We were just under an hour away from our destination when our phone service officially cut out. Not like “oh, I have only two bars available” but like calls-can-no-longer- be-completed, Google-Maps-app-won’t- load kind of cut out (luckily, thanks to being told that this would happen, we came prepared with printed directions). We were on Route 28, the east-to-west state highway that cuts through New York’s North County—and, in our case, the section that slices through the Adirondack Mountains’ Sargent Pond Wild Forest past lake after lake, then south toward Little Moose Mountain Wilderness en route to our final destination: A resort housed in a historic multi-building Great Camp property set in Long Lake, New York.
Despite the lack of cell service, the level of remoteness still didn’t really hit me until our car took its final turn off Route 28 and ambled south, down the long, winding dirt road for our final five miles. The closest “major” city was more than an hour’s drive away in Tupper Lake, which is actually more of a village with a population of 3,600 and likely more miles of snowmobile trails than actual roads. Later, I learned that the tagline for the 1,000- acre retreat where we were staying—which was formerly owned by Teddy Roosevelt’s Lieutenant Governor of New York, Timothy Woodruff, from 1898 into the early 1900s—is “Stay Where the World Can’t Find You.”
Indeed, there really is no better place to disconnect from tech than in the Adirondacks, a six-million-acre forested wilderness packed with pristine waterways, boreal forests, and the Northeast’s 46 famous 4,000-foot peaks. My basecamp for the weekend: Lake Kora, Woodruff ’s historic Great Camp shrouded in pines and set on the northeastern edge of a private 500-acre lake of the same name, roughly 70 miles south of the Adirondack Regional Airport in Saranac Lake (one of the communities that Cape Air serves). My fellow tech-free travel companions: My partner, Trent, and our 2-year-old Australian Shepherd, Rocko (yes, Cape Air offers dog-friendly flights).
Despite it being late, close to 10 p.m. when we arrived on Friday night, we were immediately greeted by the sound of a golf-cart pulling up behind us at the Main Lodge, piloted by the manager of Lake Kora, the sneaker- and smile-clad Cameron Karger. After a quick check-in inside the incredibly maintained stone structure, once the blacksmith’s workshop and today a welcoming main lobby, we hopped back into our car to follow Karger in his cart about 30 seconds down the pebble road to two waterfront cottages with sprawling grass fields on either side. Simply known as Cottage 1 and 2 (and the special dog-friendly accommodations), Cottage 1 was to be our home for the weekend. There are six additional stone and timber cottages dotted along the waterfront, which in totality offer 12 authentic guest rooms, all with original furnishings and fixtures carved more than a century ago by Lake Kora’s own on-site craftsmen. Think majestic stone hearths laid with firewood, spacious wood-walled bathrooms with vintage soaking tubs, soft fluffy robes, and bed linens along with various seating and dining areas. In our cottage, we even had a full kitchen and living room where classic, well-loved board games were stacked atop the dated television that looked, very purposely, unused.
And at this time in late June, it wasn’t just this two-story cottage that was all ours, but the storied Great Camp in its entirety. The property, which is only available to book entirely for groups of up to 25 guests, wasn’t to reopen for its July-through-October season for another week, so it really exclusively was “our home away from home for the weekend,” as Karger put it while helping us with our bags and showing us around the cottage. Our dog seemed to understand it, too: Before we could even open a single suitcase, a big splash echoed from the shore. He was already neck-deep in the lake, relishing a nighttime dip.
As for us, we were treated to a three-course meal hand-delivered from the property’s farm-to-table kitchen, including a salad that had the freshest mozzarella I had ever tasted and a dish of deliciously seasoned, seared chicken breast over a creamy, flavorful risotto. Dessert came in the form of a candied basil-adorned chocolate tart and a bottle of pinot noir hand-selected by Karger from the stone cellar. After dining, what would have usually been a night spent scrolling through our social media while Netflix rotated through shows in the background instead evolved into a wine-fueled game of Yahtzee. And once we did head to bed around midnight, I swear, I’ve never fallen asleep faster … and I didn’t even pack my trusty white-noise machine. The artificial nature sounds I usually play on loop were, to my delight, performing live just outside our wide-open windows.
That’s exactly how we woke up on Saturday morning, too. Birds chirping, water splish-splashing, and one very eager dog crying at the door. After a breakfast of coffee, thick-cut French toast, and fresh-picked blueberries in the Great Room, the main dining room home to a family-style 20-foot dining table, we were ready to have ourselves a day. But where to begin? We had no agenda, no schedule, nowhere to be, or people to see. It felt strangely freeing—but that was precisely the goal.
So we just started exploring. A short walk from our cottage, the sprawling building known as “The Playhouse” houses an all-wooden bowling alley, a squash court, ping pong tables, and a full commercial kitchen. Elsewhere on the walkable property, there’s a tennis court, a two-story spa (in what was formerly the Ice and Meat House), an outdoor roller rink, and a boathouse right on the water where you can take your pick of sailboats, canoes, motorboats, and various other pleasure crafts to enjoy on the water. In the middle of the lake, a whimsical, two-bedroom house sits on a small island, what I imagined to be the perfect retreat for honeymooners or perhaps a writer looking to knock out a few pages.
It was all very reminiscent of the days when the camp was owned by Woodruff, where gondolas imported from Venice plied the lake, semi-tamed bears resided near the cabins and posed in group photos, and telephone service was installed as early as 1903.
After a morning spent exploring the various buildings, we were eager to get out in the natural setting that inspired these Adirondack- style structures themselves. While the Adirondacks are known for some of the most breathtaking mountains and ribbons upon ribbons of hiking trails, because Lake Kora is already so deep in the wilds, you don’t need to stray far to find a hiking trail and scenic overlook. In fact, miles of well-maintained walking paths traverse the grounds, including one that encircles the main lake and one that leads past winding brooks, towering pines, and across a wide meadow up to Green Top Hill, the highest point on the property. Our afternoon was spent hiking around the property, in which we allowed our dog to navigate and select our every twist and turn.
Getting “lost” here was easy and enjoyable, not only because it all somehow feels as safe as home, but because ultimately, the trail always leads back to the water. This was confirmed each time our fearless and furry leader circled back to his pack, soaking wet from a fresh dip in the lake just ahead. As we strolled, we marveled not just at the panoramic lake views but at the 3,750-foot Blue Mountain that, from where we stood at the peak of Green Top Hill, rose above the other surrounding ranges about 25 miles away to our northeast. But we also slowed our walk to coo at the many bunnies that crossed our path or take in the various scattered hollowed-out logs filled with succulent gardens that looked like something out of a fairy tale.
“How epic would a family reunion here be?” Trent stated more than a few times as we walked. And when we came across the breathtaking chapel on-site, the brick exterior decorated in colorful climbing vines, we thought, “Destination wedding? Our whole family is from New York, after all … ”
We woke up to a rainy last day, which was somehow an entirely different kind of beautiful to experience: The lake rippled in dark shades of navy, making me take even more notice of the towering evergreens lining the lake’s edge. Karger knew we had to hit the road in just a few hours, so he took it upon himself to pack us a picnic basket of sandwiches, snacks, and refreshments to help maximize our time on the lake. After all, a little rain was not going to stop us. We threw on some ponchos from the cottage closet and grabbed a canoe and a couple of fishing rods from the Boathouse. Within minutes, as I munched on lemon cake, Trent felt a tug on his line after his first cast. I watched, surprised at his luck, as he giddily reeled in a glittering-green smallmouth bass.
“Did you get that on video?” he yelled. “With what phone?” I replied.
We both laughed. It would only be a few more hours until we were back home and able to—albeit reluctantly—turn our phones back on, at which point we would assess their battery life and have to comb the corners of our condo for the appropriate charger. But as for our “mental” batteries, I wasn’t worried about those in the least. I knew they were already fully recharged.
For more information, visit lakekora.com.