Paul Bunyan–like statue greets visitors to the Adirondacks.
The Adirondacks are a large, gorgeous mountain area in Upstate New York. They’ve been a popular place for camping and recreation for all rungs of the society ladder since at least the Victorian area.
With many lakes and mountain passes, each lake has developed its own vacation community. It’s not that people won’t occasionally go to another lake for a certain restaurant or shop, but generally, they don’t. It’s so nice to keep the car parked, walk around town and scenic spots. Even though it borders Quebec Province, I was still shocked to see so many signs, including Federal highway markers, also written in French.
Where to stay
Some of the communities’ accommodations book up months and months in advance. Others are wildly expensive. Schroon Lake is on U.S. 9 – which is Broadway in NYC – and about two hours south of Montreal. Their Starry Night Cabins have a wide range of reasonably priced places to stay and are pet friendly! I brought my dog, Madam CJ.
Little Madam CJ the puppy meets Tank, the owner's dog, at Starry Night Cabins.
I had a spacious wood cabin with television, kitchen with utensils (and those instant coffee samples I occasionally get in the mail), and a shower with good water pressure. There was also a grill outside where we cooked steak. Having the dog, we made good use of the kitchen and ate “at home” most of the time, though the management was cool with us leaving Madam CJ in the cabin for a couple of outings. You’re expected to clean up your kitchenware before you leave. I happened to have some industrial-strength waterproof bug spray, and it was much needed! They have some sort of tiny mosquito or other biting insect by the bazillions and they’re very aggressive. Very.
What to do
Most mornings and evenings, we took a nice long walk by the lake and into town. The back roads in the woods have some abandoned, dilapidated summer mansions that must have been filled with beautiful people and parties 100 years ago. We wondered who owns the property now and sighed at the idea of being able to spend every summer in one of them.
The lake and its beach are public, with swimming and boat access. Grab a beer (or a few!): Paradox Brewery has a few core styles, as well as seasonal flavors, some of which utilize local ingredients such as Adirondack roasted coffee. They have an indoor tasting room and, in the summer, a very popular outdoor tasting bar with shaded picnic tables and outdoor games like horseshoe.
There’s a movie theater in town and a little performance venue – often featuring indie musicians and the like – right on the lake.
Standing on top of nearby Fort Ticonderoga, overlooking Lake Champlain and the state of Vermont, you really get a feeling of how militarily important that point was for the French, the British and eventually, the Americans. The lake is long and narrow – more a like a river – and was an important route into Canada. They have special museum exhibits, including a vast colonial weapons collection, and re-enactors doing their colonial thing. There are lake cruises and canoe rentals.
Reenactment at Ft. Ticonderoga
Also, there’s an heirloom garden that welcomes pick-your-own apples and volunteers. The garden supplies flavorful, just-picked salad greens and fruit to their “America’s Fort Café”, also serving local beers, water views and colonial music in the background.
Where to eat
Smart people – even some of the restaurants – stock up at Warrensburg, NY’s Oscar’s Smokehouse ahead of time. They’re a family-run business that’s over 70 years old, with 159 products made on the premise. Poultry, game meats, steaks, sausages, as well as cheeses, breads (that sell out fast!) and other goodies are great for the grill. They have a 7-year-old “XXXX” Cheddar that’s an interesting purchase for cheese connoisseurs.
Drake’s is a motel and restaurant on the outskirts of Schroon Lake, with an old-school New York/New England vibe. They have reasonably priced fresh local seafood, steaks and Italian fare. Flamenco music plays in the background. It’s a nice treat after days of getting back to basics!