2014  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
Previous       2014 Journal Topics       Home       Next
 

   TOURING WESTERN NY's THOUSAND ISLANDS AREA 
+ CAMPING AT FORT DRUM MILITARY RESERVATION

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7

 
"This water wonderland [Thousand Islands Seaway] has breathtaking scenery -- nearly    
2,000 islands, the bright blue bays of Lake Ontario, sparkling rivers, and hundreds
of miles of picturesque coastline . . . a stunning scenic sanctuary!"
 
~ from the I Love NY website
 
 
Sounded good to us!

Last Wednesday we drove 143 miles west through the Adirondacks to Fort Drum, an Army military reservation in western New York. This is a totally new area for us to visit.

We've enjoyed spending the past week relaxing, exploring the large Army post on foot and bike, and taking a day drive to Sackets Harbor, Cape Vincent, Tibbetts Point Lighthouse, Alexandria Bay, and the Thousand Islands Winery, all located near the U.S.-Canadian border between New York and Ontario.


Pretty lake near our campground

As you'll see from the photos in this entry, we're still doing a pretty good job of following the fall leaf colors!

CAMPING AT FORT DRUM

We've talked to a couple folks who've camped at Fort Drum and they highly recommended it as a good base for exploring north central New York. We agree, although it wasn't as conveniently located for hiking in the western Adirondacks as I'd hoped.

Fort Drum is a big place, 107,000+ acres and home of the 10th Mountain Division since 1984. About 16,000 troops currently live and train here.

For such a large post and troop population, there are only 13 RV sites in the FamCamp, fewer than most military FamCamps we've visited. But what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up in size -- these are the largest RV sites we've seen at any other base or post! And this week we had the whole far end of the campground to ourselves most days:


Helloooooo?  Is anyone out there besides us???

Truth be told, we absolutely loved that solitude, which we've found only in boon-docking situations previously in national forests or BLM land. Here, we had full hookups and convenient amenities, too.

RV sites are spread out in three loops. All of them are very long gravel pull-thrus with concrete pads and lots of grass. Our site at the far end of the campground is next to fields and a hill with tall grass, perfect for walking the dogs and playing ball with Casey.

 

We have full hookups with 50-amp electricity for only $140/week, a very reasonable $20/day. We do not have WiFi or cable TV, however. Our phone and MiFi signals are strong and we get several TV stations. All in all, we're happy campers. 

This recreation area also has about a dozen very nice, good-sized log cabins and a log office building with restrooms and a laundry room.

 

The cabins had a higher occupancy rate than the campground during the week we stayed here.

We didn't know that so we made reservations to camp before coming here. Since there are so few RV sites, I'd recommend making reservations during the peak summer and fall travel seasons.

Shopping is fairly convenient -- a well-stocked commissary 2-3 miles away, a large super-WalMart two miles from the main gate, and just about any store we'd want in nearby Watertown, including Sam's Club.

EXPLORING FT. DRUM'S ROADS & TRAILS

We originally reserved a campsite for two weeks but paid for just one week upon arrival. We didn't know how much we'd find to do in the area and weren't interested in being here if the weather turned ugly.

The weather was great most of the time but I was discouraged by the distance it would be to drive to any of the trails I wanted to hike in the western Adirondacks. One week turned out to be enough time for us to explore the many miles of roads, bike paths, and trails on post. We got out every day to cycle and/or hike with the dogs.

My favorite destination was Lake Remington, located less than a mile from the campground in Remington Park:

 


Casey was hesitant to jump off the pier to swim but she'd go in the water from the shore.

 

 


Beautiful place to canoe or kayak

Nice, mostly smooth trails encircle the lake:

 

 

I often saw troops running on the trails, which included a Fit Course in one area:

 

 

We rode our bikes on a wide gravel trail near the lake as well as paved bike paths and roadways on post. We found this interesting little Quaker cemetery along one of the paths:

 

 

 

The cemetery is associated with the former site of the Village of McRaysville, settled by Quakers from Pennsylvania and New England in the early 1820s. The oldest headstone is that of an 11-year-old boy who died in 1826. The most recent is dated 1919.

Several years ago Fort Drum began a project designed to improve and enhance the condition of the three historic cemeteries on land that is now part of the huge post. Improvements include bronze emblems identifying military veterans, and signs or bronze plaques explaining the history and significance of those who are buried there.

DAY TRIPPIN' IN THE THOUSAND ISLANDS AREA

Last Friday afternoon we took the dogs with us on a drive west of Fort Drum along the scenic shore of Lake Ontario and up the St. Lawrence River to Alexandria Bay. I was hoping to see water, lighthouses, picturesque harbors, vineyards, and orchards. We ended up seeing all that and more.

We stopped first at Sackets Harbor, located about eight miles west of Watertown on the Black River Bay of Lake Ontario. While there we walked the grounds of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, prominent in the War of 1812:  

 

 

 

Next we drove up the coast on NY 180 and 12E to Cape Vincent, where we found a narrow paved road south of town that leads to the Tibbetts Point lighthouse:

 

I walked around the grounds and took photos. Visitors can take a tour of the lighthouse but we opted out of that.

The lighthouse is at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and very close to Wolfe Island, which is in Canada. Some of the "thousand islands" in the river are Canadian and some are U.S. The wind was stronger here than on post, kicking up some to- to three-foot waves. There are some beautiful homes, most of them of average size but probably worth a pile of $$$, along this road.

After leaving Cape Vincent we drove north on Route 12E. Although this route is marked scenic on the AAA map we were disappointed to not have very many glimpses of the river from the highway.

There are several wineries in this region of New York. When we reached I-81 we saw a sign for Thousand Islands Winery, owned by Fort Drum veteran Stephen Conaway. His company makes the 10th Mountain Division wines I saw at the Class 6 beverage store on post.

 

 

Jim's more of a beer drinker so he was the designated driver after I tasted four of the wines. I purchased two semi-sweet varieties, a Riesling ($12.99) and Wellesley Island White ($9.99). There was an Octoberfest festival at the winery the next day. Last year about 4,000 people attended. We didn't go, mostly because of the anticipated crowd and 100% chance of rain that day.

I enjoyed both bottles of wine in the ensuing weeks, the first New York wine I've had. It was a nice way to remember our visit to the area. Despite our intense dislike of the eastern urban areas of New York State, we do like the Adirondacks and Thousand Islands region.

We decided to forego camping in either the Finger Lakes or Catskill areas this time in search of warmer weather farther south but we'll probably check them out another year. The last three days of our stay at Fort Drum were downright chilly and partly wet.

Next entry:  running away with the circus (you'll just have to read it!)

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

Previous       Next

2014 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-