Every summer I look for a new bicycle touring adventure. This year I did a self-supported bicycle tour of the Adirondacks from 9 through 18 June 2014. This one started by looking for a different kind of tour to begin the summer. My previous tours were over reasonably level trails and roads: the Erie Canal and the Great Allegheny Passage. For this ride I opened the aperture so that I could get a different experience.
All of the research led me to Adventure Cycling Association since they have a large selection of maps. The maps in this travelogue are not the ACA maps and are not intended for navigation. The Adirondack Park Loop caught my attention. The route is 394 miles, starting in Niskayuna, NY, and travels through Lake Placid before returning to Niskayuna. There are two gaps in the actual track of my trip. I will get to that later.
The ACA map for this route is detailed and offers turn-by-turn directions in both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions through the loop. The grades seem to favor the clockwise direction a little, so that’s the direction that I chose. That choice was confirmed during the trip. The visit to Fort Ticonderoga near the end of the trip also worked best for me.
The next task was planning the daily legs of the tour. The ACA map was invaluable since I was able to calculate my planned progress in miles for each day. I could also determine the availability of hotels, camp sites, and restaurants along the way. From the elevation profiles I knew that I would be pedaling a very hilly route, so I de-rated my daily planned progress accordingly. On my previous tours, I was able to do up to about 65 miles in a day. In the Adirondacks, I was targeting a little over 40. The final plan was to start in the Lions Park parking lot in Niskayuna, end each day at Gloversville, Speculator, Long Lake, Lake Clear, Lake Placid, Port Henry, Hague, and Lake Luzerne, completing the tour in Niskayuna.
The plan was to camp most of the way and I made some telephone calls to verify camp site availability. I called camp grounds to make reservations if necessary and found that I didn’t need reservations. It was early in the season and the summer crowds were not present as yet.
The hotel stays were to be in Gloversville, Lake Clear, and Lake Placid since I was not able to identify camping areas nearby. It’s also nice to have a break from camping along the way. There are many things to do in Lake Placid and the most appealing to me is hiking, so I was thinking that an extra day in Lake Placid would be nice.
Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn in Lake Placid gets good reviews and is in the center of town near many of the attractions. I called them, but before I was willing to book a reservation for two nights I needed to have a plan for hiking. Hiking alone for me is not a good idea, so I thought I would hire a guide. I asked the reservation person at Devlin’s for advice and they recommended a place nearby, High Peaks Cyclery.
They sent me to the correct place. After an initial call, the owner, Brian Delaney, called back and he was very helpful. High Peaks Cyclery has many great services for hiking, cycling, climbing, and skiing as a year around business. They also carry a fine line of bicycles and have training to teach riders to use them more effectively. Brian committed to identify an appropriate guide for me after asking some basic questions about my age and fitness.
I booked my room at Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn. The hotel has a two week window for cancellations. That meant that I had a firm date to reach Lake Placid.
Now that I was satisfied with the itinerary, I needed to focus on my gear. Everything needed to be reviewed to be certain that it was appropriate for this specific tour. The Adirondacks are somewhat primitive and isolated compared with many other bicycle tour routes. I decided that I would need a stove, dried food, and a water purifier. In some places there were few options for meals. You need a stove to boil water to make coffee and to reconstitute the dried meals. There is lots of water in the Adirondacks, but at lower altitudes it should be purified to kill viruses and bacteria. I found that I was able to carry enough water. The daytime temperatures were in the 60s and 70s, making hydration less of a problem.
During training I was using Shimano clipless pedals, which I like a lot because they help keep my feet aligned at the perfect spot on the pedals. While I was getting accustomed to using them, I had two accidents. One of the accidents was similar to tipping a cow: I arrived at an intersection, came to a stop, and forgot to release from the pedals. Since there were going to be lots of hills and potentially lots of stops during a long climb, I opted for Shimano platform pedals.
The only other item that I changed from my normal compliment of gear was my sleeping bag. For my past summer tours, my 50 degree bag was fine. In the Adirondacks the temperature at night can dip below that. I purchased a sleeping bag that was good to 29 degrees and compressed well so that it took up little space more than my lighter one.
My gear weighed approximately 50 pounds, distributed through two rear panniers and two front panniers. The tent was strapped to the rear rack. I used a seat pack bag and a handlebar bag for small items. I reviewed everything to be certain that I wasn’t carrying too much.
The weight of my gear made the grades a significant factor and I will mention these as I describe the conditions and my progress throughout the tour. The elevation, grade, and distance information below are to be used only as a guide since they are approximate. The actual conditions included many ascents and descents with various grades. Stated grades may be an average of uphill and downhill grades over some segments. I used Garmin Base Camp to do the calculations based on recorded tour data from my Garmin Oregon 450.