When you hear the word “history,” what’s your reaction? Do you think, “ooooh, sign me up!” or are you tormented by high school nightmares? Either way, I have good news for you! Tupper Lake is now home to the Crossroads of the Adirondacks Trail, a 1.5-mile scenic multi-use trail (nothing with a motor, please!) that brings together nature, exercise, and history.
For those of you who said, “sign me up,” please pause as you leap to your feet in anticipation of going to Tupper Lake immediately. Do me a favor and read the blog before you head out on the trail, because I may sneak in some special tips for extra enjoyment. For those who would rather run in the opposite direction of the word "history," who would rather swim with the otters at The Wild Center (no, you can't do that, but yes, we all wish we could) than think about stuffy old history, don't worry. I think that ultimately you’ll be happy too, because this is fun history! This is history come to life, with stories of amazing people and places. It’s cool. It’s unique. It’s Tupper Lake, after all, so how could it not be great?
What is the Crossroads of the Adirondacks Trail?
The trail is a unique path that goes through scenic areas of town, linking downtown and uptown and it is lined with spiffy signs that tell you about how Tupper came to be and some of the neat stories about it's history that you may not have known. It's essentially a self-guided tour through local history and you'll learn a lot of neat things.
For example, did you know that, early on, Tupper had a big population of Lebanese immigrants and that many of their descendants still live in the area today? Well I didn't, and I learned it on the trail! There is more to the story, and the signs give brief but super informative accounts of how a variety of people came to Tupper to create a better life for themselves, what they did when they got there, and how the town evolved. Speaking of the town, did you know that downtown was once a separate village named Faust?
Where do I start?
Theoretically, you could start at either end, or in the middle (you rebel!). You'll find one end of the trail at the Beth Joseph Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Adirondacks and one of the few outside of NYC that is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's a beautiful building. The other end of the trail is at the old railroad depot downtown (quick tip: downtown is where you'll find the bakery at Larkin's Junction Depot and uptown is where you'll find the Washboard Donut Shop. Go to both.).
My tip: start at the downtown end, because that puts you next to the excellent museum at the former railroad depot. It's free to visit and the exhibits about local life are fantastic. There are even fun free souvenirs from one of Tupper Lake's largest former employers, the legendary Oval Wood Dish Company. I won't tell you what it is; you'll have to go find out for yourself!
What is the trail like?
In a word: awesome! The majority of the trail itself is made of hard-packed gravel, offering a great bike ride or leisurely walk. It's fairly flat, as well, putting the emphasis on scenery, being accessible to a wide variety of visitors, and history. You'll walk or ride past lilac bushes and abundant trees and smaller plants, and the trail is broad, with plenty of room for families, walkers, and cyclists.
On my visit I spotted goldenrod, wild morning glory, and milkweed, a much prettier plant than the name suggests, which is loved by butterflies. I also heard a bird that was, to me, unfamiliar. It turned out to be a red-eyed vireo, and I was genuinely excited to have had that experience, so much so that I immediately texted my best birder friend to share my delight.
One of the things I liked best is that the trail manages to put you into a green space without having to leave town. The reality is that Route 3, restaurants, and shops are not far away at all, but you feel like you're seeing a whole new side of Tupper Lake. Combining that with the Crossroads signs makes for a unique opportunity to experience the town.
Eventually, the trail brings you to Route 3 (conveniently near McDonald's, in case you need a bathroom break or a cold drink), where you cross by the municipal ball field. Another informative sign, this one about the famous lumber industry in the area, shows you that you're headed in the right direction.
From there, you'll follow the trail along the sparkling waters of Raquette Pond. You might see ducks and geese, or a fishing boat or two. Although it was hot on the day I went, the breeze coming off the water was invigorating and, if I wanted a break to enjoy the views, there are Adirondack chairs and benches. Along this part of the trail, enjoy signs that The Wild Center worked to put up, which share fascinating information about nature in the Adirondacks. This section is paved, allowing for a more accessible Adirondack experience for all.
Near the end of the trail, let the kids run off onto the equipment at Little Loggers' Playground, or pause for a moment at the covered deck, a lovely shady spot to reflect on what Tupper is and the people who contributed to its life all along the way. From lumberjacks to peddlers, railroad builders and operators (there were once more than 20 sets of tracks in town, all being used 24 hours a day!) to schoolteachers and religious leaders, the people of Tupper Lake have long been a vibrant part of the Adirondacks and they and the town remain that way.
You truly don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy the Crossroads of the Adirondacks Trail. It has a lot to offer everyone, from families with small children to folks looking for a bike ride in town to those who just want a nice stroll on a beautiful day. Whether you walk or ride, do the whole trail or just part of it, we are sure you will enjoy it.