NECE 2 – Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, Giant Mountain NY

NECE 2 – New York is KINDA New England, right?

After a week spent slowly resting from the previous week of Baltimore, NYC, and more, Friday rolled around, and it was time to go on the second of my New England Camping Experiences… though to New York state, which isn’t technically part of New England.

The breakdown in nomenclature aside, the plan was to go see Fort Ticonderoga (as it is an American Revolution site I have always heard is worth the trip, and isn’t too far from my friend John who is located in Rochester NY at the moment); the planned camping was situated to be close to that, but then also took on hiking up Giant Mountain, the 12th tallest peak in the state of New York.  All told, a hell of a strenuous weekend, but one of the few places where natural beauty was quite literally jaw-dropping and breath-taking.

Camping

John and I have been friends for a long time, so much so that we were in Scouts back in the day and our troops were at camping events at the same time.  Our penchant for fire and FIRE and relaxing have remained the same; our capacity to drive long distances and plan the entire schedule for the weekend have seriously improved over the years.  So, I found the campground and set that up, and he figured out the best hiking in the area, and we set off after work on Friday.

arrival to the Crown Point campground saw our tent get lit up, not like the bridge to VT though

arrival to the Crown Point campground saw our tent get lit up, not like the bridge to VT though

The campground was very much situated within civilization, with no space or demarcation whatsoever between campsites and a GIGANTIC OVERLY-LIT BRIDGE TO VERMONT 500 feet away, and this wasn’t ideal.  But we made the best of it, had a huge breakfast and then drove to the aptly- (albeit uncreatively-) named Giant Mountain.  The twelfth-highest peak in NY was no small task, so bacon and home fries cooked in an iron skillet over wooden coals was the order of the morning, and hot damn what a delicious order it was (thanks in no small part to John’s cooking).

the breakfast of champions, bacon and home fries

the breakfast of champions, bacon and home fries

Mostly awake (I had slept in and was still tired), we drove to the base of the “Roaring Brook trail and only got back to the campsite around 8pm; more on that in the next section.  So tired upon our return that delicious dinner burgers for Saturday instead became delicious breakfast burgers for Sunday, which is alright by me.

too tired to cook Saturday night after hiking means breakfast burgers on Sunday!

too tired to cook Saturday night after hiking means breakfast burgers on Sunday!

The campground also featured a gorgeous, recently-restored monument to Samuel de Champlain, the intrepid French explorer for whom the Lake is named.

the fantastic restored sculpture of Samuel Champlain, eponymous explorer of the Lake

the fantastic restored sculpture of Samuel Champlain, eponymous explorer of the Lake

Hiking Giant Mountain

The main attraction for  the weekend in the nature department was hiking Giant Mountain, and we got a workout.  “A mere 3.6 miles to the top of the peak doesn’t sound like much of a peak,” I initially commented like an idiot.  John pointed out that the peak is something like 3300 feet higher than the base of the mountain where embarked, so that is a STEEP goddamned trail.

John found some boulders on the course of the hike

John found some boulders on the course of the hike

Not a joke, some portions of the trail were close to vertical at points, and so its a good thing we had neither climbing gear nor proper shoes (the tennis shoes I did wear were worn to all hell, and had no traction remaining)!  Certainly made for a dangerous and character-building experience!

one of many instances of 'well shit the trail just turned into vertical flat rock'

one of many instances of ‘well shit the trail just turned into vertical flat rock’

The view from the top made the destruction of our knees and legs quite worth it.  Obligatory mini-gallery of said view:

so far as we can tell, Giant Mountain was the rain backup location for the giving of the 10 Commandments

so far as we can tell, Giant Mountain was the rain backup location for the giving of the 10 Commandments

having reached the top of the mountain, John and I felt photos chronicling this were in order

having reached the top of the mountain, John and I felt photos chronicling this were in order

I felt fairly stronk after the hike, as it were

I felt fairly stronk after the hike, as it were

the severe grade of the slope means that the alpine conifers all lose their branches on their windward side

the severe grade of the slope means that the alpine conifers all lose their branches on their windward side

The hike down, we took the other path, the blue one.  The alpine forest at the top of the mountain was one single section of trail, and split into the two options to get up the hill.  Whereas the red, our trail upwards, was mostly dirt paths and boulders amongst the woods, the trail down was maybe 1/3 flat sections of stone and rock, that made for hell on the knees (as I write this 2 days later, I am still limping a bit), but it was all quite worth it, to encounter nature in ways that dropped the jaw more than one time at the sheer beauty around us.

Visiting the destroyed forts of Crown Point

Across the street from the campsite, and actually free to us as campers, was the ruins of two forts that were integral to the French and Indian War, and the border disputes (between the French, British, Iroquois, and Algonquians)  before and after.  The French successfully built and defended Fort St. Frédéric against the British on multiple occasions… so successfully that the British rounded up 13,000 troops to take it (the largest land army in North American history to that point).  The French got wind of this, quickly destroyed the fort and their town themselves (no British allowed in THEIR tree house, thank you), and ran.  The British, pleased with themselves, built the enormous earthworks and Fort Crown Point, and were 1) promptly never attacked and indeed 2) had a careless chimney fire ignite the gunpowder stores… two buildings over and blow the thing up mostly.

the Union Jack flying above the ruins of  the British Fort Crown Point

the Union Jack flying above the ruins of the British Fort Crown Point

Though it blew up, a slew of cannons survived and were there 2 years later in 1775 for Nathaniel Green and Benedict Arnold to capture, for George Washington’s use in a certain American revolution you may have read about.  Quite a bit of history, for the museum and ruins across Bridge Street from our campsite, no?

the partially restored buildings that remain after the fire set the powder magazine ablaze, in 1773

the partially restored buildings that remain after the fire set the powder magazine ablaze, in 1773

I cannot claim to understand fully JUST how lucrative the fur trade was in the 1700’s, to validate forts like this (the British used 4000 men over the course of 4 years to build Fort Crown Point), but even though we only quickly checked out the museum exhibits, it was an interesting dose of “wow, I really don’t know as much as I should know on the topic of pre-American Revolution disputes to understand how borders and alliances formed… and by extension, I don’t know that much about anything at all!” (it was also a dose of run-on sentences, in the composition of the preceding prose)

Fort Ticonderoga, Mount Defiance

After a great weekend spent in nature, John decided to head for home to allow for some time to work on a paper prior to sleeping; having a shorter drive and having originally wanted to see Fort Ticonderoga anyways, I went the other direction and checked it out.

Ticonderoga bills itself as "America's Fort" ... but is a place that seems to "slightly" cater to the huge influx of tourists from Quebec

Ticonderoga bills itself as “America’s Fort” … but is a place that seems to “slightly” cater to the huge influx of tourists from Quebec

For one, this whole trip was an interesting study into “Where do people from Quebec go on vacation,” because the answer appears to be “the Adirondacks and and around Lake Champlain.”  The weather was gorgeous, and the Fort had a lot of visitors; but it also had a large number of staff dressed and acting like historical French soldiers and civilians, which was interesting.

One of the many cannons on the premises, but one of the most intricate artistic embellishments I found

One of the many cannons on the premises, but one of the most intricate artistic embellishments I found

After touring the battlements and the cannons thereupon, I stood off to the side for one of the military music demonstrations by  the fifes and drums of Ticonderoga, and rather enjoyed their precision with such imprecise instruments!

the restored battlements are a marvel, somehow more compelling than all the skyscrapers we seem to scrape with

the restored battlements are a marvel, somehow more compelling than all the skyscrapers we seem to scrape with

The reenactors around the place were committed, especially the fifes and drums.  Fort Ticonderoga seems like a great place to bring one’s kids, in terms of how the exhibits and explanations are geared (meant for families), so it wasn’t my favorite place to go learn; but in terms of seeing how big a fort it was, built by hand and maybe some oxen, was worth the trip.

the fifes and drums alternated British and French military music of the 18th century, during demonstrations

the fifes and drums alternated British and French military music of the 18th century, during demonstrations

The view from Mount Defiance must be interjected here, before I describe the verdant gardens on the premises.  Fort Ticonderoga was captured by different powers several times, but the butcher’s bill for head-on assaults was quite high.  The British captured it once, then later recaptured it, because they realized how easy it would be to fix cannons with impunity from the significantly-higher Mount Defiance.

Fort Ticonderoga as seen from Mount Defiance

Fort Ticonderoga as seen from Mount Defiance

Not hard to understand how the fort was easily retaken not once, but twice by the British after I trekked up there (no one else seemed to figure out how important the much  taller mountain was for artillery) because they dragged cannons up the damned mountain  to shell the fort.

close up of the fort as seen from Mt Defiance. I love my camera and tripod.

close up of the fort as seen from Mt Defiance. I love my camera and tripod.

The King’s Garden, to close this post, was a portion of the Ticonderoga park that is part of the Pell family’s estate.  The Pells owned the land after purchasing it from New York and were instrumental in preserving the initial ruins of the fort and later restoring many of them; the gardens were redone by famous American landscape architect Marian Cruger Coffin,

though hard to see through the trees, Fort Ticonderoga as seen from the garden

though hard to see through the trees, Fort Ticonderoga as seen from the garden

Kinda like what I want to do on my own piece of property, hopefully in the very near future.

the place was SERIOUS about being in bloom

the place was SERIOUS about being in bloom

So then, all told, it was one hell of a gorgeous weekend, and on the cheap, too:

Fuel: $51.26 (41mpg, my friends)
Food: $45
Campground cost: $27 for two nights

Due to probable imminent shoulder surgery in September, I am not sure when the next NECE will take place, but stay tuned.  There are many moons between now and my May 2014 departure from this place.

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1100 miles driven during a workweek – seeing Wintersun perform in Baltimore; visiting NYC

Bad idea? Probably.  Did I do it anyways?  Probably.

Important point worth noting: the weekend before, I spent most of Saturday teaching myself how to replace the rotors and brake pads on the front of my car (there was approximately 2mm of pad remaining, a VERY safe amount).  Sunday was spent being sore from all the wrench work on rusty bolts, and then gardening and shed-building like crazy.  I was very, very tired prior the beginning of the week, during which I worked 28 of my usual work hours, due to the charity of my boss (and his boss) in letting me take off an unscheduled day and a half, so I could go to…

Baltimore, MD – seeing Wintersun perform live in concert

The week opened with work being fairly busy, and so I was fairly tired when I departed the office at noon on Tuesday, to drive down to my friends Andrew, Tony, and Will.  The plan was to drive to Falls Church VA where Andrew lives, and then drive up with them, so we would only have to pay to park one vehicle, but oddly enough, traffic on 95 South was not our ally.

arrival at the harbor in Baltimore had some harbory things involved

arrival at the harbor in Baltimore had some harbory things involved

After a lengthy drive through some serious rain (both water and vehicles), then, I got to the B-more and found parking, and waited for my friends to show up… and managed to capture them in the photo I took of the venue, Sound Stage:

My random photo of the venue that happened to catch my friends arriving

My random photo of the venue that happened to catch my friends arriving

The concert went from 6:30pm to 1:30am, and had 7 or 8 different bands perform; quite the good deal, rendered a whole lot more survivable because Andrew had purchased a 4-person table ticket, rather than standing space only!!  The bands were a mixture of “well, that just happened, I guess” all the way to Wintersun’s excellence; bands there included Fleshgod Apocalypse, Arsis, Starkill, Fallen Martyr, some local group, and Wintersun.  A lot of that was very screechy, not usually my thing.  But with earplugs and my friends who I hadn’t seen in close to a year, it was quite alright, a very enjoyable experience!

Some of the performers were FAIRLY metal ... not nearly as metal as us, however, with our grins and thumbs up!

Some of the performers were FAIRLY metal … not nearly as metal as us, however, with our grins and thumbs up!

We drove down to Andrew’s house in Falls Church afterwards, arrived around 3am, making for a nice “early” night of sleep.  I got to sleep in (and did so until 12:30, after seeing how bad the traffic was), and later ended up napping from 2:00 to 5:45pm.  Dinner with Andrew after he got out of work, and I was off… to discover that even at 1am on a Wednesday night, interstate 95 STILL has heavy traffic conditions at places.

Wintersun being awesome

Wintersun being awesome

All told, well-worth the drive, to see old friends and listen to some very interesting/loud music.

New York, NY – visiting with my old housemate and friend from DC, Dylan… and screening the BEST worst movies all weekend 😀

So, what to do after a week of working a bunch of hours and squeezing a trip to Baltimore and Falls Church VA in the middle… than to drive to NYC after work on Friday to visit Dylan!

checking out Dylan's skinny apartment, but really loving it

checking out Dylan’s skinny apartment, but really loving it

The weekend WAS planned to include things like “check out the Barcade, a place that serves adult beverages and has all manner of 1980s quarter-operated arcade machines” and “go see the Freedom Tower” and “stuff.”  Then, I got there, told Dylan how great it was to see him, and admitted exhaustion and a penchant for relaxing as relaxingly as possible.

Being a good guy, Dylan was down, so we instead spent the weekend gaming with his friends and watching some of the most awful awful movies ever, like:

what better way to hang out than screening the worst movies, amirite?

what better way to hang out than screening the worst movies, amirite?

We also screened Double Dragon, Expendables II, and more.  Entertaining, yes.  Maddeningly bad?  Very yes!

at the impromptu street fair outside his door, in front of THE Famous Hamburger... wearing our $5 shirts about NY we had just purchased

at the impromptu street fair outside his door, in front of THE Famous Hamburger… wearing our $5 shirts about NY we had just purchased

Got back on Sunday evening and marveled at how lucky I am to have such great friends, my fuel efficient car that made it possible to do those trips on the cheap, and a schedule which allows for such trips to happen!