48 hours in the Central Adirondacks

by Sonja Stark on August 18, 2014

Annual Upper Hudson Bluegrass Festival at the Ski Bowl in North Creek, NY

Annual Upper Hudson Bluegrass Festival at the Ski Bowl in North Creek, NY

Old Forge is the gateway to the Adirondacks. On the tip of 4th Lake, it’s the ideal base camp to start your adventure into nearby hamlets like Big Moose, Eagle Bay, Inlet and Blue Mountain. In the winter, it’s regarded as “The Snowmobile Capital of the East” but in the summer it becomes the paddling destination of the upstate New York.

In fact, I launched my canoe at the start of the Adirondack Canoe Classic from Old Forge a few years ago. But there’s also the Adirondack PaddleFest, the MooseFest whitewater rally and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

I took the family to Old Forge this weekend with the intention of canoeing but instead we jumped in a glacial lake, shopped for kitchy souvenirs, hiked around Moss Lake, peaked around a secluded Adirondack Great Camp, lucked out with the last available room at a notorious hostel and attended a blue grass festival. For not planning anything in advance, we sure saw, heard, tasted and experienced a lot!

48 Hours in the Adirondacks

48 Hours in the Adirondacks

48 Hours in the Adirondacks

48 Hours in the Adirondacks

48 Hours in the Adirondacks

48 Hours in the Adirondacks

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Agritourism at Schoharie County Farms

by Sonja Stark on August 13, 2014

Family Farm DaySchoharie County farms once again will celebrate their proud farming tradition by hosting the 2nd Annual Schoharie County Family Farm Day, Saturday, August 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Soak in the quiet natural surroundings while you visit working farms and meet local farmers throughout the county. Sample farm-fresh products and enjoy farm demonstrations, activities, tours, and more, all for free! Bring a cooler to take home authentic farm-fresh products.

Find the Farm Guide at participating farms and farmer’s markets, select visitor centers in the Capital District and Green and Otsego Counties. Or, download a PDF version of the Farm Guide at www.FamilyFarmDay.org.

The Farm Guide will help you discover the diversity of farm products at the 22 participating farms and three farmers’ markets, all of which are prepared to assure that you and your family and friends have a wonderful day. A limited supply of insulated tote bags will be available for shoppers.

Family Farm Day is brought to you by Cornell Cooperative Extension Schoharie and Otsego Counties, the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce, and our participating sponsors. For a complete listing of sponsors and more information on Family Farm Day, visit www.familyfarmday.org.

And don’t forget to “Like” their Facebook page by visiting www.facebook.com/FamilyFarmDay and stay in touch with the latest Family Farm Day news. Please, also visit the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce at http://www.schohariechamber.com/ for a complete listing of events and accommodations in Schoharie County.

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Biking the Ididaride Adirondack Tour

by Sonja Stark on August 11, 2014

Ididaride Challenge

Conditions yesterday were absolutely perfect for a 75-mile bike tour through the Adirondacks called, quite aptly, ‘The Ididaride.’   The weather was beautiful and sunny, the roads were clean of debris, the relief tents were stocked with ripe bananas, peanut butter and salty potato chips and everyone’s spirits were high.

ADK Mountain Club Director Deborah Zack sounded the call of the start of the tour.    We shoved off at 8:30a with my GoPro camera rolling on the thunderous momentum of 475 bikers from all across the state, even the country, snapping their shoes to their pedals and waving goodbye. It would be roughly 6 hours and 40 minutes before I’d make it back again…. though at the time, I doubted the odds of being in one piece or even alive.

Biking Route 8, under a canopy of shade trees and rolling hills proved the only distance I really enjoyed.

The first break I picked at a few bananas, a handful of chips and a couple slices of watermelon.  I would do the same at all 5 stops, each for about five to 10 minute, but more and more with desperate vigor.

Route 30 heading north was a challenge.  The wide and roomy shoulders did little to comfort me from bands of ear-piercing Harley motorcycles flying by or the random truck camper getting uncomfortably close.   And, then there’s the elevation.  Good GOD – the elevation!  We’re talking 6,840 feet of climbing on a road bike.   At times, I was going so slow, weaving and bobbing, that I nearly fell over.  

Oh sure – I could have walked my bike up certain stretches but have you ever tried clicking out of a bike pedal at four miles per hour?  It’s impossible.  My only option was to grin and bear it.

At the 33-mile rest stop, I stopped whining just long enough to meet 83-year old Walt McConnnell.   McConnell was getting his water bottle refilled and sporting a very rad Primal Wear frog bike jersey, something a young hipster from California would wear.   He was just the inspiration I needed.

“This is nothing. At 77 years, I rode across the country raising money for scholarships,” said McConnell, matter-0f-factly.   It was then and there that I started feeling optimistic again.

Why do the Ididaride at all?

Good question.  In my case, I do it only to check it off on a bucket list of things that I feel certain that I can never accomplish.   I don’t enjoy the pain and anxiety of facing my fears (I’m not a masochist)  but, rather, and I think many will say the same, it’s that sense of achievement, satisfaction, pride and fulfillment you get at the finish line that cancels out all the angst and agony. It’s a personal reward that lasts longer than anything else – longer than an arrival number or bragging rights among friends or the tasty beer and free buffet you get at the end of this ride.   It’s something I probably won’t do again because so many more challenges await on my bucket list, however it sure feels good when I can checked them off.  

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Thousand Islands of charm on Wellesley

by Sonja Stark on August 4, 2014

The Wellesley Hotel

Wellesley Island Tabernacle With no less than three State Parks and three golf courses, Wellesley is one of the largest islands in the St. Lawrence River. It’s accessible by driving over a hyper tall (150 feet) but super narrow bridge from Cape Vincent, NY, a US/Canada connector first christened by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.

Besides flora and fauna, there’s also a summer community of part-time residents that vacation on the southern tip in large Victorian homes with wrap-around porches and quaint fishing cottages. This is a retreat, a place to unwind, a hamlet of childhood homes that are passed down from generation to generation. Wild flowers of purple irises and yellow daisies border crumbling sidewalks and loose gravel roads.

Few people are hardy enough to brave winters on the island. My friend Marie escapes the din and dust of Delaware to vacation here in the warm months. She can vouch for the relentless isolation and blinding snow storms that hammer the St. Lawrence Seaway in the winter. But, in the summer, it’s a dream.

The district is referred to as The Thousand Island Park (TIP) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Founded in 1875 as a Methodist tent city, the colony has manifested beyond its religious sentiment and is now a draw for anyone who likes to soak in history and the natural beauty.

We didn’t have time to dine but the grand Wellesley Hotel, built in 1903, with it’s renovated veranda and historic vibe, was busy with evening dinners. Marie’s son works as one of five cooks and returned home with a wad of tips and the smell of raw oysters.

The noble Tabernacle is still a center for rallies, arts and crafts, films and socializing. And, the Pavilion, once used to dock steamers and skiffs, is aging well thanks to a fresh coat of paint and meticulous maintenance.

Unlike its pious beginnings, visitors are welcome to visit without being charged an admission fee. Enjoy a Saturday at the Farmer’s Market, or fly a kite on the Gazebo Green or peruse history at the TIP museum or bring your binoculars and cheer on the Regatta Fun Day.

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A North Country Museum in the making

by Sonja Stark on July 27, 2014

St Lawrence Power and Equipment Museum

St. Lawrence Power and Equipment Museum

Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of local volunteers and contributors, a living museum in St. Lawrence county, is shaping up to be one of the best preserved farmsteads in all of the North Country.

The planning stages started 10-years ago and today, visitors can enjoy unique exhibitions including an antique horse equipment building, a working lumber mill, a cobbler’s workshop, a maple sugar house, a vintage Texaco gas station, granary, chicken house, and a collection of old-fashion treasures from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The pre-1855 one-room schoolhouse is nearly finished as is the antique gas and stream tractor building which already houses dozens of donated relics.

On Saturday, museum members Uncle Wayne and Judge Don “Mr. Fix It” Lustyik gave me a tour of the 100-acre grounds preserved in Madrid, NY. During the visit, I bumped into other Capital Region history buffs, Al and Patricia Visconti of Ravena, NY, both heavily immersed in a description of a wooden hand-crank ice cream maker. “Manually turning this crank shaft (pointing to the arm) would take hours but the taste was better than you’d find in today’s ice cream,” said Marcia Oney, another member of the museum.

Future projects include the construction of an early textile shop, an equine pavilion, a blacksmith shop and the reconstruction of one of last remaining unmodified log cabins in the region.

One of the museum’s most impressive and busiest events is the Old Fashion Harvest Days Exhibition on Labor Day weekend. Give yourself ample time to explore all the unique and unusual valuables.

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Across the bay in another world; Kings Point

by Sonja Stark on July 25, 2014

Kings Point

Kings Point Mansion

Kings Point Mansion

“And that over there sits the Great Gatsby house,” said my waiter as he extended his arm across Manhasset Bay, in the direction of where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived and wrote one of the greatest love stories of all time.

I’m in Port Washington, NY, on the north shore of Long Island, at a popular oyster bar called Louie’s enjoying all things lobster: lobster beer, bisque and hot roll. Voted Long Island’s #1 seafood restaurant five years in a row, celebrity sightings here include Singer-Songwriter Billy Joel and Actor Burt Young.

Our waterside waiter piqued our interest and after lunch we took a drive to Kings Point in a short hunt for the Great Gatsby or “West Egg” mansion. Fitting of the novel, the tree-lined hamlet wreaked of wealth, privilege and an ample number of patrolling police cars.

Trolling the bourgeois neighborhood, dozens of gasp-inducing bungalows caught our eye but none turned out to be the gluttonous excess of Jay Gatsby. Despite the beauty, the lanes of aristocracy also seem to be a very lonely place. Jennifer commented on how so few people were out enjoying their pools, patios and manicured gardens.

My proletarian Kia Sedona, not being the luxury vehicle common here, was quickly trailed by a local cop. Taking photos of the fortunes of others, from the privacy of one’s own car, isn’t illegal. Haven’t we all done it? Still, it felt a little taboo so we made our way back to the world of coupon-cutting and low octane.

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