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The foliage in the Adirondacks is at its peak during the first week in October. While I was holding onto the last warm days of the season in Boston, autumn already had a tight grip on upstate New York—and the Adirondacks wear fall well.

At Lake Kora, the Adirondacks stretch in all directions for hundreds of miles. I had left behind the bustle of Boston hours ago, and now the stillness here was deafening. A loon called across the glassy lake, and the eerie sound rattled straight through me. Now this was seclusion. 

I flew out of Logan on Cape Air, landing at Saranac Lake on a drizzly afternoon. Lake Kora is open yearly from July 1 to October 31, and even summer nights in the Adirondacks can get chilly. The camp was built in 1898, and doesn’t have heat in every building. However, the property does have 26 wood-burning fireplaces throughout. So this weekend I’d be camping—Gilded Age style.

Photograph by Daniel Achber/courtesy of Lake Kora

Situated on 1,000 acres in the New York wilderness, including a 500-acre private lake, Lake Kora is one of the few remaining Adirondack Great Camps. The property was built of wood and stone from the land itself for Timothy Woodruff, Lieutenant Governor of New York, at the turn of the last century. Much of the property remains exactly as it was when it served as a playground for New York City’s ultra-wealthy. Summers were for Newport; autumn was for the Great Camps.

Today the property reads more like a luxury villa than a rustic cabin, although seclusion is still the retreat’s biggest selling point. You’re miles away from any other lodging, and don’t even think about cell service (although the property has Wi-Fi throughout). In fact, the closest inhabited structure is Great Camp Sagamore, which was a retreat for the Vanderbilts in the early 20th century.

The sprawling compound comprises over a dozen structures, including cottages, dining spaces, a spa, a chapel, and even a secluded island house. It’s one of the only getaways in the country where you can live exactly like a Gilded Age magnate, if only for a week or two. Lake Kora is available by exclusive rental only, accommodating 24 guests plus all meals and non-alcoholic beverages for $21,980 per night. The property can also sleep up to eleven extra guests for an additional nightly charge.

Meals are a big part of what makes Lake Kora so memorable. The onsite chef will customize your dining experiences to your group’s preferences. While meals can be served anywhere on the grounds (the staff is happy to organize a picnic lunch down a hiking trail), dinner is typically a communal affair held nightly in the dining hall at the camp’s original 20-foot dining table. The resident chef showed his stuff during my visit with brilliant menu items like perfectly cooked venison, mushrooms foraged on Lake Kora’s own grounds, and a shrimp and polenta dish that I still dream about. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the impeccable wine pairings from the resort’s manager. 

In addition to dining, you’ll find no shortage of activities for both kids and adults. I loved daily walks on the 2.8-mile loop encircling the lake, and visits to the spa, which includes a sauna and hot tub housed in the ground’s former icehouse. In the warmer months, take advantage of the private lake’s many boating options, like kayaks, paddle boards, sailboats, and wooden electric boats, plus outdoor sports like tennis, basketball, badminton, volleyball, and baseball. Indoors, you can find a squash court, Ping-Pong tables, and an original bowling alley. Lake Kora is happy to arrange any additional services guests might want, like yoga instructors, massage therapists, children’s supervision, or musicians. They can even arrange seaplane tours. 

In fact, seaplane is the preferred method of travel for many Lake Kora guests, especially when home is a traffic-filled city like New York or Boston. Fly the Whale services the Northeast (along with Florida and the Caribbean), offering seaplane or helicopter charters to land you directly on Lake Kora’s property. 

The camp’s details are what make it so enchanting. Lake Kora has no shortage of charming touches like original ironwork and enough antique books to last a lifetime, and these touches are what really transports you back to 1910.

Lake Kora’s real value comes from the priceless experiences it affords: watching the mist rise off the lake at sunrise, eating wild wintergreen in the forest, and falling asleep to the crackle of a fireplace. Sure, the Lake Kora team will provide you with any luxury or amenity you seek. But the real luxuries you’ll find here are the memories that come with immersing yourself deep in the wilderness of the Adirondacks.

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