Saturday, July 1, 2023


     Miracles never cease. America has made it to another birthday. From the middle of the Battenkill River in patriotic downtown Eagleville I'ld like to share a few random items of interest. Keep your beer cold, your fireworks dry and have a great holiday.


     * Sad to hear of Ralph Lee's passing on May 12, 2023. His Mettawee River Theatre Company has been a summer tradition for much of my life (the troupe was founded in 1975). Lee was a master puppetry and mask maker. Ironically, one of his most famous creations, the 'land shark' from early SNL episodes, was quickly thrown together from materials at hand. Later creations are stand alone works of art. Most of the Mettawee's productions were done outside at the magic hour as day segued to night. He often drew on "folk material from one culture or another" and the stories felt timeless, with mythological characters and themes.

     I remember being out for a run on Dunnigan Road near Salem one evening. I came around a bend and was confronted by several fantastical masked creatures towering on stilts and cavorting on the lawn of a farmhouse. It was the Mettawee players rehearsing at their summer headquarters! That's a run I'll never forget. 

     Lee was given a full obituary in the New York Times and there is an oral history that he recorded archived on the website of the Folklife Center at Crandall Library.

Ralph Lee with some of his creations
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     * I don't usually cover the celebrity beat but have got to mention super swimmer Lynne Cox's recent visit to our area. Lynne joined local athlete Bridget Simpson for a leisurely workout at Ti Beach on northern Lake George. Also known as Tiroga or Black Point, this lovely spot is located (just barely) in Washington County. In my humble opinion this is the best beach in the world (with the possible exception of the topless beaches of the French Riviera where I hear the scenery is quite nice). 

     Lynne is a legend in the world of marathon swimming, noted for her 1987 crossing of the Bering Strait from the United States to the Soviet Union and for her ability to tolerate cold water as chronicled in Swimming to Antartica. She also has several other books to her credit as well as being a popular motivational speaker. She's a real inspiration and having tasted Lake Georges' pristine waters let's hope she returns again and again. 

Bridget Simpson, Lynne Cox and Jim Cunningham at Ti Beach
(I believe Bridget took this photo)

Ti Beach on Lake George with Rogers Rock in background
(web image)

     * While on the subject of swimming and Lake George there's an event at Wiawaka Center for Women later this summer. S.W.I.M. week on August 22 thru 25 commemorates the 65th anniversary of Diane Struble's historic first complete swim of the length of Lake George. The acronym stands for Strong Women Inspire Me and since 1958 there have been quite a few very strong women (also a few not so wimpy men) who have accomplished the feat of swimming Lake George (called a crossing in swimming parlance). Gwenne has been working with Wiawaka and other swimmers to organize this event honoring her mother and all who attempt the challenge of Lake George. More information here.

Web image

     Also in the news at Wiawaka are plans to conserve 47 acres of uplands the Center owns with help from the Lake George Land Conservancy. I believe this will eventually be open to the public with trails and views of the lake.

     * Speaking of the Lake George Land Conservancy, a big upcoming event is the July 5th Hike-A-Thon with guided hikes (and paddles) around the lake. There are over 20 options this year and a party open to all afterward. More details here. A traditional part of the event is photographer Carl Heilman talking shots of participants from a helicopter. Great organization, terrific event and Carl is amazing but at the risk of being 'scrooge' I have to wonder if we don't have enough noise and engines spewing carbon. Maybe it's time to lose the chopper?

Both images from LGLC site

     * Here's a few other events I've heard about:
     ~ Saturday, July 29 a guided paddle from Rt. 4 rest area (near Fort Miller) to Hudson Crossing Park with lunch and activities. I canoe this section of the river frequently. I think you'll enjoy it. Just wish the stretch above the Fort Miller dam was more accessible. It's really sweet there. For more info:

     ~ Thursday, July 27 from 6-8pm a guided bike tour of canal history with beer! Starts from the Visitors Center in Schuylerville.

     ~ Also for bikers, also in Schuylerville, Adirondack Ultra Cycling offers tours on July 9 and September 10.

     ~ Sticking with cycling there's  mountain bike races in Poultney, Vermont July 15-16 (, time trials on West River Road, Saratoga County Tuesday evening, July 11 at 6:30pm, mountain bike and trail running races at Gurney Lane Park in Queensbury August 5-6, a cyclefest and gravel rides at the Schaghticoke Fairgrounds on September 9 (, and the Tour de Vine 35M bike ride starting in Cambridge at 12pm on October 7.  


     Now for a little recreational real estate browsing.

     ~ Ready to go back to school? There's been a couple of repurposed Washington County one roomers for sale recently.

Formerly district school #8, now a cute home
Rt. 313 between Cambridge and Vermont border

District school # 14 located at the south end of Cossayuna Lake

The kitchen of Gramp's Old School in Greenwich
Not for sale but you can book a stay
(web image)

     Another interesting property has been listed in the Town of Easton. Realtors should market this one to wildlife. Located along Co. 113 this 50 acre parcel has a conservation easement (no building), wetlands and Hudson River frontage. If this were in public ownership it could be managed for waterfowl and also offer access for paddlers. While the Hudson borders Washington County for many miles there are few spots where people can get to the water. The river belongs to all of us but if the shore is all private and posted how do we enjoy it?

Hudson River shoreline in Easton
(web image)

The one that got away...

     In the Town of Fort Ann nearly a thousand acres surrounding a pristine mountain lake was recently on the market. Crossett Pond had been the site of a boy scout camp in the past and then was owned by the Miller family of Glens Falls. When they decided to sell, the land and lake were available for several months until a wealthy real estate developer bought it for his private estate.
     The east side of Lake George is a very popular recreation area suffering from overuse. Washington is one of the few counties in New York that doesn't have a state campground. This property could have been a great addition to adjacent public lands but there seemed to be no interest among state of local officials. Maybe it was because the state was too busy dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the ridiculous 'Olympic Facilities' at Lake Placid (can you say kickback?). Meanwhile most local officials are too overburdened and strapped for cash to have a vision for the future that includes long range investment. The result is that the county is losing population and looking a little frayed at the edges while opportunities like Crossett Pond are lost.

Crossett Pond
(web image)

     Here is a link to YouTube drone footage of Crossett Pond that runs for several minutes. It's pretty much the only way you can see this lovely spot.

     * In other news out of Albany the legislature passed a bill banning 'kill contests'. These are events where people compete to see how many animals they can shoot in a given time period. Some upstate legislatures painted this as urban liberals foisting their values on rural lifestyles. In our relationship with guns and wildlife I'm reminded of the Phil Collins song Long long way to go

web image

     * Finally, if you're looking for art, exercise and controversial issues all wrapped in one fun package it's time to head up to Middlebury, Vermont for a round of Feminist Miniature Golf. Located in the hockey rink at the college, this installation promises to be an awareness-raising good time. More info here. 

Todays Double Take...

This bird's in a hurry to get to one of the events I mention
Seen along Rt. 22 in Dresden