Boats, bicycling and beer rarely combine to make a cycling tour (well, at least the boat part is unusual). That’s why the Lake George-to-Ticonderoga route is a special treat.
My friend, Nola Royce, and I did the trip in mid-July with a group sort of sponsored by the Inside Edge bike shop in Glens Falls. We started cycling in Lake George village about 7 a.m. and rode 40 miles to Baldwin Landing in the town of Ticonderoga, arriving about three hours later.
It’s imperative that you reach the dock before 11:30 a.m. That’s when the Mohican shows up on its round trip from Lake George village. You’ll cruise back to the village in style, soaking up the gorgeous views of the lake, its islands and the forested mountains rising steeply from the shore. Once the bar opens in the afternoon, you can even soak up an ice-cold beer. The ship also sells snacks.
The Lake George Steamboat Co. makes the five-hour trip to Ticonderoga and back every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in July and August. This summer, it also will make the trip on Sunday, Aug. 12.
When Nola and I set off, heading north on Route 9N, Lake George had yet to awaken on this weekend morning. The T-shirt and taffy shops were closed, the parking spots and beach empty. No one was lining up for soft ice cream, and the Minne-Ha-Ha wasn’t playing its calliope music.
But we weren’t alone. Other Lycra-dressed cyclists were putting on helmets and clicking into pedals. They included families as well as several couples on tandem bikes.
John Jacobs, who runs Inside Edge, conceived this tour with his wife, Susan, back in 1980, when they were still dating. “He wanted to bike,” Susan told us. “I wanted to boat ride.” They compromised, and an informal tradition was born.
Tom Jacobs, John’s 78-year-old father, joined last year’s tour. A Nordic skier in the 1952 Winter Olympics, Tom tried to turn the ride into a commercial event years ago, but it poured on the day of the would-be tour, so it never happened.
This year, the group ride will be Aug. 12. You can do the trip on a different day, but if you do, be sure to let Lake George Steamboat know about your plans. The ship stops at the Ticonderoga dock only if it needs to pick someone up.
As we cycled up 9N, we could see clouds hovering over the lake and enveloping Buck Mountain on the opposite shore. A canoe was the only boat on the water.
It’s fortunate that an early start is required for this adventure. You would not want to attempt it later in the day—automobile traffic is fierce on the southern end of Lake George in summer, especially on weekends. And 9N has a shoulder that ranges from narrow to nonexistent.
After 45 minutes, we passed through Bolton Landing, which was already bustling with traffic and pedestrians. After stopping to refill our water bottles, we escaped the village and found ourselves on roads deliciously quiet and rural. To our right, the
Tongue Mountain Range rose above us. And then the hill began.
It’s about a four-mile climb to the height of land north of Tongue Mountain. In a car, it takes five minutes. On a bike, it takes considerably more time and effort. The climb is not brutally steep, but it is continuous. Reaching the zenith, I wiped away my sweat and started coasting down the other side.
This is the most dangerous part of the ride, as a rider who fails to feather his or her brakes can reach speeds of 50 mph. At the bottom of the hill is a large pull-off overlooking the lake. You’ll want to stop here to enjoy the vista and make sure your friends survived the descent.
I especially enjoyed the ride north from the pull-off. We saw woods, fields, charming towns and occasional glimpses of the lake. We rode on, past Sabbath Day Point and Silver Bay, to the Hague Market, where most of the cyclists stopped for a short rest. From there we rode north again, past the fields outside Ticonderoga where the French and Indians mixed it up with Rogers’ Rangers on March 13, 1758.
At the Wind-Chill Factory across the road, we bought cones of homemade soft ice cream, a delicious treat. From here, cyclists turn right on Alexandria Drive and ride east to Baldwin Road. Then you make another right and follow that road south for a mile or two down to Howes Landing. Make a left on Steamboat Landing Road, which leads to a small dock.
We arrived with enough time to jump in the lake and rinse off before the boat arrived. When the Mohican showed up, we were dry from our swim and ready for cold beverages. The gangplank dropped, and we wheeled our bikes on board.
The one-way fare is $16.50. The beer, of course, is extra.