The leaves are changing, and summer’s humidity has given way to the crisp, invigorating autumn air, making fall the perfect time to take to the open road. From an all-inclusive lodge deep in the Adirondacks, to a jaunt around Connecticut’s “quiet corner,” to a Poconos town just bursting with history, here are five ideal places that are all close to home — yet a world away. So pack a bag,
top off the gas tank and get going.
Elk Lake Lodge
Splendid isolation in the Adirondacks
By Olivia J. Abel
The jewel of the Adirondacks.” That’s what Elk Lake Lodge, a pristine wilderness hideaway on 12,000 private wooded acres in the heart of the high peaks, was once called by National Geographic. I wish I had coined the phrase, because, writer’s envy aside, it is simply the perfect description.
My husband and I set out for three days at the lodge in the summer of 2005. It was a last-minute jaunt. When we called to inquire about reservations, we were told we were extremely lucky: there had just been a cancellation. (It seems that Elk Lake Lodge is most often booked a full year in advance for the summer months.) We kicked off our trip with two days in Saratoga Springs, where we hung out at the track and debated the merits of high-society women in large hats. After my husband giddily won $100 on a randomly placed bet (the horse’s name almost rhymed with the name of our cat), we hit the Northway.
An hour’s drive later, we stopped for lunch in the tiny resort town of Schroon Lake. The modern world already was starting to fall away as we ambled down the small but charming Main Street which time seemed to have forgotten. Back on the road, we were deep in the woods when we came upon the sign for Elk Lake Preserve. A semi-paved road winds down a mountain through the dense forest for several miles before suddenly turning to dirt. And then, 15 minutes later, you are there. The first moment when you see the 1903 knotty-wood lodge defies description. It is perfectly perched just several feet from the banks of the crystal-clear, 600-acre Elk Lake, which is, in turn, exquisitely ringed by the majestic High Peaks of the Adirondacks. It is, indeed, stunning; even my chatty husband was rendered speechless for several minutes.
The lodge has six small and rustic guest rooms, each with twin beds, a basic bath, and thick plaid blankets for the mountain chill that often descends in the evening. There are also eight wood-framed cottages, varying in size, some with kitchens and fireplaces — all with to-die-for views. Downstairs in the main lodge, a large living room — whose centerpiece is a grand fireplace — overflows with old books, maps and games. I whiled away more than a few minutes checking out historic photos on the wall from the grand old days of the lodge. In the late afternoon, after a day in the pure mountain air, the appearance of fresh chocolate-chip cookies and coffee was particularly welcome.
Of course, soaking up the great outdoors is the main pastime at Elk Lake. As Cammy Sheridan, who manages the resort with her husband Michael, says, “We’re known for what we don’t have here.” There are no clocks, no TVs, no radios, no room phones, and — the modern-day definition of complete isolation — your cell phone won’t work here.
One morning, after a quick swim in the lake, we climbed Sunrise Mountain, a 3.8-mile round-trip trek. When we reached the top, we marveled, partially at the view, but mainly at the fact that we had not encountered a single other person. There are more than 40 miles of trails in the privately owned preserve, open only to the resort’s guests (although the preserve is also the starting point for state trails to the High Peaks). Another day, we took our boxed lunch and set out to explore the lake by rowboat. (Canoes are also available.) We stopped on one of several deserted islands; watched a mama duck herd her ducklings out of the water; got temporarily lost on our way back as the light shifted slowly behind a mountain; and eventually, rowing in perfect unison, bumped up against the resort’s dock six hours after taking off.
Breakfast and dinner are served in the timbered dining room, with panoramic views of the lake and mountains. In the evenings, a centrally located fireplace warms diners as they enjoy classic comfort food like grilled pork tenderloin, broiled haddock, and shrimp scampi; all desserts are homemade, and beer and wine are available for purchase. “We call it homestyle good fare,” says Cammy. It’s not gourmet, but every meal was completely satisfying.
After dinner, most guests add a bulky sweater or jacket to their ensemble and slowly wander outside to take in the day’s final show: the sunset. Sitting on Adirondack chairs or a blanket on the small, sandy beach, they punctuate the elegant silence with bursts of conversation: Which trail did you hike today? Did you make it out to Ferry Ladder Falls (after rowing across the lake, a 5.2 mile trail eventually gives way to a spectacular waterfall)? I heard some folks from Virginia saw “our moose.” That was some trout you hauled in today — how did it taste? (The kitchen will happily cook up any fish you catch; Elk Lake and 200-acre Clear Pond are stocked with lake trout and landlocked salmon.) The lack of structured activities — chasing fireflies is about as organized as it gets in the evenings — gave way to sharing long-forgotten stories from our childhoods. “Could it be,” I asked my husband, “that after all these years, I’ve never told you about the time I fell on the trail at night when we were camping in Pennsylvania?”
Great life events are celebrated here: engagements, weddings, family reunions. “We have an 80 percent return rate,” says Cammy, noting that guests come from across the nation, and as far away as New Zealand. And each night, as the dazzling show of stars took their place above us, my husband and I would cuddle together and wonder, will we come back one day? And always, I’d think of what words could possibly describe the experience. And now I know that “the jewel of the Adirondacks” just barely does it justice.
Elk Lake Lodge
North Hudson, NY 12855
May 4—Oct. 19. Daily rates per person range from $115-$175, which includes three meals. “Weekends are booked through closing, but there is some space during the week,” says Cammy. “The foliage is usually peaking the third week of September.”
A hidden gem of a museum, a balloon bonanza, and Cooper’s Cave make this often-passed-by city worth a September stopover
By Richard Buttlar
Glens Falls is somewhat of a no-man’s-land. An hour’s drive from Albany, the city is too far north to be considered part of the Hudson Valley, but not north enough to be in the Adirondacks. For this reason, it’s a great stopping-off place for jaunts between the two regions.
Glens Falls does have a Hudson Valley connection — it was founded in 1766 by Abraham Wing, an emigrant from Dutchess County. When he settled at this spot where the Hudson tumbles into a large limestone chasm, the Iroquois called it Chepontuc, “a hard place to get around.” Wing changed it to Wing’s Falls. The story goes that he lost the naming rights in a 1788 card game. The hand’s winner was Johannes Glen. It’s been Glens Falls ever since.
It’s an attractive city whose wide residential streets are bordered by large homes ranging from turreted Victorians to prim Colonial Revivals. The downtown is filled with early 20th-century storefronts that once teemed with shoppers. (I know — I grew up there.) In 1944, Look magazine dubbed Glens Falls “Hometown, U.S.A.” in double honor of its all-American values and its residents’ contributions to the war effort. For a time in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the city hit the skids, as businesses lost out to the offerings in new malls on the outskirts.
Today, its main streets offer enough antiques stores and other specialty shops (including Sterling & Company, a fun gift boutique; and Red Fox Books, a fine independent bookstore) to make a stroll worthwhile.
You mustn’t visit Glens Falls without touring the Hyde Collection, one of New York’s hidden gems. It’s the restored home of Louis and Charlotte Hyde, who made their fortune from the still-active paper mill just down the street. The Hydes were passionate art collectors, with the money to fuel their 50-year obsession. They hired a Boston architect to build them an Italian Renaissance-inspired palazzo, and proceeded to fill it with works by some of the world’s great masters — el Greco, Rubens, Renoir, Van Dyck, Botticelli. There are enough surprises here to make for a very pleasant afternoon without having to worry about art overload.
Today, the museum looks very much like it did in the Hydes’ time, its paintings and sculpture complementing the couple’s stylish antique furnishings. (It is very much in the vein of Manhattan’s Frick Collection, just not quite so grand.) The building’s focal point is a large, two-story courtyard adorned with a fountain and attractive plantings. A skylight lets in lots of sun. Radiating off this cheery space are residential rooms. Most impressive is the barrel-vaulted library, with its 16th-century Italian fireplace. The room also contains Rembrandt’s touching Portrait of Christ. A long upstairs gallery features myriad medieval and Renaissance works, including el Greco’s moving Portrait of St. James the Less.
A handsome new gallery houses temporary exhibitions. Get there before September 16 and you’ll be treated to Luminist Horizons, a superb show featuring works by little-known James Suydam and his more famous contemporaries such as Frederic Church and John F. Kensett. Suydam’s paintings focus on capturing the fleeting qualities of light, from hazy seacoast mornings to brilliant mountain sunsets. Several are depictions of Hudson Valley scenes. Suydam also enjoyed collecting the canvases of his colleagues; the works by others on exhibit were among his holdings. In all, the show provides an instructive look at American landscape painting in the mid-19th century.
Afterward, check out an interesting bit of the local landscape — Cooper’s Cave. Located almost directly underneath the bridge spanning the Hudson between Glens Falls and South Glens Falls, this ovoid cleft in a small island is renowned because of James Fenimore Cooper. After the author visited the site in 1824, he decided to feature the landmark in his next book, the immensely popular The Last of the Mohicans. (In the novel, the hero Hawkeye and two young women he is escorting hide out here from bloodthirsty Hurons.) While you can’t actually go in the cave, a small park on the bridge’s south side enables you to get a good look at it. Panels recount not only Cooper’s stopover but the region’s Native American past. Back in Glens Falls, slake your thirst at Cooper’s Cave Ale Company, on Sagamore Street. You can opt for one of their tasty English-style brews or a thirst-quenching homemade soda — from traditional root beer to apricot mango.
Consider spending the night at the Glens Falls Inn, on Sherman Avenue. One look at the inviting wraparound porch, and you know you’re in for a comfy rest. The house was meticulously restored in 1999, picking up a preservation award from the local historical society.
The inn’s downstairs rooms feature overstuffed sofas and chairs complemented with antiques, but they’re not crammed with furnishings like so many Victorian-period B&Bs. As a result, these are welcoming spaces; you might wind up wishing for rain, so you can spend time in front of the living room fireplace (perhaps reading one of their numerous books about Glens Falls and the Adirondacks) or tickling the ivories on the baby grand in the music parlor. The five bedrooms are simply yet beautifully furnished; all feature private baths, irons and ironing boards, and Internet access. For a truly sumptuous getaway, opt for the Top of the Inn Apartment, a suite featuring a gas fireplace.
Book a room well in advance if you plan to be in town for the Adirondack Balloon Festival, which runs from September 20-23 this year. Now 35 years old, this celebration of hot air is one of the largest in the Northeast. Weather permitting, more than 90 balloons will be heading heavenward during scheduled flights on the 22nd and 23rd, more than 60 on the 21st. Head out to Floyd Bennett Field, in the nearby town of Queensbury, and watch as they are inflated. At the same time, you can enjoy musical entertainment, kids’ activities, and a display of historic aircraft. Even better, check which direction the wind is blowing, then find a pull-off on a quiet road and wait for these multicolored orbs to approach. It’s like watching marbles race across the clear blue sky. The sight of so many balloons is truly thrilling — and worth the crick in your neck you’ll be nursing for a few days.
161 Warren St. 518-792-1761 www.hydecollection.org
Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., 12-5 p.m. Sun. Admission is free.
Glens Falls Inn
25 Sherman Ave. 646-824-8379 www.glensfallsinn.com.
Rates range from $137 to $267 (Continental breakfast included).
Adirondack Balloon Festival
A beautiful little city in the Poconos just bursts with history. Who knew?
By Steve Sears
Washington Irving might have adored the Hudson Valley — “I thank God I was born on the banks of the Hudson,” the famous author wrote late in his life — but it seems he also harbored some strong feelings for a certain town in the Poconos. “Honesdale is situated between high hills on a plain through which two romantic mountain streams flow, uniting in the village and forming the Lackawaxen River,” he wrote in a letter to his sister.
“There are two wide basins where the streams unite, and the water was formed into the two most picturesque lakes. From the Eastern shore of one of these, Lake Dyberry, a solid ledge of serried and moss-grown slate rock rises almost sheer to the height of nearly 400 feet.”
Now called Irving Cliff, the “ledge“ (it’s actually 325 feet high) still towers over Honesdale, a charming and historic village of fewer than 5,000 people nestled in the lake region of the Poconos. This fall, adventurous Valleyites might wish to sneak over the New York border into Pennsylvania at Port Jervis and travel the 42 miles down historic Route 6 to check out the scenery. It’s a nice blend of beautiful rolling hills, picturesque lakes, small towns (charming, antiques-filled Milford is the biggest stop along the way), and a few big-box stores thrown in to remind you that it is, in fact, the 21st century.
Honesdale bills itself as the “birthplace of the American Railroad.” The Stourbridge Lion (whose original parts are on display at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, on loan from the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.) was the first commercial locomotive put into use in the U.S. when it took a three-mile test drive along Honesdale’s Gravity Railroad in 1829. The British-built engine was part of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company’s plan to transport coal from Pennsylvania to New York City. It soon became clear, however, that the track was not firm enough to support the train, and the locomotive was retired. But the D&H Canal, which opened in 1828 and ran 108 miles from Honesdale to Kingston, carried coal on barges for 70 years before being replaced by the D&H Railroad.
In fact, Honesdale was formed around the booming coal industry. Laid out in 1826 and incorporated in 1831, the town was named after Philip Hone, a former mayor of New York City and the president of the D&H Canal Company. Honesdale is apparently also the spot where Abraham Lincoln was “nudged” for the Republican nomination for president in 1859. Today, downtown Honesdale, punctuated with soaring church steeples and pretty brick buildings, still retains much of its Victorian character. Historic Main Street, eight blocks long and easily walked, is home to quaint shops and trendy eateries.
Branko’s Patisserie du Jour features fantastic salads, soups and sandwiches and offers delicious European-style pastries, including the ever-popular Parisian Chocolate Dome delicacy. You’ll need to walk all of Main Street to erase it from your waist, but it’s downright delicious. Elegante Family Restaurant & Pizzeria, right in the town’s center, is the spot for Italian specialties. Bean’s Roasting House & Café serves breakfast all day, a limited menu of tasty entrées, and a huge assortment of coffee and espresso drinks. You can get take-out treats to enjoy in the city’s beautiful Central Park, or store them in your pack for a hike up Irving Cliff (don’t worry — it’s also accessible by car).
But one of your first stops upon arrival should be at the Wayne County Historical Society and Museum, housed in a beautiful, one-story brick building that was originally the D&H Canal Company’s headquarters. The highlight here is an exact replica of the Stourbridge Lion, built from the original plans (they’re in storage in England). Photos and artifacts are also on display.
If you’re still feeling revved up by railroads, check out the Stourbridge Line Rail Excursions. Several trips this fall transport passengers in refurbished cars between Honesdale and Hawley, 24 miles away. On October 7, the trip coincides with Honesdale’s Harvest & Heritage Days (October 6-7). October 6, 13, 14 and 20 feature inviting, three-hour Fall Foliage tours along the scenic Lackawaxen River. The Grape Express leaves Hawley on Sunday, October 21, with a wine and food tasting awaiting travelers at historic Falls Port Inn and Steakhouse. The two-hour Halloween Fun trip on Saturday, October 27 promises to be just that: fun rather than scary.
If you plan to stay in town overnight, the Harvest Inn Bed & Breakfast is highly recommended. Gracing the town since 1897, this stately Victorian serves up a whopper of a breakfast including its renowned French toast or pancakes. The Inn at Willow Pond on Niles Pond Road is another comfortable spot.
Wayne County Historical Society Museum
810 Main St., Honesdale. 570-253-3240 www.waynehistorypa.org
Stourbridge Line Rail Excursions
Wayne County Chamber of Commerce 32 Commercial St., Honesdale. 1-800-433-9008 www.stourbridgerail.com
Call for schedule and ticket prices.
Honesdale’s Harvest & Heritage Days
Oct. 6-7: Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Downtown Honesdale. 570-253-5492 www.honesdale.com
Harvest Inn Bed & Breakfast
1415 N. Main St., Honesdale. 570-253-4533 www.theharvestinnbandb.com. Rates: $95-$165
The Inn at Willow Pond
42 Niles Pond Rd., Honesdale. 570-253-3930 www.innwillowpond.com. Rates: $80-$170
Savoring the charms of eastern Connecticut’s small towns
By A.J. Loftin
I’ve always felt cornered, so I’m sure it’s no accident that I live in a corner.
But I was curious to see how my corner of Connecticut, the northwest corner, compared to its eastern counterpart, which bills itself as the state’s “quiet corner.” So I took off to visit the towns of Woodstock, Putnam and Pomfret. It was the day after Woodstock’s annual fair — first held in 1859, for an admission fee of 10 cents — and the modern fairgrounds were still littered with hot dog and cotton candy detritus, the rides folded up and ready to drive away, the lovely old Grange and assorted outbuildings (where prize pigs, cows, chickens, sheep and horses gabbled the day before) now quiet as a church, white paint scenically chipping in the sun.
It was a clear September day when I stopped at one of Woodstock’s main watering holes, the Java Jive, owned by Joe and Linda Surozenski. Linda had been an accessories buyer for Crabtree & Evelyn for 13 years, until she finally hounded her husband into giving up city life to live in Woodstock full time. “Things are changing here, but it’s still a simpler life,” she said. I ask her where I could buy some groceries. Not in Woodstock. Pomfret? Not in Pomfret. I was beginning to see how this place has cornered the market on peace and quiet.
Woodstock was once home to the Wabbaquasset Indians, until King Philip’s War broke out in 1675, and the tribe fled to Mohegan. According to a town history, “after the hostilities ended, the land was left vacant and ready for occupancy by the white men” — which makes it sound more like a hotel room than a hostile takeover — but in any case, Woodstock was incorporated in 1749. During the 18th century, it was a farming community. After the War of 1812 industries sprang up: distilleries, wheelwrights, carding machines, gristmills, sawmills, and shoe factories. Today, Woodstock is a mixture of farmers, summer people, and commuters driving the hard hour to Boston, Hartford, Providence and Worcester.
I drove past Henry Bowen’s garish, coral pink Gothic Revival summer house, Roseland Cottage, built in the 1860s, now a National Historic Landmark. Bowen, a local boy who got rich in New York City, held lavish July 4th parties at “Big Pink,” attended by the likes of Henry Ward Beecher, Ulysses Grant and President Harrison. He must have been the George W. of his day, a frat boy who championed Abolition and Temperance while sparing no expense on a private bowling alley in his carriage barn.
I drove south along hilly roads to visit Pomfret, where, at first glance, only a small brick post office marks the spot. The town is now home to a 650-acre Audubon bird sanctuary, as well as to the Mashamoquet Brook State Park. In the 1890s, Pomfret had so many summer residents that it was known as “the other Newport,” and upon closer inspection, some fine architecture remains. Across from the village green stands a wooden Catholic church built in 1887, its graceful interior stenciling restored. In 1882, Rev. Phillips Brooks, who wrote the lyrics for “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” laid the cornerstone for Pomfret’s handsome brick and rubble stone Episcopal Christ Church. A fine gristmill from the 1890s has also been preserved, along with several houses in the historic district.
Driving west on Route 171, I spied Taylor Brooke Winery, one of two vineyards in the area (