Sunday, September 30, 2012

Getting High ... Mountains and Balloons

After we got ourselves set up for staying a few days at King Phillips Campground, we decided that Thursday was a good day to go see our first hometown together: Saranac Lake, NY. It's been 28 years since we left there! Time flies so quickly when you're having fun!

It's a couple of hours drive from Glens Falls up into the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. Things have changed but not as much as one might think. We recognized places that look very much the same as they did when we lived there. But some places clearly showed the devastation of the aftermath of a hurricane that just sat over the North Country and poured buckets of rain last year. Roads were washed out and were still being rebuild this summer. Old Military Road, the "short-cut" around Lake Placid must have been one of those badly damaged since it was under total reconstruction.

For those of you who don't know Adirondack geography, Saranac Lake is only about 10 miles from Lake Placid, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. And, yes, we lived there during the Winter Olympics, we went to Olympic events (I think we were able to get tickets to two of them ... and one of them was NOT the epic hockey gold medal game), and Mary even worked for one of the subcontractors at the Olympics, serving as a Security Guard from Burns Security at the venue for the ski jumps. It was a fascinating time.

I moved to Saranac Lake in 1979 (33 years ago) when I became Director of Learning Resources for North Country Community College.  I'll never forget flying up there on July 5 for an interview and getting off the airplane at Adirondack Airport to snow on the ground (it had snowed on July 4) and thinking "What could I be getting myself into?" I moved up in August and Mary and I got married in October of '79 and she moved to town to join me.

As we drove into town, one of the first place we came to was NCCC and I just had to turn up the hill to see the campus. There were lots of changes but the LRC (now just the library) was still in the same place at the very top of the hill. I walked in the old building and looked straight ahead and the furniture was the same as I left it 28 years ago. The arrangement was the same except there was no longer a card catalog. Times HAVE changed in libraries.

One of the staff members, Phil Gallos, remembered me from the old days. In my day, he was a patron of the library but had now been working there as a library clerk for many years. I talked to him and one of the librarians for a while and then we headed on out to see other parts of town.

We drove down to the lake and looked around. It is as pretty as ever. Saranac Lake is named after Upper, Middle, and Lower Saranac Lakes that are all in the area around it, even though it actually sits on Lake Flower on the Saranac River.

Here's a picture of the area from the top of Mount Baker which overlooks the village. Mt. Baker also overlooked our home at 10 Forest Hill Ave. on Moody Pond. We could walk around the pond and hike up the mountain to get our exercise.

Saranac Lakes from the top of Mount Baker

I've probably violated somebody's copyright by downloading this picture from the Web, but it was just too good to pass up!

We drove past the house we lived in for five years. It's been repainted and reroofed and looked a lot different from the Adirondack Brown wood and green tin roof that we knew and loved, but still looks like the same delightful little cottage in which we spent the first five years of our married life. We also drove up to see if an old friend, Chris Brescia, might be home. He was and we reminisced for a while looking at his collection of railroad memorabilia which include such things as station light poles, block signal boxes, and track switches. These aren't little things. It's a good thing he has a big yard to put them in. Chris, it was great to see you again after all these years.

We were there for the 40th Anniversary of the Adirondack Balloon Festival
Opening Ceremonies in Glens Falls park

Laying out a balloon prior to inflation
Our exercise in nostalgia had to come to an end, so we turned the car back to the south east and returned to Lake George and Glens Falls to catch the opening of the Adirondack Balloon Festival. I've included some pictures below, some taken by Mary, some by me. They are taken from several event at the Balloon Festival. We went to the opening where a few balloons inflated and stood tethered. It was too windy to fly so we had to look at them right there in front of us on the ground. We also went to an event in Lake George called MoonGlow. This took place after dark and had balloons tethered in the park lighting themselves up with their propane burners. The morning after that, we were up at 4:30 AM (yes, that time really does exist on the clock, believe it or not!) so we could get to the Adirondack Airport for the 6 AM lift-off of some 100 balloons. Our campground also had a demonstration by a balloon pilot of a balloon and its basket. He talked about lots of technical details and provided a good look at a balloon. One of the most interesting things about the whole weekend was that you could get right to where the balloons were, stepping across the balloons being laid out prior to inflation, dodging the inflating balloons, standing right by them as they rose into the sky, and watching them up close and personal. We did not have the opportunity to fly in one but it was a whole lot of fun to see them.

MoonGlow, Lake George
MoonGlow in Lake George
Vendors tents at the Morning Lift-off

Getting Ready to Fly
Up n the air
A bite of birthday cake?
Balloons come in all sorts of shapes, even barns with silos and cattle

Lots of Balloons in the Air at the morning lift-off

Up, up and away
What a mass ascension looks like