My favorite place is at a camp in the woods on Saranac Lake
GETAWAY TO THE MOUNTAINS
My vacation trips have taken me here and there and everywhere. All of them have been wonderful. But the best vacations of all have been in my own home state of New York, from the Catskills Mountains to the Adirondack’s.
The air Upstate is clean and refreshing. The mountains are majestic and the views take your breath away. On most days during the summer months, the air is warm, and the nights comfortably cool. The rivers, streams and lakes are so inviting. They’re just beckoning you to water ski, sail or canoe. It’s a back packer’s dream, a haven for RVs, and a welcomed change of pace for tourists.
My favorite getaway in the Adirondack's is a cabin in the woods of Upper Saranac Lake. It's a reclusive retreat from the humdrum ding of the Metropolis. There are no television, A/C, telephones or fancy gadgets, at least not at this camp. It’s a place to read, play games and join with family and friends. Simple food cooked on the outside grill is a way of life, and the given choice over the kitchen stove. The water comes directly from the lake for cooking and washing. A short trip up the dirt road is all that is required to fill our quota of crystal cool mountain drinking water. 15 minutes drive through the narrow winding dirt road that borders the lake takes us to the main road. From there we can go anywhere.
On warm days, we swim off the camp’s private dock in an inlet bay of Saranac Lake. Or we just bask in the sun, read a book, and fish from the dock. When we are not traveling on land to visit beautiful attractions such as Tupper Lake, Ausable Chasm, Lake Placid, Santa's Workshop at the North Pole, Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, NY, and other sites, we are exploring the open waters of Saranac Lake in speedboats and canoes. I love the sound of rushing water as our boat cuts through the lake. The wind and mist that touches my face is so stimulating, and I welcome the cooler air.
A favorite stop on the lake is Chapel Island. It houses a small church. There’s not much room for anything else there, other than a large wooden cross that identifies the significance of the Island. Arrangements can be made to hold Sunday services at the church in any religious denomination.
We also like waving to the residents of water front homes, as we slowly pass through Fish Creek, a narrow waterway. It’s like going through a canal with homes on either side, so close together that the people can talk to one another.
A bathroom break is at a nearby gas station for boats, or at the Trading Post, a small store that has most everything in it. To get to the Trading Post, we would pull up with the boat, climb up onto land, and walk across the road to that quaint general store. Once there, we would stock up on souvenirs, necessities and snacks to take along on our water journey or bring back to the camp. We’ve driven to that store from the camp, but it is so much quicker to get there by boat.
There’s also Green Island, an uninhabited piece of land with a wooden outhouse, a picnic area, and a grated fire pit. It's a favorite spot to picnic and frolic. Somehow, your privacy is respected when you dock there. I’ve seen some boaters turn away from the Island when they notice others occupying it. Whenever I was there with my family, the children would go immediately to the rope tied to a tree overlooking the water. In all the years that I have been there, that rope was prominent.
Green Island is the place to be
A solitary place for you and me
A restful respite to picnic and play
Making it a perfect day.
Spend the night in a cozy tent.
Fake lost, but so content.
Swing from a rope tied to a tree
Over the water we fly so free
Careful not to meet the Island’s side.
That would take a toll upon our tender hide.
Sound out Tarzan's gallant cry,
Then drop to the water, enjoying the ride.
I remember a time when we left the camp and drove to Canada to pay our international neighbors a visit for a couple of days. It only takes a little over two hours to get there. The camp is so centrally located in Saranac, that visiting the Adirondack Museum, Lake George, and even the state of Vermont is not out of reach. If I could, I would stay longer.
During the early years at the camp, I would take a shower outside from a garden hose attached to the railing of the then open porch. I stood on a large rock wearing my bathing suit, of course. I made sure that I was the first in line to bathe in order to take advantage of the short burst of warm water coming from the hose. For the longest time, we had the option of washing in the lake, but the law stepped in and stopped that practice to protect the marine life and clarity of the cool clear water.
My youngest son, Dan, grew up knowing every inch of the camp. He is definitely handy to have around when any repairs are needed, specifically to a boat motor or vehicle. He’s saved many a day when the hose bringing water from the lake to the cabin separated, or the pump broke down. He also did most of the cooking outside on a hand made gas grill at the rear end of the porch. What a wonderful break for me. All I had to do was set the table and make the coffee in the morning. It added new meaning to a vacation for me. He was there when the cabin was just a construction shack, and watched as a bathroom and shower were installed in the basement, and an enclosed screened porch built along the front of the structure.
At one time when we were sleeping inside, a young black bear came up onto the then open porch, and tore away at a trash bag that was erringly left unattended outside. I investigated the noise outside, and spotted the bear from the kitchen window. I grabbed my camera and took a picture of the incident, although when I developed the film later, the bear was just a blur. It was the last time that bags of refuse were left outside. Whenever we drove to town, the trash bags were taken along and deposited into designated disposal bins provided by the municipality.
I must say that we slept soundly in the mountains, especially if we were very active throughout the day. On occasion I would stay up a little longer after everyone would retire for the night. I would try to read a few pages of one of the many books, magazines, and comics on shelves along one wall of the camp. The shelves also held board games, dice and cards. More likely, I would make myself comfortable in a recliner with a crochet project in my lap and listen to music through earphones. I reveled in the peace and quiet at that time. It was during those quiet nights that I knew something was stirring, other than the soft snoring coming from the dormitory style bedrooms. A couple of times, I would cast my eyes away from my project and stare at the floor, and make contact with a mouse sitting on its haunches and staring at me. It was as if the little creature was wondering why I wasn’t in bed sleeping the night away along with my family. After an eternity of maybe a minute, the mouse would scurry away.
Yes, it wasn’t unusual to have some of God’s creatures visiting the place. On occasion, we’ve had chipmunks getting in, whether it was through a hole in the screen or under the door or coming in from the basement, but they were just as discreet as the mouse, like a burglar silently going through the rooms, especially the kitchen to steal what bounty they could get away with. More often than not, they would leave empty handed, because wrapped goodies, and bread were tossed into the refrigerator or out of reach in tightly shut cabinets in the kitchen.
Although I enjoyed the excursions away from the camp and the boat trips, I was very happy to wile the day away when the weather was too inclement to go anywhere. We would play board games or cards. It gave me joy to watch the children actually sit quietly and read a book, while I baked a cake or cookies sometimes. The only thing that frightened me was at night as I lay in my bunk, and it would thunder and lightening. Maybe it was because we were up in the mountains, but the noise was deafening and the flashes of light struck terror in my heart. There was no one for me to turn to for comfort. Everybody else in the cabin was sleeping soundly. That’s my hang-up.
Just being at the camp had special meaning to me. It was so different than going to a resort or other vacation place, because time was of no essence. It was like being at home, but you didn’t have to follow a routine or a time clock, unless, of course, you were going somewhere. We also took walks along the private road that led to the other camps. It wasn’t unusual to spot a family of deer on your trek in the woods, although that wasn’t very often.
Our thanks go to the owners of the camp for their generosity in allowing my husband and I and our three children to vacation there on our own for many years. All the amenities were available to us throughout our stay. We just had to bring our own pillows, linens, and prepare our own food. The most important requirement of all was to keep the camp neat and crumb free when we left to go back home. That was never a problem, especially with my son, Danny, taking charge. He’s been going to Saranac with these kind people every summer since he was a little boy. They were our neighbors back home, and had three children of their own. They treated Danny as part of their family.
Years have passed, and the children have grown. Some have married and moved on with their lives. But the camp is always waiting for their visits along with the next generation of fun loving children and friends.
We’ve had the best of times in the Adirondack Mountains. Personally, I’ve never been there during the winter months. It's great for winter sports such as skiing and snowshoeing, or just to stay indoors and enjoy the comfort and warmth of a fireplace as you curl up with a good book or embrace the company of family and friends.
Even if I no longer had access to that cozy cabin on Saranac Lake, I would not hesitate to visit my favorite getaway, The Adirondack Mountains.
In memory of Anna
Prior to this writing, I had posted a related item about a memorable day spent on Whiteface Mountain. The short narrative also describes the picturesque drive to the Camp and our excursion from the cabin to that famous ski mountain. I was not too proud of what I did on that particular day, but one thing was certain, I knew my children loved me very much to stay by my side. Here’s the link to "A Day to Remember" . We all can laugh about it now.