Four days in the Adirondacks begins with a stop at Fort Ticonderoga

Fife and Drum Corps performing at Fort Ticonderoga
Fife and Drum Corps performing at Fort Ticonderoga

DAY ONE (Fort Ticonderoga, NY) — Nothing like meeting cutting edge communicators—18th Century style.

That would be the fife and drum corps.  That’s the way soldiers learned where to go and what to do, one member of the corps tells us at Fort Ticonderoga.

“They brought order to the soldiers lives,” he explained.  And during a battle, it was a lot easier to hear a drum or a fife than an officer’s voice so a drummer and fife player would be attached to each company.

There’s a lot of history here at this fort where, incidentally, the very first Patriot victory of the American Revolution was won—May 10, 1775, three weeks after Lexington and Concord–when Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold realized the fort was an easy target for the American rebels.  After that, Col. Henry Knox transported some 60 tons of military supplies to Boston, including Ticonderoga’s cannons.  The threat of these guns on Dorchester Heights forced the British to evacuate March 17, 1776 and the Continental Army entered Boston the next day.

But history here started a lot farther back than that—when the British and French were fighting the French & Indian War to control the continent.  Fort Ticonderoga guards the important portage between Lake Champlain and Lake George in the shadow of the Adirondacks within the 6 million acre Adirondack Park.  The expenses of that war, we learn, were a reason why Britain was imposing taxes on the colonists—the taxes they found so intolerable that ultimately led to the American Revolution.

We step inside the historic trades shop and learn how shoes were made for the soldiers (some modeled on Indian moccasins.) Outside, “soldiers” are cooking over an open fire –their camp kitchen–while we see a demonstration of musket maintenance and firing.  There was a lot more to it than pushing the trigger!  The boys and men in the audience are especially transfixed.

All summer and into the fall, there are Soldier’s Life programs, family hands-on activities and Fife & Drum Corps performances.  We’re immersed in the year 1755 when French soldiers began construction of the Fort, called Fort Carillon.  Ticonderoga, we learn, in the Native language was “The place Between the Great Waters.”

Guests can join the gardeners at The King’s Garden where there are also nature walks for kids and master Gardner presentations.  Ready to get your hands dirty?

At the new “It would make a heart of stone melt” exhibit we learn how disease killed far more soldiers during revolutionary times and before than battle wounds.

Kids taking in a history lesson at Fort Ticonderoga
Kids taking in a history lesson at Fort Ticonderoga

I love that a place like this helps history come to life for kids.  You can even rent canoes and check out the fort from Lake Champlain.

Kids will especially love The Heroic Maze: A Corn Maze Adventure that will open in Mid August—six-acres! Try exploring by moonlight certain days.  There are more than 100 different activities offered through the season (until Oct 20)—ghost tours, cannons and muskets at night, harvesting the gardens.

We had started our sojourn in the Adirondacks at Fort Ticonderoga before heading for a few days at The Whiteface Lodge  in Lake Placid, NY. 

“America’s Fort” was a good place to appreciate the beauty—and storied history of this region  which attracts visitors for the same reasons it always has—all there is to do in the mountains and on the water  as well as plenty of history—including sports history.  Lake Placid, of course, is the only USA venue to have hosted two winter Olympics (1932 and 1980) and is where the US Olympic Hockey Team’s “Miracle on Ice” occurred in 1980.  Even some of the nation’s earliest theme parks were created here—at natural sites lie the Ausable Chasm (in 1870!) and Santa’s Workshop in Wilmington which opened in 1949.  You can visit both today.

We’re glad to finally pull up to the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid  reminiscent of the famous “camps” families built here in the early years of the 20th Century with rough-hewn logs, big stone fireplaces and fabulous views.

But this is a 21st Century camp with every amenity a vacationing family could want—expansive multi-bedroom units with full kitchens, heated indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, a spa, restaurant serving farm-to-table cuisine  “I call it the Taj Mahal of the  of the Adirondacks,” says General Manager Chris Pulito.  We’re served our drinks in the lodge by an Olympic hopeful who trains here, Chris Mazder.

“As soon as you walk in, your worries are wiped away,” promises Peter Klemm, from Ridgefield, CT.

His wife Karen, who summered here as a child, said another plus is the town hasn’t really changed.  “Old fashioned in a good way,” she said.

No wonder 70 per cent of the guests are return customers.  Pulito isn’t kidding when he says this is a special spot, I think as I settle in for a massage at the resort’s spa before dinner at Kanu restaurant, where we’re served seared scallops and filet mignon.   “Rustic luxury,” said Pulito.

If this is rustic, I’ll take it any day.

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