Sitting in an old farmhouse at Hidden Harbor, on Point Peninsula, in Jefferson County, New York. A creek through the property was widened at the mouth years ago to make a small harbor, which is where Seaweed has been tied up for the past week. I’m just 10 miles from the St. Lawrence River, but the wind is blowing, and I’m playing the waiting game.
It’s been a good game so far: There’s coffee in the morning at Judy and Tom’s trailer, and they invited me to join them at a pub for dinner one night last week. Jim, from Pennsylvania, gave me some of the smoked salmon his buddy sent him from Alaska, and there was a pancake breakfast, cooked by marina manager George, at the farmhouse Sunday. A shower and laundry are icing on the cake.
Ruth managed to collect five days off from work, and last Friday night hopped in the car and ventured to meet me. With two-hour delays at customs, and creeping Canada Civic Day holiday traffic, she didn’t arrive until around 10 pm Saturday. I don’t know how she found the place. It’s 17 miles from the main road, only connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, and pitch black at night. On Sunday, we met her brother, Andy, and his wife, Tina. They drove up from New York City, and it was a one-year reprise, to the day, of when they came to see me in Pt. Abino, on my Lake Erie trip. We stayed a couple of nights in Clayton, a small town on the river, at the Calumet Motel and Decoy Shop.
This is a great location from which to explore what’s known as the Thousand Islands. There are actually 1864 islands in the river, and almost all of them are privately owned. Several companies offer boat tours of the river, and we took a two-hour cruise on a pontoon boat from Clayton to Rock Island. Now a state park, it has a beautifully restored lighthouse and keeper’s house. Along the way, we saw homes ranging from humble to huge, on islands big and small. The river was filled freighters, fishing boats, float planes, yachts and jetskies. Our tour guide kept telling us how lucky we were to have such a rare calm day. Oh well…
After the tour from Clayton, we drove farther downriver to Alexandria Bay, and hopped on a short ferry to Heart Island, home to the ill-fated Boldt Castle. In 1900, George Boldt, general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York and the manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, commissioned what was designed to be one of the largest homes in the country. Four years into construction of the six-story castle, as well as four other masonry buildings on the island and a massive boathouse on a nearby island, Boldt’s wife, Louise, suddenly died, and he immediately stopped construction. For more than 70 years the project crumbled. In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired Bolt’s islands for $1, with the stipulation that proceeds from visitors go toward restoration of the grounds and buildings. Initially, the concept was to restore the project to the point at which Boldt quit building. The site has since become a major attraction for tourists from both sides of the river, though, and new construction has surpassed the original, and continues.
But there’s also a variety of canoes, small rowboats and day sailors, and an exhibit featuring small boats that have carried intrepid sailors on some amazing long-distance trips, some dating back more than 100 years. Hard to understand why anyone would want to take a trip like that…