by Barbara Barton Sloane
We are in the Adirondack wilderness, driving a winding road with snow covered pines forming a narrow passageway. Ahead of us, an intricate gate fashioned from logs and branches and spelling out “The Point.” After punching in a code, the gate opens very slowly as if to say “Take a deep breath. Relax. Let the wonders of this very special place envelop you.”
We’ve arrived at The Point Resort in Saranac Lake, New York – the last of the Great Camps of the Adirondacks considered by many to be the premiere resort in the country and Condé Nast Traveler’s highest-rated property. From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the great depression, Gilded-age magnets built magnificent mansions made of logs and collectively called the Great Camps. The Point was built as a private retreat for the William Avery Rockefeller family between 1930-33 by the prominent Adirondack camp architect William Distin. It is situated on a 75-acree peninsula jutting into Upper Saranac Lake and today consists of a main lodge and 11 distinctive and delightfully decorated rooms for a handful of very lucky guests. The rooms have Adirondack twig furniture, huge stone fireplaces, down beds and each strikes a balance between being grand yet intimate. Here you have the romantic notion of “roughing it” in comfort, elegance and gentility.
2. Branch Bed at The Point
Entering the grand log mansion, we were greeted b the General Manager who ushered us into the Great Hall and offered a glass of Champagne. Everything about the Great Hall was great. It evoked the Adirondack camps of old with rough luxe, animal trophies lining the walls, massive native-cut stone fireplaces, vast sink-in sofas and a view of the frozen silver lake beyond. After a brief walk-about to acquaint us with the property, we were shown to our room.
3. A room at The Point
All is Calm, the Fire is Bright
The room had been prepared for our arrival – a carafe of wine, a roaring fire in the fieldstone fireplace that reached up to the timbered ceiling, lamps softly glowing, candles flickering. We were delighted by a cloud-soft bed made entirely from branches, its tree-trunk post giving the feel of a bed growing out of the floor. It was amusing, fun, and Goldilocks, herself, would have pronounced it “just right!” Icicles four feet-long formed a grid over our leaded glass windows like to many pieces of Swarovski crystal and the snow on our roof was deep and sumptuous as vanilla icing on a wedding cake. The warm comfort of our room beckoned us to linger but the experience of dining en famille with fellow guests was too appealing to pass up.
The Great Hall is where meals are served, and we dined by candlelight, the table laid with fine china, crystal and silver. We had individual menus at each place setting. When I turned my menu over, I saw that all of the guests’ names were listed – first names only. Discretion and privacy at The Point is, well, the point. The extraordinary meal was enriched by lively conversation and generous amounts of fine wine, making for a true house-party atmosphere. The next day dawned sunny and bight, perfect for snowshoeing. A guide led us over the frozen lake and into the woods, up hills, down dales, dazzled all the while by a silent, white, winter wonderland.
4. The Point Boathouse
Dinner at Eight
Each evening cocktails were served at seven, dinner at eight, and every Saturday, dinner is mandated black-tie, a bow to yesteryear’s Great Camp formality. After dinner, a happy surprise awaited us: a snow picnic by a bonfire in the woods. Earlier in the day, we’d mentioned an interest in seeing the bonfire before departing. Unbeknownst to us, this was arranged. We were led down a snowy path twinkling with tiny white lights to an all-out roaring bonfire. Around it, Adirondack chairs were piled high with warm woolen blankets and cushy pillows. Icing on the cake: a fully-stocked bar, long branches to spear marshmallows and the fixings for S’Mores. Who could ask for anything more?
Your Wish is Their Command
This phrase defines the level of service offered by the staff. Want breakfast in bed, lunch at a fairytale cottage in the woods, or a sumptuous dinner served by the fireplace in your room? Done. In fact, service is so amazing, it almost seems as though one has but to wish for it and –presto! As if by magic, it happens.
Visit The Point in summer and you’ll water ski, swim, and boat in one of The Point’s venerable mahogany cruisers. But oh, in winter – that’s when The Point is at its most seductive. All of the huge stone fireplaces in the 11 guest rooms in this Relais & Chateau property are blazing, and you can peek out from under your down comforter to see what has been brought, to your specific order, for your breakfast in bed. You can snowshoe, cross-country ski, skate on the lake, cover up in blankets and sip a hot toddy around a campfire barbeque, curl up with a book by your bedroom fireplace…activities limited only by one’s imagination. Christmas here recalls a golden, days-of-yore affair and there’s a festive, blow-out New Year’s Eve – with fireworks! At The Point there’s nothing that one has to do but oh so much that one can do.
5. Christmas Tree in the Great Hall, The Point
As we prepare to depart, the ever-attentive staff has prepared box lunches for our journey. Nothing left to chance, nothing forgotten. No, wait…there is one thing they’ve overlooked: tissues to dab our eyes as we bid The Point adieu.
Planning to go?