Following in the footsteps of Olympians and Slavery Reformists

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We were lucky enough to get invited to stay with some family friends at their house in the wonderful Lake Placid area in Upstate New York. Set in the high Adirondack mountains this area is renowned for its winter sports activities and has hosted the Winter Olympic Games. Our trip was in the fall so there was no snow but we got to enjoy the splendid fall colours and some very nice weather!

If you visit the area (outside of ski season) here are some ideas of what to do:

  • Visit the Lake Placid Winter Olympic site
  • Check out the John Brown farm historic site
  • Take a gondola ride to the top of Whiteface Mountain
  • Get a boat out onto Lake Placid

Lake Placid Winter Olympic Site

Our first expedition in Lake Placid was to visit the Olympic Center with its numerous skating rinks. Unless you were planning to skate or watch the athletes training there was not much to see, but there was a cool simulator ride where you could experience the thrills of being a down hill skier or a member of the bob sled run.

From the Olympic Center we trekked out of town to the bob sled circuits; which looked terrifying, especially the thought of the luge and skeleton events (which are like coming down lying on a tea tray). Our final stop was the ski jump towers – it is difficult to fathom why anybody would want to do this event and how do you learn to do it (they apparently jump in to pools of water!!). It still looks hairy to say the least and when you see the height of the towers it looks all the more daunting. We decided not to take the trip up to the top primarily because of the cost so instead we got out for a walk in a near by area which is used for cross country skiing.

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Trying out the luge (or is it a tea tray?)

John Brown Farm Historic State Site

The John Brown Farm

The children went of with Suzanne whilst Mark went to explore a near by monument. This turned out to be the burial of site of John Brown (as in the song line “John Brown’s body lies a-molderin in his grave”). He was one of the original American slavery abolitionists who chose a route of direct action, part of which was a raid on an arsenal at Harpers Ferry in Virginia. He planned to use the captured weapons to give to the slaves to start an uprising. During this raid two of his sons were killed and he was captured, tried for treason and executed. His body was then carried to his farm in upstate New York where we were now standing. We have planned out much of this journey to take in places we want to visit but it is wonderful to come across surprises like this monument.

Oktoberfest Festival at Whiteface Mountain

We had wanted to take the ski lift to the top of White Face mountain (albeit outside of ski season) so we could enjoy the spectacular views. For those who don’t know Whiteface it is the Adirondak Mountains’ principal ski area in upstate New York (and where the Olympic downhill skiing event was run). During the off season they continue to provide gondola rides up to the summit. The view from the top was amazing and it was such a clear day we could tens of miles across the tree lined valleys in their  full autumnal glory.

Fortunately for us our visit to Whiteface coincided with the annual Oktoberfest festival. On the way up in the Gondola we had been behind the Bergermeister and some of the Oktoberfest musicians who, once they got to the summit, were inspired to break out playing their oompah music.

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View from the top of Whiteface

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The Oompah Band in full flow

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When we got back down to terra firma we spent some time wandering around the Oktoberfest, which was very home spun but the kids enjoyed trying to pet alpacas and the rock wall, and as always there was hog roast on hand to satisfy the hunger. Towards the end we met up with one of the entertainers on stilts, dressed as a pirate sitting on large ostrich (which was not real – some of you reading might have heard of British children’s entertainer called Berny Clifton … this person was similarly attired). It turned out this man was British and had been an educator in Leicestershire in the UK, which got Karen excited because she had worked in the education system in that county (albeit in prisons). A small world, but fortunately they didn’t have any acquaintances in common…. otherwise we’d never have heard the end.

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Boating Lake Placid

We finished the day by going around the islands of Lake Placid on a boat trip. The sun was going down so it was a little chilly but nonetheless a beautiful way to finish off the day. The house of the friends we were staying with was on Lake Placid and they had their own boats (some people are so lucky) but there are boat rentals and boat tours that go out onto the lake. It is well worth the effort as the back drop of the mountains make it a splendid place to potter around for an hour or two.

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