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Taking in Upstate Western New York

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An apple orchard on the road to Clayton New YorkLast weekend my husband and I took a three-day road trip exploring the Thousand Islands area of New York, the Adirondack Mountains, and a drive back home via Route 67 from Saratoga Springs going west toward the Buffalo/Rochester area. Our first day out, we left before dawn on Friday morning and arrived in Clayton, New York up in the Thousand Islands area before noon. We both love the feeling of being up and out on the road at early morning dark and through the various, sometimes misty, stages of dawn while much of the world is still asleep. There is something exciting about being up and out on an adventure when others are not even thinking yet about their day. I don't know why, but it has always been that way for me. As a child I used to get up at five or six in the morning and go outside to run around the neighborhood with my dog. I could feel an energy that was all my own, and only my own, running around in the quiet of a new day just beginning to bud. I carry the feeling with me still today, and it is one of the things my husband and I hold in common. A misty morning lake on the drive to Clayton New YorkOur morning drive took us along the shore of Lake Ontario much of the time, and through farming communities along the way. The apple orchards flowed one into another and farm stands seemed to be around every bend. I continue to be amazed at how much agricultural activity there is in the state of New York. Before meeting my husband, and before coming here to see it all myself, I never had any clue that New York was such a farming state ... a beautiful, simple, humble farming state. It is also a state of many old barns, old mills, and factories. I find the old buildings more beautiful than those that are newer. Older building had such character of detail and materials. I know there is a practicality and economy to new methods of building, but the lack of charm stands out in stark contrast when you take a drive through an area like this that is so rich in heritage. You see the old places along the way that are wasting away, and somewhere further on you come across a pocket of "new" and you can't help but feel a yuk inside ... well, I certainly can't help it. Door of an old deserted mill on the drive to Clayton New YorkWhen we arrived in Clayton we were delighted to find the place we had reservations at was a cute little 50's/60's style roadside motel with a few rooms in a one-story building and then, down the hill by the water half a dozen sweet little cottages of the same era. It was clean and tidy with a beautiful view of the St. Lawrence river and the beginnings of the Thousand Islands. The folks at the motel let us check in early, even though it wasn't even noon. We were able to take a bit of a nap to the sound of ... nothing but a light breeze and a few crickets. Then we headed over to my husband's favorite museum: the Antique Boat Museum. We wandered around the museum for two or three hours, viewing their wonderful collection of antique wooden boats of all kinds. Another thing I didn't yet know about Upstate New York until this trip is how prevalent boating and canoeing are up this way and what a rich part of the history of the state they are. Of course, it completely makes sense when you consider the abundant supply of water. Keep in mind though, I am used to living in the desert of Southern California and this thing of being around so much water is a new experience of senses and awareness for me. It was quite warm that day, so after the boat museum we headed back to our motel so I could change into cooler clothes and get my hair up off of my neck. Then it was off again to do some photography in the countryside and find a place to eat. After driving over to Alexandria Bay and turning back to Clayton, we finally chose to eat at a restaurant in a converted Victorian house across from the Boat Museum, The Harbor Inn. The food was wonderful ... my favorite was their fresh homemade hummus served with little triangles of whole wheat pita bread. I would love to know their hummus recipe, because it was some of the best I've ever had. Sunset on the St Lawrence river in Clayton New YorkAfter dinner we walked through Clayton (small place, doesn't take very long) and landed out on a peaceful bench along side the St. Lawrence river where we spent two hours sitting quietly, enjoying the relaxing flow of beautiful river and the little bit of activity that was going on ... two or three people fishing, seagulls, a handful of sailboats and other vessels enjoying the last couple of hours of hazy sunlight, a couple of large freighters going by. Oh, I sigh just thinking about the utter feeling of peace and relaxation. The next morning, we were up and away early again stopping for breakfast at Beefer's Family Restaurant to try out their "famous" breakfast buffet. We were their first customers and couldn't have been treated any nicer. An older gentleman greeted us as we came in as if we were old friends. He told us they always wait until their first customers arrive before they start cooking eggs and pancakes, etc. for the buffet because they want the food to be as fresh as possible. We could hear sizzling coming from the kitchen as the cook hopped right on it, and we were shown to a nice little booth and served piping hot coffee. Within a few minutes the buffet was ready to go and we each had a nice assortment of scrambled eggs, pancakes with hot syrup, house potatoes, and bacon. (I am a vegetarian, but oddly enough bacon is the one meat I eat on occasion). The breakfast was hot, fresh, and delicious. Even though it was an all-you-can-eat buffet we were both fine with just one serving of our choices then off we went, headed for the Adirondacks. A stand of autumn trees in the Adirondack MountainsWhile Western New York has been showing early signs of autumn since mid-September, the Adirondacks were in full bloom when we drove through them. There were still some green trees, but the fall colors were glorious. Most striking was the brilliant red leaves which were showing in abundance. I fell in love with the Adirondacks as they reminded me of a perfect combination of North Carolina (where I grew up part way) and everything I have come to love about Western New York. Water, water everywhere, soft old mountains, and trees to delight the eyes. At Blue Mountain Lake we stopped off at the Adirondack Museum for a couple of hours and I went into sensory overload. I literally could not take any more in, it was all too much. It got to a point where I was feeling quite dazed and "full". The collection at the Adirondack Museum is impressive in size, and the quality and character of the wonderful old artifacts of boating, sporting, farming, living, creating, etc. is ... well, I am speechless to tell you the truth. The entire experience of driving through those lovely mountains and stopping off at the museum left me wanting to return to the area many times in the future to settle out my feelings of being a bit too "full" of everything I had seen. View of Blue Mountain Lake from a deck at the Adirondack MuseumMost exciting to me is the idea of taking our canoe up there next year sometime to do some camping and canoeing along with sight seeing. We both want to do that very much, and had quite a bit of fun as we drove south through the park discussing some ideas and details of the trip we might make. If you have read my blog since last year, you have heard me mention our friend, Winnie of the Buttons as I like to call her. I gave her that name on my blog because she gifted me with a huge collection of antique and vintage buttons last year before she moved away to Queensbury, New York to a retirement community. Our primary mission on this trip was to pay a visit to Winnie which we promised her we would do before summer's end (we were only a couple of days late for that). A peaceful scene on the way to Saratoga Springs New YorkAfter leaving the Adirondacks, we arrived in Queensbury about two-thirty and checked into our hotel there. I have to say, and I am sorry to say it, but we were not fond of Queensbury--at least not the part of it where our hotel was. It was a complete contrast to the peace and beauty of both Clayton and the Adirondacks. Busy streets, shopping malls everywhere, crowds of people, wall-to-wall cars. However, the area where Winnie's retirement residence is situation is much more quiet and we could tell she is completely happy to be where she is. She drives out into a more rural area to attend a country church much like ours that she left behind and it is great she has the opportunity to do so. We had a wonderful afternoon and evening with her and then it was off to our hotel for a not-so-restful night of attempted sleep in spite of the loud sounds of a drunken fellow who, for some odd reason, decided to sit down right outside of our door with a couple of his friends at one-thirty in the morning. Oh well, the contrast only goes to make the early parts of the trip even more beautiful. The next morning we were up early again and spent the entire day, from eight in the morning until six at night, making our meandering way back home. Route 67 (and later Route 5) was a picturesque alternative to Interstate 90 as we made our way through village after village, continuing to demonstrate to me the abundance of farms and croplands in Upstate and Upstate Western New York. The trip was wonderful, scenic, inspiring, educational. Even after all of the beautiful places and scenes we saw, I was still happy to get back home to our farm.  It has become my most favorite place on Earth. There is just something about home, a friend waiting for you with open and familiar arms. A little girls hand knit sweater pattern available soonKnitting News: Here is a photo of a little girl's sweater not designed or made by me. It was designed and knit by one of the owners of my LYS (Local Yarn Shop for non-knitting readers) and she has agreed to share the pattern on my blog. Today I can show you the photo, and next week sometime I hope to have the pattern available. It is a scrumptious little thing, and quite affordable to make. The materials come to less than $20. The plan at this point is to start utilizing knitted creations by the two ladies who own the yarn shop (they are the source of the yarn I make available on my website) and my daughter as well as continuing to share my own with you. That way I can bring you even more quality knitted items and more knitting content while also continuing to do the other things I do (photography, writing, and painting). Have a beautiful day! ~firefly


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