Sunday, July 31, 2011

Black River Gorge Whitewater Rafting

I picked up some brochures for the area and one was on whitewater rafting. There were 3 locations, but only the Black River Gorge was close to where we were going to be. It had been rainy all week and the reservations are 'rain or shine', but we did it anyway. Yes, it did rain on us, but the temps were in the 80s, so it was quite warm. We got wet anyway, so what did a little rain matter.

The Black River Gorge rafting trip is 8 miles of Class III+ rapids. It starts in downtown Watertown and ends in Dexter, NY. There is a short trip for those who don't want the extreme rapids. Those rafters choosing the short trip get off after the first 3 sets of rapids. This is one of those first 3.

We started with 9 paddlers and our guide. This was our guide's 2nd summer on the river. Not only did he keep us from flipping, but he gave us a great history of the town, the area and the industries which grew up along the river. Did you know Watertown was the location of the first papermill in the U.S.?

We made it through the rapid and now it was time to say "hooray"

The last of the 3 rapids allowed our guide to 'surf'. After coming down through the rapid frontways, he brought us back around and we went into the rapid facing upstream. When he could get us in the right position we could stay put, surfing so to speak on the waves.

We have now stopped and let Rellene off after the first 3 sets of rapids and it is just 8 paddlers and our guide. The guide informs us the previous 3 rapids were just for practice.

Coming down through one of the rapids. There were 6 boats, all with at least 6 paddlers, most had 8. You had to be at least 14 years of age to complete the full trip. Anyone under 14 had to get off at the short trip stopping point. Out of all the boats only 2 teenagers fell out. One was immediately pulled back in his boat, but it was our raft which rescued the other teen from the rapids. He had minor cuts and bruises, but he was able to complete the trip.

We all got wet on this rapid.

Even the guide hit the deck as we went through this one. After the first 3 sets of rapids, we had 8 more sets of rapids to go. Halfway through we stopped for a snack and we had to portage the rafts over a 20+ foot spillway.

One of the sets of rapids were actually 3 rapids together, each with a drop of 6-8 feet. Lots of water, but we stayed up and no one went swimming.

All through and we are now just enjoying the ride. All of us wanted to do it all over again.

Sackets Harbour and Seaway Trail

We had time to do some other sightseeing in the area as well. Not too far away was Sackets Harbor, on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Now a small, tourist town, this area once had 5 forts, 3 inland and 2 on the water. This was a very important fort during the War of 1812. Not only did it supply ships and supplies to other forts along Lake Ontario, this fort was never taken by the British.

Fort Thompkins is now the site of a Sacets Harbor State Historic Battlefield Park with restoration of some of the original buildings. Prior to the War of 1812, Sackets Harbor was known as a smugglers cove, but became one of the navy's largest naval stations during the war.

Across the bay at Fort Volunteer, some of the buildings are not only standing, but are in use. This army base was in use through WWII before being abandoned. Many of the old buildings, including the barracks, have been remodeled and Madison Barracks area is now a prominent residential area in Sackets Harbor.

The water observation tower was built in 1892.

In the other direction from Watertown is the start of the St. Lawrence Seaway in Cape Vincent.

Tibbits Lighthouse is still in operation, run by the Coast Guard. The lightkeepers house is now an International Hostel.

In town is a Fishery Station and Aquarium, run by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. This building was originally built in the early 1800s and is still in use today.

We stopped in Clayton for lunch on the St. Lawrence River.

The old opera house in Clayton. Built in 1903, is has been restored and is again in operation during the summer months.

Thousand Island Dressing came from where else? the Thousand Islands. The story goes Mrs. Sophia LaLonde created the dressing to serve to her husband's fishing parties. A prominent NYC stage actress, May Irwin and her husband were impressed with the dressing and asked for the recipe. Mrs. LaLonde gave it to Mrs. Irwin who later gave it to her friend Mr. George Boldt (Boldt Castle), owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and the Belleview Stratford in Philadelphia. Mr. Boldt had it added to his hotel's menu and is credited for introducing Thousand Island dressing to the world.

But Mrs. LaLonde also gave her recipe to her friend Mrs. Bertrand, who family owned the Herald Hotel, now the Thousand Island Inn, who added it to her restaurants menu. Mrs. Bertrand is credited with first serving Thousand Island Dressing to the public. Today the original recipe is still being made at the Thousand Island Inn. Only 5000 bottles are made each year for sale to the public. The original recipe is a closely guarded secret. And yes, I did buy a bottle of the Original Thousand Island Dressing.

And on our way back home we stopped at Coyote Moon Vineyards for some wine tasting. Mmm good.

Watertown-Alexandria Bay-Thousand Island

The purpose for heading into northern New York was for two reasons, one, to see the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Thousand Islands, and two, to see the Adirondacks and Lake Placid. Lake Placid is still to come, but we did visit Thousand Islands.

We took a Thousand Island Ship Tour, leaving from Alexandria Bay.

We got there early so we could get good seats up on the top deck.

This little house is located on one of the smaller islands. They say it was built by Mr. Boldt for his mother-in-law, so it is called the mother-in-law house.

Looking at Boldt Castle from across the bay. At the end of the tour we will get off there and visit the restored castle before returning to Alexandria Bay.

This home was built by a man from Colorado. He owns a home down in Texas, in the Colorado Mountains, as well as this home. All the homes are identical. Asked why, he said he wanted to feel at home whereever he goes. Rumor was, Alan Jackson almost bought this house last year, but the deal fell through.

I'm glad I'm not driving the boat. I could get lost in all these little islands. Actually there are over 1800 islands in this area of the St. Lawrence seaway.

The shortest international bridge in the world, only 46 feet, but each of these two islands are in separate countries, Canada and the U.S.

Boldt Castle is located on Heart Island. This building is the only building actually lived in. It was the home of the Boldt family while the castle was being built. George C. Boldt started work on the castle in 1900, but abrubtly stopped work following his wife's death in 1904. It was never finished and Mr. Boldt never stepped foot on the island again. Only 3 floors of the 5 floors of the castle were complete at the time of Mrs. Boldt's death.

The castle had its own power house and generating station.

The house itself was six stories and 120 rooms with 365 windows.

A picture of the castle during winter when the St. Lawrence Seaway is frozen over.

The stained glass dome over the staircase. The Seaway Authority now owns the Boldt Castle under the stipulation all fees and revenues must be returned to the castle for the purpose of restoration. The castle lay in ruins for 73 years and vandalism and storms destroyed much of the buildings. They have been restoring the ruins for over 20 years and are still not through.

The parlour as it would have looked and likely been furnished in the early 1900s. The dining room and 3 bedrooms, the ballroom, indoor pool and staircase are all restored.

The grand staircase.

Mr. Boldt's yacht house was across the water on Wellsley Island.

Saying goodby to the Boldt Castle and the end of our Thousand Island Tour. What a great day.

Oswego, NY

The plan was to stop in Oswego overnight, staying at the Walmart. The reason was to visit the old Fort Oswego, a key player in the War of 1812. But upon arrival at the Walmart we found large "NO Overnight for RVs and Trucks" posted all over the parking lot. So we only stopped long enough to go visit the fort before heading down the road. Don't towns understand how much business they lose? We would have eaten dinner at a local restaurant and probably done a little shopping in the area if we had stayed overnight. Oh well....

Fort Oswego. Like many of the older forts it has gone through many transitions. First
established as a trading post in 1722, it became a fort in 1727, manned by the British. It fell to the French during the French and Indian War, mid 1700s. It was abandoned by the Army in the 1940s. Later it was used as a veteran's home before the state bought it and restored it as a historic site.

The lighthouse for Oswego, NY.

We drove through town and saw some interesting older buildings. Many are several hundered years old. This building is now an Irish Pub.

This castle like building is the YMCA.

Originally a train depot, this building is now a local grocery store.

Palmyra, NY

Leaving Niagara Falls and Lockport, NY, I headed towards Palmyra, NY. Besides being another city located on the Erie Canal, it is best known for the birthplace of Mormanism. This is where Joseph Smith found the golden plates.

First thing we did after arriving in town was visit the marina on the Erie Canal. Not a marina like I am used to, no gas pump or store, it is a place where boats can tie up for the night, pump out their holding tanks, take on water and hook up to shore power while traversing the Erie Canal. They can also get out and walk into town and see the sights.

There are bathrooms with showers and a pavilion as well. They have music in the pavilion on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.

We are staying at the Moose Lodge in Palmyra, and they were having a Country Jamboree over the weekend with 6 different bands playing. It was a most enjoyable stay, wandering in and out and listening to the music. Nancy even won the 50/50 drawing.

We also have several burn your own potlucks with fresh New York Corn. Even Fancy had her own piece.

The best farmers market around was down the road in Lyons. The ladies from one of the local churches provided coffee, lemondade and fried dough. There was also music at the gazebo.

It was a very good farmers market with lots of local produce and baked goods. We all took something home.

The farmers market was held downtown in the square. Across the street we noticed was the local Elks Lodge. No parking here for sure. They don't even have a parking lot. The members park along the street. It looks as if at one time this lodge was once a private residence.

We did go out to Cumorah Hill, where it is said Joseph Smith received the golden plates from the Angel Moroni. The translated plates became the Book of Mormon.

This is the farmhouse where Joseph Smith moved in 1818 as a young boy.

Several of us took a nice bike ride down the Canalway Trail, along the Erie Canal.

We biked from south of Palmyra to Macedon and then back again.

Back at the Marina in Palmyra we talked to the people on this boat. It is a rental. For $2000 for 4 days, you get the boat, full galley, sleeping rooms and 2 bathrooms, gas and no charge to stop at these marinas along the canal. It is $4000 if you want the boat for a full week.