Monday, July 31, 2006

Northern Adirondacks New York ride

Malone, Northern Adirondacks (New York state)

This ride starts about five miles from the Canadian border in Chateaugay New York, just across the border from Huntingdon Quebec at the Herdman border crossing. I parked at the school parking lot.

The ride starts at the intersection, and goes west to Malone on Route 11 for 13 miles. At Malone turn south on Route 30. Ride 32 miles to Paul Smiths, turn around and come back. Pretty easy directions!

The village of Chateauguay shows little signs of economic life, the economic life seems to have mainly ended about 70 years ago when the iron ore mine at Lyon Mountain closed (It was cheaper to strip mine the ore in northern Minnesota, this resulted in Bob Dylan emerging from the woods a few years later).

The quality of the roads is excellent. Wide paved shoulders, with a lot of new smooth asphalt.

The first scenic item of interest is the Chateauguay River, which route 11 crosses at a height of about 100 feet. Upstrean is a waterfall and park (pay). This river will cross the US-Canada border at Powerscourt Quebec (where there is a covered bridge) and continue to Chateauguay Quebec near Montreal (where it enters the Saint Laurence river, for a total length of 137 km). The river starts at Chateauguay Lakes (upper and Lower) upriver from the town of Chateaugay New York. Yes, the towns are spelled differently in the USA and Canada.

This road (route 11) parallels the US-Canada border all the way to Malone. Malone is called "the Star of the North" and has many architectural remnants of a more prosperous era. Current economic growth in the region is from the growth in the prison industry and the "war on drugs" causing massive incarceration of new Yorks City’s urban black male population. Then these people are shipped north for warehousing to create jobs upstate. Not exactly the most moral way to create jobs is it? Especially when prison guard unions lobby for tougher incarceration laws.

Malone has an tourist information centre in the Chamber of Commerce building along main street, beside the Civil War cannon in the park. There is an open-24-hour brochure and map section (inside the door on the building’s east side). The brochure on Malone architectural heritage is interesting and offers a self-guided tour with maps. Other sights in town are the Salmon River (yes, once there were salmon here!) and main street is scenic.

On the west side of Malone is the turn for Route 30 south. This road will take you all the way to Paul Smiths, a small college town nestled in the forests. (you can also take Route 25 to reach Route 30)

Riding south on Route 30 the road elevation slowly climbs, Malone is at 600 feet and Paul Smiths is arounf 1500 feet. So the ride south from here is a bit of a grind, the reward comes with the return trip. Happily the road is good quality: a few miles south of Malone the shoulder is rough, but this is the only bad section on the entire trip, after that it is great, and there's plenty of perfect pavement to warm a roadies heart. Some sections had new asphalt.

The main attraction is now... scenery. Mountains and rivers and lakes and streams and trees occupy your visual senses. There are almost zero services along this section of road, so stock up at Malone, which has everything you'll need (supermarket at start of Route 30 in Malone). There is a restaurant and ice cream stand in Duane, and not much else anywhere, including at Paul Smiths.

NOTE: In Duane there is an option to do a loop ride back to Chateauguay: Take the turnoff for route 99 (east) (look for a tiny sign (“old route 99”) a few yards further than the main sign at an intersection), take route 99 to Loon Lake along what can only be described as a paved mountain bike trail(!), then go northeast along route 86. After a few miles you will reach the turnoff (north) for Standish & Lyon Mountain, this will climb gently for a few miles, there is a water spring on the roadside uphill after Standish. From Lyon Mountain, you will descend with gravity-assist back to Chateauguay. This is a nice loop, and can also be done from Paul Smiths, where the 86 intersects Route 30. However, route 99 is a special deep-woods treat. This would be about a 130 km ride.

Once you arrive in Paul Smiths you will notice that there is no village, just a very nice college campus. You can refill your water here and use the bathrooms, and there is some sort of Adirondack Visitors Centre either at the campus or at the nature centre a mile north (I’m not quite sure where). The Paul Smiths campus also has a lake you can relax beside. And there’s quite a beautiful new library. But, make note that I didn’t see any convenience sotres or anything but the college itself.

Anyway, Now you will turn around and ride back. This time, with the road trending downwards! Yahoo!

Now is a good time to mention to bring your rain gear, even on hot summer days. I mention this not just because my guidebook said so, but because I got hit with a major rainstorm on the ride back. And with a major rainstorm comes the risk of hypothermia, even, and especially, in the summer. Any ride in the Adirondacks should include a rain jacket, thin under-helmet tuque, liner gloves, and maybe some lightweight quick-dry pants. The less desireable alternative, which is what I did, is to ride as hard and as fast as I could, meaning many stretches of sustained 35-40 km/h! Woohoo! I always seem to ride hard in summer rain.

The section of the ride back to Malone flew by, and the last leg back to Chateaugay went well, if riding slow and coasting is defined thus. Normally you have will have a tailwind from the prevailing west wind on this section so you can take it easy and still get home before dark! I was apparently doing a bit too much coasting, a young girl spotted this and shouted at me to "Ride that bike!" Ok, Ok, jeez. Soon I was back at the car and the ride was over, I changed out of my wet clothes and headed back across the border to home.

Ride summary:

Distance: approx 140-150 km ride (70-75 km each way)

Weather: sunny/cloudy/rainy/sunny 80 degrees F before rain, 72 afterwards.

Services: mainly in Malone.

Optional routes:

1) Loop ride variation turning off Route 30 at Duane to Rt 99/Rt 86/Standish/Lyon mtn.

2) Skipping the section between Chateauguay to Malone is feasible, just park at Malone.

3) At Malone ride Route 25 south to route 30 and heading back (north) at this point

4) At Paul Smiths, take 86 back north to road to Standish/Lyon Mtn/Chateauguay


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