Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bannerman (Okay, Pollepel) Island: Hudson River Part 2

Because I finish what I start, I have to do a second post about the Hudson River. And because 2009 is the 400th anniversary, I have to do it before Friday. Bugger. So this is gonna be a short one.

The subject? An island I always thought was called Bannerman. Turns out it's called Pollepel but I don't think I'll really bother with that.

Anyone who's taken the train north from New York City, along the Hudson, as far as the <>lovely destination< /sarcasm> of Beacon may have seen an interesting sight oh, maybe a third of the way across the river (maybe a little less?) or so. Yeah, I know that's probably not very many people but honestly, it is a worthwhile sight. What is it? Why, it's Bannerman Pollepel Island, of course!

And what is this island other than just an island? It's a supposedly haunted island that now has some ruined castle-like buildings on it. And I mean really cool castle-y buildings. I've taken that along-the-Hudson train many, many times and that island is something I've always watched out for and, as I child, something I was always curious about.

The people who eventually owned the island (the Bannerman family, though they weren't the first owners) and did all the building there owned some kind of munitions business. I have some vague memory that they also had something to do with fireworks or something? Maybe just ammo? I think some of the buildings were eventually destroyed thanks to some kind of explosion or something. I keep saying "or something" because I really don't remember, their website isn't specific, and I'm feeling a bit too lazy to actually do the research.

The point: Bannerman Island is a really cool place with some ruined castle buildings on it. Why am I going on and on about it? Because I've been there.

A few years ago, it became possible to visit the island on a boat tour. I think my mother thought it would be a nice family excursion (I know I agreed) and so we went. The visit begins with a nice boat ride but that's the boring part.

Once on the island, everyone has to wear a hard hat. I know the island's buildings aren't stable but I have to wonder if the whole hard hat thing maybe isn't somewhat of a gimmick. The island is overgrown and it can be hard to walk, even on the paths. Unlike many castles I've visited, it isn't possible to go into or really very close to the buildings. They don't build 'em like they used to, I guess.

For some reason, I don't remember this island visit in all that much detail. I certainly remember being there, I know what it looked like, and I definitely learned some history. It's still a little fuzzy, though. This is especially strange since this visit was, at most, six years ago.

Unfortunately, no one brought a camera that day. I really wish I had because it really is a neat-looking place. I'd post some pictures from elsewhere on the internet but I'm still a little scared of that "may be subject to copyright" thing. Instead, here's a link to the Bannerman Castle Trust with more info and some pictures: http://www.bannermancastle.org/
Here's one picture, I think it's kind of old and it doesn't really do it justice:

According to an article I just read, the Bannerman family that owned/developed the island were descendants of the MacDonald clan that mostly got slaughtered at Glencoe. I may be the only person who finds that interesting but I do. That might only be because I've been to Glencoe, though. And just FTR, those MacDonalds were (mostly?) killed by members of the Campbell clan. They went on to make soup. According to my tour guide in Scotland, many people still think of them as traitors... Just thought I'd pass that along, no judging here. (For those who like history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Glencoe Apologies for using Wikipedia.)

Since I have been there, here's a picture that might be of Glencoe:

Edited to fix my sadly unrecognized "sarcasm" html code and to add the following:

While there is more info about the island itself out there, I do think I should mention that part of the castle just collapsed. There's a fund to stabilize the buildings and the need for that is currently more urgent than usual.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And the Winner Is...



No, wait, Sadako and Sabrina!
Expect email/comments soon and thanks again all for participating.

As everyone was able to guess, the answer was in fact Yellowstone National Park. Which will be featured in both a post of its own (some day!) and in BSC in the USA, the snark/recap of which I'm working on.

In other news, I am actually a winner, too! I have a lovely Beautiful Blogger Award courtesy of Sadako! Thank you very much, Sadako. And I'm actually gonna try to do it (can there be blog overlap? I hope so...)

Here are the rules that came with the award:

1) Thank the person who nominated me for this award.
2) Copy the award & place it on my blog.
3) Link to the person who nominated me for this award.
4) Tell us 7 interesting things about yourself.
5) Nominate 7 bloggers.
6) Post links to the 7 blogs I nominate.

As I said, from Sadako, of the amazing Dibbly Fresh: http://dibblyfresh1.blogspot.com/

Hmm, interesting things...
1. I have perfect pitch (I'm told this is interesting).
2. I am a somewhat crazy collector of autographs/slightly stalkerish fangirl. (Might waiting for Bebe Neuwirth at 1 in the morning be a pretty good story? It wasn't cold but it was late...) I often have a most excellent partner in crime for this so it's all good.
3. I once (co-)won a bottle of port thanks to my knowledge of countries and their capitals and my competitive spirit. (The capital of Liechtenstein is Vaduz, in case you were wondering.)
4. I probably (re)read about as many kids books as I do adult books. Especially BSC. Because they are amazing(ly bad). Except they're actually fantastic.
5. One of my goals is to visit all 50 states. I'm at 48. Stupid Alaska and Hawaii.
6. Even though I love to travel, I really hate flying. I'd never do it if the other ways weren't so slow. (eh, that's not that interesting. It's true, though.)
7. I play the viola. Even so, I think I have quite a few brain cells.

Blogs I nominate:
1. Get a Pencil and Your Casebook: http://pencilcasebook.blogspot.com/ See what I did there? It is a great blog...
2.Not That Kind of Girl: http://notthatkindofgirl.net/ Am I cheating? It's all the crazy stuff I know I could never do and funny.
3. Psyched on the Prairie: http://psychedontheprairie.blogspot.com/ More fun than a long winter. (Careful though, that book hasn't been reached yet.) I might be cheating again.
4. BSCAG: http://bscag.blogspot.com/ Baby-Sitter's Club and continuity. New but great.
5. Are you there youth? It's me, Nikki: http://whatireadbackthen.blogspot.com/ Fun book blog!
6. Luke's Diner: http://coffeeatlukes.com/Lukes/ Yay Gilmore Girls!
7. BSC Chronologically: http://bscchronologically.blogspot.com/ Isn't the BSC great? Book by book and everything!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Contest/Chance to Win Stuff!!! WHERE AM I?

Inspired by some great blogs out there and filled with holiday spirit (kidding, sort of), I've decided to have a CONTEST with a chance to win PRIZES! Actually, I plan to do this fairly often and eventually I'll be offering stuff from my prize closet (yes, I really have a prize closet. If virtual closets and real shelves/boxes count). For this contest, the prizes are a bit more specific. And they are:

1. The Food Prize. Consists of one Peppermint Pig (http://www.saratogasweets.com/), a Christmas/New Year Victorian tradition. They are delicious and totally unique (like, in the world) to my hometown. Aaaand a box of potato chips. But not just any potato chips, original recipe potato chips like they were when they were invented. Which happened in my hometown. (Or so they say, and believe me, they do say. Did that make sense?)

2. The Book Prize. One copy of Bill Bryson's amazing book A Walk in the Woods (http://www.amazon.com/Walk-Woods-Rediscovering-Appalachian-Official/dp/0767902521). One of these days I'll do a whole post on it. I did pick that book for a reason (other than it's general awesomeness) but if you win and you don't like it have already read it, we'll work something out.

BTW, two prizes means two winners! I'll mention here that winning takes some work. My contests are trivia based (20 Questions-ish) and may require a little research sometimes. I think this one's pretty easy, though.

Next up, how to enter:

Anyone reading this can have up to three entries in the contest.

Entry one: the freebie. Everyone gets one just by leaving a comment (and, uh, guessing).

Entry two: Be(come) a follower. Whether through Google, Facebook, RSS, or whatever, I don't care. If it's RSS, mention in a comment.

Entry three: All about networking. Post about the contest on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you like (with a link please!) and mention in a comment. Please.

I have turned on comment moderation for the duration of the contest (I hope) so no cheating that way! When the contest ends (at 11:59 on 12/22), all correct entries (and remember you can have three and if you are sure of the answer, using it three times does increase your odds. Otherwise, three guesses means one might be right!) will be put in a hat and two winners will be selected. Make sense? On with the contest!

The contest itself is, as I said, sort of like 20 Questions. I pick a place somewhere in the world (for now we're staying on Earth), probably a place I've been though that might not be much help. I'll give a series of clues that lead to the one (hopefully) specific answer. I think I'm starting with a pretty easy one and just for the record, this place will be featured in an upcoming post. On with the contest.

Where AM I?
  • The Grand Canyon is not located within my borders.
  • My visitors like things that are faithful.
  • Part of me can be described as mammoth.
  • One might ask me, "What's the story, Morning Glory?" (The author of this blog thinks I should respond with, "What's the tale, nightingale" but that's not really relevant.)
  • I sit on a massive supervolcano.
  • Most of me (though not all) is found in one U.S. state.

I AM.....................

The contest is open until 11:59 on Tuesday, December 22. Happy guessing!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

400 Years of the Hudson River (part 1)

Once again, I'm adding a new feature to the blog. I'm from (upstate) New York and I've decided to (re)visit interesting places near where I live and to then post about them. Why? Because it's fun, for one. And to, well, point things out to people who may not be aware of what there is to see in my (and possibly their) part of the world. So, if you're from NY, um, hello neighbor? And if not, here's why you should visit:

First up, the Hudson River. 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson sailing up the river that now bears his name. On his ship, the Half Moon, Hudson sailed up the river as far as Albany which is about 150 miles north of what's now New York City. There's a lot of interesting history about the area, the Native American tribes that lived there, and the eventual Dutch and English settlements. I, however, am going to skip most of that. For now. I may expand upon the history in later posts but for now, I'm going to focus on me.

Before I do, here's a little geography. The Hudson River begins (some sources say) at Lake Tear of the Clouds which is on Mount Marcy, the tallest mountain in New York. I remember being taught that the lake is at the top of the mountain. It isn't. I know that because I've been to the top of Mount Marcy and also because I've since read about it. The river meanders downhill and south, often as little more than a wide stream. Driving through upstate NY's Adirondack Mountains (something I'll post about later), you may cross the river often or simply drive along it. The river eventually widens, flattens, curves a bit, and flows down to New York City. Enough for now?

For most of my life, I've lived within ten or so miles of the Hudson River (and much closer, like within two blocks, when I was in college). As a result of that, I have many fond memories, pictures, and experiences that somehow involve the river. Here are a few of them:

Growing up, I often traveled to Poughkeepsie, NY to visit my grandparents who, for some unknown reason, decided to stay there even after retiring. On these visits, I always noticed a tall, imposing railway bridge slightly north of the Mid-Hudson Bridge which is used by cars. Somehow, I always knew that that railway bridge had "burned down" although I never quite understood that. How could something burn down and still be standing? I guess "caught fire" might be a better description, and that's certainly true. There was a fire on that bridge, in 1974, that stopped trains from crossing the bridge after nearly a century. In 1992, efforts began to turn the bridge into a walkway. On October 3 of this year, that walkway opened. The bridge/walkway is now a state park, allowing pedestrians to cross the Hudson between Poughkeepsie and Highland (places you may have never heard of).

I visited the bridge and crossed it (both ways) just a few weeks later. The leaves were at their peak (changing color, remember?) and the view was clear and colorful: blue sky, blue water, red and gold leaves, and enough sun to make the water shimmer. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera.

Not just a walkway and a state park, the bridge also contains information panels detailing the history of the bridge and the area as well as the kinds of fish found in the water. Even more than that, there's a cellphone guide where visitors can call a number and hear all sorts of information. I learned a lot including that the bridge was considered a technical wonder when it was built. It doesn't seem so special now! I seem to remember also learning that a Native American name for the river means something along the lines of "the river that flows both ways" because the river is tidal for many miles, I've heard as far as Albany. As I said, that's 150 miles.

More Information (and pictures!): http://www.walkway.org/index.php

Next up, the Hadley Parabolic Bridge (sometimes called the Hadley Bow Bridge). I hear what you're saying already: that's over the Sacandaga River, not the Hudson. You were thinking that, right? Well, if you were, you are correct. So why am I writing about it? 1. It happens to be right next to a no-longer-in-used railroad bridge. Weird, huh? 2. It's considered a technological oddity of sorts. 3. It's within spitting distance of the Hudson.

This bridge was built in a somewhat unusual style and is quite unique. It's now on the National Register of Historic Places. I'd rather not go into the technical details and history of the bridge (much too complicated and I'm not sure I completely understand it all) so instead, here's the Wikipedia page. Not that I recommend Wikipedia or have any idea if the information is accurate.
Once again, I hear what you're saying. You want to know why I visited this bridge, right? Well, I was actually driving along on a road parallel to the road with the bridge (the old road's replacement, basically) when I saw a sign for the "parabolic bridge". Naturally, I was curious. Wouldn't you be? Having decided to check it out, I found this neat looking little bridge:
The railway bridge River!
Today's third Hudson River mention is very close geographically to the parabolic bridge. On the same day I visited the bridge, I saw Rockwell Falls (name courtesy of this fabulous site: http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/waterfalls/home.html), a small but powerful waterfall in the Hudson River.


The river below the falls (I think).

More on Hudson 400: http://www.hudson400.com/
Part 2 coming soon! Along with Seattle (/Washington), BSC in the USA and Yosemite.