Working hard but playing harder in Cape Cod

George made a big splash in Cape Cod last month. Here, he shows off his best side for the camera!

It didn’t take much to entice the Mobil Man to bag the gas station for a day and assist with a fun commercial shoot at the Ship’s Knees Inn in Orleans. The fruits of our labor are proudly displayed on their website. Check it out and while you’re at, book a night or two. Don’t forget to bring your bikes.

After a day of shooting, I gave the old man a day of rest – that is my version of ‘rest’. From early morning to late afternoon, we biked 50 miles of the 114 miles of bike paths (some in progress, some planned) on Cape Cod. Our route took us past five mid-to-lower-Cape towns all worthy places to break for briny seaports, sandy beaches and delectable seafood hotspots.

We detoured briefly from the Rail Trail to visit the 1838Nauset (or Nawsett) Bay Lighthouse not far from the Cape Cod National Seashore’s Salt Pond Visitor Center. The popular stop afforded us shade and seating to share our pre-made gourmet sandwiches. Thank you to Friend’s Marketplace in downtown Orleans.

For dinner, at the suggestion of the owner of the Ship’s Knees Inn, we dined on oysters, standing-style, on the porch of The Beachcomber. The busy waterfront bar are celebrating their 40th year. They’re one of the few restaurants bordering the Atlantic on the Cape. It’s accolades include being voted “One of the Best Seaside Dining Spots in New England” by Yankee Magazine, one of the “Best Bars in America” by Esquire and #10 on the Travel Channel’s “Twenty-One Sexiest Beach Bars in the World.”

This fall, a long-awaited extension of the Rail Trail will open in Yarmouth. Long-range plans call for extending the trail farther westward to Barnstable. You can bet that my biking buddy and I will be back for that.

The Electric City has always been Grrreat!

The Electric City has something old and something new and both with the same name: Great Flats.

The Great Flats, or the Schenectady Aquifer, is a “unique groundwater resource and is one of the most productive aquifers in New York State” so says the Schenectady County website.

Living up to its name, Mom, sis and myself found the Great Flats Nature Trail a perfectly horizontal trail cushioned by a bed of grass. Ideal for slower pokes like my sister who has a hard time walking over rocks, roots or up hills.

The trailhead is, technically, in Rotterdam and not far from the commercial hubbub of a beleaguered mall, now partly an Aquarium. A few short minutes into the hike the din of traffic faded replaced by nesting robins and croaking amphibians.

And now the new: the Great Flats Brewery. In keeping with our “Great” theme, Mom and I quenched our thirst with a fleet of craft picks and 1 pint of cask-aged stout with a hint of cherries. Delish.

Once a fitness gym, the brewery has been opened since March 2017. There are 8 clear garage doors flooding plenty of light onto the tanks, fermentors and home-made milling station on one end. On the other are colorful boxes of flowers dressing up the front parking lot.

We sat at a hightop table with trendy metallic chairs that spill onto the outside allowing just enough space for our toy poodle to loiter with us.

Because we were hungry, the head brew master suggested we order sandwiches from the cafe around the corner: Puzzles. Some of the proceeds go to help children with autism. That works for us.

Schroon Lake with my favorite meterologist

Does this tanned beauty look familiar? No, not the driver. The face on the right!

On-camera meteorologist for The Weather Channel Kelly Cass and her family were in the Capital Region vacationing at Schroon Lake last week. Kelly and I used to work together at local CBS affiliate WRGB (Channel 6) eons ago. Ever summer, we attempt to reunite at her rustic family camp active with generations of really extraordinary swimmers.

Kelly’s refuge in the Adirondacks, like most lake home owners, is burdened with rising water levels this year due to heavy rains. However, the temperature in shallower spots is mostly in the high 70s and perfect for swimming.

Schroon Lake changes as quickly as those who live around her beautiful shoreline. I took note of dozens more homes on the east shore during a guided boat excursion with Kelly’s husband Kevin. He waxed nostalgically about his early days on this lake, learning how to waterski and fish.

“And over there,” points Kevin, “is an old summer camp where the movie Marjorie Morningstar was filmed with Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly.”

All that’s left of the famous 1958 hollywood hit is a NY State campground. Beware you’ll pay a small fee to park your craft to tour the grounds.

While my friend got ready to “do-si-do” the annual Schroon Lake Square Dance, a tradition held every Wednesday evening in the summer since the 1930s, I unfortunately had to head back down the Northway.

If I ever win the lottery, this is the kind of lake community I’d make memories at more than once a year.

I’ve been visiting the Cass Camp since her teenagers were teeny tiny fish, like this one!

An angler’s paradise eludes my rod and reel

Do you like to drop line? I’m proud to brag that my hometown is easily considered the freshwater fishing capital of the world. Elite tournaments like the Bassmaster and weekly fishing derbies attract the best anglers in the country.

Dad can attest to massive schools of fish caught on four river systems that converge in Massena, NY: the Grasse, St. Regis, Raquette and St. Lawrence Rivers. He’s fished them all since his days in diapers.

In nothing more than a 12-foot aluminum rowboat, Dad has caught hefty largemouth bass, walleye, giant muskie and northern pike. His sturdy skiff was bought used from a friend in 1972 for no more than $125. (No surprise if you know pop.)

Today, he was determined to show off years of trawling prowess by returning to his favorite spot straddling the border of Ontario, Canada. Over the years, the turbulent waters near the massive Moses-Saunders Power Dam have been incredibly kind to many anglers.

So, sporting two big plastic pails for hooking bounty, we launched our humble craft alongside bigger outfits. Sometimes, it’s not he who owns the biggest boat but, rather, he (or she) with the most passion.

We made our way under the Barnhart Island bridge to a spillway called the Long Sault Dam. Earlier this spring, the New York Power Authority made a decision to open the gates to help to ease unusually high water levels. Past experience says this action unleashes a treasure trove of hungry biters.

So, using a variety of bait on a bunch of fishing poles, we waited and waited and waited. In a depth of probably 30 feet the only thing we hauled in was St. Lawrence seaweed. Snags and an invasive species called the tubenose goby were the other two nuisances.

Dad became discouraged but 12 year old nephew Payen remained hopeful. After an hour, we lifted anchor and drifted downstream trying other fishing methods. A swooping blue heron gracefully kept up with the fast current.

Several soggy sandwiches later we let the dream of a fish fry fade with the afternoon sun. Ominous clouds loomed overhead so we headed for port.

While putting the boat back on the hitch, we learned that even professional fishing guides were striking out.
Empty bucket or not, I stand by my original comment and we’ll be back again to prove it.

Scents of St. Lawrence County, NY

Sniff the behind of a beaver? Icky. Gross. Ewwww! No thank you!

But, take a whiff of excretion we did and, guess what, it’s not half bad. In fact, the fragrance reminded me of vanilla flavoring with a hint of spicy incense.

Apparently, the castor sacs near a beavers’ anal glands hold castoreum, an extract used for centuries in perfumes and leather upholstery.

Animal odors native to St. Lawrence County are just one of the many eccentric factoids you’ll discover at the new state of the art Nacandri Nature Center in Massena, NY.

This long overdue showpiece features an indoor aquarium, ponds, interactive displays and educational exhibits. It’s a unique destination for seeing live turtles, snakes, insects and fish up close – all collected from the local ecosystem. There’s also some incredible lifelike displays of foxes, birds, bears, beavers and more.

Come winter, the Center encourages visitors to make use of a room full of free snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals for children and adults. Guided hikes near bald eagles nests and the mud fortresses of busy beavers are available year round. Cozy up near the wood-burning fire pit after the fun.

Not surprising, the beautifully designed building is a living example of the architecture of the future.
It’s completely LEED-certified made up of geothermal walls, sustainable flooring, energy-efficient lighting and recycled materials in the counter tops, window sills and drywall.

For more information on this nature center and the majestic St. Lawrence River, visit the Nicandri Nature Center website and the North Country Guide website.

Biking the Warren County Rail Trail

The rolling hills of the Warren County Rail Trail are just as gnarly as riding the nearby rollercoaster at the Great Escape Six Flags theme park. Well, it can be if you don’t let the colorful history of the 15 mile bike path stop you in your tracks.

With so many interpretive signs it’s easy to resist gravity and willingly read about the many military battles and engagements fought in the area. With Independence Day looming, it felt right to slow the adventure down for a brush-up on what we remember of the French and Indian War (Seven Years’ War) and American Revolutionary War.

To begin, George and I paid and parked at the Million Dollar Beach parking lot in Lake George. The trail begins right behind it – plus a good drenching following the ride makes for a nice incentive.

Unlike other Rail Trails this one is nearly completely shaded. An awning of full-growth pines and balsam firs canopy the north-to-south serpentine ribbon. Occasionally, soft aromatic pine needles spiral down from above landing on you and carpeting your tire tracks.

Lurking in the woods is what others might consider nostalgic but I found a wee bit creepy: The Magic Forest. A cluster of aging statue relics litter the sparse parking lot.

After a few more twists and turns, we come to the end of the paved section. We can hear the hoots and hollers from guests enjoying the Great Escape. Rather than bike towards the commotion, we follow Birdsall Rd to the dead end. We envy the lucky homeowners with waterfront access to beautiful Glen Lake.

Speaking of lucky, should you find yourself near Glen Lake, take a timeout for lunch or dinner at the Docksider restaurant. If owner Christine takes this much pride in maintaining the petunias that surround the quaint location, can you imagine how tasty the food must be?