Ins & Outs: Fishing the Adirondacks
As a child growing up in upstate New York in the 1950s and '60s, I vacationed often in the Adirondacks. In those days, though, I didn't know the legendary nature of the Ausable River, and I surely didn't know it was a place where the fishing could, at times, be almost magical. Our family would visit the Ausable Chasm, a gorge cut out of rock during the Ice Age near the mouth of the river, a place where you could hike the edge of the canyon and ride a raft through some mild white water. We'd travel the length of the stream on the road (Route 86) to Lake Placid, and we'd stop to visit the high falls of the Ausable (700-foot drop) once in a while, or stop and gawk at Whiteface Mountain on the way.
Those places are all still there, and they are little unchanged in 40 years. Indeed that's what I like most about the Adirondacks. Some believe the law that turned the mountain territory into a 6-million-acre state park discouraged development. That may be true, but, perhaps for that reason, it's a place where you can get a flat tire changed for 5 dollars and a great steak for 20 bucks.
And, of course, there is great fishing in the Adirondacksbut it's not just a place for guys to flog the waters and brag and swill beer. In fact, there's no reason not to take your family, as there is plenty to do, just in the Lake Placid area: Hike up scores of mountains, camp out in any of several state or commercial campgrounds, stay overnight in a fine motel or B&B or at old-fashioned Adirondack motels like the Wilderness Inn II (518-946-2391) across from the Adirondack Sport Shop on Route 86, where each room is a separate cabin. Taking kiddies? Visit Santa's Workshop at North Pole, N.Y. (really), just outside Wilmington; rent canoes, kayaks, or paddleboats on Lake Placid or Mirror Lake (oddly, the lake next to Lake Placid upon which Lake Placid village resides); take a bobsled or luge ride at the Verizon Sports Complex; travel by tram and elevator to the top of the Olympics 90-meter ski jumps and (you can't ski down) revel in the view; hike through High Falls Gorge on the Ausable, 8 miles east of Lake Placid or, better, hike through Ausable Chasm (U.S. Route 9, Exit 34) and ride a rubber raft down the river; take a small plane ride over the Adirondacks at Lake Placid airport or drive your car or ride up on the gondola to the top of Whiteface Mountain.
In the village of Lake Placid, once you're exhausted by outdoor sports, you can partake of some of the indoor variety. One thing you may enjoy is getting lunch and a drink at the Cottage, a cozy bar that sits on the shore of Mirror Lake just across the street from the sprawling and very tony Mirror Lake Inn. Lake Placid's main street is a long row of shopseverything from a minimall of outlet stores to a couple of neat antique stores and a huge emporium of Adirondack arts and crafts. But my favorite shop is "With Pipe and Book," a store packed with old and new books about the Adirondacks and everything else, and a walk-in humidor for cigars and tobacco. On your way home, drive through Keene Valley and grab a meal at the Noon Mark Diner, where everything is homemade, and you can get the best pie (you can even buy a whole pie or have one sent to you by mail order) in the world.