When Matador Network offered me a contract job in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, I immediately said yes.
I’d travelled upstate a handful of times, but the only time I’d seen the Adirondacks was a distant view from the train window on the journey from Montreal back to New York. This trip would be the perfect opportunity to properly explore this distant part of the state.
Most New Yorkers tend to go upstate once every few months, as this city can get overwhelming; The constant crush of people squeezed in to such a tiny area means that we require a good dose of personal space every so often.
City dwellers will usually head north up the Hudson River or to the Catskill Mountains, and I can testify that these are both great parts of New York state. Only 2-3 hours from NYC, these areas have plenty of space to share between all of us.
But the Adirondack Mountains takes ‘getting away from it all’ to a whole new level.
View of the Adirondacks from Coney Mountain
There are 2 major reasons that most New Yorkers don’t make it to the Adirondacks:
First, the distance. This state park is 4-5 hours from New York City at best. To get to my motel in Long Lake, I took a train up to Fort Edwards-Glens Falls (the closest Amtrak station) and then rented a car to drive another 1.5 hours into the mountains.
Second, the inaccessibility. Most peeps living in NYC don’t own a car, and so any destination that requires us to rent one is shoved down to the bottom of our list of weekend getaways.
Of course, it’s these two reasons that make the Adirondacks the perfect place to do a digital detox and get deep into nature.
Rob and I usually reside in the Lower East Side of Manhattan where it’s common to hear the conversations of people on the sidewalks, the constant beeping of car horns, and fire truck sirens whizzing past at any time of the day or night.
When the two of us finally arrived in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, we immediately sought out Long Lake’s only grocery store to buy cheese and crackers before settling on our motel balcony with a view over the lake.
It felt eerily silent. As we attempted to fall asleep that evening, the only sound was a distant coyote howling into the night.
Whitewater rafting down the Indian and Hudson Rivers
It was an early start the next day for our first activity – whitewater rafting down the Indian and Hudson Rivers with the Adirondac Rafting Co.
I’ll admit I was a tad nervous about whitewater rafting, but it turned out to be loads of fun. We drifted 17 miles downstream navigating various rapids along the way, with the sun on our backs and the cool splashes of water refreshing us.
That evening, we got dinner at a local restaurant then passed out early, both slightly sunburnt and very exhausted.
The model town in Speculator
Our second day was spent exploring Speculator. The small towns in the Adirondacks were all so adorable, and Speculator was no exception.
We parked by the lake and spent the morning getting footage of a model town, which featured miniature display buildings including a general store, post office, church, and ice cream shop. Behind the tiny town was an elevated wooden boardwalk that took us through some dense forest and marshland.
After stopping in at the actual ice cream store for some real life gelato with the rest of the film crew, Rob and I took off alone to drive to Saratoga Springs as Rob needed to be dropped off at the train station. It was just a casual 3 hour drive from Speculator to Saratoga then back to Long Lake.
On the lone drive back, it poured with rain for 5 minutes then as the sun came back out, I noticed that the water on the road had begun to evaporate into a low mist. I pulled into a parking lot (which was actually just a large patch of dirt off the side of the road) at Adirondack Lake to catch some photos of it. It was 100% gorgeous.
Exploring Camp Santanoni
My third day of filming was at Camp Santanoni – a historic building that was once used as a exclusive getaway for the wealthy. It’s a 5 mile hike or cycle from the road to the camp, but we had special access, so I jumped in the back of a truck with the guys I was working with and we filmed some cyclists riding behind us.
The camp was unbelievable. I don’t really know how to explain it. A giant house or massive vacation home? Basically it was a huge old wooden building with lots of rooms for people to stay in, which sat by a lake in the middle of the woods.
We explored the building (most of which is open to the public) then took out some canoes on to the lake.
It started raining just after lunch, so we wrapped up our shoot and drove back to Long Lake to grab lunch at the pub. I was elated to discover they had a veggie burger (such a rarity in rural America!) and craft beers on tap.
Coney Mountain views
When the rain stopped, we ventured out for a sunset hike up a local mountain. It was a muddy ascent up to the summit of Mt Coney, but the 360 degree views from the top were amazing. We watched the sun dip below the horizon then started to make our way down before it began raining again.
As I settled in at the desk in my motel room to get some work done the next day, I realised that I’d barely even looked at social media, hadn’t sent any emails, and hadn’t even connected to my motel’s WiFi network until the day before. There had been so many activities and so little to worry about in the Adirondacks that it just didn’t seem necessary to stay plugged in.
Even though I managed to go whitewater rafting, explored an adorable small town, ventured out to a hidden camp in the woods, canoed on a lake, and hiked up a mountain, there was so much more I could have done in the Adirondacks. There was still chasms, waterfalls, treetop walks, and about a million more hikes to do.
If there’s one thing I could say about the Adirondack Mountains, it’s that it sure is a wonderful place to switch off entirely.