Sunday, November 9, 2008

Purity Springs Resort

Written by Marty Basch
On the edge of the island, the seaweed-steamed lobster was ready for serving. So was the corn on-the-cob, burgers, chicken, steaks, hot dogs and salads. The picnic tables were soon filled with families who knew to leave room for dessert.

The campfire was flickering along Purity Lake and the children roasted marshmallows on sticks. The adults sipped grown-up beverages as the sun traveled west. Though dress was casual, there was an abundance of tie-dyed shirts. Some had been made the day before, while others had seen many Thursday night lobster bakes at Purity Spring Resort in East Madison. Making tie-die shirts on a Wednesday afternoon was as much a part of the tradition of the fifth-generation family-owned resort as the lobster bake.

Dinner turned to lakeside theater with sing-alongs. Over the years, the impromptu waterfront theatrics have also become a tradition, from nine-year-olds singing opera to comedy skits mimicking "Seinfeld."

On a serene half-mile stretch of Route 153, a four-season destination on the edge of the White Mountain National Forest awaits families. Just a few miles down a winding country road from North Conway and its outlet stores, the compound is a place to unplug, unwind and reconnect with family and old-fashioned fun on the shores of 150 acre Purity Lake.

Family is guaranteed. Even after 100 years, it's still in the Hoyt family and chances are you'll chat with one while taking a break from water-skiing, sailing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, boating, arts and crafts, swimming or relaxing in the spa.

Purity Spring Resort has been owned and operated by the Hoyt family since its beginning in the late 1800s. Edward E. Hoyt, founder of Purity Springs Farms, started with a small country inn, sawmill and water-bottling operation. The Hoyt Natural Mineral Spring Water Company bottled the aptly named Purity Spring Water and shipped it to New York.
In 1932, Edward's son, Milt, opened Camp Tohkomeupog for Boys. The camp is still operating at the same location.

Skiing and snowboarding are now an integral part of the resort. What started with a rope tow in the late 1930s has grown into a seventeen-trail , five-lift ski area with trails first cut in 1962. When the trails aren't covered in snow during the late spring, summer and fall, they are used for walking, hiking and mountain biking. At the summit, where moose, deer, raccoon, chipmunks and songbirds are spotted among the pines, a rope course waits for young and young-at-heart adventurers.

In summer, the Tohko Dome skating rink becomes an indoor area for basketball and scaling the rock-climbing wall. When it rains kids and teens play in the Dome. Five tennis courts await aces, while the non-snow season has several theme weekends: kayaking, scrap-booking, ballroom dancing, yoga and painting. Many families stay a week, others for the weekend. Not only do visits coincide with a theme weekend, but weddings, too. This year’s plan calls for Purity to introduce "green weddings” on the shores of Purity Lake with little environmental impact.

The resort and its various cottages, lodges and condos are linked by a lighted half-mile walking path. Both rustic and more modern accommodations feature everything from screened-in porches to let the summer breeze in to stone fireplaces to ward off autumn's approaching chill. The main dining room serves filling country breakfasts, family-style lunches with soup and salad bar, and chef-made dinners.

Though it's easy to step back in time at the resort, the lakefront destination does march in the 21st century with wireless computer access for those who absolutely need it to the exercise room and indoor pool at The Mill Fitness Center. Set along the lake, the water rushes over the mill dam. Inside the Spring House, one of the original buildings, hear the water while getting a massage.

Purity Lake is the signature attraction. Hear the cry of loons. Watch as wood ducks create their little wakes. Beavers and occasional otters play in the waters. Deer gingerly step by its shores. The lake has islands and inlets with acres of pine forests. Anglers cast their lines and luck onto the water for chance at pan fish, bass, pickerel and perch. Herons and osprey often fly overhead. Ringed by hills, the lake attracts paddlers for the most part. Be out on the lake and then it finally dawns on you - there's only one motorized boat! That's the one that ferries water-skiers from Sunset Beach about four times a week. Whether it be canoe, kayak or rowboat, the lake is a fine body of water to laze about. Coast by and see the grassy slopes of the ski area or look for the stilted pine on Pine Point. The leaning tree is a landmark for the boys at Camp Tohkomeupog. From the camp's beach, boys must swim about 400 yards from beach to pine and back before getting certified to take out one of the canoes.

The resort has four sandy beaches on the lake, all an easy walk from the various lodges, cottages and condos. Docks and platforms mean the splash of summer is never far away. Each beach is a launching point into the lake, whether it be for a paddle or a swim.
The snowshoe and cross-country ski trails of winter become paths for walking and hiking, the trail network part of the New Hampshire Audubon's Hoyt Wildlife Sanctuary. In 1989, Ellen Hoyt donated 189 acres to Audubon and it is through the sanctuary, about a half-mile walk from the dining hall, that another tradition is found. Walk, drive or paddle to Rocky Point, where on Mondays it's easy to be motivated to get to the Breakfast Cookout. Long before you reach the campfire and picnic tables under the waving pines, the smell of bacon wafts over the water or into the woods. Picture an open fire with two large skillets.: one holds eggs, the other sizzling bacon; a staffer toasts bagels, bread and English muffins. Lined up under the trees are coffee, tea, juices, muffins and pastries in a self-serve outdoor cookout. That's another tasty adventure that is part of the Purity tradition.

Marty Basch can be reached through his web site, . He lives in the White Mountains.

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