Saturday, September 22, 2018

Two Lakes, Two Days

(my campsite )

The car thermometer registered 87 degrees in Speculator, as I drove to the Lewey Lake Campground.  I knew that it was far warmer back in Albany, but the heat was pretty intense even here.  Arriving in the early afternoon, I asked for a site on the Indian Lake side of the campground.

(A loon swims nearby)

My camping life at Indian Lake began when I was child with my parents and sister and continued through Bill's and my years with our children.  Recently, I had camped here with friends, but this day I was by myself.

At my campsite, I had lunch and changed into my bathing suit.  I couldn't wait another minute to escape the nearly intolerable humidity. Being able to swim from the campsite always feels like a luxury.  Even chilly Indian Lake was not as cold as usual after our record-breaking hot summer.  I swam to nearby rocks and a small island.

When I returned to my site, I took on the next business of camping -- getting my boat off the car and setting up my tent.  No other campers were visible from my site and I was glad.  I didn't feel like socializing and making small talk.  I also didn't want anyone to watch me haul my boat.  I can handle the boat but getting it on or off the car isn't always graceful!

(The sky darkens with an impending storm)

With chores behind me, I decided to go for a paddle along the north side of the lake where a few campsites are scattered between long sections of woods.  When I was a child, my parents preferred the farthest site, #1.  Later, Bill and I took any available site on this side although two or three were top favorites.  In the era before the reservation system, we were always able to secure one of these upon arrival. 

I watched a loon close by.  Like many people who love the Adirondacks, I never tire of seeing and hearing loons.  I noticed that the sky darkened ominously, so I paddled back, had another quick swim, and prepared my campsite for rain.

(Smooth as glass after the rain)

I felt like Nick Adams in Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River," without Nick's PTSD and definitely without his canned spaghetti, but with his deliberate slow methodical approach to his camping trip.  I spoke to no one, did what I wanted to do and what needed to be done.  It seemed very satisfactory.

The rain came down hard, but I was snug in my little two-person tent.  What a great feeling to sit reading in a tent, dry and comfortable, as the rain pounded just a thin breadth of fabric away.  When the rain subsided slightly, I decided to walk over to Lewey Lake to see if the southwest sky looked brighter.  Although I could make out the forms of mountains beyond, the clouds still hung thick.

(Early evening sky at Indian Lake)

I walked back to my Indian Lake site through the wooded campsites where my parents camped when they were empty-nesters.  My father had bought a small camper and particularly liked the site where he could drive the car up one side, disconnect the camper from the car, and drive down the other side.

Days were noticeably shorter now at the end of August.  I ate my simple dinner quickly, and then set out for an evening paddle.  This time I paddled on the south side of the lake which offers views of Snowy Mountain, the highest mountain in the Central Adirondacks.  No other boats were visible on the water and I was entranced by the colors and textures of the sky.

Any time I camp at Indian Lake, I make sure to visit two coves on this side of the lake.  These isolated quiet areas attract shy mergansers with their large families, or herons.  Sometimes a deer may come to the water's edge for a drink.  I saw no birds or animals this time.  Maybe they were still tucked in from the storm.

(Water heading into the cove is still)

A bit of red began to show in the sky where the sun peaked through.  The water ruffled with the merest touch of a breeze.  I sat in my boat watching the display.

Darkness was serious now, so I paddled to an empty campsite where I could get out of my boat and watch the sky until the sun set.

After a while, I paddled along the shoreline back to my campsite, got ready for bed, and settled into my tent, reading for a while by head lamp.

(A solitary light shines under misty mountains)

After a night of more heavy rain, I checked my view in the morning.  Tiny breaks in the clouds foreshadowed the upcoming beautiful day.  In fact, I had come to Indian and Lewey Lakes for a reason -- on this day, my father's outing club, the Crooked Canes, were hosting an Irv Boyle Memorial Paddle on Lewey Lake and into the Miami River as a tribute to him.

The "Canes," as the members call themselves, were to meet at the Lewey Lake boat launch at 10:00 a.m.  I packed up my camping gear and loaded my boat onto the car.  I wanted to be there ahead of them and drove the short distance down and across the road, took my boat off and set it by the launch, parking my car in the lot above.  The sky continued to clear as people arrived.

(The morning sky has some breaks of sun)

I knew some of the Canes, but many were new to the club since my father had been an active member.  When all had gathered, the leader, Lenore, introduced me.  I told the members how my father would have loved this outing in his favorite area of the entire Adirondack Park, and how he had thoroughly enjoyed his more than 20 years of Thursday outings with the Canes.

It was a gorgeous day.  The group was friendly.  Many people spoke to me about my father, asked about my mother, chatted about paddles and hikes that they loved, and told me how glad they were that I was with them.  I was touched by the caring and sensitivity of the participants, some of whom had been close friends of my father, and others who had only heard about him.  Over lunch at a clearing with a small beach, Lenore asked for "Irv stories," and shared cookie bars that she was sure my father would have liked. 

(Paddlers head along the north shore of Lewey Lake)

When we returned to the launch and paddlers began loading their boats on their cars, I spoke with each one and thanked them for this day.  One woman said to me, "It has been an honor to have you with us."  But the honor was mine.  I could never imagine a tribute to my father more perfect than this had been.

I had left my boat by the water, and, after good-byes, I told those that remained that I was going to go for a swim and then head home.  The beach at Lewey Lake is shallow for a long way so the water was still quite warm even though the previous night's storms had brought in cool temperatures.  I slipped into the water easily and swam laps.  Finally, I got out and sat on a picnic table wrapped in my beach towel.  Only one couple, Diane and Kurt, appeared to still be loading their boats.

(The Crooked Canes paddle out of the Miami River with Snowy Mtn. in the distance)

Lewey Lake is beautiful, and I gazed across it with gratitude for my personal and family history here, for my solo camping trip at Indian Lake, and for the kindness shown to me this day.

Suddenly I saw motion near my boat and glanced over to see Diane and Kurt picking it up. Diane motioned that they were going to take my boat up the hill.  I hopped off the table, but in a chorus they shouted, "No, no, you stay sitting there!"  Kurt added, "We'll leave your boat in front of your car." There clearly was nothing for me to do but to thank them and sit back on the picnic table.  They drove away, and I was the only person left in the beach and boat launch area.

It is always hard to leave an Adirondack lake on a beautiful day, but it was time to go.  I changed into my clothes, loaded my boat on the car, and drove away.  I would carry my memories of these hours camping alone and paddling with thoughtful people home with me.

Friday, August 17, 2018

A Day at Beekman 1802

(Meredith on the farm)

When Meredith asked for personal care products from Beekman 1802 for her December birthday, it was easy to go the next step and plan a visit to the farm.

Beekman 1802 is open to the public for tours and during two annual festivals.  We chose July's Garden Tour.  In Sharon Springs, less than an hour from Albany, Beekman 1802 has become a huge business for Brent and Josh, since they bought the farm with little know-how and high hopes. The Beekman Boys' message is hard work, living seasonally, and neighborly sharing.

Nasdaq reported: When Josh Kilmer-Purcell (advertising executive and NY Times Bestselling author) and his partner Brent Ridge (physician and former Vice President of Healthy Living for Martha Stewart Omnimedia) purchased the historic Beekman 1802 Farm in 2007, they had no idea that it would launch one of the “fastest growing lifestyle brands in the country.”

In fact, these guys seem to be everywhere now, 11 years later.

(The front of the house faces a country road lined with maple trees)

After a pretty ride on a blue-sky day, Meredith and I drove into the driveway between tall sugar maple trees, where we were ushered into a grassy parking space by the barn.  Already, we knew that we would be a very pleasant tour.

Brent shared the farm's history, with our group of about 30 people, and described various aspects of the house built in 1802.  While largely restored before Josh and Brent bought it, the house had not been lived in for a few years.  Despite coming upstate only on weekends in their early days of ownership, they put significant energy into making the house, and the farm's 60 acres, their own. 

(Brent told us about the farm's history, the flower gardens and other plantings)

The Beekman Boys have been restoring the land by growing trees, vegetables, and flowers consistent with the early-1800s era.  Brent showed us young trees that he and Josh had bought from a heritage nursery in Seattle.

One of the problems with re-introducing trees from hundreds of years past is that many of the pests that we have today did not exist long ago.  While Brent and Josh have had mixed results with their plantings, they persist in finding horticulture that would have existed here when the house was built.

(Meredith with a huge row of white hydrangeas)

Meredith and I learned a lot.  I had not known that hydrangea canes could be laid down in the earth and would sprout a new plant.  The bountiful blooming hedge thriving in front of the porch had been a project over the previous ten years. 

(This is the lovely view most often seen in the Beekman Boys books and advertising)

For a long time, the house had not had a porch, now such an integral part of its appearance.  During one restoration period, evidence of a previous porch surfaced.  Researchers were able to find the builder's description of another house just like this one, but with the front porch, that he built around 1802 in a nearby location.

After visiting that house and seeing the porch intact, current builders knew how it should be rebuilt at the Beekman house.  We were fascinated by the serendipitous discovery of the original builder's plans and the care that went into historic accuracy.

(perennials dominate the flower gardens)

After we admired the porch, the house details, and the hydrangeas, Brent showed us the flower gardens.  Filled with old-fashioned flowers in a riot of summer color, the gardens' deep-rooted perennials appeared to be surviving the Northeast's ongoing drought quite well.  Brent said that the eventual height of the plants would give this space a sense of privacy, conducive to reading, meditation, or just relaxing.

The traditional pond built for fire safety is shallow and growing in.  Brent admitted that his favorite place to sit on the entire farm is under the big willow tree on the edge of the pond.  Unfortunately, the willows drink up the water, contributing to growth of unhealthy plants and a low water table.  "Someday the willows will have to go," he said regretfully.

(Cattails surrounding a small pond can be an indicator of poor pond health)

In fact, the chair placed beneath the willow boughs appeared idyllic.  We had seen many pretty places on the farm, so it might take a while for us to choose our favorite, but this shady spot on a warm day would certainly be in the running.  It did not escape us, however, that sitting and soaking up the beauty and calm in the gardens or by the pond was very likely a rare activity in the busy lives of Josh and Brent.

(Such a nice view from the willow tree across to the house and barn)

John Hall is the resident farmer at Beekman 1802.  Although Brent and Josh have learned a lot about farming over the past ten years, Farmer John's wealth of knowledge and experience has been a huge asset. The farm is primarily a goat dairy. Farmer John manages his own herd of approximately 130 goats. The goat milk is used to make Beekman 1802's signature Blaak goat milk cheese and other products. 

(Meredith makes a new friend)

Farmer John answered lots of questions from people in our group.  We could tell that he loved talking about his goats.  Eventually, Josh came into the barn and told John that it was time for us to move along to the vegetable garden.  Our one-hour tour felt very leisurely, even though we were one of three tours on this day.

Josh grew up with some farm experience and took on the project of growing a vegetable garden.  Josh and Brent found no evidence of a previous garden location until they stumbled upon some struggling raspberry bushes that appeared to have been planted in a row.  This fortuitous discovery settled the question of where the garden should be located.

(Josh pulls up garlic bulbs to share)

They chose to make raised-bed gardens, because weeds do not infiltrate raised beds except from seeds that are airborne from the fields.  Raising the beds also creates a barrier to slugs, snails, and other pests.  To me, these beds appeared easy to work in, rather digging at ground level on hands and knees, and how orderly they were with gravel paths between! 

Josh and Brent travel often and have to leave the farm when their produce is at its best.  They tell the neighbors to pick whatever they want for themselves during their absence.  Josh told us the same, and began by giving us garlic cloves which he pulled from the garlic plot.

(Nobody has to tell me twice that I can eat as many raspberries as I can pick!)

It became increasing clear that the Beekman Boys are not concerned about garnering an income from farming. They make their living through the products they sell, their books and magazines, a reality television show, and now the Home Shopping Network. 

While they can afford to experiment with heirloom plantings and share their bounty, they do this with a generous spirit, which has made them good neighbors in Sharon Springs.

(Our farm garden bounty)

Meredith and I were not greedy, but enjoyed pulling heirloom beets from the beet bed and plucking a couple of bean pods, besides keeping the garlic cloves that Josh gave us to take home. Despite Josh warning us that the drought had dried up almost all of the raspberries, we still found enough to have a good taste.

(I later gave Meredith my beet with its lush greens and my garlic clove, which she took back to Brooklyn along with her own.  The next evening, she boiled and sliced the beets and alternated them log-style with slices of goat cheese on top of the sauteed greens and garlic!  Yum.)

At the end of our tour, Josh said that we should feel free to roam any part of the property.

The original description of our tour had encouraged participants to bring a picnic blanket and a picnic to eat on the grounds.  Although we had brought a blanket, we found a table and chairs under a large maple tree and had our picnic lunch there.  We saw others from our group scattered in different areas on their blankets or a bench as well.

Finally, Meredith and I drove into Sharon Springs and visited Beekman Mercantile.  Back in the early 1800s, the Beekman house had had a mercantile on the farm property where the family sold provisions to people heading west.  The idea of a Beekman Mercantile was not a new one.

Josh and Brent chose to open their mercantile in an old building on Main Street.  Many of their products are made by local artisans which connects the store to its community. From jams and foods to personal care products, and upstairs to furniture and home decor items, this store is fun to browse.

Next, Meredith and I walked Main Street.  Surely, the Beekman Boys have given this struggling town an economic boost.  We saw people from our tour going in and out of galleries, gift shops, and restaurants.  It's no wonder that Brent and Josh wear t-shirts with the words, "Hi Neighbor," printed on the front.

All that remained to complete our day was ice cream, which we found at Dairyland, a classic ice cream stop on the way out of town and recommended by Brent and Josh.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Snippets of Scandinavia

I did everything I could to keep the number of pictures in this blog post about Bill's and my trip to Scandinavia to a reasonable amount.  But, with just a few days in Denmark and Sweden, and the bulk of our two-week trip in Norway, this truly became a photo essay of "snippets" with more than twice as many scenes as I normally include.  Take it from me, Scandinavia is very picturesque!

We arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, early, with the day ahead of us unscheduled, after traveling and sleep deprivation.  Our tour guide, Amanda, recommended that we walk along the water's edge to the Nyhavn (New Harbor, 1671) canal, a popular area in the old section of the city. She said, "Nyhavn is fun to visit and a view you will see on every Denmark brochure." This turned out to be a perfect beginning to our trip.

 I couldn't resist this messenger, relaxing and waiting for his next call -- just flip down the kick stand and sit on the package rack in the sun with your phone.

As we walked along canals and wandered various streets, the King's Garden at Rosenborg Castle drew me in.  I left Bill sitting on a bench, passed people relaxing on the grounds, crossed the moat, and, sure enough, found lush rose gardens.  Rosenborg was the country summerhouse of King Christian IV, built in 1606.

Walking along the Inner Harbor, we learned that, previously, the water here had been polluted from centuries of industry and commerce.  Now, with the warehouses turned into expensive apartments and condos, and the river clean, people walk, ride their bikes, sunbathe, and even slide down into the water on this series of boardwalks.

What a juxtaposition of the "Black Diamond," an extension of the Royal Library, next to the old Brewery
And how about the new opera house?  It would be exciting to hear a concert here!

Not far from Copenhagen, charm outdid itself in this village of whitewashed cottages and rose-covered picket fences.   I walked so far taking pictures of cute houses, that I had only moments to get my feet wet in the bay. Although I was in a stony jetty area, white sand beaches abound on the Danish Riviera. 

I'm sharing the chapel of Frederiksborg, Frederik IV's hunting home, with you because its massive pipe organ built in 1610 with 1001 wooden pipes must be a marvel to hear live.  Even the recorded sound of the organ, playing 17th-century music that filled the chapel during our visit, was moving.

This cute building with its public post box on the side and roses up the front is in Odense, the town where Hans Christian Andersen spent his childhood.  Odense is actually a large city of 178,000, but it has an extensive neighborhood of 17th century buildings and Medieval churches.

Don't you love the kaleidoscope of brick designs on this building in Randers, another town peppered with streets from the early 1600s?  I was taken with the fact that so many of the very old buildings in Randers are being used much as they had been over the centuries -- storefronts and shops at street level and apartments above.

We left Denmark and headed into Norway, where we visited Trolhaugen, composer Edvard Grieg's home.  I thought you would agree with me (and Edvard, of course!) that local carving adds beauty to home decor.

Grieg's studio is a jewel.  A tiny building facing the bay, the studio could certainly offer creative inspiration.  With the desk in front of the window, a small piano along one wall, and a day bed along the other, couldn't you or I accomplish great things in a place like this?

The Bryggen area in Bergen, built in the 1300s as a dock for loading and processing fish, evolved into this jumble of warehouse construction in 1710. It now houses shops, galleries, and restaurants. Amanda said that this was a good place to shop for quality, although sometimes pricey, items.  I admit to buying a Norwegian sweater in a small tucked-away store.

It seems that everywhere in Europe, World War II is not far away.  This tiny fishing village of Telavag, a hub of resistance to Nazi occupation, was totally destroyed in 1943 when the Gestapo discovered it.  Telavag's women and children were sent to a confinement center, and its men taken by ship to a concentration camp in Germany.  Amanda took us down the road that the men walked to the town harbor for their voyage to unknown horrors.  Imagining the scene gives me chills even while writing this paragraph now.

Exposure to a variety of cultural opportunities is one of the many parts of our tours that we love.  We visited a small farm where we feasted on a smorgasbord of foods made and prepared on the property.

The farm has horses for work and play.  Take a look at the dun-colored horse on the the left.  This is a Norwegian fjord horse and has a distinctive skunk-like black stripe through its blonde mane, bangs, and tail!

Speaking of fjords, I am showing great self-restraint by including just a few photos of the stunning drama that Norway presents.

 These glacier-formed mountains and cliffs often stand a mile above the water and reach a mile deep into the water.

Sometimes a rainy day just adds to the magnificence.

That fjord farmers eked out a living on the edge
of the cliffs seems unbelievable.  In fact, they grew quite a bit of fruit, even apricots.  We learned that summer days of nearly 24-hour light give Norwegian fruit an intense flavor and sweetness.

For my readers who have never gone on a coach tour, don't believe people who say that buses can't go to out-of-the-way places.  Our driver negotiated many many twisty tiny routes, such as  Dalsnibba's wintry road, that appears to drop out of sight.

 And another down through Trollstigen Pass.  Amanda rewarded everyone (although not our driver who deserved it most!) with a taste of Aquavit, a regional 80 proof distillation of grain and potatoes.  Bill declared it very tasty.

The Village of Lom is famous for its 12th-century stave church.  On this Saturday, the church was not open to tourists because a wedding was taking place inside, so I took off for the hills.  Many of you know that this is my wont.  I found a collection of quaint Norwegian houses and barns at the edge of a farm field surrounded by wildflowers. 

Fortunately, Amanda had a stop at the Ringabu Stavkirke in her pocket.  This, too, had a wedding planned.  When we arrived at the church, Amanda walked some distance to find out if the wedding was over so that we could tour the inside.  As it turned out, the wedding had been canceled!  Although we hoped this was not due to pre-marital strife, we felt fortunate to have the place to ourselves!

Stave churches were built by Vikings, who, by the time Christianity was prevalent in Norway, were farmers more than warriors. Being skeptical of the new religion, the builders included all the Christian symbols but also added a few carvings of their own gods and dragons.  The "staves" are the tall load-bearing pine columns in this construction.  Even though there were once over 1200 of these wooden churches in Norway, the fact that 32 have survived from the 1100s is astonishing.

Lillehammer is not only home to the 1994 Olympics, but also to the open-air museum village of Milhaugen.  I couldn't get enough of the carvings on barns, houses, and any utility building.

Back in 1994, Bill and I were drawn to the televised Norwegian city scenes from Lillehammer.  You may remember that these Olympic games were the site of the infamous figure skating battle between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, as well as the more glorious moments of American speed skater Dan Jansen, and skiers Bonnie Blair, and Picabo Street.

In Oslo, we walked narrow streets and toured Vigeland Park and its more than 200 sculptures.  We went to museums such as the Nobel Peace Center, and the Viking Museum where we saw original excavated Viking ships and sleds.  At the Fram Polar Ship Museum, we learned about early voyages to the north and south poles.

And, look at this -- Bill caught dinner while in the polar regions!!

In Stockholm, where our tour ended, we visited its City Hall, and the captivating Vasa Ship Museum.
And we took our last of many boats rides past man-made and natural beauty. 

To finish off our journey to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, we donned heavy coats and hoods, had a drink in a glass made of ice, sat on a chair made of ice, and were grateful for our Scandinavian experience.