in Tupper Lake
Submitted by guest blogger Ken Aaron
I’ve been a parent long enough to have figured a few things about traveling with kids. (If you want to learn how to wreck a trip real quick, ask me about the time we tried to see Edinburgh while trying to convince our then-1 ½-year-old to just hold off on her nap ‘til after dinner.) But one of the hardest things to get used to, I think, is that your own idea of a perfect itinerary will likely need to be reworked pretty heavily to prevent mutiny among the younger members of your crew.
So that zero-dark-thirty wakeup to hit all four High Peaks in the Seward Range? Almost certainly out, as is your ambitious plan to hit three museums in a day or see every attraction in the tour book.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t come to the Adirondacks and put together a game plan that makes everybody happy. You can get an outdoors fix, a hands-on experience, good food, and even sneak in a pint or two if you'd like. And you can do all that in Tupper Lake.
One recent weekend, my wife and I loaded our son and daughter, 8 and 12, into the car to play tourist for a day in Tupper. While we’ve been to some of these places over and over—our car can drive itself to The Wild Center—we also wanted to hit some destinations new to us. So we made Goodman Mountain (Route 30, 12 miles from intersection of routes 3 and 30) our first stop. This 1.7-mile (one way) hike is named for Andrew Goodman, who in 1964 was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan while in Mississippi to register black voters. Though Goodman lived in New York City, he spent several summers in the Adirondacks, and bushwhacked up this very hill.
We talked about Goodman’s story, and the Civil Rights movement, with our kids as we started up the trail. The first third of the route, an abandoned road, is still covered with aging pavement; the rest of the trail winds around the mountain through a pretty hardwood forest. While both our kids are experienced hikers, they’re prone to the occasional bout of over-dramatic exhaustion. But Goodman’s an easy enough hike that neither burst out with the dreaded “when will we get to the top?” It took us about 45 minutes to reach the summit, where we soaked up views of Tupper Lake and the Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest below.
Now, Dumb Dad Ken would say “We just completed a third of the Tupper Triad! Let’s knock out Mt. Arab and Coney Mountain!” But Grizzled Vet Ken knows better. So we took off our hiking boots and mulled our next move. The closest option, Bog River Falls, is about a mile from the trailhead. This photogenic spot where gentle falls spill into the southern end of Tupper Lake is a great place to cool off. The water was running a little too quickly for us to take to the natural water slides, but it was still fun to pick our way across the rocks and explore the pools and islands for a bit.
We piled back into the car and drove to downtown Tupper, where many storefronts have undergone a handsome renovation in recent years. You can buy some adult-time to shop for rustic-chic home goods at the Adirondack Store by plying your kids off with sugar. If you go to only one doughnut shop/laundromat/Native American crafts gallery this year, make it The Washboard Donut Shop. The kids had strawberry glazed doughnuts, we kept it simple with cinnamon, and then we took took the five-minute drive to The Wild Center.
For years, The Wild Center has been a go-to destination for us. Whether a rainy day, sunny day, or visitors-from-out-of-town day, this world class natural history museum is engaging no matter your age. It’s hardly a secret—more than a million people have come here since it opened in 2006. On a warm day, Wild Walk, a treetop walkway that features a bouncy spider’s web 30 feet over the forest floor and a hollowed-out “tree” you can walk through, is the place to go. The otters, which cavort inside their glassed-in habitat, are also a perennial favorite. My favorite feature, though, is the iForest audio installation. As you walk around this quarter-mile loop in the woods, a choral piece by English composer Pete Wyer plays on two dozen speakers hidden in the trees. It’s immersive and mesmerizing.
You can eat at The Wild Center’s cafeteria or find plenty of other family-friendly restaurants in Tupper, but we usually stop at Raquette River Brewing for lunch or dinner when in town. With a pair of food trucks parked in front and a big selection of locally brewed craft beer on tap inside, turn the kids loose at the free foosball table as they chow on a wood-fired pizza and enjoy a cold one while sitting in an Adirondack chair next to the outdoor fire pit.
To end the day, we were going to ignore bedtime and head to the Adirondack Sky Center to peer through their telescopes at the night skies above. Typically open every Friday night between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the observatory features a roll-off roof and a collection of telescopes. Tupper is one of the best areas in the Northeast to go star-gazing; the lack of urban development in the Adirondacks means night skies stay exceptionally dark. If you’re used to looking at the night skies in a more densely populated place of the world, you’ll be flabbergasted by how much more you’ll see here.
Lights or no lights, though, you can’t see anything if there are clouds between you and the heavens, and on this Friday, our plans were bollixed by the weather. With overcast skies in the forecast, the observatory didn’t open. So, make sure you check their Facebook page or call ahead before going out.
That’s OK, though. Our day was more than full. We called it a night and headed back home. The skies will be there some other week. It’ll give us an excuse to grab another beer and doughnut. And finish the Triad, if we’re lucky.
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