LAKE PLACID — It was a typical afternoon at John Brown Farm: dogs running freely, chasing after one another while their owners stood nearby, chatting in scattered groups.
The farm is, of course, a national historic landmark representing the legacy of famed abolitionist John Brown, but it’s also one of the most popular places for dog walking in Lake Placid. Interpretive signs are often passed by without a glance and conversation among dog owners is more likely to be about brands of dog food or training techniques, than history.
It was Friday afternoon under a crisp blue sky, and although we had just enjoyed a long walk through thick-wooded trails and across the open meadows of the farm, my girlfriend Katy was frowning slightly, her eyes beginning to well up with tears. Her dog O’mak looked up at us with a puzzled look on his face.
Katy was about to skip town, homeward bound for New Jersey for a quick visit with her family and — mostly because her weekend was so jam-packed and full of driving — she was leaving O’mak in my care.
Since scooping him up from the Tri-Lakes Humane Society six months ago, Katy had fallen deeply in love with the cheerful husky, lab mutt: The two hadn’t been apart for more than a few hours since.
After some mushy goodbyes Katy got into her car, started it up and headed down the road with a wave. As she drove off O’mak’s head tilted to the side, he looked up at me and then paced back and forth before pausing again and staring, eyes wide and ears slumped.
As I watched the heartbreaking display of confusion, I vowed to show O’mak the best time I possibly could that weekend, which mostly meant walks. A lot of walks. Walks through the woods and thick mud, across streams and rivers, up mountains to the ends of Lake Placid and back.
Below is a list of easy-going trails for people looking to take their four-leggers on a nice scenic nature walk, inspired mostly by trails O’mak was already well accustomed to. You don’t need a dog to enjoy these trails, but from my experience most people that you encounter probably will — Lake Placid is, after all, a very dog-friendly town.
John Brown Farm
Directions: Take John Brown Road off of Old Military Road until it ends at the historic site, with plenty of street parking avaiible.
“Its very well-known for dog walkers locally,” said Emily Doyle, an associate at Jake Placid Doghouse on Main Street. “I think people really enjoy the variety. There are a couple large fields, woods, great views of the High Peaks. It’s really beautiful.”
Although dogs are allowed off leash in any of the open areas, John Brown Farm caretaker Brendan Mills said they ask for owners to leash their dogs while on the trails.
“And obviously no dogs allowed in the gravesite,” Mills said.
He also asked that dog owners pick up after the dogs and said the park is only open during daylight hours.
Doyle said that walking dogs off leash is the owners responsibility.
“It’s definitely recommended that your dog is trained,” she said. “It’s left up to the owners discretion to be in control their dog.”
Doyle also pointed out that many of the trails in Lake Placid are connected, making it easy to spend an entire day jumping from one trail system to the next if so inclined.
Directions: From state Route 73, turn onto Old Military Road near the ski jumps south of Lake Placid Village. Drive 0.8 miles to Bear Cub Road and turn left. The entrance to Henry’s Woods will appear on the right in 0.1 miles.
Inspired by one of Lake Placid’s greatest benefactors, Henry’s Woods, a 212-acre parcel of land off of Bear Cub Lane named for Henry Uihlein, offers a 2.5-mile loop through the woods behind the Uihlein Mercy Center.
The trail, which was finished last spring, is the result of brainstorming and planning by the Uihlein Foundation. The local philanthropic organization gives money to charities each year, such as the North Elba Christmas Fund and local athletes. The foundation’s trustees thought about subdividing the land and selling it off, but finally settled instead on a plan that would give an outdoor recreation opportunity to the public. And it’s a great place to walk the dog.
A sign at the head of the trail holds a special note for dog owners asking that pets are kept under control at all times to keep a peaceful atmosphere and that all waste is removed from the trail. After only a few steps a garbage can and plastic bag dispenser make things a little easier and more convenient.
The main loop starts with a gradual climb no matter which direction you go, clockwise or counter clockwise. The trail crosses several brooks with wooden bridges. The loop tops out after a little more than a mile. Any view there might be from this vantage point is mostly blocked by trees, but the tops of Whiteface and McKenzie mountains are just visible through the branches. The second half of the loop is slightly downhill, with the most challenging part a single S turn no matter which way you choose to descend.
“This is where I take the dogs to get more of a workout,” said Lee Quaintance, of Lake Placid, out for a walk with his two pups. “There’s a real nice incline.”
Directions: From Saranac Avenue (Route 86), turn onto the Peninsula Road which starts between Comfort Inn and the Howard Johnson Restaurant. Follow the road about a mile to a small parking area where a sign indicates the dirt road that leads to the trails themselves. Park at the gate and walk approximately a third of a mile where you will find a large clearing from which the trails radiate.
The trails are nice and peaceful, maintained by the Garden Club of Lake Placid and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, with interprative signs along the trail sponsord by local buisneses.
“It’s open to the public and there’s plenty of parking,” Doyle said. “What’s nice is that you can do longer hikes, or shorter hikes and there’s always a chance to take your dog to the water to cool off.”
Below are a few choices of trails to take:
¯Lakeshore Trail — .78 mile self-guiding nature trail (blue markers). Bear left at the far end of the clearing, following the sign and trail to the edge of the lake. Turn right and wind along the shoreline. After approximately 1000 feet the trail leaves the shore and turns right returning to the clearing.
¯Ridge Trail — 1.31 miles (yellow markers). Moving to higher and drier ground, this trail winds through the lands selectively cut for saw logs in the 40s. The hardwoods, beech, birch and maple predominate the occasional hemlock, balsam fir and poplar.
¯Boundary Trail — .91 mile (red markers). Start as on the Lakeshore Trail, but bear left at the edge of the lake. Pass a large white pine to the boundary of state land. After a while, you will reach road. Cross it and continue on. The Boundary Trail intersects with the Ridge Trail. Bear left and follow the Ridge Trail back to the clearing.
This is an enoumous trail system with more than 50-kilometers throughout the network spanning from Keene, through Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, to Paul Smiths. It is a public trail that connects with several backcountry routes along the way.
The options for you and your dog are endless, but once again this trail system links to the Peninsula Trail system that can make for a very pleasant walk in a place.
O’mak is a fan and so am I.
For a full map of the trail system, visit: adktrailrun.com/?p=388
in the area
The Flume Trail and Owens Pond trail in Wilmington, a walk around Mirror Lake. And some smaller peaks: Mount Jo, Baxter and the Mossy Cascade Trail to Hopkins Mountain. Bring lots of water!
Pet friendly lodging: High Peaks Resort, Crowne Plaza Resort & Golf Club, Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Comfort Inn on Lake Placid.