August 2015 – Lake George, New York

The trip from Green Mountains of Vermont to the Adirondack Mountains of New York was the most challenging we had done pulling the RV over mountain roads.  Thankfully, the state highway followed a river most of the way, so the uphill and downhill grades were not too bad.  The truck handled it well, but for the first time we had trouble maintaining speed up some of the uphill grades.  I am still concerned about the turbo on the truck as it still makes a lot of noise that it did not do prior to the problem we had in Maine.  This was the first time we questioned the power, but until we get more experience of how it handles under a load we can’t know for sure.  We were a bit dismayed as we approached the campgrounds in Lake George as the area was much more of a “tourist trap” then we had ever stayed in.  The number of amusement parks, water parks, and mini-golf courses, not to mention the number of restaurants and gift shops reminded me of the Florida tourist traps along the beaches.  In fact, there was a small amusement park with rides and ferris wheel just across the street from the campground (they even had a show with a diving horse twice a day!).  However, King Phillips Campground is very large and the further we traveled back into the campground they more rustic it became.  Those RV sites near the entrance were packed in close with little room between the rigs, but those further in were spacious with lots of trees.  In fact, we were concerned that we would get lost trying to find our site, especially when the “road” became dirt and turned in such a way up a hill that we were not certain it was a road or a camping site until we were committed.  I had to back it up at one point to make a turn around another car parked very close to the “road” and nearly got it stuck in the dirt before the truck got enough traction to pull us around the corner.  Once we got to our pull-through site we were very pleased.  It had full hookups, but had more the feel of a state park with the room and tree cover.  Through the week we were there I was surprised with the number of families that were camping around us in everything from tents to pup-up campers.  Usually the large RV are separate from the tent campers, so it was nice to be all mixed together for a change.


On Tuesday we took off to explore Fort Ticonderoga, which is the one location I wanted to visit while we were in the area.  I knew some of the history of Fort Ticonderoga from school and had heard a lot about it from our visits to other military sites in the past year dealing with the Revolutionary War or the French and Indian War.  For instance, I knew that General Knox had taken many of the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga at the beginning of the Revolutionary War to drive the British out of Boston and that the Continental Army was not able to hold onto later in the war.  What I did not expect was that Fort Ticonderoga is administered by a non-profit foundation that has been restoring the fort over the years.  Today most of the fort has been restored to its historical condition, although restoration will continue to be an ongoing process.  In fact, restoration began in 1909, so much of the fort today is over 100 years old, where the original fort only lasted for less than 50 years!!  It is expensive to visit the fort, unlike the National Parks, but they put on a very good show.  There are programs throughout the day from military parades of fife and drum to musket drill demonstrations and onsite craftsmen making shoes and clothes.  All of the staff on in period clothes from the time of the French when it was called Fort Carillon.  It was only after the British captured the fort in 1759 that the name was changed to Fort Ticonderoga.  As we entered the fort they were in the midst of a musket drill demonstration.  While we had seen muskets loaded and fired many times in the past year, this was the first time there were three individuals that could demonstrate firing patterns to be used in open conditions or over walls like at the fort.  Immediately following this demonstration they had a tour that provided an overall picture of the many artifact exhibits within the fort.  Coming from exploring the ruins of Fort Saint Frederic and Fort Crown Point last week, the comparison with a completely restored fort.  Even though Fort Crown Point was nearly twice the size of Fort Ticonderoga, I really could not appreciate the magnitude and firepower by looking at ruins.  Over the years they have managed to obtain sufficient cannons and mortars to fully outfit the defenses at Fort Ticonderoga and it makes a VERY impressive display.  Granted the cannon are from all over being of French, British, Spanish, Dutch, and American manufacturers, but they are all from the time period.


After lunch ate at a picnic area outside the fort, we returned to the fort to spend the next couple of hours in the many exhibits they have.  There are exhibits about the medical practices of the time, the many firearms including the largest collection of muskets in the world of all kinds, and the cooking and eating utensils.  They had artisans making shoes and clothing that you could talk with.  Finally there was a short film about the history of the fort and a climate controlled room where they displayed original uniforms worn by both the British and French during the French and Indian War.  Fort Ticonderoga played a major role in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.  During the French and Indian War, the French built Fort Carillon to protect the access to Lake Champlain from Lake George as part of the defensive forts along Lake Champlain.  From here the French successfully defended access to the lake from attempts by the British in 1757 and 1758, leading to the largest number of casualties in North America before the Civil War in 1758.  However, in 1759 the French had to abandoned the fort due to a lack of troop needed to defend it and the British took over.  With the end of the French and Indian War, the fort was no longer needed and it fell into disrepair.  Thus at the beginning of the Revolutionary War it was relatively unattended and easily captured by Ethan Allen.  Most of the cannon were then taken from the fort by General Knox down to the Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston to drive the British from their occupation of the city.  The Patriots repaired the fort and built additional fortifications on Mount Independence on the east side of Lake Champlain.  However, they did not fortify Mount Defiance to the southwest which overlooked the fort believing it was not possible to pull cannon to this location.  When the British did exactly that in 1777, the Patriots abandoned both Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence.  This effectively ended any American hope of defeating the British in Canada.


From there we got into the truck and drove the short distance to The Pavilion, which was the summer home and hotel of the Pell family that bought the property in the late 1800s and began the restoration of the fort in 1909.  Someday The Pavilion will be a great addition to the tourist attraction, but it has been closed for a number of years and is in very bad shape.  It will take a lot of restoration before it can be opened to the public. However, they have maintained the formal gardens behind the Pavilion that is enclosed by a brick wall.  The gardens were beautiful in the late summer with flowers of every color in all directions.  They also have an extensive garden outside the walls which is a demonstration of the gardens the soldiers living in the fort would have supplemented their diet.  They had every imaginable vegetable and herb growing along with apple trees in an old orchard.  Kal also saw some Ospreys overhead and was able to locate their nest which still had a young one just learning to fly.  She got some great pictures of them in the trees surrounding the area and in flight.


Wednesday was spent enjoying the campground and working on this blog.

For Thursday, we decided to stay close and check out the Lake George Battlefield Park in Lake George.  This is a city park that protects the location of this battle during the first year of the French and Indian War.  At that time, both the British and French, along with their Indian allies, sought to control this important route between New York City and Montreal that traveled up the Hudson River, portaged over to Lake George, and portaged again to Lake Champlain on the way to Canada.  At the beginning of the French and Indian War the French had a major fort at Crown Point on Lake Champlain where the lake is narrowed by the peninsula named Fort Saint Frederic (which we visited last week).  The closest British fort was Fort Edward on the Hudson River.  In an attempt to attack Fort Saint Frederic, the British sent a fighting force of 1500 men north to Lake George from Fort Edward, in 1755.  However, the French had also sent a force of about 1500 men south from Fort Saint Frederic to raid Fort Edward.  After capturing supplies around Fort Edward, the French learned of the encampment of the British to their north on the south shore of Lake George and decided to attack them instead of the Fort.  Although initially successful in ambushing British reinforcements from Fort Edward, their attack on the entrenched position at Lake George was not successful and they had to retreat back to their fortifications at Fort Saint Frederic.  As part of a string of forts the British built Fort William Henry near this location in 1755, from which they staged multiple attempts to gain control of Lake Champlain.  This fort lasted only 2 years, because in 1757, the French laid a siege on the fort and after three days of bombardment they British surrendered the fort.  The French then systematically dismantled the fort.  Fort William Henry has now been rebuilt and is a major tourist attraction today, however, since we had just been to see the rebuilt Fort Ticonderoga we decided against visiting it.  In 1759, they began the construction of a new fort, Fort George, on the high ground to the south of Fort William Henry, however, once they began the massive construction of Fort Crown Point on Lake Champlain in 1760 all construction of this fort ended. All they had completed was the southwest bastion which you can still see today.  Exploring the park took only about 1.5 hours, so we had a nice picnic lunch at Fort George and returned to the campgrounds.


Friday was devoted to doing the laundry and cleaning the RV.

Up to this point we did not know what else we could do in the area.  In the past, I had pinned in GoogleEarth all the state parks and New York has a LOT of them.  But for some reason there are none in this part of the state.  Once I got on the Internet I found out why.  This entire part of the state is part the largest state park in the United States: Adirondack Park, with its own state agency to administer it.  Originally conceived as a means to protect the water resources of the state it grew into a massive conservation effort in the Adirondack Mountains.  Today the park encompasses 6.1 million acres, 52% of which are privately owned in towns, farms, businesses, and commercial forests.  The rest is all owned by the state, but all of it is strictly regulated by the Adirondack Agency.  Once I got only to their official website, I found a couple of great publications on the numerous hiking trails and driving tours you can take in the area.  Since we only had a couple of days left in the area, we decided to do a couple of easy hikes close to Lake George.  First we went to Charles Lathrop Pack Forest where there was an easy paved nature trial through old-growth hemlock forests.  It turns out that this forest is a demonstration and research forest owned by SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry.  It was a great trail winding through some wetlands dominated by large old growth hemlock trees.  The most notable spot was The Grandmother Tree, which is a very large white pine that is over 350 years old.  It should be noted that although the hemlock trees are all over 100 years old, they are not old-growth in my definition since the entire area was cleared and farmed at one time, but for some reason this white pine was never cut.


After lunch we went in search of another nature hike along the Hudson River.  Although we never actually found the nature hike listed in the brochure, we did find a parking area along the river with trails laid out for cross country skiing.  This gave us access to a number of nice spots along the river, as well as, the forests along the riverbank.  I know from what we have learned about Lake Champlain that the Hudson River was part of the travel route between New York City and Montreal back in the 18th century, but from what I saw of the Hudson River it would not be navigable by anything larger than a canoe.  It was little more than rocky shoals in August, although I am sure it would be deeper during the spring and early summer.


For our last day in the area I had planned to take one of the driving tours in the Adirondack and possibly a short hike, but I began sneezing as soon as I got out of bed and did not stop all morning.  It was nothing more than a severe allergy attack, but I was not interested in riding around in the truck all day, so we decided to just stay in the campground for another day.

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