Posted on August 18th, 2015
I think the opportunity to travel new places is one of life’s great joys, but so too is returning to spots where you just feel at home. In 1994, my family (minus one then-unborn baby brother) first visited Mohonk Mountain House in New York for a few days between my parents’ college reunions, and we have returned 10+ times since. I have memories at Mohonk from every phase of my life– as a toddler who needs to be reminded not to run down the halls, as a child enjoying fun-filled days at the kids’ camp, as a teenager learning how to boulder, and now as a twenty-something who looks for active relaxation in her dream vacations. From the way the stairs creak when you’re heading up to your room after dinner to the smoothness of the weathered outdoor handrail, there are so many little nostalgic moments that literally bring tears to my eyes.
If you relish clean lines and a modern aesthetic, Mohonk is not for you. The resort was built in 1869 on a small private lake in the Shawangunk Mountains by the Smiley family, who own and operate it to this day. The house is an amazing castle of sorts, with six floors of guest rooms sprawling along the hill by the lake. One side features a picturesque Hudson Valley view; the other, Lake Mohonk. Sipping coffee in the early morning in your rocking chair on your private balcony, you really can’t go wrong with either. The resort is about a twenty minute drive up the mountain from the small town of New Paltz, so you don’t really leave the resort once you arrive.
But why would you want to? Mohonk has everything! Hiking, canoeing/kayaking, stand up paddleboarding (a recent addition!), rock climbing, a beach and docks for swimming, tennis, golf, sprawling gardens, horseback riding… Since it’s fairly remote, meals are all included (including afternoon tea!), but there are several options for each meal. The resort is exceedingly family friendly, but there are also toddler/children/teenager “camp” programs so parents can get some time on their own, as well. I always try to do everything when I’m there, but there’s never enough time!
We also spent a few days at the Otesaga, an old resort in Cooperstown. When we first visited Cooperstown in 2000, I pictured a town full of t-shirt shops and strip malls with easy options for the Baseball Hall of Fame tourists. I was so wrong! Cooperstown is charming, and also happens to be almost 300 years old. The Otesaga is more incorporated with the town, but is still situated right on Otswego Lake, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds. And as a Cardinals fan, I’m always happy to have a quick Hall of Fame visit. We also played a little tennis, and I feel I must disclose to you how dramatically my backhand has gone downhill.
The surroundings are certainly idyllic, but nothing beats the company. Right now, I live in Seattle, I have one brother in college in upstate New York, we have our house in St. Louis while my other brother finishes high school, but my dad now commutes for his job in NYC… it’s hectic! And sadly, we are rarely all together. To have a whole week together was truly luxurious. Three hour dinners with stimulating conversations about politics, sports, and our future plans and goals are the memories that give me life when we are apart. Nothing like time with your family to give you perspective about what is really important.
I do admit to being a little bit excited about being back home. I wouldn’t call the contents of my suitcase “fresh,” I hadn’t slept in a real bed for ten days, and I missed Ian. But mostly I feel so lucky to have spent quality time with my crew in two beautiful places… and I’m sure by the end of the week, the wanderlust will have kicked in again.