Monday, July 19, 2010

Cool places for a hot day

As most of you know, I am not a lover of hot weather and prefer activities like hiking and biking which have had no appeal lately. However, as I look back over the past couple of weeks (trying to see the good, you know), I realized that I have been to some great places on days when heat and humidity have sapped my energy.

One was Wiawaka on Lake George. Wiawaka was begun in the 1880s by a few wealthy people as a retreat for immigrant women who worked in the collar factories of Troy. A main lodge with a dining room was built on the property, surrounded by a few cottages where the women stayed in dormitory style rooms. Still a retreat for women (men are only allowed on the property in July), Wiawaka has day use for $15 and overnight lodging, with fees on a sliding scale based on income.

My mother and I took advantage of the day use option, bringing our own picnic. We walked the fairly limited acreage and then sat on a bench overlooking the lake for our lunch. Since Wiawaka is located near Lake George village, the lake activity is entertaining and we waved to all the cruise boats that went by. Humidity was dense so views were not crisp, but a breeze kept us very comfortable.

Day use includes walking on the property, a restaurant lunch option in the lodge for an additional fee, swimming at two small roped off areas, and use of canoes and pedal boats. The big draw is the peace and quiet, and the beauty of being on private waterfront property at Lake George. The day we were there, a small group of women were attending a conference for female entrepreneurs in the lodge. Otherwise, we only saw two other people in the three hours that we were at Wiawaka. My mother and I did some wading and then found two Adirondack chairs under the pine trees to sit in while our feet dried. We expended a small amount of energy visiting and eating, and had a great day despite the high humidity and high temperatures.

A second place to go is to the newly restored Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Madison Avenue in Albany. The Cathedral has tours every Wednesday at 1 p.m. Okay, so the cathedral was hot (except in the chilly crypt!). Poor Father Pape wiped his brow continuously during the tour. Still, seeing this Albany landmark is worth finding the time in the middle of a weekday, especially for those of us who are not Catholic and would not be planning to visit this wonderful building for Mass. My friend, Cathy, and I forfeited our weekly music rehearsal and it was well worth it--Mozart could wait.

In the Spring, the Times Union had piqued our interest with a feature story on the cleaning, painting, rebuilding, rewiring, and upgrading that has been taking place over the past few years at the Cathedral. Cathy and I loved seeing the bright stained-glass windows that had come out from under 150 years of dust and dirt; we admired new lighting that focused on the cleaned and painted statues, and were fascinated by freshly painted walls and ceilings done with historic accuracy based on paint chips that had been dissected at a lab; we looked closely at glistening brass fixtures, gold leaf trim enhancing fleur de lis accents, and so much more.

We were impressed that Father Pape, pastor of the Cathedral, took the time to offer these tours, but we quickly understood that this building is his passion. He began with historical background from 1842, continuing right up to his hopes for continued work into the future. He welcomed the many questions Cathy and I had about music in the church.

The hour-long tour is free, but parking in one of the two nearby state parking lots is $5. Since any of us who ventures downtown occasionally has seen the scaffolding outside of the Cathedral and has heard about the restorations inside, this is a great low-energy place to go. Even though the church is warm on a hot day, the tall plaza buildings near this section of Madison Avenue create a wind tunnel that provided a welcome breeze as we returned to the car.

A third place that I have been during the heat wave is Lake Myosotis in Rensselaerville. Rensselaerville is a charming village about a half-hour southwest of Albany. The temperature is easily 7 or 8 degrees cooler than Albany which is why schools close here often in the winter.

The beach and parking lot on Lake Myosotis are private for residents of the town who pay an annual fee. Even on a hot day, just a few families use the property. The rest of us have to hike in, but have no fear, this hike is short and not strenuous. Bill and I walked through the woods and sat on a picnic table in grassy shade by the lake, soaking up the breeze (which seemed to have been missing in Albany!). Kingfishers flew into the treetops and dove for fish in the water, while the occasional duck or goose swam by. Across the way, a heron stood poised in a marshy area.

From the Huyck Preserve parking in the village, a path goes up along one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Capital Region. From the top of the falls, you can either walk directly to the lake or hike around the lake to Lincoln Pond and then back to the Myosotis beach area. Non-residents like us cannot swim at the beach, but a short walk beyond the beach area offers waterfront where a beach chair would be comfortable and wading in water shoes over the stones refreshing. A chair, a book, a snack, some free time, and just enough energy to get you to and from your car, are all you need to enjoy Lake Myosotis on a hot day.

And then there is the occasional morning at home, like this past Sunday, when the air seemed suddenly drier and cooler after the nighttime storm. A breeze came through the porch where breakfast outdoors and the Sunday newspaper made us feel like home was the best place to be.


  1. What great hot weather suggestions! I had to smile when you mentioned the cathedral and Fr. Pape, who was associate pastor at St. Peter's here in Saratoga in the mid '70s and a truly great guy.

    I think of my little canoe as my own private resort, since it can carry me off to water holes anytime if feel hot. And what a hot summer we're having. Ugh! Give me 20 below over 95 above any day.

    I loved to imagine you and your mom at Wiawaka. Lovely!

  2. Sounds relaxing and refreshing, especially that day on Lake George!