The Allure of An Adirondack Summer: From BBQ & Corn To Canoes & Moose

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In New York State’s Adirondack State Park lies 44 lakes amidst miles of mountains filled with pines, birch trees, maples and oaks. Located in New York’s Fulton County, historical Caroga Lake which is actually two connected lakes, East and West lies at the base of the Adirondack Mountains. I know this hood well and have spent many a summer skiing its lakes and hiking its trails. Below is the pass that bridges east coast to west coast lake, which you can do via a small boat.

A photo of a traditional camp on West Caroga Lake.

A visual meander around East Caroga Lake

Crossing between West Caroga and East Caroga Lake.

A fence outside a camp along a dirt road on East Caroga Lake.

In 1892, by action of the New York State legislature, Caroga Lake and surrounding areas became part of the newly formed Adirondack Park. New York’s park is three times the size of Yellowstone National Park. It is dotted with lakes, rivers, streams and mountain peaks, 46 of which are more than 4,000 feet high. The park consists of both state forest land and privately owned land. Below are shots taken along what we often referred to as the “Caroga Lake” road (Route 29, which later turns into Route 10), coming from the towns right before the Adirondack Park begins – Gloversville, Johnstown, Amsterdam, Northville, Fonda and Perth.

A closed down shop and a petrol station in Caroga Lake, across from the legendary Vrooman’s Hotel & Bar, where you can get burgers and play pool.

There’s also Dick & Pegs Restaurant on Route 29 and the Outlet Restaurant, which sits at the edge of a swampy area, which is considered to still be part of Caroga Lake. We ordered the duck, which in traditional upstate New York style, always includes a baked potato with butter or sour cream. We also went for the frogs lakes (glazed in tons of garlic and butter) and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

While you’re not going to get a list of fine wines anywhere in the area, they had a decent range of red and white wine you can order by the bottle. It”s a fairly peaceful place, one I remember going to with my grandparents years ago as a child. They always served raw celery, olives, peppers and carrots on a dish as soon as you sat down….and they still do.

There’s also The Coffee Shop, which sits along the main drag on the corner of Hwy 112 & 309. It tends to be busy since its the main eatery in the area and they do a booming breakfast. They serve omelets, sausage patties, blueberry or strawberry pancakes (they even do chocolate chip), waffles, sausage gravy over biscuits, buffalo chicken with blue cheese or ranch or eggs, toast and homefries. Warning: the service is incredibly slow but they eventually show up with your food and a smile.

A small country store that sells yummy sugared donuts on the Caroga Lake road.

The Timberlane Blueberry Farm near Caroga Lake where you can still pick blueberries every August and take home a selection of homemade pies, ranging from cherry and blueberry to calorie and fat-rich pecan.

From Caroga Lake, you can drive north and pass a number of lakes as you make your way north to Speculator some 60 or so miles away. Near Caroga Lake lies Pecks Lake, and not far to the north is Green Lake, Indian Lake, Canada Lake, Pine Lake, Oxbow Lake, and countless others.

People spend time here largely in the summer and it’s a focal point for boating, canoeing and kayaking and of course fall brings beautiful foliage and hiking. In winter there is ice fishing, snowmobiling, a winter carnival, and nearby downhill skiing and cross country skiing. Spring brings fishermen, hikers and campers.

The drive from Pine Lake to Speculator.

An Adirondack camp porch on Canada Lake.

Canada Lake.

We hiked up to Kane Mountain from nearby Canada Lake. At the top, there’s a fire tower you can climb to get stunning views of the area.

The infamous Canada Lake Store and Marina. Here, they serve fresh fish and seafood, from haddock, salmon and tuna to flounder and tilapia. You can also pre-order seafood to go, such as shrimp, ahi tuna steaks, scallops, blue point oysters, little-neck clams, Boston blue fillet, yellow fin, flounder fillet and Norweigian Salmon Fillet and Atlantic Whole Salmon.

You can buy deli sandwiches, deviled eggs, massive pickles, cheese and salami. They also sell waterskis, boats, and old fashioned toys such as paddle balls, yo-yos, bubbles, jump ropes and plastic boat kits. In the very back of the store, you can buy pine needles wrapped in little pillows, so you can take a little bit of Adirondack aroma back home with you. The store also has wooden-carved objects that represent the Adirondacks, such as moose, ducks, bears, canoes and motor boats.

Another lake in the area is the Great Sacandaga, which is much larger than the others. We took in a couple of barbecues here and went jet skiing around the lake, stopping at Sand Island. In the early 1900s, despite the fact that the region started booming, the waters of the Sacandaga River and Hudson flooded with run off every spring causing damage to homes and businesses in the area. In the 1920s, the great Conklingville Dam filled the valley with 283 billion gallons of water.  Below is a favorite hang out called Lanzi’s where we would often go for drinks, outdoor dining and great views of the Sacandaga Lake. (see below, the view from our table, where I caught up with old friends).

On the same stretch as Caroga and Canada Lakes lies another lake further north called Pine Lake. Years ago, they used to throw dances on Saturday nights during the summers where we’d dance under the Adirondack sky to bands who tried to be Journey and Van Halen. Below is a shot of Pine Lake from the ice cream shop set up on the beach.

 A moose hanging from the wall in Pine Lake.

Inside Pine Lake Stoves, a boutique stove specialist shop that sells wood stoves, pellet stoves, gas stoves and fireplace inserts. They also offer chimney services including chimney building, linings, cleaning and repairs. Ask for the owner Ralph and tell him We Blog the World says hello!

A bear rug in a home in Pine Lake.

Driving north out of Pine Lake, you head towards Oxbow Lake on the left, where we stumbled on a Harley Davidson Clambake Festival, an event they appear to hold every year.

Below is a shot of Oxbow Lake. Men fished while we lounged on the dock and took in the summer sun, waiting for the clams and corn to be steamed and the chicken to be grilled.

A Roast at Oxbow Lake.

Roadkill on the main Speculator road, a site that is fairly common if you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time in the area.

The Harley Davidson Clambake picks up steam at the Oxbow Inn, roughly 8-10 miles south of Speculator along Route 10.



The Lodge at Speculator only a few miles from Oxbow Lake.

On the road north.

Not far away, you finally reach Speculator, a village, named after nearby Speculator Mountain, with a population of a few hundred people.  Speculator is the only incorporated village within Hamilton County and is within the town of Lake Pleasant.  The local inhabitants sometimes refer to the village as the “Four Corners,” referring to the intersection of NYS Route 8 and NYS Route 30 in the middle of the business district. After World War I, Speculator gained international notoriety after becoming the preferred location of the training camps of Boxing champions Gene Tunney, Max Schmeling, and Max Baer.

We discovered a fabulous inn named Melody Lodge just off the main Speculator road.  Melody Lodge sits atop Page Hill, 2200 feet above sea level, commanding a view of Lakes Pleasant and Sacandaga. The Lodge was built in 1912 by Mr. Allison Van Hoose as a singing school for girls.  During the summer months, the mountainside echoed with voices of young hopefuls.  Melody Lodge remained a school of music up until World War I, when it became a summer residence and changed hands several times.

In 1937, Frances and Hamilton Chequer of Speculator purchased the Lodge and opened it to the public, offering meals and lodging. After many memorable years, the Chequers retired their services to Susan and George Swift. Over the years the Swifts created the Melody Lodge that resides there today and it is still charming and ever so Adirondack in every way.

Inside the lodge on the walls and in the middle of the lodge. The bar extends to the right, the restaurant (a more formal dining area) extends to the left.

They serve more formal dinners in a white tableclothed dining room or you can order sandwiches, pastas, salads and smaller dishes from the bar. We decided to eat outside since it was such a stunning day and ordered some mussels marinara with garlic and a fresh grilled salmon salad to share.

You can also more traditional fare such as a buffalo chicken sandwich, mozzarella sticks, buffalo wings, penne with sausage and greens, a steak salad, shrimp with artichokes, hickory smoked spare ribs either barbecued or maple glazed or a London Broil, served with mashed potatoes and gravy. They also serve soups and a quiche of the day if you want something a little lighter.

Just outside Melody Lodge is nothing short of stunning. Authentic in every day, Adirondack chairs line the front porch and flowers are in bloom to the front and side of the lodge.

Below is barrel racing at a small horse farm in Gloversville New York where a local girl competes. While we’re talking “horses,” check out this lovely visual journey of horses and their world in upstate New York, a series taken from my niece’s iPhone of life seen through her eyes. She’s been riding horses since she was very little, is an accomplished rider and regularly competes.

And, don’t forget that Saratoga Race Track is only a 30-45 minute drive away and races run for most of August every summer. We went on a Sunday and it’s a seamless experience where general admission tickets are still only $3 and you can get a sandwich and drink for about $10. Be sure to read my post on the Saratoga Race Track in summer. (also published August 2013).

I typically drive to the Adirondacks regardless of where I’m flying in from, however this time around, I took Amtrak up from New York City, an easy and smooth ride. Given that Amtrak trains now provide wifi and cell phone coverage was decent the entire way, I was able to get some work done while taking in the beautiful scenery. Below, the train pulls into New York State’s capital Albany, which is roughly an hour’s drive from the mountainous towns and villages which you’ve just read about above. Ahhh the Adirondacks! My Adirondacks! There’s nothing like you in the summer!

 Photos by Renee Blodgett. For other posts on New York State, visit our New York page / what do to in New York State / The Adirondacks.
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