In the central Adirondacks, we have thousands of acres of splash-worthy lakes, summit-able mountains, and mouth-watering restaurants. In other words, there's a lot to do and see. But did you also know that we have some super cool stories, legends, and odd facts? For a dose of fun Adirondack facts, read on!
On a remote stretch of Raquette Lake, in a location only accessible by boat, sits the Brightside, once a small hotel known as Brightside-on-Raquette. The story goes that many years ago, there was a couple staying at the Brightside. The man set out to go to the village via the frozen lake in what has been described (of course) as a blue-ish mist or haze. He never returned. The wife sat in the window, waiting and waiting for him to return, and is said to wait for him at Brightside to this day.
At one time, when the Brightside was being renovated, an old-fashioned woman's coat suddenly appeared hanging on a hook. A few months later, a man's coat appeared as well. No one knew where the coats came from, nor did they know at the time the story of the room the coats appeared in, for it was in the sad woman's room that the coats appeared. In the early 2000s, Mohawk Valley Ghost Hunters visited the property and concluded that the property has a lot of “energy.” It is said when the original piano is played the lonely wife appears and is soothed, but otherwise she continues to wait and wait... and apparently, bother people who stay in "her" room by shaking the bed and causing other, unearthly oddities.
Our history is electric
Today, we take electricity for granted. Charging phones, lights, electric appliances, even musical instruments. It's probably very difficult for most people to even imagine everyday life and vacation without electricity. But there was a time we read our favorite books by the light of a candle or an oil lamp and cooked over a fire. When it comes to bringing electricity to vacationers, a beautiful little corner of the Adirondacks led the charge. When the grand Prospect House hotel opened in 1882 on the shores of Blue Mountain Lake, it was the first in the world to have incandescent electric light in every guest room. Thomas Edison himself designed the system for the hotel and supervised the installation.
Unfortunately, Prospect House, which also included an indoor bowling alley, barber shop, telegraph office (for making your family back home jealous), billiard room, running water with steam heat, and a 370-foot long covered porch, went out of business in 1903. The cost of operating the hotel for the short summer season was simply unsustainable in the long term, and the hotel's location thirty miles from the nearest railroad station requiring a lengthy stagecoach ride didn't help, either. After being sold, the hotel was eventually torn down, but the hotel's place in history, as well the occasional fun artifact, remains.
Hamilton County, despite being the least populated county in the state, is full of some pretty neat history and some of it is climbable! Of the twenty-two places in the county on the National Register of Historic Places, four are summit fire towers. There was a time when fire towers all over the Adirondacks were manned by spotters whose duty was to watch for potentially catastrophic forest fires. Some of these remain and make for a bonus treat at the summit of a scenic hike. The views from the towers on Wakely, Snowy, Pillsbury, and Blue mountains are incredible.
No longer used for spotting fires, the towers now remain as historic landmarks to the past, and a way for anyone to connect with that past. The presence of the fire towers makes for a neat challenge, too!
ATTENTION: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that all public fire towers in New York will be closed.
All public trails are still open and fire tower peaks can be climbed, but hikers are advised to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet apart - which the fire tower cabs are too small to accommodate. The DEC also recommends hikers avoid busy trailheads and explore hikes and outdoor adventures close to home.
Wild places are always going to have cool, wild mysteries. In addition to ghosts, Hamilton County also has a very unusual, very mysterious cave, known as Kunjamuk Cave, near Speculator. Personally, I think caves are cool and I've been in a few, as long as they're not too confined. The caves I have been in are fairly well understood in terms of how they were created. Not so with Kunjamuk! No one actually knows how the cave, which is fifteen feet deep and eight feet wide, came into existence, whether it was man-made or naturally occurring.
If someone dug the cave, why did they do it? While there a rich (pun intended) history of mining in the Adirondacks, this place wasn't known as a hotspot for minerals. Legend has it that famous Adirondack hermit French Louie had used the cave as a space to get in out of the weather, but he certainly didn't dig the cave out, including its topside "window." The great thing is that we'll most likely never know how the cave came to be, which means that we can keep daydreaming about hidden treasure, secretive gold miners, and goblins, if we want to. It's all part of the cool, quirky wonders of the Adirondacks.
For more stories of Adirondack adventure, mystery, and downright odd things, don't forget to read our regular blogs which share all kinds of neat information about this incredible region.