A Bitter Cold Day!
On the morning of my recent March cross-country ski trip, the temperature was 24 below zero! I gave the day a few hours to warm up, and skied at noon with a more respectable 16 degrees – more than 40 degrees warmer! It was a beautiful blue-sky day when I arrived at the Eighth Lake Carry Trail access in the Town of Inlet on Route 28, located 2.3 miles south of the 4-way intersection with the road into Raquette Lake and Sagamore Rd.
In the warmer months, the Eighth Lake Carry Trail is a hiking trail, and also allows canoers and kayakers a route to carry their boats from Eighth Lake to Brown's Tract Inlet. In winter, it is a groomed snowmobile trail and cross-country ski route.
Eighth Lake Carry Trail
The snow conditions were absolutely perfect, as they have been for most of the winter. I skied to the north (right) from the access point along Route 28. The trail is lovely with gentle hills in mixed forest and boreal habitat.
After about half a mile, a metal gate is reached and skiers and snowmobilers need to go left on the cross-over trail to reach the old dirt road trail along Brown's Tract Inlet. (Outside of winter the metal gate is open. It leads to a lovely raised boardwalk through a wetland to a location where canoes and kayak can be put in Brown's Tract Inlet. This is a wonderful birding location. Field trips are scheduled each year on this trail during the Adirondack Birding Festival held on the second weekend in June.)
The Cross-Over Trail
The short cross-over trail has a few hills. There is one short, steep downhill just before the cross-over trail ends on the trail along Brown's Tract Inlet. From the top of that hill, I took in the gorgeous view of Brown's Tract Inlet with Blue Mountain looming large in the distance. I then side-stepped down the hill!
Trail along Brown's Tract Inlet
At the end of the cross-over trail, head right (East-Northeast) toward Raquette Lake. (I'll discuss the option of heading left later!) There is a bridge over Brown's Tract Inlet. The inlet drains the Upper and Lower Brown's Tract Ponds into Raquette Lake.
After crossing the bridge, you can see the raised boardwalk on the other side of Brown's Tract Inlet.
Continuing on, there is an area with lots of dead snags. This is the favorite habitat of Olive-sided Flycatchers in spring and summer.
The ski continues on mostly level terrain with one small hill. There is an area with lots of boats lined up with tarps over them for winter storage. As you approach Raquette Lake, there is a scenic cliff area on the left with wetlands below.
Soon, this trail will be filled with breeding birds, but there were still many bird species found on this winter day. Downy, Hairy, and Black-backed Woodpeckers, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creeper, and Common Redpoll were all found.
It was a Friday afternoon, and I did meet a few snowmobiles. There is a 20-mph speed limit on this fairly level, straight route, so you do not have to worry about snowmobiles flying by at high rates of speed! The dirt road route is wide and there is plenty of room for both skiers and snowmobiles.
The trail comes out next to the Raquette Lake Library. This winter, there is a lovely ice sculpture situated next to a huge, wooden carved bear in front of the Library.
For skiers and snowmobilers, Raquette Lake is a terrific destination for lunch! The Tap Room is open every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (no breakfast on Sundays) and features homemade soups. The W.W. Durant is open Thursday through Sunday throughout the winter. You can take off your skis, warm-up, use a bathroom, grab a meal, relax, and then head back. Or, if you happen to position two cars, Raquette Lake can be your end point. If you do a round-trip ski, it is about 6 miles. If you position two cars, it can be a thru-ski of 3 miles.
The W.W. Durant is set up a bit differently in winter. They had a jukebox, darts, and TV set up on the boat! It was very comfortable, and interesting to see this beautiful boat open for business on the water during winter!
As I began my ski back out from Raquette Lake, I noticed a sign reminding snowmobilers that they were sharing the trail with cross-country skiers and to use caution!
I was able to march up the hill I had side-stepped down on my way in. My husband waxed my skis and I told him he did a great job!
Other Ski Options
Now for that other option: You can also head left (West-Southwest) after the cross-over trail. After about a half mile, the dirt road ends at Uncas Road. (This section of Uncas Road is not plowed in winter, so skiing in from the Eighth Lake Carry Trail is the shortest way to reach the trails.) Straight across Uncas Road are the trails leading to Shallow Lake, Sucker Brook Bay, and West Mountain. The trail toward Sucker Brook Bay is wide, but it is a wilderness trail, so it is not groomed. I did ski to this area, but the snow was extremely deep and unconsolidated, so I chose to stay on the groomed trail to Raquette Lake instead. If the snow depth had been shallower, I would have skied toward Sucker Brook Bay. It is a nice wide trail for skiing.
If you plan the cross-country ski trip from the Eighth Lake Carry Trail to the trail along Brown's Tract Inlet, I highly recommend planning lunch in Raquette Lake. It is a wonderful small town in a spectacularly scenic area of the Adirondacks. It offers a relaxing break before skiing back.
If you are traveling to this area, there are many wonderful nearby lodging and restaurant options.