February Swim in Lake Champlain

February Swim: Griffin "polar bear plunging" in late February 2017. (Source: Geo Davis)
February Swim: Griffin’s late February 2017 “polar bear plunge”. (Source: Geo Davis)

February swim, anyone? In Lake Champlain?!?!

Griffin “polar bear plunges” in 35° Lake Champlain… mid-winter swimming bliss!

Griffin, our now almost nine year old Labrador Retriever, was thrilled with to chase some throw-toys in the chilly lake today despite the fact that it’s February 19 and the water temperature is exactly three days above freezing… 35° of mid-winter swimming bliss!

Here’s a fuzzy but joyful glimpse into one of about a dozen of Griffin’s “polar bear plunges”.

We just returned to Essex and were quite excited about the recent snowfall. Last year’s virtually snowless winter was a bummer. No skiing in winter followed by alarmingly low lake levels due to unusually low levels of spring melt and runoff. Up until the last couple of weeks this winter has been similarly snow-free, so having a chance to spend the morning cross country skiing around Rosslyn’s woods, trails, and meadows with my bride and dog was a welcome change. And the perfect warm-up for Griffin’s February swim…

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Butternut Flats on the Boquet River

Butternut Flats on the Boquet River (Source: vintage postcard)
Butternut Flats on the Boquet River (Source: vintage postcard)

This vintage photograph of Butternut Flats was featured on a photograph that I discovered on eBay. Serene. Placid. Mysterious. Who is that boy? What are those wonderful rowboats? Dories? Skiffs? And — most intriguing by far — where along the meandering lengths of the Boquet River is this inviting bend referred to as “Butternut Flats”?

Here’s all that we learn from the eBay auction description.

Vintage Photograph: Butternut Flats; Boquet River (Essex County New York) Mounted photograph 7 x 9″ show wear and age foxing/discoloration, affected with moisture but not easy to see in the scanned images shown here, but still a nice old photograph; notice young child next two boat in background. Backside with name “Rosamond Lobdell”. (eBay)

Having grown up along the Boquet River (see Homeport in Wadhams and Hickory Hill and Homeport) I’m easily intrigued. And slightly vexed that I can’t identify this location! Perhaps you can offer some assistance? All leads welcome.

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Bald Eagle Surveying Lake Champlain

I spied this bald eagle surveying Lake Champlain today. (Source: Geo Davis)
Bald eagle surveying Lake Champlain near Essex, New York.

While returning to Essex from Elizabethtown this afternoon I spied this handsome bald eagle perched 20 to 30 feet above Whallons Bay. He was surveying the glass-flat, frigid (37° isn’t quite freezing, but it’s not far off) waters of Lake Champlain, head pivoting jerkily. Although he never took flight, never plunged down to grab a lake trout or a salmon, I’m pretty certain he was hunting for his supper. Or posing for passersby.

The photo above and the video below were shot on my iPhone, so they’re grainy and don’t fairly capture the regal raptor. But they’re better than a flock of letters, “You wouldn’t believe the bald eagle I watched this afternoon…”

Bald Eagle Back Story

If you’re intrigued by bald eagles, you may enjoy a few of my earlier posts that showcase our local population of bald eagles (or semi-subtly incorporate “bald eagle cameos”). I suggest you start with these:

And next time you’re in the neighborhood, tilt you head back. You just might catch sight of an alabaster hooded, yellow beaked, ferocious-taloned bald eagle. Good luck!

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William Morris & Co., Wallpaper Sample Book 1, Artichoke, pattern #359, ca. 1915 (Source: theparisreview.org)
William Morris & Co., Wallpaper Sample Book 1, Artichoke, pattern #359, ca. 1915 (Source: The Paris Review)

I love artichokes. Growing artichokes, eating artichokes, enjoying the magnificent bloom (like a purple sea anemone) when I fail to harvest artichokes in time,… I hold artichokes in extremely high regard. But I must admit that I’ve never, ever conceived of artichokes as sexy.

And then I read Nin Andrews’ poem, “The Artichoke“.

She starts in familiar if cleverly conveyed territory.

The first time I saw it, I thought what an ugly specimen. It looked like Grandma’s bathing cap, grown green and small after all these years. (Source: “The Artichoke” by Nin Andrews, The Paris Review)

But then she chronicles a veritable love (lust?) affair with the spiny vegetable.

I sliced it open and tasted the pale flesh. And gradually she offered herself up leaf by leaf… and she was irresistible… dipped in lemony butter, scraped carefully with teeth and sucked, the pale cream of flesh, the tender flower, her skirt held up like a cup, each sip bringing me closer to the moon, the vegetable pearl of her insides where the heart fans out fibrous hairs and waits a last mouthful on her green world. (Source: “The Artichoke” by Nin Andrews, The Paris Review)

Wow! It’s fair to say that my perception of artichokes has evolved. Dramatically. And though we’re only halfway through November, my mind is already dreaming of planting more Imperial Start Artichokes next spring…

[FYI, I excerpted some of the more salacious poetry from Nin Andrews’ poem, “The Artichoke”, but I’d strongly, strongly encourage you to read the whole poem. It’s short. And it’s thoroughly enjoyable. An artichoke will never be the same for you!]

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Bald Eagle Omen

Bald Eagle Omen (Credit: Melissa Davis)
Bald Eagle Omen (Credit: Melissa Davis)

I share with you a bald eagle omen, courtesy of my mother.

Bald eagle by your boat house. Saw this elegant creature as I went to massage and he was still there when I returned. May be a sign of something good? ~ Melissa Davis

Rosslyn’s boathouse is often frequented by bald eagles, hawks, and other raptors, but I’m choosing to embrace my mother’s most recent sighting as an important symbol.

When an eagle appears, you are on notice to be courageous and stretch your limits. Do not accept the status quo, but rather reach higher and become more than you believe you are capable of. Look at things from a new, higher perspective. Be patient with the present; know that the future holds possibilities that you may not yet be able to see. You are about to take flight. (Source: pure-spirit.com)

I’m digging deep, summoning courage, and shifting my perspective!

From eagle we learn that life looks different from an aerial perspective. We need to take a new view on the challenges in our lives. If we don’t readily find solutions it may be because our vision is too limited to see the solutions that are so glaringly obvious. ~ Ina Woolcott (Source: Shamanic Journey)

It’s time for a fresh vantage point — personally, professionally, politically — so I’m grateful for this bald eagle omen. I’m reminded that my vision may indeed have become too limited, too myopic. Time to shift and amplify the view. Time to prepare for flight!

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Off Kilter Boathouse

Off Kilter Boathouse (Credit: Tom Duca)
Off Kilter Boathouse (Credit: Tom Duca)

It’s always a nice pick-me-up when a friend (or a complete stranger) shoots me a snapshot (or a painting, etc.) of Rosslyn’s boathouse. Tom Duca’s sunny snapshot this morning is no exception. Thanks, Tom!

Another… Autumn day, blue skies, geese bobbing on the lake beside your boat house. ~ Tom Duca

I chuckled when he responded to my request for permission to repost his photo with an apology that the photo is off kilter. Off kilter? Hardly. I chuckled because the boathouse that we inherited when we took ownership of Rosslyn a little over a decade ago was indeed off kilter. I mean, really off kilter. Ready to tumble @$$ over teakettle into Lake Champlain. What a relief that today this quirky little house on a pier is less likely to succumb to the wily ways of weather and time and gravity.

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Autumn Aura on the Adirondack Coast

An autumn aura is descending upon the Adirondack Coast. Autumn colors, autumn lighting, autumn sounds (think southward-flying Canada Geese), autumn textures (think crisp leaves eddying and frosted grass underfoot), autumn smells, and autumn flavors…

Autumn Aura on the Adirondack Coast: Rosslyn's shifts into her rustic autumn wardrobe... (Source: Doug Decker)
Autumn Aura: Rosslyn’s shifts into her rustic autumn wardrobe… (Source: Doug Decker)

Thanks, Doug, for snapping that photo above. And for swapping out summer’s lime green sweet potato vines with golden (poetic license?) corn stalks. We’re autumnified! My bride is thrilled.

Here’s a glimpse of the intermediate phase a couple of weeks ago. The pumpkins, freshly harvest from our vegetable garden, complement those practically fluorescent sweet potato vines.

Autumn Aura on the Adirondack Coast: Rosslyn's initial transition from summer to fall wardrobe. (Source: Geo Davis)
Autumn Aura: Rosslyn’s initial transition from summer to fall wardrobe. (Source: Geo Davis)

Have you noticed that distinctive shift in the North Country atmosphere? It happens every year as the vestiges of summer yield to the advance of winter. There’s a palpable change in the ambience, the mood, the character of the very same facade and yard and early evening that only weeks ago flaunted summery bravado. The tone has shifted. Harvest season. Halloween…

Autumn Aura on the Adirondack Coast: Rosslyn's initial transition from summer to fall wardrobe. (Source: Geo Davis)
Autumn Aura: Rosslyn’s initial transition from summer to fall wardrobe. (Source: Geo Davis)
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Waterfront Winterization

Waterfront Winterization: Pulling out the boat lift on September 22, 2016.
Waterfront Winterization: Pulling out the boat lift on September 22, 2016.

There comes a time each autumn when summer has faded and winter is whispering over the waves. Or when work, travel, something eclipses the languid stretch of fall boating and watersports. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later, and as inevitable and bittersweet as fall foliage, waterfront winterization is an annual ritual that braces us practically and emotionally for the North Country’s frosty November through February.

The photo above chronicles the slow process of dragging the boat lift ashore. We use an electric winch and plenty of manpower. The aluminum dock is next. Rolling it in is the easy part. Lifting it up the stone terracing to higher ground is our version of crossfit.

Special thanks to Doug Decker, Erick Decker, Matt Smith, Alex Shepard, and Jeff Bigelow for making today’s waterfront winterization the smoothest and most efficient to date.

Boats on the Hard

Waterfront Winterization: Pulling the ski boat on September 21, 2016.
Waterfront Winterization: Pulling the ski boat on September 21, 2016.

Usually in October, we haul Errant, our 31′ sailboat and Racy Rosslyn, our ski boat. This year we had to advance our haul dates to accommodate a busy fall schedule. In the photo above Racy Rosslyn is being towed away for winterization and storage.

Waterfront Winterization 2016: Errant is on the hard at a nearby Shipyard.
Waterfront Winterization 2016: Errant is on the hard at a nearby shipyard.

Errant was hauled on Monday and now rests comfortably on the hard, winterized, and covered for a long North Country fall-winter-spring.

Thanks to everyone who’s helped with Rosslyn’s waterfront winterization 2016. Just think, in eight months we’ll reverse everything we just did!

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Old Stump Bridge in Whallons Bay

Oil painting of Old Stump Bridge in Whallons Bay by Sid Couchey (Source: Heidi Labate)
Oil painting of Old Stump Bridge in Whallons Bay by Sid Couchey (Source: Heidi Labate)

Back in July I received a comment from Heidi LaBate about an Essex painting created by the late Sid Couchey.

I have an original oil painting done by Sid couchey in the mid to late 1950’s. It is off old stump bridge in whallons bay. Sid gifted the painting to my grandfather when my grandfather was the lay minister at the church innessex NY. I would love more information and / or to sell it to someone from the area who would appreciate it fully. I reside in Burlington , Vt. (Source: Heidi Labate, July 29, 2016)

I was thrilled to receive the following snapshots from Ms. LaBate who blogs about food and cooking (and offers a “freezer meal” service) at BeetsCookingVT.com.

Unfortunately I don’t have any light to shed on the painting, although my respect for Sid Couchey is no secret. It has been suggested that Sid Couchey not only created the Old Stump Bridge painting above, but he may also have helped his grandfather build it (Essex on Lake Champlain). I hope to learn more about this.

My knowledge of Old Stump Bridge is similarly skinny. The following image is from a vintage “souvenir mailer” in my growing personal collection of Essex artifacts.

Old Stump Bridge at Whallons Bay

David C. Hislop touched briefly on the topic in Essex on Lake Champlain, his Essex, NY contribution to the Images of America book series.

“The wonderful old stump bridge just south of Essex at Whallons Bay added rustic charm to the area around 1920. The elaborate cedar-root bridge would today be associated with the fashionable Adirondack style.” (Google Books)

Thanks, Heidi LaBate, for the photographs of Sid Couchey’s painting of Old Stump Bridge. I’ll update this page if/when I learn anything else.

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Vintage Sherwood Inn Advertisement

Sherwood Inn advertisement from 1949 Adirondack Guide. (Source: Adirondack Guide via David Brayden)
Sherwood Inn advertisement from 1949 Adirondack Guide. (Source: Adirondack Guide via David Brayden)

Many thanks to David Brayden for discovering and sharing a 1949 Adirondack Guide that showcased Essex, NY alongside a vintage Sherwood Inn advertisement (above), the only Essex ad included in the book.

It turns out that David Brayden is not only a talented doodler. He turns out to be as skilled an Essex artifact hunter as his son, Scott Brayden (Scott Brayden Digs Essex History), who recently made his second exploration of Rosslyn’s subterranean treasures. (More on what he disinterred soon!)

[Note: If you missed David Brayden’s August 3, 2013 Old Dock House doodle here’s a quick recap.]

Essex Dock House doodle by David Brayden (Source: essexonlakechamplain.com)
Essex Dock House doodle by David Brayden (Source: essexonlakechamplain.com)

[During Downtown Essex Day 2013 we presented passers-by with a doodle challenge.] “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Essex, New York?” David Brayden… quickly sketched out this simple building and labeled it “Dock House.” The Old Dock Restaurant is a prominent Essex building that is one of the most recognizable to passengers coming in on the Essex-Charlotte ferry with it’s red exterior, so it’s no surprise to see that as a response! (Source: essexonlakechamplain.com)

Taproom, Beach, Lawn Sports & More

On July 28, 2016 I received an email from David explaining that he’d come across the vintage Sherwood Inn advertisement (above), and he believed that it was Rosslyn.

Indeed it was. He was 100% correct.

I’ve touched on Rosslyn’s lodging/dining past previously (see Sherwood Inn Remembered and Sherwood Inn Landing on Lake Champlain), but details continue to emerge. Like the initials and last name of the proprietor and manager, C. W. Sherwood and F. S. Sherwood. I’d love to learn more about the Sherwoods. So far, the trail is faint…

Before taking a look at the rest of the Adirondack Guide lent to me by David Brayden, I’ll recap the information from the advert.

Sherwood Inn
Essex on Lake Champlain
New York

Fronting Directly on Beautiful Lake Champlain the Inn — A Fine Example of Authentic Colonial — Commands Sweeping Views of Lake and Mountains.

  • Attractive Accommodations
  • Excellent Food
  • Colonial Taproom
  • Private Beach And Boat Dock
  • Lawn Sports
  • Golf Nearby

C. W. Sherwood, Prop.
F. S. Sherwood, Mgr.

1949 Adirondack Guide: Essex

While the vintage Sherwood Inn advertisement initially grabbed my attention, the entire book was interesting. The full title is Adirondack Guide: Vacationland In Picture, Story and History, and it is a comprehensive town-by-town tourist guide to the Adirondacks. A prior edition was published between 1945 and 1947, and then revised in 1949 resulting in the edition that David loaned to me.

Here’s the write-up for Essex, NY.

The charming little village of Essex is located directly on the shores of Lake Champlain. Essex is rich in historical lore and was the route of explorers and missionaries as far back as 1609. During the Revolutionary war 1776-1784 it was the scene of many an exciting battle in the region of naval engagements and the War of 1812.

On Route 22 (the scenic lakeshores route and one of the main highways from New York to Montreal) it is served by the Delaware and Hudson Railroad. Among the innumerable summer sports the principal ones are swimming, boating, canoeing, fishing, all in Lake Champlain. The chief sport in winter is fishing through the ice for delicious Lake Champlain ice-fish.

The natural beauty of it setting is unexcelled, situated as it as it is on beautiful Lake Champlain in the foothills of the Adirondacks. Mts. Marcy (highest in New York) Whiteface and Hurricane form an impressive backdrop and across the Lake are the Green Mountains of Vermont with Mts. Mansfield, Camel’s Hump and Lincoln predominating the panorama. Essex is indeed deserving of the description which so many people have given it as “One of the Most Beautiful Spots on Lake Champlain.” (Source: Page 171, Adirondack Guide: Vacationland In Picture, Story and History, edited by Arthur S. Knight, 1945-1947, Revised 1949, published and printed by Adirondack Resorts Press, Inc. Lake George, New York)

1949 Adirondack Guide: Gallery

It’s challenging to narrow down the many local-ish vignettes, but present context leads me to include the write-up for Willsboro, NY in the gallery below. I’ve also included a full page advertisement for Camp-of-the-Pines that appears on the page preceding the Willsboro description. I’ve never before heard mention of Camp-of-the-Pines, but I instantly recognized the property from my frequent Willsboro Point bike rides.

If you’re lucky enough to find a copy of this long out-of-print treasure, take a moment to leaf through its nostalgic pages. It offers an enchanting time capsule of the Adirondacks half a century ago.

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