a piece of heaven
A couple years ago, my family made the difficult decision to part ways with our treasured family camp in the Adirondack Mountains. Because this is also the time we used to travel there each year, it is especially during this time I honor the camp. And so, here goes my tribute.
Built in 1901, the home was purchased by my Great Grandparents, the Haynes, in the 1940's. Rustic, dark green exterior with red trim, they named it Haynes Log Camp. Since the time Log Camp came into their possession, My Mom, Aunt and their parents (my Grandparents) made the haul from Florida to escape the hot temperatures and enjoy the cool air and relaxing lifestyle of the Adirondacks.
To understand and appreciate Log Camp, it’s important to know a little bit about it.
The property is nestled in the mountains in Inlet, a town so small and quaint you’d miss it if you blink on the way through. The camp is right on the shore of Seventh Lake — one of the Fulton Chain Lakes deep in the middle of the Adirondack Park. Log Camp comprises a few rustic structures (hence why it’s called a camp): The Big House, The Rafters, The Guest House, The Lean-Two, The Raccoon Hut and The Boat House — all uniform in look, beautifully landscaped with natural rocks, flowers and adornments like a chipmunk house, garden decorations and lanterns.
Between the structures, paths and grassy landings (not to mention the lake!), this was ample space to accommodate our family for weeks at a time.
We never knew TV or Internet while at Log Camp — even until the last weekend I spent there. Heck, to make a call, you could only do-so locally (from a wooden Mallard shaped-phone, mind you) and only needed said duck for things like calling Bob Payne’s boathouse to ensure they had worms in stock for fishing, or to see if there were bears roaming out back at Ole Barn restaurant.
The many years we spent at Log Camp were wholesome. On any given day, we’d wake up and all want a big breakfast. My Grandmother always offered coffee cake and cereal to the extra early risers, the people like my patient parents who just wanted an ounce of serenity before the kiddos woke up and filled their agendas with boat rides, skiing, hikes or feeding chipmunks.
Quiet mornings were followed by walks to Drake’s — a 1.5 mile walk that, to us kids, felt like we were walking across the entire Adirondack Park. We just wanted our French toast and corn beef hash. But my Dad and Mom made us work for it, and we later realized how wonderful those walks were, surveying blueberry bushes along the gravel road, spotting wildlife and taking in the view of the rolling mountains.
Activities came in strong with skiing, playing croquet, walking over to the neighbor’s yard or hiking up to Big Bear Mountain and Arnold’s Point. Ok, so it rained a good bit — but we managed to remedy with Uno and Clue and unleashed our greatest creativity hanging out in the Rafters with one another. I don’t think I ever complained about being bored up there. It’s like even from a young age, we just knew to appreciate the natural beauty and activity that came with the mountains.
Activity-filled days were followed by evening traditions— everything from ridiculous talent shows in the Big House, campfires by the water, fireworks on the dock or traveling into the big town of Inlet for Screaming Eagle pizza and Northern Lights ice cream.
To this day, I always say that my best memories were made at Log Camp and I will always have them. It’s my favorite place in the world and that will never change. It’s a gem of a place, that Log Camp. And while it’s not ours anymore, the memories will never be taken away from my family or from me. I am incredibly lucky to have ever had what we had in our family for so many treasured years.
The decision to give up Log Camp came as a big surprise, but I knew I had to accept it when my Mom broke the news. I remember sharing it with my brother Jed first-hand, and was proud of myself for telling him in such a mature way. I remember he was shocked and visibly bummed out. Knowing how much time he and I spent there together, I still can’t believe I didn’t break down at that moment. I think it is because my Mom, My Aunt and my Grandmother had come to terms with it that it was just the right time.
In the Summer of 1996, my Grandfather passed away. He had been staying at Log Camp. I was not quite in 4th grade, but I remember very well being so stunned to learn that he was gone, forever. Being up at the camp without him was very hard for me and I cannot imagine the struggle it has been for my Grandmother, My Mom and Aunt, not to mention the other relatives he was so near and dear to, no matter what time has gone by.
For so many years after his death, I know my family wondered if it was too hard to keep the camp without him there. I can’t imagine the tough conversations that took place debating this very subject.
But flash forward, and you can see we found a way to cope with the great loss and honor my Grandpa by enjoying all that he left for my Grandma and our family. We even named our 1989 Starcraft boat after him, “Harry”. I think that’s maybe why today, even after SO many years, I don’t feel like he left us that long ago. Weird how that is.
Not too long ago, the advertising agency I work for created a beautiful film called Give The Gift of Home. It was created in partnership with one of our clients, a household brand, Air Wick. The film shows three families and their beloved homes they have lived in for several years. One man, Simon, is moving out of the home he shared with his late wife for many, many years. It was not only done very well from a creative standpoint, but given what I had gone through in the last few months with Log Camp, it struck a chord.
That film accumulated over a million views on YouTube — I am confident that view count is hugely owed to the people who have their own versions of Log Camp and can relate to saying goodbye to their little piece of heaven. That film has brought me a lot of comfort knowing that being attached to a home and holding onto memories is a very real thing. And I will never forget the smells, the activities and the emotions I felt while I was there. In fact, I feel them even as I write this. Oh and if I could just bottle up the smell of the Big House kitchen for my Mom, I would do anything.
Change is hard, especially when you’ve never known life without something. But I quickly shake myself out of it, because I know it wasn’t right for us to keep Log Camp and that there just comes a time you have to say goodbye and appreciate what you’ve had. I can’t thank my family enough for that.
And there is another side of things that I want to raise: That difficult time has made me realize an old saying that, you don’t really miss something until it’s gone. And while I always appreciated my time up at Log Camp, I don’t think I ever analyzed the memories I created there with family and friends as much as I have until now. It’s never too late to do so.
My last memory of being up there is when my parents, my brothers, my grandmother, my aunt and uncle and cousin Marty were all up there with me. It was right after a contract was put down on the camp. We wanted to enjoy one last happy trip up there, together. Everyone went out of his or her way to be there, as we couldn’t imagine not being there one last time. That trip, my boyfriend of many years proposed to me, turning into the best memory. I am SO grateful for that time and all the planning that went into the happy surprise.
I still would do anything to go back there and just stand on the dock looking out at Seventh lake, taking in the peaceful sounds of seaplanes, loons and water crashing up on the rocks. I hated saying goodbye, but feel gratitutde that we all spent those last few days together, just as we had for many years.
So there isn’t really a lesson in all of this — other than, cherish the memories you make at a place you love, more importantly with the people who spend these times with you. It will stay with you. That’s what life is all about.
I have heard that the family who scooped up Log Camp shortly after we put it on the market deserve it. My grandmother feels very happy about them residing there. That warms my heart and I trust they see the beauty and memories that will be made there.
So, to that family, I leave with this: A few helpful tips that will make little sense, if no sense at all:
- Don’t leave chili outside the Rafters door overnight. You may wakeup with a bear walking across the lawn.
- Watch out for that thick tree root on the narrow path down to the boathouse. It’ll getcha.
- Enjoy the sweet sound of the Rafters door that has a creaky spring.
- Aunt Cindi claims there are spiders as big as our hands on the dock, but my Mom says they’re harmless (still not sure about that, though!)
- The Johnston’s next door are excellent neighbors and definitely know the lay of the land (and water). Stick with them.
- The water is ICE COLD, even if Marty tells you it’s bath water. (though it feels amazing once you get used to it)
- If you sleep in the small bedroom upstairs in the Big House, welcome the nights you wake up in the middle of the night. Look out the window and take in the moonlit lake.
- There’s a towel at the bottom of the lake by the dock. I accidentally let it float down there when I was in 7th grade. (Sorry Mom!)
- Stock up on board games, hot chocolate and good books. The weather is quite iffy up there, but you’ll appreciate the time spent indoors just as much as out.
- Let yourself relax and unplug. Don’t get caught up on installing a TV or Internet. Let Log Camp be your escape.
- Please don’t change too much about it (other than structural improvements). She might be old, but rustic is in and red and green suit her well.
- CHERISH Log Camp and if you ever decide to sell her, I hope you’ll call me first.