Robert Moses SP, NY, Pt. 2

Friday, July 3

I prepped for the first of two private Independence Day celebrations (both, naturally having to do with good food)—my famous breakfast casserole in the Omnia oven, which usually “rests” overnight after assembly. Then we headed out for our bike ride, early-ish again (but after running the generator for an hour or so) to beat the heat, and managed to put in close to 16.5 miles. This time, the picnic area was closed, and we didn’t do every camping loop, shearing off ~ 3.5 miles from the total possible. Our plan is to stay off the roads tomorrow when we imagine there will be plenty of traffic, boats and lake craft (being trailered to put-ins) and campers all over the place.

We took it easy all day, and for lunch, re-heated some previous dinner leftovers paired with crackers, helping to empty the fridge—we’re challenged between keeping the fridge nice and full so it won’t work so hard off the battery, and having room for juice, leftovers, and other necessaries. But the trailer’s battery level indicator hasn’t read below 3 bars, with the help of the generator, which is so beautifully quiet, even some neighbors commented on the whispering noise level.

Once again Jack headed in to Massena because we had a tonic emergency—not enough to see us through July Fourth. I put on my hiking boots and explored beyond our “front yard” woods, where I thought I could see blue water between the tree trunks. Beyond our forest patch is a giant dam holding in an expanse of the St. Lawrence Seaway? River? at the top of the Eisenhower Lock (indicated by those things resembling low-riding, brown boats in a chain along the waterline). 

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On one side of the dam, the ground fell to a mown area with a gate, beyond which was the end of a road; on the other, a small rocky beach could be accessed. A couple of the camper kids were fishing in a nearby cove along the shore, and a farther cove had a bunch of kayaks, floats, etc. ready to launch—I figured they belonged to the folks in one of the sites ‘round the curve toward the BH, as I’d seen many of their toys in and around their big RVs.

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I walked off the dam the opposite direction (with lots of poison oak growing in the mown hay) toward the gate I guessed led to the extension of the connector road to our site’s Road A. Sure enough, off the road to the left, I was able to walk back to our site.

As it cooled off a bit, we set up our chairs and watched the people flow into the campground, including a corn-hole-playing group of young men with a boat across from us.

By the end of the day, we were surrounded and the place was packed full. I wouldn’t trade any space nearer the BH or the water for our relative privacy on site 78.

For dinner, Jack grilled half of a chicken treated with a dry rub, and I made a salad and some rice, and we had our GnTs and enjoyed a campfire until the mosquitoes came out in greater numbers (around dusk) and we once again retreated indoors.

Saturday, July 4 (Happy Independence Day)

The breakfast casserole was excellent for our brunch and did nicely as leftovers for dinner on our final night at Robert Moses SP (Sunday, July 5). We had run the generator a lot yesterday, so needed fuel, and Jack (bless his little bald head) drove back in for more firewood, ice, and fuel. We laid low all day while those around us partied, shot off crackers and poppers and smoke things (despite the rules saying these were not allowed) until time for our special holiday dinner: filet mignon steaks with a zucchini bake in the Dutch Oven, and the final bit of potato salad. 

After savoring our celebratory meal, we sat outside watching the fire and being astonished that we could see the rising of this 2020 July 4th Full Moon through the trees. That’s all the fireworks we are interested in, quite frankly.

It was a nice lounge-ish day for the holiday, and we had only to hope no one would set the campground on fire with the signs (and loud noises) of the season. Many of the rules at this SP are blatantly ignored (too many tents and/or vehicles on a site, laundry and hammocks stretched between trees, generator times, quiet times) because they’re not enforced. But hey. It’s a big holiday for some folks, so I guess enforcement isn’t worth the effort.

Sunday, July 5 was departure day for most folks. We stayed indoors behind our tinted windows most of the morning, watching everyone drive out or pack up their sites. At times the departures were like a parade. We didn’t see the dump station line-up, but bet it was significant.

By about noon, the place was nearly empty—although there were still many sites in use. When the roads seemed safer (around noon-thirty) we headed out for a final bike ride, replicating the #1 bike ride, for about 20 miles again (skipped the cabin area). The day was very humid and somewhat overcast, but no threat of rain this time.

When we pedaled past the Long Sault dam there was no outflow hitting the river side this time. Also, when we rode down the boat launch slope at the Hawkins Pt. VC, we met a goose family at the bottom, browsing near the parking lot. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same ride.

Also, when stopped for a water break at the Hawkins Point VC under a picnic shelter, we noticed some swifts? swallows? flying into their mud nests and I caught one going in to feed the young:

Also, we had missed this interesting sign on our former journeys:

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We returned for showers in some seriously overwhelmed bathhouses, badly in need of mops and refreshed supplies. It appeared that summer interns of about high school age were on cleanup duty, and they were doing it like interns mostly do—half-assed. But the showers felt good and no one was waiting and that was great.

Jack built a fire and I built a “dump cake” in the Dutch Oven, which we ate after dinner when it had cooled a bit. It was okay, but I think I can improve on the theme. For dinner, I re-heated the zucchini bake and the breakfast casserole in the Omnia and we ate in front of the fire. 

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As we were watching, something bright/neon orange shone through the woods and we figured it was some sort of freighter in the lock. So we walked along the campground loop to the waterfront (primo) sites and saw a long, low-slung ship emerge from the lock system. It looked like a giant Jelly Belly, it was so orange.

By the way—Jack and I have been testing our blood-oxygen levels (with a pulse oximeter) and our temperatures weekly since before we left home. Both have been staying normal for us each, and we are feeling fine. The good news is that, since our bicycling activities have begun, each of our pulse rates has slowed, as expected with good exercise.

Since we didn’t quite make it through all of our firewood (before the mosquitoes chased us indoors again) and since we were leaving next day, we gave our extra wood to the neighbors.

Next stop—back to Vermont to visit another private campground: a place called “Waterhouse” on Lake Dunmore, where we have a riverside (not lakeside) site. 

If you missed Part 1 of this two-part post, click here and catch up.

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These little guys surprised us by popping up inside the Clam screen house the morning we departed.

 

Robert Moses SP, NY, Pt. 1

Arrived late Monday the 29 after a lovely drive along back roads west and north, north, north. We could see Canada during much of the end of our drive, but no way to get there. Saw the bridge across the border and waved goodbye for at least another year. 

We were in a relaxing, shady spot (site 72) with our utility side to the road and our “front yard” being very pretty woods. We set up the Clam for our toy barn and storage shed. Although the site was far away from the bathhouse and offered no services, it was a nice and secluded spot near the end of the sites along Road A. In this site, however, spiders abound and we were constantly running into and through webs—even 5 minutes after we’d passed the same way. Also, the underside of the awning became gradually covered with the long-legged insects I’ve always called “mosquito hawks,” or “mosquito eaters” (actually a type of crane fly) all paired in reproductive bliss. It was a very creepy sight, but they’re good insects, so we left them to their six-legged-sex.

The BH is nice and clean and offers one single toilet/shower room (primarily) for the nearby handicapped site. In addition, the gang facilities reside on each side: women’s has 3 toilets (with the handicapped one having its own sink inside the stall) and two sinks; and a separated shower/dressing area with two showers. Water is hot, but delivered with a push-button system that offers merely a short burst of water for each push.

On Tuesday, June 30 we rode around all the park’s paved roads, ~21 miles, at a (mostly) gentle pace. Since the day was totally overcast, we took raincoats on the ride but it never rained. The wind off the water (St. Lawrence River or St. Lawrence Seaway—can’t learn the difference, if there is a difference, because all the visitor centers are closed) was significant, making for a good, strenuous pedal when we headed toward the water out Barnhart Island Road toward the Frank S. McCullough Jr. and Hawkins Point Visitors Center and Boat Launch (open). We rode further down the road to Hawkins “point” hoping to see water, but the end is taken up with un-accessible government property.

One possible theory about the Seaway vs. River breakpoint is that there is a lock system that converts the water levels from low (maybe the River side?) to high (maybe the Seaway side, dammed by the Long Sault Dam and part of the FDR Hydro project system?). More on the lock system later. Of course, the main visitor center for the Long Sault Dam is also closed.

The nature center we rode past (Eugene L. Nicandri Nature Ctr.) on Robinson Bay Rd. was closed, and while the hiking/footpaths to overviews, observation areas, and storyboards are open, they looked to be swarming with mosquitoes and well protected from any cooling wind.

As we checked out the northern-most picnic grounds (close to a CA/US border crossing checkpoint marked “road closed” with a tent in the middle of the road) we noted that the picnic area had an enormous pile of firewood cut, split, and piled randomly. There was no personnel around, and many newly-built picnic tables, so we thought it odd that the gate was open.

During our return to the Barnhart Island bridge at about 2 PM, we watched a UPS truck cross the border from Canada, and pass us headed toward the office/beach road. Even though it was a day early for our bike rack part to be delivered, we hoped the UPS guy was going to drop it off at the office as the tracking info had predicted for tomorrow. 

The UPS truck passed us again as we took photos on the Barnhart Island Bridge, so presumably, it had made a stop somewhere behind us. Sure enough, Jack checked the tracking info, and it was marked as “delivered at 2:02 PM.”

Once back at camp, Jack hopped into the truck and drove back to get the package, some firewood, and ice, and returned ready to roll on fixing the bike rack. As a further omen of good luck, he saw a bald eagle flying over the water near the bridge.

Our celebratory dinner was foil-wrapped pork chops with potato, onion, carrots, and celery cooked to perfection on the grill, with GnTs and a lovely fire to accompany—that is, until about 9 when the mosquitoes chased us inside.

Wednesday, July 1 (Happy Canada Day)

We enjoyed watching a resident turkey hen with poults hanging around. I saw her and the brood two times on Wednesday, and several additional times during our stay, including deep in our “front yard” woods. Also, there are multitudes of black squirrels (as well as chipmunks and small, quick red squirrels) all over the place—including one black squirrel with a blonde/red tail whom I was unable to photograph despite many efforts to do so.

We didn’t take a ride on Wednesday but went instead to Massena for a laundromat, groceries, and fuel for the generator. Generator hours at Rbt Moses are from 9 to 11 AM and 5 to 9 PM, and we’ve been taking full advantage since our site is very shady and we are enjoying little solar gain on the panels. Which, of course, is just as well since it’s been so hot.

We asked the nice laundromat lady if there was a local library with wifi—btw, it’s a beautiful, clean laundromat, with fans blowing, doors open for air, 24/7 opening hours, and offers good machines that run well and get things clean—so it was well worth the effort. But she reported the library is closed. 

She suggested a nearby Tim Hortons and so we went there for a bite to eat and the upload of my Sugar Ridge blog post. Unfortunately, we had a marginal meal and a long, tedious, frustrating blog upload. 

Back at camp, Jack worked on rebuilding the bike rack and I started readying the groceries for staged storage and a Dutch Oven fennel and chicken thighs dinner—one of our favorite camping creations. We took notice as people began to fill the empty spaces in the campground, preparatory to the holiday weekend.

Thursday, July 2 was forecast to be in the low 90s, so we rode early after a light breakfast to get a hoped-for 20 miles in before the swelter began. Got waylaid on the ride as we watched a small tug-like boat go through the Eisenhower Lock headed south (low water/river direction). It was so small we were unable to even see it for the majority of the water-lowering process while it was in the lock itself, and only knew it was done when it left the lock.

We began to ride out toward Hawkins Point again to (possibly) see some good birds (we din’t). Not even halfway there, I caught sight of the tugboat motoring along the nearby river headed southwest. Motoring upriver was an enormous freighter that appeared to be carrying aluminum slabs from the Alcoa plant down the way, and we figured it was headed for the lock. (When we were able to see it more closely, those long lumps of aluminum turned out to be huge wind turbine propellers.)

So we turned around and rode back to the large parking lot for the public to view the workings of the lock, and dismounted the bikes to watch the long process of the ship—entering the low end of the lock (as below);

. . . rising as the water was introduced to the lock (as below);

. . . and exit again at the high water side, headed north to Canada. 

The ship was called the Volga, run by BBC Chartering, flying the US flag, a Canadian flag, and one additional we couldn’t see nor identify. It blew its deep-throated horn as it left the lock, and the kids watching with us waved.

While we missed it when watching the tugboat’s traverse of the lock, we noticed a newly-erected (thin) osprey nest atop a tower across the way from the lock infrastructure. The resident osprey atop (I managed to forget my binoculars this ride) made some typical osprey noises, and took off when the big ship entered the lock, but we were unable to see if there was anything additional in the nest. 

As we watched, the sky began to darken significantly. Since we’d left Roomba open due to the prediction of no rain and high temps, we hastened back to button up our site. By then it was lunchtime, really hot (although not the 90+ predicted degrees) and terribly humid, so we called off the remainder of our ride, logging almost 9 miles. Instead, I lubed the bike chains and then made some potato salad out of leftovers, while Jack got more ice, and we read and lazed about for the rest of the day, eating the potato salad with the leftover chicken and fennel for dinner. During the day, we also watched lots and lots more people arrive.

This travelogue has been broken into two parts for upload ease. Please click here to see Part 2.