Friday, July 10, 2015

The Train to North Creek

Our friend Val had a coupon.

 So she rounded up some of the usual suspects and off we went.
 We boarded the train at the Saratoga station around 10:00 am. Our conductor was suitably "on". He might have a future with Southwest if this gig doesn't work out for him.
 Heading north, the train slows at Hadley for those who wish to take photos.
 It is here that the Sacandaga River meets the Hudson.
 The tracks continue to follow the Hudson northward.
 Passengers are allowed to hang out in the vestibules between the cars. The windows there are left down, for both awesome views and photo ops.

The station in Thurman.
 Around 12:30, we arrived in North Creek. There were free shuttles for those who wished to visit sights further from town, such as the Gore Mountain gondola ride or the Barton Garnet mine.
But we chose to stay in town, find a spot for lunch, then stroll around and check out the shops. We enjoyed seeing the North Creek Mosaic Project in progress, a huge community mural being created with the guidance of artist Kate Hartley.
 By 3:30, we were back at the station, where there is a small museum.
 By 3:45 we were back on board, following the Hudson south toward home..

We arrived back at the Saratoga station just before 6:00 pm, happily tired from our day away.

The Saratoga and North Creek Railway offers lots of options for trips, depending on the season and the day of the week. There is food and beverage service available on the train. Passengers may leave their extra belongings on board while they are exploring North Creek, because you take the same train home. Check out the railway and its trip options here. We really enjoyed our day on the railway with their friendly, helpful staff. The folks in North Creek were very welcoming, too. I wouldn't mind going again.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sixty-six kids on a roof

Last Friday night, the Handsome Husband and I hied ourselves over to Skidmore College for the first of their free summer concerts on the roof of the Tang Museum.

 This first concert featured sixty-six musicians, all high school students who were participating in the Skidmore Jazz Institute.
 Lest you be thinking dismissively about the likely quality of this concert - don't.

 These kids were awesome. All that energy and enthusiasm made for a lively evening of music, with a wide variety of jazz selections from varying decades and styles.
 When they first announced that all sixty-six students would be playing, my heart sank. I thought, we are going to be here all night!

 But that turned out NOT to be my complaint (since I have to have one.)

 Varying groups (ensembles? combos?) each played only one selection, and their organizers got them on and off stage with alacrity. Too much so, in my opinion. It would have taken only a minute to mention each student's name and quickly tell where they were from. As a retired teacher, I wanted to know which high schools were producing such talented musicians. Somewhere out there, there are a bunch of unsung jazz band directors who should be very proud of these young men and women.
Now TONIGHT, July 9, you can go to a different Skidmore venue, the Zankel Music Center, and pay to see the Skidmore Jazz Institute Faculty Septet at 8 pm. They will be featuring Sean Jones (trumpet), Jimmy Greene (tenor saxophone), James Burton III (trombone), Bill Cunliffe (piano), Paul Bollenback (guitar), Doug Weiss (bass), and Dennis Mackrel (drums). Admission is: $8 adults, $5 seniors/Skidmore community, free for students and children. Check out the Skidmore website for tickets here. 

But if you want totally free music, you still have another shot at hearing these sixty-six high school jazzists on Friday, July 10, at 1:00 PM, also at the Zankell Center. They were really good last week. Imagine how much better they will be this Friday, after an additional seven days of intensive work with the Jazz Institute faculty. 

You can find more info about the free UpBeat on the Roof concert series at the Tang site. 

Check out what other artsy/academic events at Skidmore are open to the public this summer at the main Skidmore site. Their campus is a lovely, lively place to visit.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Small Town Fourth of July, Londonderry, Vermont, 2015

My cousin Tad owns the only pub in Londonderry, Vermont. So when he invited us to come over for the Fourth of July weekend, I figured it would be a lively time.
Despite the rain, the good folks of Londonderry put on a patriotic parade that was emblematic of all that is wonderful about small town living.
 From a decked-out miniature horse (who turned out to be very sweet when I met him later) ...
 ... to honoring the town's oldest citizen, Londonderry had it covered.
 The rain was heavy at times, but people braved the elements and remained happily standing along the parade route.
 There were lots of flags and ....
 ... talented pipers and ...
 ... other cheerful musicians of all sorts.
 Junk is good. I was quite taken by Junking Johnson's float, below.
It's Vermont. Why not celebrate recycling?
And always a favorite, the firefighters and their trucks. Here, as in so many small towns, these men and women are volunteers. God bless them all.
It is my cousin's good fortune that every year, the parade ends in his restaurant's parking lot. Truly. So Tad books a band and has pizza and hot dogs and free watermelon all ready to go. Here above is Tad's niece Sarah, our cousin Laurie's daughter, helping to serve food to the hungry crowd. In the dining room, they were doing regular lunch and dinner service, as well. It was a busy place.
This year, the band was a local bluegrass group of  Ida Mae Specker (vocals, fiddle, washboard) and Faith Wood (guitar, vocals) and Rio Mueller on washtub bass. Sitting in with them was John Specker, father of Ida Mae, on fiddle and banjo. They were terrific. Check out Ida Mae's Facebook page.
You could hardly have squeezed another soul into the audience. The place was packed.
 Those who found no room inside hung out on the deck under tarps and canopies. The rain didn't seem to bother them.
 We managed to score seats at the bar. Here is my Handsome Husband with my cousin Laurie.
And here is Mr. Fourth of July himself, my cousin Tad, proprietor of Jake's.  He was up cooking breakfast for us at the restaurant this morning, despite a very long day yesterday. If you ever find yourself in Londonderry, you should check out Jake's. Their website is here and they also have a Facebook page. Please tell Tad his cousin Barbara sent you.
On our way home today, it seemed fitting for Independence Day weekend that we make a quick stop at the Bennington Battlefield on Route 67 in Walloomsac, NY.
This State Historic Site is the location of a Revolutionary War battle between the British forces of General John Burgoyne and Colonel Friedrich Baum against the American forces under Brigadier General John Stark and Colonel Seth Warner. 
It was a peaceful place today but in August of 1777,  British troops were trying to capture American storehouses in Bennington to restock their depleting provisions.                   
 The British forces had underestimated the strength of their enemy and most of their men were killed or taken prisoner. The Americans sustained smaller losses. 

Blooming milkweed, ripening berries, and shy deer now live where brave men once fought and died for their respective countries. I think it is a good thing to remember this once in a while, after all of the sparklers and fireworks and watermelon. 

Let us have peace. 

Find more information about the Bennington Battlefield  here


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Ice Meadows ( a belated post)

I have been hearing about the Ice Meadows along the upper Hudson River for some time, but on June 18, I finally had the opportunity to visit a portion of this unique habitat. This area is partly protected by the Hudson River Shoreline Preserve.  What makes the Ice Meadows so special are the plants that can be found there, some of which are quite rare. You can read more about this unusual microclimate habitat at the links I have listed at the end of this post.

I am far from an expert so I was very lucky that my first trip to the Ice Meadows was in the company of some pretty extraordinary amateur botanists, the Thursday Naturalists. If I have misidentified anything here, I know that one of them will be quick to help me with a correction, which I will welcome.
I will give my hoped-for editors an opportunity right up front. I know that this is a species of Potentilla/cinquefoil, but I didn't get a chance to key it out in the field. I think this is Tall Cinquefoil. There are rather a large number of species of potentillas, so I would be happy to be corrected if I got this wrong.

Here above is Frostweed, a simple yellow flower in summer. When this plant becomes really interesting is on the cusp of winter. Check out Saratoga Woods and Waterways for photos and descriptions of  Frostweed's unusual ability to "grow" ice curls, come November.
This delicate blue-violet beauty is Harebell. Please also notice the rocks behind it, and those in the photo of Racemed milkwort (Polygala polygama) below. The terrain along the Ice Meadows is not for the weak-ankled.
There are no neatly-kept trails to follow when one explores the Ice Meadows. Cobbled stones, tumbled boulders, muddy pools and marshy rivulets abound.
But despite their senior ages, my companions this day nimbly navigated the shoreline, always keeping a sharp look-out for the rare plants we had come to see.
Here above, our leader this day, Ed Miller (age 90, truly) is on his hands and knees to examine a plant with a hand lens. Please look at what he had to climb over to get there. The Thursday Naturalists themselves are as amazing and worthy of admiration as the rare plants they study.
Sticky Tofieldia.

Whorled Loosestrife
New York State is home to more than fifty varieties of native orchids. We were lucky enough to find three of them this day.

The first was this tiny Spiranthes lucida, commonly called Shining Ladies' Tresses.

This beauty is Rose Pagonia. We spotted several small patches of these along the river. 
The final orchid of the day was a Tubercled orchid. Should you be inclined to go looking for orchids, please do not pick them. All New York State orchid species are on the state protected list. It is a violation for anyone to remove or damage an orchid that is on state land. So please walk carefully.

My companions think this was a Carolina rose. I will have to see if this is a plant that I can order from a native plant nursery. One of our new baby twin grandchildren is named Caroline and she was born in North Carolina. This flower would be a great addition to my "Children's Garden" where I try to have a a flowering plant for each of my three now-grown children and five grandchildren. I still need to think of something for new baby boy Samuel. Any ideas?

Bladderwort, above, was one of at least three carnivorous plants that were spotted this day.
There was also this one: spatulate-leaved sundew and ...
... this one, Round-leafed sundew.

These are not lost troll dolls, but a cluster of Alpine Bulrush, a member of the Sedge family.

I took dozens more photos of many of the lovely and unusual plants we saw on this trip along the upper Hudson, but I think you've got the idea: this is a very special place. If you go, (1) please expect to get wet feet; (2) bring sunscreen. There is no shade along the meadows. And (3) walk carefully and use your eyes. There is magic here.

You can find much more information about the Ice Meadows at online sites such as these, below: