Baja’s Maiden Voyage: A Summer Trip to the Thousand Islands
Wednesday, August 7: Skaneateles, NY and the Sherwood Inn
We leave home on a warm and humid morning, heading to Skaneateles, New York for dinner with my cousin and her husband from Syracuse. This will be our first stop on a trip built around the Thousand Island wedding of the daughter of college friends, the same friends whose son’s wedding in June prompted our last trip to New York State.
This is the maiden voyage of Baja, built on a 2019 standard length 170-inch wheelbase Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis. The cabinets are lime green, the countertops and cabinet accent are stainless steel and the floor is a warm, speckled grey laminate. It feels to me like a beach house. The sleek, clean touch screen display is black and we trimmed it in lime green. The cup and cell phone holders are handy. Instead of a glove compartment, there is a deep shelf, angled perfectly for safe storing and easy access. Baja handles well and the ride is comfortable, even later in the day we hit heavy rain and gusting winds. Mike notices that the steering and brakes are more responsive than in older Sprinters.
About 5PM, we arrive in the pretty town of Skaneateles, at the north end of Skaneateles Lake. We park at the Sherwood Inn, a beautifully restored tavern and inn, first opened in 1807 on the stagecoach line traversing what is now Rt. 20. We walk in the drizzling rain out to the gazebo on the lake and then hang out in the van until dinner. After an excellent dinner, Mike asks the receptionist if we may stay overnight in our self-contained camper, parked in the parking lot. She says she must ask the manager and is gone a long time. When she comes back, she says that she and the manager went out to look at our camper to make sure that it didn’t have those “canvas things hanging out” (awnings?) or lawn chairs next to it. She asks for assurance that we will not be using a noisy generator. Finally, the receptionist tells us the manager asked what we looked like. “Like any of our guests,” which must mean old, white people. We got the OK. Shaking our heads and laughing, we settle in for the night behind the Sherwood Inn.
Thursday, August 8: Burmese lunch, hiking Bald Mountain, and beers at the Adirondack Hotel
After coffee and scones at the Patisserie, a charming bakery behind the Sherwood Inn, we jog along the west side of Skaneateles Lake, admiring the lovely homes and flower gardens. We are told that some Yankee baseball players have homes here.
At noon, we arrive in Utica at the home of our “Burmese family,” the refugee family of two parents and nine kids we “adopted” when they arrived in Cleveland ten years ago. After eight years of living in Cleveland, they moved to Utica to be part of a Burmese community that is revitalizing downtown Utica and working at the factories close by. Pa He Ma, the mother, fixes us a delicious traditional Burmese lunch and we enjoy catching up with the younger kids who are off from school and the oldest son who completed his associate degree in accounting at the community college, is starting a new job tomorrow, and will continue on for his bachelor’s degree. We are proud of them all.
On my cousin’s advice, we drive up past Old Forge, NY in the Adirondacks to Bald Mountain (2,350 feet) and do the “moderately difficult” hike (elevation gain 500 feet) two miles round trip. We climb the Rondaxe Fire Tower to see the Chain Lakes #1 – 4 below us, in what appears to be pristine forest. Next, we drive up Rt. 28, past Raquette Lake, to Blue Mountain Lake and the Adirondack Museum. The museum was closing, but the receptionist advised us to drive up to Long Lake for a cold beer on the porch of the rustic, old Adirondack Hotel, overlooking Long Lake. We enjoyed the beers and the view of Long Lake from rocking chairs. We eat out of the camper and stay in the Municipal Parking lot for the night.
Friday August 9, 2019: Hiking Blue Mountain
About 7:30AM, we go back to the Adirondack Hotel for coffee. Coffee and pastries are set out on a buffet for their guests, but no one is around. We ask a young cleaning person if we can buy coffee and she graciously says, “be our guest.” We get to enjoy free coffee and the view from the porch one more time.
We hike Blue Mountain Trail (3,750 feet), rated “difficult,” elevation gain 1,559 feet, four miles up and back. Most of it is quite steep, with rock scrambling, but the view from the fire tower at the top is a good reward.
Back in the van, we push through the Adirondack back roads to arrive at Cedar Point State Park, near Clinton, New York, on Rt. 12E. We have reserved a campsite on the St. Lawrence River, in the tent area, since we don’t need services. We drive our camper right down to the shoreline, where we have a terrific view of the river and can watch the passing of the ocean-going freighters. In a blustery wind, we walk around this park, one of the oldest state parks in New York, established in 1898. Our neighbors at the campsite, from near Syracuse, come to see our van and the wife, an interior decorator, loves the décor of Baja – “so retro/industrial – all the rage now.”
The Friday night reception is held right at the State Park, in the Recreation Building, a grey stone structure, with two huge fireplaces, built by the WPA, and
located on a hill, overlooking the river.
Saturday August 10, 2019: Wedding on the St. Lawrence River
The late afternoon wedding is at our friends’ cottage down the road, on a point overlooking the river. We walk the 15 minutes from our camping spot to the wedding and then back to the State Park for the reception in the beautifully decorated Recreation Building.
Sunday August 11, 2019: To Rochester, New York
In the morning, we help dismantle the wedding decorations from the Recreation Building, have lunch at our friends’ cottage and head to Rochester, New York for dinner with my sister and brother-in-law. After dinner at a restaurant on the RIT campus, right off I-90, we head toward Letchworth State Park, the Grand Canyon of the East (not to be confused with the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, along Pine Creek, where we canoed on our last trip). We stay for the night in a hotel parking lot in Perry, New York.
Monday, August 12, 2019: Letchworth State Park
For breakfast, we head to the Glen Iris Inn, the former residence of William Pryor Letchworth, a businessman from Buffalo, NY, who donated his property to New York State for the beginning of this park. We arrive before the Inn is open, so we stroll around the lovely grounds and get our first look at the Middle Falls, where the Genesee River does one of its three cascades in this park.
We enjoy a delicious breakfast and head out for a hike on the Gorge Trail. We head south first to the viewpoint for the 70-foot Upper Falls, going under the 274-foot high steel railroad trestle, then turn back north for the 7- mile hike along the canyon ridge. While we walk through the Middle Falls mist, the sandstone stairways and the soft floors through the forest, the views of the river are spectacular. Stopping at all the interpretive signs describing the historic and natural features of the area, we pass Inspiration Point and descend towards Lower Falls, but the footbridge overlooking it is closed. At St. Helena Picnic Area we turn back. Behind the Glen Iris Inn, we tour the William Pryor Letchworth Museum and view this generous man’s collection dedicated to Native American culture, specifically the Seneca people of this area.
We decide to head to Jamestown, NY, home of Lucille Ball, to visit the National Comedy Center, opened a year ago and getting great reviews. Arriving at 4PM, we are convinced by the ticket seller that we will not have a enough time to enjoy the museum, which she says takes at least three hours. She directs us to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum just a few blocks away. We enjoy this history and the many clips of “I Love Lucy” very much. We meet friend who spends summers at Chautauqua for dinner at the Watermark. There they graciously give us permission to spend the night in their parking lot.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019: Home
We get an early start home and Mike is at the office by 10AM, after another good trip to New York State. In six days of travel, the RV made it possible to enjoy challenging hikes in amazing natural beauty, visit interesting historical sites and two museums, and make many connections to friends and family – and still come home happy, rested and together.