Friday, December 20, 2013

I got lost in the Roads and Rails: Everyday Life in the Age of Horses exhibit at the Adirondack Museum

Roads and Rails is the museum's largest exhibit. I got lost in it physically and mentally. I stayed so long, enjoying stepping back in time in this fantasic exhibit at the Adirondack Museum in upstate New York, that at one point, I found myself alone in total quiet. It was an odd and intriguing feeling. I was wondering if I might get locked inside and have to spend the night in a stagecoach. There were several to choose from.

After an unhurried lunch in the beautiful museum cafe, which sits on top of a 200-foot-high cliff with ample views of Blue Mountain Lake down below, I lost track of time. You get the idea. This is a place you don't want to hurry through.

Then, while staring up at a big fancy stagecoach from Turner's Tavern, I heard someone I couldn't see call out, “There's one over there.”
Someone else with a walkie-talkie replied: “Yeah, I've got her.”

I had a funny feeling they were talking about me. I couldn't see anyone with all the big wagons and buggies and horses in the way. Just hear the voices.

It was security. It was near closing time and they were checking the exhibits for stragglers.

Soon, the voice was talking to me from behind the giant stage coach, "You have five minutes to exit the exhibit before we lock up."

Five minutes! There was still so much more to see. While security gently tails me. let's take the 5-minute challenge and grab a few more pics of life in the Adirondacks in the Age of the Horse at the Roads and Rails exhibit (focused on transportation in the 1800s-1900s before the appearance of the automobile).

Adirondack hearse on skis.
A simple milk delivery truck on skis - 1800s. Milk was delivered in glass bottles packed in wooden crates.
Fancy buckboard wagon for carrying passengers.
Farm buggy
A peddler's wagon. 
You could easily spend 20 minutes just looking at all the items peddlers carried. Fascinating!
Hand Fire Pumper 1832. It is incredibly beautiful and well-crafted with artful care. The hand pumpers were pulled and pumped by men. There was no time to hitch up a horse when fire broke out. The hand pumpers were replaced by steam fire engines in the 1850s.
Below is a picture of the fine artwork on the back of the tank of the hand fire pumper. Why so elegant? Hand fire pumpers like this one were handed down from larger, richer cities to smaller towns and villages. This one was built in New York City. Image this vehicle showing up at your cabin with a crew of men pulling and pumping it to put out a fire.
Adirondack sleigh.
Adirondack snow plow. 
This red plow is huge and heavy. I wish I knew the total weight of each item in the exhibit. You need to stand next to each exhibit item to appreciate the size, weight, and toil for horses to pull wagons, buggies, stage coaches, and farm tools on makeshift dirt roads, and to pull incredibly large, heavy snow plows through deep snow. This picture can't do justice to the scale of it. Amazing!
Adirondack snow roller. 
Again, a huge and heavy piece. When they couldn't plow the snow, they sometimes rolled it flat. I can't even image horses managing to pull this through deep snow. 
Adirondack wagon. 
Imagine sitting perched on top of that little wooden seat suspended by a few strands of metal with a team of horses hauling goods on bumpy, rocky, dirt roads.
How do you haul your canoe to the lake? Hitch up the horse first or build it waterfront and leave it there.
Rich man's coach.
These are just a few highlights of the Road and Rails exhibit. There is much more. Let's not forget the steam engine. And it means that I made it back outside, possibly stretching my last 5 minutes inside the exhibit. Next, I'm headed for the Adirondack Museum Gift Shop. It stays open for an extra 30 minutes.
I hope you have the opportunity to visit the Adirondack Museum. I certainly enjoyed my visit one windy, rainy, fall day while taking a break from paddling during a week-long kayaking trip in the region.

The grounds of the Adirondack Museum are beautiful! The views from the museum cafe overlooking Blue Mountain Lake are stunning. The gift shop is well-equipped with crafts, arts, jewelry, books, maps, apple-smoked bacon, and much more. I found it one of the nicest gift shops I've visited. And, they sell umbrellas if you forgot yours. You've got to walk the grounds to get to each exhibit.
The Adirondack Museum is located on NY-30 in the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake in Hamilton County, upstate New York, U.S.A.
For more information and interactive map, visit their website:  Adirondack Museum
Yes, they have free WiFi (Internet) in the lobby and in the cafe.

Arrive early, especially on rainy days! The museum is open from May to October, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is popular. There are many more exhibits, 10 permanent exhibits, and events to enjoy. But make note, the Roads and Rails exhibit is only there until 2017. 

Here's proof that I really was the last visitor to leave the Adirondack Museum that rainy fall day. My car was the last one in the big parking lot. And, when I arrived a little late at 11:00 a.m., it was the last parking spot left. A good day for this lucky paddler. The kayak was left behind, parked 10 minutes up the road at Blue Mountain Lake.

Happy trails.
The BaffinPaddler

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Dack Duck

Now that winter is here and the lakes and rivers are frozen or getting there day-by-day in Canada, it's time to pull out some of those short-n-sweet paddle stories I parked in my mind but were never told. They are pleasant memories. The ones that make me kick myself for not kayaking more this year. These memories will make me plan more kayaking trips in the new year. My awesome kayaks deserve it.

This is the story of The Dack Duck.

That's what I named her anyway. Perhaps I should have named her Grace.

A couple of years ago, I was on a kayaking trip with a small group in the Adirondacks, in upstate New York (U.S.A.). We were paddling a series of lakes from one day to the next.

One drizzly, foggy day, that I thought was far better for visiting the awesome Adirondack Museum, we paddled Big Moose Lake. I lost the vote. And luckily so. Along the remote, wild, east end of the lake, a cute little female duck broke away from the flock and swam over to my kayak and led the way out of the creek. She stayed very close to my kayak. We weren't offering any food. Just paddling along. Her wilder counterparts kept their distance.

Big Moose Lake is about three miles long and one mile wide, with an average depth of about 23 feet. I consider Big Moose Lake a "cottage country" lake, but it does have some wild bays and marshes, and is at the head of Big Moose River.

Big Moose Lake is somewhat famous and notorious as the location of the murder of Grace Brown in 1906. Some claim ghost sightings, and media attention adds to the mystique.

From Wikipedia: Grace Mae Brown (March 20, 1886 – July 11, 1906) was an American skirt factory worker whose murder caused a nationwide sensation, and whose life inspired the fictional character Roberta Alden in the Theodore Dreiser novel, An American Tragedy, as well as the Jennifer Donnelly novel, A Northern Light. The facts of the real murder are laid out in the two non-fiction books: Adirondack Tragedy: The Gillette Murder Case of 1906, written by Joseph W. Brownell and Patricia A. Wawrzaszek, and Murder in the Adirondacks: An American Tragedy Revisited, by Craig Brandon.

The famous novel is based on the true story which peaks when Chester Gillette rows his pregnant lover, Grace Brown, out to a remote part of Big Moose Lake in 1906 and sends her overboard to drown. He wishes to marry a high-society lady instead, and pregnant Grace is in the way. Chester's excuse to authorities is that she just jumped overboard.

Did we paddle past the scene of the crime? 
Most likely. We paddled and explored the entire lake, not knowing its infamous history.

It is an intriguing and truly tragic story. Grace was only 20 years old. Now that I've paddled the lake, time to read the famed novel, An American Tragedy.

Is that you Grace stopping by to say hello? Or, are you just a cute little duck who fell in love with my kayak.
When our group paddled out of the marshy creek on the north east end of Big Moose Lake, off East Bay, the oddly friendly little duck rejoined her wild flock and we parted company.
I so enjoyed having her paddle alongside me. What a great little paddle buddy. She cheered me up and made my day. And . . . I visited the Adirondack Museum on another drizzly, foggy day! There were plenty of good days for that in the fall!

I guess Big Moose Lake is truly a magical and mystical spot.

Big Moose Lake is also the location where, just before the paddle, we came across a roadside snapping turtle nest budding with 50 baby snappers emerging from the nest one-by-one. 
This trip inspired me to write one of my most popular posts:


You may also enjoy another one of my "Dack" stories:

Portaging adventures in the Adirondacks, NY with the awesome Maelstrom Vital 166

Happy paddle memories.
The BaffinPaddler

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A metaphor for urban sprawl

Like the city, the forest suffers from it too.

Things start out simple. There is lots of space and light.
Then development starts to crowd the space.
Things grow, get bigger, taller, and more powerful, taking up most of the space and resources.

The infrastructure ages. There is moaning and groaning. The structure and the environment can no longer support the weight and demands of the sprawl.

Things collapse. It's a tangled mess.

But the forest, unlike the city, regenerates itself . . . if the city lets it.

yoga tree pose
Befriend a forest. There are so many that need a lot more human friends.

In Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
The Boucher Forest Foundation
The Boucher Forest Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the 700 acres of Boucher Forest in the heart of Aylmer, Quebec, Canada.

Otherwise, urban development and profit-generating organizations will take it over and remove it for good.
Le site web est aussi disponible en francais: Fondation Fรดret Boucher

Happy trails.
The BaffinPaddler

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A jog with the dog in the fog or a snowshoe? November in Canada confounds

November is a transitional month in Canada when fall has to find its way to winter. November just can't make up its mind from one day to the next. And we fiddle with what gear to break out, or put away.

One day you're jogging with the dog in the fog on an urban trail.
The next day, you're kayaking in the rain and running into a thin sheet of ice on a mountain lake.
 Then, wake up to over 20 centimetres (7 or 8 inches) of fresh snow.
This is November folly in Canada.

In the National Capital Region of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario/Gatineau, Quebec), cross-country skiing has already begun in Gatineau Park, Quebec.

November has finally made up its mind in Canada, it's winter!
Happy trails.
The BaffinPaddler

Monday, November 18, 2013

This is what November looks like

No need to rub your eyes. This is what November looks like on a cold mountain lake in the Laurentians in Quebec, Canada when it rains and the sun sets way too early. It is a little blury, surreal, and foggy. The only colour to be seen is my bright yellow kayak and my red PFD. Everything else is a shade of grey or black.

Then at the nose of my kayak I suddenly hear crunch, crunch, crunch as we break through a thin sheet of black ice that I couldn't even see covering the shallow bay of the lake and we grind to a stop. It surprises me.  It was 10 degrees Celsius (50F) with a light rain and hardly any wind. How could there be ice already, the air felt warm to me.
The water is so cold. It feels like a drink with too many ice cubes. It's my hands that notice. Not a good time of year to forget the gloves or mitts.
Yes, this is what November looks like . . . until the sun comes out.
Happy trails.
Stay warm, dry, and safe.
The BaffinPaddler

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Video-Snapping Turtle laying eggs on the Moira Riverfront Trail

Watching a female snapping turtle while she was laying her eggs and burying the nest along an urban path was like stepping back in time. It was an odd feeling. Time stood still. Turtles take their time, and they have endured through the ages.

Her face was covered in sand, dirt, and gravel. I felt a bit sorry for her. Then I noticed her beady little eyes trained on me while she continued her methodical task. I wondered what she was thinking as I took pictures from a distance so as not to disturb her business at hand. She really had no choice. She couldn't stop now. This is a very vulnerable moment for a turtle, or any creature giving birth or laying eggs.

It was such an odd sight to come across a snapping turtle digging a nest and laying eggs as we were cycling along the Moira Riverfront Trail in Belleville, Ontario, Canada.

While she laid her eggs, her prehistoric-looking spiked tail was braced inside the nest to hold her up in the sandy hole she'd dug with her tough, wrinkly hind legs and clawed feet.
It was hard to believe she could cover the nest with soft sand using only those big clumsy hind-feet without damaging the delicate little eggs underneath. But she did, skillfully, carefully and slowly using her tail braced across the hole to elevate herself above the nest while she shifted her weight right and left and scooped sand over the eggs. Her tail is a very important tool! She used it the way we use a jack to elevate a car and change a tire.
When she finished covering her nest with soft sand and gravel she crawled a few inches away.
Then she collapsed and laid flat and motionless in the grass. You could see that she was completely spent. Her exhaustion was evident by the look in those beady little black eyes and by the way she lay.
She needed a few moments to rest before desending the little hill to the banks of the Moira River where she lived, a tributary of Great Lake Ontario in the Bay of Quinte, Belleville, Ontario, Canada.
As I look at the video I took of her, I wonder why were we so excited to see a big female snapping turtle laying her eggs along an urban path in June.

If we saw professional footage of a turtle laying eggs on a television program we wouldn't blink an eye. It's the awe and wonder of surprise that catches our breath when we come across something unplanned and unexpected and witness it as it naturally unfolds.

If you watch the video, you'll hear it in my voice. I'm not out of breath from cycling.

People keep making me stop to look at turtles. I never seem to find them on my own.

Uh, oh. What's next for me and turtles? So far I've missed everything in between. Mating season! Don't think I'd film that!

You may also enjoy my most popular Turtle story called . . . Turtles!

Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Monday, September 2, 2013

When one sport informs another . . . where's your center?

I love this question. I began thinking about it while cycling. I haven't cycled very much this summer, but why do I feel so strong and have so much cardio despite the heat and humidity?

Why do I feel more balanced? Why do my standing yoga poses (on land and in the studio) feel so much easier and grounded? I can hold them longer in comfort and relaxation.

Nothing hurts. My muscles are long and lean.

The only thing I did differently this year from past years was lots of SUP (Stand up Paddleboard). What I call "simple SUP". Just paddleboarding at a relaxed easy pace for an hour (or two) several times a week. Even 30 minutes feels good if that's all you've got time for, or if a thunderstorm rolls in and you have to get off the water.

The results of simple SUP, something I find just plain fun and easy, are amazing.

When one sport or practice informs another, they are complements to each other. Athletes call it cross-training.

When one sport or activity informs another, and improves your performance and feels good . . . where's your center?

It's in balance! There's harmony and good flow in your body and mind.
Enjoy the many benefits of SUP (Stand up Paddleboard)!
Happy trails.
I wish you a safe, peaceful, and happy Labor Day holiday.
The BaffinPaddler

Monday, July 8, 2013

Old dock or snapping turtles?

My paddle partner said, "I need to take a break ashore somewhere. Oh look. There's an old dock over there. Maybe I can climb out."

Me: "OK, I'll wait out here in the middle of the creek!"

Paddle partner: "Come over here with your camera! It's not an old dock. Look! It's a bunch of snapping turtles on a fallen log!"

Oh joy. Do I have to? There's a little current in the creek pushing me one way, and the wind is blowing 25 km/hr with 40 km/hr wind gusts pushing me the other way, and all I've got is a little hand-held snap'n'shoot camera with only a 3X zoom, and you want me to get a picture of this without scaring them all off the log if I get too close!

I did this for you turtle loving friends and almost lost my paddle.
Snapping turtles on fallen log, Lyndhurst Creek, Lower Beverley Lake, Delta, Ontario, Canada
My quick drift and shoot plan worked out, and the turtles stayed on the log while I cursed that I don't yet have a GoPro camera, and that I forgot my paddle leash on such a windy day. 

The pictures turned out fairly well for all the trouble they were to get. I've never seen this many snapping turtles in one place before. 

And notice the hierarchy for the best real estate. The bigger turtles are on the bigger end of the log with the best sun. Turtle size diminishes as the log narrows and disappears into the marsh grasses with less sun.

Depending on the image and the angle of the photos, I count 35 to 40 turtles. You can click on an image to enlarge it. The images are scaled down from the originals. 
Lyndhurst Creek, Lower Beverley Lake, Delta, Ontario, Canada
And the turtle stories continue. 

People keep making me stop and look at snapping turtles. I never notice them, or seem to care if I do, but they keep showing up and catching my attention one way or another.

I recently passed by a large female snapper laying her eggs and burying them next to a bike path route near a river where I was cycling. I cycled right past her, and someone said, "Hey, look . . . !"
Snapping turtle laying eggs, bike path, Moira River, Belleville, Ontario, Canada
I've got more pictures and a short video of this snapper laying her eggs in early June, and a cycling story of the bike route along the Moira River in Belleville, Ontario that I'll publish later.
One of my most popular BaffinPaddler posts is Turtles! People are interested in seeing snapping turtles and learning more about them. So, all this turtle stuff is for you. 

And, if you are a paddler, a swimmer, or a fisherman spending time in the same waters and shorelines as snappers, it's good to be aware, as they can get very big, and can deliver a nasty bite if surprised or bothered. They also like to steal your bait or small catch.
I keep learning more about snapping turtles, and I keep thinking, "There are a hell-of-a-lotta snapping turtles out there in rivers, creeks, and lakes. This turtle probably just laid about 50 eggs!" 

Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler