Recently, I had the pleasure of staying at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s brand-spankin’ new Harriman Outdoor Center on Breakneck Pond. Needless to say, I had a splendiferous time paddling, hiking, and EATING my way through the facility.
Firstly, a refresher for anyone unfamiliar with the Appalachian Mountain Club: The AMC is one of the oldest outdoors groups in the nation and has been dedicated to advocating outdoor recreation along with environmental activism for 140 years (this year's milestone annivesary!). With 12 chapters and 200,000 constituents, including members, guests, advocates, and supporters spanning the northeastern U.S., this is one formidable “club”!
Looking out at the center's cabins + bathhouse
To entice and assist people into getting outdoors, the AMC has an array of huts and lodges built for your adventurous needs. The newest addition, of course, being the Harriman Outdoor Center, opened just recently on July 1, 2016.
The HOC offers lodging ranging from, well, lodges (complete with kitchen, bathroom, and fireplace), all the way to “backcountry” tent platforms (complete with…nature!). Discounted rates on lodging are available by becoming a member of the AMC. ALSO the center offers a shuttle to-and-from the Tuxedo Park Train Station...nifty for you city-slickers! (Shuttle schedule here under "Before You Go" tab).
The porch at White Oak Cabin
I was lucky enough to stay in the White Oak Cabin, big enough for 6 guests and complete with porch(!), mini-fridge, and puh-lenty of space. This was, indeed, a glamping experience, and I loved every moment of it!
Upon arrival, I was greeted by the center’s manager, Sara, who guided me through the check-in process, and directed me toward the pull-cart I would use to lug my stuff to my cabin (parking is located a short walk away from camp).
After unloading, I got an exclusive tour of the grounds by Vinnie, AMC’s director of lodging operations. He told me all about the history of the camp (it was formerly a youth camp), how long it took to renovate the grounds (about 15 months), and highlighted the many amenities the camp offers (FREE boat rentals, dining, hiking, swimming, youth programs...). All in all, Vinnie explained how this center IS the destination for visitors, most of who are new to the AMC experience, but eager to get outside.
The dock leading to the swimming area on Breakneck Pond
After my tour, I went for a swim in Breakneck Pond (which was lurvely) and enjoyed the view from the dock’s comfy Adirondack chairs. To be honest, I had never swum in any of Harriman’s lakes before, and let me tell you, this 64 acre “pond” is pristine! The dock allows you to dive into 12-foot waters, making for exceptional swimming conditions.
Post swim, I took advantage of the immaculate bathroom/shower situation (yes, I showered!) in prep for dinner at the Dining Hall (where Marek joined me).
The first course on the patio overlooking Breakneck Pond
So this was by far my favorite part of the stay…other than breakfast. The meal service at the Harriman Outdoor Center is to-die-for. Think Thanksgiving dinner sized portions with a gourmet touch. To start? Salad and freshly baked bread. Then, creamy butternut squash soup, followed by the main course of beef bourguignon (ooh la la!), beluga lentils, polenta, magically cheesy cauliflower, and this sort of walnut-cheese parfait on the side. OH, and let’s not forget the hot-and-fresh-out-the-kitchen Apple Streusel for desert! #deathbydecadence Keep in mind this was all made directly on the premises by the ever-talented chefs in the kitchen. The menu generally includes local goods and seasonally ripe produce. YUM-MY!
After this ever-so-satisfying-like-for-realsies meal, we had to take advantage of the free boat rental situation before nightfall. So we rollled ourselves away from the dining hall and took out one of the canoes (+ PFD’s ;) ) from the boat launch area.
Canoeing the waters of Breakneck Pond at sunset
Okay, maybe paddling Breakneck Pond at sunset was right up there with the meal in terms of enjoyment levels…Just LOOK at those colors!
After returning the canoe to its proper place, we retired to our cabin where we enjoyed the call of the katydids from our porch before turning in for the evening...a cool summer breeze lazily passing through the windows as we slept. Ahh…
Come morning, Marek skedaddled, and I enjoyed one last dip in Breakneck Pond before breakfast. Yes, breakfast was just as decadent as dinner, complete with ::takes breath:: …Scrambled eggs with dill, pancakes (and syrup!), sausage, squash hash, fruit compote, vegan coconut milk quinoa, and coffee. It brought new meaning to the phrase “fill ‘er up”. I enjoyed my meal with a fellow guest who was impressed (though maybe more so frightened) with the amount I ate. I REGRET NOTHING!
Breakfast in the dining hall
After gorging, I ventured out for a quick hike along the AMC Pond Loop Trail in an attempt to burn off breakfast before concluding my stay.
Looking toward the swimming area and picnic pavilion at Breakneck Pond
Once I was packed with keys returned, I drove down the narrow road leading to Lake Welch Parkway, realizing just how far away this place felt. While I was only 30 minutes from home, the center was like escaping to a natural haven a long way from any semblance of civilization. That’s when I knew the Harriman Outdoor Center was a special place, offering a true respite from the hubbub of everyday life.
Looking for a closer look? Check out the video below:
For more information and reservations at the AMC Harriman Outdoor Center, visit www.outdoors.org/harriman.
Special thanks to Laura Hurley, Sara Morris-Marano, Vinnie Spiotti, and the entire AMC staff for the opportunity to stay and thoroughly enjoy this wonderful place!