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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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Monday, October 20, 2008

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!!!

8 comments:

shirley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tena said...

To me it is cool to walk where someone did years ago to see things that are apart of history I love it. I finished Ride The Fire and let me tell you I read till 2:30 this morning then finished the story at work I sat and cried while reading the things going on and the love you could feel between them it was wonderful you are a wonderful writer I cant wait to read more of this family and maybe a story on Jamies brother-in-law take care

shirley said...

to walk where someone did years ago to see things that are apart of what happen in past years I'd love to do that. I'm almost done with Ride The Fire and let me tell you I too cried while reading the things going on and the love you could feel between them it was great you can write so beautiful I cant wait to read more of this family a story on his sister take care

Tena said...

Hi Pam I forgot to ask you something a friend of mine said she heard that most od the books out there are not of real people they are sketced of fake people so are the Pictures on your cover of real models or are they not real but made up. But let me say they are some handsome and pretty women on the covers of your book

Heather said...

Can I just say I'm LOVING these glimpse's into that time and place that takes place in your books. I had just started "U" when the girls came, so I put it down, because my reading was very sporadic last week, and I wanted to wait until the girls left to start it again. Reading your "diary" of what you saw and your vivid descriptions of everything is making what I'm reading SO much clearer, and makes me feel more like I can picture it in my mind. Believe it or not...I've never seen "Last of the Mohican's" or read the book...to be quite honest, I'm still not even sure why the British and French were even fighting on American soil. I'm sure I was taught about it in some obscure history class back in my foggy high school daze...but I don't remember...so now I'm going to have to go find out. Anyhow...I'm enjoying reading about your travels...can't wait for your next entry.

Heather said...

And I meant to tell you that I "get it"...you know. I mean I live in Manassas...I've walked the battlefields where the first & second battle of the Civil War was fought...I know I walk on ground sacred...where men died...and where people watched war happen from their carriage's and picnics on the grass. I've seen the uniforms and weapons in our museum...it's powerful stuff...so I can only imagine, you, who've written about it, and studied it, must have felt walking on the same dirt those men walked on...it's quite emotional, and not easy to put in words...but you've really made me feel as if I was on that trip with you.

Debbie H said...

They put a parking lot over graves!!! They should be haunted for the rest of their lives! How dare they.

It sounds like the all mighty dollar won again as far as the fort is concerned. So very sad.

I wish you could have hiked through the forest with the ghosts of the rangers by your side. To hear the eerie quiet and to know that you were being watched by unseen eyes, would have been unbelievable!

Did you have a "thank you God" moment knowing that Ben would never have to fight in that kind of battle? He looked so much like the recruits of the day. He would have been a seasoned soldier by his age.

I can't wait to read more.

Hi, Tena/Shirley, I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. That makes my day. Thanks! Most of the covers for printed books (as opposed to e-books books) are REAL people. The only fake people on my covers is the hero on the cover of Sweet Release and the couple on the cover of Hard Evidence. I think the rest are real. The man on the original cover of Surrender is Nathan Kamp.

Hi, Heather — Happy Birthday a few days late! Hope you had a special day. I'm so glad you're enjoying the photos. What a perfect time to be reading the book! I cannot believe that you've never seen Last of the Mohicans! Girl, you need to rent that ASAP and watch the theater version (not the director's cut) first. You'll see the battle at Fort William-Henry, meet Hawkeye (one of the inspirations for my Rangers) and at least hear about Fort Edward where I visited. It will give you a very solid glimpse into the period, even if the story is fiction. There are STILL Mahicans alive today. And, honey, you were on the trip with me. I was thinking of all of you when I was there, so excited to be able to share this with you — the reality that has so inspired me and fed my stories. I would love to see the Civil War sites. I had family on both sides of that conflict. I can only imagine what it feels like to walk there.

Hi, Debbie — I SO agree with you about Fort William-Henry. I hope one day they remove the parking lot, tear down the fake fort and create a thoughtful monument to what really happened, one that respects the lives that were lost. We drove through the area where the massacre occurred and that gave me chills.

As for hiking with my Rangers... Just wait! I did. That's Part II. I'm just waiting for people to get the photos to me. I didn't take my camera because I wanted to focus on the experience and not taking photos. I did hike with them to a very, very special place. And, yes, I'm so glad Ben is spared that kind of violence. I held musket balls (real ones) while I was there. Having a BIG piece of lead slam into your body would have been really terrible. But he certainly had fun acting out the fantasy. That's part of Part II, too. :-)

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