Visiting President Grant’s Writing Cottage

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Historic marker to the cottage. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Grant’s cottage is a small gem in the foothills of the Adirondacks. For years I have driven by the sign on I-87 while heading north. Finally this fall on a semi-overcast day we decided to go check it out. Before going, I thought about what I had learned in history class about President Ulysses Grant. All I could remember was hearing that he was a war hero having won the Civil War because of his well-planned strategies and that he was not much of a President mainly due to having a drinking issue. This pretty much summed it up.

Well I was to learn that what I had been taught in my history class was way off target. We started our visit by driving up a long road past the now closed McGregor Prison on top of McGregor Mountain in the Wilton area of upstate New York. It was a bit eerie to drive past the closed prison in it’s large gothic like presence. (The last time I had visited the prison was on a site visit for an intern. This was a number of years before the prison closed). At one time a popular hotel was on the site when Grant and his family came. The prison it’s self had started as a TB sanitarium in the early 1900’s and was repurposed multiple times, the last as a medium-security prison.

A brief history of Grant’s legacy. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

President Grant was the 18thPresident of the United States. He lived in the cottage for almost two months in 1885. He did not own the cottage. The hotelier that owned Hotel Balmoral lent the cottage to him and his family. His doctors’ had informed Grant that he needed a place away from New York City during the heat of the summer. President Grant was much beloved by the public in general and had been a popular president. Veterans of the Civil War had a strong affinity to him. He served two terms of office and probably would have served a third had he not been slow to decide on the third term process.

During his time in office he had put in place many pieces of legislation related to early civil rights and is considered by many the 2ndgreatest president after Abraham Lincoln to be concerned about the rights of people of color. The civil rights act of 1875 was enacted during his Presidency. It was an amazing piece of legislation that affirmed the rights of people of color and prohibited the racial discrimination in all public places. (It was deemed unconstitutional in 1883.)  It has been said that he and President Lincoln were friends and spent time-sharing ideas. The night Lincoln was shot, Grant and his wife were to have attended Ford Theater with the Lincoln’s. The Grant’s had bowed out and had they not done so there was thought that Grant also would have been shot.

The cottage where Grant last lived. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The cottage was where Grant finished the second volume of his two volume memoirs about the civil war. He was a reluctant writer. The memoir probably would not have been written at all had it not been for three events. One was he had been convinced by his son to invest in a Ponzi type scheme, and had introduced another investor to invest. When he found out what was going on he used the last of his wealth to pay back the other investor. He was considered an honest and honorable man. The second event was that around this same time it was discovered he had throat cancer. Not wanting his family to be destitute he felt a need to provide for them. Earlier a magazine had approached him about writing a piece about his experiences in the Civil War.

The third event centered on his friendship with Mark Twain. Mr. Twain was just starting his publishing company and encouraged his friend to write a memoir instead of the magazine article. Twain would publish what would be a two-volume book. He marketed the book through door-to-door sales. Twain hired veterans as sales men. They offered the book to consumers with different covers so that a consumer could select a price point that fit their budget.

The view from the overlook Grant liked to visit. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Grant spent his time on the first floor of the cottage. He slept in two chairs pushed together up until his final hours where he asked to be moved into a bed in the living room area. His days he spent finishing editing the second volume of the book. Twain would visit him telling Grant the encouraging news that the first volume was selling well. When Grant could he also would visit the overlook nearby the cottage to look out over the mountains and valley below near the Saratoga Battlefield. He also spent many hours out on the porch in the fresh mountain air.

During his time at the cottage family and friends would stay up the hill at the hotel. Making it convenient to visit him. It also made it convenient for his fans to get a glimpse. His wife after a few days ended up abandoning the downstairs bedroom because she got tired of people peeking in the windows. She slept upstairs knowing he was well taken care downstairs by his doctor and valet. He must have had excellent concentration to be able to write with all the commotion going on around him. His book has never been out of print.

Visitor Center before the Grant’s Cottage. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Before arriving at the cottage there is a welcome center to purchase your admission ticket. Inside you will find several great displays about his presidency, a movie and a museum shop. As a visitor you are able to walk out to the overlook (the path is not very wheelchair accessible), and the first floor of the cottage. The docent tour of the first floor was well done and very informative. The docents demonstrate that they have done a lot of research on Grant and you can tell that they love him. The only part of the tour I found odd was the space used to hold the now dead (dried) flower wreaths from his funeral. It weirder me out a bit.

I am now more curious about Grant and plan to read a biography that was suggested by one of the docents. After learning what we did about his human rights advocacy, I want to understand more.

It is well worth the trip to visit Grant’s Cottage. It is open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. The days of the week they are open vary during the season but the hours are 10 am – 4 pm. The admissions fee for adults is $6.00 but you can walk the grounds for free ( Now that the prison is closed the site has seen an uptick in traffic.

This fenced in monument is the spot where he would sit. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© Jelane A. Kennedy

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Autumn Equinox – Photo Essay 2018

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Eileen performing with the Uke Group at Maine Fiddle Camp

Summer is coming to an end and Fall is here. It’s time to look back at the summer and all that it brought. We kicked off our summer with our first adventure headed to Maine to participate in Maine Fiddle Camp. From the moment we enter the camp until we left we were engulfed by music. We ate, slept and spent the weekend totally living in music.

We then headed to Acadia National Park just up the road from Maine Fiddle Camp. The next two weeks was an escape from the heat in most of the Northeast. We luxuriated in the cool breeze from the ocean, hiking and biking.

As we headed home we stopped in Burlington seeing the Adirondacks from the other side.

Beach on Lake Champlain Burlington, VT

In July we headed toward Michigan to visit my Mom. Stopping in Ohio at our favorite little campground in Geneva State Park. After a lovely dinner and ice cream cone we hopped on our bikes to return to the campground. Just in front of our campsite Eileen started to disembark from her bike to only hit a large divot that sent her flying off her bike and down on her hip. Bravely for the rest of the summer she has been healing and learning to walk again.

Traveling home from Ohio, Eileen, crutches and transport chair, camping in a new way. First stop Niagara Falls. I wheeled her over the bridge into Canada to see the Falls.

Traveling along the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario to the Adirondacks.

Sunrise on Lake Ontario

Life is full of surprise and the journey is part of how we flow with those encounters.

© All photos by Jelane A. Kennedy

Posted in Photo Essays, Places: National Parks, Places: State Park | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

What to do on a rainy day in Acadia National Park?

Jelane with seaweed near Bar Island. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

Weather isn’t always perfect when you are on vacation. Just like at home, the weather is always changing and it is always good to be prepared with fun things to do even on a rainy day. As a big weather channel person I always try to keep abreast of what it looks like the weather might be and when we get to a location like a National Park I keep my eye out for activities that take advantage of the weather good or bad.

Luckily at Acadia National Park there are so many things to do that you can plan around the weather. Plus the free shuttle bus system offers a great service to not have to hassle with driving maps and parking, and it saves me more energy to hike, bike or learn about the area’s history. Here are some of our favorites. First off one of the things I have come to appreciate is that rainy days offer sometimes some pretty dramatic opportunities for taking pictures. Clouds offer some great contrast and fog can add a sense of mystery. For instance it’s great time to visit a lighthouse, on a clear day you can usually see forever from that vantage point, but visiting a lighthouse especially one with an attached museum, can be a great way to really contemplate why lighthouses were such needed entities and to gain an appreciation of the work of a lighthouse keeper. Bass Lighthouse in Acadia is one that you can stop by and look out over the water, there is no museum attached.

On our rainy day adventure we tried to think about where would it be interesting to see the ocean interact with the land? So we decided to hop on a shuttle bus and head to Thunder Hole.

Jelane in rain gear taking photos. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

We grabbed our rain jackets, packed our lunch, our cameras and a light wool sweater, beanie skullcap, and gloves for changes in temperature. (I use a point and shoot camera long with my cell phone and Eileen used her cell phone). I also wear a sombrero waterproof hat with my raincoat even though I have hood. My day hiking pack came with a rain cover so it made it easy for me to keep our stuff dry. Eileen grabbed her little stuff pack that she could wear under her coat (it worked but did become annoying so for her upcoming birthday I got her a new day pack with a rain cover). We also wear waterproof hiking boots (wearing solid shoes/boots is important we have seen too many flip flop accidents in the National Parks) and lightweight rip stop zip off pants that dry fast and a new trick Eileen discovered is instead of long underwear on those days when the temperature can yo-yo, she wears spandex shorts under her zip offs. They provide extra support and warmth to her thighs plus her rain jacket falls over her upper legs so it’s just the bottom half of her pants that get damp/wet but easily dry from body heat. She finds herself never too hot.

Walking Ocean Path. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

We had two choices for our visit to Thunder Hole; we could take the bus down to Sand Beach and walk the top part of the Ocean Path down to Thunder Hole or take the bus directly to Thunder Hole. We chose to take the bus directly to Thunder Hole and then we would walk from Thunder Hole down to Otter Cliffs the last part of the Ocean Path. The wave action along the rocks was amazing. That morning Thunder Hole was not thundering but we still enjoyed watching, taking pictures and when it got too crowded with people we head down to Otter Cliffs taking side detours to stop and enjoy drama of the ocean.

Our next stop was to hop the bus to Sieur de Monts, to visit the Nature Center and Abbey Trailside Museum. The Nature Museum was a small building, hosted by a Park Ranger; inside there were some great displays about the fauna and flora. Outside was also the Acadia Botanical Garden or actually the Wild Garden of Acadia, which is maintained by the Bar Harbor Garden Club. We had planned to walk through the garden but at that point it was pouring so heavily we decided to duck into the Abbe Museum.

Read this! Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

There are two Abbe Museum’s one in downtown Bar Harbor that is in the old YMCA building (26 Mt. Desert St, Bar Harbor Hours: 10-5 seven days a week). The exhibits are fantastic and really help to understand the culture of the Native people of Maine, it’s a real must see. The basket collection is amazing. They also have great activity sheets to help kids engage with the materials. The trailside museum is a blast into the past of how museums use to be. The trailside museum was established as a private museum back in 1926 and opened in 1928. While waiting for Eileen (she and I wander differently in museums) I had a great conversation with one of the staff about the artifacts that were there and the one’s out for conservation. She explained how conservation worked and we discussed some of the early ethics of finding artifacts. We also discussed the actual trailside museum and how it does not reflect modern day museum work and yet it is a historical record of the origins of the museum. This then presents a quandary to how to approach updating the trailside museum. (A very significant document we read at the trailside museum was: the doctrine of discovery, it is a legal/moral document that was used to justify white male Christians right to dominate non-Christians and their land.)

The day we were there the Sieur de Monts Spring building was being renovated and was pretty covered up. I actually wish the park would put a small picnic pavilion on the site. It would give folks a place to hang out good or bad weather and I think be in tune with what the area was first used for, we saw old photos of folks enjoying a concert on the grounds.

Other activities you could enjoy would be to go into Bar Harbor and visit the shops, stop by the YMCA (21 Park St.), they are open various hours seven days a week. Get a day pass to use the pool and other recreation facilities (gym, fitness center, etc.) There are also some museums on the southeast side of the island that you could drive to; the bus service is limited there. Such as the Wendell Gilley Museum, which celebrates, bird carving. We also saw signs for the Maine Granite Industry Museum and Seal Cove Auto Museum.

Don’t let a little rain stop you – get out, explore and enjoy!

Otter Cliffs Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen A. McFerran

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Summer Solstice 2018 Photo Essay

By Jelane A. Kennedy

It feels like summer is finally winning the battle over winter here in the Northeast. It has been a long time in coming with lots of ups and downs.

For this Solstice Photo Essay I have selected photos taken since the Spring Equinox in March.

The first was from an impromptu  hike we took in Keene Valley one day when we had the winter blues. We just wanted to be out in the woods but didn’t want a big hike.

On a break the winter blues hike. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The second was taken while on the Ferry to Charlotte, Vermont. We were wandering that day and tried a different route heading to Burlington. The sun was shining and we had one of the last Spring snow storms.

See the sun bounce off the Green Mountains of Vermont. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The third is of the Tulips dancing in the sun out front of the house. They always make me smile and tell me that Spring is really here. Who knows maybe they call to my Dutch ancestry!

Red Tulips Green Wall Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The fourth is a Heron, that Mom, Eileen and I saw on a walk in Connecticut at the Mill Pond in Newington. Such majestic birds, I love watching them in their stillness.

Shhh, be quiet! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The last photo was taken recently at Schroon Lake for the Hobie Cat regatta. There was not much wind on that Saturday but it was fun to see the boats out on the course.

Summer is close at hand. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Happy Summer Solstice 2018!

© 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy

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2 Free little museums in Berkshires – Thunderbolt and Crane Paper Making

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Thunderbolt display. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

As we were exploring the northern part of the Berkshires and where the Ashuwillticook rail trail extended we discovered two great little museums that are little gems. The first was the Thunderbolt Ski Museum in Adams. The museum is in the Adams Visitor Center just as you come in the door from the parking lot. We noticed it as we headed for the restroom. When we came back out we decided to check out the display of old fashion ski equipment and apparel. Once in side the small space we realize we had stumble upon this great little museum that told the history of Thunderbolt. We had actually heard of Thunderbolt a few years earlier when we were near Whiteface Mountain in New York and read about lost ski areas in the northeast. For such a small museum it was packed full of interesting information.

Thunderbolt was a ski run that skiers would hike up carrying their gear, it usually took two hours to climb and not long to make the fast ascent down (the fastest under three minutes)! We could actually look up from the Adams visitor center and see the trail since at that time there was still a bit of snow on the ground. The trail has a very fascinating history. It is on the east slope of Mt. Greylock the highest mountain in the Berkshire’s in Massachusetts.

Another skier display at Thunderbolt museum Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The Civilian Conservation Corp cut the ski run into the mountain in 1934. It was named after a Roller Coaster. From the time it was created and into the 1940’s it was actively used for numerous ski-racing competitions. Many skiers from the area served in WWII as military ski patrols having learned skiing on Thunderbolt. After WWII there was a decline in the use of Thunderbolt, as modern recreational skiing became more popular with ski lifts and other amenities.

It wasn’t until the late 1990’s when a group came together to reclaim the ski run for both skiers and snowboarders. A documentary movie (Purple Mountain Majesty) was made about the ski run and since then several completions have off and on continued. All run by hearty volunteers. The display has multiple examples of skis, boots, and apparel. There was also a history lesson about a few of local men who served in the WWII. There was also supposed to be a documentary available to watch but it was not working that day.

Another display I found, discussed the first ski patrols and how they came about. There is a website dedicated to Thunderbolt but it has not been updated since 2014.

Front entrance of Crane Paper Making Museum Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

While at the Thunderbolt Museum I picked up in the Visitor Center a brochure about the Crane Papermaking Museum. Eileen is a huge Crane paper fan; she use to stamp her own cards and Crane paper was her preferred choice. A couple of years ago we found out about the museum but at that time it was not open in March when we sometimes came to the area. But this time we were later in the calendar year and it was open that afternoon. So after finishing up at Thunderbolt we headed over to Dalton and found the Crane Museum and Center for Paper Arts.

The building that houses the museum is one of the original buildings. It was the former Rag Room for the historic Stone Mill. Crane has been making paper for the US Mint since the United States started printing paper currency since 1879. It has been the only company that has made our currency and up until recently it was a family owned business passed down from generation to generation. There are two locations one here in the US and one in Switzerland (that specializes in currency for other countries). Crane is known for the development of the security papers used that are full of all the high tech features, which make counterfeiting money difficult.

How is paper made? Eileen learning the process. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Zenas Crane started the company in 1801. He came from a family of papermakers. What makes Crane paper what it is? Cotton not wood pulp. I had no idea that paper was made with cotton! Crane paper is also know as some of the finest personal stationery paper around and used by many presidents over the years.

As a museum it is neat to visit to learn about the papermaking process. The building itself is dramatic with large old beams and windows near the river, which use to power the mill process. There are displays discussing how paper was made in the beginning years and showing the labor intense process. The watermark process and concept was fascinating. While we were there a group of kids were just finishing a demonstration on papermaking. Since it was the end of the day we missed out on participating ourselves in the making paper.

The docent we met did a presentation about Crane paper and we watched a film discussing the security of crane currency papers. The film was very informative and worth watching.

The makers of money! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

One of the displays discussed the security papers and how currency counterfeit measures are used. It was very fascinating to look at all the high tech measures in our paper money that make it safe. Who thinks up those things?

The other display I liked was the personalized stationary with notes from several presidents and first ladies. There were notes from long past to current day.

Our docent mentioned that she was uncertain how much longer the museum would be open as the new owner might decide that they did not want to continue. You could tell there was such a sense of pride for having worked at Crane and that people are nervous that one of the businesses they felt loyal to might go the way of many businesses in the area and leave.

So if you get a chance be sure to visit sooner rather than later. They are open typically in the summer from June to October, Monday through Friday from 1pm to 5pm. We actually went in spring, so they did add those hours a couple of years ago. It would be worth calling ahead.

Visiting Crane. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy


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#1 thing campers do in the winter – dream about RV’s and camping gear!

By Jelane A. Kennedy

The new way to tent! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Each winter as the snow falls and piles into beautiful drifts it is not unusual for even those of us who love winter to dream about our next camping adventure, especially when winter is taking a long time to shake loose. This year has been one of those years when winter still has a hold on us here in the north. March brought three weekly big storms and April has been one of the coldest in a while; just last week as I drove between Connecticut and upstate New York I saw ice on lakes and snow still on the ground. This weekend brought temperatures in the 70’s and again at the beginning of the week there was a drop into the 30’s.

It is the dreaming about camping and the change in seasons that helps when the weather of spring is on its wacky ride. Thinking about those nights out under the stars, hanging out in front of the campfire, listening to the frogs and crickets as night falls, hiking the next mountain peak, or heading out to the latest waterfall. All things that make me think of camping.

I look forward to each March my KOA directory arriving via snail mail. All shiny and new with thoughts of where we might go and what we might see. Lately they ask if I would prefer the digital version but I always say “no”. I love getting the paper version that I can dog-ear and come back to. I always put the new directory in Abbey our van and take the year old one into the house for a reference copy, recycling the two-year-old one.

This year Eileen and I decided we would try going to an RV show again. In the Albany area when we went to one, we discovered that instead of multiple dealers sharing a show space it was usually just one dealer making a show. So this time we wanted to find a “real” RV show with a bunch of dealers and lots of products so we could roam and look, oh and ah. And we found just that at the Springfield RV camping and outdoor show.

We arrived after lunch and found out there were three buildings filled with every imaginable RV, information about campgrounds and gadgets galore. Since we were only there for the afternoon we concentrated on looking at RV’s, primarily small travel trailers and Class B (vans and small motorhomes). Here are some that we found:

The Compass – bigger than Abbey but not real stealth!

Falcon Trailer – Big red and lots of storage!

TAB 400 trailer – so cute and retro!

Airstream – a classic!

Travato camper van – the next generation of Abbey!

We know at some point we will need to move to our next van. Who knows what it will be, we love Abbey and all the adventures we have been on since she became ours in 2007. But we both know that we need to start to consider what is next, so we will continue to dream about our next camping adventure!

Riding the Essex Car Ferry to Vermont on a lovely Spring Day. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy

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Spring Photo Essay 2018

By Jelane A. Kennedy

After four Wednesdays of Nor’easter’s here in the Northeast Spring is finally taking hold. Now that doesn’t mean we won’t maybe have some more little snow showers but maybe, just maybe the cold weather will break free to warmer days. It has been a winter of snow and thaw, snow and thaw this year making it difficult to really enjoy my favorite winter sports. But thank goodness for micro-spikes, we have been on quite a few adventures where they have been the favored foot gear accessory.

A look back over the time since Winter Solstice:

Christmas lights shining at the Schroon Lake Bandstand Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy


First Hike, Saratoga Springs:

When it is so cold hard to believe a Geyser can still spray! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy


My favorite winter drink – Hot Chocolate, learning where chocolate comes from:

Who would have thought Cocoa comes from such a cool pod! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy


Loving a winter Parade, Mardi Gras by Magic Hat in Burlington, VT

And the band played on! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy


Icicle art by Mother Nature, Pyramid Life Center, Paradox, New York:

Wavey Icicles from the thaw freeze cycle. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy


Hike at Rush Pond, Queensbury, New York.


Sculpture from Burlington, VT waterfront park – Bond between Quebec & Vermont

Dramatic Burlington Waterfront highlighted by Adirondack Mountains. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Travel On!

(c) 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy

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