May 22, 2020

De-stress: Visit a Waterfalls

Last week I asked: What NYS features are not closed? Waterfalls
New York State evenly divided into thirds: mountains, eroded
plateaus, and low lands providing a variety of scenery including many beautiful waterfalls.  Falling water provided an inexpensive source of power that helped New York State industrialize and growth. It is believed that the sound of falling water has a calm  to de-stress, secure a sense of balance, relax and recharge.
1. Niagara Falls: The falls, one of the wonders of the world, straddles the border between New York State and Canada. The iconic way to view the falls is from the Maid of the Mist. It provides an up-close view of the falls while getting anointed by the spray. Walk along the Cave of the Winds and feel the power of Bridal Veil Falls. The American falls are part of Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the United States. 
2. Taughannock Falls: Located in the Finger Lake region on the west side of Cayuga Lake, the 215 foot-Taughannock Fall is the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rockies. There are steps to the bottom of the falls from the viewing area. It is 33 feet taller than Niagara Falls. There is a 20-foot cascade downstream and an 100-foot one upstream with trails connecting the falls. This is one of the places where the water can slow to a trickle during the late summer and early fall. 
3. Buttermilk Falls: Buttermilk Falls State Park is an 811-acre state park located south of Ithaca - home to Cornell University. Buttermilk Creek descends more the 500 feet in a series of cascades with a natural pool at the bottom of the falls where, during the summer, swimming is allowed.  There are informative signboards and hiking trails along the gorge and rim.  
4. Lucifer Falls: The falls, also known as Enfield Falls, is just
one of several in Robert H. Treman State Park. The easiest access is three miles up the winding hill from the main park entrance. The short path to a smaller part of the falls is wheelchair accessible but one of the most interesting features is the 1847 mill at the beginning of the path.  It is open to visitors in the summer with exhibits describing the workings of the mill.
5. Watkins Glen State Park:  The popular state park has two miles of water cascading down 400 feet beneath 200-foot cliffs creating 19 waterfalls along the way. The gorge path passes over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. It is closed during the winter. A rim trail overlooks the gorge.  It has made the list of “The Best State Parks in the United States.”
6. Salmon River Falls: The falls is located in the Tug Hill area
of Oswego County. Sign boards tell the story of the 110-foot waterfalls.  The path to view the falls is wheelchair accessible but there are a few steps down to the flat area above the falls where names dating back as far as 1892 are etched into the stones. During the winter, ice climbing on the falls is popular but each climber must register daily – a form is found in the kiosk box.
7. Kaaterskill Falls: Located in the Catskill Mountains, the falls is the highest two-tiered cascading waterfalls in NYS and one of the state’s oldest tourist attractions. It was the subject of paintings of Thomas Cole of the Hudson River School of painters. Visitors can get a great view of the area and falls from the new viewing platform. The trail to the bottom can be arduous. 
8. Letchworth: Letchworth State Park is renowned as the
“Grand Canyon of the East.” The Genesee River roars over three major waterfalls – one as high as 600 feet. There are 66 miles of trails in the historic park along with a variety of family-friendly activities and a museum. In 2015 the park won the USA TODAY choice award for the Best State Park in the United States. Accommodations are available at the historic Glen Iris Inn overlooking the falls. 
Travel Trivia Tease™: What is a fairy door? Look for the answer next week.

May 13, 2020

Learning about the Underground Railroad




While the museums are closed now they will reopen. Most have web sites. The Underground Railroad (UGRR) was not a railroad nor was it underground.  It was a secret network of people who hid and guided slaves to freedom.  Until the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a runaway slave only had to get to a free state like New York State to enjoy freedom.  All that changed in 1850 when the new act required that escaped slaves had to be returned to their masters and that the people of the free states had to cooperate making it necessary for a runaway to find freedom in Canada.  New York State with its long border with Canada became an integral part on the Path to Freedom.  There are many homes, churches, barns and other sites that were used to hide slaves throughout New York State some of which can be visited. Because of the danger in aiding and hiding runaways, many of the people who helped and the places slaves were secreted will never be known.

1. Starr Clark Tin Shop and Underground Railroad Museum: One of the newest museums connected to the UGRR is located in Mexico (NY) where Starr Clark served as a station master. Jerry McHenry, of the Jerry Recuse fame, is the most famous of the runaways who made their way to freedom and most likely the Oswego County portion of his journey was organized by Clark. Jerry was hidden in a local barn for two weeks before being taken to Oswego and then by boat to Canada.
2. The National Abolition Hall of Fame: The Hall of Fame in Peterboro is the perfect place to start for an overview of the UGRR. In 1835 when the NYS Antislavery Society tried to hold their meeting in Utica they were driven out by a mob to Peterboro where Gerrit Smith welcomed reformers especially abolitionists.  The Hall of Fame is located in the Smithfield Community Center where that historic meeting was held. The Gerrit Smith Estate, a National Historic Landmark is located nearby. 
3. Harriet Tubman House:  Harriet Tubman, the “Moses of her people,” was an escaped slave who put herself in danger by making thirteen trips into slave states rescuing seventy enslaved family and friends. She was a Union Spy and worked for women’s suffrage. Her house in Auburn was a home for the aged. She would tell the often frightened slaves that, "on my Underground Railroad, I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger." She is buried in the local cemetery. Nearby is the Seward House. Seward’s wife was deeply committed to the abolitionist’s movement.
4. Murphy’s Orchard: The 65-acre family-owned farm in Burt,
north of Lockport, has a secret underground room accessed from the floor of the barn where runaway slaves were secreted on their way to freedom. The farm was established by Charles and Anna McClew who were involved in the UGRR.  The location of the farm’s proximity to the Erie Canal made it an ideal location on the route to freedom in Canada. Tours are available.
5. Lewiston: Near the banks of the Niagara River is the Freedom Crossing Monument which honors fugitive slaves who sought freedom in Canada and the local volunteers who aided them. The Niagara River was a gateway to freedom and often the last stop on the way to Canada. Nearby at Niagara University, the Castellani Art Museum has a collection of artifacts and photographs plus several informative audio stations called “Freedom Crossing.” 
North Star Underground Railroad Museum6. The North Star Underground Railroad Museum: Located in Ausable Chasm, the museum reveals the hidden history of the Champlain Line of the UGRR with compelling stories of fugitives from slavery who passed though the area on their way to Quebec and Ontario, Canada including a multimedia production detailing the story of John Thomas and his family’s escape from slavery. 

May 5, 2020

Iroquois Museums

There are several places in New York State to learn about the Iroquois – many have special events and several are seasonal. The Iroquois, also known as the Haudenosaunee, were originally called the Five Nations, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas but were later joined by a sixth nation, the Tuscarora. The original homeland of the Iroquois was in New York
between the Adirondack Mountains and Niagara Falls. Through conquest and migration, they gained control of most of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. They formed a remarkable political and diplomatic organization called the League of the Iroquois which united the Five Nations. So impressive was the League that drafters of the United States Constitution, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, included ideas from the League such as balance of power in the US Constitution. 

1. The Great Law of Peace Center, Liverpool: It was once the
site of Sainte Marie among the Iroquois, the center has been has been completely renovated and is now the Skä•noñh-Great Law of Peace Center, a Haudenosaunee cultural center. All of the exhibits are brand new but the recreated mission remains. The heritage center tells the story of the Iroquois from the perspective of the Onondaga Nation.  The Onondagas, or People of the Hills, are the keepers of the Central Fire and are the spiritual and political center of the Haudenosaune. Learn about how the world came to be according to the Haudenosaunee and the importance of Hiawatha in the making of the Great Peace.  

2. Ganondagan State Historical Site, Victor: Located in, near Rochester, on a site of what was a flourishing Seneca community. The Seneca’s matriarchal society helped inspire the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments that led to voting rights for women. There is a new state of the arts museum plus 17th-century Seneca Bark Longhouse, walk miles of self-guided trails, climb the mesa where a huge palisaded granary stored hundreds of thousands of bushels of corn, and learn about the destruction of Ganondagan, Town of Peace, in 1687. 
3. National Museum of the American Indians, NYC: The museum located in lower Manhattan is part of the Smithsonian Institution. It is housed in the Beaux Arts Alexander Hamilton Customs House which is of interest in its own right. The collection has thousands of artifacts, some dating back 12,000 years, detailing the life and culture Native American groups from the Incas to the Iroquois.  Take note of the unique Incan Talking Strings used to recorded information. There is no admission charge.
4. Iroquois Indian Museum, Howes’ Cavern: Located in Howe’s Caverns, the museum, housed in building reminiscent of an Iroquois longhouse, is devoted to the art and history of the six Iroquois including featuring present-day artists. The outdoor is used for storytelling, talks, and various performing arts. There is a special children’s area and a 45-acre Nature Park.
5. National Kateri Shrine, Fonda: The shrine pays homage to
Kateri Tekakwitha a young Mohawk woman born in 1656 who converted to Christianity and even though her beliefs caused many hardships in her life she dedicated her life to helping others and spreading Christianity. Kateri, referred to as “The Lily of the Mohawk,” was the first Native American woman to be honored with sainthood. There is a hillside Stations of the Cross leading to a statue of the Blessed Virgin, Blessed Kateri, and other saints.  A self-guided tour booklet is available in the Gift Shop.
6. Shako-Wi Cultural Center, Oneida: Built in 1993, the Center is located near the Turning Stone Museum. It is designed to give visitors – Oneidas and non-Native Americans – pride and understanding of the Oneida’s roots and heritage. At one time basket making was a source of survival. They have one of the best-documented basket collections, including nearly 90 baskets dating from the 1800s and early 1900s. Learn about the traditional crafts: basket making, shaping a stone arrowhead, carving a wooden bowl, making moccasin and ceramic pottery.
7. Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, Salamanca: The museum has over a million objects in its collection including ethnographic and archaeological materials along with photos and information about the Seneca, “The Keepers of the Western Door,” and a cut away version of a longhouse and a log cabin another exhibit shows life in a log house from the once-thriving community of Horse Shoe.  Outside the museum is a mortar stone where corn and other items were ground. The Seneca were the largest group within the Confederacy.

Apr 26, 2020

World Heritage Site in New York State

When I travel I like to visit World Heritage Sites.  World Heritage Sites are those places deemed by the United Nations as having cultural, historic, scientific or some other significance.  They are legally protected by international treaties. There are several in the United States but in New York State only the Statue of Liberty and the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright that reflect the Wright’s organic architectural style are on the list.  There are several Wright buildings in New York State but only the Solomon R, Guggenheim Museum qualifies. 


In this time of shelter-in-place the whole family can take part in a learning experience.  Plan a trip to New York City by plane, train, and car (don’t forget the cost of NYC parking). Pick out hotels based on price and location keeping in mind that there are places like couch surfing, B&B, YMCA, and hostels.  Then plan the visit to include the two World Heritage Sites. 


The Statue of Liberty was gifted the people of the United States
from the people of France. It was designed by Bartholdi and is one of the most recognizable features in the United States. It welcomed many immigrants arriving to the United States. The original name was “Liberty Enlightening the World.” Bartholdi built one in France that faces the west and was financed by the American community in Paris, as a gift to the French people. There are several replicas of the statue around the world including some in NYS.

The statue sits on what was a former fort in New York Harbor that was built ti protect New York harbor during the War of 1812.  Funding for building the pedestal came from donations solicited by Pulitzer’s newspaper, “The New York World” that published the names of all donors. Some donations were a matter of pennies including those collected by school children. 

It is no longer permitted to walk up to the crown but decades ago I
did ascend to the crown with my family.  The space at the crown was very small with room for only a handful of people at a time.  There are a plethora of interesting facts about the Statue of Liberty.  When new the statue was like a shiny copper penny not green. Her fingernails are 13 inches long and she has a 35-foot waistline. 


The design of Guggenheim Museum is instantly recognizable. Frank Lloyd Wright’s design is what he felt would be “the best possible atmosphere in which to show fine paintings or listen to music.” The interior is as unique as the exterior.  Wright conceived of the museum as an airy, open place where visitors would not have to retrace their steps, instead entering the building on the ground level, taking an elevator
to the top, and gradually descending along the quarter-mile spiral ramp that hugs the inside wall enjoying the art on display. There is an oculus 96 feet above the huge rotunda.  The rotunda is supposed to function as a town hall where events can be held. The paintings of many famous artists including Monet, Picasso, and Gauguin are on display. 


Just because we are stuck at home doesn’t mean we have to stop learning. Both the Statue of Liberty and the Guggenheim offer virtual tours.  And, you can dream of future travels to NYC and to other World Heritage Site.  FYI: China and Italy have the most UNESCO World Heritage sites. 

Apr 18, 2020

Buildings by I.M. Pei

With everyone at home, now is the perfect time to learn about some of the unique aspects of the world including architecture. Ieoh Ming Pei, commonly known as I. M. Pei. The Chinese-American architect was 101 on April 26, 1917.  His designs range from the towering Bank of China in Hong Kong to FAA air traffic control towers in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport plus some others. He is known for his use of geometric shapes but each building is unique.  It is only fitting that many of his buildings house museums. Check out some of the following, many have online tours. 

1. Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY: I. M. Pei’s felt the museum should be more than just a container for art. It should be a sculptural work of art itself. The Everson was designed to be viewed from the outside from several viewpoints including looking for the entrance. It is to bring to mind a piece of sculpture set in a plaza, which today is a place to relax and reflect. 

2. East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC: The 1978 museum brings to mind Pei’s Louvre design with two towering galleries and a rooftop terrace fronted by small glass pyramids. Pei had to take into consideration that the adjacent land was marked as the President’s inaugural route.

 3. Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca, NY: High above Cayuga’s water stands Cornell University and towering over the University is the main building of the museum which opened in 1973 providing stunning views of the area.  A new wing was later added, a small concrete block, to complete Pei’s original museum plan. The top two floors cantilever over an open-air sculpture garden.  The building can be seen from anywhere in Ithaca.

4.Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha, Qatar: Pei came out of retirement in 2008 to build this museum located on a man-made island. He spent six months traveling in the Middle East to immerse himself in the regions architectural traditions thus incorporating geometric forms that make up so much of Islamic art.

 5. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland: The Cleveland museum opened in 1995. It honors all aspect of rock-n’-roll and each year it inducts new members into its Hall of Fame. The glass façade of the entrance brings to mind Pei’s Louvre but it is a sloping triangle not a pyramid. There are two cantilevered wings in white metal that project from either side of a tower. The design is to bring to mind a drum, a stack of 45’s and a speaker.

6. Eskenazi Museum of Art, Bloomindale, Illinois: Located on the campus of the University of Illinois the building was completed in 1982. The museum was constructed as a play on angles. It is rumored to have no right angles, however this is not true. The floors meet the walls at a ninety-degree angle, and there are many square and rectangular windows in the building

7. Louvre in Paris: The steel and glass pyramid is probably one of I. M. Pei’s most recognizable designs and is an international icon.  Constructed in 1993, the design caused much discussion as to the appropriateness of a modernistic structure as part of the French Renaissance-style museum complex. Pei said, “I received many angry glances in the streets of Paris. After the Louvre, I thought no project would be too difficult.

7. Eskenazi Museum of Art, Bloomindale, Illinois: Located on the campus of the University of Illinois the building was completed in 1982. The museum was constructed as a play on angles. It is rumored to have no right angles, however this is not true. The floors meet the walls at a ninety-degree angle, and there are many square and rectangular windows in the building

 Take this down time to learn about things and places you may not have known about.  

Apr 8, 2020

Small museums in Upstate New York

When the coronavirus no travel situation is over the large museums will recover and survive but some of the smaller museums will need more support.  Many are run by volunteers but need donations to keep the facility up and running. I love one topic museums.  The owners and staff are always very dedicated. Start a list of places you want to visit when the “shelter-in-place” is over. 

One of my favorite small museums is the Jell-O Gallery Museum in LeRoy, where Jell-O was invented.   Jell-O is dubbed “America’s Most Famous Dessert.” The museum is a fun place for all ages with interactive displays. Learn the history of the jiggly dessert. Don’t miss the Jell-O Brain. It seems that a neurologist made a EEG brain wave analysis of a blob of Jell-O and claimed the results could be considered as evidence of life. 


While walking along the shore of Lake Ontario you will find scads
of small smooth rocks.  During the mid-1800s settlers used them to build their houses. The Cobblestone Museum in Albion has several cobblestone houses and a museum that tells how the houses were constructed.  Unlike the other buildings, the schoolhouse has only a façade of cobblestone. It is told that when the students when on a picnic to the lake they would gather the stones in their empty baskets, return to school, and the stones were then used to create what appears to be an authentic cobblestone building.  Don’t miss the nearby display of fancy outhouses.

Hopefully, everything will be back to normal by Memorial Day. On May 26, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson decreed that Waterloo, New York, was the official birthplace of Memorial Day.  The Museum tells the story of the early Memorial Day celebrations that began on May 5, 1866,with a ceremony to honor local veterans who had fought in the Civil War.  It was a community wide event; businesses closed and residents flew the American flag. By the end of the 19th century Memorial Day ceremonies were held nationwide on May 30 and after WW I the day was expanded to include all those who died in American wars. In 1971 it was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress.

Another one of my favorite small museum, and to my way of
thinking under recognized nationally, is the Safe Haven Museum in Oswego. It is the only place in the United States that accepted Jewish refugees during WW II. The Museum tells the story of how President Franklin Roosevelt was convinced to allow 982 refugees into the United States as his “guests.”  Most stay on after the war but first they were driven by bus to Canada so they could officially enter the United States.  They no longer had a home to which they could return. They became productive and proud citizens. 

I have not been to the Mike Weaver Drain Tail Museum in Geneva.  It is located down the road from the Rose Hill Mansion which is open to the public and was home to John Johnston who made and used the clay drains to irrigate his orchards.  Cornell University once called his farm "the most important spot in American agriculture.” 

There is a museum for just about everything.  In Cattaraugus there is a Museum of American Cutlery, a Kazoo Museum & Factory in Eden, and a National Bottle Museum in Ballston Spa. I always thought Mexico, NY, home of Grandma Brown’s Baked Beans, should have a Bean Museum. 

Apr 1, 2020

Taking a walk in Central New York

With the concern over the coronavirus Central New Yorkers can
take heart in the fact that it is not winter when everyone gets cabin fever.  It is spring and it can be lovely in Central New York: the grass is getting green, crocuses are budding, trees are being to leaf out and nature will become even more dynamic in the next couple of weeks.  Social distancing is easy while on a walk and the area is blessed with many places to walk besides around your neighborhood. 

Roop’s Loop at Mexico Point Park has just been upgraded and is easily walk able.  Sign in at the kiosk.  It is just under a mile. There is also a short walk to Spy Island. Cross the bridge inside the park and when you arrive at the open area make a sharp left to continue on the trail. Sometimes there is a wet area just before Spy Island.  The island is historic and, before the state reconfigured the mouth of the Little Salmon River, the island was in the middle of the river. There is also a trail across from the elementary school.

Oswego City has a plethora of great walking areas.  My favorite is
across the old railroad bridge, The Harbor Rail Trail.  The Trail goes all the way to Fort Ontario.  There is also a walkway along the river and canal. The Breitbeck Park trail is a 5.9 mile loop that has great views of the river and lake. The Rice Creek Field Station building is closed but the trails are open to the public during daylight hours.  

Just about every town, village and city has walking or nature trails. In Fulton there is the Lake Neatahwanta Nature Trail and the Oswego River Pathfinder Trail which goes through the city. Great Bear Nature Tail has 11 miles of trail, rustic but well maintained. There are wooded bridges across the streams.  The terrain is varied. In Amboy walk the beaver trail.  This is the time of year when the eager beavers build and repair their lodges.  Walk quietly so as not to disturb them.  Beaver Lake Nature Center has trails of varying lengths so there is a walk for everyone. The Nature Center building is closed.

The trail to the top of the falls a Salmon River Falls is handicap
accessible as are many of the other trails mentioned including those in Oswego.   Remember when walking in the woods to be aware that Lyme disease is still with us. Check your clothing for ticks and stay on the trails. 

Walking is not only good for your physical health but also for your mental health. The Japanese and many others believe in what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy. Shinrin-yoku is a term that means “forest bathing.” It was developed in Japan and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.  It is simple and free, just go to a forest, sit for a while or walk slowly. No need to go au natural or be prone. It is best to go alone but it you are with other people spread out and no talking. Stop, look, and listen. 

Actually, social distancing while on a walk will allow you to clear your mind and absorb the nature and beauty around you. No head phones means you can listen for the sounds of nature, be it birds or the sound of the water.