a different animal from pretty much anything in Virginia.  The trails are often rocky and root-y, there are exposed summits, ledges and precipices that are just fine for older kids but can give a toddler parent a stroke.  But there are trails that are toddler-appropriate and preschooler-approved, and we hiked a bunch of them.  Brewster Peninsula was a good introduction to the area hiking – the kids loved the trail and the parents enjoyed the water views.  (Pro tip: if you have a small Pisces, be prepared for them to ask to go swimming every thirty seconds.)  Our big family hike for the week was Owls Head Mountain in Keene, which my three-year-old hiked with no trouble.  There was one steep rocky section, but he got help from parents and grandparents and he did fine.  (Note that Owls Head is on private property and the landowners have elected to close it to public foot traffic on weekends and holidays, so you’ll have to plan this one on a weekday – we did the hike on a Tuesday and it was totally worth the little bit of planning ahead.)  We also took our little hikers exploring at Heaven Hill Nature Preserve and up the Ausable River from Monument Falls – all nice, relatively flat and easy, trails by which to introduce kids to the beauty of the Adirondacks.

Parents’ Day Out:  If you’re lucky enough to have babysitters for a day (thanks, grandparents!) Mom and Dad can knock off a high peak.  There are plenty of family-friendly hikes in the high peaks region, but the mountains themselves are really more suited to older kids.  Of course, you know your own kids and what they can handle, but for mine, eight miles of climbing up and down a steep mountain of exposed granite just wasn’t in the cards.  Thanks to Nana and Grandad, we made Big Slide Mountain a day date activity, and it was gorgeous.

Maybe Next Time:  If Owls Head hadn’t worked out, our Plan B for a kid-friendly mountain was Mount Jo, and I’d still love to check that out.  We also hoped to hike the trail circumventing Heart Lake, but didn’t get to it, so that’s another one for the next trip.  And I’d love to take the kiddos hiking to a swimming hole like Copperas Pond.  For date activities if we’re lucky enough to entice the grandparents to watch the babies again (they love it) another high peak is always on the table – Nye and Street sound like possibilities for the next outing.  Or we could go a bit farther afield and start knocking off Saranac 6 hikes or Fire Tower Challenge trails.  One thing about hiking in the Adirondacks is – there will always be more to do.

WHAT TO DO

Where We Played:  Hiking is the main focus of an Adirondack trip – at least, for our family – but there are other things to do and we certainly took advantage of the opportunities to play in the region.  The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is a fabulous family destination, with animals, nature trails, and interactive educational exhibits suitable for the youngest visitors.  Closer to home base, we had plenty of water fun at the Mirror Lake Public Beach and paddling Mirror Lake end-to-end in our kayaks.

Maybe Next Time:  I was really hoping that we’d get a chance to see some of the Olympic sights.  I thought the kids would probably be too young to really get into them (although they did love watching the Seoul Olympics last winter) so we didn’t prioritize them.  But I wish that even if we didn’t see the rest of the Olympic Museum, we had at least poked our heads into the Miracle on Ice rink.  We also were sad to miss out on the Summer Jumping Series at the ski jump complex – it wasn’t going on while we were there.  Next time!  I’d also love to rent paddleboards at one of the many outfitters lining Main Street and get back some of my SUP skills on Mirror Lake.  When the kids get a bit older, I’d also like to take them to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Sports Complex to try out some of the fun adventure sports.

Have you vacationed in Lake Placid in the summer?  What have I missed?

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On the final Saturday morning of our vacation, we woke up to the bittersweet knowledge that we’d be back in the real world before long.  We were planning to drive back to my parents’ house that afternoon, but we wanted to squeeze one more hike in before the vacation came to an end.  Looking for something short and easy with a big payoff, we hit on Monument Falls – more a section of rapids on the Ausable River than an actual waterfall, but right off the main road, with smashing views of Whiteface Mountain and access to a trail winding its way upriver.

The falls itself was a small waterfall and actually visible from the road, but very scenic nonetheless.

And of course, that view was astounding!  We drank it in for several minutes, pointing Whiteface out to the kids and telling them all about the mountain, and then turned upriver to explore along the bank for awhile.

Just a few feet upriver from the falls, the river was so still and peaceful you’d be forgiven for forgetting there was a section of whitewater only feet away.

We walked along the bank, watching for birds (we saw a blue jay and a few chickadees, but all were too fast for my camera shutter – alas) and listening to the kids rattle on about their imaginary trail friends.

A certain tired guy hitched a ride in Dad’s arms.  Couldn’t blame him – it had been a long week, and those little legs did an awful lot of hiking.  I was proud of both kids for being such troopers on such an active vacation!

After a good long ramble upstream, we turned and made our way back to the Falls, for one last wistful look at Whiteface before we piled back into the car and – after a short stop for lunch in town – trundled down out of the mountains and back to our busy, hectic life.

It was a lovely and peaceful way to wind down a beautiful week spent breathing in crisp mountain air and relishing the feeling of trail beneath our hiking boots.  Now, when can I go back?

Stay tuned for one more Adirondack post, coming in a few weeks.  Vacation, I miss you already!

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If you’re in DC and not living under a rock, you’ve heard plenty of chatter about the No Spectators exhibit at the Renwick Gallery (part of the Smithsonian system, for my out-of-town friends).  The exhibit features art pieces from Burning Man and has been going on for months now.  For a time, it encompassed the entire museum – the gallery isn’t huge – and while the first floor exhibits have closed down, there’s still plenty to see on the second floor, which is remaining open until mid-January, 2019.  I’d been meaning to go for months – and of course was kicking myself for missing the lower floor exhibits – and last week my dear museum-going friend Susan and I slipped away from our desks for an hour of wandering amongst the huge installations.

 

The first room we walked into had a pile of cozy-looking beanbag chairs underneath a giant suspended star on which images of the galaxy were coming into and out of focus.  I sort of wanted to lay down on the beanbags and watch from under the star, but I felt awkward.  (I should have just gone for it.  The whole point of the exhibit was to interact with the art.)

I could have watched the display for hours, but since this was a sneak-away-at-lunch visit, we moved on to check out the rest of the installation.  The next room featured Shrumen Lumen, by Foldhaus Art Collective.

We both gasped in delight at the luminescent folded mushrooms towering over us.

Each mushroom featured a small circle at its base, and visitors were invited to interact with the art by stepping on the circle when it turned green and watching the mushroom change shape and expand overhead.

Gorgeous!  Susan and I moved on to the next room but noticed, glancing back, that the mushrooms started to change colors, taking on reds, oranges, yellows and greens instead of the relatively sedate blues and purples we had been watching – so we rushed back in to watch a bit more.

 

So beautiful!  Again – I could have stayed in this room all day.  But the next large installation was the one that I most wanted to see, so – onward.

We moved through a room with a few smaller pieces – including the replica of the Man in the picture at the top of this post – and I think my heart skipped a beat, or maybe two or three, when we found ourselves standing in the midst of Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone (HYBYCOZO), by Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu.

The installation was made up of three geometric steel structures, lit from within by mirrors and lights that were constantly changing color, throwing an array of lacy shadows over the entire room of the gallery.  I wandered from structure to structure and back again, basking in the light and shadows and snapping pictures from every angle and with every new color combination.  I couldn’t get enough!

The display was hypnotic and the intricate shadows on the wall were pure magic.

The next room featured memorabilia and explanatory placards about the phenomenon that is Burning Man – definitely interesting, but we moved through it fairly quickly as we were running short on time and wanted to spend a few minutes reflecting quietly in the Burning Man chapel.  The chapel was an entire room of the most intricately-carved wood I’d ever seen.  All over the walls were scrawled messages to departed loved ones, and visitors to the gallery could add to the wall via small wooden cards.  Susan and I wandered through the room, reading the messages and gazing at the carvings until we agreed – in hushed voices – that it was time to break the spell and head back to the office.

I’m so glad that I made time to see No Spectators, even if I missed out on the first floor exhibits – it was still worth every minute spent wandering through the incredibly creative, inspiring installations, and I hope I’ll have the chance to go back at least one more time before the second floor shuts down.  And maybe I’ll have to add Burning Man to my bucket list – I never had a desire to go before seeing this exhibit, but I was so blown away by these pieces in a museum that seeing similar art under a star-filled desert sky might be a new life goal.

What’s the most creative art exhibition you’ve ever seen?

 

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While the primary purpose of our Adirondack vacation was to get into the mountains and hike, we did other things too!  We specifically decided to make Lake Placid our home base, so we’d have access to water activities and Adirondack town fun.  I’ve always loved Lake Placid Village, and I was looking forward to introducing Steve to its charms (he grew up near here, but randomly had never been).  For our lodgings, we chose an Airbnb right on the lake.  The location was perfect – midway down the main street in town – and you can’t beat that view!  My only complaint was that I wished there was a balcony to sit on after the kids went to bed.  But you can’t have everything.  We had a fabulous sun porch and we enjoyed it all week.

Especially in the mornings!  The kids wake up before the crack of dawn, and I found myself getting up at 5:30 with them every morning and watching the sun come up over the mountains.  Spectacular.

We went out for dinner most nights of the trip, and it was easy to find restaurants – we just walked out the door and wandered along until we hit upon something that looked good.  We checked out the other sights in town along the way.  I always find the library!

 

Drinks and lunch on the peaceful lakeside deck of The Cottage, just before leaving to head back to Nana and Grandad’s house on our last day.  I’m planning to do a travel guide to Lake Placid with young kiddos in tow, since that was something I never found during my vacation-planning research – not all in one place, and not for the summer, at least.

The Village of Lake Placid is situated on Mirror Lake – Lake Placid itself is just over the road, less than five minutes away – and no matter where you find yourself in town, you will probably catch at least a glimpse of sparkling water.  There’s nothing like a mountain lake, right?

Mirror Lake has a beautiful public beach area, and we found ourselves wandering over there several times during the trip.  The beach has been recently improved – and it was lovely even before the improvements – and the soft sand and shallow waters made for a perfect place to take the little ones.  Nugget, in particular, is a beach boy – Peanut is more of an indoor child and can run lukewarm on the idea of swimming in something that’s not a pool, but Nugget (Pisces!) can’t get enough beaches and water.  Oceans, lakes, he’s not picky.

Peanut enjoyed wading in the shallows, too, and she even did a little swimming.  In general, though, she was happy to dig in the sand.

The beach also provides a couple of launch points for kayaks and paddleboards.  I was hoping to get out on the water a lot – both kayaking and SUPing – but the way the schedule worked out, we were only able to kayak once.  I made it count, though.  Mirror Lake is fairly small, and I paddled end-to-end (and back again) with Steve, then dropped Steve off back at the beach, picked up my mom, and paddled the kayaks back to the Airbnb to leave them on the grassy lakefront area.

Getting ready to launch!

I took Nugget out for a spin with his little paddles.  It wasn’t our most successful ride – we can fit in a single kayak together, but he got strangely afraid once we paddled out past the beach.  He’s never been scared to kayak before, so I don’t know what that was about.  The season is over now, so I guess we will find out next summer if it was a fleeting thing or an off day, or something that is going to continue.

I love paddling with this guy.  (Look at him, so responsible in his life jacket!  I stowed mine.  I couldn’t flip one of these kayaks if I tried – and I’ve tried – and I can swim.)

What’s this on the water?

Just an Adirondack loon.  No big deal.  (!!!!!)  I couldn’t believe how big these birds were, and how much they didn’t care about my kayak.

Steve and I paddled all the way down to the Mirror Lake Inn, one of the fancy expensive hotels in town.  We sent my parents here for their fortieth anniversary and have bought them gift certificates for the past few Christmases.  One of these days, I’ll get to stay here for myself!

Steve and I turned around and headed back to the beach, and I picked up my mom to deliver the kayaks to the Airbnb.  As it turned out, we didn’t make it back out on the water again – my parents did, but we didn’t.  But at least we got out there once!

By the end of the vacation, we were all a little wiped out.  What’s better than a lakeside park for napping?

Next week: the final hike of vacation.  Check in with me then!

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With a whole week to spend in the Adirondacks, it wasn’t a question of will we hike a high peak? but how many high peaks will we summit?  Steve and I are slooooooowly working on the goal of summiting all forty-six high peaks (loosely defined as the Adirondack peaks over 4,000 feet above sea level – but they were measured over 100 years ago, and more accurate measurements have since revealed that there are a couple of peaks under 4,000 and at least one 4,000-footer that didn’t make it on the list).  When I say slowly, I mean slowly.  At the rate we’re going, it will take us approximately 90 years to finish the challenge.  But it’s all about the journey, right?  (I’m not kidding.  It is all about the journey.)

Anyway, when we actually sat down and looked at our schedule for the week, we realized that there was only one day that was going to work for a high peak – Thursday.  Monday and Friday we didn’t have all-day babysitters, Tuesday was Peanut’s birthday (and high peaks are a grownups-only affair), and Wednesday looked to be gloomy.  Thursday it was.  We looked over our list of possibilities and decided on Big Slide Mountain.  Relatively short, breathtakingly scenic, and lots of people say it’s their favorite – sounds good to me.

Actually, I was nervous.  Steve has been running consistently all summer, but my time has been consumed by work for months on end.  I wasn’t in as good shape as I was when climbing our first three high peaks (Cascade and Porter, and Giant) and I was just hoping I’d be able to summit.  Anyway – we woke up at the crack of dawn and got ready to hit the trail.  It was in the low 40*s, so I decided to wear yoga pants and a flannel.  Steve went for mesh shorts and a tech t-shirt.  We’d see which one of us was going to regret our life choices.  (Spoiler: it me.)

The first 0.7 miles of the hike was moderate climbing through the woods.  Despite the climb being just that – moderate – and despite knowing that the altitude gain was going to slow down once we gained the ridge line, I complained the entire time.  I was actually kind of relieved when we started hitting some of the technical spots.  It gave me a chance to slow down and catch my breath while I thought about how best to tackle each section.

Whenever I plan an Adirondack high peak hike, I go back to every ADK46r blog I know and read their trail reports, but I’m rarely able to discern from there what to expect.  I finally figured out why that is: when you’re thinking about how to approach a section of steep and probably slippery Adirondack granite, you’re not taking photos.  My phone was in my backpack for most of the hike – until the views started.

Big Slide can be tackled from two directions: over three smaller peaks known as “the Brothers” or via Johns Brook Valley.  A lot of hikers choose to do the hike as a loop – up over the Brothers, down via the Valley.  We decided to stick with the Brothers for both ascent and descent, for a few reasons – it meant less distance overall, the views would be better, and the trail would be familiar so we probably wouldn’t get lost.  And ohhhh, the views.  Once we hit the ridgeline, it was all panorama, all the time.

We spent a lot of time loitering at various overlooks, pouring over guidebooks with our fellow hikers and trying to work out whether we were on one of the Brothers and if so, which one.

(see the big hulking monster about two thirds to the right there? that’s Giant, which we climbed last year)

(a view of the Great Range)

Eventually, even these breathtaking views started to get old, and I began to whine again.  I was a real peach!  If you’re wondering how Steve puts up with me, don’t expect me to explain it to you.  It felt like an eternity before we hit the junction with the Johns Brook Valley trail and saw this sign:

Just 0.3 miles to the summit!  At this point I knew there was no way I was turning back without reaching the peak.  Unfortunately, I also knew (thanks, research!) that the toughest part of the climb lay ahead.  In just a little more than a quarter of a mile, we were going to gain 700 feet of altitude.  Ouch!  My quads hurt just thinking about it.  Also, a good chunk of the altitude gain came via this freak:

Yes, that is a section of rock so steep that they put a Helpful Ladder up for hikers.  So, this is a weird thing about me: while I love heights, and will happily perch on a mountaintop precipice, I am weirdly skittish about exposure.  Steve, meanwhile, hates heights but isn’t bothered by exposure in the slightest.  Together, we make one confident hiker and one basket case.  Anyway, this ladder gave me the willies.  But–

I did it!  Adirondack high peak number four in the books!

The views were pure gorgeousness.  Big Slide’s summit, like Giant’s, is partially wooded – but there was plenty to soak in from the summit ledge.  Steve and I took off our backpacks, plunked down on the granite, and enjoyed a summit snack – some high protein nut and seed mix, Babybel cheese, apricots and mangoes.  We eavesdropped as a local hiker gave some French Canadian visitors the lowdown on which high peaks we were looking at, snapped more pictures, and thought about how lucky we were to have a beautiful day and grandparent babysitters along to watch the kiddos.  And then it was time to head back downhill for dinner and, after, hugs from our babies.

(Giant again!  Can’t believe I stood on top of that bad boy last year.)

If you’re wondering how Big Slide got its name – that’s how.

It was a beautiful, if exhausting, day in the mountains!  We booked it down the trail and took our sweaty, dirt-covered selves straight to Big Slide Brewery to celebrate our achievement with local beers and carbs.  (Steve had a burger, if I remember right, and I had pasta with Impossible sausage.)  The brewery staff didn’t bat an eye when we staggered in.  I think they’re used to seeing people just off the mountain.  They asked where we’d been hiking and seemed genuinely tickled when we said we were celebrating Big Slide at Big Slide.

Another high peak handled!  It’s been a couple of months now, so I’m already forgetting how painful it was and starting to think about the next one – Phelps, maybe?  Or possibly Nye and mighty Street.  Next week – a hike with less altitude but more drama.  Check back!

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When we looked at the weather forecast for the week we would be spending in Lake Placid, it looked like it was going to be mostly beautiful.  I had a hard time buying this, because it has rained pretty much constantly all summer in D.C., and I pretty much stopped believing that sunshine happened.  But the weather reports for the ‘dacks all promised that most of the week would be gorgeous, with Wednesday the only gloomy day.  So we decided to spend Wednesday morning at an indoor activity we knew the kids would love: visiting the Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

The Wild Center is part outdoor experience (there is a treetop walk with a gigantic pretend bird’s nest the kids can climb in – we didn’t do that because by the time we had finished the indoor part, the rain had started in earnest and the kids were hangry), part children’s science and nature museum focusing on local environments, and part small aquarium highlighting local species.  We entered the museum in the aquarium-ish part, and the kids were enthralled by the fish and amphibians.  There were even some adorable ducks!

We made it through the fish tanks and into a room with a lot of fun play activities designed to teach kids about environmental conservation – so cool!  Peanut got really into playing a game about healthy river systems, and Nugget found some blue sand to slop everywhere.  But he was over the blue sand much sooner than Peanut was ready to move on from her river game, so Dad hung with her while Nugget and I ended up doubling back and hanging out with the fish some more (which is why you don’t see Peanut in any of these pictures).

Total fascination.  Anyway, we all reunited eventually and headed outside to try to explore the Wild Center grounds before the skies totally opened up.

I loved the beautiful wooden bridge over the wetlands.  You all know I can’t resist a marsh habitat!

They had a beautiful little nature trail through a pretty wildflower garden.  The kids loved running ahead and reporting back on the scenery a few yards down the trail.  I did not count this toward my 52 Hike Challenge, because it literally lasted ten minutes.  Had we made it to the Wild Walk, I probably would have counted that.  But we had barely started exploring the gardens before it began to rain in earnest, as I mentioned above, and the kids were grumpy and complaining about their stomachs.  So we went back to the car, had a snack, and headed back to Lake Placid to let Peanut log some quality time with her birthday presents.

The Wild Center was a perfect kiddo activity for a gloomy morning.  We were able to get some fresh air exploring the gardens, but there was plenty to see indoors.  I loved the focus on local flora, fauna, and indigenous/First Nations cultures, and I think the kids learned a lot.  We’ll be back for sure!

Next week: Steve and I tackle our fourth Adirondack high peak!

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Steve and I definitely each have our strengths when it comes to vacation planning.  He excels at logistics – knowing where we are going to be, how to get there, etc. – and so he’s usually the one who does things like booking plane flights and rental cars, planning driving routes, and all the other boring but necessary tasks.  I prefer (and think I’m good at) the part of planning that has to do with making sure everyone has a good time – picking good lodgings and especially planning fun adventures.  The Adirondacks was a test even for me, though, because there’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fun and adventures, but not all of those adventures are realistic for a family with small children.  So while we were planning to get out on an adults-only adventure or two, I also had to call upon all of my knowledge of the area and my fun-wrangling skills to find activities that were adventurous and/or scenic enough for the parents, but safe and easy enough for the kids.  As I searched, there were a few trails that came up over and over again, and one was Owls Head Mountain in Keene.

Owls Head is a lovely and charming little mountain, situated right off Route 73 – one of the main arteries in this part of the Adirondack Park – just a short drive outside of Lake Placid.  It’s a short and sweet hike – just over half a mile of moderate-grade, non-technical climbing to the summit, and the views from the peak are breathtaking.  It’s also technically on private land, and a couple of years ago the trail had gotten so popular that the property owners closed it to the public on weekends and holidays – after the hordes of hikers abused the landowners’ generosity by actually parking them into their own homes.  (If that’s not a case for limiting public use of natural resources, I don’t know what is.  What if one of the landowners had a medical emergency and wasn’t able to get to the hospital because they were completely blocked in?)

Fortunately, since we were in town for an extended stay, we had a week’s worth of days to choose from, and on Tuesday morning we headed down to Keene to check out the trail.  It was an absolute delight to hike, as you can see – enough of the Adirondack granite to make things interesting, but not so much that it was beyond Nugget’s abilities.

Little hiker on the trail!

The birthday princess hitched a ride on Daddy for the uphill portion of the hike.  Yes – this climb was our celebration of Peanut’s sixth birthday!

As we neared the summit, there was one steep/technical part of the trail.  Grandad helped Nugget navigate the terrain.  I have to say this for Nugget: he’s your typical rambunctious three-year-old boy, but he does seem to understand when it’s actually important for him to listen carefully and follow directions.  He did a great job climbing the steep terrain with his Grandad’s coaching.

There were a few false summits on the way up, which I never mind in the Adirondacks, because there’s no better opportunity to relax, take a deep breath and snap a few pictures of the gorgeous mountains all around.

Stunning views of the high peaks!

And then, before we knew it, we were at the summit!

Nana and Nugget relaxed and drank in the panoramic mountain views, while I dug through the pack for the trail snacks I’d brought along for the whole family to enjoy: little packets of olives, salt-and-pepper macadamias, delicious dried apricots, Babybel cheese, and brownie bites for the kids.  We all dug in and slurped on our water bottles while soaking in the scenery.

Family picture time!  Summit smiles:

After a good long rest and snack session on the summit, it was time to head down and get on with the rest of our day.  Nugget hopped into the backpack and Peanut put boots – errrr, sandals – on the trail.

Owls Head did not disappoint!  I can see why it’s a popular mountain, but I’m glad the owners are limiting access to the trail – we saw several other hiking groups, and one family rock climbing, and I can’t imagine what it would be like on a popular holiday weekend – probably so intrusive that there’d be no trail left.  Opening it during the week and closing it on weekends and holidays seems like a good compromise to (generously) allow people to continue enjoying the mountain without destroying the trail or seriously impeding the landowners’ movement.  Makes sense to me!  And as for the trail itself, it absolutely lived up to its billing as a perfect family hike.  There was enough climbing and terrain to keep it interesting, but it was approachable enough that my small children were easily able to manage it with attentive adult supervision, and it was short enough that we were able to get a late start and spend considerable time hanging out on the summit, and still be off the mountain in time for lunch.  Wins all around!

Next week: Wild Center Wednesday!

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