41.4 mi / 10.2 mph / 2021 ft. climbing
Home: Eighth Lake Campground
Temperature at our wakeup was 48 deg F, I guess that’s the way of noting that we’re up in the mountains! It was another quiet and peaceful night; we’re getting spoiled here, this was the second night in a row where we were “camping”, but had the whole place to ourselves.
Ash and Benjamin met us with delicious fresh-made smoothies to give us an extra boost as we rolled out, and Benjamin told us to give us a call from anywhere in the Adirondacks and he would drive on out if we ran into any sort of trouble that he could help with. I have a general preference for staying in state campgrounds over private places, but no one in a state park is going to give us the member-of-the-family treatment we got at Camp Benjamin!
Benjamin recommended an alternate (Round Lake Road) that would be quieter and safer than the climbing twists of the main road (Woodgate) just east of their place, and we were initially excited by the narrow, empty, tree-lined strip of asphalt. But then a mile or so in, it turned to gravel, dirt, and (worst of all) sand. Steep hills and rough stretches meant that we needed to walk significant parts of it, well over a mile in all, which significantly slowed our day’s progress. I was tempted to curse Benjamin for putting us down this “road”, but then I remembered, RideWithGPS had also put us on it (and not mentioned that it was unpaved), so it’s really myself who I would have had to blame at the base of it (ok, and RideWithGPS too). On the plus side, it was a nice hike-and-bike through the forest for three+ miles, without seeing a single other human the whole way.
Eventually we hit the main highway (NY 28) that feeds into Adirondack Park. That’s when all the traffic (including a lot of RVs) appeared, but we had a nice wide and smooth shoulder to keep us away from it. Until, once again, riches turned to rags, and the shoulder became much less protective. My theory/hope that most traffic enters park from the southeast (in the direction of the New York City megalopolis) proved to be unfounded (and had already been debunked by Benjamin). But before we got ran off the road, the shoulder returned to its comfortable six-foot width for most of the rest of the way into Old Forge.
We stocked up on groceries at the only full-service store serving all these Adirondack camps for dozens of miles, and they had a nice shaded picnic table out front where we made our lunches. But much more exciting was seeing a pair of women riding the other direction pull in! Éli and Estelle are from Quebec, and roughly riding Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route from east to west. That meant they were covering roads we had just done, and vice-versa, so we were able to exchange intelligence, including a recommendation for them to stay at Camp Benjamin, since they were looking for a place near Booneville anyway.
During the 20 minutes we spent with them, I noticed that their unilateral decision-making skills seemed far superior to ours. Estelle went into the grocery store and came out with their items without any consultation with Éli, and Éli downloaded the HipCamp app and straight-up booked the stay at Camp Benjamin before Estelle even returned from her shopping trip. Mind-blowing! For Rett and I, nearly all of our decisions are much more consensus-based, which I think is how we both like it, but the ruthless efficiency of these girls has its attraction!
After some internal debate, I decided to take the “risk” of putting us on the narrower, shoulderless south road along the lakes east of Old Forge, rather than continuing on very-busy and unpredictability-shouldered NY 28. Early on we had to do a rare pull-over to let an Amazon semi truck pass us (the curves and narrow road meant a huge line had built behind him), but once that cleared out, the road was beautifully quiet, and less-hilly than NY 28, so a total winner (and my guess was the Amazon driver had made a wrong turn, and then needed to drive for miles before he could turn his semi around somewhere, since it’s definitely not a truck route).
Eighth Lake is an Adirondack State Park campground, a pleasantly old-school non-electric campground with huge, widely-spaced sites, though the surface was compacted flat and smooth as a pancake after decades of use. There were also mosquitoes flying about, an annoyance we started noticing over the last couple days that we’ve been unfamiliar dealing with for now, our Ridge Merino sun-hoodies have found yet another role, with their lightweight hoods doing a good job of shielding our necks and faces. After a good pasta dinner, we took a short walk over to the boat launch at Eighth Lake, and I could feel the ghosts of generations of families who have been coming to these cool forested mountains for endless summer vacations.