Extravagant Isolation, Forever Wild
The largest park in the continental United States – larger than Yosemite or the entire state of Massachusetts – the 6-million-acre Adirondacks State Park is legally protected to remain “forever wild.” A whiff of aristocratic cachet remains from when 19th-century masters of the universe with names like Whitney, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller chose this roadless wilderness to build their “Great Camps,” servants in tow – one camp had a maid just to get rid of cobwebs.
Surrounded by primeval forests, mountains, and more than 2,500 lakes and ponds, the lakefront compounds blended luxury and rustic charm, using native, minimally worked logs (with bark still attached), branches (the more twisted and gnarled the better), and decorative twigwork in what’s become known as the Adirondack style.
Less than two dozen of these great camps have survived, many of them still owned by the families that built them, others operating as summer camps or educational institutions. A precious few operate as hotels, the most magnificent being the Point, a nine-building compound built in 1932 by William Avery Rockefeller, great-nephew of John D. Located on 8-mile-long Upper Saranac Lake and once known as Camp Wonundra, its common areas and eleven lavish guest rooms exude the spirit of another age with baronial chiseled stone fireplaces and gleaming spruce-paneled walls.
The atmosphere of a house party prevails with candlelight meals and exceptional wine lists (black tie is optional on Wednesdays). Forced into extravagant isolation by the lack of telephones, faxes, and televisions, happy campers spend idyllic days canoeing, fishing, or exploring the hiking trails that thread through the grounds and out into the parkland.
If you pine for the Point but your budget doesn’t, opt for the Lake Placid Lodge, built in 1882 on the western banks of the lake and owned and operated by the same proprietors that run the Point. The village of Lake Placid (site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics) offers numerous skiing and skating amenities in season. To experience the area’s serene beauty from the water, book an afternoon aboard the elegant Lady of the Lake, a 40-foot, thirty-passenger Fay & Bowen built in 1929, just one of two such vessels in the United States.