Saturday, September 2, 2023 - Today we drove for about one and a half hours from just north of Syracuse to just north of Watertown, New York and Fort Drum Army Post. This was one of the shortest and easiest drives for us to date. Just up Highway 81 and then turn right to enter the base. Can't get much easier than that. Once we got on the post, the streets were wide and it was about five miles from the entrance to the RV campsite. It is a large base and riding bike would be easy here.
After setting up the RV, we decided to drive into Canada to see where we might be able to use our kayaks on the St. Lawrence River and to also see where we could ride our bikes. We had read about a path that goes right alongside the river on the Canadian side that is paved and long. A ranger stated that it was about 69 kilometers long or about 43 miles long. It is the Riverside Trail and sometimes called the Shoreline Trail. It is paved and travels right next to the St. Lawrence River Parkway between Gananoque, Canada and Brockville, Canada. The trail stops about nine kilometers short of Brockville to the north. It is a great trail and we plan to ride it tomorrow. We had to drive into Canada, so we needed our passports and it turned out to be a fairly easy endeavor. They just asked if we had any guns and why we were entering Canada. After our answers, we were allowed to enter the country. We only stayed there for about four hours. We drove the parkway route and checked out the bike path. We then drove to Gananoque and parked in town to check out the town. You can take a boat tour of the river from there, but we will not likely do that. We walked around town and also checked out a business that rents kayaks and does tours. After leaving Gananoque, we returned to the RV park at Fort Drum. It was Saturday, and the post we pretty quiet and deserted. We relaxed and I took a nap; pretty busy day.
Sunday, September 3, 2023 - After breakfast, we loaded the bikes on the truck and headed to Canada to ride the Shoreline Trail along the St. Lawrence River. I took some photos as we crossed over the large bridge that spans the river and takes us into Canada. We arrived at the bike path, unloaded the bikes, and began the ride. We rode to the north end of the trail from where we started and it turned out to be 15 miles. We turned around and began the return trip for another 15 miles for a total of 30 miles. The first half of the ride had the wind at our backs, so we really moved along the path. It was also just slightly downhill, so we could average about 18 mph on the outbound leg. This changed when we turned back into the wind. The speed dropped and the difficulty increased. A slight uphill ride into the wind made us work, but it was only 15 miles, so it did not trouble us that much. It was a very nice ride that we finished at about 2:00 in the afternoon.
We then decided to check out a state park where we might be able to launch the kayaks. It was called DeWolf Point State Park and it turned out to be a pretty good place to put the kayaks in the river. The river is big and swift in many places, but this location starts in a cove that does not have much current. That is good for us. We plan to launch the kayaks here at some time before we head to the next location.
We then drove back over the two large bridges that cross the river back into the United States. At the end of the bridge, there is a place where you can park and walk out onto the bridges. The pathway was narrow and only about two feet wide. This put you really close to the railing side that drops of straight down for about 160 feet to the water. On top of that, you have the traffic on the bridge on the other side and the cars and trucks are just inches away when they pass you at 40 mph. Needless to say, this was not a part of the adventure that sat well with Lisa. Lisa is afraid of heights, so she tended to stay well away from the water side of the bridge path, but this put her precariously close to the trucks that passed us on the road. I will load a couple of phots onto the blog that highlight this situation. It all worked out okay, and Lisa had to "be tough," but she made it out and back and we got some great photos from the bridge. This river is huge! There is a lot of water passing through here and it is extremely clear. We looked up the flow rate and we found that 590,000 cubic feet per second pass through here. There are motor boats of all types and sizes all over the place (it is Labor Day weekend) and then there is an occasional ocean-going ship coming through. It is a pretty impressive place to visit, but you better know what your are doing if you plan to get out onto the water.
We then drove to the town of Clayton to have lunch. There is a very nice restaurant there that is affiliated with a local winery. Unfortunately, when we arrived there, the restaurant was closed since it was Sunday. We walked about the town and found another very nice place and had a great lunch. I got a very tasty hamburger while Lisa had perogies which are homemade dough rounds filled with potatoes and cream cheese. it is like a pot sticker. She really liked them. After lunch, we walked down to the pathway that lines the shore of the river. The city has placed rows of Adirondack chairs for people to use and just relax and watch the hoard of boats go by. We sat there and saw two ocean-going ships pass by; one in each direction. We also saw lots of people fishing and boating. The water was too choppy for skiing or kayaking, but many people did boat out to their favorite island to fish. After lunch, we walked along the riverside walkways and
Monday, September 4, 2023 - Labor Day and nothing is open, so we decided to stay at the RV and completely empty the garage area in preparation for our guests, Bob and Charlotte Capp, who will be joining us on September 18th up in Vermont for a three-week tour of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Everything came out and we gave the entire back end a good scrubbing. I also checked out the bed system back there and it works fine. I also got a chance to use my new, pneumatic staple tacker to replace some trim that hgs been loosened slightly by our travels. I also loaded the racks and kayaks on the truck since we had a kayaking trip planned for Wednesday of this week. Lisa worked on the inside a lot and I worked on the outside and garage area. Our overall impression is that this is a pretty nice RV unit and seems to hold up well to our style of travel. So far, so good.
Tuesday, September 5, 2023 - Today was our day to take a boat cruise of the St. Lawrence River/Seaway from Alexandria Bay, New York, a small tourist community located right on the river northwest of Watertown, New York. This areas is referred to as, "Thousand Island" area even though there are nearly 2,000 islands on this part of the waterway. An island is defined as a piece of land at least one square foot in size that stays above the water level all year and has at least two living trees. There are some pretty small islands out there. We made reservations for the 10:00 am tour on the Uncle Sam Boat Tours "Alexandria Belle." This was a two and a half hour tour of the center of the 1000 Islands area with a stop at Heart Island to tour the Boldt Castle. We had driven to Alexandria Bay on Monday, Labor Day, to check out the location and make plans. The town was jam-packed with tourists, visitors, and campers. There was not a single place to park in town and the boat tour ship was packed with passengers on all three levels of the boat. There was a live band in town and virtually no place to walk. We did not even get out of the truck. We managed to navigate some very tight places, and due to my superior driving skill, we were able to get out of town without any damage. We had checked the weather and found that Tuesday would be a nice day, and, being after the holiday, we hoped for fewer people. What we found was a ghost town. There was nobody there. We could have parked anywhere and ended up in one of the closest spots to the tour boat. It was great. He walked the town, but nothing was open and then we returned to the tour boat to wait for our boarding time.
We boarded and the boat was off and running at exactly 10:00 am. The water was calm and clear; very clear. Apparently, some mussels that normally do not live in this river were introduced in the 1980s, and the have multiplied to billions of them. They filter the water and the entire river water is now filtered every three days. Super clear water. Also, virtually every island owned by private citizens or they are owned by the State Parks system. You cannot go on any of the private islands, but you can go on the state parks. Many of the islands have "super nice" homes (mansions) on them and they are owned by the wealthiest of people in the states or Canada. They are definitely out of our price range. There was one island though that has been up for sale for $99,000, but it is about 15 feet across and 10 feet wide. Not much room for a house. There was also another small island that did not have house on it and it was called the "Tom Thumb Island. Somebody owned it, but there was not much you could do with it. Some interesting facts about the island homes:
- Power is supplied by cable across the bottom of the river at a cost of $250 per foot.
- Sewage is kept in holding tanks and pumped out by "honey wagons" or trucks mounted on small barges that come to the island and pump the tanks.
- The International boundary between Canada and the United States meanders roughly down the middle of the river. By law, each island has to be either in Canada or the US. None are cut by the boundary.
- You are subject to Canadian customs authority if you stop at any of the Canadian islands.
- Also, you cannot fish in Canadian waters; only the Canadians can.
- There are state parks that you can access from the water or by road.
- There is a large bridge crossing the river and the toll is $3.75 US going each way.
Boldt Castle Tour - After the boat tour of the islands was nearly over, we docked and dis-embarked onto Heart Island. It used to be named "Hart" Island after the term used for a male deer, but it was changed to Heart Island when purchased by George C. Boldt who was super wealthy. Boldt was part owner and proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City during the span of time from 1890 through 1911. He became super rich and bought the island and decided to build a super large castle on it to give to his wife, Louise whom he loved very much. He spared no expense and had three hundred workers on the project beginning in 1900. It contained over 120 rooms, tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, Alster tower (children's playhouse), and a dove cote all made with materials from around the world. George had the "Heart" theme built into the many aspects of the castle including the family coat of arms. Tragedy struck in January of 1904 when Louise died suddenly of what was believed to be pneumonia. It broke George's heart, and he wired the island staff and commanded that all construction stop immediately. George could not imagine being there without Louise. He never returned to the island and George died in December of 1916. The castle lay in waste for 73 years until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977 and began to rebuild is as close as possible to what George had been planning to do. The refurbishment is ongoing and all money received from the tours of the island go directly in to the cost of the construction. It is an amazing castle to visit. I cannot tell about the castle without writing a volume. I suggest that you check out the photo gallery and read the captions on the photos to better understand what George Boldt had in mind. After our walking tour of the castle, we took a shuttle across to where we started and found a small sub sandwich shop for lunch. We then returned to the RV and Fort Drum to take a rest.
Wednesday, September 6, 2023 - Today is Lisa's birthday. We are celebrated with a kayak trip, and a steak dinner at the Longhorn Steak House in Watertown, New York. The kayaks were already loaded on the truck, so we drove for about 40 minutes to the De Wolf Point State Campground on Wellesley Island, New York.