Alpenglow is just beginning to grace the distinctive snow-covered slides on Gothics. Leaning on the porch handrail, a guest at Johns Brook Lodge holds a steaming mug of coffee while watching the morning spectacle unfold. Perhaps even more potent: the silence, enhanced by the muffling effect of snow, which blankets the property.

Johns Brook Lodge—commonly abbreviated as “JBL”—is the only backcountry lodge in the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness. Located 3.5 miles into the backcountry from the Garden trailhead in Keene Valley, the only way to reach this woodland getaway is by foot. In the summer months during full-service season, a full compliment of seasonal staff cook meals for guests and maintain the property. After Labor Day, when caretaker season starts, it is up to our two full-time JBL staff, Henry and Dick, to keep the property running.

A man draws water from a frozen brook

Ben Brosseau

Winters in the Adirondack High Peaks can be challenging. January is infamous for its wind chills, which have created temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit at Johns Brook Lodge in winters past. When temperatures are more mild, it can snow profusely, which means caretakers spend many, many hours shoveling. Despite this, it’s not all hard; both caretakers are avid cross-country skiers and enjoy the weekly commutes in and out of JBL on skis.

Working solo stints, Henry, the JBL Property Coordinator, and Dick, the property’s maintenance specialist, switch off every three to four days throughout the winter until summer staff return in mid-May. Though guests are responsible for bringing and cooking their own meals during this time, the caretakers are kept busy melting snow water, stoking the fire, and cleaning JBL when it is open on the weekends. Additionally, throughout the week they are tasked with upkeep for Grace Camp and Camp Peggy O’Brien, the two cabins located on the same property.

When they aren’t working, both caretakers pass the time playing guitar, chatting with guests, or enjoying the silence outdoors. It’s a different way of living, but both caretakers cite the community that guests create and the unique setting as major perks that make them excited to return to the backcountry property each week.

Johns Brook Lodge is open Friday and Saturday nights in the winter months. For reservations, you can call 518-523-3441 or book online.

A man stokes a fire

Ben Brosseau