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The Point, Upper Saranac Lake, New York

An Estate for One or More Seasons

"Autumn in New York, what makes it feel so inviting?" The hush of the great North Woods in the state's upper terrain, the riot of glorious amber, gold, and scarlet foliage, the inky black of midnight skies, blazing fires aroar in massive hearths and towering balsams and hemlocks crowding the Adirondack Mountains!

At The Point, a rustic retreat set deep in the forest, the ambiance and elegant cuisine evoke another era. During the first part of the 20th century Saranac Lake was the holiday playing ground for many of America's wealthiest and most social families. They built grand wilderness camps in which to vacation and to entertain in a supposedly "modest" style. A striking example of this kind of estate was Camp Wonundra constructed by William Avery Rockefellar (a nephew of John D.) more than 50 years ago on a promontory overlooking the water. No expense was spared in putting up this extravagant fantasy, a compound of nine log buildings.

Ted Carter bought the property in 1980. As a youngster he had vacationed nearby. In the grand style of European royalty who accept a few paying guests at their manors, the new owner opened his 11 distinctive quarters to those who seek something unusual. The Point changed hands in 1986. The present proprietors, David and Christie Garrett, had fallen in love with The Point after having been guests many times. Along with Bill and Claudia McNamee, the managing hosts, they are continuing a tradition of making visitors feel like old friends who were extended a private invitation to a sojourn in the woods. As you approach The Point a sense of déjà-vu emerges from memories of countless 1930s movies when the likes of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy drove up a private road and entered an elegant hunting lodge to begin several days of partying.

The Point is one of only 32 U.S. members of the Relais & Chateaux, a French organization of first-rate family-owned and managed properties. Memberships are accorded to establishments that demonstrate outstanding character, courtesy, calm, comfort and cuisine.

At 8 each morning a thermos of hot coffee is delivered to every room and at 9, breakfast arrives in a hamper. You can have warm muffins, flapjacks or hot cereal with cream and brown sugar in bed, by the fire or at a window with a view of the lake. During Indian summer, lunch may be eaten in a variety of settings: the Boathouse balcony, a 32-foot barge or a picnic on a private island where you can take a box lunch or cook hamburgers over a pinecone fire. On crisper days hearty salads, unusual quiches and home-baked pies might be served in one of several romantic settings among the moose and deer heads, zebra rugs, twig furniture and antiques. In autumn cocktails are offered in The Pub, Reindeer Hall or near the twin massive fireplaces in the main lodge's Great Hall where socializing and dining take place after dark. The grand nighttime meal is served at 8:30 and in true house party style there is no menu. As wine and conversation flow the evening takes on the enjoyable character of a private dinner in someone's home. Guests and hosts sit at two round tables and sample Chef James Byars's imaginative food starting, perhaps, with lobster souffle or shrimp seviche. The main course could be winegrower's steak and gratin Dauphinois or Normandy duck with wild rice or even a special preparation of fish caught that day. Dessert might be pears in a delicate Burgundy sauce or charlotte of fresh fruit with raspberry puree.

Early in 1993 Zagat Guides named The Point as the top resort in the U.S. Although the estate is open year-round, autumn in New York is the most inviting season.

The Point, Upper Saranac Lake, NY 12983. Tel. 800-255-3530. www.thepointresort.com

Spring 1994