Fish were swimming INSIDE boathouses. Owners were paddling THROUGH their once-dry businesses. States of emergency were called. Sandbags were filled. Ferries were closed. Waders and wetsuits were donned. Driftwood is being collected.
Through April, then May, the rain kept falling and the lake level refused to recede. And everyone knew about it, as pictures of submerged and soggy homes and businesses have "flooded" the news - both traditional and social.
Would the summer of 2011 on the Adirondack Coast be cancelled?
The answer is emphatically NO. In fact, Essex, New York has called your "cancel" and raised you a bunch of new businesses.
I was in Essex this week, intrigued by an email from a colleague that indicated that the iconic Old Dock restaurant was planning to open for the season. The restaurant has been featured in many of those flooded images as it is particularly visible in its location on a jutted-out section of land adjacent to the ferry dock. And, upon further investigation, I learned that the Rudder Club, another lakeside restaurant featured in those reports, would be opening soon, too.
The lake level has now receded below flood stage, but could it possibly be true that the recently-submerged businesses were planning to open THIS summer?
It's true. In fact, the community is not only ready to welcome visitors for the summer - it is veritably BUZZING with activity.
A stroll through the tree-lined streets of this historic town is quite a treat. Bolstered by pedestrian traffic from the ferry from Vermont, the restaurants, shops, inns and art galleries complement the gorgeous 19th century architecture, (the entire village is on the National Historic Register, and includes the most intact collections of federal and greek revival architecture in the entire state!)
And you won't find any empty storefronts; there are several new businesses, and twists on some of the classics.
The completely renovated Essex Inn features beautifully-appointed suites, and the restaurant is now serving lunch and dinner from its all new state-of-the-art commercial kitchen - all open year round.
The Ice Cream Shop - a favorite for locals and magnet for day-trippers, is under new ownership. Its talented new proprietor, Wayne, has completely remodeled the interior space and expanded the menu offerings to include cafe-style treats as well as the those promoted on the sign.
And if ice cream doesn't sufficiently restore wellness, one can saunter a few doors down to the newly-opened Live Well, where three partner/owners collectively offer yoga, tai chi, massage and physical therapy.
ReNu, a fancy thrift shop, has moved to a new location around the corner on Route 22. Essex Provisions is a new high-end deli/style store and eatery, whose sandwiches I can wholeheartedly endorse.
The new Pink Pig Antiques occupies a prime Main Street storefront; a must-see collection of old, new and decidedly very cool stuff.
And you can learn more about all of them, plus the local CSA farms that supply the local restaurants and the plethora of other nearby treasures with a stop at the Adirondack Art Association. Located at the heart of Main Street, this art gallery accidentally serves as the de facto visitors center, but step inside, and you'll stay for more than directions. The Association is about to open its third show of the season. Here's a blog about that.
I left Essex to drive south - passing a few enthusiastic cyclists enjoying the incredible road biking of the Lake Champlain region, and spying some hikers returning to their cars at one of the Champlain Area Trailheads (CATS).
I drove through Westport-on-Lake-Champlain, where the boat launch parking lot had several cars with trailers awaiting the arrival of their boats at the end of the day, and business owners and local volunteers have worked to guarantee the opening of the marina, and lakeside Bistro du Lac restaurant.
Mother nature is powerful, but the energy, resilience and enthusiasm of these historic lakeside communities trumps her every time. After all, the water that comprises the sixth largest lake in the U.S. is what defines the Adirondack Coast landscape, and draws residents and visitors here in the first place.
So spread the word; the Adirondack Coast of Lake Champlain is open for business; not to mention recreation, arts, music, dining....and driftwood collecting.
-Kimberly Rielly is the director of communications for the Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.