Among our favorite campgrounds is Glimmerglass State Park, at the end of Otsego Lake opposite where Cooperstown resides. But when we made our reservations, the pandemic had not hit the US, yet Glimmerglass was already booked solid for this week in June.
What a fortuitous bump! We discovered Lake Gilbert State Park, slightly farther from Cooperstown than Glimmerglass, to the south and west. Gilbert is much smaller than Otsego but still lovely and popular.
Our site, #2, gets quite a lot of morning and early afternoon sun, necessitating some AC, but it is elevated and relatively private. John, Mary, and Riley are next door in site 3. The only disadvantage of the two sites was that J&M were next to a dusty grail trail going right beside them up to a ball field (not marked on the maps) that no one appears to ever use. The staff, however, would drive up there occasionally, casting dust in J&M’s living space.
Our site #2
Site #3 with John & Mary’s teardrop and tent
The camp area we chose is one of 2 in the campground (called Hilltop) and is grassy and open, with stately trees scattered around the middle and a large bathhouse with 4 private toilet/showers and the usual men’s and women’s group areas. There is also a dishwashing station, and a washer and dryer, but we had some reservations about the clothes washing area, as it’s outside with the dishwashing area.
When we checked in, the group bathhouse areas were closed, but the 4 private rooms were disinfected several times daily. By the time we checked out, the whole bathhouse was open.
There were 4 large RVs there when we arrived and it became obvious they were all together. None of them wore masks the whole time we were there, and they gathered at one site or another to eat and party together. This only got annoying on Friday night when “Green Shirt” had a few too many beers and began talking VERY LOUDLY and being quite obnoxious. One family among the group had mounted a large boar’s head on a step ladder at the hitch end of their rig, and upon its head was an enormous MAGA hat. ‘Nuff said.
Along with Riley, there were a number of dogs there—most were well-behaved—with whom Riley wanted to be friends. So he’d whine and bark sometimes upon seeing some of his species about, which, in some cases, set the other dogs to barking.
The days we were at Gilbert Lake were sunny and quite warm, but there was little humidity. Every afternoon gray clouds would roll in and we could hear thunder in the distance, but it only showered on us once. Riley has anxiety issues with thunder, but on only one evening did he need his “thunder jacket,” actually a dog life vest for water, to ease his discomfort.
The downsides of Gilbert Lake for bicyclists are 2: First, the state of the paved roads is terrible (broken up, patched, and pitted); and second, there are no rail-to-trail conversions anywhere in the area that we could find.
On the 19th (Juneteenth) Jack and I took a short 7-mile tour of the area, sticking to the pubic roads in the campground, checking out the enormous cabin area (33 or so, some of which were built by the CCC back in the 30s or 40s), the beach and concession areas (beach open, concessions closed), and the lower, larger camping loop (called Deer Run maybe?). That camp loop was partially open with 3 RVs in sites, but the staff were doing work around the loop, probably preparing for the July 4th holiday-goers. That campground area is closer to the lake’s beach and is the home of the only dump station in the entire complex.
Saturday the 20th, Jack ran in to the nearest village (Morris) to do a reconnoiter and some laundry. Other than the laundromat, there’s nothing of significance in Morris (not even a grocery store). Meanwhile, I took a ride to check out the path circumnavigating the lake. Signs warn folks from entering, calling it a service road, and the folks at the camp store said there weren’t any bike trails on site, but I took my bike around anyway—John and Mary had walked Riley along the path and reported it to be okay for bikes, so I rode. A spot or three needed some extra care to avoid roots or rocks, but it was just fine.
I did 2 loops of the ride down the hill to the camp store and back to the point where I joined the lake road, circumnavigated the lake, and then climbed back up the steep hill to Hilltop. On one of the tours of the camp store, I saw a Cooper’s hawk lift from the ground near the road and make some effort to get airborne. My guess was that it was carrying something it had caught by the road.
All told, my ride was about five miles each loop, with the lake path being a bit over a mile. One time I did the lake trail counter-clockwise, and the other time I did it clockwise.
Jack got back around 11:30 and John came puffing up to get the car to go back and fetch Mary & Riley. Mary had twisted her ankle and fallen down on her knee along one of the hiking paths, ending up with a significant scrape on her knee and a sore ankle. She was fine, only embarrassed, but walking was a bit of a challenge for her.
After lunch (and ministering to Mary’s wound and resting her ankle) we all set off for Cooperstown. Mary thought that a gentle walk around the town would ease some of the stiffness and swelling in her ankle, which John wrapped with an Ace bandage.
A stroll and an ice cream later, J&M drove up toward Glimmerglass, and Jack and I hit the grocery store for the goods to make a Dutch Oven dinner for us all the next day, on our final night together.
On Father’s Day Sunday, J&M headed north to link up with Mary’s brother at a half-way point for them both. Jack and I had a lazy day reading and napping. Every day of our stay we heard and saw a Cooper’s hawk circling overhead—possibly a mate to the one I saw on my solo ride on the 20th.
I fixed the DO goulash dinner for us and we enjoyed the meal and a quiet evening around the fire, which, as usual, included some distant thunder, some gray clouds, and a sprinkle thrown into the mix.
On June 22, we packed up our houses on wheels. J&M headed south, back to Pine Grove Furnace State Park in PA en route to their home and garden; and Jack and I headed north and east to New Hampshire and an old friend, Ashuelot River Campground in Swanzey, NH.
The final day of September was overcast and, in the end, quite rainy here in Cooperstown, NY. Highs on the day were in the low-to-mid-60s, so it was a perfect day to spend at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But before I get there I have to mention that on our travel day (Sept. 29) from Lakawanna to Glimmerglass State Park (NY) at the opposite end of Lake Otsego from Cooperstown proper, we stopped for lunch at Brewery Ommegang (as we had done last year). We were a bit too early to check into our campsites in any case, and JB & Martha had made additional stops along the way, so Ken & Diane, Kerry & Glo, and Jack & I stopped and had a delicious lunch and one of their nice beers. I thoroughly enjoyed their Nirvana IPA, a fine accompaniment to my beer-batter-baked chicken breast sandwich with “frites.” Yum.
We linked up with JB & Martha at Glimmerglass, and a fine camping adventure it is here. Here are a couple photos of our site, which is #006.
There is no on-site water available so we all filled our tanks with the freshwater available at the dump station on our way in, and the electric has been happily running our heat pump for early morning and evening warmth since we arrived.
So. The main project of this trip has always been the Hall of Fame and JB, the baseball fan amongst us, and his dream to have his photo taken with one of his faves, Cal Ripken, inducted in 2007. But there is so much more than just a H o F with listings of names and dates here. I’m going to keep the reading part as small as possible and just post some of the many photos (some with captions) I took of what I consider the highlights of my time at the museum.
As we entered the museum proper, we were met with the strange aspect of this:
Inventing Abner Doubleday: In 1905, the US was taking its place on the world stage, eager to establish its distinct heritage. In that spirit, sporting goods magnate Albert Spaulding handpicked a special commission to prove the national game’s American roots. The eventual verdict? Civil War hero Abner Doubleday created baseball in Cooperstown in 1839.
In fact, baseball was played decades earlier, evolving from many similar bat-and-ball games. Doubleday didn’t “invent” baseball . . . Baseball invented Doubleday, a thriving legend that reflects Americans’ desire to make the game our own. (Doubleday Field backs Main Street in the middle of Cooperstown, with this “Sandlot Kid” sculpture just off Main St.)
In the section of the history called “Pride & Passion: The African American Baseball Experience” there were many photos and original documents detailing early players and the abuse they endured in the white establishment.
The plaque introducing this section of baseball’s history read: Almost as soon as the game’s rules were codified, Americans played baseball so passionately that writers of the time called it a mania. African Americans were no different, but in baseball, as in much of American life, they played mostly in segregated settings, including southern plantations as early as the 1850s. On their own sandlots and diamonds, they too developed baseball to its fullest potential. Black communities took pride in these teams and their dynamic brand of the National Pastime. From the earliest times, black baseball was the seedbed for those talented players who paved the way to integrated baseball. The game itself became a testing ground for integrating American life.
Among the pieces of which I am most proud (please note dripping sarcasm here) is this letter from the Richmond, VA baseball team “leaders” in 1883, promising bloodshed if a OH team allows a black player to suit up for the games to be played in Richmond: “We the undersigned do hereby warn you not to put up Walker, the negro catcher, the evenings that you play in Richmond, as we could mention the names of 75 determined men who have sworn to mob Walker if he comes on the ground in a suit. We hope you will listen to our words of warning, so that there will be no trouble; but if you do not, there certainly will be. We only write this to prevent much bloodshed, as you alone can prevent.” —Letter from Richmond, VA team to the manager of Toledo team regarding Fleet Walker, 1883.
Of course, men and women of color made significant contributions to the game over time and as one proceeds through the museum, the evidence of this is clear.
My next favorite section was the one about women in the game and reporting about the game and fans of the game. This section of the Hall of Fame was called Diamond Dreams: “Take me out to the ball game,” sang Katie Casey in the famous baseball anthem. Katie was not alone. Women have always loved and played the game, and have worked hard to fulfill their baseball dreams. Stories of exceptions women and their achievements on the field, in the press box, and in the front office pepper baseball history.
Hank Aaron: The list of American heroes who transcend sport to become genuine cultural icons is short and distinguished. Gifted with exceptional physical ability, and unparalleled professional demeanor, mind-boggling consistency, and an internal drive for excellence in all his endeavors, Aaron set a standard nearly impossible to surpass.
His records speak for themselves. When Aaron retired in 1976, he had amassed record totals for home runs, runs batted in, extra base hits, and total bases. “The Hammer” accomplished all of this with a quiet grace and dignity, foregoing the brash pomp and circumstance associated with many other superstars of the sport.
Perhaps his greatest achievement, however, has taken place beyond the diamond. Aaron has used his well-earned celebrity status on the field to transform the larger world off of it. His championing of civil rights, untiring support for numerous charities, and service as an influence ambassador for baseball has only increased his legacy.
One of the seminal eras in baseball history happened over 1973 & 4, as Aaron neared Babe Ruth’s “unbreakable” career home run record. Aaron faced tremendous adversity in pursuing the most hallowed mark in all of American sport, and is respected as much for his dignity during the chase as for the record he broke.
The moment came on April 8, 1974, when he hit his 715th career home run off the Dodgers’ Al Downing to dethrone Ruth as the all-time home run King, a title the “Bambino” held for 53 years.
“The way I see it, it’s a great thing to be the man who hit the most home runs, but it’s a greater thing to be the man who did the most with the home runs he hit.” —Hank Aaron
My favorite quote about Henry Aaron: “Trying to throw a fastball by Henry Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster.” —Pitcher Curt Simmons, who played primarily for the Phillies and Cardinals during his 20-year career.
Hank Aaron’s impact on both baseball and the lives of others has only grown since his retirement in 1976. One of baseball’s first African American executives when he moved to the Braves front office in 1977, Aaron used his iconic status as a springboard to fight racial intolerance.
Aaron’s philanthropic endeavors continue to help people all over the world, while his Chasing the Cream Foundation has provided millions of dollars to underprivileged kids. Honored with the United States’ two highest civilian awards (the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Citizens Medal) Aaron has set an excample for generations and underscored the true meaning of the word “champion.”
Right toward the end of the primary exhibits was the famous “Who’s on First” routine by Abbot and Costello. It had been years since I’d seen it all the way through, and I laughed again, as if for the first time, until tears streamed down my face. A true classic. Bud Abbot and Lou Costello perfected the skit during the late 1930s. It was first performed on radio in 1938; and on film in 1940. But they staged the most famous version in the 1945 movie The Naughty Nineties. Over half a century later, Time magazine voted it the “Best Comedy Sketch of the 20th Century.”
The end of the museum included amazing photographs collected from all eras of the game. Here are a few I liked.
On the first floor is the Hall of Fame itself, which consists of bronze plaques like this one of JB’s hero, Cal Ripken, organized by the year each player was inducted.
Also on the first floor (which visitors are encouraged to see last) is a gallery of artworks whose subject matter is baseball. I had no idea that Alexander Calder did an abstract involving baseball.
Norman Rockwell, of course, was represented, as was this Currier and Ives lithograph.
Also, this nice watercolor by Elaine de Kooning (1918 – 1989)
There was also a first floor section, off toward the HoF Library, about the famous folks who reported on and wrote about and called the games throughout history. Outside in the then-pouring rain was a small sculpture garden. In my photo I was able to get three of the four players displayed there, but had to miss out the catcher, who is “off camera” from the pitcher.
After the HoF, we went to Council Rock Brewery – not much to see there, but the food was delicious (better than Ommegang, IMHO) and I drank an excellent un-filtered IPA that was creamy and hoppy in all the correct proportions. Must of us tried a different beer each, and Jack had a Scotch Dubbel that he found quite good. Another excellent meal was had by all, and the rain had let up a little by the time we left.
A quick stop at the Cooperstown Distillery store front so JB could pick up replacements for the local spirit we got him in his absence last year; a jump into the grocery en route back to Glimmerglass and our day out was complete.
Back at camp, we holed up as the rain continued. Jack and I read our books, listened to music, and took Gloria up on her offer to share a Mexican-inspired casserole they were heating up, so we didn’t even have to cook. We slept to the near-constant patter of rain on the Roomba roof, and hoped for the forecast of little or no rain next day to come true.
October 8, 2015
We headed out after the torrential rains and 100-year flooding in Floyd to “The Nawth.” Our original intention was to wagon-train our trailer and two campers of friends up to Cooperstown, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, on the bucket list of one of the friends.
Health matters intervened, however, so the one among us who really REALLY wanted to see the Hall of Fame, and his wife, were unable to go. So it ended up being an RV and our Roomba heading from VA on Monday, Oct. 5, to stay at one of my fave places (as of our most recent trip): Pine Grove Furnace State Park in PA.
In the creek near the Iron Furnace, someone had done a lot of work to balance rocks in the stream.
We found a great little diner called (of course) The Lincoln Diner near the railroad tracks downtown and had a great lunch of sandwiches. Very friendly folks there, too.
Dinner was salmon on the grill, with delicious cole slaw that Gloria had made, and a wild rice mix — again, enjoyed around the blaze of a fire, all four of us sharing adult beverages and stories.
Before we left PA we stopped for some beer for me, at just about the only type of place PA allows folks to buy beer any longer — a specialty shop. They actually had some good craft beers, and I looked again for the “Fresh Squeezed IPA” from a brewery in Oregon (Deschutes). This beer has been highly recommended to me by a longtime friend in VA, and I thank you for that, Julia, because it is quite good. Yes, I found it at last, after striking out on my search during our last adventure to the northern climes. The only downside is I had to buy an entire case without having tried it. But between Julia’s advice and the enthusiastic recommendations of the two fellows running the beer store, I felt I was on solid ground jumping into the deep end and hauling a case of bottled beer around with us. I have not been disappointed!
Headed from Pine Grove Furnace to Glimmerglass State Park in New York next, which is a glorious campground near Cooperstown. Glimmerglass is at one end of Otsego Lake and CT is at the other. The whole place is quite picturesque.
Again, because of a later arrival, we had spaghetti that Gloria thawed for our meal, built a fire, and enjoyed beverages.
Next day, we all hopped into the car to see Cooperstown and send our Hall of Fame friend some photos. We all decided, however, that we’d save our actual visit to the HoF until all health issues are past and our friends can accompany us. It really will be much more interesting when there’s an enthusiast among us.
First stop was at the lakeside, where we read the following plaque:
“This part of Cooperstown has long been one of the most used access points to Otsego Lake for residents and visitors alike. When the first commercially successful steamboat company opened on Otsego Lake in 1871, this area developed as a pleasure ground. By 1894, ten private and public steamers were operating on the lake from this dock area. In 1902, part of the site was opened as a village park. Soon after the steamers stopped running in 1935, the village park achieved its present size. Today, docks still provide slips for local people’s boats, and a ramp allows boats on trailers to launch.
“The sidewheeler, ‘Natty Bumppo,’ named for James fenimore Cooper’s main character of the Leatherstocking Tales, first plied Otsego Lake in the summer of 1871. The original ‘Natty’ burned in 1872, but was quickly replaced by a second ‘Natty’ in 1873. The steamers linked the railhead at Richfield Springs with Cooperstown, allowing tourists to travel the last seven miles of their journey by water. Most camps along the lake had docks from which the campers could flag the boat to stop.
“Launching of ‘Mohican,’ 1905: The ‘Mohican,’ launched in 1905, was named for Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tale, The Last of the Mohicans. Able to carry 400 passengers, her maiden voyage from this park was a festive affair. ‘Mohican’ closed the steamboat era on Otsego Lake in 1935 when she was taken out of service.
“The village of Cooperstown acquired the park in 1901 and opened a new pavilion in 1902. By 1937, the boat livery and the steamboats were gone. The village demolished the pavilion and landscaped the park, giving it a more formal look with circular paths, lawns, and an open bandstand.”
Cooperstown is a simply beautiful downtown, and you don’t need to be a baseball fan to really enjoy the place. Certainly, most every business is baseball-centered, but the storefronts are lovely and the amenities are vast. We counted at least five ice cream stores, a couple of coffee houses, at least one bakery, and many interesting offshoot businesses along with the (often tongue-in-cheek) baseball paraphernalia stores. There’s evan a minor league stadium right in the downtown area.
This will be a totally lovely place to tootle around on a bicycle. The surrounding residential streets are full of B&Bs, small hotels, and renovated historic homes that are truly beautiful. You can tell this is a place that has been here a long time, occupied by folks who love it here.
I took so many photos, I’ll just arrange them into a gallery so you can pick and choose which ones you care to see.
We took a short jaunt out of town to hit a craft brewery that had been recommended to us by cycling friends: Ommegang Brewery just outside of Cooperstown. It serves food, so we headed there for lunch. Great place, very good beers, and a delicious lunch. I highly recommend a visit to my beer enthusiast friends.
Upon our return to Glimmerglass we wanted to get some exercise, and the ranger who checked us in had recommended a walk down to the lake and into the woods. She had also recommended a visit to an historic home perched on the side of the hill, but we elected not to pay the entrance fee to go inside. So we put on our hiking shoes and walked from our campsites to see the oldest covered bridge (no longer in service) in America, and then to the lake front and into the woods for a walk along a fire road for about a mile or so. The weather held to its glorious setting and we had a very fine time, indeed.
We shifted our dinner efforts from Kerry and Gloria’s setting to ours, as Jack grilled asparagus and pork loin for our shared dinner. I built the fire and we sat around it after dinner until the embers glowed red and all was quiet in the campground.
Then the rain began — the first less-than-stellar weather we’d experienced since leaving home. Heck, tomorrow is a travel day, so it might as well rain. Happily, before hitting the hay tonight, Jack and I had taken down and stowed the awning and the footprint, and all the stuff that normally sits under the awning before the rain began, at about 2AM.
Next stop: Little Pine State Park in PA, another new spot we will be able to check off our State Parks list.