|If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Granted, it's not an earth-shattering revelation, but for those dedicated to feeling the burn as they trudge across the tundra, it's this deceptively simple philosophy that keeps the mind and body flowing—especially when bounding across mammoth drifts and frozen lakes, shuffling up mountains, and shambling like Sasquatch through stands of ice-encrusted trees. And there's no better place to strap on the raquettes, as the French Canadians say, than the St. Regis Canoe Area, in New York's Adirondack Park, a designated wilderness area with 58 lakes linked by 23 miles of carry trails and fire roads.
There are a lot of stomping grounds in St. Regis, but the least trampled and most rewarding may be the ten-mile section of the Nine Carries Canoe Route that starts at the Saranac Inn area—so-called because it was once the site of a large resort—four miles from Lake Clear Junction on Route 30, behind the state fish hatchery. Take the unplowed road (there's only one) to Little Clear Pond and head north on the wind-packed snow of the western shore—better footing than the clear ice of the open lake—and pick up the carry path to St. Regis Pond. Walk on the softer, deeper snow of the rolling half-mile trail; it'll be slower going, but you'll get first crack at unsullied deer, otter, coyote, and ermine tracks. When you reach the lean-to on the headland to the west of the pond, you'll get your first glimpse of 2,873-foot St. Regis Mountain, looming to the north. Plot your summit assault later; the task at hand is to tromp over St. Regis Pond, Ochre Pond, and Fish Pond and through the 150-foot old-growth-pine stands in between. Once you're past the frozen water of Fish, march another three miles southeast over the state fire road and you'll be back at the hatchery. Scramble the final two miles north on Route 30 and you will reach your cave-like lair—or at least the closest approximation, Hohmeyer's Lake Clear Lodge.
Snag a copy of Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, published by ADK, before you go. Blue Line Sport Shop (518-891-4680) in Saranac Lake, 15 minutes from the trailhead, rents Sherpa snowshoes for $10–$15 per day, depending on the model. Doubles at Hohmeyer's (800-442-2356) cost $110–$125; lakeside suites with fireplace and hot tub go for $135–$250.