Henry and Grace McGrew, 12-year-old twins from Lake Placid, joined 10-year-old Aiden Daniels of Keene Valley, for the two-day ski journey.
The three broke the trip into two parts. On Sunday, Feb. 13, they were among a dozen kids and adults who skied from Keene to Lake Placid. The children, along with parents, spent Sunday night at the Golden Arrow hotel, then woke up Monday and skied through to Saranac Lake. They were joined by a smaller group of adults that day.
Aiden’s mother Laura was the only adult to ski both days with the children. The Keene Valley woman said she had been talking about doing the trip for several years. She said her son was motivated by being the youngest child to ski the entire route without assistance.
“He wanted to be the youngest kid who ever skied tip to tip without getting in any vehicle along the way,” Laura Daniels said.
There are no official records kept for such feats, so it’s hard to verify if Aiden was the youngest to ski the trail end-to-end. It’s fair to say, though, the children must be among the youngest, if not the youngest to do so.
Laura Daniels said the children turned down at least two offers for rides, including on the first day when they traveled down the paved section of the Old Mountain Road.
“Normally, people would just get a ride down that because it’s plowed now, but we stayed on our skis the whole way down the road over lots of sand and yucky stuff, but we stayed on our skis,” she said.
The next day, the group was faced with a similar dilemma, but once again turned down a ride.
“When we were at the Golden Arrow the next day, the other kids’ dad had offered to drive us up to the Crowne Plaza, just up the hill,” Laura Daniels said. “They all said, ‘No, no, no. We can’t get into the car.”
One thing that the group did differently from many others was choose to start the trip in Keene. That was done so the group could have a warm, friendly place to eat lunch the first day.
“The reason we went from Keene to Saranac Lake, even though a lot of people told us it would be easier to go the other way, was because one of the key points was having lunch at Cascade Cross Country ski center,” Laura Daniels said. “(Cascade) was closed on Monday, (so) we had to do that leg on Sunday, and that really did make it great because that was our first goal to get there.”
During the trip, one of the biggest challenges the group faced was the weather. Sunday, there was a lot of snow and temperatures were in the 20s. However, Monday the temperatures warmed up and it rained early in the day.
“It was hot that day and all the snow was melting, so we were just soaked,” Henry said. “Then we went up higher, and it got colder.”
It was colder in the higher elevations of the McKenzie Pass between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.
The children were challenged heading up the big hill in the pass, but things turned once their tips were pointed downhill. The children actually went back up for two runs on the Saranac Lake side.
“I like the big downhill toward the end,” Grace McGrew said. “That was my favorite part.”
Another one of the highlights was finding a small cave beneath and erratic boulder near the top of the Old Mountain Road trail. The children spent about 30 minutes exploring the cave and climbing the boulder.
“That’s what made it special that they were able to find these really neat side adventures that when we adults pass through we don’t even think about doing,” Laura Daniels said.
By the end, the children were tired but excited. It was an adventure they had hoped to do, but weren’t sure if they could.
“The whole time I was skiing, I thought I would never be able to ski the whole thing,” Aiden said. “But when I was finished, I already knew I wanted to do it again next year.”
Henry felt similarly but also remarked that not using cars added a special feel to the trip.
“I thought it was really fun,” Henry said. “I felt kind of old fashioned skiing from Keene to Saranac Lake.”
From left, Grace McGrew, Aiden Daniels and Henry McGrew skied the Jackrabbit Trail from Keene to Saranac Lake over two days in mid-February.