Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kinnelon Critter File: New Jersey Black Bears

Black BearsSome of what makes living in Kinnelon, NJ so magical has to do with the animals we cohabitate with. Take the largest of these critters: the New Jersey Black Bear - actually the American Black Bear. Did you know that not only has it been seen in all New Jersey counties, but it also ranges throughout most of North America?

Since moving into this area in 2004, we have had many opportunities to observe and admire, but also respect, these magnificent animals. After all, they are beautiful, but also big, bigger than me and bigger than my daughter.

NJ Black BearBest then to try to understand this animal, how to minimize negative encounters and how to behave in case of encounters.

If you get the opportunity, do attend the session that the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife offers every other year or so at the Kinnelon Borough Hall. I missed the most recent one, but my daughter and I attended the previous session and learned from it.

Because, particularly at certain times of the year - early Spring through late Summer - our New Jersey Black Bears are busy. Eating, foraging, wandering... They love skunk cabbage so be on the lookout when you hike by wetlands and bogs.

Black Bears are curious and quite agile. We have observed from inside our house a momma and two cubs climbing over a cyclone fence, to peer into our neighbor's window, and then go off toward another neighbor.

We once discovered our very heavy BBQ pulled away from the house - because a very large animal had smelled the grease pan we had forgotten to empty. Bears' sense of smell is acute.

And, we've noticed them religiously visiting trash dumpsters and trash cans, to drag off into the woods any tempting loot. I'm sure you've seen the telltale trails of debris.

Don't feed NJ Black BearsGiven that we truly live in bear territory, here are a few of the bear facts that the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife offer on the "Know The Bear Facts" website.

First, use common sense. These are WILD animals, not cute, cuddly critters. So, don't approach them and don't try to feed them!

When you are outdoors, be loud. If it's getting dark and I'm alone getting the mail from my mailbox, I sing badly and loudly.

If bears are close by, "make the bear aware of your presence by speaking in an assertive voice, singing, clapping your hands, or making other noises."

"Make sure the bear has an escape route."

"If a bear enters your home, provide it with an escape route by propping all doors open."

bear proof garbage cagesAs it relates to your own home:

+ Close your garage doors.

+ At night, close your ground level windows. I assure you that a screen will not keep a curious and agile critter [if not bear, then think raccoon] out of your house.

+ Protect your garbage cans. Keep inside your garage the smelly-bear-desirable trash and put it out for collection at the last possible moment. Or, consider these garbage cages I discovered around Sterling Forest properties.

+ Forget about bird feeders.

[BTW, be sure to close car windows at night, particularly if there's any kind of food or food wrappers inside. Otherwise, you might be surprised to find that visitors have come by.... Raccoon or otherwise!]

"Avoid direct eye contact and never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away."

NJ Black Bear"To scare the bear away, make loud noises by yelling, banging pots and pans or using an airhorn. Make yourself look as big as possible by waving your arms. If you are with someone else, stand close together with your arms raised above your head."

"The bear may utter a series of huffs, make popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swat the ground. These are warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away, avoid direct eye contact and do not run."

"If a bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer, it may be trying to get a better view or detect scents in the air. It is usually not a threatening behavior."

"Black bears will sometimes "bluff charge" when cornered, threatened or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, then slowly back away and do not run."

"If the bear does not leave, move to a secure area."

NJ Black BearDuring the NJDEP presentation, we were told never to play dead around the New Jersey Black Bear. Make noise, and lots of it, instead.

And, don't leave your children or small pets outside unsupervised.

Read through the Bear Facts website, check out Black Bear Safety Techniques, don't ever feed the bears - it's illegal in New Jersey! - and educate yourself. There's real magic to having bears around -- at a safe distance.

And, as long as they don't associate you or your home with food, they will remain at a safe distance. Hence the law to not feed the bears.

To learn more about the New Jersey Black Bear, consider visiting Pyramid Mountain Park and speaking with the rangers. The Visitors Station also has nice displays [e.g., see the Black Bear poster image above].

Another resource is the Turtle Back Zoo from which the other four poster images above come from. If you go there, you can meet Jelly and Jam, two New Jersey Black Bears.

Now, there's plenty of controversy surrounding Black Bears in New Jersey. Suburban Trends reported on Serious bear incidents more than double in 2008 [2/17/2009]. In researching this Kinnelon Critter file, I discovered the NJ Bear Hunt Blog, about the need for dealing with bear overpopulation issues. The Bear Education and Resource Group vehemently opposes a hunt solution recommending instead aversive bear conditioning [I'm thinking that someone may be receiving a supersoaker water gun for his birthday...].

What other bear tips do you recommend?

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Needed: Split Rock Trail Maintainers For East Side

Split Rock Reservoir HikeEstelle Anderson, who told us about the New Pyramid Mountain Park Trail!, wants to know: would any intrepid hikers, especially Smoke Rise based, be willing and interested in becoming a trail maintainer for the East portion of the Split Rock Reservoir Trail, the portion most easily accessible through Smoke Rise?

As Estelle sees it, it's so easy to access Split Rock from Smoke Rise, that anyone living in Smoke Rise is an ideal candidate. For others, it involves quite a bit of a hike since access is from Split Rock Road and then one would have to walk the entire section and around the north end to get off trail near Camp Winnebago.

Here's what's involved in tending trails:

Minimum 2 visits during the year to the trail section. Picking up tree "litter" - branches on the trail that impede hikers; clipping back any overgrowth that would brush against a hiker; keeping the blazes painted and fresh so hikers are sure of their way. If there are trees down, then the maintainer advises the Trail Supervisor. There are certified sawyers within the Trail Conference and that's who gets the blowdowns out of the way.

The Trail Conference provides training for maintenance - either to a group or individual. It offers TM101 courses which involves about 2 hours inside and then out to a trail for field work. If it's a couple of people or an individual, then the Trail Conferences does on-the-trail training, instruction and actual work.

Here is a link to the Trail Maintainer Handbook.

I asked Estelle to go into more detail. She says that if a group is interested in maintaining as a group, there are a couple of options.
  • Typically the Trail Conference would want the group to become a Member Organization, at a cost of $50 annually.
  • The other option would be for two people to be the "lead" maintainers, with a group working under them, and just fill out a crew roster sheet. The leaders would have to be Trail Conference members. All this is because the NY/NJ Trail Conference covers trail workers with Volunteer Insurance and this is how to know who is out there.
Trail work training can be done on the trail; if desired, Estelle and her partner can do a short indoor session somewhere in Smoke Rise, or at the Newark Watershed building on Echo Lake Road, West Milford. But essentially it can be covered outdoors.

When Estelle teaches TM101, she includes 1-2 hours indoors, takes a break and then heads out to a trail to do the actual work. Maintainers need to provide their own tools, which would consist of clippers, loppers, folding saw (or bow saw), work gloves. If working as a group, then the tools can be shared without everyone needing to have all the above tools. Blazing the trail is also part of maintenance; the East shore is blue blazed and she would teach that also.

The goal is not to overwhelm attendees, yet also leave work for them to do; so most likely it would be about a 4 hour day. That way, they can all go back out to the trail and complete what needs to be done.

Estelle concludes that the section has been vacant for several years; this region has only very recently [i.e., as of last November] been taken over and there have been lapses. So all efforts are on getting vacancies filled and all trails back up to Trail Conference standards.

Estelle has been a maintainer since 2002, then co-Trail Supervisor and now Co Chair for Central Jersey Trails Committee. (Central Jersey meaning Central North Jersey).

Let me know if you're interested in becoming a Trail Maintainer, either individually or as part of a group. I know Estelle would be grateful, as would all those hiking these wonderful trails around us.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hike To Durham Pond From Smoke Rise, NJ

Sunday trip at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: Share GPS Tracks

Many thanks to Bjorn Walberg for sharing not only details on what looks to be an excellent Kinnelon hike to Durham Pond and back, but also feedback on an iPhone application that I intend to purchase.

First the trail.

The trail from Bjorn's departure point in Smoke Rise to Durham Pond and back measures 4.3 miles total [no approximate distance, thanks to technology!] and took 1.5 hours. Yes, Bjorn and his family walk fast.

Durham Pond is, from what I can read, a reservoir with a dam, possibly part of the Split Rock Reservoir system. I found mention of it in the History of Winnebago Scout Reservation and also in this pdf of The History of Camp Winnebago.

Durham Pond Historic Trail MapDurham Pond lies at the heart of the Camp Winnebago Boys Scout Camp [here is a link to the Cub Scout Historic Trail document around the Pond; the document is filled with fun details]. It is worthwhile to remember that Durham Pond and the surrounding land as a part of the Scout Reservation is private property and to plan accordingly.

What I like about this trail to Durham Pond and back is that it takes you by marvelous vantage points such as Indian Cliffs, Split Rock Reservoir and the Beaver Pond, yet is goes farther. Now, I haven't yet taken it, but thanks to the map pictured above I have a good feel for how wonderful this trail is. [Click, too, on this more detailed trail link.] Perhaps we should make this the next outing?

Now for the fun technology details.

Bjorn uploaded to his iPhone an application called Trails. The application creates files which can be opened with Google Earth as well as uploaded to sites like Everytrail, Wikiloc or Gpxchange. Cool, don't you think?

Thank you, Bjorn!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

New Pyramid Mountain Park Trail!

New Pyramid Mountain Park TrailThanks to Estelle Anderson, former Long Meadow Road resident in Smoke Rise, I recently learned about all kinds of marvelous local trail related information. For example, did you know that Pyramid Mountain Park has just added a new trail - with more in the works - and parking site?

Take Kinnelon Road south. As it becomes Powerville Road [past the Lake Rickabear Girls Scout Camp], just past the Decker-Kincaid Homestead, you may notice some big boulders on the left at the corner of Kincaid Road. Well, those big boulders mark off a parking lot and access point to Pyramid Mountain's Yellow Trail.

I stopped there on Wednesday, took these photos and picked up an updated Pyramid Mountain Trail map [see map below; bump out on the left represents the Kincaid addendum]. Unfortunately, the trail map available online hasn't yet been updated.

The trail goes a bit SouthEast, connects to the Yellow Trail with Black Dot [i.e., D on the trail map], making a nice loop and - should you want a longer trail - taking you North and eventually linking into the White Trail.

New Pyramid Mountain Trail MapEstelle volunteers with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and helps maintain trails in the Central North Jersey section of the conference between Pyramid Mountain and the Farny Highlands. She mentioned several trails worth exploring in our area:

+ The Pequannock Watershed

+ The Hewitt-Butler/Wyanokie Crest Trail Loop

+ The Butler-Montville Trail - Turkey Mountain Loop and Turkey Mountain Loop #2 [BTW, the New Jersey Walk Book features a section on the Butler-Montville Trail starting at Bubbling Brook Road to the Pyramid Mountain Park Visitors Center. This is an old, old trail says Estelle.]

The other delicious detail that Estelle mentioned is that at some point in the near future, we will be able to hike from Pyramid Mountain to Buck Mountain all the way to the Split Rock Reservoir! Doesn't that sound fantastic?

In the meantime, do check out the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference site where you can plan out hikes in Go Hiking.

If you know of anyone interested in helping maintain the many marvelous trails around us, please let me know and I'll put you in contact with her.

And, when you take on any of these hikes, will you take photos and share your impressions with us here?

Thank you and Thanks, Estelle, for sharing these wonderful suggestions!

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

St. Hubert's Chapel, Amazing Discovery July 2009

St. Hubert's ChapelDuring this year's tours of St. Hubert's Chapel in Smoke Rise's Lake Kinnelon, Tom Kline shared an amazing new discovery: that the Chapel once housed a bronze statue of the Madonna and Child [pictured below] by Gustave Dore -- who also created the statue of Night, the location of which we discovered during The Old Birch Spring Trail...

How Tom came to this amazing discovery is fascinating.

It begins in Rhode Island. If you remember from an early Cornie Hubner Story [see Didja Know? The Cottage - Francis S. Kinney's Home], Francis S. Kinney spent time in Rhode Island, and more specifically, Narragansett, RI, where there still exists the Kinney Bungalow. [The Kinney Bungalow is owned by the town of Narragansett and managed by the Narragansett Land Conservancy Trust which has been in contact with the Kinnelon Historical Commission.]

Madonna & Child, Gustave DoreAccording to Tom, the Kinney Family owned not just the Kinney Bungalow, but also land [i.e., a farm] where the building was located, and a summer home. In early June, he visited Narragansett, to meet with the Narragansett Land Conservancy Trust and personally inspect the Kinney Bungalow and see the site where the Kinney summer home was.

Francis S. Kinney built the Bungalow in 1899 for his daughter, Beatrice's debutante party. However, the Trust believed that the daughter's name was Frances [You'll note in this web page about The Kinney Bungalow, the reference to a daughter named Frances.], a detail that Tom corrected the Trust on.

Shortly thereafter, Tom decided to research Beatrice online, both as "Beatrice Kinney" [note this fascinating article on Morris Kinney Gives Dance; Entertains for Mr. and Mrs. Harry La Montagne at Sherry's] and "Beatrice Kinney Lamontagne".

The second search led to link to a National Registry of Historic Places Inventory document for St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken, South Carolina. Aiken, it seems, was a popular winter resort in the early 1900s.

Go to page 3 of that document and you will notice mention of a Gustave Dore bronze statue of the Madonna and Child. Look further on pages 5 and 7:

The Madonna was cast in bronze by the Thiebaut foundry in Paris shortly after the 1880 Paris Salon. It was purchased by a Mr. Kinney, who interred the statue in an island chapel on Kenlon, his Butler, New Jersey, estate. His daughter, Beatrice Kinney Lamontagne, acquired the statue after his death. A winter resident of Aiken, in 1947 she donated the Madonna to Monsignor George Lewis Smith and St. Mary Help of Christians church, where it remains today, as a memorial to her husband, Harry Lamontagne.

Tom then investigated Gustave Dore, a renowned French artist, engraver, illustrator and - later in life - sculptor. [This link shows you the many illustrations he did of Dante's Inferno, and other works by Dante, Tennyson, Balzac, Rabelais and others.] Now, check out this passage from the Life of Gustave Dore which describes that Dore exhibited great talent for - no, mastery of - drapery and that this was noticeable in his sculptures Glory, Night and Atropos and Love...

Night? Yes, that Night! The 'NIGHT' that appears carved into the rock along the Birch Spring trail... Eureka - on two counts!

St. Hubert's Chapel

As it relates to the Chapel, Tom explained that Dore's Madonna and Child occupied that space that for years he had said once held a baptismal font. Imagine as you walk into the Chapel on the right hand side, underneath the Celtic Cross window, seeing the statue pictured above on the large stone pedestal that is there now. As a reminder, it's two feet high, square along the back edge and sides and rounded on the front, and if you look at the floor, the mosaic pattern also follows the pedestal arc.

Truly an amazing St. Hubert's Chapel discovery.

For the record, over 100 people visited St. Hubert's Chapel this past July 5th, 2009.

In addition to the Madonna and Child discovery, Tom also pointed out the new windows inside the chapel and the new cross above the entrance door - which you can see in the photo on the left.

In a separate post, I'll share with you our adventure in the clock tower.

Thanks, Tom!

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Kinnelon Estate of Francis S. Kinney - Part IV

Didja Know?Here follows Part IV of the "Kinnelon" Estate of Francis S. Kinney -- in what is now Smoke Rise in Kinnelon, NJ -- as described in Cornie Hubner's Didja Know? series.


The fantastic promises of the incredible improvements expected in the rapidly approaching twentieth century were anticipated by the Kinneys. There were accounts of what could have been the first electric power generator whose spasmodic power produced a miraculous brilliance from many windows of the "Cottage" in spite of a sputtering flicker. More and better telephones provided immediate contact with all buildings from the Superintendent's office where a clicking monster typewriter noisily proclaimed its efficiency. Much improved amplified sounds of voices and music supplied the evening entertainment from the first fragile disc platters that replaced the wax cylinder records of the "Victor" talking machines. ["His master's voice" was the famous slogan of a "Victor" ad that pictured a fox terrier with turned up ears at the open end of the megaphone that amplified the recreated sounds.]

The family spent more and more time at the "Cottage" leaving only for summers at the shore and trips around the country and abroad. The children were at exclusive schools returning for life they enjoyed at what had become a completely self sustaining hamlet. Their interest in the welfare of their neighbors and the well being of the township made them welcomed neighbors. Except for the added help at harvesting time, a full staff was maintained all year. Plans were made for new buildings and expanding facilities for the increasing herds of the blue blooded animals now beginning to be exhibited.

The 5,000 acres, stocked by Nature with an inexhaustible supply of game from the surrounding wilderness, was a hunter's paradise. The entire family's interest in the sport led to a gradual increase in the number and variety of canines from terriers to hounds. "Trick" and "Jack" were terriers mentioned in the 1893 log - "Jack drew coon out of 3 foot lengths of 8 inch pipe, arranged for the test and fought it close and hard in the open - showing good spirit. Trick failed to go in pipe and little pluck in the open."

A few days later - "Tried the terriers on 20 rats - they killed them in fair shape." If one wonders where the rats come from, another entry "Call from Mrs. Kinney - something moving in her room - brought the dogs - they killed a rat," an invader from the nearby stable. Terriers were again mentioned when "a mink running about the house, was finally shut in the game room, where the dogs killed it." The Kennel, building 17, was built and a professional trainer hired after three pointers died when three other of the same litter were thriving in homes of the friends to whom they were given.

Several breeds of hounds were purchased and trained for competition and local hunting. Local hunters were frequently invited to match their dogs against the trained blooded hounds in "Coon Hunts," which they often won. A triumph of tender loving care over the disciplined blooded hounds, joyfully celebrated by the amateur trainers. An ancient oak, west of the North Gate, reminded an old timer of a terrifying night he spent, as a boy, high up in its branches, after dislodging the coon, an unable to find his way down until dawn.

Lake KinnelonActivity reached a peak, just prior to World War I, with the introduction of the hitherto unknown breed to American Dogdom. According to this story, one of the Kinneys visiting England fell in love with a pair of blue grey long haired puppies. He hired a bi-plane for the hazardous flight over the Channel to France where, with other stranded Americans, he boarded one of the last liners, with his puppies, just before the fall of France. Attracting immediate attention, more were brought to an awaiting market by returning seamen on their submarine threatened return from delivery of vital supplies. The beautiful animals, while not as large as a Panda, were viewed much as we might today react to one of the Chinese beauties on a lead on Fifth Avenue. The English Sheep Dog was listed officially a few years later and became the favored breed in the Kennel that then contained more than 100 canines of various breeds.

While fostering all wildlife, folklore reveals Mr. Kinney's dislike snakes. If you've wondered about the absence of reptiles you might be inclined to believe that, unlike St. Patrick with his miracle, the Kinnelon population was banished in a practical way. The Estate Superintendent was authorized to pay a bounty of 25 cents (2 hours pay in the 1890s) for the head of every rattlesnake or copperhead caught by the workers. It undoubtedly led to the reduction of the reptiles inside and outside of the gate. A true story is told of a bridge playing Smoke Rise Club group, one of whom saw a snake directly outside of the screen of the porch on which they were serenely playing. A call to the gate brought a rescue force that removed it and reassured the players that it was harmless. A visiting player disagreed saying it was a diamond back rattlesnake because "it had to display diamonds to get past the gate."

Much of the information for these articles was obtained from logs and diaries up to 1895 from John Talbot's Library and descendants of employees of the Estate.

Future stories of the Kinney Family and the Smoke Rise Club will continue in the column which again encourages your participation in the midmonthly edition.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Breaking News: Kinney Boathouse Actually Bathhouse

NEWSFLASH - Breaking News: this just in. Structure previously identified as Kinney Boathouse actually a Bathhouse with pool fed by water ram.

Possibly for women only with changing rooms on first level and storage on second.

Location near spillway/dam correct.

More to come as story unfolds.

Stay tuned.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sand Castle Building Contest - Smoke Rise Days 2009

Curse of the KrakenThere's something about sand castles that captures my imagination. That's why I truly love the Smoke Rise Days Sand Castle Building Contest. Is it the same for you?

I'm in awe over the feats of creative sand engineering combined with intensity of cooperative effort that generates something totally unexpected. I remember one team recreating a scaled version of Lake Kinnelon complete with St. Hubert's Chapel back four or five summers ago...

Sand castles also take me back to the days of endless childhood summers when we sometimes took off for a day at the beach. Entertainment consisted of water or sand. Given 60 or 70 degree water temperature, sand quickly captured my attention and I would pour heart and soul into digging, shaping, forming and building the most preposterous castle I could imagine. True magic.

Pig RoastI recently described to my friend Regina - whose husband Glenn is the drummer for our very own Kinnelon Aisle Five band - the sand castle building contest. Coincidently, she had just participated in a sand castle team building exercise and learned the art [and science] of sand castle building.

Did you know that the key to high quality sand castles is WATER? That's right. The wetter the sand the better. Makes sense although I had never thought it through.

Also, don't forget to 'dribble' the wet sand mixture...

If you are interested, here are links to Sand Castle Tips and Tricks, page 2 and page 3. [Regina, are any major tips missing?]

Turtle I'm hoping that next year we enter the contest, and that Regina and her daughter join us; my daughter has started to think about what she might create.

Meanwhile, here follow the results of the 2009 Smoke Rise Days Sand Castle Building Contest.

Family Built:
1st place: Sleeping Fisherman, Westra family
2nd place: Curse of the Kraken, Schrope and Calia families
3rd place: Swimming with the Fishes, Fradkin, Matucci and Donus families

Built by Big Kids:
1st place: Turtle by Colin and Vanessa Smalley, Sophus, Aoifa and Aine Schanche
2nd place: Taj Mahal by Finn Witt
3rd place: Elephant by Hope Weinstock and Bronwyn Olstein

Built by Not as Big Kids:
1st place: Submarine by Tel Waalberg, Ryan Vasquez, Austin Tighe
2nd place: Pig Roast by Kristina Kalafsky, Samantha Ramsden, Emma Jones and Lara Ullrich
3rd place: Sports by the Thompson children

Built by Little Kids:
1st place: Smoke Rise Tower by Roshan and Tarik Narma
2nd place: Tennis Ball Roller by Olin Witt
3rd place: Volcano by Anthony Bassi and Miles Contreras

[Link to my photos of Sand Castle Building Contest entries.]

SubmarineOther Smoke Rise Days contest results [from the August 1st, 2009 Smoke Rise News]:

Fishing Contest
1st catch of the day: Sydney Coutts

Most fish caught:
1st place: John Calia with 30 fish
2nd place: Max Hofbauer with 21 fish
3rd place: Matt Morreale wih 18 fish

Heaviest fish caught:
1st place: Scotty Smith, 3lb 0oz catfish
2nd place: Kevin Skvorecz, 2lb 4oz pickerel
3rd place: Colin Smalley, 2lb 0oz bass
3rd place: Andrew Tskinkelis, 2lb 0oz bass

Fishing fun facts:
44 Anglers entered this year's contest; 29 turned in catch to be counted/weighed. 157 fish were caught in 3.5 hours [i.e., 44.8 fish per hour]. Gene Orcutt has been running this contest for nearly 30 years. Thank you, Gene!

Frog Jumping Contest:
Champion: Anthony Bassi with Skipper
1st runner up: 5 time defending champion Olin Witt with Margarita 6
2nd runner up: Ryan Smith with Burt
3rd runner up: Anna Santy with Crystal

Honorable Mention for Bobby Lewis and Josh Schrope with the most impressive frog - Godzilla - a 5lb giant and the largest frog in the history of the Smoke Rise Days Frog Jumping contest.

Horseshoe Contest:
1st place: Bobby Herrington and Nino Capra
2nd place: Andy San Filippo and Jim Pitts

Taj MahalMany thanks to Dave Owens who adjusted the game schedule at the last moment to accommodate the increase from last year's 6 teams to this year's incredible 19! If you're interested in playing regularly, contact cn [at] craignoble [dot] com.

Minimalist Regatta [another event I am determined to participate in one of these summers]:
12 & Under Rubber Chicken - Caroline Lavallee.

There you have it for the Smoke Rise Days 2009 contests. If you'd like to share any photos, please let me know. I'd particularly like to see a photo of Frogzilla -I mean Godzilla.

I'd also love to hear whether our frog jumping contest looks anything like Serious Frog Jumping in Calaveras County... [aka Frogtown].

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Francis Kinney's Boathouse on Lake Kinnelon

Boathouse I by David French.
David French Boathouse IWere you aware that Francis S. Kinney's Kinnelon Estate included a boathouse? I recently learned about it from John Connelly who shares the following story of.... The Boathouse on Lake Kinnelon.

An immense and solitary stone sits at the end of Lake Kinnelon near the stables. Over it spills a gentle waterfall that flows easily through green fields, past 1 Robins Lane, under a stone bridge and into a quiet pool that you see on the right as you exit the East Gate. If not for this stone, Lake Kinnelon would not exist. If not for this stone, the lake would follow nature’s course and simply drain away.

I know this stone well because my journeys to St. Hubert's Chapel with Tom Kline always started there. We’d walk along a dirt road, pass the stables and then climb up the large stone. Reaching the top, the lake would come into view. Then we’d find the metal canoe that Tom hid in the tall grasses nearby. Emblazoned with his father’s initials, CHK, it served as our transport to the farthest reaches of the lake, the chapel and our childhood world of wonder.

We first took the CHK out to the Island in 1968 when Tom and I were 12 years old; Tom up front and me behind. We paddled across the still lake in the cool early hours of a clear spring day.

We passed through the cove taking note of a large wooden structure near the waterfall. It was an imposing sight rising about 2 stories high, all timber, darkened from age, and without windows. Large, dark and out of place, it was like an ark that had drifted across the lake and came to rest where it stood. Tom explained that it was a boathouse.

We journeyed to the chapel and returned, hiding the CHK in the tall grasses. I wrote earlier about that first chapel visit. The chapel was in a state of disrepair.

Upon returning, we decided to explore the boathouse.

The boathouse then was a massive rectangle shaped building approximately 40 feet long and about 20 feet wide. The building was about 15 feet from the waterfall and the sound of the falls was omnipresent. Whereas the chapel had been planted in a quiet lake setting where time is marked by imperceptible breezes, squawks of geese and changing seasons, by contrast, the boathouse was set near the waterfall amid the constant din of falling water. Like an hourglass noisily marking time.

There was a door on one side and we peeked in. There, suspended from ancient rafters, the longboats still hung in mid-air. There were between six and eight of them: long narrow wooden boats hanging in the darkness. Oars and accessories were fastened along the walls. Little bits of light streamed through the roof boards. Outside there was the sounds of life; birds and falling water. Inside, just darkness and silence.

My mind went back to a story Mr. Nevius had told me about the Smoke Rise of old.

Mr. Nevius was in his eighties back in 1968. This old man lived on Orchard Road and I worked for him. My job was simple: Twice a year, in spring and autumn, I’d go to his house, go down into his basement, and turn one knob that was at the far end of tight crawl space. I’m not sure what that knob did. I never asked. I’d just turn the knob and he’d pat me on the head and hand over a $5 bill. Great work if you could get it!

Most of the time, he’d then thank me and I’d go home. But, now and again he’d want to talk a little. One time, in particular, stands out in my mind.

Sitting down at this kitchen table he asked me to imagine Smoke Rise before all the roads were in. He said to imagine the dirt roads coming up through Kinnelon with important people riding in horse drawn carriages dressed in their finest clothes from far off cities on the way to visit the Kinney estate.

“This road, John Jay, Orchard Road, why, it was once an actual orchard! Then, they put in this street, named it Orchard Road, and now there are only houses. No trace left of the orchard, I’m afraid.

His expression drifted off.

“When they got to the Kinney home, they’d stay awhile. Sundays they’d get into little rowboats and attend mass. The priest was from St. Anthony’s in Butler. Sometimes he’d come up the night before to dine and stay overnight at the mansion”, he said.

“Then, after Mass, all dressed in fine clothes, they’d assemble along the shorelines to watch hulking young men race in long wooden boats.

“Who would?” I asked.

“Why, socialites and politicians, priests and businessmen. These were grand affairs. The Kinney’s, on Sundays, would also allow many of the workers to watch, too. Quietly and in the background, of course, but they were there. Among them was Stable Girl.

“Stable girl?

“I’ll tell you about her when you’re older” he said. He kept his promise.

I used to ask my Dad who Mr. Nevius was. He said he didn’t know exactly. All he knew was that he’d moved to Smoke Rise late in life from somewhere else, perhaps from far away. He was the local tax collector. He died in the early 1970s. That’s all I know about him outside of his stories. Stories of boating and Stable Girl.

Here were the boats, hanging from rafters in the darkness, suspended in mid-air exactly where they had been placed so many years before. I imagined it was with great excitement and laughter that they had one day been put in place. Set there, perhaps before the two great wars and the intervening depression. There was no laughter now, only silence, shadow and two wide-eyed boys peering into the darkest interior, the very soul, of the building.

Mr. Nevius had described a dance of sorts between the chapel and the boat races. A social interplay that began in reverent repose in the mornings and ending in excited hoots, cheering on straining young boys as they one by one raced to and circled the chapel as if to capture her attention. But, as we stood there back in 1968, both the chapel and the boathouse lay in neglect.

History makes clear that the chapel was vandalized in the 1950s by young boys. But, let the record also clearly state that it was the young boys of the 60s that saved her. Principally an extraordinary young solitary visionary named Tom Kline who fought back against the ravages of time and preserved part of the Smoke Rise legacy for future generations of young boys.

With each passing week, month and year a thousand trips were made on the CHK, and a thousand returns to the tall grasses by the great stone. With the passing of time the chapel came back to life, but the boathouse slowly crumbled. Inch by inch the structure slowly laid the longboats to the earth then fell over them into one confused pile of long boards. Marked by the pounding of the waterfall, time ran out for the boathouse. He was to have no savior.

On my last trip back to Smoke Rise, all that was left of the structure was an almost imperceptible pile of rotting boards next to the waterfall. That’s all that’s left of a once magnificent boathouse full of wooden longboats.

I’ve often thought of Mr. Nevius over the years; the turning of the knob, the distant look in his eyes, the tales of aristocrats cheering on the hopeful straining boys of summer. It was the turn of the century and, for Smoke Rise, its “Belle Epoque.” I can see in my mind, thanks to him, a world of long ago. A world of the privileged few and the nameless laborers who brought the mansion, the carriage house, the stables, the tower, the bridges, the walls, the Inn, and the gates and the boathouse to life, and by doing so brought a place of wonder and magic into being.

I see, too, a world of Italian craftsman who brought their stone-working skills to America to construct the chapel. They brought along a charming young daughter, as well. She is known to me only as “Stable Girl.”

But, that’s a story for another day…

John sent me the following links to images that capture the boathouse he remembers.

+ This one of the Ullswater Boathouse is close to what he remembers, minus the deck and the stone exterior.

+ The Lowestoft Rowing Club boathouse is very similar, except it's smaller and has a white door, which Kinney's didn't. But the old wood look is very similar.

+The Ottawa River Boathouse captures the immense nature of the Kinney original.

+ This image of the interior of the Israeli Boathouse gives a sense of what the interior would have looked like. Of course much darker and the boats were all wood.

Thank you, John, for sharing this magnificent vision of another time and place with a Boathouse on Lake Kinnelon!

Added 8/3/09: Please note that, per John's location of the boathouse next to the waterfall, the boathouse was on then, and what is now still, private Talbot property.

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