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Hidden Waterfalls of Bolton Landing New York

30 Jul

After moving away from Lake George for work…I often find myself as a tourist in my own town when I return home to Bolton Landing, NY.  When I am home, I usually find myself giving visiting friends and family tours of the lake, Bolton Landing, and the surrounding areas.  While some places will always be private and special to me, here are a few waterfalls and nature spots you might not find on the tourism maps when visiting Bolton Landing:


  • Short drive
  • Park/walk

brook-at-melody-manorIf you haven’t visited the Bolton Historical Museum, you should.  I like learning about small towns, especially when I spend time there or have work to do there.  In the museum there is some information about my family and how we helped settle the area along with some amazing artifacts and stories from over 200 years of Bolton’s founders and inhabitants.  The Gates family settled Huddle Bay (“The Huddle”) and remnants of our farm and property are still there today such as the 1800’s homestead, trails, and Gates Falls.  Gates Falls is tucked back behind Melody Manor and often confused with the overflow fall just south of Villa Napoli Restaurant.  However, if you follow the sound of the Huddle Brook behind the restaurant you will come to a beautiful 15 foot waterfall that cascades down to a shallow pebble wading pool before feeding into the lake.  The north side of the falls is owned by Melody Manor and the south side is private property.  The lake is everyone’s to share.  This little waterfall can be walked to easily and there is parking 100 feet away in the Melody Manor parking lot.


  • Boat ride
  • Anchor/3 mile hike

4747044592_cd3b8b975d_zThis is no mystery and every local or regular visitor knows it is there…but it is still a must!  By boat go to Log Bay and drop anchor in the shallow sandy waters.  Be sure to lock up your boat and secure your anchor.  You’ll want shoes so either wear water shoes or wade in while holding your hiking shoes.  There are trails on both the west and east end of the creek, so enter where you like.  The trail is on the east side of the creek and for the best experience take the low road, though it will require climbing over logs, tiptoeing across ledges, and sliding in some mud…but you are right on the creek with all the little falls.  For an easier climb take the high road which is a steep incline but more direct and smooth.  At the end is Shelving Rock Falls which boasts a gorgeous wading pool at the bottom, double falls from the top at about 35 feet, there are sections kids can slide on, a deep pool near the top on the south side, and you can cross from side to side at the bottom or top.  This is the east side of the lake so if you need to rent a boat, I suggest Chic’s Marina.


  • Long drive
  • Park/walk

23579_433570718834_2282992_nThis drive is best in the fall and done in either a convertible or with all the windows down.  Drive north out of Bolton Landing to the flashing yellow light of County Route 11, make a left then an immediate right onto North Bolton Road.  A few miles up, the road forks and you want to stay right onto Padanarum Road.  After a while it will turn into a dirt road by a marsh and you’ll wonder if this is the right way to go…the answer is yes and you need to keep on going.  Padanarum twists and winds through the trees following the water.  You’ll pass the oldest cemetery in Bolton.  Just keep staying right and if you choose to get out and look around, be respectful of the Private Property signs.  You’ll pass Indian Pond before coming to an “intersection” in the middle of the woods.  Should you choose to go left you’ll wind up on Crystal Lake or Route 8 eventually, I stay right and make the loop back to Bolton.  After making the right the road opens up a bit as it jogs back and forth across the river with little bridges and great spots to pull off and explore a little.  Then the river drops away below you as the road goes higher and higher til you find yourself driving along the edge of a deep gorge with the falls rushing below you!  At the end of the road, you’ll find yourself back at Route 9 and all you have to do is turn right and you will be back in Bolton in 10 minutes.  It’s a great little loop to drive and take your mind off things.


  • Short drive
  • park/hike

northwestbaybrookfalls04_575At about the same spot the Padanarum Road lets out onto Route 9 you’ll find a parking lot on the east side of the road with a small reservoir.  Park your car here (about 10-12 spaces) and walk south along route 9 on the east side till you come to the trail head.  Follow the trail, which is a very easy hike, to come to the top of the falls on the east side.  The falls are about a 25 foot plunge and they feed into Northwest Bay of Lake George.  For a view from the bottom you’ll need to trek through the woods on unmarked trails from the bridge by the highway and simply follow the sound of the water.  From the base you can launch a canoe or kayak and paddle your way into Lake George through an amazing marsh area.  I recommend having someone drop you off with a canoe or kayak and then picking you up at Bolton’s Memorial Park.  There are also kayak rentals on Green Island and you can easily paddle to this spot from there.


Not everyone can to get out on the lake, and sometimes its just nice to see it from land.  With lakefront property at a premium, sometimes it is hard to get someplace where you can truly appreciate the lake.  Here are a few hidden gems of places on land in Bolton Landing to see the lake without a boat or hiking:

If you like to hike, the Cat Mountain and Thomas Mountain trails are the way to go with stunning views from above!   Best in the fall.

Lastly, hidden gems are only found when you explore…so go out there and find your hidden gem.  I remember when I found Gates Falls and was amazed it had been there my whole life and I didn’t know.  I am a big fan of a little mini bay inside the bay across from Indian Brook by Fan Point, it holds special meaning to me and I remember “discovering” it.  There is another tiny bay like that on Gravelly Island in the Northeast corner.  My favorite underwater spot is the eastern rocks off the tiny island just north of Commission Island.  If you have never done the northern portion of the lake by boat and gone through the natural dam…you are missing out.  I love walking through the channel between Long Island and Speaker Heck Island…its fun on a waverunner or canoe too.  Standing on the rocks south of Canoe Island is a trip and putting through the Needles Eye channel has always been my favorite.  Fall is my favorite time on Lake George, when the water is calm as can be, the air is crisp, the leaves are changing on the mountains, and the lake is warmer than the air.  Sugerloaf Mountain comes to life with vibrant colors, reflecting in the glass-like water, and the only sound is wind in your ears, the splash of the water, and the hum of the boat.  However, you explore Lake George…have fun!

Boating on Lake George in Early Fall

Boating on Lake George in Early Fall, 2008

Standing In The Middle Of the Rapids on Padanarum

Standing In The Middle Of the Rapids on Padanarum in Fall, 2010

My Son Max at Shelving Rock Falls in Summer, 2013.

My Son Max at Shelving Rock Falls in Summer, 2013.

Going Through The Needles Eye in Summer, 2014

Going Through The Needles Eye in Summer, 2014

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Backyard Pear Tree

27 Jul


Harvesting pears from the tree in our back yard today and thinking of my grandmother Dawn, maybe I’ll make some jam to bring with me to NY next week in memory of her.

Goodnight Grandma

25 Jul

DawnGates1My paternal grandmother, Dawn Kathleen Preston, was born on June 24, 1924 in Castelton, Vermont to parents Elmer F. Preston and Kathleen E. Towers.  At age 6 she moved to Albany, NY and by 1940 she was living in Bolton Landing, NY spending a majority of her time with her cousins Pauline and Robert.  On April 23, 1944 she married my grandfather, William Beckers Gates, near her home in Castleton, Vermont at the age of 19.  The two of them went on to do what I strive to do every day…become good parents and make each other happy.  Bill went to the Navy and returned home as a hero for saving his shipmates.  He and Dawn purchased a trolly car diner and opened The Bill Gates Diner in Bolton Landing, NY…my home sweet home.  They had three lovely children:  William, Walter and Jeanine between the years of 1945 and 1954 and the five of them all worked to feed the town of Bolton every day.  Walter, or “Buddy” as everyone called him, is my dad and thus I’m here writing this today.


Everyone will have their own memories of people and things that stand out for them.  As the youngest of the family I will always remember the cookies, the pancakes, and all the sweet smells that came from the kitchen when I visited.  I remember the smell of the house, the cool damp basement where my grandfather taught me how to fix things, the hand-knitted blankets my grandma made throughout the house, the doilies and lace everywhere, Grandma’s bell collection, Grandpa’s cologne, M&M’s in that little glass container on the coffee table with the cube picture frame next to it, the powder blue toilet with a cushioned seat in the bathroom, the smell of rotting leaves as I cleaned the gutters, the putter of the 1949 Willy’s Jeep, my socks stained pink from picking strawberries with Grandma all morning, her paintings…everywhere…so many paintings, and then the blue chair near the entrance to the dining room where my grandfather passed away on February 24, 1989.  I was 9…and I didn’t understand what death really meant.


Grandpa and I had restored a canoe the summer of 1988 and by the time the fire-engine-red paint dried in the fall, cancer had whittled him down to skin stretched over bones.  When he passed away I knew if I closed my eyes long enough, prayed hard enough, and pictured him clear enough in my mind…he’d be sitting next to me when I opened my eyes to wrap me up in one of those big hugs of his.  However, he was never there when I opened my eyes, he never gave me another hug, and we never got to say goodbye.  When I read a piece I had written called “My Grandpa and Me” at his ceremony I couldn’t hold the tears back.  It felt like my insides were being torn out and the world was never going to be the same again.  How could it?  Then, I looked up from my tear-covered sheet of paper and locked eyes with Grandma Dawn…and she was smiling.  She wrapped me up in that hug I was so desperately waiting for and the emotions came spilling out of me all at once.  I realized he was never coming back.  She told me she was proud of me and that she loved me very much, then she showered me with kisses before I sat back down…and then the thought hit me, “What about Grandma?”

Sterett-book-cover-jpegFor weeks after the ceremony I would lay awake at night wondering what my grandma was thinking?  She slept next to him every night…and now he was gone.  How do you recover from something like that?  Every summer since, I spent as much time at her house as possible, stayed with her for extended periods of time, and developed one of the deepest friendships with a family member I have ever had.  We kept no secrets from each other, we played the games I wanted to play, then I watched the TV shows she wanted to watch and we napped.  Every day, Grandma drank a beer (sometimes two) then took a nap after Wheel of Fortune.  When she lost the appetite for alcohol she switched to NA beer and the ritual continued.  She taught me how to paint, sew, crochet, and other skills I am so happy to know.  She taught me how to bake, especially her famous pancakes from the diner!  We were thick as thieves, Grandma and me…til one day this guy named Bus kept showing up.

Bus asked Grandma to marry him and she said no.  So, he asked again.  She said no.  He asked again, and she said yes.  By this time I was a young teenager and fully capable of trying to sabotage Bus’s relationship with Dawn and I gave it a darn good shot.  Bus cornered me one day, grabbed hold of my shirt, and told me as we stood nose to nose, “Don’t bullshit a bullshitter.”  It made me like him even less.  He seemed bossy and I didn’t like that Grandma was baking for him now instead of me.  Then one night he had a few too many Manhattans and told me the story of how he’d fallen in love with her back in the 1940’s but she was waiting for Bill.  Bus got married but never lost track of what Dawn was up to.  When Bus’s wife passed away he needed a friend and so did Grandma.  They found each other.  Through decades of life, they found each other, and he made Grandma was happy.

With her boys Bud (left) and Bill (right)

With her boys Bud (left) and Bill (right)

I never stopped calling her, and even today I sometimes find my fingers dialing her home number when I pick up the phone.  Bus and I came to understand each other as soon as we both figured out we wanted the same thing, to see Dawn happy.  I never missed an opportunity to stop by, always called every week, and introduced her to every girlfriend to see if I got approval.  We were thick as thieves again and I went to college only 4 hours away which meant I often got to see her on the weekends and always on holidays.  When Bus passed away…it took a hard toll on her.  One of the last things Bus told me was that her memory wasn’t so good.  I remember replying, “Well…she’s old Bus.”  He shook his head and said, “I’m old too…this is different, sometimes she forgets things…big things.”  I wasn’t sure what he meant.

DawnGates2It started with her cooking.  She’d forget crucial ingredients that would leave food inedible.  Recipes that only existed in her head disappeared forever.  Cookies became dry, cakes became bricks, and sometimes cereal was served with orange juice poured over the top instead of milk.  Then it was people.  She’d recognize a face but couldn’t put a name to it.  Then, once the daily routine of the house was gone…she drifted off somewhere far away.  She moved into a nursing home and the memory loss was astounding…it happened so fast!  She’d remember me and be telling me a story…then stop, look at me with confusion, and get shy.  I could see her forget who I was.  Alzheimer’s?  Dimentia?  All of the above?  Who knows.  All I know is my grandma’s brain was sick but her body was perfectly healthy.  I think the last straw was when her daughter (my aunt) Jeanine passed away in 2007 at the age of 52.  Lung cancer.  That was my last cigarette and the the beginning of Dawn’s retreat to someplace far away in her mind where she only remembered things from long ago, and music…she remembered all the music and would sing songs with Bud and Bill.

Slightly confused but happy she attended my wedding.  She sat right in front and I could feel her gaze on me throughout the ceremony.  Sometimes she seemed to know what was going on, other times she seemed completely flabbergasted by where she was, and other times she simply seemed content to have a change of scenery.  It was the last time she left the nursing home and the last time she looked like the grandma I had shared so many beers with over the years.

Grandma Dawn (left) & Aunt Barbara (right)

Grandma Dawn (left) & Aunt Barbara (right)

Last summer I visited her with my family at the nursing home.  I walked right past her…I didn’t even recognize her she was so gaunt.  The nurse woke her up slowly, she was sleeping in her chair, and physically moved her head towards me so her eyes were lined up with mine.  Nothing.  Blank.  I wanted to cry but knew that was a terrible thing to do in a nursing home so I just said, “Hi Grandma!”  Her eyes focused on me and studied my face.  Then, like a bolt of lightning, she shot up and smiled and gave an expression on her face that can only be described as “I KNOW YOU!”  Cookies, cakes, and pancakes all over again!  I introduced her to my son Max who was 2 at the time and my son Dodge who was only 3 months old.  Her expression was that of, “Yes, yes, yes…I see the babies…I know you!  I know you!  I know you!”  So I held her hand, looked straight into her eyes, and told her about what was happening in my life as if we were drinking beer on her couch back in the 90’s.  I combed her hair, I stroked her beautiful face, and I showered her with kisses like she had for me the day Grandpa died.  I wrapped her up in a hug and told her I would see her again soon.  Then I went outside and broke down in the parking lot.

That was the last time I saw her.

She passed away this Wednesday at the age of 90.

I’d be lying if I said I felt like I was a good grandson in the end.  I did not visit her this summer, intentionally.  Selfishly, I was scared and didn’t know if I could handle seeing her again after last summer’s experience.  Last summer’s experience was so hard and so rewarding that it seemed like the best note to end on.  Now, I don’t know.  My dad saw her just before she passed and she recognized him.  I can’t stop thinking that I should have gone a few weeks ago when I was there, and I’ll have to live with that decision for the rest of my life.  However, I have so many memories to to hold her in my heart and last summer is the punctuation on my life with her.

Great Uncle Bob, Grandma Dawn, Aunt Jeanine, Uncle Bill, Great Grandpa Preston in front of the diner

Great Uncle Bob, Grandma Dawn, Aunt Jeanine, Uncle Bill, Great Grandpa Preston in front of the diner after it closed.

Last night I sat in the back yard, stared up at the sky, and picked out a star to talk to and said my goodbyes.  I didn’t scrunch up my eyes and hope she would appear next to me, I prayed she was released from the confines of her body and was somewhere with lots of beer, Wheel of Fortune reruns, Grandpa, Bus, and a kitchen stocked with everything she needed to make pancakes for the universe.  She was my last grandparent.  She was a living connection to that time period.  It is a chapter closed…but never forgotten.  In the end I think we all wish for that one last goodbye, that last memory, that last morsel of cake…but why cry over crumbs when you got to enjoy the prime cut?  It is so cliche but enjoy every moment of life with those you love, NOT because it could be the last…because it is what you’ll remember when its over.  If your grandma or grandpa is still alive, give them a call.  Stop by.  Give them a hug.  Tell them you love them, even if they don’t remember who you are.  It doesn’t matter…everyone likes to hear “I love you.”  Finally, if you knew Dawn…please think of her and maybe her spirit will touch your dreams or add a dash of love to your next batch of cookies.  I thought of her last night as I spoke to that star and suddenly the sky was filled with hummingbirds!  20-30 of them swarmed my mimosa tree in search of something sweet.  Then a deep Kansas wind rolled through and off they went as the ash tree bended and swayed through the gust.  Then everything was calm.  Not a sound in the night air.

Good night Grandma.  I love you.  I miss you.

Tell Grandpa (and Bus) I said, “Hi.”

Bill Gates Diner

Forgotten Birthday Prank

23 Jul

It is well-known that I am the prankster around the office…and beware the person that invokes my pranks.  However, it is I that got pranked this week with an amazingly executed classic:  The Forgotten Birthday.

EeyoreBalloonFor my boss Chris’s birthday I rigged his office chair with an airhorn.  My co-worker Karen we threw a fake party complete with streamers and crumbs since she took the day off.  Linda had her office so decked out with party favors she couldn’t get in the door.  For me…nothing.  Huh?  As a kid I dreaded my birthday because it was in July so I never got to have the cake party at school…I was part of that summer group where we all celebrated with one cake on a day near the end of school.  Sucked.  One summer I had a pool party with a handful of friends who were in town and it has remained in my memory since as epic!  As an adult, I have been out of town for my birthday almost every year, so I rarely partake in the office celebration of cake and ice cream around the conference table.  Til this year.

This year I was in town and Linda pulled me aside and said, “Ryan, you said if you were ever in town for your birthday you wanted one of those cookie cakes…is that still true?”  She remembered!  My heart swelled!  It was what all the cool kids with school-time birthdays got when we were kids and I always wanted one!  I nodded yes to Linda and the excitement grew, and grew, and grew til it was the Friday before my birthday.  Party time for sure!  Nothing.  No cookie cake.  No “Happy Birthday.”  Just, “Have a good weekend.”  So…I did.

My wife Kate and I played golf together on Saturday (my birthday) and she played fantastically.  It was extremely relaxing!  A new set of clubs had been the gift from my folks earlier in the year so it seemed fitting that they be used on the actual day…and I shot well.  Kate’s parents had got me a grill for Father’s Day / Birthday so after golf we grilled up chicken breasts, hot dogs for the kids, and corn on the cobb.  That night I got to rent a stupid action flick OnDemand and all seemed awesome.

Sunday I realized I got text messages from my mom, dad, and sister on my birthday…but no phone call.  I knew my sister was dead in the middle of a theater production and my folks were hosting guests so it made sense.  By the time Monday rolled around I was sure the office was going to throw me a party with cookie cake, my dad would call in to sing, and it would be fun.  Nope.  Nothing.  No one even asked me how my birthday went.  Down trodden and significantly older, I resigned to the fact that my office had forgotten about my birthday and my family wasn’t going to call.  I worked late, turned off the lights, and went home to cry in my beer.

Then, Tuesday I walked in the front door to this:



Yup…the ole Forgotten Birthday Prank.  The office folks NAILED IT!  They got me with the party favors over the door, the confetti everywhere, and I checked under the chair…yup…a valiant attempt at the airhorn under the chair.  I removed the airhorn before sitting and made sure to set it off next to Debbie, Karen and Dee’s office to make sure they were awake (better than coffee) since now I had to vacuum up my desk.  Later in the day my childish wish came true and the office assembled to eat cookie cake with me…which incidentally dyed everyone’s teeth dark blue thanks to the food coloring in the frosting…just like in middle school.


They had lovely cards for me in which they poked fun as if they had forgotten my birthday and I got a 24 oz box of peanut butter M&M’s wrapped in three layers of wrapping paper to keep me busy while they all laughed at me.  They…got…me…good.  So ole Eeyore brightened up and had a good time at the party…and ate his cake too…cookie cake.


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Happy Birthday To Me: Looking Back At The Year

19 Jul

Today is my birthday and I’ve turned a mere 35.  However, it seems like so much has happened in the past year and instead of trying to recap it I’m just going to post a gallery of photos in chronological order that capture how much fun life can be.  Cheers!

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