For years, Evan and I have been wanting to get back to the Great Camp Santanoni and we were finally able to make that happen! Camp Santanoni, now a 32-acre National Historic Landmark, was established in the late 19th century by Robert C. and Anna Pruyn. As an escape from life in Albany, Camp Santanoni was a place to entertain guests and explore the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
Once covering over 12,900 acres, Camp Santanoni contained three main complexes: the Gate Lodge, the Farm, and the Great Camp. Many of the original rustic buildings are still standing and are great examples Adirondack architecture and craftsmanship. The NYS DEC, Adirondack Architectural Heritage, and the town of Newcomb have partnered to refurbish the historic camp over the years.
The 4.7-mile carriage road (now known as Newcomb Lake Road) back to the Great Camp is always open for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and more, but during the winter there are three special open house weekends co-sponsored by AARCH, the Town of Newcomb, and the Adirondack Interpretive Center. During these weekends, the restored buildings are opened up so that visitors can stroll through the Great Camp and learn about the cultural heritage of the region.
On March 18th, Evan and I met up with our friends Matt and Sarah to cross-country ski back to the Great Camp. With Lucy trotting along next to us, the four of us set out on the trail, passing by the farm structures about a mile along the road. The weather was perfect - blue skies and mid-40’s - with plenty of snow on the ground after winter storm Stella dropped over three feet of it the week before. Further along the road, we passed by trail signs for Moose Pond and Lake Harris. There are plenty of connecting trails around the Camp Santanoni property, and even camping opportunities along the way. While the road to the Great Camp is primarily full of gentle hills with one steep(er) hill near the destination, the 10-mile round trip adventure makes the ski a more moderate trip.
Upon reaching the Great Camp, there were skis and snowshoes sticking out of snowbanks every which way, discarded so that visitors could walk around the well-crafted buildings. Picnic tables set up in the sun were full of people lounging with their friends and enjoying their packed lunches. There were several staff and volunteers from AARCH onsite to answer questions and lead tours of the Main Lodge. We ended up chatting with a few of the volunteers who filled us in on the restoration activities and pointed us in the direction of the Artist’s Studio, where skiers and snowshoers can warm up next to the woodstove and enjoy some coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. There was a limited selection of charming mismatched mugs, so if you remember to BYOM (bring your own mug), please do!
After sipping on some hot chocolate, one of the volunteers keyed us in on a secret - the boat house is the place to go for a million dollar view. We wandered over to the boat house and the view was spectacular. We spent the next hour or so soaking up some sun on the ramp overlooking the lake. Lucy even took the opportunity to catch up on her napping, making herself comfortable on my backpack. Eventually, Steven Engelhart, Executive Director of Adirondack Architectural Heritage, brought a few people down to the boat house and we learned some great history about Camp Santanoni - including some fun stories about Teddy Roosevelt’s visits to the Great Camp involving climbing a tree for a porcupine.
As the sun started to get lower in the sky, we realized that it was probably about time to start heading back toward the cars. The ski out was a lot of fun - being mostly downhill, we enjoyed the ride! We all left Great Camp Santanoni feeling satisfied and happily exhausted from all of the snow and sun. We have already decided to go back in the summer for a camping excursion.