The 1000 Islands (or at least a few of them…)

Jeremy took the tarp off the camper last weekend in anticipation of another season of camping. Although we won’t be going anywhere for at least a month, it reminded me of all the places we went last year that I never got around to writing about.

While we wait for camping season to start, I thought I’d pick up where I left off with my accounts of our summer adventures in the tiny camper.

A few weeks after our trip to Pennsylvania we headed northeast to the 1000 Islands. This is an area we’ve driven though in the past on the way to other places but never stopped there although we’d always meant too.

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The great thing about camping with a trailer is that weather is no longer a big concern. For this reason, we weren’t worried about this dark, looming cloud that chased us for hours on the 401.

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The storm finally caught up with us around dusk.

Since we’d crossed the border, we needed to pick up food and supplies (the US is really weird about bringing perishables into the country), so we unhitched the trailer at Wellesley State Park and drove to Watertown, NY to buy groceries. We decided to wait out the storm there. By the time we’d sat down to dinner in a restaurant in town, a torrential downpour, along with thunder and lightning, was in full swing.

We eventually returned to our campsite and the storm continued overnight and well into the wee morning hours. The only issue with being in a trailer while it rains, is the fact that it’s noisy. It’s basically like sleeping in a tin can and the precipitation that night was not a gentle pitter patter. It was coming down in buckets – and it was loud. At least we were dry though and that was it for the crummy weather; the rest of the weekend was gorgeous.

We spent the next day driving around stopping in some of the small communities in the area, including Clayton and Alexandria Bay. My favourite Thousand Island Park Historic District with its pavillion on the water.

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After touring the Newport Mansions we in June , we decided earlier in the day that we would not be taking the ferry to Bodlt Castle – a major attraction in the area. We both agreed we were completely mansioned out. I suggested we check out the adjacent boat museum though. However, when we got there, we saw that the castle was only a few minutes away by ferry and admission was cheap, so the next thing we knew, we were on the damn boat.

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Boldt Castle has a sad history. It was never lived in, or even finished. Construction began in 1900 by George Boldt, an east coast hotelier, as a summer home for his wife. She died suddenly in 1904 and construction came to a halt. It sat empty for over 70 years, when it was turned over to the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. The organization has been restoring the property since the late 1970s.

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While the exterior and gardens are impressive, the inside is not so much. Since it was never completed, it lacks the detail and ostentatiousness that the once inhabited homes of the gilded age usually have. Boldt Castle’s interior only displays a modern, budget conscience interpretation of the era.

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When it was time to head home, we couldn’t bear the thought our going the way we came, which was across Toronto. Spending an afternoon sitting in the GTA gridlock with the cottagers didn’t appeal to us at all. Instead, we took the long way around on the American side of Lake Ontario, stopping in Syracuse, where we visited the Erie Canal Museum because I’m a huge history nerd. If you find yourself in the area, and are into that sort of thing, it’s definitely worth checking out.

We returned home to find out our neighbourhood had been hit pretty hard by the storm we’d been driving away from. There’d even been some speculation that something tornado-like had touched down in our area. Our property had minimal damage though – some fallen tree branches, over turned potted plants and according to our cat sitter, a pair of traumatized kitties. They quickly recovered, our neighbourhood was cleaned up, and all’s well that ends well.

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Little Camper in the Forest

Once again, I’ve fallen behind with my camping trip recaps. I often try to sit down and write at the end of the day, just before I turn in. Lately though, as soon as I settle down with my laptop, I hit the wall. “I’ll finish this tomorrow,” I say to myself, but the cycle just continues, night after night.

So, this one is going back to Canada Day holiday weekend…

Our second time out in the camper took us to the Allegheny Forest of Pensylvania. We’d been to this region many times before. We usually go farther south in the the forest, but in the interest of not driving quite as far, we tried a new spot.

Traffic was fairly light on the way to the border and we got though customs quickly. However, we ended up in the most miserable traffic in Buffalo, which is rare. We usually have all of our traffic issues on the Canadian side. That led to a very late arrival in Pennsylvania and a fun excersce in backing in the camper in the black of night.

Our park was called Buckaloons and when we woke up on Saturday morning we were quite pleased by our surroundings. It had all of the amenities we look for in a campsite. It was on the Allegheny River with a trail that ran along beside it. The sites were surrounded by trees and spaced so far apart that you had complete privacy in every direction. It was also well maintained, with great facilities.

We knew it was going to be a rainy weekend, but now that we have the camper it was less of a concern for us. Still, after we had coffee and breakfast on Saturday morning were were restless, so we set out for the town nearby that we’d passed though the night before.

We poked around Warren, PA for a little while, as we waited for the rain to clear up. We did some shopping and had lunch and by early afternoon the sun came out. By then, we’d made our way to the Kinzua Dam. As, seen in other vacations, Jeremy and I enjoy a good dam (we haven’t seen the Hoover yet, it was too hot when were in Nevada last August).

The Kinzua Dam was built in the 1960s and was surrounded by some degree of contraversy, as it’s constuction meant displacing several hundred natives, along with a handfull of other small communites. This didn’t go over particularly well with the affected parties, especially the Seneca’s, who’d been given the land in a treaty signed by George Washington.

This region needed flood control though. In 1936 Pittsburgh was underwater for weeks and the threat of another devastating floodwater disaster loomed over the region for years. So, despite the concerns of the residents, the Kennedy administration moved them out and began construction and since It’s completion it’s been estimated that at least a billion dollars in flood damages have been prevented.

Apparently, Kinzua means “Place of Many Fishes.”

The next day, we went to see other engineering marvel – the Kinzua Bridge. For a short time at the turn of the century this had been the tallest railroad bridge in the world. It was originally made from iron in 1882, it was rebuilt using steel in 1900. Steel was great for accomodating heavier railway cars, but it was no match for the tornado that tore though it in 2003.

Prior to it’s collape, the tressel had been in the process of restoration, as it had not actually been in use since 1959.

One end of the bridge is open to the public and features a vertigo inducing partial glass floor near at the lookout point.

Then, we were homeward bound. Although Monday had been a holiday, we came home early to spend some time around the house. Plus, it seemed unpatriotic to spend Canada Day, stateside.

Since then, we’ve been on our third trip, and I look forward to telling you all about it soon.

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