Visiting My Beautiful Adirondack Lake with the Lake George Steamboat Company

Fall:  A Stunning Time to Take a Boat Ride on Lake George, New York

Fall: A Stunning Time to Take a Boat Ride on Lake George, New York

Golden Vistas

Golden Vistas

I’m back in Colorado after my three-week trip to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. It’s gorgeous here in the Rockies and  it looks like the fall foliage will peak this weekend in most areas. All next week should be spectacular as well, especially since it snowed last night and with the sun shining again the vistas resemble sugarcoated autumnal Candy Lands resplendent with red, orange, yellow, green and blue (the sky, of course).

Part of my heart, however, remains at Lake George, dubbed “The Queen of American Lakes” by Thomas Jefferson. I spent my time in the Adirondacks with my parents where they’ve had a second home on Lake George for over forty years. While I was there, I was busy doing my writer thing and helping them out, however, I seized every opportunity to embrace the beauty, wonder and comforting spirit of the lake, a crystalline body of water whose heavenly scent and silky feel I can still conjure in my senses. After having spent a dozen fat summers there while growing up and having returned for both brief and extended visits ever since, to me, Lake George feels like an old friend, a dear companion that always welcomes me home with heaps of love and reassurance. Even after eleven years in Paris and almost twelve in Colorado, I never tire of this lake and its shores; its beauty, grace, resilience and sometimes turbulent force continue to amaze me.

The Mighty Mohican

The Mighty Mohican

The Original Mohican

The Original Mohican

Woo-hooing Behind the Mohican

Woo-hooing Behind the Mohican Back in the Day

Captain Dow Wilbur Dow:  Founder of the Lake George Steamboat Company

Captain Dow Wilbur Dow: Founder of the Lake George Steamboat Company

This time I experienced a piece of her history like I never had before:  I took a cruise on the Mohican, a fine, steel-hulled vessel that’s been in operation since 1907. Part of the fleet of the Lake George Steamboat Company, the oldest steamship operation in America, this lovely lady was placed on the National Register of Historic Places five years ago. The “Mo”—as we’d affectionately refer to her growing up—has been a permanent fixture in my LG history over the years. I can remember bombing out in boats to catch her big waves and then make passes by her side, enthusiastically waving to the tourists on board. We’d race up to Paradise Bay in time for her appearance in a part of the lake where she’d shoehorn herself into a blissful lagoon; once there, she’d be saluted by a bunch of horn-tooting pleasure seekers from their assembly of boats.

The Mohican and Lake George go together like the Adirondack Mountains and their lakes and streams. So when my boyfriend, Steve, met up with my parents and me for his first visit to the lake, I decided it was time to play tourist and book a trip on the “Mo,” a two-and-a-half-hour cruise that was to showcase some of my favorite scenery on the lake, roundtrip from the southern tip at Lake George Village up along the west side of the south basin to the Narrows, a wild and stunningly beautiful part of the lake, punctuated by a trove of islands big and small, each one more endearing than the other.

After having our picture taken at the dock—a quick shot that produced a terrific keeper photo of the four of us in front of the Mohican—we boarded and claimed a table inside where we’d be sheltered from the crisp, late summer breeze. We were impressed from the get-go with this super clean, smooth sailing ship whose muffled honk of the whistle and hum of the engine let us know we were embarking upon an entirely new Lake George adventure. The commentaries began right away, providing us with tidbits and anecdotes about the lake which boasts a recorded history dating back to 1755. I learned more on this trip than what I’d gathered during my four decades plus of living on the lake. We all agreed that the announcers were excellent and reason alone for taking a cruise on such a boat. “They don’t bother with any of those cheesy jokes or remarks either,” Mom said.

Posing in Paradise

Posing in Paradise

I learned that the origin of the name Tea Island, for example, dates to a time when the guests from Fort William Henry Hotel (in LG Village) were ferried out to this quaint locale—the southernmost island of the lake—to be served tea. You can still see the tea house today. We relived Lake George’s golden era, it’s own Gatsby period, as we gazed out at the lakefront mansions perfectly positioned along Millionaire’s Row. We passed dive sites, picnic areas, campgrounds, hotels, restaurants and houses galore, all with their own interesting history, some of which was shared by the commentator, the rest left to our imaginations. Mom, Dad and I reminisced about an expanse of memories rushing into our heads, including our first stay on the lake at Chelka Lodge in the late sixties. Here Dad persevered and finally got me up on water skis after two weeks of trying and it’s also where he capsized in the sailboat with my brother, Frank. “There it is,” I exclaimed as we skirted Diamond Point. “I think the lodge is in that bay. Oh, that little one-tree island across the way seems to have disappeared,” I trailed off.

“That’s when Paul was crazy about the Minne Ha Ha,” my Dad said. We all laughed as we remembered my younger brother’s fascination with this paddlewheel boat, another member of the Lake George Steamboat fleet and only one of five such vessels still active in the United States. “He used to call it the Midgie Ha Ha,” my Dad laughed, provoking more chuckles and memories from Mom and me.

Dome Island, a huge, dome-shaped island designated forever wild and maintained by the Nature Conservancy, loomed like a beacon in the open lake until we caught a better look at it before Bolton Landing. From here, most of us set our sights on the famed Sagamore, a grand old Adirondack resort that has served as an elegant fixture on the lake for over a century. The announcer suggested we cover our ears and the captain let out a few long and loud honks from the mighty “Mo.”

The Narrows

The Narrows

On the Top Deck of the Mohican

On the Top Deck of the Mohican

Steve and Me

Steve and Me

Dad and Mom

Dad and Mom

Bar with a View

Bar with a View

From The Sagamore, we continued north and entered the Narrows. We sunk into a beauty which has remained largely unscathed since the formation of this glacier-carved lake. Here we admired the full splendor of the wide variety of forests that encircle the lake, populated with sugar maple, ash, oak and evergreens (at the lower elevations), just the right of mix of trees to create superlative fall foliage viewing. Ten mountains surround Lake George, big loaf-y masses with the lake lapping at their feet. Steve and I decided it was time to head up onto the deck. From this vantage point, we felt awestruck by the beauty of the scene. I had taken in these views many times over but from the top deck of the Mohican, the panoramas seemed even more grand. We missed the duck into Paradise Bay, a tour that typically takes place in the morning during the summer months but not on this mid-September Islands Exploration Cruise. I couldn’t be too disappointed though, since we were sailing through other favorite spots of unparalleled winsomeness and it was too bright a day to allow the slightest crimp to interfere with my jubilant mood.

As we headed south along the east side of the lake, we grabbed refreshments from the bar at the stern and continued our full relaxation mode with my parents. Stunning old Hacker Crafts and sleek Donzis and Sea Rays powered by, be-speckled with flaying arms waving hello. Like me, I sensed that Mom and Dad were thinking about all the times we had followed the same route in our own boats. So many memories, so many flashbacks of thoughts that enveloped us as we glanced at the familiar stretches of shoreline along Pilot Knob, the colorful jumble of houses and camps fronted by their conglomeration of boathouses, decks and docks. The Mohican steamed by Sandy Bay where my parents have their house on Cleverdale and then crossed Harris Bay to squeeze through the passage between Assembly Point and Speaker Heck Island, a popular picnic spot, named South Island when we were young. We’d pile out there on hot summer evenings with the kids, coolers, Grandma and Grandpa and Four Paws in tow. That was, of course, “back in the day.”

Looking Into the Sun at the End of Our Cruise

Looking Into the Sun at the End of Our Cruise

Ahhhh, yes, the history. Our own Lake George is woven into the fiber of our lives. And no matter what happens to us or the house at the lake, we know it will always be there, it will always be within us. When I look at the endurance factor of the Lake George Steamboat Company and its signature ship, the Mohican, I know that memories created in this magical place linger forever. Of that I am sure and I bet you will be, too.

Fall Colors on Lake George

Emerging Fall Colors on Lake George

More Autumnal Splendor

More Autumnal Splendor

Full On Fall

Full On Fall

Fall is a magnificent time to take a cruise on one of the three boats operated by the Lake George Steamboat Company. The Mohican and the Minne Ha-Ha sail through October 14; the Lac du Saint Sacrement through October 27. The leaves were just going off earlier this week when I left the lake, so it looks like peak might take place over Columbus Day weekend.

Thank you to the Lake George Steamboat Company and Luke Dow, grandson of Captain Wilbur Dow, the founder of this steamship company, for many of the photos featured in this post.

Check out Adirondack Day Trip to read about another excursion I did with my parents in this spectacular part of New York state.

Saying Goodbye to the Lake Earlier this Week

Saying Goodbye to the Lake Earlier this Week

Morning Mist on Lake George

Morning Mist on Lake George

This Monday's Afternoon Delight

Last View of Sandy Bay this Past Monday

 

 
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