The Adirondack Mountains, home of the Great Camps, still possess that mystique which drew fabulous Gatsbies in another time. Mournful loons cry invisible on the dark lake, swimming among a thousand reflected stars and moon; ancient oaks and maples creak; soothing ripples roll down the lapstrakes of the guideboat you’ve rowed to the middle of the lake. Accessed by private rail lines, Great Camps employed hundreds of servants, drivers, boatmen and guides; they comprised chalets, horse barns, boathouses, dance halls, bowling greens, lakes and mountains. Though some private Great Camps persist, most have been parceled out or become resorts. If the idea of anonymous hotel guests at a venue once so private runs counter to your vision of Adirondack tranquility, you’re in luck. Another option is available.
The Adirondacks kiss Lake Champlain at Westport, New York. Unspoiled by development, the north shore of Westport runs along miles of harbors, deep woods, rocky shores, steep hills and seclusion. Nestled between Rock Harbor and wooded Partridge Harbor, crowning a rocky shore and commanding magnificent views, the Lake House offers every modern amenity in idyllic serenity. A quarter mile to the nearest house, five miles to the nearest store, a world from the bustle of every day life, the Lake House offers tranquility, unparalleled natural beauty, and countless diversions. This three bedroom house, offered year round, serves as today’s variation on the Great Camps of yesteryear.
Both energetic sportsmen seeking adventure and fugitives from the urban grind will find their grail in Rock Harbor where access to wilderness, to one of the truly great lakes, and to unparalleled beauty is matched by proximity to Montreal and Burlington. Perched on a ridge some seventy five feet above the shoreline, looking out from beneath great oaks and cedars, the house site was chosen to optimize views east and south. A wall of windows and glass sliders bathes the open living space in sunlight. A terracotta tiled kitchen opens into dining and living space, complete with fireplace/woodstove. A complete array of stereo, telecommunications and other electronic equipment connect you to the outside world. Three bedrooms offer a variety of sleeping options for up to twelve people in queen, single and trundle beds. Again the theme of windows, sunlight and matchless views is in evidence.
Facing the lake and populated with Adirondack chairs, the deck runs the length of the house and looks east to Vermont’s Green Mountains. A gazebo and private pond are further options for picnics, cocktails or quiet introspection. A pine needle lined path along the ridge leads to the shared swimming area and dock in Rock Harbor, a few hundred yards away.
Summer visitors may be inclined to while the time away in a rental boat. Between waterskiing, exploring the unblemished New York shoreline, and listening to the gentle lap of waves after dinner in Burlington, boaters will want to come ashore on Button Island (now a Vermont park) and the historic towns of Essex and Westport. Intrepid outdoorsmen will enjoy legendary hiking, fly-fishing and leaf-peeping in the six million acre Adirondack Park. A championship golf course and lakeside restaurants greet less adventurous sportsmen.
A short drive away in Lake Placid, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, visitors can relive the “Miracle on Ice,” take a chair lift to the top of Whiteface Mountain, or watch aerial skiers turn tricks into a pool. Winter visitors will enjoy the longest vertical drop of any ski mountain in the east, and can time a visit to coincide with international speedskating, luge or bobsled events. Westport boasts an excellent summer theater at the Depot, and outdoor concerts on the Library Lawn. The Meadowmount school of music, specializing in classical strings master classes, produces weekly chamber concerts on their campus nearby. Further cultural offerings await a two hour drive away in Montreal. Enjoy a symphony directed by Charles Dutoit, a van Gogh exhibition and exquisite dinner before returning to the rustic peace of Westport.
- Adirondack Autumn (essexonlakechamplain.com)