One of the most common phobias is fear of heights, or acrophobia. Research speculates that 3-5% of our population is affected by this fear. So much so that their anxiety limits many of their activities and they bypass opportunities for some spectacular experiences. The Lake Champlain Region offers phenomenal scenic vistas; some of which are best achieved in elevated areas. If you are a member of this 3-5% let me share three ideas where you may be comfortable enough to get high on the Adirondack Coast. The payoff will be worth it.
Walk the Lake Champlain Bridge
There are many reasons why a visit to this region is not complete without a walk across this new, 2011, bridge. For starters this location has been a key strategic Lake Champlain crossing for hundreds of years, used by Native Americans, migratory animals, early explorers, and armies wanting to lay claim to the surrounding territory. You will be walking in the footsteps of history. Seeing this landscape from the high of the bridge vantage point helps brings the past to life. Today, the bridge connects two significant historic sites: Crown Point State Historic Site in NY, and Chimney Point State Historic Site in VT. Both are sites within the Lake Champlain Bridge Heritage Area and both will reveal many stories of significant national history.
The walk is a very gradual climb. At the center you will be about +/-70’ over the water, depending upon lake level, but you won’t be aware of it. The massive steel arch at the top creates a sheltering feel and you will be too busy admiring the captivating views.
At the top, you will have the ability to be in two places at once as you straddle the state line. You will also have a significant vantage point to scout for Champ, the legendary Lake Champlain Monster. Where the sidewalk widens at bridge center, is known as the “official Champ viewing platform.” Look toward NY where the Village of Port Henry, and home of Champ, hugs the Adirondack Coast.
Along the horizon spot several well known and loved Adirondack peaks. Make a 180-degree turn and identify a few of the Green Mountains of Vermont.
The bridge is 2200-feet long and has wide, smooth sidewalks for sure footing. Along the outside is a high protective rail complete with a handrail should you need to steady yourself. A sturdy guard rail on the inside coupled with a bicycle lane divides you from automotive traffic. You should feel completely safe while you enjoy awesome scenic beauty that cannot be entirely appreciated from a simple drive over.
Climb an Authentic Lighthouse
Originally constructed as a navigational aid for Lake Champlain boating traffic in 1858, this humble little “New England style” lighthouse underwent an amazing transformation in the early 1900s. The lighthouse itself was seen as the perfect foundation upon which to erect a memorial to Samuel de Champlain on the 300th anniversary of his exploration of this vast lake. Today it is quite an elaborate structure standing 55’ high.
Viewed from ground level on the lake side are some amazing sculptural adornments including a bronze sculpture depicting Champlain and two scouts by Carl Heber. Beneath that is an August Rodin bust, entitled La France. The Rodin bust was a gift from France to the people of New York and Vermont because we were honoring one of their countrymen — a very nice thank you gift indeed.
The lighthouse actually sits within the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Crown Point Campground, right near the Lake Champlain Bridge and across the road from the Crown Point State Historic Site. During the summer months, when the campground is in operation (generally Memorial Day to Columbus Day) the NYS DEC permits visitors to climb to the top of the lighthouse. Enter through the big, heavy, bronze door and begin your climb.
The lighthouse limestone interior walls practically hug you on the way up, as you circle, and circle, and circle. I really can’t tell you how many stairs. I never get the same count twice. Once at the top, it’s a few ladder rungs to step out onto the parapet. Don’t get anxious. The solid stone walls around the parapet with their big ornamental spheres on top protect you from feeling anything but safe.
Make sure you bringthe camera. This is an ideal photo op of the Lake Champlain Bridge and views of the south toward Fort Ticonderoga.
Drive A Historic Peak
Finally, I suggest getting to the top of Mount Defiance. This is a pretty simple drive. The road to the top is gated, but when you purchase admission to Fort Ticonderoga, you receive a “magic token” that will raise the gate. Access to the road up the mountain can also be purchased with credit card inserted into the mechanism operating the bar of the gate.
The mountain is about 850’ high, but you won’t even realize that on the way up. The mostly paved road to the top is narrow and winding, but easily accomplished in all but the largest buses or motorhomes. The aerial view of Fort Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain, and the distant Green Mountains of Vermont looking east is absolutely awesome. To the west enjoy a view of several additional Adirondack peaks.
From the parking lot at the top of the road, it is a short uphill walk to a large protective pavilion. The pavilion has concrete surrounding sidewalls that stand above waist-height, and several picnic tables upon which to sit and take in the view.
It can feel like you are watching a live panoramic movie screen. Fort Ticonderoga offers interpretive tours on this mountain top daily at 4:00pm through their open season. The tour guide will point out significant features of the landscape and fill you with historical details, but even if you are not there for the tour, the scenic beauty alone will make the trip up Mt. Defiance worthwhile.
There you have it, three easy ideas and reasons to take it to the top!
This week in the ADK we conquer our fears: