“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
The winter solstice is a day I highlight on my calendar every year. I count down the days until solstice, a day on which the earth’s north pole is tilted the furthest from the sun, thus causing the sun to have the shortest visible path traveled in the northern sky. This results in inhabitants of the northern hemisphere — including the Adirondacks — to experience the shortest daylight hours and the longest night hours of the year. Why is this day so exciting? Because the days are only going to get brighter, the holidays are just around the corner, and winter is no longer simply coming; it is officially here.
But this time of the year can also mark a more stressful season. Holidays bring longer to-do lists. Shorter daylight hours increase the likelihood of experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (a disorder whose acronym, SAD, I have always believed to be a twisted joke from the medical world). Additionally, the ending of a year is a natural time for reflection of the year that just occurred, and that experience can be overwhelming at times.
While I looked forward to this year’s solstice, I took on my annual tradition of making it a point to practice even more self-care than usual. Saranac Lake is filled from head to toe with opportunities for wellness experiences, both indoors and outdoors. This year, I pulled my fiancé, Eric, into the fold of indulging in a little pampering, being more intentional with self-TLC, and embracing moments of stillness and calm.
As we ring in a new year and catch our breaths from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I offer you some of our favorite wellness options in Saranac Lake.
Wellness options for outdoor enthusiasts
Go for a snowshoe, a ski, or a walk at the VIC
The Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smith’s College, lovingly known as the VIC, offers over 25 miles of trails for visitors to go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing throughout the 3,000-acre property. No snow? No problem! The VIC is a sight to behold in any weather! Eric and I headed out during a warmer winter day and felt as ease as the squirrels ran past our feet and birds played in the water. Eric often has a camera in hand, and his fingers were grateful to not have to play the “frozen hands” game photographers know all too well. The sun looked beautiful as it set upon the water, small pockets of ice gently floating by. It was just what we needed in the midst of a busy season.
“Forest bathing? Isn’t that just a walk in the woods?” I hear this question all the time, and the answer is no! I look at forest bathing as the difference between “hearing” and “listening.” Walk into a room full of people, and you will hear many of them speaking. It is simply background noise. But once you start listening, you are absorbing the words spoken by others with intention. Such is the case with forest bathing — being in nature, and doing so with intention. Adirondack Riverwalking and Forest Bathing offers that very experience. Certified guides will bring you and anyone else you may choose to bring on a tour through a local destination.
Eric and I are always in the woods, but either our minds or our bodies are racing through the trails. Forest bathing, however, is a time to embrace stillness rather than aim for a workout and, in doing so, detaching from those to-do lists and stressors and allowing yourself to be fully present. It was more challenging than we anticipated to truly let our minds be at ease, but once we were able to be in that mental space, it was zen, zen, zen all the way.
Cross-country ski at Dewey Mountain (with a warm cup of coffee at Nori’s to follow)
I celebrated this year’s solstice by doing my favorite winter activity at Dewey Mountain: cross-country skiing the perfectly groomed trails, a fully charged headlamp ready to go for when the sun went down. Dewey is a fantastic option for both seasoned skiers and those who are new to the sport. No skis? Rent a pair for either a half-day or a full-day and enjoy the trails ranging from flat to hilly. The Dewey trail crew, headed by Saranac Lake local Jason Smith, was kind enough to mark trails with cones to separate gentler, flowier sections from the bigger climbs. I was feeling the holiday spirit and went past the cones to get in some elevation and was delighted to find untouched, freshly groomed trails waiting for my arrival. The climbs up were just as much fun as the descents back down to the lower sections (where a group of middle school skate skiers politely whizzed on by as though I were standing still). As one who is directionally challenged, I especially appreciate how well-marked the trails are at Dewey, including which direction to travel so you and everyone else on the property can have a fun and safe experience.
After my ski at Dewey, I headed to the cafe in Nori’s to pick up an apple bar and a warm vanilla latte to warm up my cold bones, read a book, and watch the world go by.
Looking for some indoor wellness options? You’ve come to the right place!
“Look good, feel good” at the Barbery, Just Nails Salon, and Janie's!
Now let’s get something straight: feeling good is based on SO much more than how we look. That said, it feels nice to indulge in a nice touch-up every now and again. Breaking free of our “DIY-Covid-cuts” from the last couple years, Eric and I enjoyed letting the professionals take over.
Eric was in good hands with licensed barber Frank at The Barbery. Frank provided Eric with a men’s cut for longer hair and a beard grooming treatment (which smelled lovely). During the appointment, Frank explained his system of keeping his room clean through sterilizing his tools and the use of a UV light that is turned on every time he walks out the door. He believes that keeping a clean environment is key to a positive experience in his chair.
Just Nails Salon is right next door to the Barbery for anyone looking to get their nails done! The salon offers a variety of nail treatments and styles in addition to various manicure and pedicure options. Just make sure to call in advance! The salon is often in high demand, so make a reservation and secure your spot in line!
I made a stop to Janie’s For Hair and had my hair cut by the lovely Mary. Now, I’ve had the same hairdresser since I was about five years old, so the idea of working with someone new made me a bit anxious. But as soon as I sat in Mary’s chair, I felt right at home as we shared the various adventures and paths down which our lives have taken us. I only had my ends trimmed, but I left feeling brand new. Both The Barbery and Janie's For Hair are on our list of must re-visits!
Get a massage at The Ampersand Spa
Hotel Saranac is home to the Ampersand Spa, a perfect option for those who want to get out of the cold and unwind your mind, body, and soul. Eric and I treated ourselves to a couples massage, a first for both of us so we weren’t sure what to expect. It’s safe to say our experience exceeded expectations.
We were led into separate changing rooms, complete with a steam room, full showers, lockers, and vanities. After changing into our cozy robes and sandals, Eric and I sipped complementary glasses of champagne in the lounge room while enjoying a warm fire. After a brief but thorough conversation with our individual masseuses about any aches and pains we had going in, we were led into our room and were treated to the Goldilocks experience — not too light and not too hard, but just right.
Eric and I later laughed that we were in such a state of zenful bliss that we would forget we were in the room with each other. After enjoying a warm mug of tea by the fireplace and smelling our gifted bottle of balsam massage oil, we showered the oil from our loose muscles and headed home where we soon drifted off to sleep.
New this season, the Ampersand Spa is offering a Winter Wellness Package for loved ones and friends. You and a guest can be treated to a side-by-side massage and your choice of a glass of wine or local craft beer after the treatment! After the hustle and bustle that comes with the end of the year, this wellness package sounds like the perfect idea!
I will say, in writing this blog, my attention to wellness stepped up even more than usual this time of year, and the benefits paid off in droves. We found ourselves feeling relaxed, balanced, and refreshed going into the holidays. During your next visit to Saranac Lake, be sure to indulge in one of the above wellness opportunities and treat yourself to some wellness TLC!