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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Touring Boldt Castle

Hi Blog! Today is Wednesday, August 27th (Happy Birthday, Darla!). It is our last full day in Pulaski, New York. We decided to drive up to Alexandria Bay and take the tour of Boldt Castle that we missed out on back in June when we took a three hour cruise of the Thousand Islands. At that time, Kathy's foot was in a walking cast, and we didn't feel that walking around the island in a cast, up and down four flights of stairs, would be a good idea. We took a few pictures of the outside of the castle and learned about its history as we sailed pasted.  Here is the link to our blog from June 22, 2014.

Today, we skipped the three hour tour and just took the water taxi from Uncle Sam Boat Tours in Alexandria Bay. It was just a quick trip across the St. Lawrence River to Hart Island (renamed Heart Island by George C. Boldt). Here you can see from left to right, The Alster Tower (a/k/a Play House), Boldt Castle and The Power House.

Dave is standing under The Arch.  It was modeled after Roman monuments, this water gate was to be the formal entry for launches, delivering guests from larger yachts anchored in deep water.

The actual design of The Alster Tower is a mystery. Some believe it was modeled after some old defense tower on the Alster River in Hamburg, Germany. Others say it would be nearly impossible to design such an irregular form on paper. The Play House was occupied by the Boldt Family during construction of the Castle. It even has a bowling alley in the basement.

The construction of Boldt Castle ceased abruptly in early 1904 after the death of Boldt's wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt. For 73 years, the castle and other stone structures were left exposed to the harsh winter weather and occasional vandals. Here is the interior of the Play House. The stabilization of the foundation is complete, windows have been replaced, but the interior still needs a lot of work.

Here is a view of the bowling alley.

We followed the walkway around the front of the Castle on our way to see the Power House.

Here is Dave trying to reach the coins in the bottom of the fountain.

An arched, stone bridge connects the Power House to the island. The highest tower provided river traffic with an illuminated clock that played chimes. This facility housed steam generators that provided electricity to the island.

The Underground Passage was used to transport goods from barges by way of the tunnel to storage rooms within the Castle's foundation, thereby avoiding deliveries to the main floor.  The passage also houses the electrical wiring and water pipes from the Power House.

The plan is to completely restore the Castle. Several of the rooms have been completed already, but there is still loads of work to be done. Here is a view of the Library.

The Dome of Skylight has also been restored.

We were able to go up into the attic and see how the skylight was constructed.

From the Fourth Floor Observation Deck we could look up and see one of the massive stags that decorate the Castle.

There are a lot of displays throughout the building showing before and after photos.  Here is what a section of the room looks like fully restored.

The Yacht House is located across the water on Wellesley Island.  The family's three yachts and enormous houseboat were accommodated with tall masts and rigging still standing in slips 128 feet long. Quarters for crews and maintenance staff were adjacent, as was a shop where racing launches were built and serviced. The Yacht House was the first of these remarkable buildings to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We ended our adventure with lunch at the Admiral's Inn in Alexandria Bay. Tomorrow we move to Brighton, Ontario.  We'll be spending Labor Day Weekend with Sir William and his family in downtown Toronto.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sunset on Lake Ontario

We wandered over to the beach this evening and received a real treat!

Fishing the Salmon River

Today we tried our luck fishing the Salmon River.  While it is possible to fish by drift boat, or to troll the estuary, we decided to wade the upper section of the river, above the Salmon Hatchery and just below the Lower Reservoir.  Our choice was the Upper Fly Fishing Section:

Here is how the river looked the other day when we scouted it:

We were up at 5:30 am and on the river by 7:00.  The sun hadn't hit the water yet, and we were hoping for maximum trout feeding action.

* * *

The Salmon River has been important for its salmon fishery for many centuries.  Until 1900, it was an important waterway to Native Americans and European colonists. Huge runs of Atlantic salmon entered the river from Lake Ontario. People would catch their fill of salmon and dry or smoke it for food for the upcoming winter. However, due to overfishing, by 1900, Atlantic salmon were nearly extinct in Lake Ontario.

The State of New York began stocking salmon in the river in the 1870's, but aggressive stock of salmon did not occur until the 1960's.  The original purpose of modern stocking was to control populations of fish that had historically been the natural prey of Atlantic salmon, but eventually the purpose of salmon stocking extended to providing sport for fishermen.

The Salmon River is also stocked with steelhead, as well as rainbow and brown trout. Because these fish live in Lake Ontario, they have the ability to grow to trophy sizes and they are pursued by anglers for their fighting ability.

With the runs of salmon, steelhead and trout, fishermen have opportunities to fish the Salmon River all year round.  Brown and rainbow trout are stocked in the Spring.  Atlantic salmon typically run in September and October.  Chinook come next, and Coho salmon run in October and November.  During the peak of the salmon runs in October brown trout and steelheads both enter the River to feed on salmon eggs.  Then, beginning in December, the steelhead run.

Skamania, a summer run strain of steelhead, and smallmouth bass are present in the lower ends of the River.  Panfish, largemouth bass and northern pike can be found in the estuary.

* * *

While we say we waded, "wading" is an exaggeration, because the power company has been releasing large volumes of water from the reservoir due to recent heavy rains, and the river runs deep and fast, as wild as many we've seen in the West.  Many fish will not feed because it is too hard to hold position in the fast water, and most of them will find quieter areas to hold and wait for slower flows.  Fishermen, too, have trouble functioning in fast water, since the slightest misstep can cause a wading fishermen to slip and find him or herself floating downstream, riding the rapids.  So, for the most part, we walked the banks and found strategic points to throw the line in.

In water such as this, large pools might still offer opportunities.  At this time of year, before the salmon and steelhead runs, our only real opportunities were rainbow and brown trout that have survived the summer.  We spotted a large pool at the top of the Upper Fly Fishing Section.  Some very large fish were rising, which encouraged us.

We each found likely deeper, slower spots, but neither of us had much luck.  So Kathy decided to hike further downstream until she found a huge pool just below large boulders so large she could stand on them.  She got several hits and caught two small rainbows.

Meanwhile, David hopscotched down to a wide, slower stretch of freestone water, really quite wadeable, allowing us to get further out into the water, and slow enough that the fish could manage to feed there.  This was our lucky spot:  David caught one, and then Kathy another, and finally, after leapfrogging David down to the end of the slow run, Kathy caught yet another.  Even between landing fish, we had fish hitting our flies on nearly every other cast.  David saw a foot-long trout leap two feet into the air chasing an emerging fly.

But by this time it was almost 11:00 am, and, with the sun warming the water, the trout seemed to be slowing down.  So we decided to call it a day and do some feeding of our own.  We stopped at a little place called, "Timbers," on the way home and wolfed down some carnivorous fare.  After so much fishing fun, and with our bellies full, we didn't even complain about doing chores all afternoon.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Salmon River Paddle

Hi Blog.  Today is Monday, August 25, 2014. We arranged to rent a couple of kayaks and paddle the estuary area at the mouth of the Salmon River.

This area received its first white settlers in 1801, after New York’s Governor George Clinton purchased the land from the Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga tribes in 1788. Some believe Selkirk received its name in honor of Alexander Selkirk, who spent four years as a castaway on an uninhabited island off Chile. Although Selkirk’s remarkable story of survival provided the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe, it is more likely that the inspiration for naming the Town of Selkirk was the Scottish philanthropist Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, who purchased roughly 4,400 acres on the north side of the Salmon River in the late 1790s.

Early settlers were attracted by the bounteous annual runs of Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon in the river at Selkirk, which led to naming the stream the Salmon River. Here are some of the historic cottages that were built on a small island in the river.

While inspecting the river in the early 1830s for the potential construction of piers, a government engineer determined that the river mouth had sufficient depth and breadth for anchoring some thirty ships and began planning Port Ontario. Congress appropriated $3,000 on March 3, 1837 for the lighthouse, and approximately 5,760 square feet of land was purchased from Sylvester and Daniel Brown on September 1, 1837 as a site for the structure. Here is the view of the Selkirk lighthouse as we paddled down from the Pine Grove boat launch toward the river's outlet into Lake Ontario.

We were sorely tempted to paddle right out into the middle of Lake Ontario, but the river was running very fast due to releases from the dams upstream.  While it would be easy to get out there, we might have trouble paddling back in against the river current.

So, we satisfied our curiosity as best we could, by getting as close to the inlet as possible. Here is the harbor light that sits at the end of the jetty.

We had a little company today.  Here, a family of ducks took flight as we approached.

We spent several hours working our way upstream, weaving in and out of the various islands.  We picked a particularly shady spot to pull in for lunch. Here's Dave relaxing on a branch of a huge tree whose roots established a solid beach and whose limbs reached far out into the water, giving us ample shade.

We couldn't have asked for better weather for our paddle.  The sun was out, the winds were calm and the water was almost still.  In places, the water was so still that the puffy clouds were mirrored with almost perfect precision:

Wait, I see two Kathys.

As we meandered back to the boat launch, we were able to spot some local residents also taking a break on a branch.  Here is a duck who eyed us suspiciously as we passed:

Hanging on branches seems to be the thing to do.  Here is another local taking a break.

We finished our paddle around 2:00 p.m. not realizing that this was prime time for the boat launch.  All the salmon fishing guides were bringing their customers back after a morning of fishing in Lake Ontario. The "unofficial" concensus is that the salmon have not started their run yet, but there are some in the river.  The fishing is hit or miss. We'll find out tomorrow, as we cast about upstream to see what we can catch.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Scouting the Salmon River

Today we decided to escape the madding weekender crowds at the RV campground and explore the Salmon River, which empties into Lake Ontario at the south end of our campground.  Where the river flows into the lake, it is marked by a harbor light, often referred to as the Salmon River Light, an old lighthouse no longer used in lighthouse service but known historically as the Selkirk Light (our blog entry for August 23 has photos of the Selkirk Light, and our blog entry for August 19 has photos of the Salmon River Light).

The Salmon River arises in north central New York State on the Tug Hill Plateau to the east of Lake Ontario. It flows 44 miles westward from there, into Lake Ontario.  A hydroelectric dam near Little America has formed the Salmon River Reservoir. About a mile below the dam is the 100-foot Salmon River Falls, now protected by the New York State park system.  Below the falls is another dam and the Lower Salmon River Reservoir. It continues from there westward through Pulaski to Lake Ontario. The inlet is referred to as Port Ontario, though it is no longer an active commercial port.  Our blog entry for August 23 has photos of the estuary formed by the Salmon River as it weaves through the flatlands of northwestern New York before flowing into Lake Ontario.

The river is noted for its recreational salmon fishery. The fishery is possible due to the efforts of the Salmon River Fish Hatchery that is located west of Pulaski on a tributary to the Salmon River called Beaver Dam Brook. The hatchery stocks over 3.5 million trout and salmon each year in the surrounding areas. The river has also become a popular location for kayaking and river rafting during parts of the year when the dam is released, with several companies making excursions to the river.

Our first stop was the Salmon River Fish Hatchery.  Here, Kathy is standing at the entrance to the hatchery:

The hatchery obtains its fish stock in two ways.  First, local ponds and lakes are netted to trap salmon and trout before they spawn.  The netted fish are anesthetized and their eggs and sperm removed by gently stroking their bellies.  The eggs and sperm are then transported to the hatchery where the eggs are nurtured until they hatch.

The second way the hatchery obtains fish is to block Beaver Dam Brook and divert the fish up a fish ladder into the hatchery's holding tanks.  There, the eggs and sperm are harvested and, again, nurtured until spawn are hatched.

Here is a photo of Beaver Dam Brook where the hatchery has blocked it:

This is the fish ladder into the hatchery:

A fish ladder operates much as a set of canal locks operate, by rising in steps at a sufficiently gentle grade that the water level is maintained to permit the fish to move from "step" to "step" in the ladder.

Once the fish are hatched, they are moved to these "start tanks" to grow into fingerlings:

Once the fingerlings are of a sufficient size to survive in more natural conditions, they are moved to outdoor holding tanks, which are designed to provide them with food from automatic "on demand" feeders:

Different holding tanks are used for salmon, steelhead and trout.  Eventually, once they are yearlings or otherwise old enough, the fish are transported, either to stock local streams, or to return to Lake Ontario where they can live the middle of their life cycle before returning upstream to spawn.

After visiting the hatchery, we drove further up the Salmon River.  Here we spotted an old mill on the river --

-- and an old water tower used by the mill:

Eventually we reached the trailhead for the Salmon River Falls.  A short hike along a well-maintained trail led us to the top of the falls.  A much steeper, challenging trail took us down to the base of the falls.  Here, Kathy admires the falls from below:

The view from the top of the falls was as dramatic as the view from the bottom:

Here, David explores the flat rocks over which the river flows before it hurtles over the precipice.  Careful, David, don't get too close!

The view upstream from the falls is more placid:

There is a rough trail from the top of the falls, upstream along the river, about 1 mile to the dam that holds back the Salmon River Reservoir.  We hiked it and eventually found the dam, perched above and behind the flat river:

As we drove back down the river, we stopped briefly at the Lower Reservoir.  Kathy caught this photo of some kayakers playing in the currents at the point on the upper shore of the reservoir where the two branches of the Salmon River enter, producing surging cross currents:

Just below the Lower Reservoir is one of many designated fishing stretches along the Salmon River.  This one, which only permits fly fishing and requires catch-and-release methods, runs along a segment of the river that, today, was a veritable raging torrent:

Nearly 750 cubic feet of water a second were rushing down the river - nearly twice the normal flow - because the dams are releasing excess water due to heavy recent rainfall filling the reservoirs.

Heavy rainfall is no joke.  According to the Wikipedia entry on the Salmon River:

"On September 30, 2010, nearly 3.3 inches of rain fell within a matter of several hours in the Salmon River drainage area. Historical flooding occurred as the river crested some 12 feet above normal. ....[A]t the Pineville Anglers Access area [upstream from Pulaski] the water flooded the parking lot and salmon were observed swimming in the parking lot as well as moving upstream through the forested banks of the River. Many anglers resorted to fishing in the parking lot. Further upstream in the town of Altmar, the crested River flooded roads, parking lots and in some cases businesses. Salmon were sighted swimming upstream on the flooded roads...."

We hope to come back to this Upper Fly Fishing Section later this week to try our hand at catching some local fish.  Unfortunately, mid-August is too early for the main run of Atlantic Salmon, the earliest of the several types of salmon that spawn in the Salmon River.  Therefore, our best bet is to fish for rainbrow and brown trout that have survived the summer season after being stocked in the Spring or surviving the previous winter.

Halloween in August!

Our campground, Brennan Beach RV Resort, in Pulaski, New York, organizes a "Halloween in August" celebration the weekend before Labor Day.  This gives families with children returning to school before Labor Day a chance to have a lot of fun on a camping vacation.  It's also a great excuse for children - and adults - to party!

On Saturday, August 23, we started to see the Halloween decorations popping up everywhere. Owners of trailers were getting their rigs decorated in anticipation of the trailer decoration contest. We saw lots of cute decorations:

This year, the theme was space, and one trailer owner even constructed a scale model of the Space Shuttle with its own wooden gantry:

Early in the afternoon, after the trailer decoration contest, the campground witnessed a parade of decorated golf carts.  In campgrounds such as this, many campers use golf carts to wheel around. We usually prefer using our legs and feet, but generally we have less weight to carry around than many trailer campers.  Here, one neighborhood is readying its golf carts for the parade:

The best themed golf cart we saw was decorated as the USS Enterprise (the Star Trek version, not the Naval version):

Not to be satisfied with trailer decoration and golf cart parades, later in the afternoon the campground hosted a Halloween costume contest.  Children of all ages flocked to the community center to have their costumes judged by age category.  One of our favorites was the Cat in the Hat, with his (actually, her) friends, Thing 1 and Thing 2:

Of course, our VERY MOST FAVORITE were these two Minions from "Despicable Me," accompanied by their friend Tinkerbell.  We were sure we heard them singing "Ba, Ba, Ba, Ba-Ba-Na-Na...Po-tay-tohhhh!" as they posed for our photo.  We know that Sir William would highly approve of those little Halloweeners' costumes!

Right after the costume contest, the little Halloweeners were off, around the campground, Trick-or-Treating to see how many treats they could entice from various campers.  Since this campground hosts over 1,400 (!) trailers and other RV'ers, you can imagine that the kids loaded their bags with treats very quickly!

We did our part.  We had our big bowl of candy, our decorations, and such.  We played spooky Halloween music.  Kathy wore a mask.  Even Baxter got into the act and impersonated a spooky black cat:

By 7:00 pm, we and the kids were exhausted.  They went their way.  We closed up candy shop.  Then, after a quick dinner, we sauntered over to the community center for a 2 hour concert by the "Horn Dogs," a local band featuring horns a la the rock band "Chicago."  They rocked the campground with classics from the 60's, 70's, 80's and later, including a couple songs by Adele. Here the crowd rocks to the band's version of the Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction":

Just in case you think we weren't enjoying ourselves, we decided to document our participation:

We noticed that most of the perhaps 5,000 (yes, 5000!) attendees at the concert seemed at least a little bit happy.  Some seemed somewhat inebriated.  A few were possibly stumbling.  They were all happy, and in some cases, too happy.  We thought, "Boy, there are going to be some miserable people in the campground tomorrow morning."

Sure enough, the campground stayed VERY quiet until maybe 10:00 am.  We walked up and down the camp roads around 8:30 and saw evidence everywhere of dead dogs waiting to be attended to:

Halloween can be an ugly thing.