50.1 mi / 10.8 mph / 2484 ft. climbing
Home: Crown Point Campground
Today would complete our crossing of the Adirondack Mountains, and return us nearly to sea-level. But even when going “downhill”, we still managed to do more climbing than any day since we left Chicago, and more than our days where we actually climbed up into the Adirondacks!
Morning revealed that the incessant stake-hammering from our neighbors was part of the construction of some absurd teepee thing. They were preparing for an early-morning hike, and, while I understand that people need to be up and about, they could at least put in an effort to minimize their volume, right? Wrong, they could not.
So they beat us out, but it wasn’t long before we were making the long return to the highway (NY 28N) from the campground, and not much further we turned off onto Blue Ridge Road, which was just as advertised by the tourers we’d met yesterday. Shoulderless but low-traffic, a generally good surface, and, most-importantly, no invisible barriers. It gave us a massive 700-foot downhill, part of a 1000-foot total elevation drop that brought us to the north-south valley that I-87 runs through. There we found a tourist restaurant/store where we could get cold drinks to go with our packed sandwiches in the sudden heat of the lower elevations.
We still had another 1000 feet to descend, but one more range to get over before then that took us through Moriah. And the ups-and-downs of that section were when the black flies really began feasting on Rett. We’d had some hints of them in the last couple days, but nothing to this extent. They could easily sustain 10 mph (more if “drafting”), so any time we were climbing a hill, we couldn’t outrun them. They seemed much more attracted to Rett than to me, which doubly-sucked, because she has less ability to bat them off of her as she’s riding than I do. So there were times when they would settle in and give a painful bite, resulting in Rett screeching to a halt to fend them off. But then she was left in a difficult place to start again, with the flies continuing to circle. Even once going again, their circling, hovering threats were continuously draining.
Finally we bombed down the last really steep hill into Port Henry, and left the black flies behind for good. In March of 1997, my college roommate Dan (who we had coincidentally just visited) and I drove from Champaign, Illinois to Acadia National Park, with a stop to visit my brother who was living in Burlington, Vermont at the time. It was a sort of “anti-Spring Break” trip, and I know that we took a route through the Adirondacks, where I recall climbing atop 6-foot walls of snow when we pulled over for a toilet break in the dark night. And then, in a “risks only two young males would take”, we descended to Lake Champlain on a black mountain road turned white by my Ford Thunderbird’s headlights blowing out the snowstorm that had begun enveloping us. Unfortunately that white-knuckle moment was pre-Google, so I don’t have a precise record of the route we took, but I think there is a really good chance that top-10 scary-moment of my life was on the same hill Rett and I descended 25 years later.
And the conditions couldn’t have been more different, with the beating sun becoming more oppressive with each moment. In Port Henry we stopped at another Stewart’s Shops for groceries, and more-importantly, ice cream.
Even though the last section of the ride looked flat on the map, there was still a lot of hilliness we had to conquer heading south from Port Henry on a road squeezed between the mountains on our right and Lake Champlain on our left (at least we got a push-button for a “cyclists on the roadway” flashing light, for whatever that was worth). Then, rounding a lobe of Lake Champlain, we turned east and back north, and the broad valley abruptly brought us to a Vermont feeling before we’d even quite reached Vermont.
At Crown Point State Historic Site, we took whatever campsite they recommended without thinking about it too much, and only once we wheeled over to it did we realize that the shadeless spot (but with a lake/bridge view!) would stay uncomfortably hot for a few more hours. So we set up our chairs in a spot well off our site in the shade of some trees and it wasn’t too bad.
There was far too much at this historic Revolutionary-era fort for tired cyclists to see, and the one thing we did, climbing to the top of a lighthouse/monument, was probably the most ill-advised. But there were nice views from the top!
After that, I walked by myself over to scout out the bridge to Vermont that we’d be riding over tomorrow, and was surprised myself by climbing all the way to the closer-than-expected top. There, amid the steady cooling breeze that didn’t exist in the campground below, I met George and Ken, another pair of long-ago college roommates going on a New York adventure, these guys doing a week or two of bike touring north to Canada. We had a nice chat atop the bridge, and then returned to the campground as it was getting dark.