Surely anyone working on climbing all the High Peaks has passed by this beautiful building in the woods with its welcoming porch lined with Adirondack chairs. The question is – have you been inside? I’ve been hiking in the High Peaks and a member of ADK for the last 9 years, and cannot believe I’ve never taken advantage of this amazing place before now.
This spring, I ventured out to Johns Brook Lodge (JBL) during the “JBL Work Week” on a day hike to check out the progress on the brand new porch being built. Then last month, I finally spent my first night in the bunkroom. I arrived around mid afternoon, dropped my pack and got settled, and went out for a short hike around the property to see everything now that it’s all opened for the season. The new porch looks amazing and there’s new wooden coat racks hung by each bunk in the lodge. Brand new signage provides information about bear safety, Leave No Trace, and a huge trail map of the area. The Peggy O’Brien and Grace Camp cabins, which are open year-round, and the lean-to campsites look great too.
On the hike back to the lodge, I could smell chicken on the grill and got pretty excited about dinner. I tend to be a picky eater, and I was beyond impressed with how delicious this meal was. There was plenty to choose from, including homemade bread, creamed corn, baked beans, salad, oven baked garlic potatoes, grilled chicken, and a vegetarian meat option. The coconut cream pie for dessert was out of this world, and I definitely left the table full and satisfied.
After dinner, you could find guests playing Frisbee outside, reading a book on the porch, or playing games at the tables. I met members of the volunteer trail crew that were based out of JBL for the week, and couldn’t believe this was a group of people who had just met for the first time four days ago. They laughed and joked with each other as though they’d known each other for years. The camaraderie and closeness that comes from volunteering and adventuring together is incredible.
The volunteer trail crew was up bright and early, out on a nearby trail building stone steps and installing new bog bridging, all before breakfast. I visited them during their work to take a few pictures, and I can only imagine how much they all learned during their week on the trail. Several told me this was their first time doing trail work, and they communicated and worked as though they were pros. We heard the breakfast bell beckoning us back, and we entered the dining room to find French toast, bacon, and fruit waiting to be eaten. The JBL staff made trail lunches for those hiking and working that day, but sadly I had to get back to Lake George for work. Upon returning home, I called and reserved a bunk for a trip out there later this summer, and I can’t wait to stay at JBL again.
Next time you find yourself hiking by, stop in and say hi to the friendly staff, check for a weather update, pick up any last minute essentials in the small store, and see what’s available for snacks. JBL is the only full service backcountry lodge in the Adirondacks, and the perfect base camp for hiking nearby peaks or just relaxing by the brook. If you do spend a night there, be sure to look up at that star-filled night sky before heading off to bed.