Staten Island, Beyond the Ferry

by Sonja Stark on July 23, 2014

Island View

Nothing beats the views of the New York harbor than from the Esplanade walkway along the Northern shore of Staten Island. Better yet are the iconic landmarks seen from the Staten Island Ferry. The 30-minute boat trip is free and runs past a working waterfront, several impressive bridges and Lady Liberty.

While working in this ‘Borough of Parks’ (170 parks in total) today, I only had time for this quick photo. It’s unfortunate too because, despite having worked here many times, I’ve never explored or given the least populated borough much credit. But, there are plenty of rich heritage sites and protected parkland, destinations that are free or charge a nominal entrance fee and often overlooked by visitors. Here’s just a few of many attractions compiled from the Visit Staten Island website.

For example, one of the Oldest Military Sites in the U.S. was built here over 200 years ago. Fort Wadsworth is a formidable structure with a rich past and rangers available for tour.

Or lather on a bottle of SPF and go swimming at South Beach then horseback riding at Clay Pit Ponds State Park or bird watching at Mount Loretto Nature Preserve. Open-air retreats feature pathways, jogging trails and ballfields. Hundreds of acres of preserved forests gives way to meadows, wetlands, ponds, and parks.

Staten Island is home to a number of galleries, featuring the works of local and world renowned artists, both classical and contemporary. Like the Alice Austen house, one of America’s earliest and most prolific female photographers. Review her collection that includes over 8,000 images over the course of her life. Though she is best known for her documentary work, Austen was an artist with a strong aesthetic sensibility. Furthermore, she was a landscape designer, a master tennis player, and the first woman on Staten Island to own a car.

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Whitewater Rafting Challenge in the Adirondacks

by Sonja Stark on July 20, 2014

White Water“I grew up in the 50′s when the expression ‘Up the creek without a paddle’ had a whole different meaning,” said Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, speaking at the Adirondack Challenge at Gore Mountain in North Creek, a few minutes ago.

Earlier in the day, donning life preservers and wielding big sticks, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo and several of his brave cronies took to rafting class 3 rapids. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and his team, all dripping wet in green t-shirts, soaked in the competition by racing each other down the Hudson River Gorge.

I was wedged into my own raft alongside travel writers from around the world: India, Russia, Scotland, even Vietnam. Local WNYT reporter, Dan Bezile sat on the raft to my left, screaming with delight, as he plunged his paddle into the refreshing drink. None of us, with the exception of the Indian writer would have minded if the raft capsized so we could enjoy a summer swim.

This was the 2nd Annual Adirondack Challenge with the goal of highlighting all the beauty and recreational opportunities available to visitors to the North Country. Hundreds were invited to participate both in the race and attend a late lunch and press conference at Gore Mountain following the excitement.

“The North Country is coming back big time!” Cuomo said as he wrapped up his pitch to attract more tourism to the area.

TBA: Should I find a fast internet connection here in North Creek tonight, I’ll edit the GoPro footage and upload it for your viewing pleasure!

PHOTO 2

PHOTO 3

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Richardson's Tavern

Richardon's Canal House

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“The Richardson’s Canal House used to be hostel, private home, tavern, apartment, even a brothel!” said our server as he handed us dinner menus.

Just shy of 200 years, the charming former stagecoach stop is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and visiting here, you can easily see why. Built during a time when General Andrew Jackson was president and Congress decided on 13 red & white stripes and 20 stars for the flag, it’s a mirror-image of the year 1818.

Antique furnishings, rustic mahogany bar, patio bordering the beautiful Erie Canal, this restaurant is a magnate for history-buffs, celebrities, politicians and everyday locals alike. We enjoyed a view of the boats cruising by and delicious entrees from the Grill Menu – quite literally prepared on a grill not far from us.

Visit Pittsford, NY soon to experience the same!

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Art and Nature in Schoharie County, NY

by Sonja Stark on July 14, 2014

Jason Schultz Hanging ArtSculptural welding artist, Jason Schultz, is a master of both the monumental and the intimate. You might find him handling a 600-pound hanging mobile of reclaimed industrial metals (seen on the left) or maybe, something more personal, like a decorative necklace adorned with deer antlers.

Or, he might be inspired to do a ‘drip and splash’ scene on the canvas of an antique door – an aesthetic similar to Pollock. Wherever his imagination takes him, his abstract pieces aim to please.

Dozens of visitors attended the gallery show at Wellington’s Herbs and Spices in Schoharie County on Sunday. A larger-than-life size gecko piece could be found crawling out of the main pond. A floppy-eared pup made of nuts and bolts sat on the cafe bench. Depending on interpretation, one of Schultz’s outdoor pieces (and my favorite) could be a daisy or a blazing sun. Either way, portions of his sales go to support the Farm to School Project in Schoharie and that’s always a good thing.

Click on links for more information on Jason Schultz or Wellington’s or the Farm-to-School Project.

Wellington's Herbs and Spices

Wellington's Herbs and Spices

Wellington's Herbs and Spices

Wellington's Herbs and Spices

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Day 8, Chittenango to Utica, NY

by Sonja Stark on July 7, 2014

Geese_in_PathThe Journey Along the Erie Canal crew enjoyed a much deserved day of respite Sunday but, come Monday, it was back to work as usual. Except today was not usual.

While driving out to the starting point this morning, I was followed by a looming black cloud. Might that portend an ill-fated 43 miles for the bikers? I hoped not. But, then again, a little drama would be nice.

At the ARC ceremony, John Robinson made a point of recognizing the town’s most celebrated author, L. Frank Baum of “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Today, I don’t have to create a fictitious world. There is a world of people with differing abilities all around us,” said Robinson.

Baum was born and raised in Chittenango and every June, the village celebrates with Oz-Stravaganza. This year, Roger Baum, great grandson of L. Frank Baum, served as the Grand Marshal during the parade.

There were no parades today. Instead, it was an excruciating day of flat tires, felled trees on the trail, mosquito bites, goose poop and random torrential downpours. After 10 miserable hours dodging setbacks, indeed, everyone was clicking their heels three times and repeating the words… ‘There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.’

There will be no video to accompany tonight’s blog. I’d easily turn into the Wicked Witch of the North if I don’t get enough sleep tonight!

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Trail of Hope and peppermint in Lyons, NY

by Sonja Stark on July 5, 2014

Peppermint Days in Lyons NY

Trail of Hope Sign

In the 1800′s, Peppermint was the cash crop that turned Lyons, NY into a thriving mecca. The Erie Canal was used to transport endless shipments of peppermint oil to countries around the world. Lyons was once even known as the “Peppermint Oil Capital of the World.”

Starting on Saturday, July 14, the annual Peppermint festival kicks off with commemorative activities happening throughout downtown, at the Hotchkiss Peppermint Building and on the Erie Canal. But, not far from celebration is a park where the hybrid mint can actually be smelled, touched and tasted.

It’s the Trail of Hope, a Trail Works, Inc. in conjunction with Forever Wild for Everyone collaboration, designed to connect children and the disabled with the wonders of Mother Nature.

Build on land adjacent to the Lyons Community Center, the project is the brainchild of local resident and community organizer, Mark De Cracker. Thanks to an endless supply of volunteers the following has been build: dozens of flower and herb gardens, a covered bridge, several waterfalls and ponds, raised beds of perennials and vegetables, sod furniture, even a Yellow Brick Road.

To view the video that complements this blog: http://youtu.be/31d4VJcIDOQ

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