A Family Tradition Lives on at Purity Spring Resort
By Bart Beeson
“A summer vacation is not a luxury, a matter for economy. It is an insurance policy against a breakdown next winter or in the near future.”
So wrote Edward Hoyt, the owner of Madison, New Hampshire’s Purity Spring Resort, in the early 1900s. Originally running a spring water bottling operation (hence the ‘purity’ name), the Hoyt family moved into lodging guests on their own private lake, aptly named “Purity Lake.” Today, the fourth generation of the Hoyt family is still actively involved with managing the resort and still providing guests with much needed “breakdown insurance.”
Not only is the Hoyt family still involved with Purity Spring. Over the years they have expanded their operations and launched other ventures, including a boys’ camp located on the lake, a small ski-resort – King Pine – located just down the road, and a large RV campground – Danforth Bay – a short 10-minute drive away. Purity Spring itself has grown too, now offering 61 lodging options, ranging from rustic cabins and lakeside cottages to guest rooms and full-home condominium units. While the hotel may look quite different than it did back in Edward Hoyt’s day, the history is still very present. What was once a mill located at the end of the lake is now home to the hotel lobby, lakeside guest quarters, and an indoor pool and hot tub. And what was once the spring house from their bottling days has been used as a massage studio.
On a recent visit to the the resort, we started our day with a tasty breakfast sandwich from the hotel’s Traditions Restaurant and Pub, and then headed out for a guided walk around the Hoyt Wildlife Sanctuary, a 135-acre Audubon property that abuts the hotel (donated to NH Audubon by a Hoyt family member). Our guide was Heather McKendry, a former staff member at the hotel and current outreach coordinator at the nearby Tin Mountain Conservation Center. Over the course of two hours, Heather walked us through the well-maintained trails through the woods and alongside the lake, enthusiastically pointing out local flora and fauna, geological features such as eskers formed during the last ice age, and the reminders of previous inhabitants – old foundations, hand-dug wells and an old graveyard. While the trails make for a great walk in the woods (and cross-country skiing in the winter), a guided tour with someone familiar with the history and the land made it that much more memorable, especially for history and nature buffs. While Purity Spring isn’t currently offering regularly scheduled walks, they are looking into partnering with Tin Mountain to make it an option for hotel guests.
After the tour, we grabbed a to-go picnic lunch from Traditions, and headed out to explore the surrounding area. Our first stop was at Foss Mountain in the neighboring town of Eaton. I’ve done quite a bit of hiking in New Hampshire over the years, and this just might be one of the best “bang-for-your-buck” hikes in the state. After hiking just 20 minutes up a fairly gradual slope, passing by fields blanketed by low-bush blueberries, we came out on a bald knob with stunning 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and countryside. I was told that as an added bonus, visitors are free to pick the wild blueberries found at the top when they’re in season. From Foss Mountain we made our way over to the Madison Boulder – one of the largest known glacial erratics (a rock transported and deposited by glaciers) in the world. And while seeing a big rock may seem like something only a geologist could appreciate, the sheer size of it is truly impressive and worth a stop.
Back at the hotel, I grabbed one of the many hotel kayaks provided complimentary for guests and headed out for a quick paddle on Purity Lake. I was hoping to explore the small bog connected to the lake that we had seen on our morning walk, but it was roped off to protect a pair of nesting loons. Instead, I paddled through the narrow channel that connects the smaller portion of the lake to the larger one, passing by the boys’ camp on my way. While there is a public boat launch on the lake, it is only for non-motorized vehicles – the only motorboat on the lake belongs to Purity Spring, which guests can book for water sports for an hourly fee. The lack of motorboats makes the lake an ideal place for paddling and swimming, not having to worry about distracted drivers or boat wakes. I made my way down to Sunset Beach, a quiet spot for hotel guests to enjoy a small playground and a sand volleyball court, and, as the name implies, relax and take in the sunset.
To cap off an adventure-filled day, we headed over to the Thursday night lobster bake, a hotel tradition for decades (they also host breakfast cookouts on Sunday mornings). The dinner, which is open to both hotel guests and other visitors, was a convivial affair with families sharing picnic benches and enjoying corn on the cob with lobsters or choice of grilled fare.
Despite having packed a lot into the day, I felt like I had barely scratched the surface of things you can do at the hotel, including water-skiing, tennis and pickleball, the inflatable climbing wall in the lake, and activities like tie-dying t-shirts, just to name a few. And that’s not including the winter activities like skiing at King Pine, skating on the hotel’s rink, or cross-country skiing on the trails. And while I may not have been able to try everything, between the wide range of activities, the lakeside setting and the down-home, cozy feel, I had the sense that the resort felt like a family summer camp, the kind of place where the same families come year after year, knowing that friends they have met in previous years will likely be there again. And after two years of limited travel due to the pandemic, having a relaxing weekend at the lake is the kind of breakdown insurance we all could use.
Visit Purity Spring Resort.
Bart Beeson is a Plymouth, New Hampshire-based freelance travel writer and photographer. He is a regular contributor to Travel Weekly, and has published in The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and other media outlets. When he’s not traveling, Bart can be found hiking with his dog Kesey or spending time at his family’s New Hampshire lake house.