Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Innkeepers Wear White Hats: A homage to The Hedges

the hedges book cover

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; rkessel31@gmail.com.

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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 editor@adirondackalmanack.com




9 Responses

  1. This book is not only a great resource for future generations of researchers, it’s a great read! It’s amazing how many riveting stories came from this relatively small area and how many glimpses into the lives of Adirondackers these stories afford.

    Thank you, Mr. Kessel, for all of your work in preserving this history!

    • Roger Kessel says:

      Thank you Margie for your kind and generous comment. Greatly appreciated. As you know writing about a place is really writing about the meaning that people bring too it. That’s ultimately what I tried to capture in the history of The Hedges.

  2. Christine Nepo says:

    I throughly enjoyed this book. I knew parts of the history of The Hedges, but this put all the pieces together. For those who love the Adirondacks, I highly recommend this fascinating read.

  3. Roger Kessel says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, Christine. Very nice of you to post this comment.

  4. louis curth says:

    Roger Kessel’s descriptive account is one variation on a theme that I’ve heard over and over from so many people who, one way or another, found their way to a life joined at the hip to the Adirondacks.

    In fact, my own story can trace its roots to a cabin my father built near Loon Lake in Chestertown back in the early 1950s. It was life changing.

    I suspect we would have a lot to talk about should we ever meet. In the meantime, I’ll take Margie’s always reliable advice and read “The Hedges”.

  5. Michael F. Heberger says:

    I “discovered” the ADK at Cranberry Lake in the early ’70’s. Hospitality in the ADK is not limited to innkeepers. Daily trips to Dave Allen’s store for ice cream and other necessities. The gang at the Emporium, who magically stocked everything. We rented a place on Columbian Rd. and people remembered us from one year to the next. Then we camped at the state campsite and the rangers knew my family from one year to the next. I’d like the adirondacks for it’s beauty, but it the people you meet that make it specia..

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