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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Travel Diary: Fort Edward/Rogers Island

Hi, everyone —

I thought I'd pop in before I head to bed and share some images and moments from yesterday and today's adventures in New York.




My mother and I flew into Ithaca, NY, yesterday where I was blissfully reunited with Ben. I have missed him so terribly! I couldn't even wait for him to reach the top of the stairs but ran down to meet him, which he found funny. Yes, I cried.




I got to meet his wonderful roommate, Del, who poses here with my mom and Ben. I'm thrilled to have my mother with us. I've invited Del to visit us in Colorado, and I hope he'll take us up on it!



Today (Thursday), we drove up to Fort Edward/Rogers Island from Ithaca, a four-hour drive through rainy countryside. This has really been the focus for me, seeing the place in which the MacKinnon's Rangers series is set. As most of you know, Fort Edward = Fort Elizabeth, and Rogers Island = Ranger Island. I've read about this place, looked at historical maps, read archaeological reports and read the diaries of rangers in an effort to research the series. After imagining it as it was in 1758-59 since 2005 I finally stood on the island. It was deeply moving.



Here's a beautiful shot taken from Rogers Island looking back across the Hudson River toward what would have been the outer northern ramparts of Fort Edward back in its heyday. It's so incredibly beautiful here. We don't have deciduous forest in Colorado -- mostly evergreen trees and aspen. So this is very colorful to my eyes!



At the Rogers Island Visitor Center, we met with Eileen Hannay, who was so incredibly giving of her own time, taking us on a tour of Rogers Island, which is closed for the season. She knows the history through and through and has read both Surrender and, yes, Untamed, too. She said she enjoyed both stories and had just finished the epilogue for Untamed this morning before we arrived. But I digress...

In this photo, Ben is getting ready to film a segment for the film he's making of our visit. Behind us you see the Hudson, and beyond that you see a boat with a blue tarp on it. That's close to where the northern ramparts of Fort Edward stood. Down near the water, you see a couple white things which are small boats. That's near the site where the bateaux bridge stood that Annie fell off of in Surrender. And here Eileen introduced me to an historical error in my story: rivers in New York do not rush in quite the same way as rivers in Colorado. And the Hudson is not terribly deep here, though the depth can vary. She summed up her advice to Annie (applicable the moment Annie falls in): "Stand up!" D'oh!



Here, we're standing on the edge of a field that has been heavily excavated by both amateur and professional archaeologists. It's off limits right now for reasons I won't go into... You can see white caps in the background among the grasses. Those are covering archaeological sites that have been left in situ. They're what's left of Ranger cabins with hearths and wooden beams and posts still extant in various states of decay. In these cabins, they've found lots of handmade nails, buttons, pipes, and other little things left behind by Rangers when they moved north after the British succeeded in taking Ticonderoga in 1759. It felt so amazing to stand there and think of Iain, Morgan, Connor, Captain Joseph, Killy, Dougie, McHugh, Brandon and the others living RIGHT HERE in this encampment... It gave me shivers.



This is one of the excavated cabins, likewise covered to protect the "cultural resources," i.e., artifacts, beneath. It's the best, most intact cabin with a wonderfully intact hearth near which they found a Ranger's compass. They also found scraps of gold braid inside. Perhaps it's my imagination, but I thought that the quality of the finds in the cabin and the fact that it was set apart from the others, made it Iain's cabin in my mind. As commander of the Rangers, he would have had the nicest, most permanent dwelling in the encampment.



After our tour of the island, we went into the visitors center to see some of the artifacts that had been dug up. Here, Eileen is showing me articles about the archaeological work on the island. On the table nearby are boxes of pottery shards that are in the process of being put back together. Most of them are from the sutler's cabin, which collapsed in on itself in a fire. Those of you who've read Surrender remember that the sutler died and was replaced. It was amazing to see buttons, belt buckles, canteens, bayonets, lead balls, shot, flints, forks, spoons, knives, pipes and other personal items that had been the property of real Rangers 250 years ago. Particularly poignant were the lead balls that had been bitten almost flat, deep teeth marks pressed into the soft metal. They were found near the hospital and had been bitten upon by soldiers who were undergoing painful (and primitive) surgeries for illness or injuries, including amputations. (Thanks, but I'll take anesthesia instead.) They found a lot of finger bones and toe bones — the fingers possibly from accidents firing muskets and the toes from frostbite amputations.



Ben and I stand in front of a historic marker that stands where the northeast bastion of Fort Edward once stood. Behind it and to the viewer's left is a restaurant we ate at tonight. Fort Edward is very small so everything in these images is within walking distance. I love sharing this with Ben, who also loves the history of the French and Indian War. To those of you who love Last of the Mohicans, Fort Edward was where Webb was stationed from whom Monroe hoped to get reinforcements during the battle at Fort William-Henry to the north.



Here's the marker for Fort Edward on the banks of the Hudson River. Across the river, you see Rogers Island, looking toward the area where the rangers' barracks stood.

This was home for Iain, Morgan and Connor. It would have had no trees at all, because they would have been felled to build cabins and ramparts and to provide fuel for fires for cooking and heating. It would also have been muddy because thousands of boots would have destroyed the natural grass. So the island as the real Rangers and Iain and his brothers and men would have known it would have been a muddy strip in the river covered with cabins, gardens and, to the south end, a small pox hospital.

What a wonder to be here, to breathe this air, to walk on this ground. Two hundred fifty years ago, it was one of the most dangerous places to be in the entire world. Now, it's beautiful, the violence of the past a distant echo.

On a side note, guess what I have? Prizes. From Rogers Island. :-)

Tomorrow, we head north to Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga, which is in both Surrender and Untamed.

12 comments:

Tena said...

Im so glad you made it there safely,you look so happy to be with your son they grow so fast, your pictures are beautiful Id love to go there myself becareful coming home, I love the book Ride The Fire it is great I had a lady come in where I work and I was telling her about your and how I love reading and she wants to give me a job reading books so you brought me good luck today thanks :) take care

shirley said...

Hi Pam Im glad yu made it safe to see you son. My son is only 6weeks old and let me tell ya I dont want him to grow no to soon. Im hoping to get your new book when it comes out Im reading one of yours now its great take care

jennjvamp said...

Hi Pamela I'm so glad to see that one you made it there safely and also that you are having such a great time this has to be just amazing for you! And to get to share it with your Mom and Ben makes it doubly special I'm sure! Thank you so much for sharing the photos and story with us I find it absolutely awesome!!! Have a great time you deserve it hon! HUGSSSS

Lori said...

Wow - that is SO gorgeous!!

"Stand up!" That cracked me up LOL!

What an amazing sense of history there, and how wonderful that you are getting to experience it all with Ben and your mom.

Bo said...

It's very easy to imagine him in there,doing things... *leers at the screen* In all seriousness,though,I can imagine Iain & the others walking this place,checking weapons,etc.

To have this time there,to share it with family and friends,well,no wonder if you get a little emotional.I think I would get goosebumps.This is neat,because you brought this place alive for us,and now you get to walk there.Powerful stuff,and I thank you for sharing it with us.

I'm looking forward to hearing & seeing more,and oh,yeah,the prizes! *G* Safe trip & have fun!

Debbie H said...

I could almost see the indians peeking through the trees and bushes. Did you hear the whispers of the Rangers as they went about their daily routines?

Ben looks so happy and you, my dear, are bursting with happiness, I can see it!

I can't wait for the next installment and to find out what those prezzies are!

Have fun!

haleigh said...

Great pictures, Pamela! Looks like you're having an amazing trip so far!

Anonymous said...

It looks like you're having a wonderful trip, and time, with Ben and your Mom. Your pics made me want to be there too, it's a fantastic way to "touch" history.
Take care
stef

Cheryle said...

Enjoy Ticonderoga you will love it! Thanks for the pics!!!!

Sue Z said...

Wow, PC!! That was quite a blog. You can see in the photos how happy Mom and Son are together.

You know, The Hudson is so much like I pictured it when I read Surrender. I immediately thought of Iain's cabbin when I saw that photo of the cabin roof.

It must have been amazing to see touch and smell those artifacts. The bitten bullets tugged at my heart strings too. I don't think people realize how cool history can be!

Enjoy the rest of the trip!

PGB2

PS: Does Ben have a thing for hats??

Lucy A said...

Looks like you're having a ball Pamela! It's great to see these places especially considering they're still fresh in my mind.
Make the most of your trip and enjoy yourself!
Do you want to know the verdict?

Hi, Tena — Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. I'm glad you enjoyed RTF, too. And, yes, I am so happy to be with Benjy. I miss him already just thinking of going home. I would love a job reading books! Congrats and good luck with that!

Hi, Shirley — Congrats on the new baby! Six weeks old is new in my opinion. Yes, they do grow very quickly. Which book are you reading? I'm glad you're enjoying it.

Hi, Jenn — Yep, we made it and it is wonderful to stand in these places! Everyone -- Eileen and Chris and others we've met -- have been so helpful and patient and kind. Believe me, when I'm in an archaeological site or doing research, I'm more annoying than a 2-year-old, because I never run out of questions. Journalist + archaeology background = Questions galore. And you're welcome! I love sharing all of this with all of you!

Hi, Lori — I had dinner with Eileen tonight and with the man who excavated Rogers Island (David Starbuck). I told her that a reader had laughed at her "stand up!" comment and she thought that was fun. And, yes, being here with Ben and my mom makes it that much more special.

Hi, Bo — Thanks so much for putting it that way! I tried very hard to bring these places alive for you, and sharing them is so fun for me. I got more prizes today -- a few little things from Ti, as locals call Ticonderoga. LOL!

Hi, Debbie — We're hearing lots of echoes and whispers in this area. And, yes, it's so fantastic to be with Benjy again. How am I going to let go and head home? Especially given that I don't really want to go home.

Hi, Haleigh — Yes, we are having a completely wonderful time, though I tend to be cranky in the morning when I don't get my coffee... LOL!

Hi, Stef — Living in Europe, you get to touch history all the time. We've got a bit less of it here. This area is particularly rich in historical sites, and it seems like we run into something around every bend. Thanks!

Hi, Cheryle — Thanks! And you're wecome!

SueZAY! YES, Ben has a thing for hats. He is now sporting a fine tricorne that he bought at Ticonderoga today. Add that to the fedora and that green thing, and he's developing a bit of a collection. LOL! As for that cabin, it has no roof. That's just the cap that was placed over the exposed hearth and earth to protect it. But I think it's cool that you thought of Iain. Cool, too, that the Hudson lives up to your imaginings. And, yes, Ben and I are happy to be together. He had such a big smile on his face and I couldn't help but get teary. (I can almost hear what you're thinking when you read that... )

Hi, Lucy — Wait till you see the photos from Ticonderoga! And YES YES YES, I want the verdict!

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