North America

Burnt-Out Ends of Autumnal Days

The day we saw Lake Placid it was dreary so that I wanted to have a go at the miserable veil of grey above our heads, release the vivid blue that teased us once awhile as we started on our drive from Saratoga Springs. The dying embers of brilliant reds, flaming oranges, pinks, lime yellows they might have been but how they shone even under leaden skies. Fall foliage in the boreal landscape of the Adirondacks had peaked and we watched it slowly disintegrate before the eyes.

Skeletal bodies of trees showed up in neat rows conjuring up the image of someone who had taken time to strip them bare methodically in a linear manner. The stray red leaf which clung to a bald tree as if to challenge the bluster of the wind, the leaves flying above the road gathered up in fistfuls by the wind to coil up, then unravel suddenly upon the windscreen, rows and rows of spiky spruce, pines, beeches on either side of the roads. At places where we stopped by creeks to gather leaves and photographs, also to feel the cool sting of the air, sprigs of hemlock showed up like starbursts in white.

Bobcats, beaver bats, muskrat, flying squirrels and black bears are said to roam the forests of the great park that is the Adirondacks. But all promises of wildlife were foregone because that is what happens when you owl it into the wee hours of the morning (with alcohol). It crosses out any prospects of hiking. Yet you do not want to miss out on the promise of hills, hamlets, log cabins and brooks… At a fuel station, I bought French Vanilla cappuccino, took a sip, and proceeded to empty it into the bin outside. Wastage. Utter shit. Unhappy Adi.

But look, I pointed out to him before he could gather steam, a golden head peeping out from the back of a big (I should probably stop saying big with reference to anything in America) pick-up truck. A golden retriever with pretty curly locks and hair softer than mine looked at us with her head cocked up in the completely winning way that only dogs can. She had a joyful time licking us while her old human friend, a farmer, came around the car to hold forth on with her ill-concealed pride. That she chases chipmunks around her house up in the wilds of the Adirondacks because you see she is possessive about the human and the homestead. That she also refuses to let him step out alone to the farm. She has got to be overseeing things from the back of the truck, you see.

That is how we reached Lake Placid which was placid but dismally grey — like Nessie would emerge from those depths if she could be persuaded to abandon her watery home in the Scottish Highlands for the Adirondacks. The village was chock full of people. Touristy. But our plan is to return for a hike there beneath blue skies. We ended up at the hamlet of Keene nearby where many hikes start, where beautiful lodges with wraparound porches sit next to gentle brooks and where rustic log cabins double up as tastefully done-up boutiques. Be prepared to find moose heads (very Abercrombie & Fitch) and stuffed black bears staring back at you solemnly — the eyes of the latter will follow you around.

There are photos below taken in motion, some blurred, some not perfect but in the mood of the moment in the land named for the Algonquin tribes who resided in the area. Their neighbours, the Mohawks, derogatorily called them Adirondacks which translates into ‘barkeaters’. Now I do not care much for eating barks though I do care for that sumptuous sap they yield and I do care for the cafe in Keene that serves the fluffiest chocolate muffins I have ever seen – they are as big as the fist of a wrestler – and beautiful life-giving loaves of bread and also the most delicious chocolate cookie chips that I have ever chomped on. Crisp buttery edges and a soft crumbly middle, chocolate oozing out in rich gooey pockets. And then Adi who had a cheshire cat grin as he proclaimed, ‘Glutsy’s on a roll,’ and later with a few bites and a hangdog look, declared it reason enough.

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