I Camp, Therefore I am

Before I could walk or talk, summer meant camping. It was knit into my bones before they hardened, into my vocabulary before I spoke my first word. It is my inescapable fact: I am a camper.

Rebecca Steffan

There are two groups of people in the world, the first loving surprises, the other hating them. I fall heavily into that first group.

To me, surprises are synonymous with adventure, the open road, the smell of scorched gas station coffee, and sunrises over new horizons.

I blame my parents, two adventurous spirits who spent their early married life road tripping across the U.S. and backpacking across Europe. Once my brothers and sisters hit the scene, the ante was upped. My memories of being kid are filled with unplanned road trips and fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants getaways while the phrase "Are we there yet?" echoed on a loop from the backseat.

My childhood conditioned me to expect adventure around every corner, to look for opportunities to flit away for a weekend, to escape the everyday. As an adult, I need that. I'm guessing you do too, along with the scores of kindred spirits who listen to John Muir's voicemail from the mountains and think, yes, I too must go.

Backcountry Backstory

Before the word glamping had been invented, mine was a family that glamped, we just called it camping. Although, our preferred housing was a little more elaborate than a standard Coleman. A mere tent couldn't contain our group anyway. We camped in a massive canvas and pine tree cathedral pitched in the shade of cedar trees on an island at the end of nowhere in Lake Huron.

Night in the Teepee
Night in the Teepee

Summers spent in the teepee were filled with luxurious stretches of nothing to do and nowhere to be. My dad spent his days windsurfing and fishing, my mom and grandmother read books and foraged for wild blueberries, my brothers, sisters and I played from dawn until well past dark.

Sometimes, if the timing was right, we would stay awake long into the night to watch the sky fall around us during the Perseid Meteor Shower. Being the only campfire for miles and miles, the stars burned brighter, the sky felt closer.

Teepee Fam
Teepee Fam

This was my kingdom. My memories of those summers spent in blissful oblivion echo across my consciousness when my schedule gets too packed. They remind me that adventure calls often, and it's never a good idea to let it go to voicemail.

Without meaning to, this is how the Adirondacks became my home. I accidentally fell in love and forgot to leave. It's a common story here in Northern New York. The mountains beckon in summer and winter, and the beauty of the places burnishes away the dullness of everyday routine.

But old habits die hard, so I still escape to the woods and mountains around my home to pitch a small tent and bliss out.

Adirondack Campsites I Have Known

Home to hundreds of campsites that speak to the escapee in every adventurer, the Adirondacks boast campsites on islands in the middle of glacial lakes, in alpine meadows, on mountainsides, and along riverbanks.

In the Tug Hill Region, the Otter Creek Trail System even offers equestrian camping, featuring a series of interlocking horse trails that cover more than 60 miles on the Independence River Wild Forest. It's glamping for horses, and the accommodations include roofed tie-stalls, stud stalls, and a potable water system for the trusty steeds.

I have my favorite places to pitch my personal little pup tent. Number one, not surprisingly for anyone acquainted with the area, is the Saranac Islands. This place has its own magic. It's where Martha Reben retreated and was healed of her tuberculosis, her experiences becoming an autobiography titled The Healing Woods.

Having camped many, many times at different sites on the Saranac Islands – of which there are more than 80 – I've learned that each one has its' own special charm. While most of the islands have more than one campsite on them, #22 is a campground unto itself. Having the ignominious distinction of being named "Coal Pit Island," it's a glorious little spot featuring a short but steep climb to the campsite from the water, amazing sunset views, and a queen-of-the-castle kinda feel to it.

Saranac Islands Site 22
Saranac Islands Campsite #22

Not far from Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, Copperas Pond offers a short but rewarding hike that ends with a refreshing dip. It also offers a few first-come, first-served camping sites that can feel like home with a modest amount of gear. This is the place to watch a meteor shower on a still night. It looks like the stars are falling from the sky, and rising from the water.

The Adirondack Region's campgrounds and campsites are cherished, returned to, longed for. They're someone's special place, their little slice of heaven. Why not your's too?

Go camp the Adirondacks; see what kind of memories you can make with the stars overhead, the waves lapping the shore, and your lungs full of fragrant, balsam-scented air. Go, bliss out.

Manitoulin Island sunset after a storm
Manitoulin Island sunset after a storm
About the Author …
Rebecca Steffan
Rebecca Steffan does not own her own teepee – yet. She spends her free time running backcountry roads, reading lovely words, and jotting down story ideas whenever possible. @rwsteffan
Rebecca Steffan
About Area ADK …
Real Adirondack Stories, Epic Adirondack Adventures
Area ADK is a celebration of the Adirondacks, a nod to the classic campfire tale, a place to gather and tell stories. Share your story #VisitAdks.
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About the Region …
Saranac Lake Region
Saranac Lake has more than just one lake. And those lakes have many islands for camping. Find out more about the Region!
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