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From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [hangout] N.Y.'s Top Outdoor Escapes
Date: Thu, 6 May 2004 19:28:15 +0100
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N.Y.'s Top Outdoor Escapes
Dorothy was on to something. Sometimes you don't have to go farther than
your own backyard to find your heart's desire. As spring settles in for New
Yorkers and summer beckons, it's time for urban dwellers to get back to
Spring and early summer are great times to explore upstate. There are
smaller crowds, prices tend to be off-season, roads are less crowded and
flowers are in full bloom.
"I can't think of a better place to be in the spring," says Allen Benas, the
owner of The Thousand Islands Inn. "There's not a crush of tourists,
everything is blooming and it's clean and safe. I never lock my house or
take my keys out of my car!"
We wouldn't suggest leaving your keys in the car, but we can recommend a
number of ways to take in the sights and commune with the great outdoors.
THE FINGER LAKES
The Iroquois Indians believed that the Finger Lakes region came about when
the Great Spirit placed his hand in blessing on the favored land. That's
easy to believe. From Syracuse to the east and Rochester to the west, The
Finger Lakes are just about a six-hour drive from Manhattan, but they are
truly a world away. Of course, the most famous attractions in the region are
the many wineries that surround the six major lakes with Indian names:
Skaneateles, Owasco, Keuka, Seneca, Canandaigua and Cayuga. May is the time
when most of the local wineries begin to open their doors to the public.
"We are seeing more and more people specifically coming up to see the
wineries," says John Sullivan, the owner of the Morgan Samuels Inn. "A lot
of Europeans are coming to buy wineries and a lot of them are saying the
countryside here reminds them of Switzerland."
Locals have their favorites, but Skaneateles - about 45 miles west of
Syracuse - is perhaps the most scenic lake. As the weather gets warmer, the
sailboats will begin to appear and the picturesque town of the same name
will welcome tourists into its antique shops and restaurants along Route 20.
At Keuka Lake, near the town of Dundee, there are a number of small
Mennonite communities and at the Windmill Farm and Craft Market on Route
14A, you can often find quilts, crafts and produce for sale.
History buffs will find a feast to rival the wine in the Finger Lakes. The
Seward House in Auburn is the Federal-style former mansion of statesman
William Seward and houses everything from Seward's letters from Abraham
Lincoln to tea from the Boston Tea Party. Nearby is the home of Harriet
Tubman, who rescued countless slaves through the Underground Railroad.
Elmira was once the summer home of Mark Twain and his study is still on the
campus of Elmira College.
Other pleasures of the Finger Lakes can be found outdoors. Near Trumansburg,
there's Taughannock Falls State Park, where swimming, fishing and boating
are overlooked by a 215-foot waterfall. And Ithaca might be best known as
the home of Cornell University, but on the outskirts of the city, at
Buttermilk Falls State Park and Robert H. Treman State Park, you'll find a
series of stunning waterfalls among the hiking and bike paths.
Some of the best trout fishing in the state can be found in Seneca Lake,
near Watkins Glen, and Watkins Glen State Park has a gorge trail that will
take you past nearly 20 waterfalls. There is also an Olympic-sized swimming
pool in the park and camping facilities.
Canandaigua, on the lake of the same name, is a busy resort town with lots
of fun shopping and good restaurants, and it's not far from Letchworth State
Park, off Route 19A in Castile, on the border of the Niagara region. The
views here are dramatic and beautiful, and a must-see is the Gorge, often
described as the "Grand Canyon of the East."
THE THOUSAND ISLANDS
Water is the name of the game in the northernmost part of the state in
Thousand Islands. At the source of the St. Law-rence River and Lake Ontario,
New York State shares this waterway with Canada and it is arguably one of
the most beautiful locations on the East Coast. In fact, Native Americans
called this place the "Garden Place of the Great Spirit."
Because so much of the land along the shoreline is state park, canoeing and
sailing are pristine and anglers will discover many great spots to reel in
muskie, pike and bass. Pulaski likes to call itself the "Salmon Capital."
You can't fish for them, but you can see where more than 4 million trout and
salmon are raised at the Salmon River Hatchery in Altmar.
One of the best ways to take in the scenery is to drive along the New York
State Seaway Trail, which follows the coastline. "That trail can take you
500 miles along the shoreline, all the way from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario,
and there are all these quaint restaurants and antique shops along the way
worth exploring," says Christine Gray, director of the Oswego Department of
Wellesley Island State Park, near the Thousand Island International Bridge,
is a lovely spot for a picnic along the water, and there are a wildlife
sanctuary and hiking trail. At one end of the island, you will find
beautiful, old Victorian homes.
A major attraction on the waterway is the melancholy Heart Island. It is
accessible by water taxi and was owned by George Boldt, the one-time owner
of the Waldorf-Astoria. In 1900, he began construction of a castle -
complete with a drawbridge - for his bride. But when she died four years
later, he ordered the workers to drop their tools and cease construction.
The state has spent millions restoring the place and turning it into a
popular tourist attraction. You can reach the island from Alexandria Bay,
which is a fun little tourist town.
And yes, there really are a thousand islands in its waterways - nearly
2,000, in fact.
There's no better place to get back in touch with your inner outdoorsman (or
woman) than among the 6 million acres that are the Adirondacks. Although
many people associate areas like Lake Placid and its Olympic complex as
primarily a winter playground, when the snow thaws the region's 6,000 miles
of rivers and 2,000 lakes make it an ideal spring or summer getaway.
In the southern Adirondacks - about a four-hour drive from Manhattan -
places like Lake George Village, in Lake George, offer beaches, boating,
shoreline cruises and the Fort William Henry Museum, which opens for the
season this month. It's a replica of the British fort destroyed by the
French and Indians in 1755, depicted in "The Last of The Mohicans."
The Champlain Valley and Lake George areas are filled with historic sites
like Fort Ticonderoga, which opens this month and has great views of the
Lake George also offers scuba divers a rare find. In 1758, the British sunk
260 French ships and intermediate divers can still explore seven of those
Raquette Lake, in the western Adirondacks, is where the Vanderbilt summer
home Sagamore can be toured to get a taste of the "Great Camps" - elaborate
summer retreats favored by New York City elite around 1900. Nearby on Route
28 in Old Forge is a popular spot to rent a canoe for an 18-mile route
through lakes. There's also whitewater rafting in the area.
Heading north, Cranberry and Tupper Lake are relatively undeveloped and are
also prime spots for canoeing, hiking and fishing.
Saranac Lake is one of the most central spots to create as a base. It's a
short drive from there to Lake Placid, the home of the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Even during the spring and summer, you can skate on its huge indoor rinks or
take an elevator for a heart stopping look from the top of the 26-story
The gondola at Whiteface Mountain Ski Area takes visitors to the top of
Little Whiteface, where they can get a look at the 700-foot waterfall. Real
sports enthusiasts will also want to make a stop at the Mount Van Hoevenberg
Sports Complex on Route 73 to rent mountain bikes or practice target
Additionally, there are hundreds of trails to hike in the Adirondacks. Two
of the best are the steep climb up Black Mountain, near Lake George, and New
York State's highest peak, at Mount Marcy (5,344 feet), in the north. But
that's just the tip of the (finally melted) iceberg to explore in this great
park. Should 6 million acres really be called a park anyway?
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