It used to be that only those who were physically fit could gain access to the Adirondack backcountry. People with limited mobility were confined to limited outdoor experiences: the town park, the back yard, maybe a neighborhood nature center.
A couple years ago, however, a new opportunity opened in the Adirondack Park: The John Dillon Park. Located just a couple miles north of Long Lake, right off Route 30, Dillon Park provides a backcountry experience for people who might otherwise have never had the opportunity.
While on my vacation, I decided to check out Dillon Park for myself. Although it was designed specifically for people with diabilities, it is open to anyone who wishes to visit, whether overnight or for a day trip.
It was a sunny, breezy morning as I drove down the two mile dirt road to the small welcome center, a cozy log cabin with a toasty fire crackling away in the wood stove. Stephen Cobb, the manager, greeted me at the front desk and provided me with a map and directions to the park's offerings. I decided to walk along their beautifully groomed trails and take in the sights, to see for myself the lean-tos, fishing dock and boat access.
The trails are plenty wide and have a crushed gravel surface. This is perfect for those with wheelchairs or strollers.
The campsites, however, are the centerpiece of the offerings at Dillon Park. Each site had two lean-tos,
an outhouse (with a real toilet, not a hole in the ground),
and bear-proof boxes for food and trash.
The lean-tos are nice and roomy. Most have a fold-down sleeping shelf (which can also be used for a table), as well as ample space for those who want to use sleeping mats and bags.
They are equipped with ramps, perfect for campers who use wheelchairs to get around.
In front of each lean-to is a stone fireplace with castiron cooking racks and swing arms. Wood is provided, dry and ready to go, in a sheltered stack nearby.
One of the campsites has a beautiful filtered view of Grampus Lake.
Continuing down the path, one crosses a boardwalk over a wooded wetland. A bit buggy, but it has the potential to expose the visitor to some interesting wetland plants.
Along the way there is a fishing dock. Covered with outdoor carpeting, this slip-free platform is perfect for trying to catch fish or simply getting out over the water to enjoy the view. While I was here I saw four loons: two adults and two juveniles.
Near the welcome center is the boat dock. The facility has a small pontoon boat for taking campers on leisurely trips around the lake, but visitors are also welcome to bring their own canoes or kayaks and launch them here.
The trail I took was a nice easy loop, running from the Welcome Center, out past the campsites, and then back along the lakeshore to the docks, ending back at the Welcome Center. There is, however, a second trail, which runs for about two miles out the other direction. This one is not currently a loop, but I got the impression it is a work in progress. I did not take this trail, for I had other places to go that day, but if it is anything like the trail I did take, I'm sure it is well worth the stroll.
Dillon Park is managed by Paul Smiths College for International Paper. They are opened only during the summer, so if you want to visit this year, your time is limited. For more information, visit their website at http://www.johndillonpark.org/.