I wasn’t expecting to stop in the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York State during the RV travels, but some needed fixes to the home-on-wheels led to a literary bonus. Our route to the RV repair place took us close to Saranac Lake, New York, where Robert Louis Stevenson spent the winter of 1887-88.
When you visit the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage & Museum, be sure to follow the house around to the front from the parking lot. The back entrance, where I first knocked, leads to the live-in caretaker’s quarters. (The New York Times recently featured the couple-in-residence at the Ralph Waldo Emerson House in Concord, Massachusetts.)
The landscape around the cottage is now residential, vastly different from the open, snow-covered fields that Stevenson would have seen. At the time Stevenson took up residence, the Scottish scribe was on his second visit to America and famous for tales like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was drawn to Saranac Lake for its proximity to a specialist pioneering an open-air cure for tuberculosis.
After a brief history of Stevenson’s stay in Saranac Lake by the caretaker, Brian and I roamed around the cozy cottage on our own. The cottage contains the original furniture from Stevenson’s stay, including the desk where he worked on The Master of Ballantrae and a pair of ice skates he used.
Literary connection or not, winter in the Adirondacks isn’t something I’d like to experience. But I would like to follow in Stevenson’s footsteps after he left Saranac Lake: his next adventure was sailing the South Seas. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt