The Lake Champlain Region is vast, extending approximately 75 miles north to south and 30 miles east to west. Obviously first time visitors, or even repeat visitors, never see it all. I don’t think I have. It’s easy to get caught up in the scenic beauty or focus on one unique feature and pass right by many other opportunities without knowing. Therefore, though not exactly “secrets,” here are a handful of tips regarding some lesser-known facts, elements, or experiences that should be pointed out. Perhaps one will expand your visit, making it a more rewarding experience.
Yes, many of our communities hold weekly outdoor concerts throughout the summer. Soundwaves performances in Westport on Thursday evenings are a perfect example and offer some top-notch performances throughout the summer. If you happen to be a fan of stringed instruments or chamber music don’t overlook the Meadowmount concerts Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 from early July to mid August. This internationally famous school of music’s performances will astonish you. Only the top young musicians (violinists, cellists, pianists) from all over the world are permitted to attend this summer “school” to cultivate and polish their exceptional talent. Meadowmount is located in a pastoral setting against a forested backdrop. It definitely is off the beaten path, but not hard to find. Take Exit 32 off I-87 (the Northway) and head west toward Lewis. Watch for the truck stop, turn left there onto Redmond Road, and continue about 1 mile to the stop sign. Turn left at the stop sign then bear right. The drive to Concert Hall will be the first driveway on your right.
The concerts feature not only the students and faculty, but distinguished guest performers. Alumni from Meadowmount have won every major string competition worldwide and include Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jamie Laredo, Joshua Bell, and Yo-Yo Ma, among others, who have gone on to establish international careers. The school’s founder, Ivan Gillamian, felt this idyllic setting inspired musical creativity, while permitting attendees to focus on developing exceptional talent. If this genre of music appeals to you, attending a Meadowmount concert will be like discovering a hidden gem. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students or senior citizens.
Easy Hike to a Panoramic Vista
Talk about maximum reward for minimal effort, the Coot Hill Trail/Big Hollow hike will amaze you and is not to be missed. Champlain Area Trails (CATS) recently added this treasure to their collection of 48 other diverse hikes within the Lake Champlain Region. For many years it was posted, private property. From the summit you will overlook the historically significant peninsula of Crown Point and see miles to the east, north and south. Pick one of those crystal clear days with great distance visibility and you can make out the peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains in the distance. Most of the year, you can drive within about ¼ to ½ mile of the summit. The remaining hike is not difficult at all and certainly well worth it. From Essex County Route 7, connecting the Towns of Moriah and Crown Point, take Lang Road to the east. Approximately 1 ½ miles on Lang Road you will arrive at a cemetery. Bear left there and it’s only about ¼ mile to the summit on a well-worn trail. This is a great destination for a family picnic, bird watching or just taking in the phenomenal 3-state view.
A Sweet Paddle
If you are into canoeing or kayaking and have yet to paddle the LaChute River don’t put it off any longer. This forceful river from northern Lake George to Bicentennial Park in Ticonderoga, turns into a serene, peaceful and secluded paddle (for most of the year) after it descends the final Bicentennial Falls. A handy car-top boat launch, sporting a new convenient dock, makes launching a breeze. The LaChute empties into Lake Champlain just a couple of miles from the launch. Traveling with the gentle current toward the lake you will forget downtown Ticonderoga is so close by. Opportunities abound for bird and wildlife viewing from your boat. It’s apparent they don’t mind the close proximity of civilization at all. At the mouth of the LaChute a large marsh is popular with waterfowl and bass fisherman. The narrow channels of lake water weaving among the tall marsh reeds will make you believe you’ve entered a natural wetland maze.
At this point you are very close to the grounds of Fort Ticonderoga and may catch a glimpse of the Fort itself or hear some of the soldiers’ activities. Head out into the lake for expanded viewing. No boat of your own? Canoes and kayaks are available for rent from Brookwood RV Resort, just south of Ticonderoga on Route 9N. Fort Ticonderoga also offers full and half-day canoe rentals. Each canoe can accommodate up to 4 people. The Fort will supply all paddling and safety essentials and a map and brochure that will point out historical and natural features of this portion of the lake and the mouth of the LaChute.
Essential: Allow More than One Day for Visiting the Fort
No secret here. Visiting Fort Ticonderoga is a must-do on any Lake Champlain Region vacation. But, what many don’t realize before a first visit is that it is almost completely impossible to see and experience all the Fort has to offer in one day; even if your family is used to traveling at warp speed. Believe me you will want to go back, again and again. The Fort is open daily from early-May into October from 9:30 until 5:50. Please don’t simply plan on an afternoon outing or you will be disappointed with your plans. Large families, those on extended stays, or within day-trip traveling time to the area, may want to consider becoming Members of Fort Ticonderoga. There are various levels and options for memberships. Fundamentally memberships provide: one year of free admission to the Fort, free or discounted admission to some selected events, programs and trips, a subscription to The Haversack newsletter to stay current with Fort happenings and activities throughout the year, a 10% discount at the Museum Store, and free admission to the Heroic Corn Maze and Fort Fever Series. Examine the membership options before paying simple admission. You, your family, and wallet will be pleased that you did.
Must Try - Local Flavor
No visit here will be complete without at least a taste of a local summer tradition: a michigan hot dog. If you are not familiar with this hot dog, please read my earlier blog Tasty Treat Along the Adirondack Coast. Numerous restaurants, road side stands, and eateries will offer them as a menu selection. Those that have had one before will be looking for bargain buys, those that have yet to try them may be looking for a taste-testing bargain as well. Once again, off-the-beaten-path in what is known as Moriah Center, Boyea’s Grocery and Deli at the juncture of Dugway, Center, Plank, Ensign Pond and Witherbee Roads (quite the hub) offers an inexpensive opportunity for either your first try or your attempt to get your fill. On Mondays, michigans are only 99 cents! Personally I find these to be some of the best - with onions and mustard added of course. Boyea’s Lakeside, in Port Henry near the New York State boat launch, occasionally offers the 99 cent-ers too, so you might check that out when passing by. The entire family can feast for just a few dollars.
Penchant for Pedaling?
Head for the Blueberry Hill Trails in Elizabethtown if mountain biking is your thing. This collection of trails contains about 30 individual routes consisting of ¼ to 1 ½ miles loops and connectors. Most are considered easy to moderate, but with this many choices in one location you can have fun finding your favorite and ride it again and again. You may be interested to learn that the Blueberry Hill Trails have been used as a “Leadville Pre-qualifer.” This will register with avid mountain bikers I’m sure, but for the rest of us I can offer that one of the world’s best known marathon mountain bike races is held annually in Leadville, Colorado. It began in 1994 and is a 50-mile out and back course. Entry into the race is gained by lottery and pre-qualifying.
There you have it, a few “secrets” that may make your visit to the Adirondack Coast even more rewarding.