Where Was the Birthplace of the American Vacation?

Great Camp Sagamore in Raquette Lake, New York, was once a retreat for the Vanderbilt family. Courtesy Bridget Besaw.

Great Camp Sagamore

Written by Tom Perrottet

One of the little-known turning points in the history of American travel occurred in the spring of 1869, when a handsome young preacher from Boston named William H.H. Murray published one of the first guidebooks to a wilderness area. In describing the Adirondack Mountains—a 9,000-square-mile expanse of lakes, forests and rivers in upstate New York—Murray broached the then-outrageous idea that an excursion into raw nature could actually be pleasurable. Before that date, most Americans considered the country’s primeval landscapes only as obstacles to be conquered. But Murray’s self-help opus, Adventures in the Wilderness; or, Camp-Life in the Adirondacks, suggested that hiking, canoeing and fishing in unsullied nature were the ultimate health tonic for harried city dwellers whose constitutions were weakened by the demands of civilized life.

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