Johns Brook Lodge (JBL) has been part of Adirondack Mountain Club’s (ADK) identity from its very beginning, welcoming guests to experience the Adirondacks 3.5 miles up the Johns Brook Valley. 90 years ago, on July 1, 1925, JBL opened its doors and ever since it has been a place where hikers can come together to further develop their relationship with the mountains and with their fellow hikers and gain inspiration to become stewards of the Adirondacks. It’s described in a 1925 High Spots (predecessor to Adirondac) as a, “mecca for mountain climbers! Like a jewel in the valley lies Johns Brook Lodge, surrounded on every side by gorgeous mountain peaks, including the Wolfjaws, Gothics, Saddleback, Basin, Haystack, Big Slide, Tabletop and Marcy, all of them over 4,000 feet high.” I think those who have had the chance to visit JBL would still describe it as a “mecca” ninety years later.
Johns Brook Valley itself has changed a lot over ninety years. It has regenerated from years of logging and has been transformed into a maturing forest with a widespread network of trails. The site where JBL sits today was originally owned by the J. & J. Rogers Company, an iron company who later established a paper mill. The company owned close to 75,000 acres of woodlands to supply wood for charcoal making and for building purposes. J. & J. Rogers donated 15.5 acres to the Adirondack Mountain Club allowing ADK to have a place to build its first lodge.
At roughly 2,500 square feet, the basic layout of JBL has always been the same. A large living/dinning room area with two mirror-image bunk rooms at the rear and a kitchen and fireplace in the center are embraced on three sides by a generous porch to allow guests to take in the surrounding Adirondack landscape. Most of the materials were hauled in on a woods road on the south side of Johns Brook (today called the South Side Trail) by horse and wagon until a slide wiped out the road at a spot called the “rock cut”. This meant the last of the materials were carried in by foot.
With some uncertainty on the success of this new Adirondack Mountain Club venture, ADK was pleased to report in a 1925 High Spots that, “Today, the building is strongly built and neatly finished; well equipped with cots and blankets, a magnificent stove, running water, hot showers for men and women – all at the end of the first season in the most excellent condition; a guest book showing over 325 individual guests in 3.5 months; …a summer of happy times and vigorous days on the mountains in fair and rainy weather—with good housekeeping and famous meals from our lucky caretakers—the Lodge is an evident success and a rallying-point in the Adirondacks.”
At a rate of $1.00 per night and $5.00 per week for members, ADK made $1,257.14 in its first year. People came from all over New York and there were registrations from Washington, Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota, and even England and Italy. Harvey and Lillian Branch were the caretakers of the property for the first three years, launching a litany of unique and interesting individuals who have taken care of the Johns Brook Property over the years.
|New Bunks and Mattresses|
Today, Johns Brook Lodge can accommodate up to twenty-eight guests. There are two ten-person bunk rooms and two four-person bunk rooms. As a result of the hard work of many dedicated volunteers and staff members, the lodge has undergone a lot of renovations over the past ten years. New pine paneling, new insulation and new windows have been installed in the great room and bunkrooms making the guest experience much more enjoyable, especially during the colder “shoulder seasons.” A new privy system, new bunks, new mattresses, new porch steps, new Adirondack chairs and the list goes on with improvements that have been made. If you have never stayed at Johns Brook Lodge before this would be a perfect time in its history to spend some time out there.
JBL offers two types of operation while it is open in the summer. The first is a caretaker season; guests have to bring and prepare their own food, and rates range from $35 to $43 per night. Caretaker season goes from the middle of May to the end of June and then goes from Labor Day weekend to Columbus Day weekend. In between, ADK offers a full-service season with a crew who provide hot breakfasts and dinners and pack guests a trail lunch. Full-service rates range from $75 to $92 per night. For details and to make reservations, visit www.dev.adk.org/lodging, or call 518-523-3441.
The physical appearance of Johns Brook Lodge has certainly changed over its ninety-year history but JBL is more than the building itself. It is the people that come together there to share their stories of adventure, the groups that stay there to further develop their relationships, the children that experience the Adirondacks for the first time and its ideal location in the heart of the High Peaks that really make it a special place. Johns Brook Lodge continues to connect people with the Adirondacks and continues to help lead them on a path of stewardship of the Adirondacks.
Seth Jones is the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Education Programs Coordinator. He has worked for ADK since 2008 and is a former High Peaks Summit Steward and Johns Brook Lodge Hutmaster. Seth has a B.S. in Conservation Biology from SUNY ESF. He enjoys a variety of outdoor activities that includes paddling, fly fishing, hiking, skiing and photography.