After a month in Maine it was time to head south. We had a long travel day as we left Maine and passed through New Hampshire and Vermont before entering New York State. As soon as we entered New York I started sneezing. We are thinking either oak trees or goldenrod is bothering me. Despite the long day the miles went by quickly and before we knew it we arrived at our Lake George campsite for a week. We were glad to get checked in and settled before the bombardment of Labor Day campers arrived on Friday for the three day weekend.
Lake George is a 32 mile long lake located at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains. It drains into Lake Champlain and the St Lawrence River basin. The village of Lake George has a yearly population of around 900 which swells to over 50,000 residents during the summer season. In 1755 British colonial forces occupied the region during the French and Indian War and the lake was named Lake George for King George II. On May 31, 1791, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his daughter saying, “Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin….finely interspersed with islands, its waters limpid as crystal, and the mountain sides covered with rich groves“.
After the long travel day on Thursday and with Labor Day traffic building we stayed close to home Friday and Saturday. It was amazing to watch the campground swell to full capacity with campers setting up, kids on bikes and pedestrians everywhere.
Sunday we decided to take a scenic drive through the Adirondack Mountains. The Adirondack Park encompasses two thirds of upstate New York with over six million acres of private and state (40%) land. Nearly half the land is wilderness. There are 46 mountains that exceed an elevation of 4,000 feet. The Adirondack Park includes more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails, 3,000 lakes and ponds, more than 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 1,100 miles of highway and 120 miles of railroad. It was named after the Algonquin Indians. The Iroquois called the Algonquins “Ha-De-Ron-Dah” or “bark eaters” because they ate certain kinds of tree bark. After the Civil War the area became a summer retreat for the wealthy.
We followed one of several scenic byways which took us from Lake George to the Canadian border. We passed beautiful Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake and Tupper Lake to name just a few. We stopped along the way finding geocaches, including one less than five miles from the Canadian border. We could see the border crossing checkpoint which didn’t seem too busy considering the holiday weekend. As we headed back south towards home we entered the Akwesasne Mohawk Indian Reservation. We stopped and bought gas which was about 15 cents cheaper per gallon on the reservation.
We stopped by Saranac Lake to see the Robert Louis Stevenson cottage. The cottage was closed but we did get a picture of the outside. Stevenson lived here during the winter of 1887-1888 and the cottage has a large collection of Stevenson memorabilia. The librarian in me was glad to see it!
By now it was getting late. We reached gorgeous Lake Placid as daylight was fading. We snapped a couple shots of the lake and grabbed a late dinner. There is so much to see in Lake Placid, site of the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympics. It is on our list of places to return to someday. We arrived home late in the evening after an eleven hour sightseeing adventure.
The next day we decided to take advantage of the Labor Day holiday (therefore no city workers) and drive to Albany to see the state capitol. One goal we have is to try to see the state capitol building of every state we visit. We decided to drive first to the small town of Kinderhook to visit the home of Martin Van Buren, the 8th President of the United States. Near the house was was a tiny “Visitors Center” located in a trailer where we saw a short film on his life. Van Buren purchased his home and 130 acres of land in 1839 while President. He named the estate Lindenwald after the linden trees lining the road in front of the home. He returned here after his presidency ended. He died here in 1862.
Van Buren was president from 1837 to 1841. As president he was blamed for the depression of 1837, one of the worst depressions in U.S. history, with hostile newspapers calling him “Martin Van Ruin”. He also had problems with foreign affairs, denying Texas’ application for admission to the Union because he didn’t want to upset the balance of free and slave states.
In 1840 he was voted out of office when Whig candidate William Henry Harrison won the election. Van Buren tried to make a comeback in 1844 when he tried to win the Democratic nomination but lost to James Polk who went on to win the election. In 1848 he ran for president yet again as a third party candidate with the Free-Soil party, a group opposing extending slavery. His defeat in that election ended his political career.
Before leaving Kinderhook we visited his birthplace (the Van Buren family tavern where he was born burned long ago, no longer stands and is merely noted with a marker) and then his gravesite at the Dutch Reformed Church.
- Van Buren’s wife Hannah died in 1819 after twelve years of marriage.
- He is buried with her.
- He never remarried.
- They had four sons.
Next was Albany, capital of New York. The traffic was light and we had no problem finding parking. Albany was chartered in 1686. Robert Fulton’s steamboat made the first successful steamboat run from New York to Albany in 1807. The opening of the Erie Canal between Buffalo and Albany in 1825 caused the city to flourish. Over the years Presidents Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt all lived at one time in Albany.
The state capitol building was built in the late 1800’s.
We walked to the Governor Nelson Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, a huge government complex. This was a massive urban renewal project initiated by then Governor Rockefeller. It was started in the 1960’s and not completed until 1978. We found some geocaches in the area, including one at the Egg, a performing arts center. The plaza’s 96 acres includes more than 90 abstract impressionist paintings, sculptures and tapestries as well as the tallest building in New York state except those in New York City. The plaza also has several memorials honoring women veterans, fallen firefighters, MIA’s and Vietnam veterans.