Each tent or cabin has its own open fire. When a tent is planned the chimney is built first. Round this chimney a wooden structure is erected, often of charming design, and intended as a dressing and writing room. A bed is often placed in it, although there is always a bed in the tent that adjoins it. During the winter, everything belonging to each tent is taken down and stored in its own wooden structure. There is a veranda for each tent, formed by a continuation of the platform, and protected by a rough wooden railing. This veranda is furnished with chairs, hammocks, and plants. An extra canvas of some color, red and white, blue and white, or green and white, is then made to cover both the inner tent and the veranda as well. Mosquito nets are sometimes hung inside the tent door.
The greatest ingenuity is displayed in the arrangement of each camp, and the greatest charm prevails. Indeed, the life that goes on in these camps, more especially in those built in the Adirondack woods, can, in its fascination, be compared to nothing else except perhaps life on a yacht.
When single walls are used in the construction of a cabin, time is allowed to stain them gray. Nature is encouraged to do most of the work of decoration. No paint is admitted indoors. One cabin bedroom will have its stone chimney and open fire. The walls and ceilings will be of pine. White enamelled furniture will be introduced, the bed dressed with simple flowered muslin with ruffles, repeated in the curtains at the windows and on the couches and tables. The effect of such an arrangement is cool, cheerful, comfortable, and charming, for no appointment is neglected; the desk, the lounge, the night-table and the lamps, the bookshelves, the dressing-room, and the bath are all there, though one is shut in by evergreens with banks of ferns close to the windows, and though the squirrels come scampering in through the open doors and climb into one's lap for nuts.
I remember one dining-room with the veranda projecting over the water. It had a wainscoting of rough bark, which covered the studding and beams also. The ceiling between the beams was of pine. A yellow straw matting filled the panels and the walls. All the china in the room was blue and white. So were the muslin curtains, and so, too, was the Japanese rug. The chairs were of pine, painted white. A huge white crane hung from the highest beam of the ceiling, directly-over the middle of the table. Twenty people could dine there in comfort, and there was usually that number in this most hospitable and most delightful of dining-rooms.
Living-rooms one hundred feet long are sometimes found in these camps. Until one is in such a room, with its great stone chimneys and windows and doors on every side, one does n't realize what the charm of a holiday existence may be. Windows face in every direction, and each one is made into a retreat full of angles and recesses, where one can sit hidden away from the rest of the room.
No attempt is made to clear away the woods outside. The trees stand about like guardian spirits, while inside there are the fires, books, music, and games. One of these living-rooms has no color in it but the golden and russet tones of autumn. These are in the hangings and the yellow of the pine shingles, between the beams, or in the mattings and the bits of tapestry between the panels, the cushions on the seats, and in the new branches that are daily introduced. Another room will be furnished in Indian blankets with stuffed birds, and pieces of pottery, and books, books, books everywhere, within reach of any hand.
All of these camps have "lean-tos."
A "lean-to" is a square structure, not unlike a sheepcote, without windows or doors, but with sloping roof and three walls. In rough camps they are built of green boughs, and are meant only to serve as shelter for a night or two. But in those luxurious camps which are left standing from year to year they are built for permanent use. Their walls are like those of a log cabin, and the sloping roof is made rain-proof. An inclined floor is laid to protect the loungers inside from the damp earth, the floor level with the ground at the entrance sloping up toward the wall at the back, where it stands some two feet higher and well away from possible damp. On this wooden floor balsam boughs are laid. Cushions are arranged along its head, and an afghan or blanket is left for some cool afternoon or evening. Directly opposite the opening of this lean-to, which may look into the wood or down the lake, wherever the view is fine and privacy best insured, a camp-fire is laid on a high stone hearth - almost an altar. The comfort and charm of these lean-tos cannot easily be measured. Out-door life is possible in them even when rains fall and winds blow. They are large enough to hold five or six people, and not too large for one. They furnish inducements which ought to prevail with the rest of the world for getting out of our houses oftener, for the enjoyment of simple pleasures, the telling of stories before a fire, or the reading of books on a quiet afternoon. It would be possible in almost any wood-lot or under any orchard to build such a place with only a few planks, while the brush gathered from different directions may serve as a camp-fire. One wonders why so charming an arrangement must be confined to camp life when opportunities for it are to be found in almost every country place, and would add immensely to its pleasures.
No well-appointed camp is without its camp-fire, which is lighted every night with as much regularity as parlor lamps in town. Round the fire there are wooden benches, bath-chairs, seats of various kinds. Some kindly Providence protects the surrounding trees and the canvas near by, although these fires are lighted season after season until traditions of a score of years have grown about every inch of the ground. In many instances a cement foundation is laid for the fire, sometimes one of rough stone only, and sometimes the fireplace is built like an altar. The charm of these fires is the charm of every lovely, pleasant, and beautiful thing.
In no camps are the lanterns forgotten. In some there are several hundreds of different colors, strung on trees and verandas, to light the different paths. No attempt at a particular arrangement is made. The lanterns are hung where they can be of most service, and yet the effect at night from a lake near by, as one looks toward the different camps hidden under the trees, is of a bower of lights arranged in graceful lines, creating an impression of beauty that is always individual.