When I was a kid I was always outside. Summer time you could find me at the beach, and in the winter time I practically lived at Oak Mountain. I loved skiing and snowboarding, but a combination of getting older and having to work, as well as a few leg injuries have turned me into a bit of a homebody. I have been trying to change that over the last couple of years and spent almost every weekend this last summer completing some of the awesome hikes we have here in Hamilton County.
As a teenager I loved the thrill of downhill skiing, and when I broke my leg doing that I decided it wasn't dangerous enough and took up snowboarding. Now that I have kids of my own and have slowed down a bit, most of the time I would rather sit in the lodge with a hot cocoa watching my kids ski. Something I never tried as a kid, which really surprises me, is snowshoeing. My whole family have recently turned into avid snowshoers and I thought maybe it was time I give it a try.
After work I headed down to the Speculator ball field, located directly across from the public beach. On weekends you will find this parking lot packed with trucks and trailers. It is a favorite starting spot for many snowmobilers. But on a Monday at 5 p.m., there was plenty of parking. This is also where the community skating rink is that is kept up by the village. In the winter time they board up the pavilion and flood the floor. The Speculator Chamber of Commerce also runs a community lend program for ice skates, which can be found hanging on the wall just inside the pavilion.
I dropped my husband and kids off to skate around and play some hockey while I strapped on some snowshoes for the very first time. While it was an adjustment to get used to having something so large on my feet (they almost felt like scuba flippers at first!), I quickly fell into a rhythm where I wasn't tripping over my own feet. I practiced by the ballfield for a little while before heading down the Cross-country Ski Trail that is also maintained by the village. You can chose between 3 loops ranging from 1-5 miles. You can complete the loop in either direction, starting from the Sacandaga Pathway Nature Trail to the left, or you can do like I did and go right.
This path takes you right behind the Route 66 buildings and into the woods. The trails are well maintained and relatively flat. After a short walk the trail opened up to a view that is only accessible in winter time. You have a beautiful panoramic of the river as you walk just a few feet away from the snowmobile trail. The lack of foliage really gives you an unobstructed view of the river and surrounding mountains.
After a little while you will come upon a sight that you will recognize if you have ever walked the Sacandaga River Pathway. A little way into the pathway there is a small observation deck that overlooks the river, except from this direction you will end up directly in front of it! In the summer time, you would be in a swampy muddy mess, but on the compacted snow it is easy to walk right around it.
At this point, the sun was starting to go down pretty quickly. Luckily, I was prepared and brought a head lamp. I clicked it on and kept going. After following along the river for a little while, the trail veers to the left and back into the woods. Eventually I decided to turn around and head back the way I came from. While I would have enjoyed doing at least the 1-mile loop, I wanted to stay in a more open area with the onset of darkness.
On my way back out, two snowmobiles passed me on the trail next to the river, heading back to the same parking lot to pack up for the night. The headlamp gave me just the right about of visibility to make it back to the Route 66 Buildings in time to see the tail end of the sunset over Lake Pleasant.
By the time I made it back to my car, I was kicking myself for not getting myself out on snowshoes sooner. They were a lot of fun, it was great to get out and get some fresh air in the winter, and it was really low impact on my troublesome leg. I will definitely be heading out way more often!
If you are interested in snowshoeing but aren't sure if you want to make the commitment to buy your own pair, check out ADK Outdoor Supply in Speculator, or Pedals and Petals in Inlet. Both places offer snowshoe rentals at really affordable rates and are located near great snowshoe opportunities, such as the Speculator Cross-country Ski Trail, the Foxey Brown Trail in Piseco, and Fern Park in Inlet!
It is a great activity for a weekend getaway, so don't forget to make your lodging and dining reservations too!