Old-style Adirondacks retreat offers a place to unplug and unwind
16 Sep 2017 - 9:07
Horseback riders explore the woodland trails at Timberlock, which is in the southwestern corner of the 6-million-acre Adirondack State Park. Nancie Battaglia / The Washington Post
By Amanda Loudin | The Washington Post
"Is it like 'Dirty Dancing'?"
That's the question I'm inevitably asked when I tell people where I'm headed for summer vacation. Timberlock is an old-fashioned camp in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, so remote that there is no connectivity. There's also no electricity in the 23 simple, comfortable cabins that dot the shoreline of 11-mile-long Indian Lake. That's what attracted my family for the first time back in 2007. This year marked our ninth return.
We let our kids binge on technology on the drive, knowing they will be devoid of it for the following week. At about 15 miles out - just when we spy the familiar, painted "pig rock" - the signal drops and the anticipation rises. We all welcome the right turn onto the gravel driveway with the precipitous drop. This is home away from home for us.
When we pull up in front of the main lodge, we are greeted by our hosts, Bruce and Holly Catlin, a couple of friendly dogs, and staff members in green John Deere "gators." We deposit our belongings into one and the staff totes it off to our cabin for the week. By this stage, my kids have already scattered: my 12-year-old daughter to the nearby rope swing and my 16-year-old son to the wooden dock over the lake. He's a devoted bass fisherman, and spending a week on freshwater is pretty close to nirvana for him.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Timberlock so special to my family because the reasons are as varied as the activities at hand. For me, it's a simple, carefree week, spent in a combination of family and solo time. We each find our niche there, sometimes side-by-side, sometimes alone, often with newfound friends.
The Catlins, who have owned the resort since 1963, see to it that families don't have to think much beyond which watercraft they want to try on a given day. They employ two chefs, who prepare plentiful, healthy, mouthwatering meals three times a day. Young guests line up to ring the bell to signal breakfast, lunch or dinner is but 15 minutes away. We gather on a dining porch with views of the lake, mixing and mingling with the guests from other cabins.
Those three mealtimes are as scheduled as things get around camp, which answers that question: No, it isn't like "Dirty Dancing."
Everything at Timberlock is "take it as you like." There's a water trampoline, as well as a wide array of kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and sailboats available with a quick staff checkout. Swimming in the cool, deep waters is a treat for pool-weary dwellers of the cities and suburbs. I make a point of swimming across the lake and back, about a 1,200-yard swim, several times each week with my husband guiding the way in a kayak.
For land lovers, there are tennis courts, archery, a wood shop, and horseback riding. A horse wrangler comes around at breakfast signing guests up for rides varying from beginning ring lessons to a ride up a nearby mountain with lunch at the top. My daughter rides every day we're in camp and knows each of the six horses by name and personality.
Situated in the southwestern corner of the 6-million-acre Adirondack State Park, Timberlock is an easy drive or walk to seemingly endless choices for hikes. My family's tradition on Monday each year - weekly rentals run Saturday to Saturday - is to climb nearby Snowy Mountain. At 3,988 feet high, it just misses "high peak" designation; at eight miles round-trip, the hike serves as a perfect bonding time for us.
This year, the weather wasn't our friend for a hike up Snowy - it was raining buckets - so we had to find another option. We'd visited the nearby Adirondack Museum before, so we decided instead on the nearly two-hour drive over to Lake Placid for the day. We took in the sights and returned in time for dinner.
The weather can be unpredictable in the Adirondacks, and this year, we had several nights where the temperature dipped into the upper 40s or low 50s. Each cabin at Timberlock has a wood-burning stove, and we were excited to fire ours up for the first time in a few years. The cabin beds are layered with warm blankets and with the scent of the fire, it can be tempting to sleep right through breakfast.
We made up for our lost Snowy hike the following day, with one of three choices for group treks arranged by Timberlock. This year, we joined two other families for a climb up Owl's Head Mountain, a new option for us that offered spectacular views from the top.
Like all vacations, our week at Timberlock flew by. We all dreaded the return to the hurried world of jobs, schedules and commitments - probably more so than after any other trip because being wholly untethered from modern-day trappings brings with it a heightened state of relaxation.
I guess if I had to pick one aspect of our time on Indian Lake that makes it most special, it is that step back in time. Life is simple at Timberlock, and that's something my technology-dependent children appreciate, perhaps even more so than I. There is nowhere else that the would rather be and so we return, year after year.
Early Friday evening, as I walked the dirt path from our cabin to the dining porch for the week's final dinner, I slipped into a state of melancholy. It would be a full year before my family could once again inhabit this quieter, easier world. A world where loons cry out at dawn, children gleefully dive into chilly waters and people get to know one another around an evening fire. Life's simplest of simple pleasures.
IF YOU GO
Indian Lake, New York
Rates vary depending on cabin size, age and number of guests and whether cabins have bathrooms or off-site facilities. The cost includes three meals per day and all resort activities except horseback riding and water skiing, for which there are additional fees. Cabins with baths: $222 per day, $1,332 per week. Cabins without baths: $166 per day, $996 per week. Three-night minimum stay. The resort's summer season runs from late June to early September; reservations for the 2019 season open in February.
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