Andrew Harper of Harper Associates Inc., in Fairfax Station, is editor and publisher of The Hideaway Report newsletter, "a connoisseur's guide to peaceful and unspoiled places." To research his reviews of worldwide vacation and executive retreats in the monthly publication, Harper says he travels incognito and pays full rates.
His "idea of the ultimate escape is a place with the fewest number of fellow escapists. That is why I prefer small, out-of-the-way cottage resorts abundant in peace, privacy and pristine surroundings." Examples:
* "Pine Cay in the Turks & Caicos. A privately owned island ringed with miles of beaches and just 12 bungalows. It epitomizes the glory days of the West Indies when you could stroll endless stretches of sugar white sand without ever encountering another footprint.
* "Las Cruces Palmilla in the Mexican Baja. There is an exhilarating, end-of-the-world solitude about this 600-acre enclave where the desert and mountains meet the sea in a moonscape of haunting rock formations, translucent lagoons and vast expanses of virgin beach.
* "The Wood Point in Upper Saranac Lake, N.Y. Secluded on a wooded peninsula in the Adirondacks, the former Rockefeller family compound has been restored into an elegantly rustic retreat for 16 guests. I can sit on the panoramic terrace for hours just sniffing the balsam, gazing out over the lake to a horizon of primeval forests and ancient peaks.
* "Tall Timber near Durango, Colo. The only access to this mountain sanctuary is aboard a vintage, narrow-gauge train. Twelve glorious chalets in a breathtaking, commune-with-nature setting, augmented by whirlpool baths under evergreens and other outrageous amenities one has no right to expect in the middle of nowhere.
* "Kachemak Bay near Homer, Alaska. The world here is as fresh as it was the first day of Creation, the log-hewn outpost hunkering down under a stand of spruce on an untouched inlet. Sea otters, seals, whales and bald eagles are your only neighbors."