The Great State of New York

With all the miles and all the different states & provinces, we made more overnight stops in New York than anywhere else on this adventure.  We had spent a considerable amount of time here during our Great American Loop adventure in 2015 on Ivory Lady and knew some of the breadth and depth of this Great State.  When people say “New York”, it conjured up the “City” which is so far removed from the rest of the state in so many ways.

The vast major of major highways run north and south in New England, driven in large part (we assume) by the mountain ranges and associated valleys that also run this direction.  Our choice when departing Ashland NH to Lake George NY was to travel a couple hundred miles out of our way, or take the “scenic route” on secondary roads.  As we were traveling on a beautiful day and a relatively short distance (172 miles) and with consultation with Cousin George, we elected to head south on I-81 and then go across country on Route 11, avoiding the northern Route 4 which would have been beautiful but much higher elevations.  One thing we have learned about Contessa, she LOVES to go downhill – at a speed we would rather not encounter!

NH - Sailboat is Faster!“Honey, we’re going up hill so slow even a sailboat can pass us”

It was a gentle and uneventful trip, until the last six miles, when traffic at one intersection had us backed up for 15-20 minutes.  Then, to avoid the remainder of the back-up, Captain Bill decided to turn right on US9, which took us directly through Lake George Village – a mega tourist town on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  Finally escaping the traffic, we headed north to Adirondack Camping Village.  Unfortunately, when we booked the reservation, the instruction to approach from the north rather than the south (our chosen direction) was not provided, so the 150 degree turn with Toad was EXTREMELY problematic.  So, there we are, blocking the entire entrance and having to do an immediate detachment of the Toad while on the apron of the highway.  Fortunately, we have gotten very competent in coupling and decoupling the Toad and the three cars trying to get into the campground behind us blocked any traffic risk.  Once decoupled, Captain Bill was able to back-up Contessa and complete the turn.

NY - View from my bedroom window“Nice wooded and level site – this is the view from our stateroom”

Sunday morning, we ventured into Lake George Village, attended services at St. James Episcopal Church (where we would return later in the week), made a trip up Prospect Mountain, explored the town and then enjoyed a dinner cruise of Lake George that evening.

Great views of Lake George from Prospect Mountain

Top left is our boat, bottom pic The Sagamore Inn

We were off early the next morning in The Toad to explore Fort Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain.  Built by the French in 1755, Fort Carillon (as she was named then) was the site of the bloodiest battles of the French and Indian War.  British ultimately capture the Fort in 1759, but not before the French blow up the powder magazine during their retreat to insure the British cannot gain access to the munitions stored there.  The British rename the fort “Ticonderoga” – and Mohawk Indian word meaning “Land between Two Waters.”  Situated between Lake Champlain and Lake George, it was a crucial control point from northern invasion.

In May 1775, just six weeks after the battles of Lexington and Concord ignite the Revolutionary War, Generals Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold capture the fort’s small British garrison, and renamed her Fort Ticonderoga.  This was a strategic win for the American forces, as it provided essential artillery, especially cannons, to continue the revolution.  During British rule, the Americans were not allowed to have foundries or facilities to manufacture arms that could be used in an uprising.  In December, 1775, Henry Knox and his group of men move 59 cannons (almost 60 ton) some 300 miles across the frozen lake and over the Berkshire Mountains to Boston.  With the British being unaware of this artillery movement, they woke one morning in early March; saw the battery of cannons and Boston was saved from British capture.

While General John Burgoyne forced the American evacuation of Ticonderoga in 1777, the losses incurred during that battle was a significant component in his surrender to the American forces at Saratoga Springs NY. It was one of the final battles of the Revolutionary War.

Fort Ticonderoga played only a small part in the War of 1812, as the British forces were thwarted further north in Plattsburgh, preventing the advancement of forces.  Following that war, the Fort was no longer the site of military personnel and fell into disrepair.  Local residents, perhaps understandably at that time, appropriated materials from the fort to build homes, barns and public buildings.

In 1820, merchant William Ferris Pell purchased the fort and adjoining 546 acres.  He had a fence erected around the fort and is credited with the first act of preservation in the United States.  He and wife Mabel built “The Pavilion” as their summer home along the shore of the Lake Champlain.   In 1909, their grandson, Stephen Pell and wife Sarah initiated the reconstruction of the fort, with the Officers’ and Soldiers’ barracks and walls being massively repaired and ultimately, the magazine (destroyed by the Americans prior to evacuating the fort during the conflicts.  Today, it is the home of tens of thousands of artifacts.  We felt this Fort rivaled our experience when the Four Amigos were so impressed with Fort Mackinac, which saw the first conflict of the War of 1812.

NY - Ticonderoga - Mt Defiance (1)A trip up a winding dirt road with deep ruts took us to Mt. Defiance, where there was a great view of Fort Ticonderoga, with another 80 miles of Lake Champlain to the north.  We reflected that earlier in this adventure, we had toured Fort Adams in Newport RI – where Forts Ticonderoga, Sumter (Charleston SC) and McHenry (Baltimore MD) would have fit on the parade grounds with room to spare!

While we often see or hear of events occurring just before or just after we’re in a location, this time we hit it just right.  On Wednesday evening, we returned to St. James Episcopal Church for the first evening of the two weeks of the Lake George Music Festival!  In its seventh season, this event brings together professionals and current students or faculty, or alumni from many prestigious institutions.  Our evening of chamber music featured artists from Yale School of Music, The Julliard School and the Royal Academy of Music as well as the New England Conservatory.  It was simply breath-taking music and an evening we will not soon forget.

The next morning, we headed Contessa west, but rather than take truly secondary roads, we headed south to the New York Thruway.  It was such fun revisiting (if only as we drove past) many sites The Four Amigos had traversed along the Mohawk River and Erie Canal in the summer of 2014.

While we were stuck on the Erie Canal in late June and early July, we had visited many of the sites of The Thousand Islands, including Clayton NY and its Antique Boat Museum and the Boldt Castle.  But we had not seen the eastern shore of Lake Ontario nor Sacket’s Harbor.

Beach at Brennan Beach RV Park – and a Glorious Sunset from the Beach

Sacket’s Harbor was a real surprise to us, but we have marveled on how much of the War of 1812 we have explored during our Loop and now our Land Cruise.  Sacket’s Harbor has the largest deep water harbor on Lake Ontario, and was a key military post for the American forces.  As well, the Navy Yard there was responsible for providing the ships necessary to protect and command the Great Lakes for the United States.

In the early weeks of the War, the British had seized control of the Great Lakes. In September 1812 U.S. Navy Captain Isaac Chauncey was ordered to assume command of naval forces on Lakes Ontario and Erie with the directive to “…use every exertion to obtain control of them this fall.”  Within three weeks he had directed and brought 149 ships’ carpenters, 700 Seamen and Marines and some 100 cannon, along with a good quantity of muskets and other supplies, to Sacket’s Harbor where there was already a small navy yard.  In May, 1813, British forces from Kingston Ontario crossed the Lake to Horse Island; on May 29, they attacked the American forces defending the harbor and Navy Yard.  While they were unsuccessful in their attempt to take Fort Thompkins, many of the Americans had retreated (per plan) to Fort Volunteer across the harbor.  Lack of effective communication had many believing that Fort Tompkins and the Navy Yard were about to fall to the British, so they set fire to the munitions magazine and the ships under construction.  Fortunately, the General Pike was so new in construction that the wood was still green, so while damaged, it was not destroyed and was able to be completed over the next months. It ruled the Great Lakes for the remainder of the War.

On Friday morning, we “land-cruised” around to the south shore of Lake Ontario for a planned weekend with dear friends from Marathon who summer in Sodus Point.  When the Four Amigos were stranded in Brewerton NY for 4th of July, 2014 with high water in the Erie & Oswego Canals, we were rescued by Dave & Sue Williamson and spent a few lovely days with them then.  So, an opportunity to route through Sodus Point on this journey could not be missed!  As well, Rosemary Thomas lives literally “just down the street” – so we were able to spend great times with all of them – dinners in their homes, walks on the beach searching for sea-glass and “wishing stones”, a cruise down the Lake to Fair Haven, and a lovely road trip to neighboring towns and visits with Dave & Sue’s sons & families.

Top left is Dave & Sue’s home – with literally thousands of sandbags that have been there since May attempting to stem the high waters from reaching their home!  Below that, Dave & Bill are solving all the problems of the world!  The bottom left is the Lighthouse where both Sue and Rosemary are extremely active leaders.  The center bottom was the view from our coach during our stay at South Shores RV Park!

On Monday, we turned Contessa south – to the Finger Lakes Region of Central New York.  At first blush, the number of wineries along the shores of the 11 lakes that comprise the region seem to rival the California wine country. Wineries opened in New York in 1976 following approval from the New York Legislature. Having spent such an idyllic time in Sonoma last summer, we chose to spend the majority of our time in the region visiting the Corning Museum of Glass, the Town of Corning, Watkins Glen State Park and the Village of Watkins Glen.

The Museum of Glass was exceedingly well done with major beautiful exhibits and a wide array of glass blowing demonstrations.  Corning Inc (formerly Corning Glass Works) created the museum in 1951 as a gift to the nation on their 100th Anniversary.  It is dedicated to the art, history and science of glass with a collection of more than 45,000 glass objects, some over 3,500 years old.  Downtown Corning has been recognized across the country for this focused effort to revitalize and empower the entrepreneurial spirit of business.  It was a lovely walk across the Chemung River and lunch at Hand & Foot.

The demo areas were superb – and the pedestrian bridge across the River had a full size maze to navigate!

The Watkins Glen State Park was rated one of the Top Three State Parks in the US in 2016 – and it did not disappoint.  Rain and a cold front came through last night, so the hike this morning was spectacular!  Glen Creek has poured down the glacially steepened valley side for 12,000 years, leaving 19 waterfalls and cascades, some of which you walk behind on the gorge trail.  We spent about two hours, walked some 7,000 steps and climbed 24 flights of stairs – truly an amazing experience!

With such a beautiful day, we couldn’t resist an hour aboard the 1934 Stroller IV cruising the southern waters of Seneca Lake.

Bottom left is Hector Falls, dropping 165 feet – it is the third highest waterfalls in New York State

Seneca is the largest of the 11 lakes, extending from Geneva NY at the north to Watkin Glen at the southern tip.  Fed by a plethora of creeks (including Glen Creek) and springs, approx. 324,000 gallons of water enter the Lake every minute!  While Watkins Glen is known for its International Speedway and scenic beauty, the major employers in the town are US Salt and Cargill, both mining salt from 1800’ to 2400’ below the surface of the lake.  To mine the salt, there are two wells, each 500’ deep.  Water is injected into one well shaft, which forces the salt & brine up the second shaft.  From there it is transported by a series of pipes to holding tanks, where it is processed for 24 hours while removing foreign particles from the salt.  It is then moved into large evaporation tanks and the pure salt that remains is packaged under various labels as table salt, water softener pellets or livestock salt lick blocks. The volume of production was amazing – US Salt alone ships between 12 & 14 ton of salt each day!

We’ll have a fire in the fire-pit tonight and prepare Contessa for an early departure tomorrow.

Author: Contessa & The Toad Get Hitched

After years traveling this beautiful country by boat, the Captain and the Admiral are bound for land adventures. Whenever Contessa (the motorcoach) and the Toad (Jeep Grand Cherokee) get hitched (towing the car) - we’ll post our adventures!

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