Surely you know of Speculator, the picturesque Adirondack community nestled in Hamilton County at the intersection of Routes 8 and 30, bending around the northern shores of sparkling Lake Pleasant. This vibrant little village is a perfect spot to land for an afternoon of fun, a weekend of adventure, or a longer stay. The approach into Speculator, from every direction, is downright fantastic. I’m not sure that I have ever enjoyed driving into an Adirondack village as much as I do Speculator. From Route 30, one is greeted by the famous Pig Rock, a giant boulder that was relocated as Route 30 was being constructed, and later painted as the whimsical head of a pig. (If you have managed to live this far in life and haven't driven by Pig Rock, I’d say that you now have something fun to add to your bucket list.) Entering the village from Lake Pleasant on Route 8 takes you by the impressive one-of-a-kind sign that states “Welcome to Speculator All Season Vacationland”. The sign itself is a celebration of all things Adirondack and makes me feel happy every time I see it. Coming in from the east is equally charming, where travelers are treated to views of Lake Pleasant on one side of the road and of the newly relocated Makomis Firetower on the other.
For years I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Speculator as a waypoint on a longer trip, to grab a quick lunch, take a short walk or stock up on snacks at the unique Charlie Johns store. Almost every time I've zipped through this little gem of an Adirondack village, I've thought that someday, I'll stop and spend some time getting to know Speculator a little bit better. A couple of weeks ago, in keeping with my New Year’s resolution to turn as many days of this year into “someday”, I built a few extra hours into my travel schedule and did just that. Arriving just after lunch, I parked at the Sacandaga River Community Park on Route 8, just across from the public beach.
Get your kicks!
My first stop was to check out Route 66, a miniature American town, located behind the playground and almost hidden from view of the main parking lot. The buildings were originally built by John Van-Buiten at his summer residence on South Shore Road, and kindly donated to the village when he sold his property. There are seven carefully crafted buildings, including a service station, post office, ice cream parlor, church, barbershop, school and a general store. Strolling around this tiny town made me feel like a kid again as I peeked in the windows and marveled at the detail that was put into this delightful project. This little town is a must-see, and loads of fun for all ages to explore!
Fire tower with a new view
Nearby and not at all hard to miss is the newly relocated Makomis fire tower. Before my visit to Speculator, I was interested to learn some of the history of the fire tower, which originally stood atop Makomis Mountain in North Hudson and was the first steel fire tower erected in the State of New York. Previous to its recent restoration, the fire tower was held in private ownership for over 40 years! Visitors to the tower can climb to the top (weather permitting), and enjoy spectacular views of the lake and surrounding wilderness, a cool experience and a special treat for all of us, especially those who are challenged to climb a mountain to reach a fire tower. I’m excited to visit again this winter to climb the tower and see what can be seen when the leaves are off the trees.
Take me to the river
Just beyond the firetower is the entrance to the Sacandaga Pathway, one of my favorite activities of the afternoon. This beautiful pathway begins with an 850-yard accessible boardwalk that winds through wetlands and leads to a peaceful overlook of the Sacandaga River. Interpretive signs and displays dot the edges of the pathway, sharing interesting information about the plant life and history of the area. The boardwalk links to a network of forested trails, providing the opportunity for a longer hike; something I’ll definitely plan to do on a return trip. After walking to the overlook and spending some quiet minutes taking in views of the river, I headed back to the beginning of the pathway and met a friendly local family along the way who were out for an afternoon stroll with their dog. They excitedly told me about the many possibilities for an afternoon in Speculator, including the many mountain bike trails, Oak Mountain, the maple farm that lies “just down the street”, and the many nearby places to shop and eat. I knew that I would have to save many of their suggestions for a future visit, and added quite a few items to my “to do” list!
On lake time
Next, I made a visit to the Speculator Public Beach, right across the street. This gorgeous sandy beach, just a half mile from the four corners in the center of town, is a perfect swimming spot with spectacular Adirondack lake and mountain views. With a shaded picnic area complete with picnic tables and benches for lounging, it's an easy choice for everyone in the family to spend a few minutes, or a few hours enjoying the beauty of an Adirondack lakeshore.
Strolling around town
A short walk from the public beach toward the center of town, I found tons of options for dining and shopping, including the Judy Nelson Art Gallery, where artist Judy Nelson and photographer Dave Nelson display and sell their work. In addition to the beautiful paintings and photography inside the gallery, the lovely gardens in front of the gallery are a little paradise all to themselves (especially if you're a creature with wings)! Both Judy and Dave were in the gallery when I stopped by, and both had some interesting anecdotes to share about their home village.
A (quick) trip back in time
Around the corner, I found the Speculator Lake Pleasant Historical Society’s beautiful little museum building, packed to the rafters with insanely cool history stuff, including relics from the world famous boxing camp that once existed in Speculator. Anyone who is even remotely interested in the history of the area should stop here to get a glimpse of Speculator from a different era in time; I can almost guarantee that you'll find a new appreciation for the area and the people who lived here in past times. Across the street from the museum, the Lake Pleasant Public Library was hosting a book sale and I couldn’t resist stopping to browse and have a quick chat with the librarian. The library has wonderful spots for reading indoors and out and also offers services such as free Wi-Fi, computer access, iPads, audio books and music!
It's pretty impressive that in Speculator, in just an afternoon's time, it's possible to explore a miniature town, climb a fire tower, take a beautiful hike to the river, spend some time at the beach, do a little shopping, explore an art gallery, learn some cool history at the local museum, and even pop in to quickly check out the library! Maybe you'll be able to fit some of the things into your schedule that I have saved for a future trip, like a lunch stop at Firetower Pizza, shopping at Twigs, or exploring the mysterious Kunjamuk cave. Plan your own visit and see how much fun you can pack into an afternoon!