New York: Adirondack State of Mind

Text: John M. Flores • Photography: John M. Flores

Moody morning fog shrouds the woods around Fort Ticonderoga, but by the time Cameron and I climb the short, steep hill up to Mount Defiance, the August sun has burned away the morning mist. We have a clear eastward view across narrow Lake Champlain to Vermont and the Green Mountains. Our travels this time are westward, though. We turn our backs on Vermont and ride into the Adirondack Mountains.

Nestled in the northeastern corner of the state of New York, the Adirondacks are a motorcycle playground within a day’s ride of millions of riders in the Northeast. It’s a big park—with 6 million acres it’s about the size of neighboring Vermont—and it’s filled with rugged mountains, lakes, and other places to explore.

Through the Woods

The BMW R 1250 RTs amble along still sleeping country roads on the eastern edge of the park before turning onto Blue Ridge Road and aiming for the heart of the Adirondacks. The road gets more tangled with each passing mile, dancing with Sand Pond Brook before header deeper into the trees. Suddenly, we turn north onto what feels like a road to nowhere. Decades ago, this road connected what was then the village of Tahawus and the old McIntyre Iron Furnace, a fortresslike tower of stone, to the rest of the world. Both are quiet now, and Tahawus is a ghost town with a smattering of shuttered buildings. In this quiet place, a little river burbles over rocks and through marshes; 315 miles away, this river is broad-shouldered and deep as it flows between New York City and New Jersey to fill great New York Harbor. This is the Hudson River, and we are near its headwaters. In the distance, some of the tallest peaks in New York State rise: Mount Skylight at 4,926 feet and Mount Marcy, the tallest point in the state, at 5,344 feet.

We continue westward and stop in the small vacation town of Long Lake for lunch. There’s a quietude here in the Adirondacks, a hush over the cars driving by and the people milling about, as if the sound waves get absorbed by the thick woods and inky blue lake.

There are stories and history in these quiet old mountains, in these old lakes and streams, and in these old villages. Adirondack Park, established in 1892, was the first of its kind in the nation and is a near 50-50 split between state-owned and private land. The Adirondack Experience museum in Blue Mountain Lake preserves the stories of the Adirondacks, from the Mohawk and Oneida tribes that shared the land to the gilded era of the great camps of the latter half of the 19th century, when wealthy families built lavish, rustic vacation compounds along area lakes.

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