Hard Work, Great People & Amazing Food In The ‘Dacks
I participated in the Fall Work Weekend at Johns Brook Lodge in October of 2014 with my mom and we both enjoyed it immensely. Last fall’s Work Weekend was the first one I participated in, and I loved every second of it due to the great food, interesting people and the pleasure of “giving back to the mountains.” I headed back for the 2015 Spring Work Weekend by myself seeking the fun that I had last time.
Arriving at the lodge after hiking in the three-and-a-half miles from the garden parking lot, I was greeted with the sounds of wood being split, warm smiles and cheery “hellos!” from fellow volunteers. I already felt happier. Since it was later in the day, I helped set up the gutters on Johns Brook Lodge for a few hours then began getting ready for dinner.
The smell of homemade spaghetti and meatballs danced around the yard, and I’m surprised that there was no critters lining up at the door looking for their share. Since the lodge is set three miles into the woods, the workers have to carry in most everything on their backs - a lot of the food and equipment was brought in on people’s backs along with their own personal belongings. The efforts made by the JBL lodge crew to make you feel at home in the woods are truly incredible.
During dinner I got to meet and know everyone that was volunteering with me. Teachers, dentists, 46ers, non-46ers... all gathering in the woods for one reason - their love of the Adirondacks. When asked why we were giving up our free time to help out during the work weekend, one man pointed out the window to Gothics and said “for that.”
We stayed up conversing throughout the night over warm hot chocolate while gazing at the stars from the deck. It’s always refreshing to be around people with the same open mindset and love of the outdoors. Every person was there because they wanted to be. No one was forcing them to come out and work on their weekend off of work. They were doing it because they loved the outdoors and wanted to give back to the mountains in any way possible.
Saturday morning we awoke and were welcomed with the scent of freshly made french toast and coffee cake tickling our senses. After chowing down we were ready for a full day of work. We headed outside and met a beautiful, blue-skied sunny day. Some people went to stain and paint other lodges on the JBL property, others went to renovate the workers’ cabin, some went off to do trail work or make repairs around the property. Everyone was happily committed to working around the lodge. I chopped and stacked wood for a couple of hours until lunch time. Maybe it was because of the hard work for a couple of hours, but I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a better ham sandwich. The food is always excellent at JBL.
The rest of the day was spent staining, chopping and stacking more wood, organizing and cleaning up around the property, and every-so-often stopping to take in the beauty of the Adirondacks. That night we enjoyed a Cracker Barrel happy hour and completed it with a delicious stir-fry dinner. Most everyone went to bed early, but a few others and myself stayed up to look at the stars, there was even more out than the night before. While laying in the grass staring into infinity in the dead quiet of the night, I found a sense of peace that I knew could only be found in the Adirondacks.
On Sunday morning there was minimal work to be done so after breakfast I decided to take a quick detour on the way out. I left right after breakfast to hike up Big Slide before I went home. It was a beautiful day, so why not? On the way up I stopped to take pictures of the river that at times passes through the trail. I haven’t hiked Big Slide in many years so it was fantastic to be able to hike it again on such a beautiful day.
I hit the summit in about an hour-and-a-half and had the entire mountain to myself. I took in views of the Great Range, the McIntyre Range and the landscape below. It was the perfect way to end a great work weekend at Johns Brook Lodge.If you’re going to hike Big Slide or any other mountain, always make sure that you have enough water, food and warm clothes in case things turn south. If you're new to the region, consider hiring or consulting with a licensed Adirondack guide before hitting the trail. Also, if you ever want to hike for multiple days in the Great Range but are weary about sleeping out in a tent overnight, make a reservation at the Johns Brook Lodge! You won’t regret it!