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Travelers to the Adirondack find a wide
range of lodging choices, from nationally known chain motels, to
posh hotels, or, for those who like the more homey, friendly
touch, bed and breakfasts. B & Bs abound in the region, nestled
in the woods, along creeks or on hilltops. Each has its own
character and special allure. Each has a unique story of how it
was started, and of the people who poured their dreams into it.
In the Southern Adirondacks, near Lake
George, one finds The Glen Lodge standing on a site where The
Grove Hotel flourished as far back as the 1800s, set
between the steel tracks of the old Adirondac Branch and the
Hudson River. The Glen
House, too, enjoyed a history of hospitality at that site. If
that ground could speak, it would tell of ice jams and raging
torrents that wrested the old covered bridge from its piers and
swept it downriver, or of the early settlers who crossed in
boats on their way north. It would tell of the glorious days for
the Grove Hotel, of the railroad station, post office, the feed
store and the sawmill that flourished here at one time, all long
since gone. Perhaps the site was waiting to be rediscovered and
resurrected when Doug Azaert arrived on the scene.
Doug grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina,
and settled in the Adirondacks in 1982, teaching kayaking with
some buddies. After a year or so, they realized that guiding
rafters was more lucrative than teaching people how to paddle.
Speaking of those early days of the
business, Doug said, "The first two years they did all the
guiding, and I was just the chief cook and bottle-washer, and
when I saw how much fun they were having, I knew I had to get in
on that." The third year, he had his guide's license and joined
the fun. That enterprise grew into Wild Waters Outdoor Center, a
flourishing whitewater rafting business that also offers
canoeing and kayaking. The business is headquartered at The
Glen, a little settlement that spills over into the towns of
Thurman, Johnsburg and Chestertown, where NY state route 28
crosses the Hudson and the Glen Creek flows into the Hudson.
The business was first housed in an early
1900s hotel-turned-youth-hostel known as The Glen House.
Doug worked from season to season, enjoying the experience, but
not sure where it would lead him. "I think it was not until the
tenth year that I stopped mentally asking myself each fall what
I'd be doing the next year." He had found his niche, and in the
1990s, on a blind date with a friend of one of his guides, he
also found Aimee Paquin. Aimee explains that an old friend of
hers, who guided for Doug, was soon to be married, and he and
his bride-to-be had thought it would be nice if Doug had a
date—Aimee—for their wedding. Well, it turned out that there was
more than one wedding in Doug and Aimee's future. In 1997 they
married, and she became an active participant in the business.
Changes were occurring in whitewater
rafting in our region. Gone were the days when the clientele was
limited to groups of men who came in the spring, played hard,
drank hard and went home happy. Rafting became a family
activity, and rafting companies extended the sport's season
through fall, with summer becoming the most popular time. The
weather is warmer, and rafters aren't huddled around in cold
wetsuits. But with summer comes lower water, and lower water
makes for more difficult rafting. More rocks are exposed,
creating greater challenges for the guides. But with the
extended season, which now runs from April to October, guides
typically make eighty to one hundred trips downriver in a
season, and have a chance to sharpen their skills. "People have
found," Doug says, "that a rafting trip is a memorable way to
celebrate a graduation or birthday, and even makes an
outstanding bachelor party. Everyone is engaged in the activity,
enjoying the beautiful scenery."
In the rafting business, safety is always
the key issue, as guests are immediately made aware. Guides are
all certified, having passed rigorous training and tests, not
only in rafting, but also CPR and first aid. More than just
guides, Doug's employees have learned that their role involves
entertaining the guests, telling stories, sharing history and
passing along information about the area.
In November 2000, fate forced a change. The
Glen House burned to the ground. By the following summer, a new
log structure had arisen from the ashes, to become The Glen
Lodge and Market, a bed and breakfast with gift store, a
business that was to become primarily Aimee's.
The cozy riverside B&B, with its cedar log
furniture, colorful quilts and private baths, boasts many
amenities its predecessor could not offer—features Aimee had
learned were important to the changing tourist clientele. About
sixty percent of the guests are Wild Waters clients, but the
Lodge added a fourth season to the Azaerts' offering, serving as
a perfect haven for skiers after a day on the slopes or cross
Guests of Doug and Aimee often are
surprised and usually appreciative of the fact that they make
efforts to operate "green" businesses. From kitchen to bathroom,
bedroom to market, The Glen Lodge's household and laundry
cleaning products are environmentally friendly, and recycling is
a regular part of their day-to-day operation. Kitchen scraps are
shared with a friend who raises pigs, and paper goods used for
the rafters' dinners are biodegradable, and are composted. Aimee
says their customers—if they are aware—like the idea, and many
of them comment that they would like to "green up" their own
homes a bit. She feels she gave up no advantages making the
change to green products.
The Azaerts participate in National Grid's
"GreenUp Program," buying exclusively electricity that is
produced by wind power. "I think everyone should belong to the
GreenUp Program," Doug says. "With wind power I know that none
of my power bill payment is going to pay for coal. Who
The Azaerts' two sons, Brent, aged 16, and
Weston, 14, help out with the businesses. They both help out in
the kitchen, landscaping, working in the store and outfitting
rafting customers in the mornings. They are comfortable and
poised way beyond their years, at ease talking with guests.
Neither Doug nor Aimee trained for the
businesses they run so effectively today, but the attention to
detail they exhibit shows enormous dedication. Doug will quickly
admit that he just stumbled into the rafting business, learning
as he went along. In addition to his state-mandated training, he
quickly grasped the essentials of his trade. "It's not easy.
It's important for a guide to always remember to stay focused on
the job and the safety of the clients, and to be in good
physical shape." He stresses that if someone wants to be a
whitewater guide, he can't go into it expecting to just go out
for a good time. "It's physically demanding, because you are
lifting and loading heavy boats, and sometimes pulling
passengers out of the boats or out of the water."
Aimee, trained in accounting but with some
experience in the hospitality trade, mentioned that many people
tell her they have dreamed of running a B&B. Although she loves
her role as innkeeper, she explains that the job entails a lot
more than a casual observer might realize. "The B&B owner is
housekeeper, a cook, a concierge and a sales clerk, on duty
twenty-four hours a day. You shouldn't attempt it if you aren't
a ‘people person,' someone who is very customer oriented."
It's clear that both Aimee and Doug are
"people people," as well as entrepreneurs who understand the
value of hard work and the importance of guarding the beautiful
Adirondack environment in which they live.
The Glen, 1123 Route 28 Warrensburg, New York 12885
organizes writers' retreats for those with works in progress who
want a writing-intensive getaway with workshops, consultations
blocks of writing time, led by
award-winning author Adrian Fogelin. Next offering Feb.
25 - Mar. 2, 2015.
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