Ottawa Trip Part 2: Upstate New York...and Kingston?

Plattsburgh, NY
Kingston, ON. (Map)

Winter 2010.


Plattsburgh is situated on the shores of Lake Champlain, a water body which is home to a number of lighthouses.

The reason there are lighthouses on this lake came in the 1800s. With a railway connecting the St. Lawrence Seaway to Lake Champlain, there was now an alternate option to shipping goods the entire length of the St. Lawrence.

This meant a major increase in ship numbers upon Lake Champlain. Three new lighthouses were constructed to aid in navigation & one of them was the Point Au Roches Lighthouse - constructed in 1858 of nearby Isle La Motte Limestone. Its specific purpose was to guide ships away from the dangerous shoals at the point of land near Beekmantown, NY (minutes outside of Plattsburgh).

The Coast Guard sold the land around the lighthouse & automated the light in 1934. The lightkeeper's house was moved slightly and became a private residence (you can see it in the second picture of this update). In addition, the surrounding land was subdivided & additional houses were built in the vicinity.

Of course this makes things tricky for people like myself, since there is no public access to the lighthouse. Going into this trip & looking at aerials, I noticed a vacant lot nearby & figured I could walk through there and then along the shore to the lighthouse (to avoid going through someone's yard).

It was a windy & very cold morning, with temps in the teens and windchills making it feel significantly colder. I figured if any homeowner was normally bothered by lighthouse people, they'd likely feel sorry for me & just leave me alone.

(^Looking at Vermont)

It didn't seem extremely cold, but I was only out of the frozen lake for a couple of minutes & my fingers were already shooting with pain. It was all very nice, and I was happy to finally behold Lake Champlain, but I hustled back to the car.

As I warmed up in the car, I noticed a cardinal bird mailbox & remembered a friend telling me that this is cardinal territory. Just as I was thinking that it was a shame that they're not around in February, a bright red cardinal landed on the mailbox support, chirped & then flew off.

Having read about the popularity of Michigan Dogs in Plattsburgh, I returned after the lighthouse in hopes of sampling them.

The Michigans Plus restaurant was packed with churchgoers, and ignoring the waitresses, everyone had to have had a good 30 years on me. As I looked around, it seemed like everyone was eating traditional breakfasts & I was ready for disappointment, but the waitress let me know that I could order whatever I wanted!

So I had two Michigans, tater tots & some O.J.. A satisfying breakfast I must declare.

Plattsburgh is only about 20 minutes south of the Canadian border, so there isn't very much land you can go north into.

Still though, I would go north for a few miles in search of my second target of the day.

Along the way I noticed these ruins along the side of the road. The historical sign told me that this was the 1823 Robinson's Tavern & that there was a log cabin here that was visited by James Monroe (5th U.S. President, one of the founding fathers of the U.S.).

And here I thought I was just taking a picture of an old barn...

My second target for the day involved driving down a northern back road.

A sign warned of no winter maintenance, but it seemed passable...

...for about 2 minutes.

The road was only cleared for the first two or three houses.

The alternate option was to drive down Devils Den Road, which was far less threatening than its name will lead you to believe.

Normally this way wouldn't be an option during the summer, but at this time of year the campground is closed for the season. I parked the car & walked into the campground on an old snowmobile trail, which was doing a fair job of allowing me to walk on top of the snow. The odd time I would break through and sink knee-deep in this snowy forest, but not very often.

As I neared the middle of the campground I found a snow-covered road over to my powerhouse. The snowmobile obviously kept going straight, but I turned left & out of the compacted snow...whoosh! Right down to my thighs I went!

The wind had created snowdrifts here. There also weren't any more trees above to hold back any of the snow.

I stood with frozen pants, before the fence which separates the campground from the powerhouse. It would be a bit tricky because I had hiking shoes on, but eventually I pulled myself atop this fence. As I looked down, I could see the ledges on the side of the bridge, but had no reference for how deep this snow was - so I simply flopped off the fence & up to my hips in snow...which messed with my balance & I then toppled onto my back, surrounded by the white stuff.

As I laid in the snow - which was now up to my ribcage since I was no longer vertical - I had to sigh at this development. I fought to my feet & plodded through the snow like a horse in the sloppiest of fields.

Of course as luck would have it, as I moved around & looked at the windows & doors, everything was sealed up tight. I thought about how this might be easier in the summer as you could go down to the river, but with the rushing water & the ice, that wasn't an option today.

There was a tiny square building on the opposite side of the powerhouse, so I hopped a second fence & infiltrated that for my own amusement. And when I say tiny, I mean tiny - I imagine half of you have larger garages.

Once I was done with that, I weighed hopping the two fences again, versus how much more difficult it would be to walk back to the road on this side of the river. Figuring it not to be that bad, I opted against the fence climbs & went about pushing forward in the waist deep snow.

This was a horrible decision. It's not as if this powerhouse is miles from the road, but it only took me about 5 minutes to walk through the campground, but about 30 minutes to walk through this unmolested side. This side that was totally uncharted, with heavy wet snow in every last step, and nearby houses forcing me to keep up a certain pace.

I stopped a handful of times as I was so exhausted that my lungs were burning. Once I returned to the car, I was amazed at just how difficult it was, to walk that small section of land. I found a disheveled, tired man in the rear-view window.

Location #2 provided the same problems. There was a road right to it, but it was very close to houses & there was nowhere good to park...well there was one good place to park, but there was an honest-to-goodness valley between the parking location & the buildings.

If the snow was that deep & troublesome next to a river, I had no desire to fight through a valley of the stuff.

So I had had enough. If I wanted to fail in the snow, I'd have stayed in Newfoundland.

Knowing the Kingston Frontenacs played this afternoon, I hightailed it through Upstate New York, through Ogdensburg, & back into Canada.

I walked up to the ticket booth & had no problem getting good seats & an invitation into the K-Rock Centre.

Only built in 2008, I was impressed with the cleanliness & moderness, but I have to admit that the place was also very sterile. It didn't feel like an arena, but more like a 1990s convention centre or university building. It was wide & spacious - especially considering the poor turnout for this Sunday afternoon game - and you felt very disjunct from the action.

I had the typical good seats, around the blue line & about 5 rows up. That's normally an area you want to sit, but it was additionally desirable as my usher was stunning.

Even though it was a QMJHL thing to eat poutine at every game, I still got one at this OHL game.

C'mon now, I have to keep the window open to have poutine at every OHL game too...

The game ended up being a complete blowout with the Erie Otters taking it 10-3.

When it was 9-3, the goalies tried to give the minor crowd some entertainment, but the toolish linesmen skated as fast as humanely possible to break it up.

I'm still not sure why they were so committed to getting in the way.

This was my first time in Kingston, so I went for a brief drive through the town after the game. There are lots of large, aged, limestone buildings; there are mansions, and there is an inviting downtown.

It opened my eyes a bit, as I never thought much about Kingston before...but our country's first capital is more of a destination now.

I was cutting it close & needed to get the rental back to the Ottawa airport.

And speaking of new cities, Ottawa was next.

Onto Part 3.



1 - Town of Beekmantown - The Pointe Au Roches Lighthouse

2 - Wikipedia - K-Rock Centre

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