Day 16 – Adirondack Adventure

This is yesterday’s post…I am posting without pictures because my connection is really slow and I’m camping without electricity tonight, so my computer is about to go dead.  Check back tomorrow though, because there is some good scenery!

The Adirondacks – New York

Today I started from a campsite near Lake Saranac.  I couldn’t tell you the name.  It was dark and late when I pulled in and early in the morning when I left.  The attendant wasn’t even there.  I had to call, tell them I used a site, and give my credit card over the phone on my way to Lake Saranac.  Driving around Adironadack Park was a learning experience.  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 all private property.  There are some public spots here and there to launch boats, but there aren’t many public access hiking trails.  The hiking trails are near the campgrounds or near smaller lakes and ponds in the area.  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.  Additionally, many of the private areas are called “camps” and as with all the scenic drives I’ve been on the roads wind through forests and hills.  Needless to say, if and when I was able to decipher a trail sign, I was either past it or had an annoyed driver behind me…tourists!!

One of my mother and Bart’s favorite placse to go is The Point on Upper Saranac Lake.  I first drove to Lake Saranac, thinking I’d see the lake, and quickly learned – not so, thus I thought I would stop by The Point to get a glimpse as the roads were lined with a forest of colorful trees blocking any views of the 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.  It was on the way to my next stop, Tupper Lake, so it wasn’t a big deal, except that after all the rain over the last few days, I was ready for a hike, preferably around water.

I stopped two more times before reaching Tupper Lake:  Follensby Pond and Fish Creek Pond Campgrounds.  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 a camp would be, but I got a few nice pictures out of it.  My next stop was Fish Creek Pond Campgrounds…poor Robert.  At this point I was 0-3 to go on a hike, so before I paid a day use fee to sit by a lake, I peppered Robert with 100 questions!  He was so nice.  He confirmed what I had figured out, that most the trails weren’t by the big lakes and that there was one trail at the campground that was 4 miles long – too long for the mutts, but we could go part way and turn around.  He suggested instead that I go to Rollins Pond Campground, farther back in the Fish Creek Pond complex, and just walk around there because it was closed to campers…so that’s what we did.  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.  Scout, Petey, and I were ready for our hike so we strolled half way around Rollins Pond and turned back the way we came as I didn’t have a map to be able to see if it would make a whole loop.

As I kept driving south, views of lakes were more plentiful…some came right up to the road.  I also started seeing signs to trailheads.  I stopped at one trailhead, all of the trails a bit long, but met another couple from New York who suggested Buttermilk Falls just past Long Lake.  If there wasn’t a car pulled off the side of the road, I would have never noticed the “parking lot” for Buttermilk Falls.  It was a short walk down to the river where I met Bill.  He was retired military who worked in electronics on planes.  He was in Vietnam and Desert Storm.  One of his hobbies is photography.  He was down by the river’s edge after carefully stepping over several boulders with his wooden tripod.  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.  Bill was nice enough to walk below the falls with me and take a picture of me and my pups.  He also suggested that I take a tour of Great Camp Sagamore, built by William West Durant in 1897 and later sold to Alfred Vanderbilt.

Great Camp Sagamore is only one of four camps with the designation “Great” in the Adirondacks and is located near Raquette Lake.  Three of the four 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 materials in.  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 bowling alley so that guests were forced to walk outside on occasion…that was the point of escaping New York City…to enjoy nature.  In fact, it took 36 hours for guests to arrive from New York City by train, stagecoach, steamship, and carriage.  Durant had to sell the camp because he was going bankrupt from lawsuits and perhaps from being a perfectionist as he ordered the fireplace be rebuilt as one stone was showing chisel marks which wasn’t natural.

When the Vanderbilts owned the camp, the railroad extended to just a few miles from the camp, 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, which was, of course, out of sight from their guests, but that was on a road that took J.P. Morgan’s guests to his camp.  The quarters were a Swiss style chalet like the main building, and it was strategically located to block the working  view of the farm as J.P. Morgan’s guests passed by, yet looked nice enough to cause J.P. Morgan’s guests to hope one day they would be invited to the Vanderbilt’s.  The philosophy being:  if they treated their workers that well, just think how they would treat their guests.

I finished the day by driving through the Fulton Chain Lake with numbers for their names, Old Forge, and ending up in Ames, NY at a family friend’s second house.  We’ve known John and Linda in Dallas for as long as I can remember.  They bought a house up here in New York in 2002 and a year later bought the house next to theirs so they can spend the summers in cooler weather with their kids and grandkids.  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 and dried cherry and walnut salad with a glass of

Thought this was clever!

cabernet.  It was fantastic.  For all you Democrats out there, I’m told it is one of Hillary Clinton’s favorite restaurants.  It was definitely a nice change from PB&J.  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!

fall colors website copy

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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!


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