A walk to McKenzie Pond

McKenzie Pond (Photo provided — Diane Chase)

It’s the end of the summer, and I feel like I’m a bear getting ready to hibernate. I’m packing on the pounds as if I’ll actually sleep for the winter. No such luck. Yoga pants may have a bit of stretch, but there is only so much those pants are willing to give.

I have a few favorite walks that allow me the freedom to get back into running shape while not having to endure the judging eyes of those passing by. (I don’t really think people look at me while I run or walk, it’s just my go-to statement when I’d rather read a book and have a second croissant.)

Being in hiking shape and running shape are very different ends of my wellness spectrum. I can climb a mountain and take breaks without feeling like my lungs are going to explode, but I’m not much for road running, so the 2-mile path to McKenzie Pond is a perfect kick-off point. There are a few small dips, but it’s mostly a level wooded trail.

There are a few red signs along the way indicating that this path is a section of the Jackrabbit Trail. The Jackrabbit ski trail was originally developed in 1986 by the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, the 25-mile system connects the communities of Paul Smiths, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Keene.

Named for Norwegian-born cross-country ski pioneer Herman “Jackrabbit” Johannsen, the trail network is currently maintained by Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), a volunteer-based trail building organization that builds and maintains thousands of ski touring and mountain bike trails throughout the region.

Apparently, I trail run like I hike. I’m distracted by everything. There are blueberries still on the bush and a cute puppy. Stop for a breath. A hobblebush is starting to fruit. Stop for breath. A trail register is located 0.5-mile from the McKenzie Road parking area. We sign in and continue along the way. Trail markers vary from the yellow cross-country ski symbol to the red Jackrabbit sign. It is a multi-use trail, but we don’t encounter anyone the rest of the time. The biggest “dip” is at the 1-mile mark. The recent rain creates some slick spots before reaching the bridge crossing a stream. Mud builds character, and I seem to be building a lot of character.

The trail forks at about 1.8 miles. The Jackrabbit trail continues to the right, ending at Whiteface Club Lane in Lake Placid. Bear to the left to reach McKenzie Pond in about 0.25-mile. We — mainly me — catch our breath and listen to a loon calling in the distance. We explore the man-made dam and cross the rickety bridge before heading back the way we came. I decided not to run back but to take my time enjoying all the views I missed on the way to the pond, or so I tell myself.

The Jackrabbit trailhead and parking area are located on the east side of McKenzie Pond Road (Route 33) in Saranac Lake. From Saranac Lake, at the intersection of Brandy Brook Avenue and Pine Street (by the railroad tracks), turn onto McKenzie Pond Road and drive 1.5 miles south. From Lake Placid, take Route 86 to Ray Brook. Turn onto McKenzie Pond Road, and drive 1.5-miles north.

Diane Chase is the author of the “Adirondack Family Activities” guidebook series, “Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities.” For more family-friendly activities go to www.adirondackfamilytime.com.

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