In the late autumn of 2007, we drove out to the eastern edge of the state, to Lake George and Lake Champlain. I’d never been to Lake George before. I never knew how exquisitely beautiful the area is. The property taxes must be outta this world!
The drive to Lake George was lengthy. We traveled through the familiar and little towns of Herkimer, German Flatts, and Little Falls before taking the Thruway. Tolls have certainly increased. We got off at Amsterdam and drove through the heart of the city. I’ve never been through Amsterdam before; it has a rusty, rickety aura of a gilded era long gone –like many Upstate cities– but it has a seediness similar to Utica. The hilly roads added interest (and traffic congestion) to the ride. It was an interesting city and I would have liked to see more of it, but Lake George beckoned.
Up we traveled, through Ballston Spa, Saratoga, and Glens Falls. Lake George, NY, (the city) is at the southernmost tip of this very long lake. The lake itself is about 32 miles long and 2 miles wide. Huge mounds of solid stone stand up in a stiff regiment all around the lake. Clouds of russet-colored oak and feathery green fir trees cover big chunks of the mountains in a futile attempt to soften its appearance. It was probably no easy thing for these trees to grow roots and grasp onto such massive mounds of stone. Even with the lush tree coverage, huge boulders the size of school buses loomed. I’ve never seen anything like it. At one point we could drive no further and had to stop to take it all in. No wonder Lake George is nicknamed “Queen of the American Lakes.” And it has a bit of mystery and adventure, too, being the location of America’s Oldest Intact Warship. But because the sky was so overcast, my little point-and-shoot Kodak couldn’t capture the striking beauty of the landscape.
I feel ashamed, treating you so unjustly to such poor photos when the sight of the scene was so spectacular. Oh well, I have a hunch we will return next autumn, so stay tuned. I am glad we came in autumn. The mountains were simply ablaze with color and were almost aggressive in showing it off. This is turbulently rugged countryside and nothing like the sweetly singing hills of the Mohawk Valley.
We continued on to Fort Ticonderoga. We knew we were taking a chance, driving so far with the possibility of not seeing much of the beloved fort. Most tourist places in Upstate close by October 31st–a stinky policy, if you ask me. Autumn is the perfect time for travel! Anyway, it was Veteran’s Day, and I’d read that even though the inside of the museums might be closed, the visitor’s centers remain open. We discovered we were wrong on all counts. Nuts. But didn’t someone once say that half the fun is getting there? So we made do with what we had and enjoyed the journey.
Fort Ticonderoga was a very important outpost during the American Revolution (which we lost to Burgoyne, by the way). However, the history of the fort and of the area goes back much, much farther.
Because this area is between Lake Champlain and Lake George, and thus the fastest route to Albany (NY’s capital city) and New York City (NY’s biggest harbor), the group who controlled Ticonderoga usually wound up controlling New York. This fort initially controlled the trade route before the French and Indian War. It later became a strategic outpost for the wars. My daughter promised me that she would (quickly) write a short and humorous synopsis of the historical aspects of this place. I’ll post it in an update as soon as I get it.
The road to the fort (which we walked, because the road was closed with a gate) was interspersed with monuments to the many, many men who died here. Talk about a world war– there were people from so many countries who fought here!
First the area was owned by the Indians, then the French. Then, the British took it over in the French and Indian War. Fighting with the British were regiments from Scotland. Then, the American Revolution came ’round, and it was French and British at it again, this time with American, Scottish, and German troops, plus more Indians. Monuments in English, French, and Latin recorded the hundreds of men who died here. Trenches were redug for posterity to see exactly where shots were fired, blood was spilled, and men were fallen.
The walk was mighty long. Because the fort was officially closed, I hurried everyone along. I wanted to get a quick view of the fort before we were kicked out!
The fort sits elevated on a cliff. It overshadows the strategic sliver of Lake Champlain where Lake George ends, and oversees all water traffic there. Across the lake is Vermont. In the summer a ferry takes passengers across to Vermont and Mount Defiance.
As we approached the fort, sounds of construction vehicles alarmed us that we were not alone. Apparently, laborers were working this day. It looked like they were clearing brush. Whether they saw us, I do not know, but they left us undisturbed. We veered off to the other side, and I rapidly made my way to the open fort entrance. Ah, so easy! Did the French and then the British enter so easily? Ha!
We came up to a “CLOSED. NO TRESPASSING BEYOND THIS POINT” sign. My husband, law-abiding citizen that he is, hesitated. I, on the other hand, had a camera in my hand that was literally pulling me toward the entrance. I walked boldly into the entrance and peered over the top. Before my eyes about 10 feet down was a red pickup truck, its engine gurgling, and two men hauling tools into the back. They were joking and laughing, so they had missed my son’s sneeze and my loud footsteps. I shrank back from the wall and motioned for the kids to be absolutely s i l e n t. I wanted to get in at least one picture before we were tossed out, or, God forbid, arrested! This is all I got.
Sorry! How I longed to enter the fort! I almost–ohh so close it was– did. But cooler heads prevailed. We turned our way back. I snapped a quick photo of Mount Defiance– that last, unexpected bastion of British ingenuity (story to come), and we left.
I was sad. Of course, I didn’t think we’d get in the fort– being past season as it is. But a girl can hope, can’t she? The kids were disappointed, too, but they recouped soon enough. Kids will be kids and they found something to do: play American Revolution in the forest:
On our way back to the van, I snapped a photo of this beautiful little stone house by the gate. The sign said it was a private residence, but it was on the fort grounds. A caretaker’s home, perhaps?
So all in all, we didn’t get to revel in the luxuriant history of the fort, but we can at least say that we have been there. All it does is gives us a thirst to return! Fort Ticonderoga, I shall return!
We continued on after Fort Ticonderoga. Read about our hike up Buck Mountain in Pilot Knob, NY!