Bunny-hopping Along the Adirondack's Jackrabbit Trail - Page 2

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The approach to Lake Placid: The obstacles of Lake Shore Trail make these rocks look like marbles  (Leanne Mitchell)

Our late night affords a late start; we meet at the parking lot of the Placid Bay Inn, a quaint little retreat right on Lake Placid (contrary to its name, Lake Placid the town encircles Mirror Lake; Lake Placid the body of water lies about a ten-minute's walk south of the town's Main Street). Jeff cycles up, his mop of blond hair folded underneath his helmet, and I start to heft my bike onto the car rack—a Pavlovian instinct bred from years of driving to the trails—but Jeff waves me off.

"It's just around the corner," he tells me. I shrug, saddle up, and follow. We travel for the length of a city block, then hook a right into the parking lot of a Howard Johnson, where Jeff drops down a gear and barrels right up a stretch of narrow singletrack marked as the Jackrabbit Trail. Less than a five-minute's walk from where I slept, and I'm at the mouth of one of the region's most extensive trails. I dive into the woods.

Turns out, the Howard Johnson parking lot entrance to the Jackrabbit is actually about the trail's midway point. Originally conceived in 1986 as a 24-mile cross-country skiing and snowshoeing route linking Keene, Lake Placid, and Saranac Lake, the Jackrabbit Trail is now one of North America's most popular cross-country routes, with over 35 miles of terrain to explore. During those few months when snow doesn't line its route, however, the Jackrabbit is a genuine godsend for hikers and mountain bikers: a massive network of well-marked singletrack with a variety of skill levels (from dicey boulder-strewn stretches to easy, soft-packed dirt) weaving through the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. Not all of Jackrabbit is open to mountain biking, but the parts that are (including the stretch starting at the Ho Jo parking lot) serve as a conduit to a literal maze of singletrack throughout the Placid region.

Our initial climb leads to a downhill rush over small rocks and roots, the grade gradual enough to let off the brakes, fast enough to hear the wind whistle by. I follow Jeff as he takes one left, then another. Within moments we're on the coast of Lake Placid, which is as serene as the name implies. A wooden bridge crosses a small dam to our left. To our right, the trail continues along the Lake Shore Trail. Jeff pauses, asking if I'm ready before leaping in. I follow into what quickly becomes a seriously technical route: a meaty series of volleyball-sized rocks and root networks that pass for a trail circumnavigating the shore.

"I try and see if I can get through without touching the ground," he says as I untangle myself from a dicey boulder-ridden section. He tells me he's only made it through the trail twice without having to clip out of his pedals. And, after ten minutes and about as many touch-downs, I realize Rodolfo had been right: This guy is going to pedal me into the ground.

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