Saturday, October 5, 2013

1000 Islands & The St. Lawrence Seaway

It is hard to set goals in our ever-changing itinerary, as we're trying to see as much as we can while in one location before it's time to move on.  But today my goal was to take a day off and attempt to catch up on photo organization and do some writing.  In recent days any attempt was futile in the form of the internet refusing to cooperate, but mostly because we have been sightseeing to the extreme.  I guess I better make this fast before something crashes, and Verizon still shows 4G mode. Our neighbor came by to say her wifi wasn't working because of the government shut-down....hmmmm!

From Niagara Falls we headed to the 1000 Islands area of upstate New York.  It only took a phone call from a friend and our course changed to include an area we'd never even heard of. Once again we're hugging the international border and once again great bodies of water dominate our landscape.  We encountered our 5th and final Great Lake, Lake Ontario, where it quite literally dumps into the St. Lawrence River.  This great river carries on to the Atlantic Ocean and with the Seaway system connecting the Great Lakes, is a major boon to shipping and transportation.

Tibbits Lighthouse

Lake Ontario...just to prove we've been here!

At the entrance to the St. Lawrence River

Once again we stayed at a Passport America Park, 1000 Islands Campground, near the town of Alexandria Bay.  We paid $61 for 4 nights of full hookups.  Somehow the owners decided to give us the 5 day discount!  Can't tell you how much we've saved on RV parking since joining PA.

Nice to be here!

Busy village of Alexandria Bay

Though the season is winding down with a lot of businesses closing mid-October, you would never know it with all the tourists still out and about with absolutely beautiful, warm weather.  We joined a large group for an island tour at Uncle Sam Boat Tours, who, at the time we were there, had full daily schedules.

A beautiful day for a boat ride

We're gonna see some islands

We had opted for the Two Nation Tour because it covered both the American and Canadian sections of the islands.  Our professional guide shared colorful stories of the magnificent homes and their owners, most of which I can't remember, and are for the most part just summer homes as the winters are extreme with blizzards and a lot of the river frozen over!  You get the picture...

There were landmarks and towns:

1000 Islands International Bridge
Sunken Rock Lighthouse complete with osprey nest

The world's shortest international bridge?
Not Tom Thumb Island, but could be!

Rockport, Ontario

Church near Rockport, ON

Canadians having fun!
Fall colors are popping out!

The big attraction was Boldt Castle where many passengers disembarked for the tour, though not us. But there is a tragic love story I will pass on!  At the turn of the century millionaire George C. Boldt, proprietor of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC, set-out to build a full-sized Rhineland castle on picturesque Heart Island as a display of his love for his wife, Louise.  

Beginning in 1900, 300 workers, stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the 6-story, 120 room castle complete with turrets, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, and even a drawbridge. Not a single detail or expense was spared.  In 1904, tragedy struck.  Boldt telegrammed the island to command that all work be stopped immediately.  Louise had died suddenly!  Boldt never returned.

The area is a popular wine region so a visit to at least one winery was in order and we chose the nearest, which happened to be the Thousand Islands Winery.  Like Canada's Okanagan, every wine region has its own specialty depending on the length of the growing season, and everyone has their own preference in taste.  I'm far from a connoisseur but Napa Valley doesn't have anything to worry about, IMHO.  Truly the highlight of our visit was the terrific gal presenting the various wines for tasting.  She engaged us immediately, asking where we're from and amazed at our full-time lifestyle, and where we planned to head next.  When we told her Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine to see the fall colors, she insisted we get our map while she got her lightlighter.  Turns out she is a New England native and gave us a route through NH guaranteed to include not only colors, scenery, but moose.  We bought a bottle of their finest Marquette, a red blend.

Thousand Islands Winery styled in old, red barn mode

Wine humor, I thought several friends would appreciate a poster!

We took other drives...all the way to Walmart in Watertown, 30 miles away, returning along the Scenic Highway 12.  Here we first encountered Lake Ontario at the Tibbets Lighthouse near Cape Vincent, at the entrance to the St. Lawrence River, as pictured above.  Then there is Clayton where we didn't visit the classic wooden boat museum.  Sometimes we just need to take a day off!
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