Unexpected moments…the summit of Whiteface!

Trip Start Jul 13, 2013
Trip End Aug 12, 2013

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KOA 1000 Islands at Association Island

Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, July 29, 2013

We woke to sunshine and 57 degrees…beautiful, clear, blue skies and we were well rested. John said he heard a hard rain during the night but I did not and there was not a sign of rain to be seen this morning.

Pulling out of camp at 9:00, I was under the impression that we were heading for Lake Placid and then on to Saranac Lake. As it turned out, John had been studying our literature and found that there is a road (Veterans' Memorial Highway) that goes from Wilmington to the summit of Whiteface Mountain, and it was HIS plan to try to travel its length! According to a brochure, the highway was built in the 1920’s, when the automobile was relatively new. Whiteface Mountain is New York’s fifth-highest peak and the project was endorsed in 1929. Then Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt turned the first spade of earth that September. Construction began in 1931 and created scores of jobs for engineers, construction workers, and stone masons during the early years of the Great Depression. Four years and $1,250,000 later, the highway officially opened on July 20, 1935. It took another three years to complete the elevator, Castle and Summit House. Just below the actual summit, the Castle was built from granite excavated during highway construction. One route to the summit is a 426 foot long tunnel into the center of Whiteface Mountain and then you ascend 27 stories by elevator to the stone Summit House. You can also hike the Nature Trail…but since it was steep and over large rocks, we took the elevator!) The summit offers a 360-degree view. On a clear day you can have views of Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east, the St. Lawrence Valley and Canada to the north, Lake Placid and the High Peaks to the south, and the Saranac River Valley to the west. In a word, it is spectacular and was my "unexpected moment" for today! Thanks Pat M. for making me aware of such experiences!

Our drive from the toll house to the Castle on the highway was at 8% grade for five miles, raising over 2,300 feet in elevation…it was STEEP! At the very top the elevation was over 4,900 feet. I LOVE precipitous cliffs! As many of you know, John has a few issues with, not so much high elevations, but with the steep drops off the side of the road with no trees or guard rails to ease his vertigo. The gentleman at the entrance was questioned closely as to what the climb would be like. We were assured that there were huge rocks and/or trees along the side of the road so off we went! What a beautiful drive! There were panoramic views around almost every turn. I took pictures but they don’t come close to doing the scenery justice…I needed Marion H. and her expertise along to do that!

The road was VERY uneven with what we assume are frost heaves of a major nature. We only drove about 10 MPH up the mountain but that was OK as that enabled us to look at the views a little more closely. The first part of the day we were virtually the only ones on the road which was very nice as we never felt pushed at all. As we drove higher on the side of Whiteface, the vegetation changed dramatically. We went from VERY tall trees, huge boulders covered with inches of mosses to an Alpine environment the closer to the summit we came.

As I said, we rode the elevator to the top and the views were world class when we got out onto the platform. Not only is the area there greatly used by tourists, it is also the home of weather stations and much electronic equipment used by the Department of Homeland Security.

Leaving the mountain a little after 11:00 we passed MANY more vehicles heading to the top. We were thankful that we had been able to enjoy the setting in a more private condition. As I said—an unexpected moment!

As we drove through Lake Placid on our way west, we found that the number of people there had not declined appreciably since yesterday with the exception of the number of bicycle riders! As you can see from the pictures, cars were parked everywhere. We decided it was just too crowded for us to stop, find a place to park the RV, and try to look around the town. Maybe another trip for that! We did stop for gasoline on the outside of town and paid $3.82/gallon. We also made a short stop at a Price Chopper (do you remember those from your years in NY Kimbo?) and picked up a couple of necessary items before heading westward once again. By the way, we have probably been as far east as we will be on this trek of ours…now you will have to stay tuned to see what direction is next!

Kris and Chuck—we made a point of driving through your old hometown of Saranac Lake. What a NICE place! In my imagination I could see the two of you going about your days there, and know you must have enjoyed it very much.

Today was a longer driving day than we have had lately. We drove completely out of Adirondack State Park as we headed towards Lake Ontario. We drove through Watertown (thought of you Pat McG!) on our way to camp for the night which is located close to Henderson. The terrain through there was SO much flatter than we have been used to in the past several days but no less beautiful. We were back into beautiful farm land with wheat and corn fields and lovely barns.

We arrived at our home away from home, KOA 1000 Islands at Association Island at 6:00 with the outside temperature at a very comfortable 71 degrees. We can see Lake Ontario from our rig (we are about 200 feet away from its shore) and were treated to a lovely sunset about an hour ago! Tomorrow we are planning to take a boat tour of the thousand island area and may or may not be back to this campground. It all depends on where stopping time finds us I guess!

We drove 181 miles today…I think Mufasa thought he was being abused after so many days of leisure!
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Sue Painter on

What a lovely area. The trek up the mountain sounds fun but B.K. out there on the rock looks like he is leaning forward so he won't fall off, ha! I'm so glad you are having lovely weather for your trip. Can't wait to read of the next adventure.

oldcat on

On the way back thru the Finger Lake region try to see the town of Canandaigua which has the widest Main Street in the US and some very good places to eat. I recommend coming down from where you are and taking US 20 across the region thru Waterloo and Geneva. Also, right outside of Canandaigua on 20 as you are coming in is a great fruit and veggie stand if you want to stock up. Lots of great little wineries along the way.

Nancy Norris on

Wow! I just love traveling with you! Anxious to see where we will be tomorrow! Btw, you missed a delivery of pineapple cream cupcakes yesterday....just sayin' !

dwlp.travelkids on

Nancy...our wishes are strong and our will is weak so it is probably a good thing that we weren't home!

dwlp.travelkids on

Oldcat...we aren't sure which direction we will be going in when we head back south but will make notes and take your suggestions under advisement! Thanks!

Marian on

I don't know if Canandaigua Wine Company is still there but the had a great French Columbard white wine. Also, West Lake Road along Canandaigua Lake is a nice drive. There's a park about half way down the lake on the left side as you're heading south. It used to be the YWCA camp that I directed. I believe it was was sold to either the Nature Conservancy or the Parks and Rec department. There are fossils to find if you walk up the creek in the park, although the water may be too high with all the rain. Continuing south to Naples - nice town. You're too early for the famous grape pies, though. If you decide just to keep heading west, Victor is a quaint town. If you head to Rochester, stop at the George Eastman House. It usually has a good photo presentation and you'll learn all about the history of photography. While in upstate NY you MUST stop at a Wegman's Grocery store. The flagship store is in PIttsford/Brighton on route 31/Monroe Avenue. Their bread is awesome! They sent their bakers to France to learn how to bake. They also had a restaurant in the Pittsford store with a Michelin starred chef. Great meals to eat there or to go from the deli/market as well. Wegman's is the star of supermarkets (tour buses do go there) and all other chains strive to be like Wegman's. They're also listed as one of the top 10 places to work. Most people who move from upstate NY miss Wegman's the most of anything.

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