Skiing into the past

I received a most interesting Christmas card last week. It was a blast from the past! The simple note was from an old guest, a recently retired Doctor. It included a request to recreate a journey that we had taken more than 25 years ago.

In his note, Doc asked if the Adirondack backcountry we had once traversed is still as remote as it once was or have " Hordes of earth hounds discovered it's beauty and eaten it all up?"

The journey we had shared was a four day cross country ski trip from Long Lake to Lake Placid along the Northville-Placid Trail. For Doc and his two friends, the experience of laying down fresh tracks on trackless trails was extraordinary. Camping in the winter pushed it over the top for the crew, who hailed from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The three friends were all marathon runners, with limited ski experience but with a lot of time on the trail.

In March of 1981, I was finishing up my first full season as a nordic ski guide leading five day, lodge to lodge ski tours from Adirondac Loj to South Meadow Lodge and over the hill to the Barkeater Lodge in Keene before finishing with a long ski trip to the Whiteface Chalet in Wilmington.

I skied every day with guests and often spent my lone day off discovering new terrain. As a result of all the skiing, I was in great shape. Little did I realize that I was going to need every bit of it.

Snowfall was heavy during the winter of 1980-81 and it provided a deep snowpack. However, about a week prior to our scheduled departure date, heavy rains soaked the region and condensed the snowpack.

The rains brought heavy flooding and ice jams to most northern rivers and I expected the same results along the Cold River which parallels the Northville Placid Trail even though snow had fallen continuously since the rains.

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