Adirondak Loj: A Strong Tradition of Serving Hikers
The Adirondak Loj has a rich history of bridging the gap between the mountains and the hikers
In 1890, Henry Vanhoevenberg had a dream: to create a place in the Adirondacks where hikers could get as close to nature as possible. He worked hard and did not stop until he built the biggest log cabin in the world. Vanhoevenberg "built trails up the surrounding High Peaks; led, taught, and encouraged the earliest hikers; and told stories around the campfire," according to www.adk.org. However, this dream was short lived. In an unfortunate turn of events, Mother Nature forcefully reclaimed the lodge. Vanhoevenbergs' dream was burned to the ground by forest fires which ravaged the area in 1903. Despite this mishap, Vanhoevenbergs’ efforts were not in vain.
Today's standing Adirondak Loj is a living memorial to the tradition that he started. The ADK Loj enables hikers from all walks of life to enjoy the serenity of the wilderness. After the fire, the Lake Placid Club built the current ADK Loj in 1927. The Adirondak Loj got its spelling from Melvin Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. Dewey was a main officer of the Lake Placid Club and wanted to have his simplified spelling used to name the Loj. Instead of the conventional “Adirondack Lodge” spelling, the unique spelling of the Adirondak Loj is in place to this day. It was under their ownership until 1958, when they sold it to the ADK club.
ADK is a non-profit organization consisting of 30,000 members who live in New York State and other areas. ADK “provides an introductory and transitional” experience to hikers on “different entry levels,” according to ADK Dep. Executive Director John Million. Working closely with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the ADK club offers education programs, outreach programs and volunteer trail projects through the Loj. It is open to the public “365 days a year,” and you do not have to be a member to stay at the Loj, Million says.
Million explained that there are two different groups that come to the Loj. Day hikers, or people passing through the Loj, comprise the first group. They can stock up on water, use the bathroom, or get important weather information. It is the “last stop before they head off into the wilderness,” Million says. For the other group, the Loj is the final destination.
"A ranger who ran the nature center at the Loj invited us to stay the night, he also cooked us dinner."
The lodge can comfortably accommodate those staying the night. There are 60 beds on the property, distributed throughout nine rooms and two cabins. For hikers who cannot obtain a bed, there are 51 campsites to choose from. The Loj also offers bathrooms, fresh water to drink, and also a store which sells hiking related equipment.
The Loj, which is the closest access point to the high peaks wilderness, is the home of the most hiked trailhead in New York State—justly named the Vanhoevenberg Trailhead. Annually, the Vanhoevenberg Trailhead attracts “40-45 thousand hikers,” Million says. Not only does the Loj offer supervised nature treks for learners, families and younger kids, but also “different opportunities for families or people just getting into hiking,” Million says. A good example of this is the universal assessable trail to Heart Lake which is designed for those who are handicapped. Million adds that ADK consists of “25 chapters in local communities in New York and New Jersey.” These organizations plan trips to the Adirondacks and often stay at the Loj.
The ADK members who work at the Loj take their posts seriously, and have been known to go the extra mile for hikers. Ammon Bartram, a 46er, recalls the hospitality of a Ranger at the Adirondak Loj when he was seven years old: "I came back from a hike with my father in the pouring rain. I was soaked and hungry and the campsite was wet. A ranger, who ran the nature center at the Loj, invited us to stay the night; he also cooked us dinner," Bartram says. Bartram also added that the Loj has something to offer serious hikers and for children who are unprepared for backcountry hiking.
"The atmosphere is always very friendly, and everybody is well educated about the high peaks, stressing safety as well as rules and regulations."
Jason Broman, one of the first to graduate from Plattsburgh State University in the field of Expeditionary studies, recalls the wealth of services that the ADK Loj provides to hikers with high regard. "They are well organized with a concern for the environment," Broman says. Although Broman is not an ADK member, he volunteered for two years on an ADK work program called Fall Trails Day. On this day, workers clear the trail drainages so the erosion from melting snow is less devastating. Food and snacks, as well as tools for clearing the trail are provided by the Loj. Broman says that the ADK members associated with the Loj "take pains to educate hikers on environmental awareness as they navigate the trails."
Ali Thompson, who is an ADK member and currently a senior majoring in Expeditionary studies at Plattsburgh State University, reinforced the idea that the Loj unites hikers. She described the members associated with the Loj as a “hiking family.” “The atmosphere is always very friendly, and everybody is well educated about the high peaks, stressing safety as wells as rules and regulations,” Thompson says. What began as a dream by one man, evolved into a wonderful experience with "a little something for everybody."
There are several destinations that can be reached from the Adirondak Loj. On a site for the Adirondak Loj, there is a list of the places you can access:
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