Our Adventure: Janis Ian, Great Camp Sagamore, and Outrunning Hurricane Irene in Upstate NY

Sagamore Camp, Long Lake, New York
Image via Wikipedia

I was in the midst of writing a music blog series about Patti Smith‘s curated collection of songs Outside Society (which I will get back to shortly). Major weather events of this past weekend altered that path of writing the past two days. Hurricane Irene’s landfall surge up the east coast had a major impact on our lives and the lives of millions of others.

Rosemary and I began the weekend with earnest Saturday morning as we drove to upstate NY for a Janis Ian concert at Great Camp Sagamore, in Lake Raquette, NY. We had trepidation about leaving our home in the wake of Hurricane Irene. I was thankful that we might escape the wrath of the swath of the hurricane. Little did I realize what was in store for us.

We had never vacationed in the Adirondacks before, save for the times we had stayed in Lake George, NY. We found our roadside motel in Old Forge, NY, registered and headed out to find the concert site.

It was an adventure to find the Barn at Great Camp Sagamore. The dirt and gravel strewn road to the private land preserve was a three-mile drive through the woods. When it ended it placed us on the former Vanderbilt property, where we sequestered as “visitors” to Great Camp Sagamore. The tour guide at Sagamore asked us not to roam the property as it was a private estate. He did offer us the chance to watch a video about Great Camp Sagamore while Janis Ian did her sound check in the barn. It was an exciting proposition to see Janis Ian perform for an audience of 120 people in such an intimate setting.

Janis Ian was superb. It had been 36 years since we last saw her at the Pinecrest Country Club folk festival in Shelton, Ct (1975). She performed two one hour sets for us. She wove stories and personal reflections with her tapestries of music. Janis Ian was in great voice. I was very impressed with her guitar playing. I found myself mesmerized with her picking style as it occurred to me that she lived now in Nashville, Tennessee.

This is a picture of her set list taped to her floor monitor.

Rosemary encouraged me to buy her paperback autobiography, Society’s Child, My Autobiography and 2 CD set, Best of Janis Ian, The Autobiography Collection before the show. I’m glad I took her advice as they sold out of both items early that night. Janis Ian stayed after the concert to sign each for us. We loved the chance to speak with her. She commented on my Grateful Dead t-shirt as she recognized the Capitol Theater in Portchester, NY. I said to Janis Ian, “I am happy to meet you after all these years.” She was so gracious to us, which made the evening even sweeter. Rosemary has been devouring Janis Ian’s book ever since. I can’t wait to read it next 🙂

The following day we tried to decide if we should stay in Old Forge, NY one more day due to Hurricane Irene or head back to Connecticut. We decided to embark for home. It was raining with a slight wind in the Adirondacks. As we travelled amidst the rain of the storm’s surge we soon learned that I-90 and I-87 were closed. We were forced to take an alternate route on I-88 West. It took us 9 harrowing hours to get home to our destination instead of the five hours it took to arrive in Old Forge the day before.

The ride was scary and exhilarating at the same time. We found ourselves out running the water on the roadsides as it poured through the rocks in waiting trenches. The water was travelling the troughs as fast as we could drive. The wind pushed the trees all along the roadside as we called relatives and friends to get help find our way back home. The Hudson Valley was flooding and we were moving as fast through it as we could to get back home. We met an entire flooded valley that was blocked off by a huge tractor on I-145 in Coblesville.

The ride along I-88 West finally calmed down some and offered us the majestic beauty that upstate NY has to offer. When we drove along I-84 in Goshen County the bright, setting sun alighted the green hilled mountains ahead of us like two giant spotlights. Then we saw the most beautiful rainbow at the top of I-84. It was a most encouraging and reassuring sign for us. Rosemary took a picture of it with her iPhone camera.

We arrived back home safely to find our house untouched but without power. We were very thankful to be home again once more.

2 Replies to “Our Adventure: Janis Ian, Great Camp Sagamore, and Outrunning Hurricane Irene in Upstate NY”

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