Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, time does more than just slow down. It gives you a very wide berth. You find yourself thinking about things you haven’t thought of in a while, if ever. Ferns. Bears. Shortcake. Lean-tos. Unplugging.
After several visits here, my highlight remains the same: sitting in a wide and sturdy rocker on the private front porch of a Dartbrook Lodge cabin. Coffee in hand, soft blanket wrapped around me, I’m mesmerized by the green hues woven through the expansive layers of tall pine trees. At any hour of the day. Any season. Sunny or not.
Sure, there’s plenty more to do in this spectacular swath of peaks, forests and lakes. But combine the crisp mountain air and scenery with the rustic luxury of the Dartbrook Lodge, and you may just suddenly lose the need to venture further.
New York’s Adirondack Mountains, starting north of Saratoga Springs and stretching to Vermont, are “Forever Wild” by virtue of an article added to the New York State Constitution in 1894. Almost half of the region’s 6 million acres are owned by the state, preserved and protected as wilderness. It’s the largest protected wilderness area east of the Mississippi. So when we’re talking wilderness here, we mean it.
Dartbrook Lodge is in Keene, NY. Each time I’ve travelled north from Rhinebeck to Keene, the same mental image comes back to me as we’re driving. I hear Rex Allen’s voice narrating those Technicolor Disney filmswe saw as kids, before the feature length Disney cartoons. The ones where elk wrestled while beavers scurried along streams looking cute and doing their jobs.
Like these films, an Adirondacks vacation is a throwback. After a few days, you expect to see Yogi Bear tiptoeing out of the woods with his stolen picnic basket. The Lodge provides you with your own picnic basket, by the way. If you stay in the Owl’s Head cottage, you’ll find this in the cupboard.
My advice on how to enjoy your trip is simple: pull into Dartbrook Lodge, step out of the car, and breathe. The air is pristine, and most of the noise comes from birds. Congratulate yourself; you’ve made it to the planet Tranquility. It does exist. You’ve found a place steeped in history, honored here in an unjaded, non-touristy way. It’s a legacy of relaxing and enjoying the scenery, indoors or out. Dartbrook Lodge is an oasis of natural beauty, comfort and calm.
Climb the stairs of the wrap-around porch of the main lodge/office, and through the door you’ll find Beth, waiting to help steer you in the direction of activity or solitude. Beth is the first of the friendly, knowledgeable and helpful people you’ll meet here. She knows her way around the area, including the climbs in the High Peaks. And there’s a wonderful selection of books in the office about the region, in case you want to know more.
Beth will send you on your way to your chosen cottage. It may be the Owl’s Head, which has a fully equipped kitchen and dining area, as well as two bedrooms and baths; it may be the cozy Halcyon House – or something in between. All are built and decorated with a gorgeous simple elegance, by Jay Haws.
Jay and Steve Pounian are the owners of the Lodge. They moved to Keene from the city, found a house in the High Peaks, and began to explore ways to make a mark here. The result is a store, Dartbrook Rustic Goods, full of handmade Great Camp style Adirondack furniture and carefully chosen home goods – and Dartbrook Lodge. Many of the furnishings found in the cottages can be purchased via the store, including the highly addictive porch rockers.
Jay and Steve’s attention to detail is obvious at every turn. Locally handmade soaps are provided in your bath, including a shampoo bar that outdoes any pricey salon product I’ve used. My sense memory of the cottages includes lavender, balsam and lemongrass, because the lovely scent of these soaps fills the slate-tiled shower and lingers in a very pleasant way.
The beds are sumptuous and the linens are perfect. Your most taxing decision might be where to curl up – the bed, the porch, a couch or a deep chair in front of the fire. Sit at a table and play cards, write or chat. Watch a vintage film provided in your room from the Lodge’s collection. Savor the details.
Or stroll around the grounds; the native flowers and trees are divine.
They’re tended by Jeff, who you’ll probably see working. Jeff stopped to visit with me, and showed me the chocolate mint he was growing in his herb garden. “Isn’t it just like a York peppermint patty?” he asked. I couldn’t wait to see how they planned to use it next door at the wonderful ADK Café. Stop here for your meals; the menu’s packed with tasty local and organic foods, and the baked goods displayed across the front counter are next to impossible to resist.
You can dine there, take your food back to your cottage, or pack a picnic and head out to explore. We love to take pie for dessert back to our porch for a stargazing session.
In addition to the cottages, Dartbrook House is available, 2 miles from the Lodge. It’s a wondrous 4-bedroom, 5-bath home perched high on East Hill. The sweeping view of the High Peaks valley will astound you as soon as you walk through the front door. The gourmet kitchen makes it perfect for family reunions, group retreats or any special getaway event.
If you do decide to wander, you can head to nearby Lake Placid, Lake Saranac or right around the corner to marvel at the everyday beauty in and around Keene.
So, sleep with the windows open. There are plenty of blankets. Listen to the crickets and frogs. Don’t make a plan. Let the plan make you.
A note in the guestbook sums things up rather perfectly. It’s hard to shake this place, and that’s a good, good thing.
For rates, reservations and more info, visit the Dartbrook Lodge website.