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Time to hit the trails

June 19, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 395 lbs.

Last week: 390 lbs.

Start (Dec. 17): 470 lbs.

Total lost: 75 lbs.

I took a one-week break from the newsroom after finishing the Lake Placid Half-Marathon to rest and think about what fitness challenges I’d like to tackle this summer. As expected, I decided to head back into the woods and take advantage of the warm weather before winter returns.

My fitness plan over the next few months will include working out at Fitness Revolution a few times a week, walking at Henry’s Woods a few times a week and taking a longer day hike on the weekend. The schedule is similar to my springtime half-marathon training, only I’ll be walking on dirt instead of pavement and dodging deer flies instead of motor vehicles.

Adirondack Explorer Editor Phil Brown must have been reading my mind because his new guidebook is exactly what I need to get in shape this summer. It’s called “12 Short Hikes Near Lake Placid: Plus the Saranac Lake 6,” and it just arrived in bookstores. Perfect timing, Phil!

As I sat in my armchair last week, eating whatever I desired and catching up on episodes of “Sons of Anarchy” on Netflix, I devised a sensible plan to stay active this summer and give myself a challenge at the same time.

When people think of bagging peaks in the Adirondack Park — either for the personal journey, the glory, the challenge, weight loss or family time — they think of becoming an Adirondack 46er: climbing the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondacks and being rewarded with bragging rights, a patch and admission to one of the most revered clubs in the region. My eyes are usually bigger than my stomach, so it was tempting to go the 46’er route, and I may get there some day, but I think being realistic at this point is more pragmatic. After all, the main goal is to lose weight. Trying to go too far, too fast could lead to disappointment and derail my weight loss program, so I’ll take baby steps for now.

I plan on climbing some of the High Peaks by the end of the summer, but I want to train for it, and that means starting on the smaller trails in the Tri-Lakes Region.

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As I wrote my hiking plan, I kept hearing the Russian accent of USA Luge’s Dmitry Feld in my head saying, “You should try Henry’s Woods.” For months, Dmitry has been trying to get me to walk the trails at Henry’s Woods off Bear Cub Lane, mainly because it’s a better workout than walking around Mirror Lake, which is fairly flat in comparison. The Mirror Lake loop is 2.7 miles, about the same as the Loop Trail at Henry’s Woods: 2.6 miles, including the 0.6-mile round-trip on the Connector Trail. The difference is elevation gain, and, as I found out Sunday, Henry’s Woods is a perfect warm-weather workout.

Hiking has been a huge part of my life since returning to the Adirondacks in December 1991 after graduating from SUNY Fredonia. I hiked some High Peaks trails during college and did much more in 1992 when I began working at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondak Loj, in the heart of High Peaks country. Even after I left ADK, I continued to hike various trails in the region, including my favorite, the Cold River section of the Northville-Placid Trail. Years later, when I worked at the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Centers in Paul Smiths and Newcomb, I spent a lot of time walking those trails, which led to finishing the VIC Marathon in May 2002 at Paul Smiths. That summer, I spent weekends hiking every section of the 120-mile Northville-Placid Trail, except the 15-mile section between Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake.

My hiking days ended when I left the VICs in June 2009. By then, I was too large for backpacking and too busy and out of shape for day hikes. My hiking gear was stuffed into the attic, and I just kept getting heavier and heavier with my couch-potato/computer desk lifestyle.

On Sunday, with my first-ever walk at Henry’s Woods, I stepped back into the world of hiking and instantly fell in love with this set of trails. It’s an ideal training ground as I work toward my long hike goals over the next few months.

Instead of tackling the 46 High Peaks, I’ve decided to become a Saranac Lake 6er this summer. The year-old program, launched by the village of Saranac Lake, challenges people to hike six family-friendly mountains in the Saranac Lake region: Mount Baker, Haystack Mountain, Scarface Mountain, St. Regis Mountain, Ampersand Mountain and McKenzie Mountain. People who hike all six peaks get a patch and earn the right to ring the Saranac Lake 6er bell at the Berkeley Green band shell.

The 6er mountains will make up a good portion of my long hike days this summer. I’ll also try some of the smaller peaks in the Lake Placid region, including Cobble Hill on the Northwood School property and Mount Jo on the ADK property. By September, I hope to be in good enough shape to hike a few of the High Peaks.

Many of the trails on my list are detailed in “12 Short Hikes Near Lake Placid,” published by the Adirondack Explorer, so I thought it would be helpful for others looking for starter hikes to pick up a copy. At 64 pages, it is a great little pocket-sized book. It includes maps drawn by Nancy Bernstein, trailhead directions, GPS coordinates and many photos by Lake Placid photographer Nancie Battaglia. Plus, you get thorough descriptions of the trails as walked by the author, with candid observations, such as this one about a feature on the Loop Trail at Henry’s Woods:

“In another 0.2 miles, you come to the Bridge to Nowhere, a small wooden suspension bridge that leads to a platform next to a rock wall,” Brown wrote. “It’s a nifty bridge, but its purpose is mysterious.”

The book also includes the John Brown Farm trail system and hikes to Mount Van Hoevenberg, Balanced Rocks, Owl’s Head Mountain in Keene and Flume Knob and Owen, Copperas and Winch ponds in Wilmington. Three of the Saranac Lake 6er trails — Baker, Scarface and Haystack — are part of the official “12 Short Hikes,” but there are really 15 hikes in this book since it also details the three remaining trails on the 6er list.

“There are a lot of guidebooks in the Adirondacks, but not everyone wants to buy a guidebook that covers the entire park,” Brown said as I picked up a copy of “12 Short Hikes” from the Adirondack Explorer office in Saranac Lake. “This book gives people an inexpensive option for finding out about other shorter hikes in the area.”

“12 Short Hikes Near Lake Placid” retails for $9.75 and is now available in many local stores, such as the Bookstore Plus, High Peaks Cyclery, ROOST, ORDA Store, Adirondak Loj/High Peaks Information Center and The Mountaineer.


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Henry's Woods trailhead (Photo — Andy Flynn)