By Roger Kessel
In the historical and continuing conflict between preserving the natural beauty of the Adirondack Park and fostering economic development, members of the hospitality industry are not infrequently depicted as the bad guys—the black hats willing to forego preservation of the wilderness in a selfish quest for profit. The reality is much more complicated and, based on my experience, the reverse is true. Let me explain.
My introduction to the Adirondacks was in the late 1940’s in Inlet where my parents rented a small cabin off the channel joining sixth and seventh lakes in the Fulton Chain. For my brother and me, two 12-year-old city boys, this place was nothing short of heaven. Adding to the glow, Pete Crispell, a native Algonquin, befriended us— taking us fishing in remote native brook trout streams and Raquette Lake. At night after dinner, we would walk to his cabin and Pete would regale us with stories about his experiences in the wilderness. That one week was the highlight of the year and for the remaining 51 we dreamed only of returning. None of this would have been possible, however, without a place to stay.
It should come as no surprise then, that decades later I would author a book dedicated to innkeepers—the people who make available the magnificence of the Adirondacks to those who are not up to backpacking into the wilderness. The book, The Hedges: The Story of Twelve Precious Acres on Blue Mountain Lake, recounts the 140-year history of a small rustic resort starting in the golden years of Blue Mountain Lake when a Civil War hero and extraordinary businessman built a private camp on its shore. It traces the camp’s fascinating history and its conversion from private use by a socially elite family to a rustic resort open to the public. The remarkable story of the first innkeepers, the former caretakers of the Vanderbilts’ Great Camp Sagamore, is followed by those of subsequent owners facing their own unique challenges. In recounting their experiences and our changing perspectives on the Adirondack wilderness, the book explores why generations of owners and guests have so deeply treasured The Hedges.
Their deep connection to this place is emblematic of the key role that innkeepers, and more generally the hospitality industry, play in fostering appreciation of the Adirondack’s natural beauty and the importance of preserving it. Without continued public support, however, the decades long and so far successful preservation efforts ultimately will collapse. So, when The Hedges went on the market in 2018 a group of about 60 loyal families and individuals purchased it. Our purpose? You guessed it. To prevent its reversion to private use and ensure public access for future generations.
The book, The Hedges, is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and book and gift stores in The Adirondack Park. Suggested Retail Price: $17.95. Kindle edition at Amazon.com for $7.99. Author Contact: 518-533-7449; firstname.lastname@example.org.