Saturday, September 6, 2008

Upstate New York State of Mind

The Adirondack Park occupies about two thirds of update New York. That’s about 6,000,000 acres of private and public lands, nearly half of it wilderness. Drive straight south from Montreal and you simply can’t miss it. As we discovered, it is a place of rugged mountains and sheer cliffs; of rolling uplands, beaver meadows, grassy plains; of rustic cabins and crystal clear lakes.

This untamed yet peaceful reserve is also a recreation paradise where even the wildest bear is friendly to the most citified outdoorsman…

… and the good eatin’ fish practically jump into your canoe.

This latter statement is especially true when you bring the fish along in your backpack. Already smoked. In a vacuum-sealed package. With cream cheese, crackers, and a bottle of wine.

We loved the Adirondacks. But after a week we found ourselves getting a little lonely. Maybe lonely isn’t the right word. We were in need of some culture, culture illuminated with the bright lights of class and the divine brush of genius. So we descended from the hardy comforts of the backwoods and high-tailed it to Syracuse, NY. Bastion of learning. Citadel of sophistication. Hometown of the New York State Fair!

Ah, the State Fair. Celebration of the bounty gathered under the harvest moon.

Showcase of American ingenuity, invention, and innovation.

High flying spectacle of death-defying amusements and subversive oddities.

All in one place. For a short time only. If I was asked to show a first-time visitor to America one thing, one place that captured the essence of America, I would take them to a State Fair. For where else but a State Fair can you, in one easy stroll, observe all of God’s creatures, great and small, in their many states of grace?

Or should I say graceful colors?

I should mention that the cracked-voiced 4H boys who showed us these birds swore up and down that these colors are for real. They spit into their palms and laid hands on the Good Book with promises that no dyes were used. They took oaths against the health and welfare of their families that these birds did not lay ready-made Easter eggs. They assured us in writing that these animals were not some weird freaks of nature.

Which, of course, was too bad. I would have paid cash money to see a coop full of freaky Easter egg laying chickens. So we elbowed our way down the midway, money belt clutched tight, having to content ourselves with seeing the farm-fresh hams of Christmas future…

… and one of the biggest nitrate-sodden canned hams of summers’ past…

Eddy Money!

Truth be told, we were pretty far back in the crowd—so far back that the only ham we got to see up close was already sizzling with another sort of greatness.

You can be sure we took some home that night, though by the next morning things did not feel alright.

No matter, onward we drove. Over hill, through dale…

… until we found ourselves marooned on the northern shores of the great Finger Lakes. American Indian folklore holds that the Finger Lakes were formed when the Great Spirit placed His handprint on the firmament, leaving behind the most beautiful hills and lakes ever created.

The hand of the Great Spirit apparently has 11 fingers, for the region is comprised of 11 finger-shaped lakes. It makes a mere mortal like myself, poor imitation of the Great Spirit that I am, wonder why mankind is in possession of five fingers per hand for total of ten. No matter. It’s a lovely sentiment. Besides, you could strand yourself in worse places other than in the handprint of the divine. There are, however, a few better places. Case in point is The Red Door Inn, a soon-to-open bed & breakfast located in Canandaigua, NY.

Though The Red Door Inn is yet to officially open, its owners Kevin and Kathryn nonetheless took us in. Maybe it was the roadtripping ring around our collars that made them take pity on us. Or maybe they just dug the microbus … and took pity on us. Or maybe they took us in because Kevin and Kathryn are some of the most agreeable, friendly, considerate and kind-hearted people you’d ever hope to meet.

Stepping over power tools and other construction materials, Kevin gave us the grand tour of their rambling but cozy and astonishingly well-appointed house. Our bed was big enough for a king’s court. The bathtub was even bigger. We stayed for two whole days—days that revolved around fine home cooked meals and lively conversations that lasted all day and well into the night.

We were sad to bid Kevin, Kathryn and the Red Door Inn a farewell. But they’ll be officially open by the time this year is out and we’ll be back someday soon. After all, it’s only a scant 12 months between now and the opening day of the 2009 New York State Fair!


  1. Get in the Bus;

    I liked the pictures on your blog, especially the one in front of Hoss's Store in Long Lake, New York.

    I retired to Long Lake in 01/2006, my wife grew up in Long Lake.

    The Adirondack's are beautiful.

    Wilfred & Judith St.Amour

  2. Honey, quick the Polaroid!

  3. Hey long laker -- thanks for comment. The Adirondacks were completely new to us. It's a pleasure to discover new places like this. We loved it there and hope someday we can return.
    Thanks for reading!

  4. As for you, typing dutchman -- I was hoping somebody would get the inside joke on the bear-feeding pic and drop a line in the comment box to finish it.

    If anyone wants me to explain the joke, I'd be more than happy to do so. Just leave a comment here.