Pristine cross-country skiing conditions in Adirondacks stoke the appetite


As I drove south on Route 28 through Eagle Bay, I followed the bobbing red tail lights of the snowmobiles that buzzed along the roadway, racing me to the next crossing where they would turn off the road and zoom into the woods. It was bitter cold in the Adirondacks at around 7 p.m. Saturday, so I was glad to be in my warm car instead of on the snowmobile trails.

My winter activity that day involved cross-country skiing around Cascade Lake and, as always, any kind of trip has to include a visit to a locally owned eatery or two.

I had not been in the Adirondacks at the height of snowmobile season before. It was interesting  to see so much activity at the Old Forge hotels, where brightly colored flags marked off areas for the sleds. The arch that marks the spot of the Enchanted Forest amusement park was now a beacon for snowmobiles in search of gas, as temporary tanks were in the parking lot providing fuel 24/7.

In Thendara there were snowmobiles churning along the sidewalks, and hordes of snowmobilers sprang in and out of view along Route 28 as I neared town.

The Hard Times Cafe in Eagle Bay.

The Hard Times Cafe in Eagle Bay.

I met Friend P, a former colleague at the Times Union newspaper in Albany, at the Hard Times Cafe in Eagle Bay right around lunch time. The restaurant was filled with snowmobile riders pulling out maps in between looks at the menus. Our waitress seemed a bit harried as she worked the dining room alone. We both ordered cheeseburgers and fries, and it took a while for them to land.  My burger was fine, though not particularly noteworthy. There were soups that I wish I had tried instead, and there are a range of sandwiches to choose from.

The Cascade Lake trail head was just a mile away on Big Moose Road. Friend P is editor of the Adirondack Explorer magazine, and he wanted to ski the 6-mile loop for a future article. He also writes about other cross-country ski options on his Outtakes blog.

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Skiing on Cascade Lake.

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Back-country skiing along the lake’s edge.

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Not too much farther to go back to the car!

The conditions were perfect for skiing: blue skies and 20 degrees. We met a couple of fellow skiers, who had nicely broken the trail for us, and two folks on snowshoes. Eventually we went off the trail and dropped onto the lake where the snow was untouched, just slight ripples from the wind and the solitary track of a bobcat.

The sun lit up what looked like small, sparkling sequins on the snow’s surface, providing us a nice show as we sliced and glided our way across the lake.  (You can see the exact track here through Google Maps. )

After a good three hours of skiing, our appetites had returned and we headed about five miles north on Route 28 to Inlet, where we found the Screamen Eagle and Matt’s Draft House. This is a potpourri of a place if there ever was one. You can get pizza, wings, and subs, along with huge chocolate chip and half-moon cookies. You can rent videos if you’d like, including VHS tapes, or you can choose from 50 beers or from an extensive wine list. Your choice.

I opted for a Saranac White IPA, courtesy of the Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, and a Batch 19, which I didn’t’ realize is made by Coors but enjoyed nonetheless. Friend P chose the Ubu Ale, of Lake Placid, which I also sampled and enjoyed.

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Snowmobile gear fills a dining area at Screamen Eagle.

The beer options are incredibly good at Matt’s. The restaurant also offers a wide range of specialty pizzas. We had an eight-cut California-style veggie pizza.  It was served on one of those cardboard circles, which was weird, but it was flavorful and fresh. The wings are supposed to be very good here, and the hot subs I spied looked good.

I do ski and don’t snowmobile. I’m hoping we get a couple more good snowfalls to keep us all happy in the different areas of the park that provide such great wintertime options.  It was great to see the bars and restaurants buzzing after last year’s bust of a winter; I know I’m ready for a few more ski excursions.

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