Some of the roadside attractions that catch our attention are all about indulging our geek sides. Some are highlights that speak to Anne the history aficionado. For such a tiny town, Ticonderoga pulled off the neat trick of catering to both facets in her. It was a little jarring transitioning from a tour of the 23rd century to a time capsule of the 18th, but we managed. We are large; we contain multitudes.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
For 2022 we wanted the opposite of Yellowstone. Last year’s vacation was an unforgettable experience, but those nine days and 3500 miles were daunting and grueling. Vermont was closer, smaller, greener, cozier, and slightly cooler. Thus we set aside eight days to venture through the four states that separate us from the Green Mountain State, dawdle there for a bit, and backtrack home…
One quick mile east of the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour stood Fort Ticonderoga, whose name is Iroquois for “it is at the junction of two waterways”. A lot of pre-19th-century place names were the equivalent of an “It is your birthday” Print Shop banner, but folks got used to them after a while and didn’t obsess much on it. Military forts are not among the sites we go out of our way to collect in our travels, but Ticonderoga pairs neatly alongside our previous glimpses of Fort Niagara in 2004 and Fort McHenry in 2017, in case any longtime MCC readers are keeping scorecards.
The place began life as Fort Carillon, constructed on a 543-acre peninsula by the French between 1755 and 1757. It earned a rep for impregnability when in 1758 the Marquis de Montcalm and 4,000 Frenchmen successfully fended off 16,000 British soldiers. One year later, the French had left a skeleton crew of 400 on guard, who were no match for another 11,000 British led by General Jeffrey Amherst up the slopes of Mount Defiance, which sits across the lake. Under Amherst’s watch Fort Carillon was renamed Fort Ticonderoga, which has stuck to this day.
The British kept the fort under their thumb until 1775, when it was taken by Americans led by the dynamic duo of Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, pre-treason. Our guys managed a two-year run before the British took it back thanks to General John Burgoyne. A take-back attempt two months later did no good. It remained a minor stronghold for his side even after Burgoyne got curb-stomped at the Battles of Saratoga (the site of which we visited back in 2018), but the Redcoats only half-heartedly kept it staffed until their big surrender at Yorktown, after which they just kinda drifted away from it. Locals looted and stripped it over the years like it was made of copper wiring and catalytic convertors.
The fort had no stirring tales of heroism or reversals of fortune beyond that point. The property changed hands a few times before it formally opened as a privately owned, historic tourist attraction in 1909. In later years the owners acquired more of the surrounding acres of relevance, including Mount Defiance itself. The entrance is a long driveway through a forest that eventually leads to the front gates. We were handed a free map of the grounds and a token that would gain us entrance to a separate path that would take us up to the peak of Defiance, should we choose to expand our Ticonderoga experience. Admission to that path ended daily at 4:30. We hadn’t firmly planned for it, but we pondered the option as we wandered the grounds.
Naturally parts of the buildings are devoted to exhibit space for various artifacts from the era. Bilingual signs were posted in English and French, since Canada is a mere 90 miles away.
Admittedly we didn’t investigate every building, nook or cranny. After scampering from one fortification to the next for a while, the rooms began to look alike. Our thoughts drifted back to the Mount Defiance token whose usefulness would expire at 4:30.
By this time it was after 4:00. We needed to leave now. So we agreed: “Yeah, let’s go see a mountaintop.”
To be continued!
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