When planning our two-week driving tour around the North East of the US, the map showed a vast green expanse between Syracuse and Burlington called the Adirondacks. Is that “Add-ee-ron-dacks? A-dire-on-dacks?”. It turns out that it’s “Add-eh-ron-dacks” and is a state park in upstate New York that’s large enough to hold all of the country’s National Parks inside it.
Next decision: where to stay?
Keene is small town sitting on the Ausable River. It has a garage, a church, a fire department and a handful of shops selling maple syrup, food, drink and furniture. There’s supposed to be a thousand residents of Keene but they don’t all live in main body of the town — it turns out that nestling amongst the trees are other houses, totally hidden from view, and we got to stay in one.
Norton Brook is a large house in the woods just outside Keene, NY. Its drive is almost impossible to see but for the red reflectors marking the small gap in the trees. It is totally secluded, sitting in the valley of small brook which bubbles next to the house.
The back of the house has a long balcony overlooking the brook below, trees to the right and in front and mountains in the distance to the right. There’s an outbuilding next to the brook, but this doesn’t appear to be in use.
Inside the house there’s a large kitchen stocked with all the basics, and a door out on to the rear balcony. The lounge is a huge full-height room, stylishly decorated and dominated by the stone chimney stack. The room has TV, books, board games and jigsaws. There’s even Wifi!
Downstairs, there are two double bedrooms rooms (one with its own satellite office and ensuite bathroom), a family bathroom, plus the entrance mudroom/laundry. Upstairs there’s another ensuite bedroom with four single beds. In the basement, with ample room to hold bikes and other outdoor gear, there’s a self-contained “granny flat” with a bathroom for good measure.
This place is huge — the three of us in our party only used the downstairs but much larger parties could be accommodated with ease.
There’s a barbecue/grill on the balcony for outdoor cooking and a fire-pit by the brook if you’re feeling more adventurous.
Things to do
The house has a set of books with guidance on things to do in the Adirondacks, and a handy guide to shops and restaurants in the vicinity was provided, including a review of local blueberry muffins.
The Adirondacks is the perfect playground for the outdoor adventurer: there’s the 46 high peaks which are within easy reach of Keene; canoeing on nearby lakes and rivers; and it is an ideal starting point for cycling journeys. In the winter, the area transforms into a winter sports destination.
Having said that, we used Norton Brook as a base for exploring the areas more low-impact attractions. There’s the nearby town of Lake Placid, still basking in the glow of hosting the 1980 Winter Olympics and offering shops, restaurants and bars around its eponymous lake. Tours of the lake and the adjacent Mirror Lake can be taken where you can marvel at the huge houses of the super rich — “oh wait, that’s just the boat house?”.
The Whiteface Mountain is accessible by road and affords spectacular views of the Adirondack region — views which are impossible to get without getting above the tree line or sailing out into the middle of a lake.
The High Falls Gorge has an accessible boardwalk around a set of water falls and bore holes together with some easy nature trails in the woods.
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge is free (donations welcomed) and has bears, wolves and other local wildlife in their care. There are also a number of easy nature trails on their property and is well worth a visit.
Watch the sunset from the balcony, and when it gets really dark, you can see the Milky Way.
Rubbish and recycling is handled at the “transfer station”, just over the road from Norton Brook where your waste is weighed and payment is taken through the exchange for cardboard chads. The transfer station has only two rules:
- No discharging of firearms on the premises.
- Speak to the supervisor before disposing of animal carcasses.
Wise words indeed.
We loved our time staying at Norton Brook. We used it as a restful stopping point on our hectic driving tour but it’s more likely that it would be used as a base for outdoor activities. I can also declare, against the guidance in the provided literature, that the best muffin in the area can be purchased from Cedar Run Bakery. 🧁