Monday, May 13, 2019


     We could all use a little more awe in our lives. Some extra inspiration wouldn't hurt either. Fortunately, both awe and inspiration are as close as the Battenkill River. Let's take a look. 
     The awe comes in the form of two waterfalls that I call 'The Bookends'. The name refers to the way they seem to bookend the river. One is far up in the headwaters and the other is just before the 'Kills confluence with the Hudson. You can visit both in a day making for a great spring outing. Prepare to be awed.

     Start with a hike into the Green Mountains above Manchester, Vermont. From an access lane off Glen Road a trail leads up towards the Lye Brook Wilderness Area. You will be walking on woods roads and an old logging railroad bed. After a mile and a half be on the lookout for a side trail to the right. There may be a small sign pointing the way. This path leads to the base of Lye Brook Falls. Lye Brook is one of dozens of small feeders that flow off the slopes surrounding Manchester. 
     This is no thundering cataract. Instead, the appeal lies in its height and delicate architecture as the brook cascades down a stair-step series of ledges. Note that I haven't included a photograph. There's a reason. I wouldn't want to deny anyone the anticipation during the hike and the moment of bliss when the falls are suddenly revealed. Trust me and treat yourself to the 'live' experience. 

     Reach the second of 'The Bookends' by a scenic drive along the Battenkill from Vermont into New York. The river and the road first head south down the Valley of Vermont. This is a carbonate (limestone, dolostone, marble) floored physiographic feature bounded by the Greens to the east and the Taconics to the west. Both ranges were created during the Taconic Orogeny some 450 million years ago, but they are composed of different rock types and each has its own unique origin and history.

The river and the mountains at West Arlington

     In an odd little maneuver, the river takes a sharp turn at Arlington and cuts clean thru the Taconics, creating a picturesque gap. It breaks out of the high mountains just beyond the state line and then winds thru low hills before skirting the Village of Greenwich and dropping over a limestone ledge at Middle Falls. 
     You can view these falls by turning right at the end of the Rt. 29/40 bridge. Look for an access path to their base off the short road leading down to the golf course. This spot has both natural as well as archeological interest arising from relics of past industry. While you might be tempted to think this waterfall is the Battenkill's last hooray, you would be wrong. 

Below Middle Falls

     Dionondahowa Falls lies just a short ways downstream from Middle Falls but you'll need to get back in your car for a short drive on Rt. 29 to Windy Hill Road, just past the Ice Cream Man. About a half mile down Windy Hill look for a small pull-off on the right. There is a sign and an obvious trail leading to several overlooks. Don't miss the view directly across the Devil's Cauldron facing the falls. Do keep a tight hold on pets and small children. And marvel at the volume and power the river has gained in its journey from Lye Brook to here.

     Also marvel at the fact that these quiet woods once attracted people by the hundreds, brought here by an electric trolley line from cities to the south. The grounds surrounding the falls and gorge hosted a dancing pavilion, restaurant, bicycle track and baseball field. Today the only traces left of Ondawa Park are bits of the old trolley bed. 
     Some may remember the 2015 Battenkill Inspired exhibit at Crandall Library in Glens Falls. It included mementoes of Ondawa Park. Since then the library's Folklife Center has produced a series of short videos also called Battenkill Inspired. They feature scenic views of the river, interviews with artists and craftsmen as well as historical sketches, including one on the Hudson Valley Railway that brought people to Dionondahowa Falls. Access the videos here.

Image from Folklife video series

River Related...

     Some Battenkill Conservancy notes:
     * This year's Battenkill Runs Through It Festival will be on Saturday, May 25 from noon to 5pm at the Greenwich Town Beach.

     * The conservancy recently had a work day at the Rexleigh Marble Mill and continues clean up at the site.

Conservancy photo

     * Their Corridor Connections Project highlights river access points.

     * Also of interest...
     Looks like the Co. 113 bridge over the Battenkill at Clarks Mills (by the H-V plant) is being replaced. It's definitely in tough shape but I'm going to miss its graceful arches. I try to walk under it every summer when the river is low and most of the water is channeled thru the mill. Shale river bed below, concrete bridge arcing above.


A few summers ago

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Now Showing...

Steele Brook on its way to the Battenkill

     Washington County at its green, flowering best. Time to get outside. To hike and bike. Maybe find some busy water and absorb its energy. So then, why am I writing to tell you about several indoor city events?
    Because they are well worth your time. In fact, they may encourage you to get outside, to renew your relationship with places special to you. Here's a look at two exhibits and a screening in Glens Falls.

At the Hyde Museum...

     Jacob Houston is a young Greenwich artist who has been garnering attention locally and regionally. Now he has a solo exhibit at the venerable Hyde Museum on Warren Street in Glens Falls. Houston uses acrylics to create crisp, vibrant images. He's noted for his cityscapes, including New York, San Francisco, London, Venice and others. His birdseye view of Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral is drawing lot's of attention. It's a sobering reminder of what was lost in the recent fire.
     A painting of Africa almost jumps off the wall with its striking color. It seems to capture an entire continent within its frame. And toasting marshmallows over a campfire is given an imaginative twist in 'Witchcraft Lake'. Whimsey and tiny details are part of the pleasure of Houston's work.
     For Washington County enthusiasts there are paintings of Greenwich, Cambridge and the Battenkill, as well as images from nearby Vermont. His art reminds me a little of Grandma Moses but with his own unique style. When visiting the exhibit be sure to read the guest comment book. It's sprinkled with words like "playful", "magical", "joy" and "fresh and luminous". Leaving the gallery I felt like I was in one of the paintings, floating above a serene, inviting world. Jacob Houston's art is that uplifting. 
     More on Houston and the Hyde. 

Jacob Houston -web image

At LARAC... 

     Another collaboration between Washington County artists and a Glens Falls gallery is on view at the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council, located on City Park next to Crandall Library. Paige Henry, Michael Scupholm and Sam Rathbun are all associated with the Salem Art Works and this exhibit may serve as an impetus to visit the repurposed farm. It's a fascinating place and climbing Cary Hill with its sculpture park and mountain views is a unique experience. At LARAC you'll see works in iron, bronze and glass as well as assemblages and installations.
     More on SAW and LARAC. 

The view from Cary Hill

At the Wood Theater... 

     Finally, on Saturday, May 4 at 3:00pm The River and the Wall will be shown at the Wood Theater on Glen Street. It goes without saying that the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico has been in the news. We all have our own opinion on whether there's a crisis there. But how did we come to our conclusions? Obviously, there are those with a big soapbox who try to bully us with their take on the problem and their solution.

Texas - Mexico border - web image

     When I want to know a place, a place in Washington County for example, I'll read about it, talk to people with first hand knowledge and then go and visit. Spend as much time there as possible, letting the land gradually reveal itself. That's what five adventurers did along the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico. Over two and a half months they traveled 1200 miles on horseback, mountain bike and canoe. They met with people from both sides of the border and both sides of the issue. They immersed themselves in the place and then they made a documentary about their experience. 

web image

     As important as the film is to the ongoing national discussion, I'm guessing that Heather Mackey will be the big draw at the Glens Falls event. She grew up locally, excelling in academics and athletics before going on to Cornell for a degree in biology. Heather then continued her education out west, doing field research in several far-flung and remote places, including Big Bend in south Texas. Her expertise in the area's wildlife and ecology led to an invitation to join The River and the Wall trip.

The River and the Wall gang - Heather is the pretty one - web image

     I've known Heather since before the beginning. Her parents, Steve and Licia, are long time friends of Gwenne and myself. We met thru a mutual love of the Adirondacks and have had many adventures together over the years. By far the best adventure has been watching the girls, their Heather and our Holly, grow up to become accomplished young women.

web image

     Your run-of-the-mill academic ornithologist might find 1200 miles of wilderness travel a little...daunting. Not Heather. She grew up hiking, biking, paddling and skiing. The Adirondack High Peaks were her backyard playground and she's been notching such difficult challenges as the Range-in-a-day (many miles, much climbing) since an early age. She and her dad have pedaled across the country twice - west to east on road bikes and north to south on mountain bikes. I remember her doing the Lake Lauderdale Triathlon years ago and there have been many marathons and ultra-distance trail races since.
     So, over a thousand miles of harsh desert and remote river canyons? No problem for Heather Mackey. But she did mention one bit of real suffering. She'd never spent much time riding horses. Those first hours in the was her butt sore! 
     More on The River and the Wall and the Wood Theater.