LAKE PLACID - A new trail system, inspired by and named after one of Lake Placid's greatest benefactors, beckons to skiers, trail runners, mountain bikers and all lovers of the outdoors.
Henry's Woods, a 212-acre parcel of land off of Bear Cub Lane named after Henry Uihlein, offers a 2.5-mile loop through the woods behind the Uihlein Mercy Center. The trail, which took two summers to finish, was the result of brainstorming and planning by the Uihlein Foundation.
The local philanthropic organization gives money to charities each year, like the North Elba Christmas Fund and local athletes. The foundation's trustees thought about subdividing the land and selling it off, but settled instead on a plan that would give an outdoor recreation opportunity to the public.
Tony Goodwin, who designed the trail, seems to be enjoying his work.
(Photo for the Enterprise — Heather Sackett)
"We looked at a number of scenarios and decided to turn it into a community preserve and develop a network of trails," said Uihlein Foundation trustee Jim McKenna. "It's a legacy to Henry. He enjoyed the trails out there."
According to his obituary in the New York Times, Henry Uihlein II, a New York City native, came to Lake Placid in the 19-teens to cure from tuberculosis. He was the grandson of the president of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, of Milwaukee, Wis., and eventually served as director of the company himself. In 1941, Henry and his wife Mildred (after whom Mid's Park on Main Street is named) made Heaven Hill Farm their home.
Henry was a great supporter of speed skating and winter sports in general. He was a philanthropist, creating the Uihlein Mercy Center and giving funding to the Cornell College of Agriculture, among other charities. Henry died in 1997 at 101 years of age, but his Lake Placid legacy lives on in Henry's Woods.
IF YOU GO ...
The trailhead parking area for Henry's Woods is on the righthand side of Bear Cub Lane, about 1/8 of a mile from Old Military Road.
The main loop is easy to follow and the green trail markers that say "Henry's Woods" dot the trees along the path.
Hunting and motorized vehicles are not allowed.
Mountain bikes are allowed at appropriate times of year, but only if the ground is not too wet. Dogs are allowed, but owners are asked to pick up after them. Baggie dispensers are located on the trail.
The trail system was designed and engineered by another lover of the Adirondack woods: Tony Goodwin, of Keene. Goodwin is the director of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council and the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, and also edits the Adirondack Mountain Club's trail guide to the High Peaks.
"We had the general goal of duplicating the same kind of experience people were getting on the John Brown Farm and Peninsula systems: user friendly and not subject to erosion," Goodwin said.
The trails are made of crushed stone and are relatively wide, which means only a few inches of snow are needed to ski or snowshoe. Goodwin first began scouting the area and mapping out the trails two-and-a-half years ago.
The main loop starts with a gradual climb no matter which direction you go, clockwise or counter clockwise. The trail crosses several brooks with wooden bridges. The loop tops out after a little more than a mile. Any view there might be from this vantage point is mostly blocked by trees, but the tops of snow-covered Whiteface and McKenzie mountains are slightly visible through the branches. The second half of the loop is slightly downhill, with the most challenging part being a single "S" turn on both descents. Goodwin rates the loop as beginner to intermediate skiing.
Eventually, Goodwin said, more trails branching off from the main loop are planned for Henry's Woods. Because of the trail's close proximity to the Olympic Training Center and the village, Henry's Woods will be a popular spot for outdoor recreation. Goodwin hopes Olympic athletes, as well as high school cross country athletes, will use the trails for workouts.
"Training center athletes can go for a jog and it's a lot safer than Old Military Road," he said. "Nearly the entire trail has a firm gravel surface that will stand up for many years."
Although McKenna said the official opening of the trail system will not be until this spring, Lake Placid locals have already discovered the town's newest asset and are taking full advantage. Last Saturday, several skiers and their dogs were enjoying the sunshine and about four inches of new snow in Henry's Woods. Because the trail is made of crushed stone, it is skiable long before most of the Jackrabbit Trail. There are no rocks or roots poking through to trip up skiers. It's also not as wind-blown as local golf courses because it's sheltered by the trees.
"We feel it will be a great environmental education opportunity when things are completed," McKenna said. "It's great for skiing."