Bum Rushing Beaver Dams & the Browns Tract Inlet

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On Friday afternoon I nibbled at another small portion of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. The weather was cold and windy with lots of sunshine. I arrived at Raquette Lake, NY at 1240 and was shortly headed out into Raquette lake to reach the Browns Tract Inlet. It was a short distance but the wind was brutal. I was nervous in an open boat even though I wasn’t far from shore. I thought to myself once I was in the inlet I’d be fine.

Almost immediately after entering the inlet I encountered my first beaver dam which spanned the entire width of the waterway. I thought great now what.. Water was too deep to exit the boat and drag it over. I was stumped so I backed up and paddled hard right into it and got the bow of my canoe about 3 inches over it… Freeing myself I went back a little further and really got after it and this time I maybe got 4-5 inches of the bow over the dam. Ok I was pissed but determined! I decided to head back out of the inlet turn and paddle for all I was worth and I hit the dam sending the bow of my canoe halfway over the obstruction. Now I was stuck… I separated my paddle and used it to work my way over and voila, I continued on.

The Browns Tract snakes like an Adirondack back road. The wind was whipping right up the tract and what I thought would be a leisurely paddle turned out to be an olympic event. I encountered four beaver dams on my journey but only one of them I had to actually exit the boat and drag it over. The 3 mile paddle to the western end of the tract sports a wooden pier, this pier is for paddlers that carry the 1.5 miles between 8th lake and Browns Tract Inlet to put in on the inlet. Its tradition that through paddlers of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail begin at the western terminus in Old Forge and paddle the 740 miles east to Fort Kent, ME.

I was thinking that my return would have the wind at my back but I was completely wrong. Again I was olympic paddling all the way back to Raquette lake. Despite some of the difficulty I was glad to have had the opportunity to complete this small piece in the very large NFCT puzzle.

Once I was back to shore and gear reloaded I broke out the Jetboil and enjoyed a cup of warm soup sitting lakeside. As I glanced across the lake I envisioned launching my kayak and continuing my Pac-Man approach to the trail. I have no desire to be a through paddler of the NFCT. I like having the choice to pick and choose my boat that best suites the waters I will be adventuring. A luxury through paddlers do not have. In a perfect world I’d just assume pick and choose my weather as well. But as they say in the Adirondacks “Wait 10 minutes” the weather will change.

As I departed the small village of Raquette Lake my turn signal bulb blew out. Where does one find a replacement bulb in the middle of the Adirondacks? Three miles up Route 28 I tried my luck at Burke’s Marinina. Sure enough they had a bulb and a phillips head screw driver. I changed the bulb and was on my way. One thing that caught my eye while paying for the bulb was the free packs of matches advertising the Marina sitting on the counter. I could not resist and grabbed a few as you very rarely see this anymore.

Onto my next adventure!

Beginning my adventure into the Browns Tract Inlet at Raquette Lake, NY, september 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Northern Forest Canoe Trail Kiosk and DEC register Raquette Lake, NY September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Along the Browns Tract Inlet September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo

At the western end of Browns Tract Inlet September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Arriving back at Raquette Lake, NY September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo

I’ve exited Browns Tract and entered Raquette lake. Blue Mountain can be seen towering in the distance September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo

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Boreas Ponds

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When I heard in the Spring of 2016 that New York State acquired the 20,758 acre Boreas Ponds Tract from the Nature Conservancy which subsequently was purchased from the Finch, Pruyn Paper Company I had all I could do to contain myself. This 320 acre beauty is bordered by the North River Mountain Range to the west, the Boreas Mountain Range to the east and the High Peaks Wilderness to the north. I have been chomping at the bit since to make this journey and canoe this remote piece of heaven.

I car camped Friday night along Blue Ridge Road in the town of North Hudson, NY about 6 miles east of the access road to the ponds. Early Saturday morning I woke to 38 degree temps as I made my way to the parking lot which is 3.5 miles down a dirt road, a rather bumpy dirt road I might add. When I arrived it was a mere 30 degrees, looking around I noticed there were four other cars in the lot as well. The sun had just begun to rise, as I stepped out of the car I could feel that brisk chill take a hold of me. I quickly added another top layer and began to load my canoe and gear for the additional 3.6 mile hike to the Boreas Ponds. Canoe strapped to the canoe cart as I slid under the barrier to the DEC register box. All signed in and off I went. I quickly experience technical difficulties with the canoe cart due to my inexperience in lashing the canoe to it. The trail in is quite boring and lacks scenery until you get closer to your destination. I covered the 3.6 miles in 1:18:20 hauling about 30 pounds of canoe and gear. Upon arriving I was in awe of the view that I didn’t notice a guy and his dog sitting along the waters edge. I was startled by Shelby a yellow lab barking at me, we quickly made friends. I chatted for a few minutes with the gentleman and he told me that they had hiked in yesterday and were camping close by. Unpacking my gear I caught a glimpse of two people in a green canoe fishing off in the distance.

Getting my act together out on the water I went. The magnitude of peacefulness was awe-inspiring. Paddling across First Pond the whisper of my paddle entering and exiting the water complimented boreal birds who were singing along the shoreline. Soon enough the call of Loons shattered the stillness with their own chorus echoing off the mountains. I decided to pay a visit to the two men in that green canoe. We made small talk but I learned that they had only caught 1 trout, they were from Lake Luzerne and their wives were hiking in to camp that evening.

I spent around 2 hours exploring this magnificent resource before heading back to shore. Canoe and gear reloaded and properly secured it was time for my 3.6 mile hike back to the car. Along the trail I passed quite a few hikers, bikers and canoers all on their way to enjoy the wonders of the Adirondacks. I covered the return distance in 1:01:53 and had my gear loaded back onto and into my car. Now it was coffee O’Clock, so out came the Jetboil and in about 2 minutes I had a very nice hot cup of Joe. I sat on a large rock and drank in this experience, one I had been dreaming about for over a year. It was everything I had thought it would be.

Beginning my adventure on the Boreas Ponds September 2nd 2017. © Joe Geronimo

I have just arrived at the Boreas Ponds and the Gothics stand proud in the distance September 2nd 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Making my way across Second Pond September 2nd 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Another view of the high peaks paddling into Third Pond September 2nd 2017. © Joe Geronimo

All loaded up and ready for my trek back out, September 2nd 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Going to sign out in the Boreas Ponds register, September 2nd 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Coffee O’Clock September 2nd 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Fire Island National Seashore

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This past weekend we traveled to Long Island to visit my sister who had been in the hospital, celebrate my brothers birthday and just spend some time with family. It was a nice weekend despite some medical issues my sister is experiencing.

With that said on Friday August 18th Julie, myself and the boys along with their cousin visited the Fire Island National Seashore and the Fire Island lighthouse. The weather was overcast and humid but a nice breeze kept things somewhat tolerable. In all the years I had lived and visited Long Island I never took the time to climb the 182 steps to the top of the light. This has been on my list of things to do for quite sometime now and finally I got it done!

Julie and I hope to return in the near future and do some more exploration along the seashore.

Making our way to the Fire Island Light August 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Myself, Michael, Nicholas & Max Fire Island National Seashore August 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Looking west from the top of the Fire Island Light August 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Looking east from the Fire Island Light August 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

 

Max peering down from the top of the Fire Island Light August 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Michael atop the Fire Island Light August 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

My nephew Nick enjoying the breeze atop of the Fire Island Light August 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

The 167 foot Fire Island Lighthouse stands proud along the Atlantic Ocean August 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Michael, Nick, Max & Julie walking along the dunes of the Fire Island National Seashore August 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

History Past: City of Midland #41

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SS City of Midland 41 was a railroad carferry serving the ports of Ludington, MI, Milwaukee, WI, Manitowoc, WI, and Kewaunee, WI, for the Pere Marquette Railway and its successor, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway from 1941 until 1988. The ferry was named after the city of Midland, MI.

The vessel was built by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in 1940 at a cost of $1.75 million. One of the last coal-burning car ferries on Lake Michigan, she entered service for the Pere Marquette Railway company in March 1941 as the largest Great Lakes ferry ever built. Powered by two Skinner Unaflow Steam Engines, the City of Midland 41 was capable of speeds up to 20 miles per hour with a cruising speed of 17.6 miles per hour.

The City of Midland 41 was unique for car ferries in that she also contained many amenities for the automobile and passenger traffic that crossed the lake in the warmer summer months. She had an extra passenger deck compared to the other ferries of her time, and frequently would run the Ludington–Manitowoc route during the busy summer months, serving as a moving connector of U.S. Highway 10. Because of her exemplary amenities as well as her size and aesthetic silhouette she was nicknamed the “Queen of the Lakes“.

In addition to transporting railroad cars through the World War 2 years, the City of Midland 41 also served as a training vessel for United States Coast Guard and United States Navy enlisted sailors, since the vessel’s Unaflow engines were similar to those used aboard the Casablanca-Class Escort Carrier.

In 1947 the Pere Marquette Railway was acquired and its assets, including the City of Midland 41, merged into the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O). During the late 1940s through the 1960s the City of Midland 41 experienced the prime years of her career. In 1952 and 1953, the carferries SS Pere Marquette 21 and SS Pere Marquette 22 were upgraded, and two new carferries, SS Spartan and SS Badger, entered service. They were the last two railroad car ferries built on the Great Lakes.

C&O Car Ferry “City of Midland” #41 Milwaukee, WI 1958. © Red Border Kodachrome from the Joe Geronimo collection.

Truckee Throwback!

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It was April 1996, Julie & I were having lunch at the Truckee Diner in Truckee, CA. The railroad tracks are literally two hundred yards away. Sitting in our booth we heard a train coming so we stepped outside for a few minutes. We lay witness to a massive manifest freight beginning its battle for the famed “Donner Pass”. Three locomotives on the headend, three mid train and three pushing on the rear. The earth beneath our feet was rumbling and it was a sight of human engineering to be seen.

Cheers!

Three Denver Rio Grande & Western locomotives are seen mid train as they battle the famed “Donner Pass” at Truckee, CA in April 1996. Fujichrome Velvia 50, © Joe Geronimo

Cruising the FLX

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Julie and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary yesterday. We didn’t go to some tropical island with deep blue waters and white sandy beaches or some far off exotic place, that is just not us. We kept it low key and took a drive to our favorite place the “Finger Lakes”.

The National Park system back in 2014 added to their list of storied places “The Harriet Tubman Home National Historic Park” in Auburn, NY. Auburn was our first destination and our day began with a tour. I’ll be honest I expected us to be the only people there. Boy was I wrong! On our tour there had to be at least forty people in the group and that is no exaggeration. Afterwards as we mulled around the visitor center more people came streaming in the door for the next tour. The park is a work in progress but our tour guide was pretty amazing in her presentation making it both informative and funny.

“Did you know that during the Civil War Harriet Tubman was a nurse? Did you know that Harriet Tubman was a spy for the Union Army as well? Lastly Harriet Tubman was born in 1820 and died in 1913 of pneumonia, she was 93. She was buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York. I had no idea so I found this extremely fascinating”.

There are so many interesting things I learned about Harriet today. Most of us associate her with the underground railroad.

Next stop was a place rooted in Julie’s history. The Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, NY. Back in 1988-1989 Julie used to be a Park Ranger here. We have been to this park several times before but since we were passing through the area we stopped to check in on things.

Now it was time for lunch and what better place than Mac’s Drive-In in Waterloo, NY. We absolutely love this place and do our best to eat here whenever we can. With our hunger taken care of it was time to visit two wineries we have yet to try along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. However on our way back through Seneca Falls we stopped briefly to check out the very impressive “Double” lock #3 along the Cayuga-Seneca canal.

And just for the record we also had to make a pit-stop at McKensize-Childs. This is so not a dude place! Thankfully this was BRIEF pause and we got to Long Point winery in Aurora, NY. The gentleman doing our tasting was a spitting image of NFL football coach Rob Ryan. The only difference was he had a Hawaiian shirt on. Next was Treleavan in King Ferry, NY. I was excited for this because they offered a beer tasting as well. I sampled four New York brews. #1. Hopshire (Near Varna IPA) #2. Lucky Hare (London Gentleman Extra Special Bitter) #3. Grist Iron (Ely Pilsner ) #4. Lucky Hare (Rock Hound American Amber). All these beers were excellent but #3 & #4 really stood out for me. Julie really enjoy their wines and she left with a bottle Wobbly Rock Riesling. She is my Riesling girl…..

Our last stop for the day was Purity ice cream in Ithaca, NY, enough said!

Beautiful day in one of our favorite places, cheers!

Side Note: On our way down the east side of Cayuga lake is the small town of Cayuga, NY. Well Cayuga was featured not long ago on the HGTV show “Lake Front Bargain Homes”. Julie and I actually saw that episode together so we knew which house the family purchased. As we drove through we gave it a quick look and its just as beautiful in person as it was on TV.

Julie & I in front of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged in Auburn, NY. © Joe Geronimo

Harriet Tubman residence Auburn, NY © Joe Geronimo. This residence is currently being restored and we were not able to see it.

Inside the visitors center Harriet Tubman home Auburn, NY © Joe Geronimo.

Women’s Rights National Historic Park Seneca Falls, NY © Joe Geronimo

Wesleyan Chapel “Women’s Rights National Historic Park Seneca Falls, NY © Joe Geronimo
The Wesleyan Chapel was built in 1843. On July 19 and 20, 1848, the First Women’s Rights Convention was held here. Even though Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the only one of the five organizers to live in Seneca Falls, the Wesleyan Chapel was well known to them all. The church was a local haven for antislavery activity, political rallies, and free speech events.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton home Seneca Falls, NY © Joe Geronimo
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) called her house at 32 Washington Street, Seneca Falls “Grassmere” and the “Center of the Rebellion”. She moved into the home with her husband and three sons in May 1847. In June her father Daniel Cady deeded the property to his daughter Elizabeth. Over the next fourteen years, the family welcomed two more sons and two daughters. The entire family enjoyed the large farm house, its several out buildings, orchards, and gardens until Elizabeth Cady Stanton sold the property in 1862 and the family of nine moved to New York, New York.

Mac’s Drive-In Waterloo, NY © Joe Geronimo

Mac’s Drive-In Waterloo, NY © Joe Geronimo

My favorite dish at Mac’s “Mac’s Plate” 2 hot dogs over macaroni salad and fries covered in chili sauce. © Joe Geronimo

Here we have the impressive “Double” Lock #3 along the Cayuga-Seneca canal in Seneca Falls, NY. In the image on the left the “Lock Master” is doing a routine check on the lock. Lock 2 and Lock 3 in Seneca Falls on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal are very unique in that they are combined together without a pool of water between them. The only modern lock like this on the canal system are Locks E34 and E35 on the Erie Canal. The two locks lift and lower boats a combined 49 feet from 430.5 feet above sea level to 381.5 feet. © Joe Geronimo

All Aboard for History

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The boys and I were supposed to be camping this week in the Adirondacks. However due to an unforeseen circumstance we had to cancel our trip. This past Sunday I had asked Max if there was anything he would like to do for a day trip. After a few minutes of deep thought Max responded “Steamtown”. I was totally caught off guard but thrilled just to spend time together.

We left late morning Monday timing a lunch stop at the Waffle House in Clarks Summit before we got to Steamtown. The Waffle House is my new addiction as the hash brown bowls are so good. Even better the prices are inexpensive as well.

After lunch Max and I would finish our trip arriving at Steamtown shortly after. It was a beautiful day in Scranton as we toured the grounds, took a short train ride around the facility and wondered through the roundhouse looking at several of the locomotives currently under repair. Max just like his mother has a passion for history. I myself love history but I am more of a photographic history person. One of the highlights for me was being able to walk through a RPO “Railway Post Office”. America’s mail used to move mostly by rail and I have always been fascinated by the process. Max and I sat and watched a short film about life aboard an RPO which I really enjoyed. “Before tweets, texts and emails, people communicated using written correspondence – letters, postcards and such. The U.S. Post Office Department – now the US Postal Service – employed thousands to collect, sort and deliver these letters, along with newspapers, magazines and small parcels. The Railway Mail Service was a significant mail transportation service in the U.S. during the time period from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th century. The RMS, or its successor, the Postal Transportation Service (PTS), carried the vast majority of letters and packages mailed in the U.S. from the 1890s until the 1960s.”

During our adventure we learned that Steamtown and the Nation Park Service have plans to restore to operating condition the largest steam locomotive in the collection, a Union Pacific “Big Boy”. This behemoth weighs 1,200,000 pounds, is 132 feet long and produces 6,000 horsepower. Currently the Union Pacific Railroad is restoring one to full operating condition at their Cheyenne, WY facility with plans to run it in 2019. Max was all about a road trip in 2019 to see this beauty storming the rails once again.

We finished out our afternoon at the museum store, had our National Park passport stamped, picked up a few souvenirs and headed for home. Super fun afternoon spending time with my son.

Here is just a brief history of Steamtown:

Steamtown was originally founded in 1964 by millionaire Nelson F. Blount. Blount established a non-profit organization, the Steamtown Foundation, to operate Steamtown, USA a steam railroad museum and excursion business in Bellows Falls, VT. In 1984, the foundation moved Steamtown to Scranton, conceived of as urban redevelopment and funded in part by the city. But the museum failed to attract the expected 200,000 to 400,000 annual visitors, and within two years was facing bankruptcy.

In 1986, the U.S. House of Representatives, at the urging of Scranton native Representative Joseph M. McDade, approved $8 million to begin turning the museum into a National Historic Site. By 1995, the National Park Service had acquired Steamtown, USA.

My new food addiction “Hash brown bowls” at the Waffle House. Clarks Summit, PA © Joe Geronimo

Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton PA. © Joe Geronimo

Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo

Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo

Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo

Max and I taking the short train ride around Steamtown and Scranton. © Joe Geronimo

Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 #759 in the roundhouse at Steamtown. © Joe Geronimo

Louisville & Nashville RPO #1100 at the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo

Reading Railroad #903 & #902 stand guard outside of the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo

Union Pacific “Big Boy” Steamtown National Historic Site. © Joe Geronimo. The trend toward size and power culminated in the 1.2 million pound, 6,200 horsepower 4-8-8-4 “Big Boy.”
The “Big Boys” were built for power. They did the work of three smaller engines, pulling 120-car, 3800 ton freight trains at forty miles per hour in the mountains of Utah and Wyoming.

Knocking it out of the Park

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Julie and I have been wanting to spend more time at our National Parks, National Park Historic sites and just historical places in general. Back in the spring she had proposed a trip that would take us to Harpers Ferry, WV where we would visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the C&O Canal Trail National Historical Park and the Antietam National Battlefield. We hiked the Maryland Heights trail which provided stunning views of Harpers Ferry. Several days later we found ourselves at Shenandoah National Park along the 105 mile “Skyline Drive” slowly making our way towards Charlottesville, VA. In Charlottesville we would sip wine at Blenheim Vineyards which is owned by Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews band. Drank in the history at Thomas Jefferson’s “Mon-ti-chel-oh” along with James Madison’s “Montpelier” and had dinner with family in Culpeper.

I had no idea what to expect but I was excited for just the two of us to get away together and travel. We arrived at Harpers Ferry Historical Park Monday mid day. It was hot and humid and I was sweating standing still. We hopped on the shuttle bus and off we went. My first impression of Harpers Ferry was “Are we at Disney”? It truly looked as if it was built for their theme park. It’s like we were transported into the 1800’s. I think the newest house in Harpers Ferry is around mid 1800’s? According to 2016 voter registration there are 291 residents. Services are limited with only a few places to eat and yes they literally roll up the sidewalks at 7PM. Tucked into the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Harpers Ferry is steeped in railroad history as well.

Charlottesville was a different story. It was a much bigger city. However once we were in the Virginia country side miles and miles of horse farms and fences lined our path as the hustle and bustle slowly disappeared in the rear view mirror. I personally loved touring Monticello and Montpelier. I cannot decided even as I pen this which I liked more.

One thing I will say is I am blown away that Thomas Jefferson wrote 20,000 letters in his lifetime all in duplicate. Yes you read that correctly duplicate. Jefferson used a Polygraph in order to accomplish this. I believe either the Library of Congress or the Jefferson Foundation have all 20,000 letters. So fascinating!

Moving onto James Madison I cannot get over how incredibly well read he was and intelligent. Madison was extremely meticulous as well. But the one thing that stands out for me is the eventual relationship between him and Paul Jennings. Jennings was a personal servant, as a young slave, to President James Madison during and after his White House years. The story continues in a book I just ordered called “A Slave in the White House”.

As a side note we both found Antietam haunting. In the bloodiest one day battle of the Civil War every second an American died, 23,000 in total. It was gut wrenching as we toured the Battlefield. I cannot even begin to imagine the conditions these soldiers faced.

All in all this was a super fun adventure and cannot wait until we hit the road together again, cheers!

Harpers Ferry, WV

View of Harpers Ferry, WV from the Maryland Heights trail overlook.

Julie & I at the Maryland Heights trail overlook.

Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD.

New York Regiment monument Antietam National Battlefield Sharpsburg, MD. New York’s losses on this field were 65 officers and 624 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded; 110 officers and 2687 enlisted men wounded and 2 officers and 277 men captured or missing, making a total of 3765.

James Madison’s home “Montpelier” Montpelier Station, VA.

Thomas Jefferson’s home “Monticello” Charlottesville, VA.

Brown Mountain overlook, elevation 2,840 feet Skyline Drive Shenandoah National Park.

Big Meadows Skyline Drive Shenandoah National Park. This was the halfway point where we would stop for lunch and some souvenirs.

105 miles later we would find ourselves at the end of the road so to speak.

Will Work for Ice Cream

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Today’s throw back brings us to Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, NH June 25th 2007. The famous “Clark’s Bear Show” never disappoints. I fondly remember  loving this as a kid and so did the boys. Ironically this show will make you want a pet bear… Kodachrome, © Joe Geronimo.