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Bats, Baseball and Baths
By Ron Kapon, Contributing Travel Editor

Map of Cooperstown
New York, NY - I discovered that two and a half days was more than sufficient time to visit three of the most interesting and diverse attractions in all of New York State, perhaps in the country when speaking of the hallowed ground that is Cooperstown for baseball buffs. Needless to say, more than a handful of visitors to the area come in cars, vans, RV's and on their Harleys. However, from NYC, the best way to get there is Amtrak to Albany (the capital of New York State since 1797), a two-and-a-half-hour ride, about the same time it would take you to drive, but a lot more relaxing. Happily, I was able to look to the New York State Department of Tourism, the I Love New York folks, for whatever assistance I needed...and they came through mightily.

From the station, upon arrival, it was a bit under an hour trip west of Albany into the northeast corner of the Appalachian Region on the way to Howe Caverns, where the bats are the nocturnal flying kind and not those used at Yankee Stadium or any other major league ballpark. The obvious place to stay for the evening was, of course, the Howe Caverns Motel, utilitarian and somewhat Spartan but convenient and all of 100 yards from the Caverns. However, before entering the Caverns we stopped at the Iroquois Indian Museum, an educational institution dedicated to fostering and understanding the Iroquois culture, both past and present.
Howe Caverns
In 1842, Lester Howe discovered the Caverns that were eventually named after him, and they are thought to be 10 million years old.
It was educational, to say the least, reading the exhibit entitled "Tonto Revisited: Indian Stereotypes." Those of us who remember, can recall Hollywood?s fascination with the "good Indian" who helped early settlers in their combats with the "bad" Indians. Welcome to the silver screen. That has obviously extended itself into sports and big business these days where, in the latter instance, those of Indian heritage are getting rich with ownership and operation of resorts and casinos while, in the former, such groups as college sports' NCAA are looking askance at simple nicknames and logos of schools. Next will come state seals, the nickel and all else that is harmless but that some politico wishes to advance as debasing the American and native Indian. Ridiculous, in this writer's opinion, would be an understatement. I guess the next targets are Lone Ranger and Tonto, Ninja Turtles Leo and Don, Braves and cigar store Indians.

In 1842, Lester Howe discovered the Caverns that were eventually named after him, and they are thought to be 10 million years old evincing, as you will find, a comfortable and constant 52 degrees. After financial problems forced him to close the caves they reopened in 1929 with over 200,000 visitors a year descending 150 feet to begin their adventure which includes a fascinating boat ride on the underground lake. I experienced Howe by Lantern where all the lights were turned off in order to let visitors relive that which occurred during Lester Howe?s era. By the way, there is another cave nearby, called Secret Caverns, with fossils and a 100-foot waterfall. Make it over there, time permitting.

Close by is the Old Stone Fort Museum, a 1772 church converted to a fort that was attached to it during the Revolutionary War. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Place and its seven buildings compound holds artifacts and military objects from years and battles past. Once history had been absorbed, it was food's turn and that meant dinner at George Mann Tory Tavern, opened in 1711 and restored in the 1900?s. In a word, delightful.

From cavern bats to baseball bats we arrived in Cooperstown, named after James Fenimore Cooper?s family (you do remember who authored the "Last of the Mohicans") whose aptly named Fenimore Art Museum is filled with Native American and American Art. While not doing so this trip, my last one to Cooperstown included a stay at the stately Otesaga Resort Hotel (1909) on Lake Otsego and a visit to the repertory opera company Glimmerglass. Note them both for your trip. Also worth marking down is Hyde Hall, on the lake and a National Historic Landmark, circa 1800, and the finest example of a neo-classic country mansion in the north.

National Baseball Hall of Fame
The National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum is there to preserve, exhibit and interpret its artifacts and collections honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the National pastime.
The bottom line is that one goes to Cooperstown to see the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum. Everything else is an extra of sorts. The baseball Mecca is there to preserve, exhibit and interpret its artifacts and collections honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the National pastime. That is it and, while in town, you can view Doubleday Field where baseball was created and also the Cooperstown Dreams Park whose 14 ball fields host national and regional tournaments.

There will be a return trip to Sharon Springs in five years and continue to enjoy an area that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a trip that is today and, yet, a step back in time to visualize the heyday of the area at the turn of the century, to close your eyes and just imagine. To help things along in that regards, there is a frenetic restoration taking place of the golden age for this village known as much for its spas to some as for its ties to baseball. The 1927 Imperial Sulfur Spa Baths were part of the Adler Hotel that has since been closed, purchased and will soon be returned to its former grandeur. Sharon Springs served as the vacation spot for many of the Jewish faith who, at the time, were not welcome in nearby Saratoga. Breakfast at the Clausen Farms B&B Inn, with its 90 mile views into the Adirondack Mountains, was a necessitous addition to the travels of these few days...built in 1890, it also belongs to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1989, it was restored and converted into a B&B with Llamas grazing on its 60 acres - right, Llama. Don't ask because I do not have the answer.

When at the spa do what others at the spa do, so a massage was in order at the New Yorker Guest House, a B&B Inn and Wellness Spa originally opened in 1893. Dinner and overnight was at the American Hotel, an 1847 property also, you guessed it, listed on the National Register with each guest room filled with antiques and collectibles. One must also maintain a semblance of today to keep from aging just by association.

As with certain areas of Colorado, you are likely to run into former city residents, principally from New York, who have left the corporate life behind to farm, paint, run restaurants, Inns and shops in this bucolic setting. Could I do that, could you? Not sure and probably not willing to try but check back with me in five years after my next visit to the area.


Ron Kapon is seeking wine tasters for the New York Tasters Guild. Please go to www.tastersguildny.com or email him at Ron@tastersguildny.com.