Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Cheapest Property In The Adirondacks

IT IS OFFICIAL. I am the proud owner of half an acre of hillside property in Port Henry, NY with a "fixer-upper" (euphemism for decrepit) farmhouse. I had to take the Amtrak to Albany to close the deal and obtain the deed from the lovely wife of a young investor. It was a great trip along the Hudson River, and the transaction went smoothly. But where on earth is Port Henry? As people asked, "Ano bang meron sa Port Henry?" To justify my decision, which people may think is as stupid as Seward's purchase of Alaska, here are my reasons: 1. Location, location, location. Port Henry is in the Adirondack State Park in upstate New York, "an area of unparalleled beauty.” It is the largest park in America, covering 6.1 million acres, a land area about the size of the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined. I have always dreamed of living in a mountain cabin by the lake (preferably with a fireplace), and live an idyllic Thoreau-like life. A kid who grew up among the rice paddies of Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines, I have always had this idea of an American home, slightly different from that of my friend Susan Lara: a white picket fenced suburban home with a dog named “Spotty” running around. Maybe I’m just a rural guy. Anyway, Port Henry is a small village between the shores of Lake Champlain and the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, and reminds me of Scotland and even Sagada. Maybe someday, I can invite my Filipino friends over.

2. Accessibility. Port Henry is on the Amtrak's Adirondack route between New York City and Montreal (Map above), which was proclaimed one of the ten most scenic train trips in the world by National Geographic Traveler Magazine. The train departs Penn Station in Manhattan early in the morning and follows the banks of the Hudson River and the shores of Lake Champlain through historic towns and pristine woodlands in upstate New York to the Canadian border, terminating at Gare Centrale in downtown Montreal before dinner. One way trip to PH costs about $50, and there is a food car where one can buy hot instant Ramen and sandwiches. Although PH's train station is no Grand Central and does not even have a passenger waiting platform (one has to use a stool to step up and down the train), it is a piece of architectural history, being built in the 1880's when PH was an iron mine port. At present, it is staffed by friendly senior citizens who bring the stool in and out, and get to use the depot for their own activities in return. PH is also along the route of a major inland waterway that runs from New York City to Quebec City. One could actually sail inland from the Atlantic through the Verazzano Narrows in NYC--Hudson River--Champlain Canal--Lake Champlain--Richelieu River--Chambly Canal--St. Lawrence River--Quebec City in the Gaspe Peninsula, back to the Atlantic. This is a dream cruise that I would like to take or do before I die. Along this water route, PH has a marina near Bulwagga Bay, where legendary lake monster "Champ" has been sighted many times.

3. Nearby institutions. Middlebury College, Robert Frost's summer home and the famous Bread Loaf Writers' Conference are about forty five minutes away, across Crown Point Bridge on Lake Champlain. Meadowmount Summer School of Music (where artists like Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman trained) is fifteen minutes north in Westport. The University of Vermont at Burlington and SUNY Plattsburgh are about an hour away. If you don't want to leave town, there is a small public library downtown, and a professional theater company in nearby Westport.

4. Cost. I got the property for about seven thousand bucks, thanks to Plattsburgh Craigslist. It is cheaper than a used car.

5. Finally, because I am a crazy dreamer. I think I have found my other retirement home, apart from our ancestral house in Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro.

Watch for updates on my progress rehabilitating the house until it is ready for housewarming, open to all Pinoys who can come. I also have a title for a piece: Port of Entry to Port Henry.

Here are pictures of the house on 109 Stone Street, the bathroom (those are not bird droppings on the tub), and Sara feeding the gulls on Lake Champlain, five minutes away.

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