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New and traditional ways of exploring the globe, and your own backyard.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Great Adirondack Camps

Memorial Day weekend, the kickoff of the summer season, is here. And I can finally wear white again.(even though I have been anyway but now it's *socially* acceptable)

This weekend is a traditional time for bbqs, picnics, the season's inaugural beach visits, camping and going to camps.

The whole "I'm going to my camp this weekend"-thing is really more of a Northeast tradition, I've found. I remember my friend Liz in Florida telling me that when she described her parent's "camp" on the St. Lawrence River to her friends in Melbourne, Florida they honestly thought her parents ran a full-out kid's summer camp - instead of owned their beautiful site on the river with easy access to the Thousand Islands, Canada, and their home in Ogdensberg.

It would seem "camps" likely started out with the Great Adirondack Camps which have a really interesting history in our state having been summer homes to the country's rich, famous, and famously rich.

There are eleven Adirondack camps on the National Register and four are National Historic Landmarks including Sagamore on Sagamore Lake and Camp Pine Knot on Raquette Lake, which is credited with being the first great Adirondack camp - it's construction began in 1877. These and similar camps, like Camp Uncas on Lake Mohegan and Echo Camp on Raquette Lake, were where the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, (J.P.)Morgans, Roosevelts, and locals like Robert Pruyn (a prominent 19th century Albany banker who established the Santanoni Preserve and great camp) would spend their summers - or, to truly get in the Great Camp tradition, they would "summer" at the camps.

I've had the honor of going to a Great ADK camp once since my alma mater owns one near Saranac Lake. It's actually called Canaras (Saranac backwards). Complete with an old library, boathouse, several individual guest houses, and a lodge with the most stuffed dead animals and horns I've ever seen, the camp truly lives up to the rumors that it was once owned by the Rockefellers and hosted many a famous actor/actress in the early 20th century.

But this weekend I am at a slightly simpler camp on Lake Elizabeth in Grafton. It may not have been owned by a former president but it has nice access to the lake, a hammock, and a steady supply of ice cream. Yes, it's been a good weekend.


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