Cabins and campers and bears, oh my!

Cabins and campers and bears, oh my!

As I lay in our teardrop camper thinking about the bears the ranger had advised us about at Eighth Lake State Campground I realized I'm really not afraid of bears any longer. There was a day when I'd practically have a heart attack at the sight of the bear we had around our house when we first moved in during the late 1980's. It was only the second time in my life I'd actually seen a bear in the wild, the first when I was about 7 years old on a highway near Keene Valley. Since that time we've had many bear sightings around our house, with one of them being a regular visitor one fall a few years ago. On many evenings he hung out around the edge of our woods and ventured into the yard to raid the apple trees when it seemed safe to him. We have a large deck on the second floor we would watch from, safely high enough not to disturb him or give him cause to approach us. He knew we were there and he apparently felt secure with that. Bears are magnificent  creatures and I definitely respect and maintain a good distance from them, but I don't fear them. If you have nothing they want, they won't stay around long, since their sole purpose most of the time is searching for food. And honestly, most bears are more afraid of us than we are of them. 

At any rate, when we checked into Eighth Lake Campground, between Raquette Lake and Inlet, the ranger was informing everyone ahead of us about their resident bears. "You heard the bear information?" she asked as I moved up to the window in the line of check-ins on this very busy Friday night. "Yes, and we are familiar with bear rules and such" I replied. "Good", she said, "since we have 3 or 4 very active bears here in the campground this season". I was really hoping to see one, but we must have habits too clean for attracting a bear since we didn't! We didn't leave food out, trash in our cars or fire pit, or anything that might attract them. If you don't, no worries! 

One Square Mile of Hope

The main reason for our visit to Hamilton County was to participate in One Square Mile of Hope in Inlet, an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records  for number of paddlers in a square mile. The record was set in 2011 in Inlet and was broken by another group last year. My husband Glen and I were excited to be a part of this awesome event and when it was all over we had apparently broken the 2013 record of 2,099 boats with an unofficial count of 2,718. Over 3,200 had signed up, but the day was unfortunately less than ideal with rain, wind and cold temperatures, so some dropped out for that or whatever reason. It was an amazing experience nonetheless.

2,718 paddlers in a group

A weekend not far away

The other purpose of our visit was to get away to one of my favorite regions for the weekend. We live in Lake Placid so it wasn't a long drive, but getting away and seeing other parts of the Adirondacks is always on our list of activities in the summer.  A night of camping and a night in a cozy cabin were on the agenda, with a little dining and other outdoor activities thrown in for good measure.

Choice of two lakes in one campground

We'd never camped at Eighth Lake, so we picked that for our first night, another reason being its close proximity to Inlet for Saturday's event. After our site was set up we took off on foot to explore the campground, which is actually situated on and between both Seventh and Eighth Lakes. There are only about 20 campsites directly on the water out of the 120 in the campground. We walked over to the beach and launch at Eighth Lake. We had planned to do a little paddling, but as the clouds rolled in and the wind began to pick up, we decided against it and walked the length of the campground over to Seventh Lake to check that out as well.

Most of the sites at this campground are not on the water, but the access is good with a large beach and recreation area near the South Shore of Eighth Lake and a launch and dock on Seventh Lake. On a nice hot summer day, the sandy beach would be an inviting place to spend the day sunning, paddling and swimming. The water was crystal clear and the bottom looked nice and sandy. The distance between Eighth and Seventh Lakes is about a mile, with the 120 campsites spread out on very level ground between them. The sites all have fireplaces and picnic tables, with bathrooms and drinking water spigots at good locations throughout. There is nice tree screening between most for added privacy. As we walked we noticed more and more campers arriving. The campgrounds in the vicinity of Inlet were all full due to the big event the next day.

Eighth Lake campground

A family of Mallard ducks followed me for a bit as we walked along the shore of Seventh Lake, obviously thinking I was going to be like most campers and feed them. They were mistaken. As cute as they are, ducks and geese are really nasty to have around the shoreline of campgrounds, for obvious reasons. Don't feed them, or any other wildlife for that matter (especially the bears)!

As we returned to our site our neighbors struck up a conversation, having taken notice of our little near-teardrop camper. Ours has a flat roof instead of being a true teardrop shape, but the basic concept is the same. If you've decided sleeping on the ground in a tent is not your idea of a fun adventure anymore, having a little hard shell camper is a terrific alternative. Ours has a really comfortable queen size mattress and a galley in the back, a battery for lights with two DC outlets, and hookup for electric if available, as well as a sink with running water. We just love it, and I can even tow it with my little Subaru Forester! We're protected from the elements (not to mention the bears - just kidding, sort of) and have a lot of storage space inside for the camping necessities. Our neighbors wanted to know all about it so we chatted for awhile and then got down to the business of making dinner as it was starting to get dark and we wanted to eat and get a good nights sleep for the big event the next day.

Campsite #8 at Eighth Lake campground

The big event in Inlet

The temperature the next morning was about 47 degrees - chilly! We were cozy and warm inside, but a fire was in order so we could stay warm. We made coffee on our indispensable Coleman drip coffee maker that fits over our Coleman camping stove and packed up to go to Inlet for the day. The day was cold, windy and rainy, but the One Square Mile of Hope event went off without a hitch. We broke the record and were proud to have been a part of such a fantastic event. After eating the event-sponsored lunch, we packed up our boats to head to Blue Mountain Lake for the rest of the afternoon and night.

There was a steady rain falling as we drove into Blue Mountain Lake to check in at Prospect Point Cottages on the lake. Alene, the manager, greeted me warmly and directed us to our cottage right on the lakeshore. All the cottages are clustered around a point of land (Prospect Point) with beautiful views of the North and West shores of the lake. Unfortunately, the clouds were low and blocked the mountain view for the most part.

A cozy cabin on the water

Willow cottage at Prospect Point

"Wilow"cottage was nicely appointed - included were a screened porch with table and chairs, as well as a fire pit outside near the lake surrounded by Adirondack chairs. Too bad the weather was such we couldn't enjoy that wonderful amenity. The inside is all knotty pine with comfortable furniture, cable TV, a kitchen, bath with shower and one bedroom. It was perfect for our stay of only one night. Due to the weather and how cold we were from the earlier outdoor event, we didn't wander around the property to check out the rest of the public areas. They all looked great from a distance however.

Fire pit on the lakeshore at Prospect Point

Great camp dinner

Earlier in the week and at Alene's suggestion, we had made reservations for dinner at The Hedges, located on the lake about a half mile south of Prospect Point. We roused ourselves from napping to get ready and head over. I'd never seen The Hedges, but had heard about it. I didn't realize The Hedges is on the National Register of Historic Places and had no idea of the history behind this Adirondack "Great Camp". You should read the very interesting history dating to 1880 on their website when you have time. There are several large buildings on the property along with several lodging cabins. Common areas abound on the main levels with lodging rooms above.

Front porch of the main building at The Hedges overlooking Blue Mountain Lake

Dinner is served in the Dining Lodge - of course. We were seated by a lovely woman by the name of Francie, who we learned is the owner's sister. Pat Benton and her husband, Rip, purchased The Hedges in 2000. Sadly, Rip passed away two years later, leaving Pat to continue on with their dream alone. Francie is a most gracious assistant to Pat, and she seated us at a cozy table near the window with a view of the lawn and Blue Mt Lake. Pat soon came over to introduce herself and chat for a bit. I detected a Southern accent and asked her where she is from. Turns out she's from the Carolina's and it soon became obvious, as she exuded such wonderful Southern hospitality. We chatted for awhile about the property and the area. She had spent her day picking antiques at the Rustic Furniture Fair taking place at the nearby Adirondack Museum and along the main highway downtown. The buildings are filled with magnificent Adirondack antiques and collectibles.

It was a busy Saturday night at The Hedges. Overnight guests are treated to two meals a day - breakfast and dinner. Dinner is always a four-course affair and there are only three or four entree options each night. We started off with a Blue Crab soup, which was excellent and a good choice for a cold Adirondack evening. Following that we were served a 'family style' tossed salad. The service was impeccable and speedy for such a busy dining room. Our entrees arrived and looked scrumptious. I ordered a Seafood Casserole and Glen chose the Chicken Cordon Bleu. Both were excellent and it was hard to leave room for the amazing desserts. Homemade blueberry pie was on the list and I don't even recall what else as that was the choice, hands down, for both of us. Unbelievable is all I can say - warmed and topped with vanilla ice cream!

Pat invited us to wander around the property at our leisure after dinner, which we did. The common rooms are cozy and inviting and begged one to sit and relax for awhile, which we did. Pat invited us to come and spend another night at The Hedges, but we, alas, had to return home the next day. We took a rain check!

The library at The Hedges

The next morning we had planned to do some paddling, but the cloudy conditions with the cold and wind were just not appealing to me. I was disappointed as I'd wanted to paddle Blue Mountain Lake for ages. Another time I guess, and a good excuse to return.

Rustic furniture and antiques

We packed up early and walked around the property at Prospect Point since it had finally stopped raining. The property is homey and welcoming with a wonderful sand beach, boats for guests' use, a butterfly garden, vegetable gardens and a common area with a large stone fireplace, library and game room. Prospect Point is a historic spot, having once been the site of sprawling Prospect House, the first hotel in the world with electric lights in every room. Built in the 1800's and owned by Frederic Durant, nephew of the railroad tycoon, the grand old hotel is no longer. However, the location is still magnificent, with its sweeping lawns and trees along the shoreline of the lake. Make plans to stay sometime soon. It's a perfect spot for families with kids in the summer and beautiful during fall foliage.

As we left Blue Mt. Lake, we stopped briefly in downtown Blue to take in the rustic furniture vendors along Route 28. There was an amazing selection of items from some of the Adirondacks' most well known crafts people. We wandered around for a bit, chatting with some vendors we knew and fought the temptation to buy many things. Next week's (Sept. 17 - 21) Adirondack Museum Antiques Show and Sale here in Blue and the Adirondack Mountains Antique Show in Indian Lake will be fun events to attend as well, with some of the same vendors in place.

Antique and classic Chevys appeared from around the corner

Biscuits and gravy, oh my!

As we pointed the car and camper toward home, we decided we needed some breakfast. We landed at the Long Lake Diner and weren't disappointed. I had mentioned to Glen that all I wanted that morning was biscuits and gravy, which is not a common item on Adirondack menus. Low and behold - there it was on the LL Diner menu!! I was in heaven. The prices are very reasonable at the diner and service was fast and friendly. After we were seated the place filled up and we could tell it is a popular breakfast spot in Long Lake. The Diner also has a pub with nice outside deck on the lake, which would be a great spot in the evening. We'll have to stop another time for cocktails on the deck!

Breakfast at the Long Lake Diner

And so our weekend in Hamilton County came to and end. We really enjoyed ourselves and are proud to say we also participated in a Guinness Book of World Records record-breaking event! You should make plans to experience what travelers and adventurers have been returning year after year for decades to enjoy - the fresh, balsam-filled air and magnificent mountains and lakes of this incredibly magical region.

A special place

One of my favorite quotes of all time, from William Chapman White's 1954 book, "Adirondack Country", was partially printed on the top border of one of the rooms at The Hedges. I was delighted to have found it, since we have it framed on a wall at our own camp.  White's words express everything one feels after having taken in a few days of the splendor in the heart of Adirondack country ..... "As a man tramps the woods to the lake he knows he will find pines and lilies, blue herons and golden shiners, shadows on the rocks and the glint of light on the wavelets, just as they were in the summer of 1354, as they will be in 2054 and beyond. He can stand on a rock by the shore and be in a past he could not have known, in a future he will never see. He can be a part of time that was and time yet to come." No truer words can be spoken about our precious Adirondacks.

Along the shore of Eighth Lake

Plan your visit now!

Visit during fall foliage season, which is now! Who knows, maybe you'll be lucky enough to see one of our famous Adirondack black bears or even a moose. There's a reason Long Lake's logo is a bear, and many moose have been spotted in this region as the poulation continues to grow. I'll be back looking for them again.

Browse our lodging and dining pages and make some plans today to spend a little time here and take home some of our rustic art and crafts! Check the events calendar also to see what's happening while you're in the region.

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