me and my dogs at buttermilk falls inadirondack park

Day 16 – Adirondack Adventure

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Day 16 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

Today I started from a campsite near Lake Saranac in New York’s Adirondack Park.  I couldn’t tell you the name.  I arrived late and left early, both in the dark.  The attendant wasn’t even there.  I had to call, tell them I used a site, and give my credit card over the phone.  Driving around Adirondack Park was a learning experience. 

Lake Saranac in Adirondack Park

First and foremost Lake Saranac is the town name, while the lake is called Upper, Middle or Lower Saranac Lake.  Second, the well known lakes like this one are typically surrounded by private property.  While there are a few boat launching spot, access to hiking trails is non-existent.  The hiking trails are near the campgrounds or around smaller lakes and ponds in the area. 

Additionally, the signage in the area is very restricted.  All the street signs, private driveway signs, boat launch signs, trail signs, even for sale signs are brown and yellow.  As a result, when winding through forests and hills, it is difficult to both recognize a trail sign and stop, especially when private homes and lodges are called “camps”. Needless to say, I regularly passed the pullout or had an annoyed driver behind me. TOURISTS!!

Struggling to find a place to hike, I carried on to one of my mother and Bart’s favorite places, The Point on Upper Saranac Lake.  I wound up a four mile driveway to the top of the mountain to find the gate closed. Well, at least I saw the sign and tiny part of the lake whose views have been regularly blocked by forest of colorful trees. The Point was on the way to my next stop, Tupper Lake, so the dead end wasn’t a big, except that after all the rain over the last few days, I was ready for a hike, preferably around water.

fall colors in adirondack park

Follensby Pond

Along the way to Tupper Lake, I stopped two more times at Follensby Pond and Fish Creek Pond Campgrounds, respectively.  Follensby Pond, according to Reader’s Digest, “was the setting for the 1858 Philosophers Camp where writer Ralph Waldo Emerson and several other scholars came to enjoy the woods and exchange ideas.”  The area where I stopped really only had room for a boat launch, so I’m not sure where the 150 year-old camp would was held, but I got a few nice pictures out of it. 

follensby pond in adirondack park

Fish Creek Pond Campgrounds

By now, I was 0-3 in finding a hiking destination, so before I paid a day use fee to sit by a lake at Fish Creek Pond Campgrounds, I peppered the attendant, Robert, with 100 questions. Poor Robert!

He nicely confirmed what I had figured out, that most the trails weren’t by the big lakes. Additionally, he informed me that there was one four mile trail at the campground. Four miles was too long for my old mutts, so he suggested instead that I go to Rollins Pond Campground, farther back in the Fish Creek Pond complex. He said I could just walk around there as it was closed to campers…so that’s what we did. 

Rollins Pond Campgrounds

Before I drove up there, though, Gerald and Nancy (I think were their names, from Michigan) waved me down.  They wanted to know all about VANilla.  John at JDB Imports may be getting another customer.  Anyway, soon we reached Rollins Pond and Scout, Petey, and I, ready for our hike, strolled half way around it. We likely could have gone all the way around, but turned back as I didn’t have a map to know the distance or if there was a full loop.

rollins pond campground

After our walk at Rollins Ponds, we continued south through Adirondack Park where views of the lakes became more plentiful. Sometimes we even passed along the shores.  Also, more trailhead signs were popping up.  While stopping at one trailhead, whose branching trails were too long, I met couple from New York who suggested Buttermilk Falls just past Long Lake

Buttermilk Falls

If there wasn’t a car pulled off the side of the road, I would have never noticed the “parking lot” for Buttermilk Falls.  The dogs and I took short walk down to the river where I met Bill.  Bill was down by the river’s edge with his wooden tripod balancing on the boulders. I’m surprised he even heard me walk up, as it took a shout to hear over the river’s roar…perhaps it was the faint jingle of my dogs’ tags. With photography being a hobby, he nicely volunteered to snap of photo of me and my dogs below the falls.

As we chatted, I learned he is retired military who worked in electronics on planes and served in the Vietnam and Desert Storm wars.  As always, I thanked him for his service. After explaining my challenges of finding things to do around the lake, he suggested that I tour Great Camp Sagamore, built by William West Durant in 1897 and later sold to Alfred Vanderbilt.

Great Camp Sagamore

Great Camp Sagamore is only one of four camps with the designation “Great” in Adirondack Park and is located near Raquette Lake.  Three of the four camps were built by Durant.  The designation was given based on architecture in the natural habitat, the lake, and a variety of other characteristics.  Durant built the camp for his family and supervised every detail. 

The first building at the camp was a blacksmith shop.  All the iron work hinges, hooks, handles, chandeliers for the camp were made at the blacksmith shop as were the horseshoes for the horses used to haul in materials.  The upper camp also included a chicken coop, barn, ice house, and housing for the workers. 

The lower camp had different buildings for dining, sleeping, playing, and even had its own covered, outdoor bowling alley so that guests were forced to walk outside on occasion. After all, the point of escaping New York City was to enjoy nature.  It took 36 hours for guests to arrive from New York City by train, stagecoach, steamship, and carriage. 

The Vanderbilt’s

Ultimately, Durant had to sell the camp because he was going bankrupt from lawsuits and perhaps from being a perfectionist. He was known to have ordered the fireplace be rebuilt due to one stone was showing chisel marks which wasn’t natural. He sold Great Camp Sagamore to the Vanderbilts.

When the Vanderbilts owned the camp, the railroad extended to just a few miles away, thus their guests were much more refreshed upon arrival.  Also, the Vanderbilt’s expanded the camp so that they could entertain more guests.  In addition to adding more dining space and guest cabins, they added another workers’ quarters in the upper camp.

Of course, the workers’ quarters was out of sight from their guests, but that was on a road that took J.P. Morgan’s guests to his camp.  The Swiss style chalet was designed to look nice enough that J.P. Morgan’s guests would hope to be invited to the Vanderbilt’s.  The philosophy being:  if they treated their workers that well, just think how they would treat their guests.

Ames, New York

I finished my day in the Adirondack Park by driving through the Fulton Chain Lakes with numbers for their names, Old Forge hamlet, and past Custard’s Last Stand before ending in Ames, NY at John and Linda’s.  We’ve known John and Linda in Dallas for as long as I can remember.  They purchased their second home here in New York in 2002 and a year later bought their neighbor’s home so they can spend the summers in cooler weather with their kids and grandkids. 

custards last stand
Thought this was clever!

I got a house entirely to myself.  It was so great…a hot shower, washer/dryer, a bed, and a kitchen loaded with breakfast foods!  Even better, Linda took me to a wonderful dinner at The Rose & Kettle in Cherry Valley.  I savored a giant crab cake as well as a dried cherry and walnut salad with a glass of cabernet.  It was fantastic and a nice change from PB&J.  For all the Democrats out there, I’m told it is one of Hillary Clinton’s favorite restaurants.

house in Ames New York

Linda wouldn’t let me take a picture of her for the blog, but I did get a picture of the house.  Thank you John and Linda for a wonderful evening after a day in New York’s Adirondack Park.

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

4 thoughts on “Day 16 – Adirondack Adventure

  1. A good book: At the Mercy of the Mountains: True Stories of Survival and Tragedy in New York’s Adirondacks, Peter Bronski
    I haven’t read it yet but it’s in my pile.
    Your adventures have inspired me and so I took Lupe to the Botanical Gardens this week for a hike. It surrounds a big lake and is very beautiful. Although they don’t allow dogs in the garden area, we hiked around the lake and got lost. I thought about you w/ your dogs and hope you are a better navigator than I am. It was kinda scary… it is so easy to take one path thinking it is correct. I am also not in the best of shape either. We finally found our way back and I was totally exhausted.
    Can’t wait to see the pictures you took.

    1. I’ll have to read that. Glad you found your way back. That’s why i like to have a trail map, but I know the feeling. I turn around a lot to see what the path looks like the other direction and I try to notice unique land marks.

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. I can’t wait to see your photos! You were in one of my favorite areas. Just wish you could have seen a “full view” (upper,middle or lower) of Lake Saranac. It is so beautiful!

    Great Camp Sagamore sounds a bit like Estabrook in the early days with a blacksmith shop, barn, ice house, chicken coop etc.

    What a treat to have a wonderful place to stay in Ames — and a fabulous dinner to boot! Very, very gracious of John and Linda. And, I can’t wait to see the photo of their house.

    Hope you had a great dat today and that you are free of rain for a while!

    LY…Mom

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