Oct 24, 2016

The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has inhabited Lac du Flambeau since 1745. The word Chippewa and Ojibway are one and the same. The Band was given the name “Lac du Flambeau” (Lake of the Torches) by the French traders and trappers who visited the area and saw them harvesting fish at night by torchlight. The reservation is checker-boarded with parts in three counties. On a recent trip to Wisconsin I took the self-guided “Walk in the Footsteps of the Elders” tour. They have a guided tour, too.

My first stop was at their tribal fish hatchery. Fishing is and has been an integral part of their culture. Working with the state of Wisconsin the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa study the fish population and restock reservation waters. The Lac du Flambeau Reservation has 
260 lakes, 65 miles of streams, lakes and rivers, and 24,000 acres of wetlands including a 10-lake chain. The world's largest sturgeon to be speared was hauled in on the shores of Lac du Flambeau's
Pokegama Lake. It measured a whopping 7 feet and 1 inch, weighed 195 pounds and was 40 inches around. This world record fish is located in the George W. Brown, Jr. Ojibwe Museum & Cultural Center.

My next stop was the George W. Brown, Jr. Ojibwe Museum & Cultural Center to see the giant fish and to learn more about the Ojibwe. They are Eastern Woodland Indians similar to the Iroquois of New York State. In fact many have Oneida ancestry. The museum shows how they lived during the four seasons. I like the one that showed them ice fishing. The beautiful “Jingle
Dress” was decorated with small pieces of metal.  I would love to see and hear a dance with someone wearing the dress. There are also displays of a French fur trading post, Ojibwe arts and crafts, and more.  There is a birch bark canoe and a 24-foot dugout canoe recently recovered from the waters. I think that a canoe that large would have been a war canoe. We should all live by the Ojibwe Seven Teachings - Honesty, Humility, Truth, Wisdom, Love, Respect, and Bravery. 

I have read about and seen pictures dealing with the schools the US government built to house Native American children but The Mikwendaagoziwag (“They will be remembered”) Heritage Center, once the boys’ dormitory for the BIA/Government-run boarding school, is the first one I have visited. The girls’ dormitory was located next door but has been torn down. It is where children were taken from their families
without permission and then immersed in European-American culture thus losing their culture. They were all taught English and while the boys were taught a trade the girls were taught housekeeping skills.  While I think the intentions were good the biggest problem is that after the schooling was completed the students had a foot in two worlds – the Native American and American-European world but didn’t really belong to either. 
Of course, to raise need money to provide a better life for their people they, too, have opened a casino - a great place to eat even if you don't gamble. support their people and aThe Indian Bowl is where pow wows have been held for more than 60 years; it is now undergoing an upgrade and expansion.  I would love to attend an event there. Often there are reports about violations of personal liberties and the like that are taking place in foreign countries. We often choose to ignore the awful treatment the Native Americans suffered under the hands of the European-Americas.

Oct 17, 2016

Good and Bad Times in Vilas County

John and I now have a new appreciation for cranberry sauce and jelly after visiting Vilas Cranberry Company in Manitowish. At Thanksgiving dinner the turkey is the main attraction and cranberry a tasty little extra. The next time you have an Ocean Spray cranberry product think of the Vilas
Cranberry Company in Manitowish County - one of the major suppliers. Wisconsin is the nation’s leading producer of cranberries, harvesting more the 60 percent of the country’s crop. The cranberry is the state’s official state fruit and one of three native fruits commercially grown in the United States.  The pilgrims were introduced to the berry and its many uses by the Native Americans. Now it is an integral part of our Thanksgiving dinner.

On Fridays at 10 a.m. from July to late September Vilas Cranberry Company offers a tour where people can learn about the cranberry, how it is grown, harvested, and its health benefits. Contrary to popular belief, cranberries don’t grow in water. They grow on low running vines in sandy bogs and marshes. The fields are flooded to make it easier to harvest them. The bog is flooded with up to 18 inches of water the night before the berries are to be harvested. A water wheel, nicknamed an “egg beater,” churns the water to loosen the cranberries from the vines. Each berry has a little pocket of air so they float.  If the wind is right it will blow all the cranberries to one end of the field there they are vacuumed up and loaded into trucks to be transported to Ocean Spray.

Cranberries are not just for Thanksgiving. Cranberries are healthy. They have highest of all fruits in antioxidants which are thought to help support memory functions, coordination, and maintain a healthy immune system. Cranberries are cholesterol and fat free and low in sodium. 

Cranberries are not the only unique aspect of Manitowish County,
Wisconsin. It is where a famous shootout between John Dillinger, Public Enemy No. 1, and the FBI took place in April 1934 and where the Johnny Depp film, “Public Enemies” was filmed. John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson, and their cronies thought they could hide from the law, specifically the FBI, in the Northwoods. It didn’t work.  Most likely Dillinger chose Little Bohemia Lodge as a “safe” house because he and the owner of the lodge, Emil Wanatka, shared the same lawyer. Resort owner Wanatka charged Dillinger $500 for the three-day stay which would be nearly $6000 in today’s standard. However, the reward for the capture of Dillinger was a whopping $10,000 – a lot of money in 1934. Wanatka waited until Dillinger paid him then
sent his wife to alert the FBI.  FBI agents including Special Agent Melvin Purvis led a botched raid on the lodge. A full-blown gun battle ensued. Dillinger and his gang members escaped but even today there are hundreds of bullet holes in the walls as a reminder of the event. Two people were killed, an FBI agent and a Civilian Conservation worker who was mistaken for one of Dillinger’s gang. A few months later Dillinger met his end in Chicago. Today
visitors can dine at the lodge, check out the bullet holes, and see some memorabilia. The Dillinger Pontoon Tour gives a “behind the scenes” look at the event. It was depression time and Dillinger became a folk hero to Americans disillusioned with failing banks and an ineffective government.

Oct 10, 2016

Enjoying Boulder Bay, Wisconsin

Boulder Junction is called the “Muskie Capital of the World.”
 What’s a muskie, you may wonder. “Muskie” or “Musky” is short for muskellunge, a large relatively uncommon freshwater fish native to North America.  It is the largest member of the pike family. Muskies are highly sought after by fishermen because of their explosive strikes and rugged fights.  If you want to catch a prize-winning muskellunge then Vilas County is the place
for you. Recently John and I were in Boulder Junction, one of the small towns in Vilas County, Wisconsin. John went muskie fishing but, alas, no muskies.  John’s boat landed two fish while not far away a boat with three women caught 32 fish.   John can attest to the fact that Vilas County has over 1300 lakes, 73 rivers and streams because he went on a flight-seeing plane ride – he didn’t count them but said the county is dotted with lakes. Even though no one caught a muskie people are sure to catch something. The county has some of the best smallmouth bass, walleye, trout, and pike fishing.  

I am not into fishing so I explored Boulder Junction, just one of the
unique small towns in Vilas Co. Wisconsin.  I was surprised at the number of shops displaying the work of talented artists within walking distance of my hotel, Boulder Bear Motor Lodge, with Buskus, a large taxidermied black bear, in the lobby
and live deer in the yard. My first stop was at Penny Mykytka’s shop. Her leather creations are a work of art. Check out her golf bag.  She also has items on consignment and a caged Caribbean monkey that she and her husband take walking about town. 

My next stop was Moondeer & Friends Gallery with European, Asian, and contemporary fine art from over 100 artists was great but I was most intrigued by the antiques used to hold
and display the artwork especially the huge 18th century dough box from a castle in Germany. For antique huntes there are a couple antique stores in the area. What was once a lumber company has been repurposed into shops including Firemouth Pottery where Bill Karafa’s displays his
work along with that of several other artists. The hand carved owls at Wiley Miller’s Art Gallery are so lifelike that I was waiting for one to blink. His work has been featured on magazine covers. Outside his son, Jeff, was carving a large bear with a chainsaw. I am amazed that anyone can do such great work with a chainsaw. 

The Outdoorsman Restaurant is a one-of-a-kind eating place. I
decided I was on vacation so I could have one of my favorite foods for lunch – rhubarb pie! It was delicious and while eating I enjoyed watching the goat outside in what Amy Wheeler calls her “Miracle Farm.” Besides goats she raises chickens and rabbits she grows her own herbs. The restaurant features “farm to table” items made from scratch. One of the outside buildings is called the “wash house” because it was near the railroad tracks and during the lumbering days arriving lumberjacks could go to wash up. 

The vitality of Boulder Junction is incredible considering the population is less than 1000. Most of the shop owners visited the area as children but spent most of their life in a city. They have decided to leave the stress of a metropolitan area for the serenity of Vilas County.

Oct 3, 2016

Watkins Glen racing and "The Glen"

The name “Watkins Glen” conjures up two images for me - racing and the “Glen.” Watkins Glen was the first post-World War II road race in the United States. Cameron Argetsinger spent his summers in Watkins Glen and graduated from Cornell Law School. The Watkins Glen area was close to his heart. He dreamed of bringing European-style racing to the village. His dream came true when the Green Flag started the race
on October 2, 1948. The 6.6-mile circuit ran through the village streets.  I find it amazing that the village fathers agreed to host the race which meant closing many roads and convincing the New York Central to stop the trains during the race. The on-road race continued until 1952 when, after an accident, it was moved to a purpose-built track. The original circuit is on the National Register of Historical Places, and anyone can drive – not race - the circuit using the self-guided brochure.  

Today Watkins Glen International is a Mecca for racing enthusiasts
hosting a variety of events from Can-Am, Trans-Am, Formula 5000, and even concerts. The track has attracted all the big names of racing such as Mario Andretti, Phil Hill, and Richard Petty. Today, when there is no event, “Drive The Glen” you can find out what it feels like to drive your personal vehicle two laps around the 3.4-mile Grand Prix circuit behind a pace vehicle.  Unfortunately, when we were there preparations were being made for a race so my little old Honda will have to wait to race another day.  If you want to drive the track make sure you check the Watkins Glen International website for available dates and times.

Even people not interested in racing will want to stop at the International Motor Racing Research Center in the village.  Diehard racing enthusiast will find it great for research and everyone will enjoy one of
their many videos.  We enjoyed “25 Years of Speed.”  There isalways a racing car on exhibit. While walking the village streets look for the name of your favorite race drive on the Walk of Fame on the sidewalks. 

For me “The Glen” means the geological wonder that is right in the village. It took nature 10,000 years to shape the glen and it is not done. I wonder how different it may have looked when the Native Americans were the only ones who lived in the area. The Gorge Trail follows the creek’s sculpted path for 1.5 miles past 19 waterfalls.  There are signboards along the
way that tell about the geology, history and nature.  The Gorge Trail is the most popular and can be accessed from the top or the bottom.  Most start at the bottom but at the end there are 180 stone steps called “Jacob’s Ladder. During peak season there is a shuttle connecting the top and bottom entrances.
There are 832 steps but it is possible to appreciate the beauty of the Glen without walking the entire length. The trail is open from dawn to dusk and is closed from early November to mid-May. A multi-million dollar upgrade to the NYS Park is supposed to be completed by the beginning or the 2017 summer season. Based on a USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Poll, Watkins Glen State Park is ranked the third-best state park in the country. Make it an overnight with a stay at the beautiful Harbor Hotel.


Sep 28, 2016

Bonaire: A Great Winter Getaway

Planning a winter getaway – think Bonaire. The Caribbean island of Bonaire is 50 miles north of Venezuela and 86 miles east of Aruba. The best thing is that it is out of the hurricane belt so any time of the year is a good time to visit. There is plenty of sunshine year round.  

1. Kralendijk: Bonaire’s capital, Kralendijk, is a port city.  The colorful city is small with a population of 4000 making for a great walkabout. The architecture has been well preserved. Start at the Visitor’s Center to pick up a free walking tour brochure. Visit Fort Orange, the quaint churches and Queen Wilhemina Park.  

2. History: The original inhabitants were the Caiquetios, a branch of the Arawak Indians. Rock paintings and petroglyphs from that time have survived in several of the island’s caves. Near the town of Rincon is the cultural center, Mangazina di Rei where slaves were given provisions.

3. Diving: Go out on a dive boat or enter from the shore where theaccess to the sea is clearly marked by bright yellow painted rocks that names the dive site.  The waters of Bonaire have been designated as a National Marine Park so divers and snorkelers need to purchase a permit tag.

4. Catching the wind: It is almost always windy on Bonaire making it a mecca for wind surfers and kite boarders.  The clear water of Lac Bay is the perfect place for beginners to learn and for freestylers who want to hone their skills. Kite boarding takes place on Atlantis Beach. Both locations offer equipment and skilled instructors.

5. Salt: On southern part of Bonaire it is impossible not to be amazed at the white mountains of salt and the rose-colored salt pans. The salt of Bonaire is a natural product made by the evaporation of seawater by the sunshine and wind. Nearby are replicas of the small huts for the slaves who at one time worked in the salt industry.

6. Donkeys: The Spanish brought the donkeys to the island to use
as draft animals. When they were no longer needed the donkeys were set free to roam the island. They did not fare well. In 1993 Dutch Nationals, Marina Melis, and her husband, Ed Koopman, established a donkey sanctuary on Bonaire for sick, wounded and orphaned donkeys. 

 7. Birds: With over 200 species Bonarie is a bird-lover’s paradise. There are migrating birds, seabirds, shore birds, and land birds but the iconic symbol of Bonaire is the elegant pink flamingo. 
8. Shopping: There are several art shops in and around Kralendijk. Paintings depicting Bonaire scenes, or a stone painted yellow with the name of your favorite dive site, and a piece of driftwood art make great remembrances of Bonaire.  

9. Tours: Visitors can bike, hike, kayak, fish, go caving, have an off-road adventure, go horseback riding, repel, plus Segway tours, and a city tour in a luxurious tuk-tuk. ] Woodwind offers snorkeling and sunset tours. Many people rent a car and explore on their own. 
10. Wining and dining: Hotels and \restaurants offer international fare including the fresh fish of the day. Those who want to try something new should head to the historic village of Rincon where Posada Para Mira offers local fare such at goat stew. Cadushy Distillery uses the cactus that is found all over the island to make cactus liqueur in a variety of flavors.  

Sep 18, 2016

Farm Sanctuary in New York State

Farm Sanctuary is the only Farm Sanctuary on the East Coast
whereby injured farm animals are taken care of.  Several years ago I took my grandkids to Watkins Glen and Farm Sanctuary was the most affordable accommodation for the five of us.  It turned out to be perfect. It was serene and included breakfast plus a tour.  We were the only people there. 

On a recently visited and I was surprised how many people were there to take the tour which is offered several times a day most days from May through October.  The cabin we stayed and two similar ones are still available plus they added three “Tiny Houses” with more amenities.  Great family value. 

The mission of Farm Sanctuary is to protect farm animals from
what they consider to be cruelty and to promote vegan living.  Vegan diets are based on grains, vegetables and fruits. They eat nothing that is associated with animals including no milk and no eggs. According to Farm Sanctuary an ideal world would be one where there were no factory farms or stockyards. 
In the Visitor Center there are displays of enclosures used in the farming of animals along with a lot of free printed material to peruse.  There is a short video explaining their point of view some of which is quite graphic . They show animals crowded and confined and how some animals are mutilated to better control them and manipulate their growth. For instance chicken are de-beaked so they don’t peck  at one another. Some are so packed in they cannot move so they get fatter. It is not a pretty story but I am still not a vegan.

The hour tour is very good and the guides (some are voluntary
interns from foreign countries) are passionate. Self-guided tours are also possible.  The tour starts in a cow pasture where we petted the contented cows and Patrick, our guide, knew all the animals by name, their history and how they came to be in Farm Sanctuary.  There are some interesting stories
including those of veterinarians who, instead of euthanizing an animal they think can be saved, asks the Sanctuary to take them. The tour group was an interesting mix of people including a young boy who was fascinated with the cows but keep saying, “But, I love milk” and a man who whispered to his companion, “I can’t go in the pig barn. I used to raise pigs.” Actually the pig barn was nothing to worry about; all the pigs were sleeping on the heated floor.  It’s a pig’s life – they sleep 18 hours a day.  The kids really liked petting the pigs.  

Many of the animals were out in a large pasture, they have 175 acres. Patrick said deer sometimes come to the pasture to give birth because they know it is a safe place and the young deer stay until it can jump the fence. I liked the goats the best.  They are so curious.  As our group approached they all climbed up the raised shelter to greet us and then followed us as we walked up to another pasture. 

Even though they promote a vegan life style they do it by showing the animals and telling about them not by pitching veganism. Some of their beliefs such at preventing animal cruelty, I think, are taking hold – in part – because I see more advertisements for free-range chickens and cattle.

Sep 12, 2016

Visiting Montour Falls

Montour Falls has an enviable location.  Located at the end of Main Street is a magnificent 156-foot waterfall – Shequaga Falls, the Seneca word for “tumbling waters.” Well, it must be magnificent when there is more water going over it.  I love waterfalls but sadly I visited the area during one of the worst droughts in years and while the falls is rarely completely dry there
was only a trickle when John and I visited.  Regardless, it wasn’t hard to imagine water cascading over the rocky cliff. Adding to the beauty of the area is a picturesque stone bridge at the top. The location right in the village is amazing.  Evidently Louis XVIII, the “citizen king” of France thought so too because, according to the sign, while he was in exile
during the French Revolution the sketch he made of the falls is now in the Louvre. The streets below the falls form a “T” which is referred to as Glorious T because of the beautiful homes that line the streets. They are a wonderful mix of architectural treasures from craftsman to Greek Revival to Victorian. 

I got my “waterfall” fix by making a short drive to Havana Glen Park.  There is a great walking tour brochure we picked up at the entrance gate.  It started at the Turtle mound which is the basis of the Iroquois Creation Story and continues to where there was a Seneca village. Queen Catherine Montour, the Seneca Chief and matriarch from 1710 to1804, was an important liaison with the colonials. The serene park has a short, easy hike to Eagle Falls. At the bottom of the 40-foot falls is a pool, which during a wetter season, might be a great place for a dip.  There were several couples walking their dogs and the dogs sure thought the pool was fun. There are 44 water falls in Schuyler County.  I would love to visit all of them. 

No matter how many museums John and I visit, and we have
visited a lot of them over the years, there is always something interesting and new to learn.  The Brick Tavern Museum is one of the area’s gems.  As the name suggests the building, built in 1828, was once a tavern but through the years it also served as a boys’ boarding house and the home of Dr. Charles Clawson. Clawson ran the nearby Bethesda Sanitarium, one of many sanitariums in NYS where people felt the fresh air, local waters and rest were beneficial to their well being.  

As was customary at the time there was a separate entry door for men and one for women. Guns were not allowed so on the side of the door is a closet where the guns were stored.  Men would go into the tavern while the women spent time in the parlor. Music was an important source of entertainment. On
display is the first musical saw, in a carrying case, I have ever seen. Upstairs there are changing exhibits one of which shows many medical artifacts of Dr. Clawson.  There is a wonderful collection of early toys. One room has a selection of garments worn through the years denoting the changing fashions.  The fabric room has a working loom and the Native American room also has interesting displays. It is thought that the first indigenous people settled in the area around 1000 BC.  A great little town to visit.