I was surprised and a little bit dismayed this morning when I realized today is August 11th; fall has arrived in the Adirondacks and I hadn’t been swimming in Upper Cascade Lake yet this year. Those of you familiar with North Country weather will not be surprised to hear we’ve experienced a couple of 38-degree mornings and the leaves are already changing. This is not unusual and it is why I consider August 1 the beginning of Autumn in the Adirondacks. To be clear, August is a lovely month to spend time in the Adirondacks, especially if you love warm sunny days and clear chilly nights, wood fires and S’mores; things elemental to the Adirondack experience. But the chilly Adirondack nights also suck the warmth right out of Adirondack lakes, particularly those normally extra cold ones like Upper Cascade Lake on State Route 73, between Lake Placid and Keene, New York.
Upper Cascade Lake is known for its brisk, cold water. Even in the middle of a hot summer’s day, a plunge into Upper Cascade Lake is an invigorating if not an awakening experience. The Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes are long, narrow, deep lakes, formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. The steep cliffs rising on either side of the lakes keep them shaded most of the day. This combined with the nearly 70-foot depth of the lake and our chilly August nights meant my swim in Upper Cascade had to happen sooner versus later, and today turned into the perfect day for a plunge.
When the water temperature cooperates, a nice destination is a large rock located on the opposite shoreline from the parking area at the Upper Cascade Lake; an easy 700-foot swim. Despite my trepidation, the water was wonderful and inviting. My swim across the lake was rewarded by a rest on the rock, conveniently warmed by the late afternoon’s sun.
Pictured above, the rock ball rock is another essential element of the Adirondack Lifestyle. Rock ball is played with a tennis ball, a dog, (preferably a water breed such as a Labrador Retriever) and at least one human player. The goal of rock ball is to keep the ball away from the dog, of course. That said, there are rules by which the humans must abide. The throwing human stands in the water about 6 feet in front of the rock ball rock, tennis ball in hand. Other participating humans stand to either side of the thrower. The thrower must throw the tennis ball at the rock and the ball is up for grabs on the rebound. If a human retrieves the ball, he or she must throw it at the rock from wherever the ball is caught. As the ball is thrown from different angles and rebounds out to deeper water, it becomes more difficult for humans to maintain their footing or swim to get to it before the pooch. It is better to have two or three humans to cover more ground and gang up on the dog, because they can get pretty darn good and we humans don’t like to lose all the time. Both of our Lake Placid black labs, Puz and Zeek, could crush the Reed family in rock ball.
Cascade Lakes in the Adirondacks photographs courtesy of Joann Sandone Reed