A Paul Smith’s College student finds tranquility while hiking the Ladies’ Mile in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve.
By Autumn Rock
I’ve never hiked in the Adirondacks.” This is something no North Country native would want to admit, but it was true of me until this past August, when I was assigned to do a story on the Ladies’ Mile at the Ausable Club.
Because of my lack of experience, I wanted to start off with something easy—and I figured a trail called Ladies’ Mile couldn’t be too difficult.
“The name comes from the Ladies’ Mile of New York City,” explained Tony Goodwin, executive director of the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, which maintains trails in the vicinity of the Ausable Club.
Goodwin said the Ladies’ Mile was a shopping district on Fifth Avenue that used to be lined with women’s clothing boutiques. The name appeared on a 1900 map of New York City.
The name may seem old-fashioned, but Goodwin doubts it will be changed. The Ausable Club, which dates to the 1880s, is a stickler for tradition. Despite the name, the Ladies’ Mile was never used exclusively by women. The trail is used for fishing and as a way to get to other trails.
People who hike the Ausable Club trails (on land known as the Adirondack Mountain Reserve) must park at a public lot at the southern end of Ausable Club Road and then walk along the road about a half-mile to the Lake Road, which leads to Lower Ausable Lake. You are not allowed to park on Ausable Club Road or the Lake Road, even if the lot is full.
When I arrived at the lot, I encountered Bob Clark, the Ausable Club trailhead steward, and asked him how to find the start of the Ladies’ Mile. I received a detailed and enthusiastic answer, which led to a conversation about the solar eclipse (then just a few hours away), the weather, and the Styx T-shirt I was wearing. Bob said he had always wanted to see them in concert, and I reassured him that even with their new singer they were still phenomenal.
I then set off on phase one of the hike: an uphill trudge to the Lake Road. I was soon experiencing burning calves and a bit of self-doubt. At the top, I paused to catch my breath and vowed that I would get into better shape this semester at Paul Smith’s College (it won’t happen).
And then I saw the clubhouse and was blown away. Built as a hotel in 1876, it truly is one the fanciest buildings I’ve seen in my short life.
Turning off the Ausable Club Road, I followed the Lake Road between two tennis courts and in a tenth of a mile reached the trail register—the first one I ever signed. After going around the gate and following a few signs, I jumped on the Ladies’ Mile.
I took the worn path across wooden bridges, down a set of stone steps, and up a few small inclines. Mushrooms dotted the sides of the trail; chipmunks darted in front of me; songbirds belted from the treetops; and a breeze blew through the grasses. Ahead, the Ausable River called to me—a call I had to answer. I found a place on the riverbank to sit for ten minutes and take in the silence of the woods.
I’ve spent many hours in the woods near my home, but I have never had an experience quite like this. It was as if the surrounding stillness found a way inside of me. I felt at peace, meditative. It’s not easy being nineteen, but I realized that while I may not understand everything, I’m trying my best, and that’s OK. Most important, I realized that the uncertainty of the future, though scary, helps me grow.
When I stood to leave, I felt healed. Not physically, because my joints still ached, but mentally and spiritually. It was the best therapy session I’ve experienced, and it was free.
The Ladies’ Mile soon loops back to the Lake Road. The trail is only six-tenths of a mile, but Goodwin explained that the distance originally was measured from the clubhouse. Despite the short distance, I was starting to feel the heat, clad as I was all in black. I felt like a sweaty wildebeest and probably smelled like one too.
Toward the end of the Ladies’ Mile, I could see hikers on nearby trails that lead deeper into the woods and eventually up some of the High Peaks. Maybe someday I’ll follow those trails. For my first Adirondack hike, though, the Ladies’ Mile was just the ticket.
Autumn Rock was an intern at the Adirondack Explorer this past summer.
DIRECTIONS: From the bridge over Johns Brook (near the Mountaineer), drive south on NY 73 for 3.3 miles to the southern end of Ausable Road on the right. As soon as you make the turn, you will see the public parking area on the left.