“Wow. You’re having a really Adirondack summer.” It was just an offhand comment by a friend last year, but it struck me at the time. I live within spitting distance of the Blue Line and I’ve worked all corners of the park over my decade-plus at Adirondack Life. Aren’t all of my summers “really Adirondack”? But I knew what she meant. Although my husband and I camp, hike, paddle and party in this vast playground at our doorstep, we tend to do the same things in the same places every year. Gathering with friends and family at camps on Chazy, Chateaugay and Mountain View Lakes? Check. Anniversaries on our special site at Forked Lake? Check. Celebrating my birthday with a float down “our” stretch of the Saranac River? Check. Scoring lakeside spots at favorite Department of Environmental Conservation campgrounds—or spending the weekend eying those with better luck and plotting earlier reservation schemes for next season? Check.
Even when we enjoyed more touristy treats—say, requisite trips to Hoss’s, in Long Lake, or dodging bears at the Old Forge Camping Resort when the kids were much smaller—I still didn’t stop to ponder the postcard-perfect moments that I too often took for granted.
Something shifted last year. It might have been a response to being cooped up during the pandemic. Or maybe it was simply good timing, coupled with an urge to reconnect with my husband of 28 years by dusting off the magic at the heart of the same-old, same-old. But suddenly our summer was packed with iconic Adirondackana. I seemed to shift, too, drinking in familiar scenes as if I’d never seen them before. Maybe I hadn’t.
You, too, can spice up your leisure time with small adjustments to your methods and mindset. Below are some high points of my Adirondackpalooza to help spark fresh explorations.
Visit a Peak Off-Peak
I must have seen Lower Ausable Lake from Indian Head hundreds of times, in all seasons and hours of the day—but only in pictures. Between packed warm-weather schedules and a penchant to stick to short treks and established territory, I’d somehow managed to neglect one of the most classic Adirondack outings. But it’s not like that Insta-perfect view comes cheap. The trip is an eight-plus-mile out-and-back haul to a spot that will most likely be littered with Insta-perfect posing.
That’s where my resident status came in handy. One perk of living where other people vacation is the flexibility to take off on random adventures whenever the weather is temperate and the bugs are busy elsewhere. I ditched work one such Wednesday in mid-June (shhhh—my boss doesn’t know) and had the woods and that top-of-the-world stage almost completely to myself. And the in-person experience? No filter can capture it.
IF YOU GO
Indian Head is on Adirondack Mountain Reserve property; the parking area is off Route 73. After a 3.3-mile walk along Lake Road, the yellow-marked trailhead will be on your left. Reservations are required between May 1 and October 31, even for those getting dropped off; visit hikeamr.org to sign up.
Take a Tour
Sure, you can’t spell tourist without tour. But being a stranger to the scene isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying a guided experience. I’ve always liked a side of history with my sightseeing, and if there’s food and wine involved, even better. So joining a luncheon cruise/Pine Knot tour with Raquette Lake Navigation was a no-brainer for me—even if I hadn’t had the smarts to do it sooner.
William West Durant broke ground on Pine Knot, his prototype Adirondack estate, in the 1870s and it remains a must-see—it is the grandmama of Great Camps, after all. But this Gilded-Age starlet isn’t often open to the public, so if you get a chance to see the property, grab it. It’s a rare treat to explore the rustic vacationland of early American royalty, especially with a guide to help put the place and its times in context. The outing ends with a narrated historical cruise around Raquette Lake aboard the WW Durant, where you can digest all you’ve seen and heard over a top-notch lunch and libations.
IF YOU GO
Raquette Lake Navigation Company (315-354-5532, www.raquettelakenavigation.com) offers its Pine Knot/Luncheon Cruise package on August 4, as part of Raquette Lake’s Durant Days celebration, as well as on the following Tuesdays: June 20, July 11, August 8, and September 19. The Durant Days excursion includes a tour of St. William’s church on Long Point, built by Durant in 1890.
Weekend like a High Roller
Here in the park we’re surrounded by so many things to see and do it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be outside looking in. One way to re-rev your senses is with an over-the-top weekend away—even if “away” isn’t all that far from home.
My husband and I stationed ourselves in Inlet, at a little piece of paradise on the grounds of the Woods Inn. To the side of the main building sits a cluster of platform tents fitted out with queen-size peeled-beam beds and antique furniture, along with bedside lamps and even a coffeemaker. The Lakeside Guide Tent, which I recommend for second-honeymooners and other love birds, has a deck facing Fourth Lake and its own high-end bathhouse (the other two tents have joint facilities). On the shore there’s a little swimming area that you’ll share with the friendly folks at Frisky Otter Tours, where you can rent canoes and kayaks for the day. Don’t worry—despite the comings and goings of paddlers, it remains a quiet nook, excepting all the compliments that will come your way regarding your taste in lodging. And once the last canoe has pulled in for the evening, chances are you’ll have the space all to yourself for a sunset swim.
Wait—it gets better. There’s a restaurant on-site, where you and your honey can trade bites of venison and trout on a deck overlooking the lake. And if you have room for a nightcap, walk downstairs to the Laughing Loon, a welcoming bar where you can rub elbows with locals and spear a dollar bill on the antlers of a deer’s head presiding over the merriment. Off-campus, the entirety of Inlet is within walking distance, bustling with shopping and dining options, including gourmet paninis at The Caboose and wings at the newest location of Tony Harper’s Pizza and Clam Shack. I’m not ashamed to say that I sampled all those offerings in one short weekend, plus a Three Little Pigs breakfast sandwich at the Tamarack Cafe.
We rounded out our micro-vacation with a bucket-list item: a scenic floatplane trip over the Fulton Chain and Raquette Lake, with the added bonus of an aerial peek at Forked Lake, our beloved anniversary destination.
IF YOU GO
Find the Woods Inn (315-903-0000, thewoodsinn.com) at 148 Route 28, in Inlet. Payne’s Air Service (431 State Route 28, 315-357-3971, www.paynesairservice.com) offers 15-minute floatplane tours that cover about 30 miles.
One of the most accessible pleasures in the park is also the one I always have to remind myself to take advantage of more. Just about every community, large and small, hosts free outdoor music—often set against million-dollar backdrops. So, whatever else you plan for this summer, don’t forget to take a little time to enjoy the soundtrack.
IF YOU GO
For a list of upcoming concerts—and all manner of other events—check out the calendar at www.adirondacklife.com.