Bunny-hopping Along the Adirondack's Jackrabbit Trail - Page 3

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Happily, the Lake Shore Trail isn't too long—just long enough to remind you of the skills you thought you had. My confidence comes back when we return to loosely packed dirt singletrack. Jeff tells me we're on a stretch of the Peninsula Trail, which then leads us to the Ridge Trail. This is more my speed: tight, tree-lined singletrack with good ups and downs and just enough rocks, roots, and drops to keep things interesting. We cut along the lake, gear down for a steady climb, and pour out onto the streets that access the otherwise-hidden, high-priced vacation retreats. The ominous peak of Whiteface Mountain looming on the horizon to our right offers a stern reminder: No matter how high you've climbed, you can always go higher.

We weave in and out of condo parking lots, ogling at the panoramic views of the surrounding mountain range and the impossibly expensive vacation homes, before returning to the shelter of the woods, zipping through another section, cutting right, then left, gliding downhill, pushing back up.

Our late start, however, has come back to haunt us. It's nearly three o'clock and Jeff has to be at work at four. Like Rodolfo and many others in Placid, Jeff works in the service industry, learning the ropes of the restaurant trade with the hope that he can cash in his experience when he becomes a chef. He's spent the last five summers waiting tables in Placid, splitting his time between here and Seattle. This fall he'll be a freshman at a small, prestigious two-year cooking school; until then, any off time is devoted to bleeding as much outdoor activity as he can out of the Adirondacks: golfing, trail running, road cycling, mountain biking…

"Would you come back to Placid after you graduate?" I ask.

"Maybe, yeah." Jeff replies. "But then, as a chef, I can go almost anywhere." And, as if to put action behind his words, we're off again, looping back onto the Jackrabbit for our final stretch, immediately starting in on a serious climb.

It seems the rock garden that passed for a trail alongside Lake Placid had done some serious damage to my rear derailleur and as Jeff huffs his way up the incline, I struggle to get the bike into granny gear. I make it halfway before begrudgingly dismounting and push my way to the top of the hill where Jeff sits, breathing far too easily on a foot-wide stretch of concrete. On one side, a puddle of water about eight feet in circumference; on the other, a treacherous drop into a ravine. The path continues on the other side of the concrete.

"It's gorgeous here in the winter," Jeff says.

I nod, too worn to offer verbal agreement. The thought of traversing that ascent on a pair of skinny skis is downright mind-boggling...but then this is the place where you regularly run into Olympic medallists and Iron men and women at the local pub.

Turns out—much to my relief—we'd climbed up this hill just to bomb back down. Low gears no longer a problem, we saddle up and let gravity take us back the way we came.

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