Nordic Skiing

in the Western Adirondacks


A day of nordic skiing in Wanakena       

The Adirondacks is unarguably one of the finest destinations for Nordic Skiing in the Northeast. Now, to break it down even further, look into the western Adirondacks and you will be ever so pleased with what you find. A warm winter’s day brought us out on the trails in the Wanakena Region, with the anticipation of blue skies, warm rays on our cheeks, and snow sticking to the scales of our skis. Living in the area we had the benefit of relaxing into the morning and grabbing a nice breakfast at the Stone Manner in Cranberry Lake before we set out for the day. My choice of a nice omelet stuffed to bursting with fresh veggies and bacon warmed me from the inside, and the hot coffee kept the wheels turning.

Oswegatchie River on the way to breakfastWe first decided to get a warm up to the day by checking out the Big Pine in winter, a short in-and-out ski back to a giant. This hidden trail, not designated or marked by the DEC, leads back to one huge white pine that emerges well above all the surrounding forest and takes all of four people to give it a hug.

Big Pine Trail

Its hard to capture the size of the Big Pine in photograph

We hit the previously broken out trail early enough that the snow was still in a very dry/powdery state, so the kick and glide would have been quite excellent except that a faint indentation from previous snowshoers left the trail in less than perfect skiing condition. The snowshoe tracks had long frozen into their original form not allowing for optimal grip if you were not paying attention, but we were pretty meticulous and planned our strides to mimic the high ground to adequate grip. We passed through the old growth forest where other towering pines still stood watch trailside and the skeletons of giants past laid to rest at their heels. Before we knew it we stood high above the spur trail that led to the Big Pine. Should we ski the 100 foot spur? It’s very steep... we did. I was not expecting the icy conditions under the tree, so I ended up running straight past the tree and about another 50 feet into the forest before I came to a complete stop side-saddle to a balsam.

Hanging out on the Big Pine Trail

Just past the Big Pine, back up on the hill we continued along the trail which doesn’t really go much further in a maintained state, but it does access a small hidden bog. While bogs are a really cool land feature to be in, the winter kind of loses the uniqueness they offer, so we didn’t hang around as long as we did in the summer.

Janacks Landing

Cruising the trail back to Janacks Landing

Returning quickly to the car with a decent amount of downhill in front of us we made outstanding time and even helped fill in the snowshoe divots along the way. Now driving back along South Shore Road we pulled off at the Janacks Landing/Cat Mountain Trailhead, for our longer ski of the day. Janacks Landing would be the place, and the lean-to is where we would have at that heavy thermos full of hot chocolate.

Cranberry Lake at Janacks Landing

The easy part of this trail is its approach. The route follows an old railroad bed which is flat and wide. The kick and glide now was a bit sticky; even though the sun wasn’t out the temperatures were warming up. We had to stop on a couple of occasions to put on some glide wax, or blue wax as we call it. We quickly came to Dead Creek Flow on Cranberry Lake which was the final spot where anyone had been since the new snow had fallen. We didn’t foresee any issues with this since the trail remains mostly flat and only a couple rollers would be challenging us. The rollers would tend to be more of an issue than expected though. We stuck on the downhill, requiring us to work even at that. The uphill collected snow on the scales, where added effort was needed to disengage the snow. But finally we came to the Janacks Landing spur trail and wasted no time getting to our hot cocoa destination at the lean-to. The lean-to rests above the lake on a small hill with a steep descent to the shore, we opted to walk it. The hot cocoa disappeared quickly and soon so would we. We scrapped off the snow build-up, snapped on our skis and pushed on out. We couldn’t get out fast enough, literally, it was so slow. The sticky snow made every kick an effort, and with little to no glide, it was more like walking with really big sticks on our feet.

Back at the car I made an executive decision, we were eating out at the Pine Cone! Period! 

Back to Base Camp

After a great outing, we headed back toward Tupper Lake. The day was still young and there are always cool happenings in town - we needed to check out the events schedule - you should, too! Why not plan to grab a comfy bed, some awesome food, and hit our trails - we'll see you out there!