Tuesday, July 20, 2021

To Lapland with Zia

     Conventional wisdom says we have kids to be reborn ourselves. To see the world anew thru the eyes of our children as they grow, explore and discover. Sometimes it actually works that way. Other times you want to close your eyes, shake your head and wonder ... 'What's happening?' That's when you start to think, maybe it would be easier to just get a puppy.

     With no offense to our wonderful child ( whose all grownup anyway ), we recently decided to get a puppy. Gwenne found an Amish family whose female Norwegian Elkhound had rendezvoused with a male poodle to produce a litter of seven little ones. That's how Zia, at eight weeks of age, came to live with us.

     Have we been reborn or are we just a couple of senior citizens doing our best to keep up with this furry bundle of unlimited energy? Well....  One things for sure, we laugh a whole lot more than we used to. And our activity level has gone up a few notches. Mostly plenty of walks on the farm where there are many things for a puppy to see and smell ( and chew ). But after Zia had been here a week or so and proven she could cover some distance, we decided it was time for her first real hike.

     We picked a day when a torrential downpour didn't seem imminent and drove up to the Black Mountain trailhead on Pike Brook Road in the Town of Dresden. But Black Mountain,  Washington County's highest peak, wasn't our destination. It seemed a little ambitious to ask Zia to do a steep climb her first time out. Besides, though Black Mountain has thrilled generations with its breathtaking views of northern Lake George, it has now been trashed by New York State with antennas, chain link fences and a noisy, obtrusive windmill. Its summit seems more like a junkyard than an oasis of natural beauty. Sad, but that's the way it is.

Old postcard view of Black Mountain looming above Lake George
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      So we chose to visit Lapland Pond instead. It's a two mile hike with little climbing involved. It's a 13 acre pond with brook trout fishing and a lean-to for camping. A rock ledge slopes down from the campsite to the water and makes a good place to enjoy snacks and the scenery. 

     Lapland is one of several ponds in the wild forest on the east side of Lake George and it's the easiest to visit. Continuing on the trail past Lapland leads to Millman and then Fishbrook Pond. At 35 acres, Fishbrook is the largest of the cluster of ponds. It has two lean-tos, good swimming and has been stocked with the native Horn Lake strain of brook trout.

     Most of the ponds drain east into the South Bay of Lake Champlain. The Black Mountain Ponds are the exception with their outlet stream tumbling precipitously west into Lake George. The land here is a tilted block of the Earth's crust with a steeply faulted slope facing west, thus creating the dramatic scenery Lake George is famous for. The dip to the east is gentler but also collects more drainage, channeling it into the upper reaches of Lake Champlain.

Black Mountain rises above this beaver pond and lodge on the trail to Lapland Pond

     Zia did great on her first outing although she was tempted to follow another hiker who called her "The cutest puppy in the Adirondacks." It took a little coaxing but she finally decided to stay with us. As for this old farmer, I've been to Lapland Pond many times before, but damned if it didn't look first-time fresh this trip. As if I was looking at it anew thru young eyes... 



     P.S.  Gwenne says 'Zia' means source of light, splendor and glow. OK, but I sometimes think of her as May Ham. Like right after she has just chewed up some of my important papers. A cure for boredom and a test of patience, all in one lovable bundle.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Park Tour

     Ever heard of 'parkour'? Neither had I. But after the word popped up a few times my curiosity was aroused. According to Wikipedia,  parkour is movement thru complex environments in the fastest, most efficient way possible. The discipline views the urban world as an obstacle course to navigate with speed, confidence and grace. It involves lots of climbing, jumping, rolling and running.

    Perhaps a sequence in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale was parkour's breakout moment. Bond pursues bad guy Mollaka thru a Madagascar construction site, turning it into a destruction site in the process. They leap from one ledge to another, run along narrow exposed beams and hurdle whatever gets in their way. Mollaka is played by Sebastien Foucan, in real life one of parkour's most skilled practitioners. Despite an amazing series of stunts, any one of which should have killed him, it is left to 007 to finally bring an end to Mollaka's misdeeds. In a Bond film that's the way it goes. 


Practicing parkour stunts on the set of Casino Royale 
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     To the best of my knowledge parkour is not a popular pastime in Washington County. In fact, I'ld be surprised if many people here have even heard of it. So let's move on to park tour instead. Specifically, the parks in the Village and Town of Greenwich. For a small, rural area there are a surprising number of them.  

     In the heart of Greenwich the library and municipal offices connect to The Commons, an open space used for farmers markets and other events. There are attractive flower beds and benches for quiet contemplation. That's Zia, our new puppy near the flag pole in The Commons. Note that many of the Village's parks have memorials and plaques.

     Mowry Park is across the street from the library. It's bandstand hosts summer concerts. Zia is always ready to perform. Look up to see the interesting geometry of the bandstands ceiling.

     A short walk up Church Street leads to another small park with monuments to Job Whipple ( founding father ) and World War II veterans. A dam and falls on the Battenkill across Salem Street lends a watery soundtrack to this park.

     Slate sidewalks make walking between parks part of the fun. Yes, they are cracked and a little uneven but they have so much more charm than concrete.

     A small park on Washington Square has memorials to Civil War veterans and to much loved Sophy dog.

     Where Cottage Street joins Main you'll find this restful spot with a fountain surrounded by hostas.

     Across Corliss Avenue from the YMCA is another V-shaped park dedicated to those who have served in the military.

     On Woodlawn Avenue near the schools is Gannon Park with a playground and courts. In winter there's a lighted skating rink here.

     Rock Street Park has grills and tables as well as a dock for fishing or launching on the Battenkill. Other access points under the railroad trestle and at the bend on Elbow Street make it easy for paddlers to explore the river and its park-like shore. There's also the Middle Falls put-in ( in the Town of Easton ) making all of the 'Kill easy to enjoy as it winds around the Village.

     Unfortunately, it's hard to recommend what should be the Towns showcase park. The Greenwich Beach, heading out Rt. 29 towards Salem, certainly has a lovely setting on the river but you can't swim here anymore
 and even though there's a children's playground there are also large flocks of geese and what they leave behind. I can't imagine any parent wanting their kids playing in that. Plus the chain-link fence, no doubt erected for security and liability reasons, still reminds me of a prison yard. Ugh.

      There are several spots that may stretch the definition of 'park' a little but are well-worth visiting. Up North Road a couple of miles from the Village you'll see an obscure dirt lane leading uphill to the right. There isn't a sign and it's easy to miss but if you bravely follow it for a half mile or so you'll be rewarded with the Thunder Mountain Recreation Area. Several loop trails offer 2 to 3 miles of hiking with some nice views of the surrounding hills. Probably of most interest is an abandoned reservoir with a convenient fishing platform and nearby tables. It's like finding a lost world and one of my favorite spots.

     Another gem is the Carter Pond Nature Trails. A small dam on Whittaker Brook creates this body of water. It's part of a larger state wildlife management area. You can launch small boats here and the fishing is good but what makes it extraordinary is the handicapped accessible trails and viewing platform. 

     Near the western edge of town is The Nature Conservancy's Denton Wildlife Sanctuary. Several trails lead to various habitats and up and over those wild shale ridges. Just up Rt. 4 a short ways is a pull-off where you can see a beautifully preserved lock of the old Champlain Canal. Back towards Clarks Mills, the H&V plant has a number of places to access the Battenkill that are popular with fishermen and paddlers alike.

     If we stretch our boundaries just a wee bit a number of other interesting destinations become available.Most of Fort Miller is in the southern end of the Town of Fort Edward. Here you'll find Mill Park and the grounds around Lock 6. Open fields, a small playground and a basketball court are available but fishing in the canal and the Hudson seems to be the most popular pastime. Out along Rt. 4 is a neatly mowed rest area with picnic tables fronting a small pond. People fish here and I've enjoyed a leisurely paddle around its perimeter with lots of flora and fauna to observe.

looking across the Dix Bridge towards Hudson Crossing

image from the park's website

     Hudson Crossing Park, located across the river from the Town of Greenwich, has much to offer including trails, a nature themed playground and places to get on the water with your canoe or kayak. It's a deservedly popular spot. 

     Finally, what was once the areas most visited park is quieter now but no less enchanting. Dionondahowa Falls can be seen by a stroll off Windy Hill Road in the Town of Easton. Many years ago a trolley line brought hordes of sightseers here and the level, wooded area above the falls was open parkland. Now, not a trace of past activity remains.

     We'll finish with two memorials that may not qualify as parks but definitely deserve a few moments of quiet remembrance. Both are dedicated to those who have bravely served. The first is in Thompson where Post Office Lane meets Co 113 and the second is where Co 49 curves around the mill pond in Cossayuna. They're so easy to drive by unnoticed but if you stop you'll be glad you did.
     There's your quick tour of the many parks in the Town and Village of Greenwich. No parkour required.