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Ski the Lights At the James C. Frenette Sr. Recreational Trails

“Give light and people will find the way.”

-Ella “Fudi” Baker

Tupper Lake is shining a bit brighter these days.

Located at the Tupper Lake Golf Club, the James C. Frenette Sr. Recreational Trails have long served as a playground for winter outdoor enthusiasts both near and far. The trails are groomed, dog-friendly, and — best of all — free for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and fat bikers.

I recently learned that motion sensor lights had been added to some of the trails and was immediately intrigued. The idea of motion sensor lights sounded great, but I had my questions. Would they be bright enough to light my way? Would there be dark pockets in between each light? Would my natural motion of skiing be enough movement to trigger the lights? Would I suddenly find myself going downhill in the darkness?

There was only one way to have my questions confidently answered: I had to go experience this for myself.

A woman wearing a headlamp smiles at a friend at a skiing trailhead

A skeptic becomes a believer

For those who know me even marginally well, I am not often described as a “skeptic.” While I do not blindly believe everything I hear, living in hope and a belief in goodness is my baseline. But when it comes to matters surrounding the promise of “lights,” my inner skeptic takes over.

There have been three instances in my adult life in which I've been promised a glorious moment with lights: kayaking down a river to a bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico to see a brilliant, colorful display of glowing plankton, buying decorative fake ivy vines wrapped around string lights for gentle reading light in my bedroom, and every instance of viewing a meteor shower since birth (all of which are collectively grouped into one memory as every single experience ended in the same way).

Well, the “brilliant, colorful display of glowing plankton” ended with getting heat stroke, being bitten by fire ants, repeatedly being hit in the face by low-hanging jungle vegetation as I paddled in the darkness, and arriving to plankton that merely sputtered a pitiful dull gray for only a few seconds until going dark due to it being the “off-season.” The decorative string light vines emit less light than the plankton. And any mention of a meteor shower produces 100% cloud coverage over the night sky, guaranteed. 

So, needless to say that when I heard the lights at the James C. Frenette Recreational Trails would light my way, I was ready for yet another item to be added to my list of sputtering plankton, weakly lit vines, and cloudy skies. 

My dear readers, I am happy to report that the motion sensor lights not only lived up to the promise; they surpassed all my expectations.

Two people ski downhill past lights attached to trees

Lighting the way

I was told the Golf Course and Cranberry Pond trails had the lights installed, so that became our route on a chilly evening. We parked our car, turned on our headlamps, and skied towards the sign-in sheet on the trailhead. I wasn’t sure how far into the trails we would have to go before the light show began. But after only a few glides into the Golf Course trail, the first light went off in all its glory.

The lights are crisp and bright, installed perhaps eight feet off the ground and perfectly angled to light up the majority of the width of the wide, groomed trails. And, much to my delight, I didn’t have to make any grand movements to set the light off. Simply approaching on my skis was enough.

A man with a headlamp skis downhill past lights at night

But my favorite aspect of the lighting came from the spacing in between each one. Due to catching glimpses of too many horror movies as a kid and having an aggressive imagination, I am not a fan of being in the woods in the dark. That said, I was thrilled when I had barely reached the edge of my current light before the next one turned on. This pattern of constant light allowing me to see my path remained for the duration of our trip. There were no surprise downhills in the darkness, putting my biggest worry at ease. A couple downhills do exist, but they are visible as you approach and the lights continue to light up during the short, smooth, and gradual descents. I tested the lighting system by having my group turn off our headlights, and we were pleasantly surprised to see that we had enough visibility.

Yes, you still need a headlamp!

Although the lights proudly shine, you still need a headlamp to venture to and from the parking lot. You also want a headlamp to give yourself the opportunity to explore other trails in the network that do not currently have the installed lights.

Two people ski through lights in the woods at night.

Bundle up and visit the James C. Frenette Senior Recreational Trails!

Even when the weather outside is frightful, the trails are still delightful! As you think about where you want to eatdrinkshop, and play during your next visit to Tupper Lake, gliding through the lights of the James C. Frenette Senior Recreational Trails must be added to your list!