Aug 28, 2016

Visiting Lyons Falls, New York

John and I went on another summer outing to places seldom
visited. This time to Lyons Falls in Lewis County.  It turned out to be more interesting than I could have imagined.  At one time it was a vibrant community centered around the Black River Canal and the Lyons Falls Paper and Pulp Mill. Lyons Falls was the where the Black River Canal terminated. Travel on the canal ended in 1900. The mill was operational from 1895 to 2001; the buildings are being torn down.. 

Lyons Falls had one of the few three-way or Y-shaped bridges in the world.  To bad it wasn’t saved and repurposed as a pedestrian walkway; it could have become a tourist attraction. It was torn down in 1965 but there is a memorial in memory of the bridge. It is near an area where the water can be accessed and there are good views of the waterfalls that powered the paper mill. However, there are other things in the small town of interest.  

In back of the Lyons Falls Pharmacy is a pharmacy and historical museum. The first pharmacy opened in 1899 in a different location but the bottles and artifacts on display reflect an early pharmacy with health and beauty aids dating back to the 1900s.  Adjacent to the pharmacy display there are historical displays detailing the history of the area including a unique handmade tool chest from the 1800s that was owned by Geordias Gould. The Goulds were one of the earliest settlers and owners of the Gould Paper Mill. The town is
also home to the Storms-Bailey Home Museum parts of which are setup like an early home. The kitchen has an old kitchen stove and a Hoosier cabinet. Upstairs there is an eclectic collection of artifacts. Drive through the streets of the village and you will see many beautiful old homes including the 1902 Romanesque Gould Mansion. The house is a private residence so it is not open to the public but next to it is what was
once the Gould’s carriage house; it is now a library. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places. The library is worth a stop to see the historic cannon and an amazing diorama made by fourth graders, and a 1910 carriage.  Take note of the floor beneath the carriage and the ceiling above.  It is a lift that takes carriages up to the second level.  Interesting.
We had packed a lunch so headed to Brantingham Lake in search of a place to eat it. We noticed Camp Aldergate with picnic benches scenically perched on the rise above the lake.  We asked for permission to eat there.  The only other person was a lady who recognized us.  What a memory! We were on the same train coming up from NYC in April.

At one time my relatives lived in nearby Glenfield where my
father’s family owned the Central Hotel so we decided to check it out.  I was surprised at how busy it was. Obviously it is the best place to eat in the area.  I remember staying at the hotel with my cousins many years ago. And I stayed there again in one of their great apartments. It was excellent with two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom and a large L-shaped living area.  It could accommodate four to eight people.  It is mainly used by snowmobilers. It was a great find. 

Aug 22, 2016

Exploring the Sterling, NY area

John and I had another great day trip. This time we went to Sterling
and Fair Haven.  I am always amazed by the places close to home that we have not visited. We started with a visit to Sterling Museum. We have driven by the Red Schoolhouse Museum several times but never when it was open.  Like a lot of small museums getting volunteers to sit at a museum limits the times and days they are open.  The Little Red Schoolhouse Museum in Sterling is open Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 from mid-July to the end of August.

The museum has an incredible amount of artifacts on display.  On the first floor there is a large diorama of the Sterling area of yesteryear complete with a miniature train set. The railroad played a key role in the development of the area. At one time the train made three stops within a few miles. Impressive are the images of people shoveling to keep the tracks clear in the winter.  Some of the pictures show the snow higher than they were.  The track bed is now part of the statewide snowmobile trails. There is an excellent 15-minute video detailing the development of the railroad and its impact on Sterling.  On the first floor there is also a small room set up as an early classroom.

The top floor is set up so we could wander from one display area to
another.  Surely you will find something of interest.  I especially liked the general store and sewing display with material from feedbags. At one time feed came in colored fabrics that were used for many things including clothing. In 1942 it is estimated that three million women and children wore feedbag garments. The string that was used to tie the feed bag could be crocheted into a variety of things. The ultimate in recycling. John was interested in the display with a Civil War uniform and other artifacts.

Outside is the Heritage Park with a New York Central Railway Signal Tower that was originally in Sterling. The operational room is set up as it would have been including a candlestick telephone, telegraph and large levers used to switch the tracks. Next to it is the Raymond Arthur Waldron
Exhibit Building filled with everything from farm machinery to a buggy to tools for harness-makers, coopers, and blacksmiths. Not to miss is riding on the railroad hand car.  It takes two people to pump it along the short track. They hope to have a caboose soon to add to their exhibit.

We continued to Fair Haven and made a quick stop at the Sterling-Cidery. All their ciders are hand-crafted using only local apples then aged in American oak.  Try their Ginger Shandy made with California organic lemon and fresh ginger. They are only open on weekends; same as the museum. Our last
stop was down the road a bit to the Colloca Estate Winery. I find it amazing at the number of new wineries there are. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful spot to end the day.  All wineries seem to be in a picturesque location and Colloca is no different. They have a lovely pond and are just steps from the lake. They also have a seasonal outdoor wine bar that has wood cooked pizza. Summer is a great time for day trips.

Aug 15, 2016

Cruising on the waters of NYS

Summer is the time to get out on the water and relax.  You don’t need your own boat.  There are plenty of places in NYS to enjoy a day on the water without the expense of owning and caring for your own boat.  That is our concept – let someone else do the work while we enjoy
ourselves. Of course you can always rent one. There are several places including the St. Lawrence where you can rent a pontoon boat and explore the 1000 Islands. Uncle Sam Boat tours and Clayton Island tours stop at Boldt and Singer Castle – but not on the same tour. For a classic polished wooden speedboat ride there is one offered at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton.

Nothing spells summer better than spending some time in the
Adirondacks. Old Forge Lake Cruises has several cruises on the Fulton Chain of Lakes in a classic steamboat. They have cruises that combine with the Adirondack Scenic Railway. I missed it for this year but high on my list for next summer is their Rail & Cruise that includes the Loomis train
robbery. There is also a boat tour on the Stillwater Reservoir offered by Norridgewock Lodge near Eagle Bay. Check out the tours on Long Lake, Lake Placid and Lake George. All the
Adirondack Lakes are beautiful but I am a bit prejudiced.  I think Raquette Lake is the best because I spent many wonderful summers there years ago. The Raquette Lake Navigation Company’s Durant was built by the owner, Captain Dean Pohl who is also a marriage officer who has married over 300 couples.  There are several cruises to choose from and when the season ends in mid-October the Durant becomes the winter ice boat – no rides but many events. 

The Erie Canal is often overlooked by those of us who live so close
but some people travel miles and miles to learn about the canal system of NYS.  Erie Canal Cruises out of Herkimer offers cruises that include the Herkimer Diamond mines. Mid-Lake Navigation has a variety of tours on various sections of the canals and on also Skaneateles Lake.  Sam
Patch in Pittsford has daily cruises on a traditional canal packet boat as does the Mary Jemison departing from Rochester.  Also in the same area, is the Colonial Belle in Fairport. The highlight of any canal trip is locking through. On the Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride the boat travels “uphill” 60 feet past the Flight of Five Locks. The tour also includes a walk through a tunnel. 

The 315-mile Hudson River area is especially beautiful during the fall and there are many tour options. There are no low bridges or locks on the Hudson so the tour boats are larger and multi-tiered. The Captain J. P. Cruise Line out of Troy has a variety of special cruises. The Dutch Apple Cruises sets sail from Albany and like all the other cruises there is an historic narrative to inform passengers of significant places along the tour. 

Between Kingston and Peekskill there are several cruise companies exploring their part of the river. The River Rose is an authentic stern-driven Mississippi paddle wheeler. Views along the Hudson may include views of the haunted Bannerman Island, West Point and the Palisades of New Jersey. 

Manhattan is an island surrounded by the Hudson, Atlantic Ocean and the East River.  Circle Line Sightseeing tour in NYC offers the only cruise that completely circles the island. 

Aug 8, 2016

Visiting Constable Hall in Lewis County

Summer is the time for road trips. On a recent road trip John and I visited Constable Hall in Constable Hall.  Constable Hall is one of the most historic places in Lewis County.  The Federal-style limestone house was built in the early 1800s.  Five generations of the
Constable family lived in the
house from 1819 to 1947.  The house was built at the behest of William Constable, Jr. but he never lived in the elegant 14-room manor home that was patterned after the Constable estate in Ireland.  During construction he was seriously injured when the 10-ton capstone for the front portico slipped. He died in 1821 but his wife, Mary, lived there until her death in 1887. A member of the Constable family resided in the home until 1947 when it was purchased by a local family who restored the house and were responsible for it becoming a museum which opened in 1949. 

Constable purchased 3.8 million acres (ten-percent of the state) in Northern New York for a mere eight cents an acre. He was one of many land speculators at the time. Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, and Franklin counties were formed from this massive tract of land plus parts of Herkimer and Oswego Counties. 

The house with 18-inch thick walls is approached from the rear which has two long attractive porches.  From the front there is an expansive view of the rolling countryside.  We saw many interesting features during our tour. (Pictures of the interior are not allowed.)  On top of the stairway’s newel post was a round decorative ceramic button.  Legend has it that these buttons were proof that the mortgage was paid off and the house had no liens on
it.  Another part of the legends says that the mortgage papers were put inside the newel.  This legend is viewed with skepticism by many.   Legend or fact, many older homes sport this unique item. Besides the mortgage button I loved the dumb waiter.  Usually they are in a closet but this one is in the floor of the kitchen.  It was easier for the Constables to bring things up from the cellar than it is for me today. Every house should have a dumb waiter. Near the kitchen is a small little chapel.  As is true to all historic house museums, there are many interesting and unique features including elegant period dresses in one of the bedrooms and a diorama of the estate as it was originally planned.  

The garden is lovely and enclosed by the original buckthorn hedge imported from Ireland.  The hedge protected the flowers from damage by animals. The garden is divided into four quadrants forming a St. Andrew’s cross pattern. Constable Hall is open several days a week for tours from May to October.  A great place for a day trip.  

We had packed a lunch so after finishing the tour we drove a short distance to Whetstone Gulf for a picnic by Whetstone Creek. The park is built around a three-mile gorge on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau and has camping, swimming, and hiking trails. 

Heading home we drove by the Maple Ridge Wind Farm on Tug
Hill.  Impressive.  There was some controversy dealing with the constructions of 195 wind turbines but they help the environment and local economy. Land owners with turbines on their land receive a yearly stipend. There is talk of adding more wind turbines. 

Aug 1, 2016

CNY's Scottish Games and Celtic Festival

On Saturday, August 13, Long Branch Park will be the site of the
75th Central New York Scottish Games and Celtic Festival – 75th – that’s impressive.  You don’t have to have a drop of Scottish or Celtic blood to enjoy the day. On August 13th at Long Branch Park everyone is part of the Celtic family. Bring the family – there is something for everyone.  I had a great time last year and this year’s promises to be just as great. There is music, great food, games, animals and more. The gates open at 9 a.m. and the fun continues until 8 p.m. Scottish Games typically include competitions, artwork for sale, entertainment, Celtic goods for sale, and historical and genealogical information.

Scottish games have a long tradition. In days of yore they were an opportunity for warriors to test their prowess and show off for the ladies. Today it is time to celebrate and share Celtic heritage and have fun. The sound of bagpipes and drumming fill the air. The competitions include Piping and Drumming, Highland Dance, and Highland Athletics. There are
several levels of expertise in each of the competitions from amateur to expert. I really love to watch the dancers. The groups come from all over the Northeast and Canada. The contests include the Highland Fling, Highland Sword, Lilt, Hornpipe and jig.  The sound of the Celtic harp players is ethereal. The athletic competitions categories include the caber toss which is something to watch. Participants hold a tree trunk upright, run and toss it so that it lands on the opposite end! Good luck with that! There is also the stone (think rock) toss. 

I knew there would be food… and the lines for haggis and bridies were sometimes quite long.  If you have never tried haggis here is your chance. Haggis is a mixture of sheep heart, liver, and lungs mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet, and spices in an artificial casing (it used to be the animal’s
stomach). I tried it when I was in Scotland and again at the games.  Not my favorite but one should try it.  The less adventurous can try bridies which is a meat pastry made of beef and seasoning. I loved the Scottish short cakes and bought some to take home. There are plenty of other things to eat and drink. There is an American food area and a pub tent.

The highland cattle were a big draw. The short, stocky cattle have long horns with a beautiful coat of long brownish hair. They are raised mainly for their meat which is said to have less cholesterol than other meats.

Some of my favorite moments
were: listening to a lone bag piper playing by himself way off in the distance, seeing the families dress in their tartan plaids, and the parade of bagpipe bands in the opening ceremony each sporting their colorful kilts.  If you have a hankering to buy a kilt, no worries, there are plenty for sale in all sizes. If you don’t know your clan tartan plaid there is someone to help you find out.
The Scottish Games and Celtic Festival is a full day of family fun for $8.00 pre-ticket sale (seniors - $6.00, children 5 to 12 - $3.00).  Bring the family – a family ticket is $25.00.  Gate prices are a couple dollars more; parking is free. The event is held rain or shine.

Jul 25, 2016

Summer fun

It’s summer.  It’s hot.  Test your thrill factor. Get the adrenaline pumping and let the fun begin. Take a child, or a grandchild, or release the child within and head to one of New York States’ many amusement parks for thrills, chills, and spills. 
Seabreeze Amusement Park in Rochester, which opened in 1879, is the 4th oldest amusement park in the country. Those first visitors, even in their wildest imagination, could never envisioned Seabreeze’s The Helix. Take a friend, or go alone – if you dare!
From the top of the 45-foot high slide, alone or tandem, whoosh through the pipe on an inner tube to the giant fiberglass bowl and into the vortex. Then hop over to the Rabbit built in 1920 making it the third oldest operating coaster in the country. The wooden coaster has over 2000 feet of track with a 75-foot drop, plus exciting curves and dips before ending in a dark tunnel. The faint-of-heart will love the Lazy River as they relax on an inner tube and float over water bubblers and drift by cascading falls. 
Darien Lake offers a one-stop destination for the family including the Big Kahuna, a 700-foot long extreme four-person rafting adventure. Keep the scream factor going as you speed 70 mph on the Superman Ride of Steel, one of the tallest coasters in the Northeast. Check out their Performing Arts Center, hotel and campground. 

Visit Six Flags’ The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom near Lake George. For big thrills ride the Cannon Blaster, the Boomerang, and Comet roller coasters. New this year is the New Revolution Virtual Reality Coast, the Northeast’s first inverting Virtual Realty Roller Coaster.   Bad weather can’t spoil the fun, the Great Escape Lodge, reflecting the Adirondack Great Camp style, was the first hotel in New York State with an indoor water park. 

Chill out on one of many water rides – there are more than 30 - at New York’s largest water theme park, Water Safari Enchanted Forest, on Route 28 in Old Forge. Tube through the jungle on the Amazon, scream down all 500 feet of the double tube slide, or be a shadow of yourself as you slide through the enclosed Shadow. Spin dry on the Tilt-O-Whirl before taking a train ride through Story Book Lane. 

Hear the thunder! Feel the rush! Try extreme body sliding at Thunder Island, a small family-owned park in Fulton. The newest slides to the park are two enclosed body flumes. Adventure Blackwater Sliding is what Pro-slide Technology calls the most popular body flumes to date. One is 32' of drop in total darkness combined with speed, rapid twists and turns or the longest 380' long starting from high on top of the tallest tower and drops an amazing 60' in a long and enjoyable slide with the safe feeling of being up high and enclosed but seeing as you go thru the translucent gel coated fiberglass. 

Ride the wave at Roseland Waterpark on Canandaigua Lake. The park’s Giant Wavepool has a beach entrance, 5-foot waves, six wave patterns, and lifeguards. It is the largest water park in the Finger Lakes Region with 56 acres of water fun, plus heated water and nine unique attractions for the entire family. Make this summer a thrilling one. Pick a park!  Pick any park! Visit one of New York States’ amusement parks – or, even better, visit all of them! 

Jul 18, 2016

The 10th Mountain Division Fort Drum Museum

The 10th Mountain Division & Fort Drum Museum is well-worth visiting.  To get into Fort Drum people need to have a Department of Defense ID or fill out a request form and submit it to a sponsor a couple days before the planned visit. If you do not have a sponsor - we did not - interested people may contact the curator at the museum for permission to send it to him.  That is what we did. Entering Fort Drum was easy, we just drove up to the gate, showed our driver’s license and the passes were waiting for us. It was like a college campus or a gated community; which, I guess it is.

Above the entry arch to the museum are the words “Climb to Glory.”  Seems appropriate for a mountain division.  I often wondered how the word “mountain” fit it. During WW II they were trained in the snowy mountains for a possible winter attack on the enemy. They had early successes in Finland against the Soviet Union prior to the onset of WW II. During the war they were sent to Italy where their climbing skills were needed to take Mount Belvedere, a key German observation point.

The post’s history dates back to 1907, when the NY National
Guard established Camp Hughes. Later it was expanded and became Pine Camp. With the outbreak of World War II, additional land was purchased displacing 525 Families plus five entire villages were eliminated.  It was named Camp Drum in 1951 in honor of Lieutenant General Hugh A. Drum, commander of the First U.S. Army in the early days of World War II.  In 1974 it became Fort Drum. The curator did not know the exact number of people living on base because it keeps changing but an internet search said there are about 45,000 including those on active duty, family members, and civilians which mean it is about twice the size of the city of Watertown. The population grows significantly during special maneuvers.

The displays are interesting and diverse. One has artifacts from the Native Americans who once lived on the land. Another has a POW jacket.  German and Italian prisoners of war were incarcerated there but for the Italian POWs there was an interesting turn of events. They started out as POWs but when Italy joined the Allies in 1943 there were no longer POWs and were issued military jackets with an Italy patch on it and joined the war effort. 

Some common places and things had their origin during the war.  One display is a snow-going vehicle that later was adapted to become a snowmobile. The 10th Mountain Division trained in the mountains of the Western US and after the WW II several returned to start ski resorts.

Since 1990, the 10th Mountain Division has deployed units to combat and peacekeeping operations in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq.  Fort Drum soldiers and reserves have been mobilized and deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.  One interesting display shows a rock that was thrown through the windshield of Specialist Hank Othmar near Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. A very personal war souvenir. On the homeland they have supplied disaster relief after major hurricanes. The history of the 10th Mountain Division is fascinating. Nearby there are statues and plaques honoring the 10th Mountain Division.