On Friday morning, October 7th, we had an interesting lecture by another Parks Canada representative on the archaeology of the First Nation sites in the Thousand Island National Park. In our lifetime, and actually in about the last 30 years we have gone from using the term Indians to Native Americans and now in Canada, First Nations, although I have seen some reference on this trip to the term First Nations in the US too, I believe it was at Fort Stanwix. The lecture concluded at 11 so it did not make sense to wait for lunch at Noon, but instead get on the road and do some shunpiking. Many people had planned on leaving without lunch, and had gotten box lunches, and very nicely the clerk at the desk offered to have one made up for me right away. So off I headed, sadly, around 11:30.
Now I ended up back in typical “Ray mode” running hard on Friday and Saturday, but not in a rush, stopping to see and do what caught my eye. Now, get your maps out. I wanted to shunpike along the St. Lawrence River avoiding the main highway 401, and I meandered over back roads down to Ivy Lea on the 1000 Islands Parkway, Route 2. This is the way to experience the river because it felt that I was never more than a stones’ throw away from it. And with the US just a tad further, no wonder the Canadians were concerned about an attack by US militia. I pulled into the little village of Ivy Lea and saw a 1000 Island River Cruise, parked and went to the ticket office. The parking lot was just about empty including the space for tour busses. My timing is usually good, but I had missed a boat by a half hour and the next one was in 1 ½ hours. No problem, I will go on my next trip to the area. So East I headed on the parkway getting a great view of the many islands which are in great predominance in this part of the river. I next saw a sign for Rockport, so went down the little road to that port. Beautiful Victorian houses, a dock and restaurant, a ticket booth for the Rockport Cruise Line and at least ten tour busses and half of Japan. I inquired and the next cruise was in a half hour at 1 PM, but I was warned that the ship carrying 200 was almost full. Thinking a moment I said to myself, “I am here, have the time, and had best experience it.” So I got my ticket, went back to get my box lunch, and got in line eating my lunch.
It was time to board, and up the gangplank I went with 250 of my new Japanese friends with their 350 cameras all scrambling for a place on the boat for 200. Having gotten in line early, I managed to get a seat by the window near a public address speaker before I got crunched in. I did hear some commentary, repeated in about 5 languages, but inaudible due to the drone of chatter around me. The canned tape was timed so the commentary in
the last language ended before you even approached the described site, at least I knew to some degree what I was seeing. Definitely not Road Scholar class, but I can now say I have cruised for an hour among the islands on the St. Lawrence, and have seen Boldt Castle, but this was not the way I want to enjoy things. Next time I will look for a small boat, or maybe just go to the Boldt Castle from New York.
Travelling up the shoreline parkway I arrived at Brockville which is a delightful town, clean, well kept and old looking and worthy of another visit. Soon I came to Fort Wellingtonin Prescott which was built for the War of 1812, but closed for the season – well, next time on an upcoming War of 1812 holiday. And in a short
distance I arrived at a sign directing me down a dead end to the site of the Battle of the Windmill in 1838. Here I read the plaques posted, but the windmill (converted to a lighthouse) was closed. What I read supplemented and cemented what I had heard in the various lectures about this period of Canadian history, but I still need to learn more.
I crossed the Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridge back to New York, and then travelled through NY flat farming land to Colton soon entering the mountains. There was not much color to the leaves I was either late, early, or as it appears this was a bad weather year effecting the colors. The first town I encountered, Tupper Lake, is not to “write home about.” The Town of Tupper Lake appears to be a used 1960s town. Of interest, however, were the Tourist Cabins featuring HEAT IN ROOMS – no HBO or WI-FI yet mentioned on the sign.
I finally arrived at Saranac Lake at 6 pm, where I had a reservation at Fogarty’s B&B, a historic cure cottage built in 1910, overlooking Lake Flower and a short walk around the tip of the lake into town, which I did. Saranac Lake is my kind of town with basically untouched great late 19th early 20th century architecture. I had diner in town, and after I read my brochures to develop plans for Saturday quickly deciding to come home via Plattsburgh, New York.
Saturday morning breakfast at the B&B was most enjoyable, and I spent two hours visiting
with the other 8 vacationers around the breakfast table. Once I left the B&B, I first stopped at the Union Depot which was built in 1904, but it was closed so I headed over to The Saranac Laboratory founded by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau who came to the area in 1873 seriously ill with tuberculosis. His health improved in the area, and 7 years later he founded the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium to treat those with TB. His lab was the first ever built in the US exclusively for the study of tuberculosis. Again my good timing as the museum is only open by appointment. The director, Amy Catania, who was inside interviewing an older former resident, saw me walk up to the locked door, and came to invite me in. I enjoyed the interesting exhibits and photographs in the essentially original laboratory. It was because of Trudeau’s work in the area that Saranac Lake became world renowned as a health cure area, and many people came to be cured, including Robert Louis Stevenson.
Next I went to the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage which contains the largest collection of RLS memorabilia and personal items. Always in bad health, Stevenson rented part of this cottage in the winter of 1887 to 1888 to receive help from Dr. Trudeau. It was in this cottage that the publisher S. S. McClure said he would pay for Stevenson’s longed for journey to the South Seas in exchange for articles of those adventures.
His last years were spent travelling there but his bad health caught up to him, and he died at the age of 44 in 1894 and is buried in Samoa. This cottage has amazing information and artifacts on display, and most of the original furniture including the bedroom set with cigarette burns in the chest that angered the owner of the house immensely. The many items owned by RLS are there because the people who started the Stevenson Society of America in 1915 were able to get the treasures almost first hand. Even if you are not interested in Robert Louis Stevenson, the original cottage is worth a visit.
The most populated area of the Adirondack Park are the three adjoining towns of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and then Lake Placid. It is nicely built up from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid and there was sufficient traffic so I could take in all the downtown Lake Placid high-end shops and nice restaurants as I drove by, but I decided not to stop with the crowds to instead return at a less busy time to stroll and take it all in including the Olympics museum.
Continuing on Route 86 East the next town is Wilmington, and a short distance up a mountain is North Pole, New York. I only remember a handful of family vacations as a child, we did not take many, but one image in my mind is the frozen North Pole at North Pole, NY. I pulled into the parking lot and went up to the ticket window. To the attendant I said, “I remember a frozen pole in the parking lot 50 years ago (alright probably 55 years ago – I age well) where is it?” She replied, “it has always been inside next to Santa’s
house.” “Could I run in and ask someone to take my picture next to it, please.” “Well you would have to buy a ticket for $19.50.” “I only want to run in for a minute.” “Go ask at the office to see if they will let you,” and then she continued, “but, if you want to buy a ticket and go to the gift shop inside, and return within 30 minutes I can refund your admission.” I bought a ticket, found the pole, asked a family there if they would take my picture (telling them why), and was back getting my refund in five minutes. I must tell you, on this trip I have met nothing but wonderful, polite and helpful people. So here is RAB at the North Pole, I don’t think a picture of me still exists when the pole was much taller than me (it must have melted some), and for good measure I have included a picture of me at the South Pole.
My final destination was Plattsburgh, NY, which I had never been too. When I loaded the APP for the War of 1812 from the PBS website I discovered the Battle of Plattsburgh Association Museum there, and that was my destination hopefully before the 3PM closing. But, remember, if something of interest is along the way I will stop, but nothing popped up and I reached the museum at 2PM. The new director was more than gracious and she told me I could stay as long as I wanted, in fact a family came in at 3 and she welcomed them, and when I left later a man from Georgia arrived (I saw the plates on his car) and was also welcomed passed “closing time.” This is the way I always ran my bookshops, and this young lady is to be commended. This is a great, small museum of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association presenting a history of the War of 1812 in the North and particularly at Plattsburgh on September 11, 1814.
The museum is on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base which closed in 1995, but the military installation, which has housed the Army and Navy and Air Force, goes back to the War of 1812. Still extant are many of the 1890s buildings and layout of the Army Post of that time period. Noted military personnel stationed during their careers besides President U. S. Grant include: Theodore Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur; George Marshall; Leonard Wood; and, Mark Clark just to name a few. The former base on the bank of Lake Champlain is beautiful and I have been immersed in a book I bought on the history and redevelopment of the base.
I toured different sections of the town, and then had a wonderful wrap for my lunch/dinner shortly before 5PM (if you postpone lunch you can cover more ground) at Livingood’s on Margaret Street recommended by the young lady at the museum (always ask a local for a recommendation – and avoid a chain!!!). I left at 5:30 for home and was pleasantly surprised that even with the ferry crossing Lake Champlain and a gas stop I made it home in 3 hours. Great, it will be very easy to get back to the Plattsburgh area, and I cannot wait to do so.
Well, for someone who has nothing to do, I have been so busy once getting home that I have not yet unpacked my suitcase, and I have been working on and off on this blog post for 4 nights. So, here it is, and thanks for reading, yours, RAY