Travel Diary: Fort William-Henry and Lake George Part I

    Well, I'm home again.

    My heart is still in New York with Benjy and with the places I visited and the wonderful people I met — Eileen Hannay of the Rogers Island Visitor Center, Chris Fox of Fort Ticonderoga, Jim of Jim's Broadway Cafe, Debbie of the Historical Inn of Fort Edward and Mike, who gave us a pontoon ride on Lake George.

    I left off in my last post with our visit to Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga, where Chris Fox endured several hours of my company and incessant questions. That night we drove back to Fort Edward, almost getting lost in the countryside after a fatal car accident caused a major detour of the road. But we made it back to Fort Edward and were able to have dinner with Eileen and David Starbuck, the archaeologist who excavated Rogers Island, together with other members of the NY Archaeological Society's Adirondack Chapter.

    The next morning, we got up as early as we could (I admit, I was very tired!), packed our stuff in the car, and headed to Rogers Island to meet Eileen. We left our rental car there, packed to the gills with our junk, and Eileen drove us to Fort William-Henry.

    Along the way, we visited the site of the skirmish or battle that became known to history as The Bloody Morning Scout. There are photos of this, but they're on my mom's camera, not mine... So that will be in Part II. We'll skip that for now and press on to the site of Fort William-Henry

    (Cue up Last of the Mohicans soundtrack)

    I was disheartened to find that Fort William-Henry, a place where so many people lost their lives, is basically a tourist trap. The cemetery is beneath the parking lot. The fort is entirely reconstructed and not accurately. The biggest feature is a gift shop where you can buy the same kind of cheesy things you can buy at any tourist site across America. Altogether, it's a SAD way to remember such a significant place.

    It's the battle at Fort William-Henry that forms the heart of Last of the Mohicans. I'm sure you all remember the movie with Daniel Day-Lewis. You are romance readers, after all. And who can forget THE KISS?

    With Eileen generously acting as our own historical expert, we spent about an hour at the fort.

    This historical marker is the most serious thing on the site. It remembers those who died at the battle and in the subsequent massacre. We paused for a moment to remember what one really ought to remember when standing on this land.

    Here's a view of the outside of the reconstructed fort. There are few things that remain front the original structure, just a hole in the ground where the well was, a bit of masonry downstairs where there was once a hearth, and these remainders of a kind of moat. When you think about what occurred here -- Montcalm surrounding Munro in the night, digging trenches to get his artillery within range of the walls and then blasting the fort to bits...

    Ben wore his tricorne and carried his musket all day. Inside the fort, he had the chance to "join" the King's Army and drill with a man in Highland regiment garb. Even though he was much older than the other "recruits," I encouraged him to go for it. The Highlander's musket fires, and when he shot it off, my mom screamed. Yeah, that was funny!

    There were stocks and a pillory, as well as a whipping post, but that will be part of Part II.

    After our brief and disappointing visit to Fort Plastic, er... William-Henry, we met Mike Terenzetti of Pontoon Tours of Lake George and set off on a four-hour tour of Lake George. William-Henry sits at the southern-most end of the 32-mile long lake. Mike, who rocks, asked what I wanted to see. I said, "Show me the 18th century."

    So he did.

    We sped northward along the lake, at first hugging the western shore, called Millionaire's Row, where lots of rich folks built their quaint summer cottages a hundred years past. I took no photos of this because, frankly, I don't care about rich people and their summer homes. I can't even tell you who the people are on People magazine, if it's not Brangelina.

    There was a stiff north wind raising three-foot swells on the lake — not ideal weather for an October tour of the lake — and we were pretty chilly. My mom bundled up in everything she could find. I was loving it though, sitting right up front to get the most bounce for my buck, until a big wave came over the prow and soaked — and I mean soaked — both me and Eileen. Drenched from head to toe, we had to sit under wind-proof blankets to keep from getting hypothermic. But it was still lots and lots of fun.

    At a certain point Mike crossed to the eastern side of the lake south of The Narrows to show us a completely undeveloped part of the eastern shore. And there in front of us was the 18th century.

    This was the forest my Rangers walked.

    This was the shoreline they would have known.

    This was the horizon they would have seen.

    At one point, Mike killed the motor and put the boat into a slow 360-degree spin. He told me to look around because there was nothing — nothing — from our modern world to be seen in any direction. There was only lake, forest and sky.

    I got goose bumps thinking that this was Lake George as both my Rangers and the real Rangers would have known it. Somehow they managed to travel through this wilderness without modern equipment at all times of the year, accomplishing feats that modern men would struggle to duplicate even with high-tech gear.

    You have to respect and admire men who were that tough.

    We spent maybe a half hour in this area, getting just north of the Narrows, where Iain and Annie looked down at the French boats on the lake. Yep, I saw the hilltop where they camped. I soaked up the place through my skin. I felt so close to my heroes — Iain, Morgan, Connor — and to the other characters in the MacKinnon's Rangers series. I could feel their exhaustion. I could see what they saw. I could measure it in terms of its distance from home.

    But there's more to this story than I'll tell you today...

    More to come!!!

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