Category Archives: New York State

A Perfect Replica of a Perfect Canal Boat: Welcome Aboard the Lois McClure!

Sailing the Canals Like its Ancestors

Canals built America. They were the vital veins of commerce and trade before the railroads took over. New York’s Erie Canal comes to mind, but that was just one of many that helped to define a young United States in the early 1800s. Navigating these winding waterways were canal boats, which came in all shapes and sizes over the years. They were designed for long trips between ports and were pretty nifty for 19th century engineering–many of them complete with folding sails and a raisable keel.

Most canal boats from that era are long gone, but the Lois McClure shines new light on how these vessels worked and what life was like on board. Lois McClure is a perfect replica, built like the schooners of their day. Launched in Lake Champlain (Burlington, VT) in 2004, the McClure spends a good amount of time on the go, using the same canal systems its progenitors once did. Except it’s not a ship of commerce, but one of education, stopping at various ports to show the public just how intricate these vessels were.

A great summertime visit, check out Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s website to see if the boat is at its homeport or is heading to your neck of the woods.

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The Elusive White Deer of Upstate New York

Brought to You by the United States Army

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A very special thank you to Seneca White Deer, Inc., the  nonprofit that works tirelessly to preserve this piece of nature and wildlife, and who are responsible for organizing these white deer tours. The people working for Seneca White Deer were amazingly helpful to UWanderings as we got to know the history of the Seneca Army Depot and see the furry critters that call this place home.

Our recent trip to see this elusive white deer population was nothing short of amazing. This is the world’s largest population of white deer. They aren’t mutants, they aren’t albinos…they’re actually just white tailed deer. But they’ve been enclosed in a 10,000 acre compound for almost 80 years, relatively undisturbed, so they’ve had a chance to breed and pass on this rare, recessive gene that makes them primarily white in color without too much in the way of natural predators.

The site of the white deer is also of major historical significance. They live on what used to be the Seneca Army Depot, a munitions depot built by the U.S. Army in the summer of 1941—in anticipation of America’s likely looming involvement in World War II. Though useful for the war effort, the construction of this giant project came at a sad cost: over 100 families–many farmers–were given short notice to vacate. In other words, they were evicted and poorly compensated. The remains of some foundations are still visible today. However, the end of the Second World War didn’t mean the Depot was obsolete. The Cold War was just heating up, and this place was anything but redundant.

The Seneca Army Depot, or “the Depot”, as it was locally known, was a large repository of Cold War era weapons when it was still active. But the absolute secrecy of the place, coupled with the government barely acknowledging its existence in the first place, contributed to its mysterious nature and an uncomfortable level of anxiety by the community. It was Upstate New York’s Area 51.

Officially, the U.S. government kept a tight lid on the Depot’s inventory—and what went on there—by confirming nothing. But it was widely believed that aside from traditional munitions like bullets and artillery, the Depot was also home to a fairly large stockpile of nuclear weapons, ready to be deployed anywhere in the world at a moments’ notice. And because of the perceived nuclear inventory, it was also thought that the Seneca Army Depot was a top target on the Soviet hit list in the event of a nuclear exchange, so the site was not without controversy.

Interior of one of the more than 500 concrete igloos at the former Seneca Army Depot, likely packed to the top with munitions during the Cold War.

The secrecy and denial by Uncle Sam didn’t stop the countless anti-nuclear weapons protesters from demonstrating right outside its gates over the years, with many getting arrested for disrupting operations or even trying to break in by scaling the fence. There was even a well known group of anti-war women who continuously camped out adjacent to the Depot grounds so as to permanently remind the U.S. government that not everyone was comfortable with having nukes in their backyards.

Despite the mysteries that went on behind the fence, the white deer well known due to their occasional appearances at the border fence for passersby. The deer were protected by the soldiers that were based there, thanks to an early base commander who, in 1949, saw the first white deer on the Depot grounds and ordered all personnel to leave them alone. They were not to be hunted or bothered. The orders stood for the rest of the time the Depot operated. They even become an unofficial mascot of the Depot and the people who worked there. Now that the base is inactive, declassified, and in private hands, locals are flocking to see these white deer up close and, because it was forbidden for so long, the base itself. 

This tour was awesome, not just because of the deer, but also because of all the other wildlife we saw. It’s a virtual nature preserve. Osprey, eagles, beavers, wild turkeys, turkey vultures…and so much more. And of course, there’s plenty of normal colored deer with fluffy white tails. They’re actually pretty cute.

Part of the fun with this tour is keeping a keen eye on the scenery to spot the white deer. Sometimes they’re obvious; other times, you have to intently look around as the bus moves through the terrain, so don’t be shy about shouting out “There’s one!”, at which point the bus will stop or back up so everyone can get a better view. You can really get into it. On the cold, overcast day we visited, the deer weren’t in the mood to come right up to our bus, as they sometimes do, but the sparse spring foliage made them easy to spot through the trees. But they moved fast, so our photography was a little shaky. 

Although there are some small developments here and there, most of the former Depot is still either wild nature or nature that’s slowly reclaiming the land from manmade structures, which gives the whole base a sort of zombie apocalypse vibe. And since Zombies are cool right now, that definitely makes this tour much more interesting. For all the military buffs out there, there are over 500 weapons storage bunkers, otherwise known as igloos, that still stand to this day. Talk about Cold War relics. We even got to go inside one. It was pretty cool–check out the video above for more on that.

Seneca White Deer has been running these tours for about six months now, and they’re catching on fast. Since people from all over the world visit the Finger Lakes region for the wine, it’s only a matter of time before they come to see the deer, too. White deer simply don’t exist in such large numbers anywhere else in the world.

It’s human nature to explore things that are rare and unusual. Perfect for us, perfect for the curious travelers out there like you.

So we welcome you to join us as we discover the white deer of the Finger Lakes, and do be sure visit for yourself someday. The deer will be here to say “hi.”

LINKS
Seneca White Deer, Inc.


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More to Explore in Northern Manhattan. Meet The Cloisters.

Welcome to The Cloisters!

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Nestled into the woods of northern Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park is a place that looks out of place for a city like New York. At first glance, The Cloisters—officially, The Met Cloisters, under the Metropolitan Museum of Art—could easily make you think you’ve arrived at an ancient Italian villa. But no, The Cloisters was built in modern times, borrowing heavily from medieval European influences.

Home to countless pieces of medieval art and artifacts, The Cloisters is a sight to be seen inside and out. Need a break from the museum? The gardens and views of the Hudson River are astounding on a nice sunny day.

We’ll save the pieces of art and artifacts for you to see for yourself–the stunning views at The Cloisters should be enough to entice you to visit. The pieces on display are centuries old.

You’d never think that this place is just a short subway ride away from Midtown.

LINKS
The Met Cloisters official website


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Abandoned Buildings Meet Nature Trail

An Unusual–Yet Brilliant–Combination

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Many thanks to Friends of the Outlet, Inc., who maintain the Keuka Outlet Trail, and who kindly assisted UndiscoveredWanderings in putting this article together.

We love a good nature trail, especially one that’s different from the rest. The Keuka Outlet Trail in New York’s Finger Lakes Region is, for all intents and purposes, your average trail……just kidding; we doesn’t cover “average”. Actually, this trail’s claim to fame is what’s along it: abandoned buildings.

And they blend in perfectly with the scenery.

So why abandoned buildings? Simply put, they’re icons from another era. The Outlet Trail is a seven-mile pathway from Pen Yann to Dresden, NY–right between Keuka and Seneca Lakes. Its location along what was once the Fall Brook Railroad and, before that, the Crooked Lake Canal gives you a peak into the trail’s industrial roots. It was once dotted with small businesses, including a mill. The remnants of some of these legacies of industry are clearly visible along the trail today, showing their age with decay and overgrown vegetation that would make any urban explorer or Walking Dead fan overjoyed. We’re not gonna lie–it’s really cool!

Although hikers are not allowed in the buildings for safety reasons, you can clearly see into them from the main footpath. Adding to the allure of urban decay is the scenery around it. Traces of canal locks and walls give the Outlet Trail an iconic beauty that is rarely seen. The best abandoned structures are located on the side closest to the Dresden, NY entrance.

The Outlet Trail is partially paved, but still accommodates for all seasons, including winter (snowshoers and cross-country skiers enjoy it). You can also bike it. We recommend visiting in late summer or early fall for the best views and weather. The Trail is open from dusk until dawn each day. Please stay on the trail and obey all signage.

Oh–and in the summertime, there’s an ice cream stand near the trail’s end in Dresden. Yum!

LINKS
Learn more about the Outlet Trail


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The Red British Phone Booth (That’s Not Really A Phone Booth)

We Found Another One

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We seem to have a fascination with phone booths–maybe because they’re disappearing from the landscape. We found one in the middle of rural Oregon last summer, and some months later, we stumbled upon this one, which is styled after the famous red phone booth icons found in London. It’s conveniently located in downtown Watkins Glen, NY right in from of the Wildflower Cafe.

But there’s a caveat: it’s not actually a phone booth because there’s no phone in it. It’s a tourist kiosk with brochures, but don’t let that stop you taking a picture with it 🙂

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