Saturday, May 30, 2020

Ode to an outhouse, and gatherings with old friends

By Susan Hennessey

There are many things that bring joy to my life; the majesty of the Adirondacks, the deep cold lakes nestled in those mountains, the endless trails for hiking, the smoke that unfurls from the chimneys of the sweet cabins that dot the woods, and believe it or not my girlfriend Margie’s outhouse. 

Yes, her outhouse is like no other. Located at the foot of Whiteface Mountain on the outskirts of Margie’s summer campsite sits the most darling outhouse. It was built from love and a whole lot of hard work.

My high school girlfriend Margie and her husband Brian were fortunate enough to have inherited a plot of land near Whiteface that they have been developing for 30 something years into the most efficient, adorable, campsite. LL Bean and Campmore would rival to have its photograph on the cover of their yearly catalogues. Blood sweat and tears have driven this project.

When Margie and Brian were dating they spent many days tearing down trees making way for the development of a screenhouse for their cots. She knew this was her man and was willing to grunt her way through chopping, stacking and hauling wood to show her devotion to Brian. 

He in return, asked her to marry him and this perfect union grew just like the campsite. Over the years, with the help of a master Adirondack carpenter named Lisa, they added on a screen house, a dining area lean to, an outhouse, a solar shower, a dish washing station, and they even equipped the kitchen with a propane refrigerator and stove. This summer we chuckled over the new LED lights in the cabin because it reminded us of an old fashioned ice cream parlor. 

I see all these changes because over the past 30 years Margie has invited me and 4 other high school friends for a weekend in the summer. Brian affectionately named it “herd” weekend because we noisily interrupt his peace in the woods upon our arrival and he immediately makes his exit for home. But before he goes, he cuts and stacks all the wood for our fires, heats up the water for our showers and makes sure we have enough wine for the weekend. We spend the first hour marveling at all the changes they’ve made before we unpack and chill the wine. 

interior outhouseA few years ago Brian decided that Peg and his 2 daughters and the woman of the herd deserved a better outhouse than the original basic one he built. So he put Lisa to work and the results were stunning. We now enjoy this, can I say, lovely little pink, flowery, clean, fresh smelling outhouse. It includes a color coordinated brush broom, a flower hanging rack and a wonderful log seat for sitting when we all make our way to the outhouse in the middle of the night, giving each other security in a dark and frightening woods. Margie’s name is scripted on the outside above the door so everyone knows who is the queen of that castle. The handle has the perfect charm and flavor of the Adirondacks of long ago. 

I always look forward to my annual trip to the Daks with the girls. We catch up and talk non-stop. Under a sometimes full moon, but almost always a starry sky, we reminisce about the past. We used to talk about our husbands and the trials of working full time and raising our kids. Now our discussions around the roaring fire still include our husbands but also includes retirement, weddings and grandchildren. 

This past year, trees were felled so that we could have a clear view of the mountain. I requested a yoga platform overlooking the mountain when I return next year. Knowing Brian, it will be there when I return. 

Susan Hennessy is a resident of Ballston Spa and Lake George.  She is a retired elementary school teacher. 

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

2 Responses

  1. Pufferguns says:

    Thanks Sue that is the nicest half moon house ever!! Do you assembly and deliver?? FINALLY a heart warming story.

  2. Sandra says:

    This was a lovely article. At our camp outside of Tupper Lake to make the outhouses more enjoyable I stenciled bears on the doors. Some one also added LED lights that give on comfort during nocturnal visits. The St. Regis Hunting and Fishing Camp has one flush toilet in the main building but camp would not be camp without our outhouses.