Mini Road Trip: Upper Saint Regis

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As mentioned in last Saturday’s post, I recently enjoyed a trip to the wilds of Upstate New York. A friend of ours has a family camp in the Adirondacks, and we enjoyed a little framily vacation.

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When I say camp on a lake, do you imagine a shotgun shack with a dock? That’s what I thought before I arrived – and boy was I in for a treat! Camp in the Adirondacks refers more to the property than the building(s) that occupy it. For us, this meant an enviable dock, with stone stairs leading to the main house (kitchen, dining, living, master, sun porch), attached two bedroom nursery (yup, it’s what you think), and three other buildings – one two story and one with two rooms and a 5-person shower (estimation, we didn’t confirm). Each cabin had it’s own bathroom and clawfoot tub – some were modernized with the addition of a shower attachment or a separate booth. Less of a camp and more of a compound, we were enshrouded with tall trees, screen doors, and the cacophony of nature (the loons were my favorite!).

Good Hope Camp was established in a time when Franklin stoves were a necessity in every room, and life off the grid was as good as it got. (And, for the record, we did indeed use both the stoves and the fireplace! It got chilly!) Upper Saint Regis Lake and it’s surrounding area may be known as where tuberculosis-riddled people came to recover – including Robert Louis Stevenson – but its incredible serenity and gorgeous surroundings soothe and heal the soul more than anything. If the history of this area enthralls you, you can boat through the slough* and see Rabbit Island – where Dr. Trudeau released rabbits that had been part of his inoculation studies. (*slough: /”slew”/ a swamp or shallow lake system, usually a backwater to a larger body of water)

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To get to camp, one must arrange a ride by boat – as there is no land access to the majority of the camps around the lake. We arranged our friend-driven taxi by using the phone at this quaint post office. A simple 7 digit phone number was required (no area code needed!), and, in case of memory loss, there is a directory of each camp – by camp, not owner name –  available.

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Our lack of cell service didn’t even register, as conversation, activity, and the simpler joys of life prevailed. Canoeing, paddle boarding, and putzing around in the boats were our activities – things becoming stressful only when cocktails ran low. The dock was where we spent any time that it wasn’t raining, and it was as glorious as any Jimmy Buffet or Zac Brown Band song would infer. We did engage in camp crafts one day – which was flower arranging, and s’mores were an obvious necessity.

Dinners were home cooked and gourmet, thanks to a lawyer friend who has a chef’s skills, and were enjoyed by candlelight – because who wants electricity in the dining room? Candlelight, as you can imagine, invites a certain dress – which we all fully obliged. What one wore during the day was not what one wore to cocktail hour (on the dock), and was often followed by another costume change for dinner (guys: pants; gals: nice dress). The house rules were kept without question – and lent a certain je ne sais quoi to the “shall we go through?” affair.

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While at Camp (yes, I believe it should be capitalized), we had the honor of visiting some of the famed Camps on the lake. This included a by-boat tour of the Vanderbilt’s former camp, styled with pagodas and Japanese architecture, and – my favorite – a tour of Top Ridge with Mr. Crow himself. Mr. Crow has done an incredible job on the property, restoring much of it to it’s original state, adding only modernities such as electricity, ceiling fans, and air conditioning (surprisingly, something that is indeed needed). If you know anything about the Crow family, it is their love of art – and Mr. Crow has done a truly spectacular job of installing incredible sculptures and paintings that fuse so well with their surroundings, you forget that they haven’t always been there. (From the link above, and from interweb searches of Ms. Post – her eccentricities must have made her parties epic and her a delight to be around!)

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If you ever find yourself wondering where to vacation where you can get out of the race and into a MUCH slower pace of life, I’d like to offer Upper Saint Regis Lake – and, truly, the entire Adirondack region of Upstate New York! And, don’t worry – as the New York Times put it “The lake may be remote, but it is hardly antisocial. Ms. Post handed out “bat hats” to her female guests so that birds would not destroy their hairdos, and Fred Pratt once donned his tuxedo and water-skied to a formal dinner at Wild Air without damaging his outfit.” (source – a really great read!)

~Lainey

Majority photos taken by the incredibly talented Steven Haal

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