Three-and-a-half miles into the Adirondack wilderness, the Johns Brook Lodge is a full-service summer hotel. Owned and operated by the Adirondack Mountain Club, the lodge is restocked for the upcoming busy summer season during one day in the end of April with the help of JBI Helicopter Services, out of Pembroke, N.H. From the end of June until Labor Day, the JBL offers guests two square meals a day, plus a trail lunch and a place to sleep.
“All you really have to bring is clothes and your personal hiking gear,” said ADK’s Executive Director Neil Woodworth.
On Monday, April 27, about 15 people, a combination of paid staff as well as volunteers, made the trek into the Johns Brook Lodge to help do some spring cleaning and stock new supplies. As soon as the chopper dropped a load, each weighing up to 800 pounds, many hands made quick work of the boxes. Woodworth expected about 40 loads for the day.
Two decades ago, a season’s worth of gear and supplies for the JBL, from construction materials to propane to pancake mix, proved too much for a cantankerous mule named Nubbin to carry. The JBL has been flying in its supplies (and flying out things it doesn’t need like about 17 barrels of the previous season’s human waste) for the last 24 years. This year, the lodge was flying out some old windows that had been replaced the previous season. The crew gingerly packed them in between mattresses.
“He’s so good, I bet he can drop that without breaking a single window,” Woodworth said. “In this wind, that’s some incredible flying.”
The wind was strong Monday, with gusts up to 40 mph and an unseasonably warm day made flying all the harder. But this year, the chopper took off from a privately-owned field near the Garden trailhead, instead of its usual spot on Keene’s Marcy Field, cutting down the flight time by 40 percent, Woodworth said.
The lodge is essentially a bunk-room that can accommodate up to 28 hikers. There is a kitchen, common room where meals are served, which, of course, has a fireplace. The walls are lined with bits of history like old photos of early conservationists, guides and trail crews. Shelves are filled with books, their pages yellowing, that have no doubt provided entertainment on a rainy afternoon to generations of hikers.
The JBL may be rustic, but guests who stay here are far from roughing it, at least where food is concerned. GORP is not even on the menu. Breakfast usually includes eggs, pancakes, sausage and fruit, Saturday nights feature a chicken barbecue with macaroni salad. And since the lodge has refrigerators that run on propane, last year the staff tried their hand at making ice cream with a hand-churner. Maple walnut and cookies and cream were among the favorite flavors.
But the main appeal of the JBL is not the homemade fare. It’s location and logistics. The JBL is in the heart of the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness and is within a day’s hike of much of the Great Range. Upper and Lower Wolf Jaw, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback and Big Slide are all easily accessible from the JBL. And because all meals, including a trail lunch, are provided, not to mention a roof over your head, there’s no need for hikers to bring a lot of gear into the backcountry.
“There are comfortable beds, great meals and it’s in the heart of a whole trail network for the Eastern High Peaks,” Woodworth said.
JBI Helicopter Services brings a load of propane tanks to the Johns Brook Lodge.
Photos/Heather Sackett/Lake Placid News
Fact BoxIf you go...
The JBL is most easily accessed from the Garden trailhead in Keene Valley. There are also two smaller cabins — Camp Peggy O’Brien and Grace Camp — lean-tos and tent camping sites close by. Rooms book up to a year in advance. Visit www.adk.org or call 523-3441 for reservations.