Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sweet Solitude

If you've read my earlier posts, you know that I like to go out to ski at night a lot. There is something special about slinking about after dark in the wilderness that I really enjoy, and most of the time it is with a group. This winter has been pretty lean as far as snowfall is concerned, so when it started snowing today just before closing, my spirits perked up as I knew I would be skate-skiing tonight, Thursday night, all by and for myself. Looping out at dusk via Old Faithful Trail upon a velvet bed of fresh new powdery snow, it was clear that conditions underfoot were really nice. It was also obvious that the Johnsburg Ski Team was skiing hard in their training earlier this afternoon as their tracks were telltale -- wiiiide, long strokes of V-2 skating strides and chopped up snow from braking and turning where Bobcat Trail's downhill crosses Old Faithful eluded to the speed and intensity of their workout. But, tonight, it was just me and the trails and the falling snow. I proceeded to casual skate out and back on Andy's run and up Blue Jay Way, then back to my cottage to drop a layer and put on a headlamp -- I was inspired!

Looping out Old Faithful brought me to Bobcat again, and I descended that to Trapper down into Harvey's Tailings. In the dark, it was a kind of white-out as my powerful light illuminated the driving snow, blinding my progress. The falling snow was stinging my eyes as I picked up speed, and I had to really concentrate on the feel underfoot. Down in the Tailings I decided to ascend Lower Duffany's Run and take Lower Solitude toward the Sugarhouse trails. Gliding though Solitude's thick canopy of towering hemlock, birch and pine is such a beautiful thing; doing it by myself in the night always becomes a little eerie, however. There are noises down there, strange ones, real or imagined movements in the woods and energy that causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention. There are always tracks, and the occasional sets of eyes glowing from the woods, the yellow piercing sharp eyes of coyotes being the most startling. I know they are just watching, though...

Back to Trapper trail and the long climb back to the shop. The snow was blissful and invigorating, silently falling and muting the sound and softening the glide of my trusty old skis. Ascending Trapper is an exercise in form -- form maintains momentum, form leads to efficiency, a shadowy form moving not so far off in the periphery of my headlamp turning it's head and blinking reflective eyes! Stopping to listen to the soft sound of paws pattering through the snow, barely discernible over the sound of my heart thumping from exertion and excitement. Back to the task at hand and back up to Old Faithful, animal tracks crossing my tracks in the snow, strange noises from animals not seen calling out from not so far off in the dark. The woods are alive, and whole 'nother world all around here at night.

Skiing can be such a workout, but it is also such a great opportunity to commune with nature on so many levels. Tonight's motivation was driven purely by the elation brought on by the falling of new snow. From our youth through to adulthood, that magic never ceases -- it only gets more powerful! I just hope it continues to pile up through the night bringing some much deserved accumulation to us for the morning. We shall see. (Ed. Note: It did not last, alas we got rain...)

Come on up and make your own tracks -- we'll see you out on the trails.

Night skiing, snow falling.

Personal powder solitude on Lower Solitude.

Tracks in the powder that were not there when I'd passed earlier.
What could it be?

Saturday, January 21, 2012


What is your perception of this cross country skiing thing? Slinking about with friends on the groomers? Skating around at maximum heart rate and drilling technique technique technique? Or is it the silent solitude of backcountry trekking? Whatever your passion, there is always another tweak, another adventure, a whole new perspective to unfold around the next corner. Sharing that amongst friends is what I like most about being here, the collective energy and discovery of being in the woods, on snow, on skis.

This past Saturday night I went skiing with friends and season pass holders Peter and Beth after a fabulous dinner together at the Lodge. While sitting around the big stone fireplace plotting our strategy, it occurred to me that the options were limitless, right from here --no driving. The Plan: a late night ski down to and across 13th Lake to make echoes, then ski out to Elizabeth Point and return via Old Farm Road, no matter that it was nearly 10 below out! We set off into the dark down to the beach headlamps blazing, the world around a glistening white surreal winter scene fading to deep night outside the periphery of the beam, crisp air frosting your cheeks, gliding through the trees down to the lake. At the beach meant lights off, and we set out across as our eyes adjusted to the deeply purple moonless starlit sky. Overhead the Milky Way shimmered in a slushy state of frozen suspension, twinkling sharp blinking stars all around. There hung Orion, one of the Dippers, bold planets and an epic horizon ringed by Big and Little 13th Mountain, and the Balm of Gilead Mountain and unspoiled by light and sound pollution. Whooping out sharp loud yelps resulted in tremendous echoes far back into the mountains and all the way down around the lake. There is something spectacular about standing deep in the belly of the valley out on the middle of frozen 13th Lake, those mountains towering about and marvelling at the breadth of the clear sky during a windless silent still frozen evening. It is the under weight of the universe at these moments that you fully experience our remote wilderness splendor.

Skiing out the few miles to Elizabeth Point was wonderful natural light night lake navigation, gliding silently slinking along, feeling your nostrils freeze shut for a split second as you inhaled deeply. We paused numerous times to search the sky and make more echoes, seeking the familiar landmarks to guide our progress, chuckling at how our speech became more comical as our faces got colder. Climbing up and out to the Old Farm Road created comfortable warmth and lead to the nearly effortless night glide back to the start. Everyone had their own perspective of our little adventure: mine came while ascending Hagan trail to Andy's Run, experiencing the frost on my collar tingling my cheeks and watching my breath turn to frozen vapor as it whisked upward through my headlight's beam. It is amazing here, and sharing it all with friends is the best part of being here!

Come on out and make your own tracks, freeze them into your memory and breathe in the splendor of our wilderness location while spreading the winter joy. And don't forget to pack your headlamp -- the fun never stops here, and the Ski Director never sleeps...

Peter and Beth on Bobcat Trail, plus a Skullbuster bonus

Old Faithful Trail flyer

Friday, January 20, 2012

Skiing in full swing

Well it's been a busy week or so.  Last weekend we had a good snow and the trails were in great shape and the skiers were all very happy and excited about everything.  Then came some rain and wind that rendered the trails  not so good, but still skiable.  Then last night we got a couple of more inches of fresh powder so we're in good shape for some great skiing this weekend.

In addition to some great pictures we are planning to add video of conditions and activities here at the lodge and out on the trails.

Here's a few from today:

That's me.

And that's Mindy
 Doesn't she look good?

And here's the dork.
More tomorrow!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Adventures in Snowfall

Late night winter weather advisories are always seriously watched by me, hoping any accumulation would add to our base and help to extend our season and just help out. We've had a pretty crazy mix of weather and I knew this past Tuesday's storm would be coming in wet and possibly changing to sleet/freezing rain. I always check right outside my kitchen window first thing in the morning, first light. Imagine my surprise, then, when getting up and getting a drink, bleary eyed and crooked with fatigue that morning that I would be greeted with an unusual and not predicted powder storm. Perhaps I interpreted all the national weather forecasters' interpretations wrong. Perhaps the incredible professional local weathermen (accuweather and, which I use, are good for general but oftentimes not detailed enough for our daily local) were wrong for once; an Adirondack anomaly. Perhaps instead of looking to the forecasters for weather this morning, I should have checked atop my 'fridge. For when I opened my eyes, and the 'fridge, I was greeted with the lightest most puffiest fluff powder first thing. First light and first tracks -- unfortunately they were in my house and looked like footprints -- the tracks were from my bare feet and the vacuum became my snow blower as fluff powder was actually just full, open, bag of flour.....

As I've said in the past, life is one big adventure here at Garnet Hill. Be it on site or off site, our proximity to so much and such diverse Adirondack recreational opportunity really is incredible and being able to return to the warm cozy fireplace at the Lodge overlooking 13th Lake is the perfect recharge. We are all here for the adventure, and there is so much to choose from.

One adventure we don't have a choice in, no matter how much we'd like, is the weather. Sometimes it is our best friend (like when it is dumping powder), sometimes not (like when it is 28 degrees and sleeting), but like an old friend, it is always there. This season has been tough weather- and snowfall-wise, but we have been luckier than most with getting snow and nicely skiable conditions partly due to our elevation of nearly 2100', and partly due to our luck. For skiing, it is definitely due to our phenomenal veteran groomer Dale Monthany. He is the best, and we are fortunate to have him -- Dale's been able to work magic with less than ideal snowfall to create great skiing all around here, and our guests are happy.

For this weekend looks like we'll luck out again and get some more snow to top off the foot or so that we got last week. It will make for more phenomenal grooming, and more phenomenal skiing. Get your skis waxed, gear packed, and get set for your own new adventure! And you can tell us about it at the fireplace...

High road or low road?

First light at 14 below in the Tailings.
Second Pond backcountry trip.

Friends or not, it is always a race!

Friday, January 13, 2012


While writing this at midnight tonight, the winds are howling outside and the temperatures have swung from 34 degrees this morning to single digits tonight. We've received nearly a foot of snow over the past few days, and we have been skiing like crazy in the driving snow. We've snowshoe'd, skied the groomers by day and out in the back country at night, and then across the lake last night. I've been out with local friends, lodge guests, and by myself. For all of us skiing an on snowshoes, we are all having fun, enjoying the wilderness setting here, wholly taking in the experience. That is what we provide -- an experience for you be it enchanting moonlit skies, catching falling snow on your tongue, whooping it up downhill on skis or simply reading a book by the grand fireplace in the lodge. We are so pleased that deep winter has returned to the Adirondacks with all of it's splendor, and we want you to experience it, too!

As you can imagine, it has been quite a ride the last few days with regards to weather. The new snow and climate shift is such a welcome sight, and the overall buzz and level of activity at the shop is electrifying. Seeing so much snow pile in and hanging in the trees is just the snow fix that we all needed. Sharing it with all of our old and new friends is what makes us happy.

One woman who has more experience than pretty much anyone is 85 year old firecracker and local historian Milda Burns. Milda is a wealth of local historical knowledge, culture and folklore, and she frequently gives talks at the lodge. With respect to how intertwined we are in the local garnet mining and logging industry, Milda will enchant you with her tales and historical display -- it is up to you to determine the authenticity of her folklore. Be sure to catch Milda next time she comes up.

Mid-winter conditions here at Garnet Hill, and hot soup and chili await you in the shop! Come and get it...

Seniors or not, it's always a race

Milda holding court Late night fun in the back country

Groomed for your pleasure!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One thing that is nice about our little place in the Adirondacks is it's proximity to the (not so) secret stashes. We had to pull one out today as a little Monday scouting mission revealed skiable snow not too far away! Our guests were thrilled to be out on skis on nice soft snow, and a 9.5 mile trek was the the perfect way to loosen up the ski legs. For their first day on skis, they were all very happy.

Rhyme Ice in the High Peaks.

Making tracks, laughing like kids.

No slide, no fun -- glide wax time.

Taking in the view.

We made it! Time for lunch...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What is it about Garnet Hill Lodge?

"What is it about Garnet Hill Lodge that interested you and convinced you to want to purchase the property"?

Since taking over the property in early December I've gotten this question quite a lot in various forms.  
The answer is a little bit difficult to express because the full answer is not quite simple enough to state in just a few sentences and partial answers seem inadequate.  So over time and in installments, I'll try to answer the question here and then maybe just point people to the blog anytime I'm asked in the future :)

As a preamble to why I wanted to own and run the Lodge I should say a bit about myself growing up and getting to know this area.  
My Dad's parents in Germany

After growing up in Germany and emigrating to the US in 1929, my dad first came to Johnsburg in 1947 driving a 1945 Willys Army Jeep he had purchased in a Brooklyn shipyard after winning a lottery for the right to buy it for $400 dollars.  The $400 dollars he'd saved up through serving in the army in WWII.  After visiting the Johnsburg area several times, he settled on a 200 acre property that had been a working farm in the early part of the century.  He purchased that for $800 with the help of his soon to be bride, (Mom)  who worked as a seamstress in Manhattan at the time.
They're very small but these photos are 
of my parents on their honeymoon in the 
Adirondacks and then a later picture of 
my sister Laura as a girl.

Jump ahead about 10 years to Staten Island, NY and along came me as the 5th child of the family in 1959.  I don't know if my mom took me up to the camp the first summer but here is a picture of me and my older siblings my second summer. (Left to right: Roy, Laura, Fred and Carl).  My younger brother Vic wasn't around yet.

So that's how it was.  The family usually came up and spent the 2 weeks of vacation my father had at the camp, doing quite a bit of work to keep things maintained and adding a few amenities such as indoor plumbing.  But there was always lots of other things to do: hiking through the woods, playing army, cooking food on the wood fire, hanging out in the bunkhouse, going for rides and climbing Crane Mountain.
My Mom was born, raised and has lived on Staten Island her whole life.  She's now 93 and staying in a nursing home there.  She taught in a special education program in the NYC school system for 20 years.
Picture of me, Dad and younger 
brother Vick on a walk in the woods

Meanwhile I and my brothers would also accompany Dad on weekend trips, taking a Trailways bus on Friday night from Manhattan to Glens Falls where the old Jeep was kept in a rented garage.  Then we'd drive up Route 9 at midnight with the canvas roof down if it wasn't raining or freezing, and pass through the flashing lights of Lake George at a top speed of 35 mph with the headlights barely able to reach a hundred feet in front and arrive at the camp in a mist at 2am to settle down for a brief sleep.
(Tonight my neighbor Joyce Virgil came by the Lodge for dinner with her husband Mark.  Joyce and her brother Andy, who is the same age as me, were two of the best friends I had growing up in the summer here).
From then on through high school and college I spent quite a bit of time up here.  My dad and I, along with my brothers managed to build a house ourselves which is quite comfortable to live in now, and over the years I've acquired a fair amount of equipment to maintain and enhance the property.  I've reopened old farming and logging roads and cut new ones where needed and cleared several of the fields that used to be there.
The property is in a low lying area with great soil and so has plenty of water and several large brooks running through it with the accompanying beavers and other wild life.

 The field with a winter sunrise

My nephew Joe driving the Jeep with my buddy Seth

The same field in summer driving the Jeep through.

In my next post I'll talk more about my music background and my career in software development.

Friday, January 6, 2012


This season is like a relief map -- it has had it's ups and downs for sure. There seems to be a return to more seasonable weather looming here shortly -- forecasters are forecasting it, and we're hoping for it. With conditions all over the place and not the kind of January Adirondack snowpack you'd normally expect, we've been able to put more attention toward our snowshoe trail system. If you've not checked it out yet, there are some very good loops withing our property, criss crossing the ski system in many places. The change in perspective is very neat if you are used to the ski trails, and when you realize where you're at it is such a cool experience. See for yourself -- strap some on!

We re-open again for skiing in the morning. Conditions are packed powder skiing on thin early season covereage. Unfortunately not enough snow out there for track-setting. We recommend that you have an intermediate or higher level of ability. We've been massaging the new snow for the last two days to compress it to our frozen base, and it looks pretty nice (see photo below).

Shop doors open at 9:00am for tickets, rentals and retail. Ski packages are 10%ff, and we've got comfort snacks and soft goods to purchase as well. See you there!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Being at Garnet Hill presents a myriad of opportunity to commune with nature. There is so much to do and see here in the Adirondack wilderness that it can be mind boggling.

Yesterday's temperatures were really cold, like Adirondack winter cold, finally! A clear atmosphere and the polar plunge of a cold-snap atmosphere makes for clearly beautiful conditions. While doing trailwork, I ventured down to the lake for the first time this season for a look-see. It is such a stunning setting down there, the basin of this big mountain valley ringed by Big and Little 13th Lake Mountains, Hour Pond Mountain and the Balm of Gilead Mountain. Directly across the lake from the beach, the waterfall is freezing up nicely -- at that spot you can blast a hearty "whoop" down-lake, and the echo bounces around off of these mountains and comes back around behind you! Try it. Yesterday I was a little timid to venture out too far, but far enough to take in the beauty, winds, and sounds. Beautiful sounds of the wind ripping past, spiraling up mini snow-cyclones, glistening in the cold dry air. Sounds of the ice cracking and shifting, the snap of the plates adjusting, slightly shifting like a slumbering giant.

With zero sound and light pollution here, the night sky is often filled with a plethora of stars. Setting my alarm for 3:15am brought me out for the peak of last night's Quadrantid Meteor Shower! Walking the trail system at night by starlight is beauty to behold. The world seems to be held in a state of frigid suspension. But there are subtle shifts and movement, animals, a world alive outside your periphery. With a clear atmosphere and temperatures below zero last night, every little sound seemed amplified. The squeak of snow, crackling or twigs, the loud snap of standing trees splitting in the bitter cold as their frozen sap or moisture cracks them. That snap is crisp, loud, startling -- it echos. The woods alive all around, meteors periodically streaking silently across the sky overhead.

On Sunday, January 1st we hosted our first event of the season. The Empire State Ski Orienteering Club held it's second annual event here. Ski-O folks are a hearty bunch, and dedicated to their craft. Set up with numbered "controls" to find in a sequence, you are given a topo-map with no trail names and it is up to you to navigate the controls in the most time-efficient manner. Aims Coney sets a real mind bender of a course -- you are presented with too many options and your decision making ability and comprehension of terrain and skiing skill is thoroughly tested, sometimes enough to make you snap.

Real winter has returned to the North Country. Seasonal temperatures abound, and we are looking to receive new snow here right through the weekend. Stay tuned...

Pan of 13th Lake.

Applying a hard day's kick-wax.

Ski-O chest harness w/map holder and compass. Clocked in and ready to go.

Your winners. These kids have big boots to fill, and they're doing it nicely (look at the size of their boots!).

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Yes, as Jay says below, we had a great time last night serving a long list of wonderful people who were very appreciative of what we have been doing over the last several weeks and we're very encouraged that we actually pulled off such a large and successful dinner for them.  So we thank all who were able to join us as well as our employees who's hard work and teamwork made it possible.

Here's the story in pictures:

 Jeff and Kylie on their way to delivering dinners to a table 
of 23 in the porch dining room while guests in the main dining
 room enjoy theirs

Some of our guests sitting down to New Year's Eve Dinner 
with the Christmas tree in the background

 A few patrons in the pub enjoying a beer or glass of wine.

Our friend Kent Jeffrey stepping in to bar tend for our first full 
opening night with a liquor license.

 Our friends Sharon and Sam up for a visit

 Folks out on the ski trails

 A group shot

 The view from the log house on New Year's Eve

The view from the beach on Thirteenth Lake


Happy New Year! For those of you who celebrated here at Garnet Hill Lodge last night, you got to experience a new wave of excellence that is building. Subtle and not so subtle improvements and changes are all around, some being things like new linens and silver wear and other tactile elements that just feel right and make a big difference.

Behind the scenes it is quite an organization that goes on to bring out your meal, a flow and orderly chaos, so to speak. The intensity of the kitchen on a busy night is a sight to behold, kind of like a dance as everyone has an intertwined role and purpose as they roll through the night, very little wasted motion, and a lot of hustle. Chef Andrew is the composer and conductor of this train, and he runs a tight ship.

For me, it is pretty neat to experience and watch and learn. I've learned a lot of organizational things that might work in my environment at the ski shop during the crazy days when there are a crush of people waiting to get tickets and rentals. I've learned how hard the kitchen and wait-staff work at their craft to provide an exceptional dining experience right outside the swinging doors. But, I think the most valuable thing I've learned this winter is how to stay out of Andy's way when the heat is on. He is the guy that feeds me after all! In all seriousness, Andy is a really great chef that I've learned a lot from so far, from culinary ideas and method to management skills, and it has only just begun. Getting back to the tactile element theme, it is all of that combined flow that brings your food out at the perfect temperature and succulent goodness. Thanks Andy.

And Happy New Year to you from all of us at Garnet Hill Lodge!

New Year's dinner

Chef Andy lights it up

Happy New Year to me!